Monday, July 12, 2010

Drew Brees - Our Hometown Hero

Drew Breesed into town Friday for a book signing of his new book, Coming Back Stronger; Unleashing the Hidden Power of Adversity. Drew is no stranger to Greater Lafayette - he spent four years flinging the pigskin here, bringing his team to an eventual Rose Bowl appearance in 2000. Since then, he makes trips back here frequently for fundraisers for his foundation, the Brees Dream Foundation, which funds underprivileged children's participation in a Purdue sports camp, along with other charities. He also just "hangs out" with kids from local selected children's organizations. I was fortunate to have been the co-director of one such organization in 2008, and met Drew at a bowling event for kids. Backpacks with Drew's signature were given to all the participants, and some children won big prizes like bikes. All the kids received lunch and bowled with the future Superbowler. It was a thrill to meet one of Purdue's greats, let alone the NFL quarterback for the New Orleans Saints.

The biggest impression I had at the time was his friendliness and open accessibility to the public. Contrary to what the sponsoring credit union, PEFCU, which sponsored the event had said to us, Drew did want to pose for pictures and sign other things (like the backs of kids' shirts, their hats, footballs, etc.). We were told he was to be seen, but not touched. I saw Drew lift one of our group's children onto his shoulders and pose for pictures. I used the one I took of them for a brochure to promote our cause, helping children whose parents had cancer. How can you not love the guy?

When Drew came back this time, it was as the Superbowl XLIV MVP from 2010. He drew huge crowds from both sides of the Wabash River. Usually his appearances are exclusively for the big hitters or the kids. This visit was for the public - his public. At the bookstore, people came early to buy his book and get "tickets" for the book signing. Older people like me who saw him play at Purdue or who taught him in school. One such gentleman was his Business Ethics teacher. Drew looked up from the stream of books and jumped to his feet when he saw Judge Meade. "How are you doing? Are you still teaching? I really enjoyed your class!" Drew was every bit the polite and respectful student from a decade ago. When I approached him, I gave him a gift bag containing Krannert School of Management apparel. Drew was one of our own graduates. You know, something to change up the normal Saints garb. I also slipped him an old brochure I had made up starring him and the kids from my former organization. Judy, my co-worker took a photo of the encounter.
Drew looked great as always. Boy do I need to stay on my diet...

Drew's public also included current Purdue students who could relate to their fellow Boilermaker, and little kids who dreamed of playing football on the big turf. I know Drew has fans all over the country, but we have so many concentrated fans per square mile that we're like family.

What does this have to do with learning Spanish? Nada. Nada thinga. Rosetta, I promise I'm coming back. Now that I have an upcoming trip to Spain and Italy, your words of wisdom will come in mighty handy.

Until manaña,

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Day Mike Rowe Came to Town

Wouldn't you know it, no one knew Mike Rowe from Discovery Channel's Dirty Jobs was on campus until he had shaken the dirt of our little town off his feet. Okay, some people knew it, like the student in the forensic entomology department who arranged the visit. All their staff probably knew, but the rest of us were oblivious. This makes me sad on many levels.

1. I work just a few buildings down from where he spent the day.
2. I met his neat mother a few months ago at a writer's workshop, and she and I have corresponded a few times. She graciously helped me procure an autographed photo of Mike for my oldest son, Sean, a senior at Purdue. It says "Keep it Dirty, Mike." It's one of Sean's prized possessions.
3. It would have been fun seeing him - even though he was probably knee deep in dead pigs and maggots.

I'm not a big TV watcher. In fact, I hate it, except for a few shows. My down-time, if there is such a thing for a working mother, is reading or writing on Antonio, my computer. However, Marcia, my name for our television, is top dog of the house. She's blaring away from the instant the kids or hubby hit the door. Her steady line-up of stupidity makes me want to commit telecide. BUT, our meeting ground is the Discovery or History Channel. By God, you actually learn something on those channels! I am engrossed in every episode I see of Dirty Jobs because Mike edifies real people with real jobs and teaches all of us how complex (or disgusting) their work actually is. The night after I watched the episode about gathering goose down from the dead duck up, I hesitated a bit before I lay my head on the pillow. So many lives for my comfort...

