Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pride and Joy

At my job, we have a meeting every morning where we all gather in the main office and say one good thing that happened the day before or that morning. We also have volunteers that join us. For the past couple of weeks, I've had one of the volunteers working with me in my office. It's been hilarious and we've exchanged banter about our hometowns—she's from New Mexico, I'm from Texas. In fact, she calls me "Texas." It's quite humorous actually. Yesterday I wore my UT shirt to work.

She kept making jokes about the hideousness of the shirt and it was so funny seeing her make faces when she saw the shirt. Well today in our morning meeting, she said that after seeing my shirt yesterday, she decided to "fix" the shirt and wear it in my honor:

It was hilarious! I wasn't completely offended, but it definitely fueled my feisty fun side! So in further creative retaliation, here's what I'm doing:

I printed out 2 pages worth of these suckers and right now I'm coloring them and I'm going to put her name in the center of each of them and stick them up in random places where I know she'll be. I'm also going to decorate her mailbox in the office with some fun UT paraphernalia. I've also downloaded the UT Fight Song and Deep In The Heart Of Texas to play really loud from my computer speakers every time she walks into my office.

The funny thing is, there's another volunteer here from Texas who has agreed to team up with me in the shenanigans and at first she asked, "What is the symbol for New Mexico?" and I was like, "I dunno. I never knew they had one." Then we both cracked up because we realized neither of us really gave enough thought about New Mexico to know more than the fact that it was a state. But man oh man, these office shenanigans are gonna be hilarious!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Under The Sea

While I was on vacation, I got to meet up with Jenny from and we got to spend some time hanging out at the Baltimore Aquarium! These are some of the pictures that I posted on my Facebook album, but a lot of them are only here. I hope you enjoy them!

One of the workers at the aquarium had us fake feed the Archer Fish. You hold up what looks like food to them, and they shoot a stream of water from their mouth to 'hunt down' their food. Here's a video of Jenny interacting with the Archer Fish. We had SO much fun!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Just Watch The Fireworks

So I'm almost completely done editing the HUNDREDS of photos I took on my vacation! There's one collection I'm not going to upload to Facebook, simply because they don't really have a home there. I'd get like 1,000 pity comments like "oooh" and "ahhh" and "nice fireworks" and like 2,000 Likes simply because there really is no response to fireworks pictures that aren't just awkward. So I'm just gonna leave them here for people to come back and look at and hopefully be taken back to their own Fourth of July memories.

Maybe it involved a picnic.

Maybe it involved sitting on a blanket with someone special.

Maybe someone you know fell asleep during the fireworks show.

Maybe you set off your own and someone got severely hurt and had to be rushed to the ER and you had to try to keep calm as your mom got in the nurse's face and demanded you be treated immediately only to go home diagnosed with minor burns from a bottle rocket, which made the car ride home extremely awkward and then you had to work for the next month doing odd jobs to help cover the hospital bill cause you swore to everyone it was so bad you were going to die . . .

Whatever your memory, here's to remembering the wonder of fireworks:

Friday, July 23, 2010

Against The Grain

I'm posting this here because I'm pretty sure I may be held responsible
for your CPR awareness at some point . . .

I have become more and more aware of the fact that crazy funny weird things happen to me often. For instance, I walked outside earlier to move the vehicle I'm borrowing out of the 2 hour parking spot I was in (which is what happens when you work in Lower Queen Anne) so that I wouldn't get a ticket from Parking Enforcement.* And as I walked outside, the telephone company service man that had just gotten out of his vehicle, said HELLO to me to get my attention and then asked where the main office was. It was a strong HELLO and it caught me off guard just as I was swallowing a chip. Because I was startled, I proceeded to choke on the chip. So I yelped a HELLO back to the guy as he rushed over to make sure I was okay. I kept coughing as I gave him instructions on how to get to the main office, since I was coming out of a back door. Thankfully I was okay, but I gotta be honest, my initial reaction was NOT to grab my throat to let the guy know there was a problem like the well-known poster suggests. I'm pretty sure he got the hint though. ;)

Moral of the story: Those CPR classes I took didn't come in handy after all. I'm just too forgetful for them to be effective for me. If you see me coughing and staring up in the air, that's MY universal sign for choking.

*They are my arch-nemesis in the driving world.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Waiting For Superman

I think about where I am now in my life and the quality education I received that propelled me to it. I feel that from elementary schools to colleges and technical schools, the quality is just declining. I know it sounds a bit out of place, coming from someone who never actually attended college—but I've heard real stories about real students at real schools. The fact of the matter is that our society as a whole is encroaching upon a full-blown standard of entitlement. Children expect to have the newest technology and hottest fashion gear. They are turning to expensive gadgets and botox and YouTube fame to define themselves. Young adults expect the working world to hire them based on their "cool factor" as opposed to legitimate knowledge and experience. Having worked at a school where academics were touted as being valued, meanwhile a quality education for them to even be able to write complete paragraphs was absent, caused me to challenge myself as an educator. And older adults expect those younger than them to stop advancing and growing. They want to continue to be respected as being wiser and more-experienced, meanwhile refusing to learn new ways of doing things.

