Monthly Archives: March 2011

I may be creepy but…

it’s always for a good reason! That is, if it’s at all possible that creepiness is justified.

Now, I’m not saying that I’m an internet or even a Google wiz but I did succeed in what I deem to be quite a feat of Googling today. In between waiting for the kids to finish their various dilly-dallying before their lessons, I decided to do a simple search for a teacher I had way back in the 4th grade. Now, let me preface this by saying that I don’t normally do this. That is, I don’t usually google random people from my childhood past but this teacher was something special.

When we’re young, we’re malleable, easily-shaped. We’re like silly putty almost. Ok, not that changeable but much more pliable than we are now. And while I had always been a good student (most likely a result of the Tiger mother upbringing I was afforded), my 4th grade teacher really changed things for me. What he did was, well, he made learning fun.

While at home, we learned by rote memorization, dictation, and copying and recopying lessons until everything was ingrained in our memories, Mr. 4th Grade Teacher used games, the competitive kind, to spur our curiosity. One game I clearly remember consisted of looking at slide shows of birds and listening to bird calls. We were split up in teams and competed to see who recognized the birds/bird calls the fastest. And wouldn’t you know it, within a few months, most of the class could tell the difference between a warbler and a canary just based on its call.

Mr. 4th Grade Teacher taught outside of the curriculum and loved spearheading projects. Take the garden for example. He had this great idea to bring together all the different classes and grades to plant a little garden in the school yard, on the hill overlooking the kickball field. Not only did we manage to realize this idea (is that English? I’m getting French and English mixed up now), but we learned so much along the way. We installed a little pool, complete with fish and tadpoles and built a compost bin. Though I’m not as much of an environmentalist as I once was, one of the main reasons why I’ll carry my water bottle around those extra few blocks to recycle is because he instilled in me this awareness that what we do affects the planet and affects everyone else. Heck, if I remember clearly, that garden even brought the community together. I vaguely remember seeing plenty of non-faculty adult faces at the ribbon cutting ceremony.

If this rant hasn’t convinced you how much I adored (not in a romantic way) that teacher then I’ll tell you this: I found a guy who is teaching science in his state. It was a long shot but I thought hey, what’s the worst that can happen? So I emailed him. And you know what?…

Sometimes, I win at life.

(#Winning)

Now I’m afraid I won’t be able to go to sleep out of excitement. Yes, you are allowed to stamp a big Glee sized “L” on my forehead for LOSER but this dude totally changed my life! He taught me so much and most of all, he taught me to love learning, to appreciate knowledge, and to be curious. I would liken him to Ms. Frizzle:

Sometimes, when I feel lost, I try to think of the big picture. Do I want to become famous? Perhaps be a big time partner at a big time law firm? Marry rich and just chill? I mean, they would all be good but isn’t the purpose of life to live your best life possible? To be the best you? And most of all, to touch someone else’s life? I know I’ll never be Ghandi, Jesus, or Mother Teresa, I just don’t have it in me and I’m pretty sure (no offense) that most people aren’t like that other. But to be able to have a positive effect on someone, whether it be your sister, your boyfriend, or your student, that is one of the greatest rewards there is. Because many many years after you are gone, either from the earth or just from their memory, the effect you had on them will still linger. And maybe, they will do something wonderful, or just simply good, because of that.

Life is short. Many of us don’t realize it because we think, well, we’re young, we’ve got time. And yeah, for the most part, we do have time. But it’s no guarantee. My close friend’s brother-in-law passed away recently. He was not that much older than me. Can you imagine that? He was a little sick but no one thought it was that bad and though it’s a tragedy, from what I hear, he was a great brother, son, and friend. He touched people’s lives. He was a positive influence. So while he is no longer with us, here, physically, he’ll remain a part of everyone whose lives he touched. I like to think that if I were to pass away tomorrow, I will have left some kind of positive mark on someone, even if it’s just some rando on the street. Like maybe that quarter I gave to the guy playing the guitar on the street was the last bit of money he needed to pull his life together? That’d be pretty awesome.

But enough with the heavy stuff. The question remains, am I a creep for googling (though I didn’t spend more than 5 mins) someone I knew for maybe 2 years, many many years ago? And does it make me even creepier for emailing said person thanking him “so so much” for being an amazing teacher?