So, Mike, I'm sorry our paths didn't cross this time, but it'll be fun seeing you in our local episode when it airs. And we even had leftover barbecued pork you could have taken home!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Español De-railed by Graduation

Any excuse will do when you really need one, but having 200+ people drop over last Saturday night is pretty good one I think. It was like planning a wedding, only without a bride and not knowing exactly who or how many people would show up. Thankfully, we had two other couples co-hosting with us, who pitched in cleaning up our 1oo year-old barn, decorating and helping prepare the food, including 125 lbs. (too much) of smoked pork loin. It wouldn't be an Indiana graduation party without pork!

Personally, I worked like un hombre, if I must say so. Something I'm not anxious to repeat, I might add. I sweat like a man and swore like a man. SO MUCH WORK, weeding, shoveling, lifting, hauling, mulching, washing, cleaning. What was I thinking when I volunteered our house for the party? Hey, at least the place got cleaned up for the summer...

We relived our football season through photographs and sheetsigns. It was like another huge tailgate party. Several of my son's classmates are going on to play football in small colleges - it will be fun keeping tabs on them.

As a result, español has taken a back seat. "Get in the back, and be quiet! We'll get there when we get there," I say to Rosetta. "We've got to get through graduation season." In a small school like ours, that means going to almost every senior's party. Good thing we like pork.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Things, glorious things - cosas en Español

It's been a long time coming, Rosetta. Finally more nouns have arrived on the scene. I furiously wrote down my new vocabulary as the pictures flashed by:
jugete - toy
paraguas - umbrella
anteojos de sol - sunglasses
medicamentos - medicine
escalera - ladder
joyas - jewelry
fruta - fruit; vegetales or verduras - vegetables
carne - meat

You never know when you'll need to differentiate one thing from another. You don't want to ask for carne in a farmacia (pharmacy). At least I wouldn't. Rosetta took me through many stores: ferreterias (hardware stores), supermercados (supermarkets), joyerías (jewelry stores) and panaderías (bakeries). One of my favorites was of a girl saying to her father as she was leaving the house to go shopping, "Necesito dinero," with her hand out. Some things are just universal.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Seinfeld Episode

It's too bad the Seinfeld series is over because I have a doozy of an episode they could have used. My husband, Doug, and I went to the movies last Friday night. Afterwards, we stopped at Lenny's Sub Shop.

Guy at counter: "Hi, welcome to Lenny's. Sorry but we don't have any cold subs right now. Unless you wanted a tuna sub because the guy that runs our slicer cut his finger and the Health Department said he can't slice anything for 10 minutes until it's sterilized. We do have hot subs, though."

Me: "Do they have fingers in them?"

Guy: "Of course not, this isn't Wendy's."

Doug: "How about a Philly. What's on it?"

Guy: "Roast beef, cheese, onions - you can also get lettuce and tomatoes on it.

Doug: "Any mushrooms?

Guy: "Sorry, no mushrooms. A lot of people ask for mushrooms, but for some reason we don't have them."

Doug: "Okay, give me the Philly with the works."

Guy: "Sorry about the slicer. I'll give you the sandwich 1/2 off."

Doug: "Are the cookies any good?"

Guy: "Yea, I eat them all day long. Pick one out and I'll throw that in for free."

We wait and wait and wait. Another customer walks into the store. A big gal with a big appetite.

Guy: "Hi, welcome to Lenny's. Sorry, but we don't have cold subs available tonight. The slicer is, uh, temporarily out of service."

Gal: "No problem - it's freezing outside and I want something hot. How about a Philly? What's on it?"

Guy: "Roast beef, cheese, onions and you can get lettuce and tomato if you want."

Gal: "Do you have any mushrooms?"

[I swear I am not making this up.]

Guy: Sorry, no mushrooms."

Gal: "Okay, I'll take the Philly with everything. It had better be big because I'm a big gal and I'm hungry. I'll take a large Coke too."

We're still waiting and waiting for Doug's sandwich. Then it dawns on us that it might take a while for a one-handed sandwich maker... Meanwhile, the gal takes her cup to the Coke machine and presses the metal bar for ice. Nothing. She moves it to the soda dispenser. Nothing again.

