Friday, February 28, 2003

my ja kids..

well, my last day with the kids was on wednesday, and it was a sad, yet fun-filled day. i ended up taking the suggestions of an anonymous commenter and george to buy the kids a journal. i headed out to borders monday night and after looking through several high priced journals, i finally found the kind i wanted and not only were they under $5 each, but they also had several of them! they came in dark shades of blue and green velvetty hardcovers with the word JOURNAL etched on the cover and blank ruled pages inside. my company provided us with cool logo pens to give to the students as well, and i added some colorful pencils to the mix. so, i walked into the class with a suitcase full of journals with personal messages from me on the inside cover. the personal messages i wrote varied from student to student, but the underlying similarities were clear: focus on school, make sure you do your best, go to college, live life to the fullest, always give your all and i know you will succeed, etc. let me just say that i haven't hand-written so much in a very long time! computers have me spoiled! my right arm was throbbing with pain after finishing all 29 journals (not 33, i miscalculated)! but it was worth it.

when i walked into the classroom, all the kids started clapping and pointed towards the banner posted on the dryerase board that had a drawing of tweety on one side and mickey mouse on the other and said THANK YOU in the middle with all the kids' signatures written all over the banner! not only that, but the classroom was decorated with a streamers and there was a huge cake sitting in the corner of the classroom with a card on top! i was so touched! i thanked them and told them how much i enjoyed being there and that i would try my best to make sure i got a chance to come back to their class next fall. and then i began my lesson for the day.

on the last day, our topic was "using credit wisely" and it was really interesting to see what the kids knew (and didn't know) about credit cards. my underlying message to them throughout the session was that credit cards, while useful at times, are evil. i could see the teacher turning to agree with me everytime i warned the kids about getting into credit card debt. most of them didn't realize the high interest factor until we did an exercise that involved looking at a credit card statement and calculating the interest that would be due by the time the next statement arrived. they were surprised, but of course i wasn't. some of them shared stories of their parents being in credit card debt and i told them of my own headaches with credit cards. i advised them to wait until they get a job to apply for a credit card and to avoid succumbing to the temptations and pressures of having one in college. i think they really got the message. i wish i had someone to tell me that before i got to college. i may have used my first credit card a little more wisely.

at the end of the session i gave them a small multiple choice quiz that tested them on all the topics we covered. most of them did quite well. then, as the pizzas started to arrive, i told them that i had presents for everyone and pulled out my suitcase full of journals. i encouraged them to use the journals to write or draw and express themselves whenever they felt happy or sad or frustrated or depressed or just plain old bored. i'm not sure how they took it.. maybe they were hoping for something a little more "fun", but i knew that several of them would use it and i also told them that if they finished writing every line on every page, that they should email me and i'd send them another one.

so one by one, graduation style, i had them come up to collect their certificates, journal, cool pen and pencil. and as each person came up, the whole class clapped for them. it was awesome! i could hear them saying to each other "ooh.. let me see what she wrote in your journal!" and it made me smile.

once the gift giving was over, it was time to chow. the pizza was less than stellar, but the cake was damn good! apparently everyone in the class chipped in to buy the cake, and the card, which had a touching message, was signed by all the kids. later, i took lots of pictures and then it was time to go. i got hugs from the girls and handshakes from the boys, and as i hugged one of the girls goodbye, she said "are you coming back next year?" but unfortunately i didn't know the answer to that.

it seemed like they had a great time and they obviously enjoyed having me there once a week. i'm really going to miss them..

Friday, February 21, 2003

giving back..

as mentioned in an earlier post, next wednesday is the last day with my ja kids, by which i am thoroughly saddened. my company has arranged to have a pizza party in every class room after the final lesson, which is very cool, and the kids are looking forward to it, as am i. however, i wanted to give them a going away present.. something nice, yet relatively inexpensive considering there are 33 of them. but frankly, i'm stumped! i can't think of anything besides candy/chocolate, except that i already gave them plenty of that throughout the course of the semester. so, i'm soliciting your help.. someone, anyone, please! if you can come up with an idea of what i might be able to give all 33 of them (and it would have to be the same thing, unfortunately) that will cost no more than $100, i will be forever in your debt.

i realize there isn't much time, i.e. 5 days, but i'm just hoping that if i can't come up with something, someone out there in the blog world can. please keep in mind that these are 7th and 8th graders. i thought about getting them a $5 gift certificate to a cd store or something, but that's a little over my budget. and $5 really ain't shit if you think about it..

so, if you can think of ANYTHING AT ALL, as a result of past experiences, or gifts you've received, etc. drop me a line here in the comments box! thanks in advance..

