Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Trip to San Diego

I'm behind on posting, which did not go unnoticed by Molly. "You wrote about your trip to Brenna's but not to my house!" The lack of writing does not mean I didn't like my time in San Diego. In fact, it was REALLY fun. I hadn't ever seen Molly's house, although other people had told me it was amazing. It didn't disappoint: granite counter tops in the remodeled kitchen, a beautiful master shower with Italian tile and a waterfall, and lots of rooms and places to be. It definitely doesn't look like a house for college students. It has this great feel to it because of her sweet room mates. She's in a good place, in a nice neighborhood and she's thriving in so many areas of her life. I normally take the girls out to dinner at the Persian restaurant, and I was sad I didn't have the money to do that this time. I had a lot of fun preparing a shish kebab dinner with Molly after a trip to Henry's Farmers Market. Love Henry's. In the morning we went to my favorite coffee shop and drank lattes and had banana nut raspberry muffins before worshiping at her church. Now I can picture her life more when she talks about it.

On the way down I got to be with my adopted mom, Marney, who took me out to lunch in Dana Point where we talked and watched the activities in the harbor. She let me cry on her shoulder a little and we prayed in her car together. I feel so lucky to be her #10 child.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Two Loves: Math and Teenagers

One of my favorite parts of my teaching job is helping high school students do math. I have a student who looks like a long-haired skateboarder who is imminently ready to drop out of school. When he first came he HATED school and often chose to ditch class at his old school. When we first met, he wouldn't make eye contact and grunted instead of speaking in sentences. Slowly he's grown to tolerate and then be successful at school. He's completing classes and earning As. Last week he struggled with Algebra 2, and said "I hate this problem. I know I can still pass the test even if I miss all the ones like this." I talked to him about how math is teaching him more than Algebra; it's meant to teach him perseverance. In other cultures students will persist through the hard problems until they get the answer, but generally American kids give up after five minutes. They don't have the perseverance. I showed him how to make the problem easier by getting rid of the fractions, and he went back to his desk. Ten minutes later he was at my desk again. "When am I ever going to need to solve a linear system of three variables in real life?" "In any job you get you will need problem-solving skills and persistence. Don't you think there are times when I want to give up teaching you stuff? We all need to learn perseverance. Besides you are at the bad part now. Stuck in the not-being-able-to-solve-it-yet part. If you stick it out you'll get to the good part where it feels great to get the right answer." He rolled his eyes and continued working on the problem and eventually got the right answer. "Doesn't it feel great to know you were smart enough to solve it?" "If you say so." The next day he earned an A on the test. He said happily "I am so stoked right now. Is this what you were talking about yesterday? I think I get it now." I have such a great job.

Friday, November 13, 2009

This and That

We had fun at Brenna and Matt's cute little house last weekend.

The view from Matt and Brenna's house

They made us pumpkin pancakes and we went to church together. They are a darling couple, in my unbiased view.

Jim and Matt look cute together, too, with their technology always close at hand while they relate. (A Peters family trait.)

Jim and I planted a garden together, and didn't fight. If I save $70 on vegetables this winter, it will pay for the supplies and the plants. (But not the water and the time.) I decided that winter vegetable gardens are not nearly as much fun as summer vegetable gardens. I planted broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, lettuce, peas and onions.

The garden

Kelly said last night that she really likes her job and her students are sweet. She also tells us stories that make me want to ask her principal for a body guard and a pay raise for her. After she had taken her class to the library, the librarian sent her a bag of candy with a note that said "It's a wonder you're still sane." The librarian only has to have those kids once in awhile, while Kelly has to deal with them daily.

The best Christmases we've ever had, in my view, are the ones without presents. We went to NYC after 911 and spent money being tourists (which New York really needed at the time because people were afraid to go there) and bringing quilts to hurting families instead of buying gifts for each other. Very fun. Last Christmas we went to El Salvador as a family-and the trip was the present. I had brought Trader Joe's snacks to open or inexpensive little things. Brenna's face lit up when she opened the Peanut Butter Pretzels, and it was such a neat time of just being together and rejoicing in the simple pleasures of life. I don't like the materialism associated with this spiritual day. It's the opposite of what Jesus would have wanted. So Brenna made this brilliant suggestion: "What if we just bought each other things we'd buy anyways (or could probably justify buying anyways)? So, we'd make lists of Very Useful Things. We'll just keep running lists for the next month or so. Then we'll exchange lists and work on buying those things for each other. We'll be spending money we would have had to spend anyways, just on someone else." She would like "some granola, moleskin journals, an orchid for my kitchen, gardening gloves, cereal, baking supplies, etc." I think it's an amazing idea. We still get to open presents, but we don't ruin our bank accounts, and we don't hurt the environment, and we get to enjoy some simple pleasures. I am taking full credit for teaching her great values. The creativity is from Jim.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Paris Day Three

When the kids were younger they listened to a song that included the line "Take fifty grand to Disneyland...It's better than that!" and that's so much the way I've felt on this trip. It's better than I can describe. I often can't believe I'm in Paris, and that I get to see all these amazing buildings, fill my soul with beautiful art, hear the musical language, eat French food, be surrounded by stylish women, and have amazing experiences with the one I love.

Today we climbed over 1000 stairs and walked miles from Notre Dame to the Arc de Triomphe and then to our hotel. We had seen the inside of Notre Dame yesterday, but the line stretched for hours to go up in the towers. That's the great thing about not having a schedule, and being here for several days--we could just go the next day earlier. The view was amazing, of course. I loved the comical gargoyles that lined the gallery.

Afterwards we just walked and walked--breathing it all in.