Gal: "Hey, excuse me, but your Coke machine isn't working."

We just burst out laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation.

Guy: "Sorry, this happens all the time." He flips a switch and the machine starts humming.

Gal: "It's okay, but please stop saying you're sorry."

Guy: "I'm sorry."

We strike up a conversation with the gal while we're waiting because we are now bonded in this bizarre sub shop Seinfeld episode and we all know it. Turns out that she sat behind us at the movies. She didn't like Ironman 2 whereas I loved it. In walks another customer, a college student all decked out in black motorcycle garb.

Guy: "Hi, welcome to Lenny's. Sorry, but we don't have any cold subs right now. The slicer isn't working."

Motorcycle guy: "Is Ben working?"

Guy: "No, he left earlier tonight because it was so slow. He'll be back tomorrow, though."

Motorcycle guy: "I'll just come back tomorrow." (He probably gets free subs from Ben.)

If Lenny only knew that they were literally working short-handed and giving away the store that night! But I must say that my Seinfeld episode was every bit as entertaining as the movie and a whole lot cheaper!

Phrase of the day: Deberíamos triturar eso. We'd better shred that.

Friday, May 7, 2010

I Got It From My Mama

Mother's Day is closing in, and this year I am totally prepared for it. I'm leaving town. I'm not sure who is to blame: Hallmark, FTD, the economic need for a post-Christmas boost. Whatever it is, mothers are led to believe that they are SUPASTARS and should be treated as such on Mother's Day. It's taken me 23 years of motherhood to get over that notion. The truth is everyday is Mother's Day if she has a child. Expecting the BIG CELEBRATION is unrealistic and usually ends in mom being grumpy and let down.

Don't get me wrong, my family is great. They've bought me flowers and trees and mulch and brunches over the years. But my best days of being a mom are days when the kids are having fun with each other. Like the other night when my two oldest were dancing in a campus bar with their friends to celebrate the end of finals, and the song "I Got it From My Mama" by Will I Am came on. They started dancing with each other and laughing so hard they couldn't breathe. They told me about it later. What a great Mother's Day tribute! Now I can leave town.

Actually, I'll be with my mother-in-law and younger daughter watching Chelsea run a mini-marathon in Indianapolis. Chelsea is running for TEAMFOX, the Michael J. Fox foundation for Parkinson's research. She's raised a good chunk of change and is dedicating her run to her grandfather. I'm leading her cheering block. A great way to celebrate Mother's Day - in a mom's classic role as #1 cheerleader. That's another great thing about being a mom. You can celebrate their victories like they were your own.

Speaking of my mama, I'm long overdue for a visit home. After the race I'm heading northward to visit my mama and papa. No BIG CELEBRATION, just some relaxing family time. When I found out that my brother will be there too, I told Mom, "Gosh, you're awfully popular!" She replied, "Yep, one day a year."

Phase of the day: Llama a tu mamá. Call your mother.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Quiero un asiento de ventanilla

This has been a busy week, but every mother who has children in school knows that Chaos reigns King in Spring. Plays, musical performances, track meets, tennis matches, golf games, academic awards, prom, hurry up and learn everything you were supposed to last semester, senior trips, graduation parties. Help! It's no wonder the pharmaceutical industry is showing healthy profits in a recession...

My stress reliever has been a new-found interest in an old love of mine. I rediscovered this love at the University of Dayton last month. Not a guy. Running. Twenty five years ago, pre-children, I found running in the morning was my only break from the action of my hectic job. Right out of college I was a sorority consultant and flew around the US helping chapters with recruitment and officer training. I was on the job day and night. My runs were MyTime. I'd forgotten how wonderful it was to have the wind on your face and hear the birds and breathe in lungfuls of fragrant flowers. Running hurts more than it used to, but it meets so many needs: peace in nature, healthy exercise, time with God. Plus it's free.

Although I really enjoyed my classes at the Y, now that it's spring, I need to be outside - to feel the rain on my face and sweat on my brow.

Phrase of the day: Quiero un asiento de ventanilla I'd like a window seat.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Face Off

This is not exactly a hockey match, but when the puck dropped, I had to concede to my husband. I'm referring to my six hour stint on Facebook. He's not ready for me to get tangled up in the World Wide Web. So, the Face is off, but the blog is still on. Reflecting on it, I know my friends will be there when I really need them because my Mama's Grapevine is alive and well.