Monday, February 17, 2003

single awareness day...

that's really all it is, ya know.. valentine's day, that is. i mean, it's nice that i'm in a relationship and that i have someone to share it with, but i think that valentine's day does more psychological harm to single folks than it does good to couples. do couple's really need a day to confirm their love for each other? shouldn't that be an everyday thing?? now mind you, i'm not trying to imply that all the single folks just sort of crawl into a hole on valentine's day and feel sorry for themselves (nor did i when i was single). but i think that if there's one single day during the year when people are made strikingly aware of their singlehood and have that fact drilled into their brains, it's valentine's day.

the reason i bring this up, albeit 3 days late, is because i noticed that some of the single people at work were made to feel uncomfortable or at least awkward when asked by their insensitive married/coupled counterparts, "what are you doing for valentine's day?" before the occasion as well as "what did you do for valentine's day?" afterwards. they sort of almost look embarrassed to say "oh, nothing much..". i just think it's stupid, though probably not that big of a deal, but personally i wouldn't even bat an eyelash if they got rid of the holiday (if you can call it that) altogether.

what did i do for valentine's day? well, after unsuccessfully trying to get reservations at our favorite lesbian owned restaurant, the room, just half a block away from our house, c and i ended up chowing down on some fried chicken at home and then headed over to catch pamela means at the heartland cafe. as usual, she rocked the house. and i noticed for the first time that she did indeed wear a hole in her guitar! she said she's working on a new album, so that's something to look forward to. check out her website for her last album "pearls" which is good, but all her older stuff is out of print.

Thursday, February 13, 2003


i think i know what i want to do.. sort of.. i want to teach. whether it be grade/high school or college, i think it may be my calling. i think it's the route i need to take to do my part in changing the world. but realistically, i couldn't afford the pay cut. corporate america has me spoiled. really. it's a crying shame..

through my company, i'm involved with an organization called junior achievement (ja). they recruit business professionals as well as members of various organizations to sponsor a school and teach a class at the school to give kids an idea of what it's like to be in the workforce. a bunch of us at my company signed up to volunteer to teach one class period, once a week for a period of 8 weeks. i've been assigned to 7th grade, though my class has both 7th and 8th graders in the same room. ja provides all the teaching materials (i.e. course syllabus, guidelines, etc). all i have to do is go in and teach based on the materials they provide. it has by far been the most rewarding thing i've done in a long time. my kids are fantastic, and i think they really like me.

when we first signed up to volunteer, they asked if we had any specific requests, and i asked that i be assigned to a school on the south side of chicago. the reasoning was simple: most south side schools are attended by african american kids, because the south side of chicago is populated as such. and as we all know, black schools get the least amount of attention compared to their northside/white counterparts. well, wouldn't you know, we all got assigned to the same school, in the depths of the black community, and we take a school bus there every wednesday at 9:30am. it's quite an amusing sight, actually, a bus load of suburban white business professionals (barring myself and two other women, one black, one chinese) on a bus ride to the south side, who normally wouldn't be caught dead on that side of town.. hehehe..

at first the kids didn't really know what to think of me. they were curious of my ethnicity of course and probably wondered what the hell i was doing there. some paid attention, others did their homework. that was 6 weeks ago. now, i can safely say that i have the attention of each and every student in my class, and according to them, they really look forward to the ja sessions. of course it helps that i bring goodies whenever i can... :)

last week the topic was "getting your foot in the door" with respect to getting a job. and to drive the topic home, i arranged for a friend of mine to come in as a guest speaker. she was the perfect choice, as she works for a local university here in chicago as their student career counselor.. and she's black. they loved her. they learned a lot from her as she spoke about her university, and the requirements for college and the importance of going to college, not to mention information on getting jobs once you're out of college, i.e. networking, etc.

i really think that i've made a difference in their lives, and i don't say this out of wanting any personal mental satisfaction. some of them come up to me after class and ask me questions about my job and how i got there, and what i did in college, etc. they have a genuine interest in bettering their situations and it seems like they really look up to me to give them good advice. and i try my best. i try to tell them that they shouldn't let anything keep them from achieving their goals and they look at me with hope. it's priceless.

i used to date a guy who was a teacher and i thought he was the greatest thing since sliced bread. he used to tell me stories about his kids that would have me in stitches. at the time, i wanted to marry the guy, but things kinda didn't work out. but i digress. now i hear he's getting his doctorate in education. i think about him sometimes as i teach my class. i think he put the teaching bug in my brain a long time ago.

