Monday, February 23, 2009

Cutting Back

Ever since Sunday, I've been trying to think of something meaningful to "give up" or do for Lent. Every year I try it and every year I fail, but this year I thought of something pretty good. Brace yourselves...I'm giving up Blogging!

On my way home from work I was going over my mental "to do" list of things around the house. Dinner, dishes, laundry, grading...Then I decided nah, I'll just check my blogs and play on Facebook. That's when it hit me like a ton of bricks - I've been spending at least an hour on-line every night! Sometimes I multi-task and grade papers or watch TV while blogging, but my computer is always on and always near my lap. It's time to stop.

The more I thought about it, the more excited I got. Now Chud and I may actually talk to each other at night. Now I may actually pick up the phone and call my friends instead of stalking their Facebook pages and blogs. Now I might get to do some of the things that have been waiting to get done forever - organizing the basement, painting the toe strip, etc. The possibilities are endless!

Yes, it will be hard. In fact, I predict that by Thursday evening I might be rocking back and forth while I crouch in a corner. But that's the biggest reason why I need to do this. I'm pretty addicted to the internet, so I need to learn to live without it. Therefore, after April 12th, I'll (hopefully) be able to use it in moderation. Just like everything else in life, right?

So, to the two or three people that follow my blog, I'll check my comments for the last time tomorrow night. As of Wednesday, you'll have to call me or email me if you want to know what's going on in my life. And if anything extraordinary happens to us, I'm going to dust off the old journal and write it with pencil and paper. Remarkable, I know. I also know that friendship is a two-way street, so expect some evening phone calls from yours truly!

Have a Happy Easter, everyone! See you on April 12th!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I Could NOT Believe This! (with update...)

Over the winter break, I read an amazing book called Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. It was about Greg Mortenson, a climber, who attempted to climb K2 in Pakistan. His expedition failed to reach the summit, and on his way down he got lost. He wandered into a Pakistani village, where the people nursed him back to health and essentially saved his life. He was shocked to discover that the kids in the village only had a teacher three days a week and they practiced their lessons outside, writing in the dirt, so he vowed to raise enough money to build them a school. The whole book is about his fundraising and struggles to build the Korphe school while starting the Central Asia Institute, a foundation that has since funded many more schools all over Pakistan and Afghanistan. They are battling "terrorism" where it starts: by providing a balanced, un-extremist education to boys and girls in that area.

Since reading the book, I've discovered that there is a "Young Reader's Edition" which is basically the same story with more pictures and more information about things kids are interested personal stories of other kids! I read the first few chapters of this edition and decided that it would have to be my next read aloud. After all, if there's anything my students need right now, it's some perspective. Most of them have it pretty bad, but to learn about kids on the other side of the world who have NOTHING, except the hope and desire to learn...well, it should give a few of my students something to think about at least.

On Friday (four days ago!) I decided to write an email to the Central Asia Institute and tell them about the kids in my class. I told them how much I loved the book and how eye-opening I expect it to be for my students. I explained that I plan to read it aloud to my kids, but I would really like for each of them to have a copy of it so they can read along with me. I humbly asked for a class set of Three Cups of Tea, the Young Reader's Edition - I made Chud proofread the letter twice and I almost deleted it, but decided to send it anyway. It couldn't hurt, right?

WELL! Today (Tuesday!) I dropped my class off at their Art class and went to check my mailbox in the teacher's lounge. There were two boxes from with my name on them. Hmm...I didn't order anything from Amazon. I thought there may have been a mixup, but when I opened the first box I found SIX HARDBACK COPIES OF THREE CUPS OF TEA!!!!! I gasped - it literally took my breath away. Oh my God! Is this for real?? I ripped open the other box to find seven more copies, for a grand total of THIRTEEN books for my class! There was no one else in the teacher's lounge, but I just kept saying in a high, shrieky voice, "Oh my God! Oh my God, I can't believe this!!" I started to CRY - I was so excited. I ran the boxes upstairs to my room, emailed Chud, and called my Mom! I had to celebrate with somebody!

