Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Dainty: And I Thought Cornhole Was Weird!

Addendum: Only believe 70% of what my brother says. Here's what he said after reading this post: "I did some research and I was given bad information. The record holder is just some average guy. You can see him here..http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnj3-yNnlMs=But, our district represenative John Yarmuth won in 2006. Not as cool as record holder, but thats the skinny.George Hauck for president!"

Well, leave it to Jordan to find the weirdest events in Louisville. He called us at 6:30 and said, "There's some tournament in Germantown tonight. Apparently a long time ago, some poor people made up this game where they chopped off a chunk of a broomstick and tried to hit it as far as they could with the other end of the broomstick. There's supposed to be cheap beer and hot dogs." My response: We'll be there! Little did we know that this game, called "Dainty," was such a big deal. You have to be 45 or older to play, and they close down a whole street to do it. These folks stood at one end of the street, whacked the small stick as hard as they could so it jumped in the air, then smacked it sideways to see how far it would go. 142 people played, and last year's winner was the mayor of Louisville (who was not there when we showed up). Boy, was it a fun time!

And he was right about the cheap beer and food. Cans of beer were $1.50, you could get a bologna sandwich, bag of chips and a drink for $1.00, and (best of all) an enormous cotton candy was only 25 cents! All the kids running around were carrying cotton candy sticks that were almost half their size! It was amazing!

(I totally had parent permission to take this picture, thank you very much!)

Then, there was the band. After the competition (the World Championship Dainty Competition!) there was a good old fashioned polka band playing in the street!

Kids were dancing with balloons tied to their fists - strings that were six feet long! Folks were drinking and dancing and laughing - it was the most fun I've ever seen! Next year, I'm inviting all of my friends.

Here's our new favorite song, it's only 2 minutes long, so hang in there to hear these rocking lyrics!

Thanks, Jordo! That was super fun!

Saturday, July 26, 2008


Well, we've been in Louisville for two months as of next week and I still love it. However, summertime is a weird time for teachers and a teacher's summertime in a new town just adds to the weirdness. I had my first Professional Development sponsored by my new county this week and my stomach was in knots the entire time. I was prepared to be in a situation where I didn't know anyone, but I didn't anticipate going to a PD where I didn't even recognize anyone! In Fayette County I would usually recognize one of the presenters, or some teachers from another school, or some teachers I knew in college. I walked into a sea of strangers and for the first twenty minutes my heart was beating in a panic! Finally, someone from my new school spoke to me and asked if I was the new fourth grade teacher (essentially throwing me a verbal life raft). After I responded and we got to talking, it was no time at all before we were pleasantly aquainted and I finally felt comfortable. Phew! Now I just have to prepare for the week-long "New Teacher Induction" that lasts ALL WEEK next week. That's right, 8:30 - 4:30 EVERY DAY with all of the teachers who are new to the county. Yipes!

In other news - Chud and I called a Real Estate Agent this week and are looking at our very first house this afternoon! Yeah!! Originally we weren't going to make the call for a couple more months, but we saw an adorable house on-line one night and decided that we just had to get our hands on it. You must understand, I have many many house searches saved on-line and we look at new ones every few days together and dream about what it would be like to own one of them. But when we saw this one, a cute little gem in Germantown, we actually got our butts up off the couch and drove by it! In real life!! We walked around it and looked at it from all angles, even though there were people living there! I damn near knocked on their door to ask if we could see it, but we decided a Real Estate Agent is probably better at that sort of thing. So, I asked my brother for the guy who helped him last year and before we knew it, he had our appointment all set and ready to go. Wish us luck!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Dar al Islam - Part II

Okay, fine, I'm back. I totally meant to post more pictures and stories while I was there, but trust me - there was too much to do and too much to see, and I couldn't spend my spare minutes on the computer. However, now that I'm home, I can write all about my fabulous trip to Dar al Islam in New Mexico! You've already seen the beautiful campus where I spent 95% of my time going to lectures and working on projects. Here are some extra special pics of the surrounding landscape:

Views from Dar al Islam Campus:
Here are some pics of "Plaza Blanca," or The White Place made famous by Georgia O'Keefe. Turns out these beautiful volcanic tuft structures were ON Dar al Islam's property and I walked to them every morning!

(That's Lauren from Dallas in the last picture - she's the funniest person I've ever met.)

And, on our trip to Taos, we passed a beautiful Echo Ampitheater and just had to stop to check it out. Here are some pics of that beautiful gem:

