Category Archives: cupcakes

The End of a Semester (or, How I Turned into a Softie)

 

I have tried and tried and tried to finish a blog post this morning and just can’t. I have about 10 drafts going, but alas. Nothing. So I’m going to go au natural this morning.

I think part of it is the end of the semester has just really wiped me out. Grading nonstop until 1:30 in the morning is exhausting. And then, brilliant me decided to have a Christmas party. THE DAY AFTER GRADES WERE DUE. So that turned into a whole evening/morning of manic cleaning, menu planning, and decorating. The next day my parents moved out of my house (they stayed with me for a month between the sale of their old house and the closing of their new house), so the weekend was spent painting rooms and unpacking them. Their new house is beautiful and closer to me and not 100 years old, which is good for a number of reasons. Then Monday, my brother (aka Picky Boy) came in from NYC. In other words, it. has. been. crazy.

However, it’s a good crazy. I’ve done a little bit of reading, but honestly, I’ve been so busy, reading hasn’t been much on my mind. Plus, reading dozens of essays right at the end of the semester did me in. I had to share one story, though:

I had one student who, from the beginning of the semester, I really liked. He’s a young kid, from an inner-city school, and he was just so enthusiastic. When the class turned in its first essays, his was awful, though I could tell he spent some time on it. Truly. It was terrible. There was no organization, no coherence. The grammar was abhorrent, and there were sections I could barely read. So I pulled the kid aside and asked him to set up a time to meet with me because he failed the assignment. Those of you who teach know, not every kid will take advantage of extra help. This student did. He came to my office. I gave him two specific areas of concentration to focus on and told him to rewrite one paragraph. He did and brought it to me, and I increased his grade based on that paragraph.

Throughout the semester, he remained engaged and worked diligently, but he could never seem to really make the cut. We continued to work on several problems in his writing, and he improved steadily. During the final, I graded their final essays, and when I came to this particular student, I put my pen down. I read it through, and it was very obviously still his own work, but guys, it was good. It was organized. The essay topic was dead on, and I was so proud of him. I marked a few things and slapped a 90 on that essay and wrote him a note about his hard work.

When he came up to turn in his final, I pulled him aside and told him he couldn’t take the essay with him, as I wasn’t handing them back but that I wanted him to look at his grade. He scowled at my mark-ups on the first couple of pages, but when he got to his grade, he clutched his chest, looked at me, looked down at the essay and back up at me: “Really? I really got an A? I’ve never made an A on a paper.”

I told him he had done the work, had improved steadily and that he did a fantastic job on the essay. Tears welled up in his eyes, and he looked at me and said “Thank you so much. You made my Christmas.” I explained to him that the grade had absolutely nothing to do with me and that he should be proud of himself. He thanked me again and walked off, saying he would text his mom and grandma. I discreetly wiped tears from my eyes as well.

And you know what? He really made my Christmas. It’s easy to wish I made more money and gripe about how teachers don’t get paid enough (we don’t). It’s simple to fall into the trap of whining about those who don’t put in any effort and then complain because they get a C in class. But to really see a student persevere and improve and then appreciate your and his own work? It was really touching. The only problem is, ever since, I have been boo-hooing at the smallest things, and I am not a crier. Hell, last night we watched Cupcake Wars, and I practically cried. We watched Miracle on 34th Street yesterday, and the second Santa spoke Dutch to the little girl, off I went again. Don’t even let the ASPCA commercials come on. Frankly, it’s embarrassing, but I guess it’s better than the alternative.

So, to you and yours, whether or not you celebrate Christmas or just use the break as an excuse to read, I hope there is a little softie in you (if, for nothing else, so I don’t feel quite so foolish), and as always, happy reading.

 

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The Elegant Gathering of White Snows by Kris Radish

My wonderful aunt is a carpenter, artist, book lover, and owner of her own company, AR Images. I got a lovely package in the mail on Saturday from her for my birthday! (Aunt Les, if you are reading this, I have been trying to call you for days! Pick up the phone.) 🙂 Tucked inside was a book called The Elegant Gathering of White Snows. My birthday card read, and I quote: “The book is not the best written but made me think of you and your wine and dancing friends.”