To think that a company who receives hundreds of thousands of emails at any given moment, would even READ my email, much less respond to it, was a miracle to me. I wonder who actually read it, and who placed the order to Amazon, and if the guy at Amazon who packed it up knew that it would be going to such a deserving class for FREE? The packaging label said that 7 books cost $88.56! I can't spend that kind of money! Isn't that amazing? There truly are some wonderful people in this world. I cannot WAIT to start this book with my kids and have some meaningful, powerful discussions. If nothing else, at least they'll learn that writing can make things happen!

And by the way, if you've never read the book, you really have no excuse after reading my story. I think every person I can get to read it is like a little "thank you" from me to Dr. Greg!

Update: A second box arrived today (Wednesday) with twelve books in it! I re-read my original email to CAI last night and I asked for a "class set of 20 books," but I now have a grand total of TWENTY FIVE books for my kids. I'm still in shock. How does a teacher even begin to thank an organization for such a life-changing gesture?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Artistic Satisfaction

I am not an artist, by any sense of the word. "Creative," perhaps, but only in the sense of words and writing, and even then, some may disagree. "Artistic" is a word I use to describe my brother, my cousin, and many of my friends. However, for the last few months, I've been on a quest to find good "art" to hang in my house. I've searched high and low for something I love. I went to Target, Bed Bath and Beyond, Kohls, even random art fairs in my area, but nothing jumped out at me and said "hang me over your couch!" Finally, after I was so exhausted by searching and so tired of bare walls, I decided to look at some of my own pictures from the last year or so. Turns out...I have some pretty good, "artistic" stuff!

As many of you know, I spent two weeks at the Dar al Islam Institute in New Mexico last summer. Not only did I learn some of the most valuable spiritual, emotional, and professional lessons of my life, I encountered some of the most beautiful scenery I've ever seen. I took loads of pictures on my morning and afternoon walks on campus, and the Dar al Islam mosque and madrassa are some of the most beautiful buildings I've ever seen. So, I chose my favorites and enlarged them. When I paired them with some Anniversary pictures, it turns out the colors matched almost perfectly and...voila! A beautifully deocrated wall with personal, meaningful pictures! (The frames are from Ikea, which was another Godsend as far as cheap decorations are concerned.)

When I was contemplating which pictures to hang up, I printed about thirty 4x6 photos from the last year. I laid them all out on the dining room table and asked Chud to help me pick out which pictures would go in which frames. I started lining up New Mexico pictures and found these three pics: one is a Catholic Church in Abiquiu, one is the White Cliffs, and one is the Dar al Islam Mosque. I liked them because their colors matched, but Chud liked them because the cliffs created a "divide" between the Christian and Islam faiths. Ooooh......deep! I was quite proud. Here they are on our wall - right next to the liquor cabinet.

I'm only halfway finished. I have a poster sized picture of a peacock from the Bahamas on order which should arrive this week. I also have three frames with more Bahamas and New Mexico pictures that will go on our shelves above the couch, as soon as Chud gets around to hanging them. Once all of these pictures are up, my next project is to work on the hallway, where I want pictures of family and friends to dominate the space. We'll see how it goes...but if you consider yourself "family" or "friend," you better start sending me your favorite pics of yourself now, because I'm hanging something in the next few weeks, and there's no telling what kind of pictures I have on file of you already!

Friday, February 13, 2009

I'm a Big Fan of Cupcakes

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! While I don't particularly think the entire free-world should celebrate this day...and while I firmly believe we should celebrate our loved ones every day of the year...I do have to admit that I kind of love flowers and cards and candy and a nice dinner out! Since we're going to Lexington tomorrow, Chud and I decided to celebrate V-Day tonight.

Last weekend he said to me, "I know how much you love surprises, so I have a surprise planned for Valentine's Day. One of my kids mentioned it and I thought you'd like it." Well, you can imagine what kind of suspense-filled week I had, and I LOVED it! The husband doesn't usually "do" surprises, because he hates them, so I thought this was wonderful.