i have two more teaching sessions with my class and i'm really starting to feel sad about the fact that they are coming to an end. i really dig it. i think they're planning on doing this again in the fall, but i don't know if we'll get the same school, or even the same class. they are such intelligent kids and i really hope i've made them think, if nothing else. and i wish school teachers would get paid more because believe you me i'd quit my job right now to teach full time.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003


it's official.. deshigrrrl is 30. and of course, i feel no different except that i'm kind of glad i got a headstart on things last month with respect to getting my affairs in order.. or at least trying to. the birthday was cool.. i purposely didn't arrange the traditional gathering with friends for dinner at a restaurant for a few reasons: i kinda wanted it to be an introspective day and well, for some reason i just didn't want it to be made into a deal of any size. mind you, i'm not upset over turning 30, nor do i feel old and i certainly can't complain that i'm alive and well and can safely say i've lived through 3 decades of life.. i just wanted to chill.. and enjoy and relax. and i did.

c baked a double layer chocolate cake for me and let me tell you it was damn good! chocolate frosting and a single candle. then we went to big bowl for lunch which is my favorite asian restaurant in chicago in that i know what the food tastes like and can count on a delicious meal everytime. we sat at the bar and chatted with the bartender for a bit who was the sweetest thing when, after we finished the main course, he brought out an ice cream desert with a candle on it and said it was on the house! but he also made me feel like i should've been out partying till 5am and have back to back plans for the remainder of the day. needless to say, i didn't. we had lunch, went shopping a little down michigan avenue, which i rarely do.. and bought two pairs of mens cargo pants at the gap, which.. get this.. are lined with fleece on the inside... they are the warmest pants i've ever owned, and only $19.99 each! score. bigtime.

then we came home and played wheel of fortune and scrabble on cdrom, both of which were bday presents from c, along with a fabulously soft and much needed new pillow! she's my girl.. :)

the games were hella fun.. (did i just say hella?) and we played endlessly (also the night before). you have to understand.. c and i play scrabble a lot.. and you already know of my wheel of fortune problem.. speaking of which, umm.. i won every single game i've played on the cd rom even when competing with the computer. damn i need to get on that show! c calls me the master.. hehehe.. okay i will cease the wheel of fortune babble now.

thanks everyone, for your birthday wishes! i think i'm gonna like being in my thirties...

Monday, February 03, 2003

6 days and counting, and week 4 of the lifestyle change...

i hate the word diet.. it brings up thoughts of starvation and plates full of twigs and leaves. that is not what i'm doing. i'm not on a diet. i've implemented what i like to call a "lifestyle change". i'm on week 4. my food habits have improved 20 fold.. i start off each morning with a glass of orange juice.. and umm.. a cigarette, but that's another task waiting to change.. at a later date.. then i have a banana and oatmeal when i get to work coupled with a 12 oz cup of 7-11 french vanilla cappucino (i just can't seem to break that habit, though i did go from having a 24 oz cup to a 12 oz cup. that's much better than my previous lifestyle which didn't even really allow for any sort of breakfast..

lunches and dinners are harder.. but it's getting easier as time goes on. i get new ideas on what i can eat and how i can cook it so it'll taste good without adding a ton of calories. i've discovered spice packets which contain little to no calories and zero fat, though they're usually high in sodium (one at a time.. please!). my favorite one is this one and oh my god can i tell you how delicious it was?? i just used broccoli, cauliflower and green beans instead of the bland veges they recommend in the recipe.

the hardest thing has been staying away from bread.. i love bread, of all shapes and sizes. the softer the better. but now i just limit myself to one or two slices of whole wheat bread per week. no rice, no pasta (well, i just found out that couscous is, essentially, pasta, so i'm a bit sad about that). but i hear it's damn good for you so i may still indulge once in a while.

as a result of this lifestyle change, i've been cooking a hell of a lot! and i somewhat enjoy it, except that it more often than not cuts my evenings in half.. i.e. by the time i'm done cooking and ready to unwind, it's almost bedtime. being disciplined sucks.

i've lost 4 pounds and shed 4% body fat. not bad eh? i actually feel better.. and from what i can tell from comments from my doctor last week as well as a friend from california whom i haven't seen in 5 months, apparently i look better too. i'm pretty happy about it overall. i still get tempted with all the junk c throws down on a daily basis, but i try my damnedest to hold off on the junk food cravings until the weekend, and even then, i can't say i go crazy about it or anything.. it's all in moderation.

moderation is a great word.

i've only had 2 pilates classes so far.. they're going well.. i had to cancel this saturday's class to meet the california friend for lunch, but i'll be back on track next week. for next week is the big week.. the week i've been dreading, yet preparing for the past month or so. but i'm excited because i feel like i've made a conscious effort to make sure i enter this new decade on a good note. and so far that's exactly what it's been: a good note.