I spent one day in Taos, which was wonderful, and another day (my birthday!) in Santa Fe where I went to the world's largest folk art festival. I bought all kinds of nifty souveniers from all over the world, including a great hat for Chud Muffin and a brass plate for myself.
Our second week was filled with more and more and more lectures, lots of enlightening information, and some great relationships on which to depend as we all crusade into this school year. I can honestly say that I have a much more sympathetic view of Muslims (or any deeply religious group of people, for that matter) and I plan to make my classroom a place where important discussions take place.
I'm going to do my best to recreate Dr. Shafi's closing remarks from our banquet Saturday night. Before you read it, keep in mind, he is a Muslim scholar and business man from Pakistan who has made a successful life for his beautiful family in New Mexico, where he began the Dar al Islam institute twenty years ago to combat prejudice and wage peace. Here's what he said:
"When I was a child, my mother taught me a prayer. Every night, before we went to bed, we said this prayer. After we asked God to bless our mother and father - and their mothers and fathers, and their mothers and fathers - the very next person we asked God to bless....was our teacher - and their teachers, and their teachers." This is where he got a bit choked up. "The reason we asked God to bless our teacher was because we expecting big things from them." Then he started to cry and said, "We expected our teachers to tell us....the truth." I started thinking about how hard it must have been to grow up as a Muslim in this country, and I also started to wonder how many of my students have ever prayed for me (not many, I'm sure). Then he continued, "We expected them to give us the answers, to be our guides - and to NOT make us the enemy." At this point I lost it. I thought of my two, adorable, Muslim students from the last couple of years - the Jaloudi brothers - who always have so much life and so much love in their eyes. I started to cry for their futures - for the "random" stops they will get at the airport, the stares and glares they'll receive while they go grocery shopping with their mother in her hijab, and the prejudice they'll encounter as they go through high school and college in our disturbingly conservative community. After Dr. Shafi's closing remarks, I said a prayer for the Jaloudi boys. I know they will be successful and I pray that their future teachers will recognize the amazing contributions they have to give, regardless of their father's inability to speak English and their mother's fear of Parent-Teacher conferences.
I'm so glad I went to this institute. Now I'm afraid of being the only one I know who thinks that a mosque is beautiful, that Muslim prayers are just as sacred as anyone else's, and that the things happening in our world are so much more political than religious. I'll never know what it's like to be a Muslim, but I'll do my best to make sure that ALL of my students are comfortable asking questions and learning the truth - whether it's in the curriculum or not. God bless teachers and God bless the students who listen to them!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Dar al Islam - Part 1

The Eastern Wall of the Mosque

Well, folks. Here I am. I've been in New Mexico for almost four days now. It's been an amazing experience intellectually, spiritually and even physically! I haven't felt this all-around healthy in a long time! I'll spare you all the amazing details I'm learning about Islam and just say this: I am well on my way to being an expert on the subject and would be happy to sit down and discuss any aspect of it with anyone when I get home. The purpose of this first blog, though, is just to give you all an idea of the beautiful place where I'm staying. We're on the Dar al Islam property, which is 1600 acres in Abiquiu, New Mexico. The original structure was built to be a Madressa, or school, so it contains classrooms, courtyards, dormintories and a Mosque. It does not serve as a school anymore but rather as a Non-Profit organization devoted to educating teachers and business people about the religion of Islam. As you can probably guess, the goal is to encourage a better understanding of Islam in order to promote peace and effective communication throughout the world. Okay, enough of the details, here are some pics:



My Bedroom

The hallway outside our bedroom door

Beautiful tile on the Library floor

Library Desk

Lunch in the Courtyard

On Monday night we went to visit Benyamin and Rabia, one of the original thirty families that started Dar al Islam. Now there are only three families living on the property. These two travel all over the Middle East and bring back wares to sell in their "yurt," a Mongolian-type hut where they also invite people in to listen to their stories. We heard some wonderful stories from Benyamin and I bought some artwork from them before we left.

Well, I'm off to another lecture, but I have lots more pictures to post. I might even be able to post some video if I can get my act together. I miss everyone terribly but I'm having a wonderful time. I'll be home on the 20th!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Party Like a Jew!

That's right folks, Chud and I attended our very first Jewish wedding this weekend in Chicago and boy, did we have a blast! Friday night we went to the groom, David's, parent's house for the rehearsal dinner since they invited all of the out-of-towners. It was so neat to meet up with all of Chud's old college friends. I remember hanging out with them when I was just starting college at UK, but they all graduated before me and went their separate ways, so I never really got to know some of them. The rehearsal dinner was a great opportunity to catch up and for me to really get all the names, locations, and stories straight of all his wonderful friends! Then, Saturday night we went to a country club (Michigan Shores??) to see the ceremony, have cocktail hour (each party had an individual mini champagne bottle with our names and table numbers!!) and then the reception. Here are all the details for my fellow wedding lovers:

The huppah was a light green fabric and the structure was made by their families. That gal in blue is Dave's mom and she looked beautiful! The lady can party, too. There was an impromptu jazz-fest at their house late after the rehearsal dinner and she was shakin' it in the living room dance floor while folks banged on the piano, drums, keyboard - even a viola!! So fun!
The bridesmaids chose their own dresses from David's Bridal and carried bouquets of off-white and red lilies (I think those are lilies - Laura can probably verify by looking at this pic)! I have to say, they all chose a different dress that was PERFECT for each of them. Plus, I'm very partial to red since that was the color of my bridesmaids' dresses! These girls were just stunning!

The bride, Jenny's, dress was also stunning, but I can't remember all of the details (I know, I'm a horrible wedding-goer). Bottom line, she was gorgeous and I couldn't stop staring at her.

And OOOOOHHHHHHH, the cake! First of all, the reception hall was huge, with dark hardwood floors, a stage and beautiful wooden rafters in the remarkably high ceilings. There was a spotlight mounted way up high that shone right down on the cake in the middle of the dance floor. You can't see it in the picture, but the white fondant ribbons have just a touch of sparkle to them! Aside from being a perfectly pleasing cake aesthetically, it was also very good to eat!

And after the cake came the dancing! The Hava Nagila lasted FOREVER and there was much stomping and circling around and chair raising and "Heys!" and shouts of other sorts. I've never seen anything like it. The band was excellent (you can see their pic, along with many others from the evening, on my Myspace page) and the dance floor was always hopping. Chud even danced a few slow songs with me!

But alas, all good things must come to an end, and I had to get up super early this morning to get myself to New Mexico for the Dar Al Islam Teacher Institute. But that's another blog for another time........