I guess we’ll find out because if he doesn’t email back/I am issued a restraining order… well I guess that makes me a creep. Like this:

– Mag

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Got Milk?

It’s pouring again but I am, as always, perfectly content to sit here in bed. I’m listening to the soundtrack from La Traviata, an opera I saw in Venice – for you non-opera experts (like myself), it was the opera Vivian sees in Pretty Woman.

Today, we celebrated the Confirmation of the daughter of my host family as well as her birthday, which is actually Tuesday. Instead of buying one huge cake, my host mom picked out a bunch of little tarts and treats from the patisserie in town. I decided on a chocolate tarte and omg was it delicious. So everyone had their own little tarte:

and 3 extras that we were all going to taste.

Note: Only 2 are pictured due to greediness and an irresistible cream puff pastry tarte thing.

Anyway, as always, I was encouraged to eat more than my fair share of these caloric offerings and though, as always, I resisted the first few advances, I gave in eventually because, I mean, have you SEEN the pictures? But, you know what I always want when I have a lot of sweets? Besides a liposuction pump handy? I need milk! But when I asked for some milk, I got the strangest looks. Apparently the French think that it’s crazy that we have milk with our desserts. But look how chocolately my tarte was:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was like chocolately krackle goodness on top of a tart filled with chocolate mousse and covered with a chocolate krackle shell. Eating that without milk would be like eating oreos or chocolate cake without milk. C’est pas possible!

So after a few minutes of me struggling to convey how milk and desserts complement each other, both sides nodded at each other in that I-don’t-understand-you-so-I’m-going-to-nod-and-smile kind of way, and agreed that we come from two very different cultures. We like milk with our chocolate desserts, and the French believe that jogging is bad for your health (but I guess they don’t need it – see post on skinny French).

I went jogging the next day to burn off the desserts attempting to invade my love handles.

– Mag

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When it Rains

I looked at the forecast for the rest of the week… rain. Rain for the rest of the week? Well, at least now I have a good excuse to sit on my butt all day. I mean, I can’t run outside when it’s raining! Right? RIGHT? Right.

Anyway, I went into town today to plan my upcoming trip to Venice (!) with my friend Cami. I also decided that I’d give myself a break and have a tart, the French version of pie because, you see, it’s Pi Day! 3.14 = 3/14 = March 14th. I know, I’m a huge dork but Pi Day is totally awesome! It’s also Einstein’s birthday. What a coincidence! So I got this delicious raspberry tart. Yes, I know it’s Lent but you gotta be practical. I’m in Europe for Pete’s sake. And today is an official Nerd holiday. Look it up on xkcd, the ultimate nerd website.

But yeah, this tart pie. Raspberry goodness. I went to two different stores before I saw it. I knew I what I wanted. None of the other stores were selling raspberry, but this place was. They put it in a nice little box.

It looked amazing.

And it was tart and sweet. And surprisingly juicy as I soon found out when I noticed raspberry sauce dripping down my fingers.

So. Good.

Back to the rain. There’s this song that I like by the Eli Young Band. It’s called… get ready for it… “When it Rains”. The chorus goes like this:

When it rains, I don’t mind being lonely, I cry right along with the rain.

When it rains, I don’t pretend to be happy, I don’t even have to try.

When it rains, some people get down, sportin’ a frown so I fit right in…

Well, I’m usually pretty happy when it rains. I mean, it sucks because it means my jeans are gonna get wet and it gets too icky to go outside. But, as corny as this sounds, there’s something cleansing about the rain. Especially in France when everyone’s dog/child is pissing and pooping on the street. I also noticed that even in my small town in France, there’s traffic when it rains. I understand why there’s traffic in NYC when it rains and most of all, why there aren’t ANY cabs. But really? This town is pretty tiny. My bus into town was held up in traffic and it was barely misting. Regardless, I think life slows down when it rains. It’s nice. It gives one a chance to breath. You know you can’t really rush because chances are, you’ll get wet/slip (which also means getting wet…). My favorite thing to do when it rains? Put something in the oven and snuggle with a good book. Bonus if sharing the covers with a loved one. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be doing that tomorrow. Well, just the book part. I’m afraid to bake anything here because the flour is so different from the flour in the States. But since I’ve decided to relearn European history, it’ll be me and my “European History for Dummies” in bed. Oh yeahhhh.