Today Rosetta had me jumping through more hoops. The reading is the easiest, but speaking is still a challenge. I put on my best Antonio Banderas accent, but still mess up when speaking without prompts. For one thing, I can never remember the words for breakfast almorzar, lunch desayunar or dinner cenar, and Rosetta has us brushing our teeth and drinking coffee and going to sleep before antes de and after después de these meals. These are important terms you need to know to survive. Maybe if I talked faster with a slur, I'd fool Rosetta. I overheard a conversation at a coffee shop the other day between two college students; one a native German speaker and the other who was studying German. It was suggested that they have a German-only weekend - no foul English to muddy the waters. Total immersion. Sink or swim. I don't know how the conversation ended, but I'm pretty sure there will be some German beer and brats involved too. Perhaps we can host a Spanish speaking exchange student one day.

Word of the day: Rechazado declined. Kind of sums things up.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

You're my best, best, best friend

It's incredible what happens when you open your heart. When you cross barriers of race or religion or culture or nationality to connect with another human being. When I began my Guadalupeproject eight months ago, I never envisioned that I would be enveloped so completely in another culture. That I had so much in common with folks who spoke another language.

My youngest daughter plays tennis for her high school, and is teammates with a cutie from Guatamala. Her mother is best friends with the Panamanian mom of my dance partner, Glenis. So, we're all family. Glenis came to the match and gave me a huge hug. She introduced me to the Guatamalan mom as her "best, best, best friend." I can think of no higher compliment. Now, if only I can get her to marry my son.

Keely has been asked to be on Ashley's Quinceañera court. I don't know what that means exactly, but it's Ashley's 15th birthday - a coming out party of sorts. New adventures, here we come!

Rosetta is doing a great job, but oh how I long for a textbook. My scribbled notes are filling a box by Antonio, mi computadora. I'm tempted to take a class with a workbook that I can use for reference. What I'd really like to do is spend a winter in Costa Rico and live like a native. Be forced to learn Spanish out of necessity, as the Latinos are forced to learn English by living here.

Hasta luego mi amigo!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Erma and Company

When I sent a text message to my 23 year-old daughter telling her that I was in the presence of the Bombeck kids at my conference, she replied, "Sorry I don't know those kids." The generation gap swelled bigger between us, and I replied that they were the children of famed columnist, Erma Bombeck (Feb. 21, 1927 - April 22, 1996), and her kids were the fodder of her stories, as mine are for my blog. You can't help it - kids are so generous with material. I asked the Bombecks how they felt being the subjects of the column that had a readership of 30 million people. They said that their mom usually exaggerated everything, and besides they didn't read the column anyway. Touché! I have nothing to fear.

Being at the Writer's Conference was like being on a cruise at anchor. The food, accommodations and service from the Dayton Marriott were superb, and the University of Dayton couldn't be more hospitable or beautiful. This was a bonus to the talent-packed lineup of speakers, authors, columnists, comedians and workshop leaders that filled our days and nights. If you're an aspiring humor writer, Dayton Ohio is the place to be with Erma.

Joanne and I rubbed elbows with Loretta LaRoche (stress management and humor consultant), Wade Rouse (America's Boy), Christian Lander (Stuff White People Like), Gail Collins (NY Times columnist and author), Tracy Beckerman (humor columnist), Bill Scheft (David Letterman's writer and author), Steve Doocy (Fox News host and author), Bruce Cameron (8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter), Suzette Martinez Standring (columnist and hypnotherapist), Jerry Zezima (humor columnist and author), and Craig Wilson (USA Today columnist and author of It's the Little Things.

That's just who I saw. It was like a Writer's Buffet: every session looked delicious, but I could only stuff in so much in one day. The great thing about the conference is that these folks were totally accessible. They roamed around like normal people throughout the workshop. We could strike up conversations with whomever. I rode the bus with Suzette and told her about my experience with God during her hypnotherapy session, told Craig of my experience in Mexico with "sombreros," one of the chapters in his book, and had my picture taken with Bill. Wade said he liked my jacket. Probably one of my biggest thrills was meeting Peggy Rowe, mother of Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs fame, who was a fellow attendee. Hopefully her son will send my son the promised autographed photo, and maybe offer him a job when he graduates from Purdue...