After school, we came home and I gave him my gift (a couple DVD's of movies he's always trying to catch on TV) and he gave me flowers (another sweet gesture since he always proclaims to hate cut flowers), then we got ready for dinner and headed out. He said we had to go to "the surprise" before dinner because the place closes at six. Here were my thoughts: a manicure/pedicure/spa something-or-other, a wine tasting something-or-other, or a candy/chocolate store of some sort. We were driving down Lexington Road when he pointed to a building and said, "There it is!"

I shrieked with joy as he parked the car. I ran inside to find numerous delicacies in cake form. What a wonderful treat! I ate a "Raspberry Razzle Dazzle:" a chocolate cake with raspberry filling topped with a chocolate raspberry icing, and then we ordered a box of six cupcakes to share with friends tomorrow. I have to say, the husband really outdid himself this time! Hooray for Valentine's Day!
Check out the cupcake shoppe online!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Feeling the Burn

I was dreading my usual January health kick for a couple of reasons. First of all, I was heavier in December than I've ever been in my life. It seems like each year the number on the scale creeps up and up, but this year it virtually leaped into another tens group the likes of which I hope to never see again. Secondly, I felt like I had no other choice but to do something because of a conversation I had with Meredith. Back in November I was complaining about how much I was eating and how much I weighed and she said, "If I know you, once New Year's hits you'll be on a big kick and you'll lose it all." She's known me for a while and it appears she knows me better than I know myself. Last January I was gearing up for a trip to the Bahamas, three Januarys ago I was gearing up for a wedding that year. It seems I always have something to get skinny for once January comes around.

This January was no different. While I once loved Weight Watchers I have come to despise it in the last couple of years. I get really "Gung Ho" about it but then I cheat and cheat, so it doesn't really work in the end. I try to come up with plan after plan after plan, when the reality of the situation is quite clear to anyone with an ounce of a brain. As Skinny Bitch says, "Don't eat crap and move your ass." I can stick to that!

The perk of this year's health kick is the added encouragement of my new workout buddy - my husband! Every year I tell him to exercise with me and he never does, but this year, when I went to check out our local YMCA he came along, perhaps out of boredom and perhaps out of genuine curiosity. Either way, he came. When we finished our tour and they asked us if we wanted to sign up, I looked at him and he shrugged his shoulders as if to say, "Why not? It can't hurt."

Well, we've been going to "the gym" for three weeks now. The fine folks at the Y showed us how to lift weights and I LOVE the treadmills with private televisions. It looks like our routine will be Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays with weights and carido on Mondays and Saturdays, then just cardio on Wednesdays. Chud wants a stationary bike for the basement and I would give my right arm for a treadmill or an elliptical machine, but I'm fine with using the ones at the gym until it's warm enough to go outside (which is was this weekend, but I still prefer the TV treadmills)!

So here we go, into the wild abyss of health and weight loss. Lots of friends are also trying to stick to a routine, so at least we have support out there. Thanks to Laura and Meredith for the recipes and motivation to make this work!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Power of Electricity!

As many of you already know, it's been an eventful week at Chez Fasciotto. Being a household of teachers, we never complain about snow days. When the prospect of a snowy gift showed up Monday night, we were excited, to say the least. When we woke up on Tuesday morning, I peered out the window as Chud turned on the TV. "Jefferson County Public Schools.....Closed." The sweetest words ever to appear at the bottom of my screen! I jumped for joy in my bare feet and snuggled my way back under the covers. Ahhh........

Alas, our enjoyment was not longlasting. Tuesday was wonderful - beautiful snow, nowhere to go, a nice warm house to keep us cozy. But then Wednesday came. Grrr for Wednesday.

We woke up around midnight to the sound of trasformers blowing all over the neighborhood. We listened as branches fell all around our house and each time we said, "Where do you think that one fell?" We curled up in bed and waited for the one that would hit our own house. Then, at 3AM, the clock flickered and went out. We weren't surprised, we were ready for the power to go out. Amazingly, we were able to go back to sleep. Perhaps it was because we already knew that school was canceled...again!