Now go eat some pi(e)!

Mag.

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The sign off I dread

“Sweet dreams”. It sounds so sweet, so cute, so… lovey dovey! Seriously, you don’t say that to a platonic friend. As previously stated, I have a lot of guy friends, a good amount of them are platonic and they would never say “sweet dreams”. As of lately, I have been confounded by the difficulties of finding a platonic male friend. Most of my close guy friends are either engaged (a.k.a. they have no lives now and only hang out with their fiancée), out in some random ass place like Oregon trying to “find themselves”, or back in the great state of Texas, where I went to college. And as for the ones I’ve either made since moving back to NY or the ones who are still in NY, why, for some reason it seems all they want to do is get in my pants!

What’s up with that? For example, while in France, I’ve been doing a good job of staying in touch via gchat, email, skype etc. So, when I’m chatting with them on gchat or skype, it’ll seem like everything’s all good. We’ll talk about sports, how bloated I’ve been feeling, their weekend plans etc. and then as I’m about to sign off and go to sleep (since I’m 6 hrs ahead of the States), I see these two words that I really would rather not see coming from someone I’d like to be a PLATONIC friend. sweet.dreams.

UGH! Don’t say that! If you say that, then it means that you want to be more than friends and I don’t want that! I feel like slapping his wrist, waving my finger, like, uh uh, no. Bad! Is there a way to do that on the internet? Instead of “poke” on facebook, can they make a “slap”?

This may seem like a strange complaint but I miss being able to just chill with the guys, watch football, grab a sandwich, go to a kegger… without worrying about inappropriate touching or leading him on. Those were the good old days. I think, maybe what has changed is that I’m single now? I’ve always had a boyfriend and I mean always always and my friends had respected me enough to not interfere but i guess now I’m up for grabs? I’m not tooting my own horn nor am I saying that I’m hot ish. Just simply calling it as it is. And as for making male friends… for the most part, when a guy meets a girl, he just wants to get in her pants. Unless 1. He has a gf. 2. She has a bf. 3. She is butt ugly and he’s not drunk enough. So how do I remedy this? I’ve considered lying about having a boyfriend but I think it may be bad to start a friendship based on a lie. I don’t know, I’m out of ideas. I guess I’ll just have to keep on flying to random places and to my old college stomping grounds to hang out with my guy friends and to watch them get belligerently drunk, pull off super stupid stunts and/or have a McDonalds chicken nuggets eating contest (FYI this results in passing out after nugget overload and passing gas… really bad gas).

Or maybe I need to find guys like this:

– Mag

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International Women’s Day

March 8th is International Women’s Day and while Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama both spoke on International Women’s Day, there really isn’t much buzz about it in the States. In other countries, however, it’s a recognized holiday. Take China for example. Yes, it’s a communist country that is known for its tight control on its media but guess what, women get the day off in China for International Women’s Day. One of my besties was teaching in Vietnam last year and said that for the most part, people recognized it as a real day. She got flowers and everything. Other places in the world where International Women’s Day is an official holiday: Afghanistan, Armenia, Russia, Ukraine, Mongolia, Cuba, Georgia…

See anything in common with the countries that actually celebrate IWD? Yeah, ironically, women in these places don’t have nearly as much freedom or rights as we do in the States. Can it be that we’re taking our privileges for granted? I will be the first one to say that I am not a feminist. I have nothing against feminists but I don’t believe that men and women are equal. I mean, just biologically, we’re different and we’re built to perform different tasks. It’s more of a general rule but there are plenty of exceptions. Are there women who would rather work than have a family? Yes. Are there women who SUCK at cooking? Absolutely (no comments here on Holly’s lack of kitchen skills, although her couscous is quite good as are her grilled cheeses). And are there women stronger than some men? Hells to the yeah. My friend who is studying law at UPenn works out with the weight lifting team and can most definitely kick her husband’s @$$ anytime.

So why am I making such a big stink about IWD? Well, mostly I just wanted to make y’all aware of it. And also, as a sufferer of one of those terrible PMS-y days, I wanted to thank all of my girl friends. I’ve often said, oh I don’t have a lot of female friends, I mainly hang with guys but the truth is, while I do have a lot of male friends, my relationship with them will never be like my relationship with my chicas. I have the most wonderful and capable female friends in the world. They are determined, self-aware, kind, and just great people. They’re go getters. Whether it’s dolphin training, being a lawyer, a writer, or an FBI agent, my girls know what they want. On top of that, they are super supportive and have always been there for me. I am truly blessed to have them in my life.