We had lunch at our little crepe place. They put about 2 cups of cheese on each crepe along with the amazing French ham...I could only eat half of it even though it was amazing. I will really miss the French cheese, and the crepes, and the croissants, and the pain au chocolat, and the...

Later we went to Montmatre, which used to be a village of quaint streets and painters working in the fresh air. Now it's a crowded mass of tourists, and the only artists one sees are making characatures to sell to foreigners. Even the courtyard at Sacre Coeur, the gigantic white church that is the second highest point in Paris, was packed with vendors. One could take a little tourist train around the area, watch the break dancing, or buy a fuzzy snake who did tricks. The blatant materialism on church grounds reminds me of that gospel story where Jesus wasn't too happy with people making profits in front of the temple. There's something wrong with people gouging each other for money over plastic replicas of monuments in the shadow of a holy place built out of sacrifice and faith. And I would say the same thing about a Buddhist temple or an Incan temple.
Every country has its scams, and France is no exception. In Thailand the scam was for the person in uniform to tell you that the _____ (palace, museum, temple) was closed. "So, sorry. But look, here's my friend he can take you to something better..." In Paris the scam comes straight from movie The Sting. Several times we observed a person leaning down to pick up a seemingly beautiful gold ring. "Did you lose this?" the person asked. When we replied we didn't, he would offer to give it to us. "It's a woman's ring." or "I'm divorced and can't use it. You take it." Then he would ask for money for a "baguette" or other food. If the mark gave him a little money, the con artist would say "Ah, so little? I gave you the ring!!" The ring looked expensive, but was actually a brass ring of little value. We couldn't help laughing when someone would stoop in front of us after the third time it happened. Most would indicate "Shh. Don't tell!" when we did this.

Tomorrow we fly home. Our legs are sore, but our hearts are happy.

Paris Day Two

We slept late (HATE those blackout curtains-I always end up sleeping too long ang get weird dreams), and then headed for the daily trip to Starbucks.

Toured the beautiful Notre Dame Cathedral. I can't explain how amazing it is in this small space, but it's beyond beautiful. No pictures do it justice.

Behind the cathedral is a small monument to the deportees from France during the Holocaust: the Jews, the Gypsies, the handicapped, the "sociopaths", and the mentally ill. I can imagine their terror as they passed through the narrow passageways having been torn from their homes and friends. As the words on the exit say "Forgive, but never forget."

We didn't have a big list of things we had to see, and sort of rambled through neighborhoods. In our wanderings we passed a great used book store (Shakespeare and Company), but Jim loves me so much he didn't make me sit there two hours while he drooled over books. Instead, we finished touring, then separated. He went back to the bookstore and I searched for Internet.

We waited in a long line to see Sainte Chappelle. This church is always described as a "medieval jewel box", and was uncrowded when we were here last, but I guess the Da Vinci Code was filmed there, and now we all have to wait an hour in line so some people can look for code on the floor. Whatever. Inside, 15 fifty-foot high stained glass windows portray over 1000 scenes from the Bible. The devout of the Middle Ages called it "a gateway to heaven", and for good reason.

Had a leisurely, late lunch at a cute sidewalk cafe.

I returned back to our hotel neighborhood in search of free internet. The hotel wanted to charge us $30 a day for Internet, which is just criminal. Hate these American business-people/rich tourist hotels. I had asked someone in our travels if the libraries had free internet, which they do. The concierge in the hotel had no idea where a library would be, and spent 20 minutes calling and trying to find out. Finally he found one closeby, called and found they had free Internet, so I set off happily with my computer. What a disappointment! The library was the size of our family room, and I think we own more books personally than this library had, and the wi-fi was only for the people who lived in the area. Rats. Back to the Internet cafe. (I so hate being on a timer and it's so slow that you have to type and then 30 seconds later the words appear on the screen. Gah!)

Paris Day One

It was exciting to take the Eurostar train from London to Paris because the train was beautiful and new and fast. My ears popped as we descended into the Chunnel. It was dark for less than a half an hour and then we emerged in France! The total trip is only 2 hours. After we got off the train, I felt like I'd really accomplished something when I figured out the route, bought tickets, and navigated the Metro with our suitcases in tow. We walked the few blocks to the hotel, and saved a ton of money on a taxi. I love taking public transportation because I like the challenge, and I like how it connects me closer to what's going on with the people who live there. The hotel is beautiful, and the room is huge by European standards. It's fun to have the luxury, but the trade-off is that no one in the hotel (employees and guests) uses French. I have to leave the hotel to know I'm in a foreign country. They did allow us to carry our own bags to the room. I always feel weird paying someone to do something I can easily do myself.

This is the view from our room:

The boat tours down the Seine that we went on today are extremely touristy, but also something that local Parisians do. It really is beautiful and romantic to see all the Paris monuments from
the river. I felt like I was visiting old friends as the Louvre, the Orsay, and the Samartaine Department store (among other familiar places), came into view.

The Louvre:
Notre Dame:
The bridges are so beautiful:
Le Concergerie
Afterwards we tried to find my favorite restaurant in Paris-a little crepe stand that makes the most delicious crepes I've had anywhere. We were amazed first of all, that we could find it, and secondly that it was actually still there! The same green bench was still in front of it where we have pictures of the girls eating crepes in 2004. And the crepes were just as yummy as I remembered.

Jim at crepe place in 2009:
Jim and girls at crepe place 2004:
Marsh eating a crepe 2009:
Marsh eating a crepe from the same place 2004:

Girls at crepe place 2004 (same bench, same tree.)

We walked for miles taking in the sights, hardly believing that we are actually here. I feel so lucky to be able to be on this trip and see this amazing city, and be with Jim having fabulous adventures together.