We got out of bed early Wednesday morning because it was starting to get a bit cold in our house. We bundled up in our snow gear and went to check on the neighbors, or at least those that were still home. We live across the street from some elderly homeowners and I was really worried about them, so I'm glad we knocked on their doors and handed them our phone numbers. Our street doesn't get plowed, so we couldn't drive anywhere, and we decided to wait it out and stay home for a while.

The power came back on while I was napping under two blankets that afternoon. We were so relieved! We watched The Breakfast Club and learned that school was cancelled for the rest of the week! We started making plans for the projects and activities we were going to do on Thursday and Friday. Right after I called Mom to tell her not to worry anymore....our power went off again. DRAT! We started getting restless and decided to try driving up Bardstown Road to assess the damage done to the neighborhood. We got stuck on our street - twice. A neighbor helped the first time, but the second time I had to get out in the cold, dark winter to PUSH Chud's car and you can only guess how that turned out. Lots of harsh tones were used as we "discussed" that situation!

We finally got back home and decided to make the most of it. We lit every candle we could find, wrapped blankets around our shoulders, put on hats and scarves, and poured numerous glasses of wine as we played every board game we had that accomodated two players. It was actually very romantic and enjoyable. Chud said, "This is nice. It's like we have to talk to each other." We piled the sleeping bags and extra blankets on our bed, and slept quite soundly that night.

When we woke up Thursday morning, my nose was so cold I was sure it had fallen off completely. My fuzzy hat with the ear flaps was starting to get itchy, and by the time I tried to go to the bathroom I had come to the conclusion that our house had turned into a morgue. I've never been so cold indoors. It was the strangest feeling. I suggested, one more time, that we go to my Mom's house for a few days and this time, Chud had no objections. We packed our things faster than if our house was on fire! We took that Toyota Matrix and braved the unplowed streets one more time until finally we made it to the interstate.

Three nights at Mom's house was such a nice "vacation!" We spent lots of time with family and read many, many pages in our books. It was delightful...until Jordan called on Saturday to tell us our power was still out. CURSES! We headed back to a chilled house Sunday afternoon and started tossing food out of the fridge and cleaning up the yard. Luckily, there was no damage to our house, just lots of debris. All day we waited and waited and waited, but the power just wouldn't come on! We found out school was cancelled Monday, so we stayed at Jordan's Sunday night.

Yesterday, (Monday) we spent all day literally wandering around Louisville wondering what to do. We knew we'd have school today and we were not looking forward to sleeping on an air mattress and getting ready at someone else's house. Nothing against my brother, he has a great house and I'm SO glad we were able to stay there, but you know how it is. Showers are best enjoyed in the comfort of your own, warm home! We checked on the house twice yesterday before deciding to throw in the towel and go watch the UofL game with Jordo. After the game, we decided to check on the house one more time.

We drove down the street and noticed that some houses that were dark before had porch lights on! Gasp! Can it be true?? We turned down our street and my heart sank when I saw that both neighbors' porch lights were on and ours was not! I was positive we had left the light switch on and I had nightmarish flashes of phone calls to the electric company to explain that our house was the only one NOT working! Chud got out of the car and went into the house. Before I knew it, he flipped that lightswitch on and....HAAAALLLELLLUIAAAA!!! LIGHT!! ON OUR PORCH!! PRAISE JESUS!!!!!

I shrieked in the car and clapped my hands together. I jumped out and ran to the house while he turned the rest of the lights on. I hugged him and cried and said, "Thank God! We can stay in our own house!" It was amazing. I never thought I'd be so happy to see closed circuits. I felt warmer immediately. We went back to Jordan's to pack up our "refugee" belongings and headed home for the fourth and last time that day. We dropped our bags on the living room floor and went straight to bed. I think I slept with a smile on my warm face all night long.

Can you beleive I used to go camping in the snow? I used to be so tough with my sub-zero temperature sleeping back and ski jacket. I don't know what happened to me in the last few years. Maybe it's because I'm fat and married, maybe it's because I have a house and I can adjust the temperature whenever I want, or maybe it's because I feel like I deserve to be warm. Whatever the reason, you can be sure I'll never camp in the snow again...but I'll still take any snow day that comes my way. As long as the power stays on.