I know it will sound silly to you that I say this (or maybe it won't), but I think about the education system often. Mainly because I think of my niece every day. She is currently growing up in an area of the city where education is not valued as much as a quick dollar is. Most children who attend Vanessa's school, will not graduate. The streets, the culture, and the apathy invading her neighborhood will give her a slim-to-none chance to graduate high school much less pursue a successful career. And if those factors weren't enough, the logistics of the school systems are the big kicker. Schools are financed in part by the taxes of the area the school is in, which means that lower income areas (which hers is), pay less in taxes, so their schools get less money. That means less resources and underfunded staff, which results in a devil-may-care attitude school-wide. I do, however, have hope for her and for the kids in her school to push past the stigmas of society and the cycle of living in a low-income area, to actually succeed. I know it's possible.

I grew up in an apartment near the Rundberg area of Austin. Most called it "The Burg." The Rundberg area (and East Austin) had been known by the city as a high-crime sector with a high-dropout-rate when I was younger. Growing up, our apartment complex looked great on the inside. It had some semblance of a backyard (which was actually just a high-fenced porch) for each apartment and there was a pool for the kids in the apartment—although most of the time we were at the pool, we were admiring all the tattoos that the neighborhood kids were giving each other with burnt needles and ink. Most of my evenings were spent on our back porch with my brother and his friends who would experiment with drugs and pyromania. Our neighbors were dealers, porn distributors, and working girls. Most people will ask me why I don't like guns, and the truth is, "right and wrong gun shots sound the same." Our neighborhood was constantly patrolled by cop cars and it wasn't out of the ordinary to have neighbor kids come over because their parents weren't home—my sibs and I grew up latch-key kids ourselves. I'm not saying that if that happens, kids will be messed up—the rest of the story gets better.

We were lucky enough to be able to use an alternate address to get into the zones of better schools. I got to attend some really great schools. When I was a kid I went to Brentwood Elementary and I was given a QUALITY education. My teachers taught me to treasure music, arts, and the written word. I fought to have my recess time be spent completely in the library learning about the Underground Railroad, and the Titanic, and the Holocaust. I loved every minute of class time because I was learning, I was imagining more and more things, I was able to approach my teachers if I had a question and I knew they'd be ready to answer with a gracious tone. I LOVED being a Brentwood Bulldog!

When it came time to decide on what middle school to go to, I was given the option. I could either go to Burnet Middle School or Lamar Middle School. I had been to Burnet Middle School before for one of my brother's basketball games and knew that it was going to be one of my options in the future. It was shortly after the time that the Yogurt Shop murders happened. During his game, I took a walk around the school area and I remember seeing the memorial headstone structure for one of the victims in the courtyard. All I could think was, "Why would I want to go here?" So I didn't. When it came time to choose, I chose to go to Lamar Middle School. While I was there, I participated in Pep Squad and took classes in Theater, Video Production, and Choir. These classes are a pretty major part of my education and who I am today.

The school that Lamar "fed" into was McCallum High School. I was once again given a choice by my mom to pick which school I wanted to go to—McCallum, or Lanier (which we lived 5 blocks away from). Again, when I was younger, Lanier did not have a good rep. It was known as a school for less fortunate students. Kids I knew that attended Lanier spent the majority of their time in gangs and working the streets to get extra money for food for their families. I chose to go to McCallum—partially because I'd known people who had gone there, also because both my parents had graduated from there, and because it was the Fine Arts Academy in the AISD system and I wanted to be a part of that (and I was)! I got to participate in Theater, Tech Theater, Songwriting, Colorguard, and Winterguard. I got to travel with our band to Disney World and Hawaii to march at Epcot, and to New York City to play Carnegie Hall. I got to experience the world on an entirely different level.

I realize that no matter what school you send your kids to (whether you homeschool or not), the effectiveness depends on your student's resilience to the peer environment, their desire to learn, parent interaction, and the quality of education they are receiving. Most reading this have seen To Sir With Love, Dangerous Minds, Freedom Writers, or at the very least, Take The Lead, so you KNOW it's possible for the "less fortunate" kids to have teachers in their life who DO make a difference. But after watching the trailer for the documentary Waiting For Superman and hearing stories from friends who are teachers, it leaves me distraught about our current education system but also renews the hope in me that a brighter future for kids is possible.

As I hear stories of Vanessa growing up, I can't help but want the best for her. I realize that having her live through my same experiences may not be the best thing for her, but the opportunity for her to challenge her mind and to grow in her talents is. As a supporter of quality education and as a believer that there are still ways that we can get involved in joining with local schools to improve a child's educational experience, I would encourage you to go see this movie. I rarely watch documentaries, but this is one I could not avoid if someone held me at gunpoint . . . okay well maybe that's a bit extreme, but I'm definitely going to see it!