I think IWD is a good day to reflect upon all this and also to remind yourself of all your capabilities and most importantly, how we’re lucky that we have the opportunity to use our skills to pursue our passions. Because, it’s not like that everywhere.

Here’s another Sex and the City moment for you (although it’s from Sex and the City 2, a terrible movie to whichHolly can attest):

 

In the words of the great Spice Girls,

Girl power!

Mag.

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Carême

The word “carême” is deceptive because it looks like a cross between caramel and creme… but really it’s the opposite. Carême in French means Lent. Since the family with whom I’m living is Catholic, starting Wednesday there will be no more sweets. That means no chocolate powder in our milk at breakfast or jam on our bread and worst of all, no more nutella! And what is life in France without nutella? Well, I’m going into town tomorrow to meet up with a friend and we are going to go a little crazy. It’s Mardi Gras! That means that I’m allowed to get two boules (scoops) of ice cream and a chocolate croissant right?

Not but in all seriousness, though I’m not Catholic, I do try to observe Lent. Partially for religious reasons but I think mostly because it’s a good time to break a habit. By this time, our new years resolutions have already fallen through and Lent is another opportunity to make some changes. They say it take 20 days to make or break a habit and given that Lent is 40 days, it’s almost a surefire way to break that bad habit. It’s funny how our minds work. I’m reading a book right now called “The Brain that Changes Itself” and it’s about neuroplasticity. Essentially, research has shown that our brains continue to develop (especially when stimulated), and we can change how it operates. For example, through specific, repetitive exercises, a person with dyslexia can train his or her brain to reform itself in a way that will allow it to function in a normal or above normal capacity. It’s simply amazing what the human body is capable of although sadly, it seems like we don’t take advantage of it.

The book also argues that the idea of “use it or lose it” holds 100% true. Pathways in the brain that are used more often become bigger, more efficient, and more sensitive. That’s why habits are so hard to break. I’ve been wondering if personality defects can also be viewed as reenforced bad habits. I mean, in a sense they kind of are, right? If you’re always ditching your friends or making selfish decisions all the time, that becomes a habit and that bad aspect of your personality is enforced. Meanwhile the non-ditching, unselfish/considerate habits are not being exercised and when you make decisions, maybe those pathways aren’t dominant enough? I don’t know. I’m exhausted from traveling this weekend and I am no neuroscientist.

But this brings me to my point. Ever since my first boyfriend in the 9th grade, I’ve had this terrible habit of prioritizing romantic relationships over my platonic friendships. To an extent, it’s understandable but I think there have been many times when I took it a bit too far and thank the Lord I have understanding friends but they really should never have to put up with that. So in addition to no sweets (when I’m at home), I’m also instating a rule that I will only have platonic relationships with men. Specifically, I have this bad habit of assessing  a guy’s date-ability and/or marriage-ability immediately. It’s like how I view the opposite sex is distorted because I’m wearing relationship glasses. I mean, I have many many platonic guy friends but I have a one-track mind and I am going to change that mind. But don’t worry, if I meet the love of my life, I’ll make an exception.

I also think I’m going to give up Ex-Boyfriend. I’m still indulging thoughts about him and from now on, no more. If I think about him, I’m actually gonna force myself to think about something else. He’s dominated my thoughts for over a year now so it’s gonna be a hard habit to break but it’s gotta be done. We all have the capability to become a better version of ourselves. It’s a difficult thing to do and it requires some self-analysis and lots of discipline but if we better ourselves, we’ll eventually be adding more good to the world. My dad always says, it’s one thing to control other people but it’s hardest to control yourself.

So while I’m going to feast tomorrow, I’ll be sustaining myself on some deeeelcious carême for the next 40 days. Happy Mardi Gras folks!

– Mag

Yes that is ice cream (Amorino - best ice cream in the world)

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every relationship serves a purpose

To Mag:

In response to your “every guy has his purpose” post- a concept which I have been endlessly trying to get through to you, here is a Sex and the City clip to back up this theory.


 

❤ Holly

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