Because, dear reader, I love wine, and I also love dancing. So do my friends, for the most part. I flipped the book over and read the blurb:

Just after midnight in a small town in Wisconsin, eight women begin walking together down a rural highway. Career women, housewives, mothers, divorcees, and one ex-prom queen, they are close friends who have been meeting every Thursday night for y ears, sharing food, wine, and their deepest secrets.

Well, clutch my pearls, that is exactly what I and 7 close friends have been doing now for over two years. Every Thursday night, the gals gather at one of our homes and bring snacks, wine, and stories. I should have known how close we would become as our first meeting was rather serendipitous. I attended a lecture by Frank McCourt one evening at Lamar University, and a couple of friends were in attendance as well. Afterwards, we decided to stop by my friend Audra’s place for a glass of wine. One glass turned into two, and half an hour turned into several. We decided to try to get together, the three of us, once a month. Now, nearly three years later, there are 8 of us, and we get together once a week. My mom asked me once if we ever do anything. I told her that of course, we do things, but on Thursday nights, we drink and we talk. We don’t need to do anything else. Talk about therapeutic. You think the girls from Sex and the City are interesting? We actually talk about stuff other than boys and shoes. Of course, we do talk about boys and shoes, but it’s a good balance, I promise.

A couple of girls are married. A couple are divorced. One has a child. The others of us have furry babies, who are welcome at our “meetings.” Several of us work at Lamar University. A few like their jobs; a few hate them. We love to travel. Some like wine; some prefer beer. I try not to judge the beer drinkers. 🙂 Most of us enjoy salsa dancing and try to go to Houston once a month to do just that. We are all extremely silly at times, sad at times, joyful at times. All in all, we are good friends, and my life is full (and sometimes full of drama) because of them.

But back to the book: Although my aunt was correct in that the writing is certainly not anything magnificent, I really enjoyed this book. I won’t pretend it is some feminist treatise as the almost-embarrassing epilogue tries to do. I also cannot ignore that although diverse, these women are all white and middle class. No women of color or poor folks here. What it does do well, though, is to tackle women’s disappointment, inner struggles, satisfaction, depression, abortion, sexuality, and loss. Each character has her own chapter along the journey to give a bit more insight as to what has made her leave her life to walk with these dear friends, and really until that chapter, it can be difficult to tell the characters apart. The town becomes fascinated with their pilgrimage, and the national and international media catch on as well. The book also had some nice vignettes of others who heard about these women and what change it creates in their own lives. I really couldn’t put this book down.

It certainly reminded me of my dear friends, but more than that, it made me see just how important these friendships are and how rare they can be. It takes time to be a good friend. It takes energy and love and a bit of selflessness. It can be hard to make time for our Thursday night get togethers, but our time together truly is sacred in a lot of ways, even when our conversation is not. Women need a space to be who and what they are without judgment and with support. I hope you all have friends out there like this. I have strong women in my family, too, so I’m blessed on all sides.

In honor of my friends and because of this book, I invited the gals over for a true, old-fashioned slumber party Friday night. We’ve said we wanted to do it for over a year but haven’t made the time. I’m planning on popcorn, root beer floats, mud masks, and movies. Everyone is excited and ready for the weekend. This book really did inspire this get together. We may not be walking, but I will be thinking of Susan, Alice, Chris, Sandy, Gail, Mary, Joanne, and Janice, the characters of this book as someone snorts root beer or tosses popcorn, when someone laments the state of her career and where she should go from here and when another shares the details of her latest kiss. If you need a woman-positive book, a comfort read, or if you want to rekindle some of your friendships, I’d suggest picking up this book.


In which I gloat – generously.

If you want to see other gorgeous cupcakes, click on the photo.

Serendipity! I am now the proud owner of a $100 Amazon gift card. The only thing that would make me happier would be THESE cupcakes. I will gladly take any and all book recommendations (or cupcakes), but please only send me the best of the best. Ready, set, GO!

Ah, and since I am so excited and feeling generous, if you leave me a comment with a recommendation and your pick and contact info, I’ll randomly choose someone and send YOU* your pick. Make sure and comment by 5 p.m. CST Thursday, March 25, 2010. Thank you for reading! Those of you who have commented since I started this blog, thank you! It’s so fun and encouraging to read your comments. If you’re lurking, de-lurk. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Here’s wishing you a fantastic day full of good books and heavenly cupcakes.

*Please limit this to the continental US because Amazon gift card aside, I am a broke girl.