For more information on Waiting For Superman and the Take Action campaign and how you can help locally, check out:

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Monday, July 19, 2010

We Were Made For Each Other / You Can Breathe (Vacation Recap)

A friend accepts us as we are yet helps us to be what we should.
- Anonymous
I would have never guessed how much my life would change when I made friends with this seemingly shy girl from Baltimore ten years ago. But after getting to spend 5 days together sharing laughs, memories, and new adventures as if we'd never skipped a beat, I consider myself one of the luckiest people on the planet. She has, in a pretty major way, helped me become the person I am today. She shoots straight with me and isn't afraid to speak the truth in love to me while still being my biggest fan (next to my parents). She isn't afraid to be silly and she has an attitude just as fiesty as mine! Being around her was a breath of fresh air as she encouraged me so much and just reminded me what it means to have a best friend.

The hardest part about the vacation was saying goodbye. The best part was deciding to make my trip back to the east coast for the 4th of July weekend an annual event! I've been blessed enough to weather the toughest storms and soar above them with a soul sister always at my beck and phone call/text message/email and I look forward to more worthwhile adventures with my bestie!

Here are some pics to conclude the trip journal:

Anytime I'm given anything with whip cream or frosting,
it's pretty much just gonna end up on my face.
Sarah's dad knows this, hence his "oh this is normal" pose.

Other things that are pretty normal:
Sarah joining in the fun!

When we were in NYC, Sarah bought us best friend keychains
(the Big Apple & the License Plate)
We're equal parts cheesy and awesome! ;)

I bought us best friend "Fun Socks!"

A best friend never lets their friends forget to eat Chick-Fil-A

While we were there, Adam and Stacey White
(I was on staff at MCA when Stacey was a student)
joined us for lunch at CFA and it was SO great
to catch up and share some laughs.

Bonus Plus!
I got Sarah's dad to let me take a pic of him
modeling a bra in the middle of Wal-Mart!
Who could refuse me such an honor? ;)

When I left for the trip initially, I started reading this book,
SUMMER AT TIFFANY, about two best friends who spend a summer together living in NYC and working at Tiffany's. It was great to continue the story after having just spent some refreshing quality time with my best friend ever on the planet!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sparks Fly (Vacation Recap)

We are the fearless duckbill platypus twins!

Okay I realize I only have 2 more days of vacation left to recap, and since I'm almost done with editing all the photos, it's about time to get wit' it. So the 4th of July was pretty awesome! It was a Sunday so I got to go to church with Sarah at Central Christian and hear Pastor Ron Surratt speak. I also got to see Ronnie, who Sarah and I had also gone to Master's Commission with! It was so good to reconnect with him and hear about all the awesome things going on in his life. It's funny that when I was in MCA I wasn't really appreciative of Ronnie's blunt honesty, but now I completely appreciate it.

Sarah, Ronnie, and me

After service, Sarah dropped me off at the Inner Harbor so I could meet up with Jenny. Jenny is a new friend of mine who is a fellow fan of Parachute (one of my FAVORITE bands) that I got to know through social networking. She runs PARACHUTEFAN.COM and I help her out as a site staff member with editing, helping with creative ideas, and general marketing ideas—although it should be known, she does THE MAJORITY of the work! I'm just honored to be part of it all! home page

I had mentioned before to Jenny on Twitter that I would be taking a trip to the east coast and we thought it'd be a great idea to meet up and talk about stuff for a while. Originally the plan was to meet for a couple of hours and just go over projects, but we ended up hanging out for about 9 hours down at the harbor. We had a blast walking around and talking Parachute & site stuff as well as stuff about ourselves. As you can see from the pictures below, we hit it off and had such a fun day!

I'm not a police man, I'm a princess!
A ballerina princess, that is ;)

Jenny the masterpiece

My friend Kelley won one of the CDs from a giveaway on—she won a copy of Parachute's album which included a drawing and an autograph from the lead singer, Will Anderson! I love Kelley's willingness to give what was rightfully hers and I am such a happy camper because of it!

We even got to beat the heat and go to the aquarium together! After checking out all the animals and cracking jokes in the shark section, we grabbed a seat outside and listened as a live band played cover songs outside the Hard Rock Cafe. We both agreed that we wished it was Parachute playing though.

After the show was over, we grabbed some dinner at Chipotle and talked and talked for even longer about the band, and how we as fans were so grateful for a down-to-earth group of guys that were dedicated to providing honest and quality music. As we were finishing, we couldn't help but notice a crowd flocking to one side of the harbor and then we heard the fireworks going off. So we stuck around and sat to watch the fireworks as they went off on both sides of the harbor—it was a perfect evening and such a fun opportunity to meet a great new friend!

The only regret I had was not charging my phone, which caused mucho confusion and worry for Sarah who couldn't get a hold of me—my phone was dead. When I finally got to her house she gave me a giant hug and told me how worried she was because she didn't know where I was and how every worse case scenario was going through her mind that evening. I felt so small—hurting your best friend and causing them to worry is never fun. I realized that night that there was in fact, a downside to my "go with the flow" spontaneity. But then we spent some time holding each other, and she kept saying how glad she was that I was safe. Even in the midst of my mistake, I was assured that I was truly loved by people that matter. We got to talk about our afternoon and then we called it a night.