Something else that was cool about this conference, if I may belabor the subject, was that every attendee had a great sense of humor and were motivated to excel in their craft. And helpful! Jim Higley, Chicago Tribune online columnist and blogger was effusive in his advise on blogging and social networking tools. He talked me into joining the Facebook frenzy, something I've been avoiding for various reasons. Most of all because I was told point blank by my younger kids that they would not "friend" me if I joined. Whatever. Maybe when I'm rich and famous they'll be singing a different tune...

On the anniversary of the passing of Erma Bombeck, I pay tribute to this very special lady. God bless you Erma! I'm sure you're still firing off jokes and anecdotes to the heavenly bodies.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Yo estoy muy bien

Say "Yo estoy muy bien" three times really fast. Very strange, it's like talking with an enlarged tongue that is trying to get peanut butter off the roof of its mouth. It means "I am very well," as in the response to "¿Como estás tu?" The abuela in Rosetta's most recent lesson said it without a hitch, as if she's been scraping peanut butter from the roof of her mouth her whole life.

I also completed another Milestone Lesson, finally, with Rosetta. This time we went on a bus ride. Again, it's like watching a slow motion filmstrip, starring a cute Brazilian hombre (man) and an attractive Chinese mujer y su hermano (woman and her brother). He opens a small duffel bag filled with pelotas (balls) and naranjas (oranges). Obviously, he's a juggler on the side. He says Hola, and her face brightens up. [A green light to continue!] ¿Cómo ésta? (How are you?) ¿Cómo se llamo usted? (What's your name?) ¿Ese es su hermano? (Is he your brother?) ¿Cuantos años tienes? (How old are you?) - asked of the little boy, of course. The girl would have slapped him. ¿De dónde son ustedes? (Where are you from?) Duh. China. ¿Tiene hambre? (Are you hungry?) The Brazilian shares una naranja with el niño.

The bus stops and everyone debarks. Oops! La mujer left a yellow book behind. He runs to catch up with her. Es esta su libro? (He knows it is.) The book falls, they laugh as they retrieve all of its loose papers and photos. (Who carries loose photos? My kids' photos are kept in their cell phones or facebook.) Anyway, they share some sodas after the incident, the boy trys his hand at juggling and the Brazilian plots his next move.

My phrasebook with all of the practical, modern phrases could be employed at this time. A perfect setting for international relations. Rosetta doesn't go there, and I'm not going to either!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cruising Along

I'm back from the cruise, and if you've never been on one, you must try it at least once. For the lovely service if nothing else. Where else can you go that has people tripping over each other to grant your every wish? Our room was cleaned/straightened three times a day by a friendly Phillopino man, Arman, who created towel animals each night and left them on our beds. A comedian on the ship predicted that we'd take two pictures of the sunset and seven of our linens. He was right - only I missed the sunsets because I was either at dinner or at a show. I am a horrible picture taker, considering I once was a "professional photographer." I dread the loading on a computer or developing process because I know I'll never put the photos in an album, let alone a scrapbook.

A cruise is really a haven for hedonists when it comes down to it. All the food you can eat, and it is GOOD, liquor (pricey, but flowing from every tap and comes delivered on trays cocktail-party-style 'round the clock), an all day and night gambling casino and a dedicated cigar bar. If you're just a girl who can't say no, you could run into a lot of trouble!

My son and I went with a group of 48 from the high school - seniors and their parents. The kids had a heyday exploring the ship and islands, avoiding their parents like roaches running from sunlight. Who could blame them when given this new-found adult freedom on a ship with 11 decks to hide? Well, I could. I really meant for this trip to be a special memory for my college-bound son and me. Something he could look back on as we grew older with a misty eye and a lump in his throat. I did see him across the room at dinner time and even sat with him twice. Made me yearn for the old days when he was lashed to my back in a pouch and I always knew where he was. Although, back then, I was probably yearning for the days he'd be able to get along independently without any assistance. Why can't we mothers ever be satisfied?

Luckily, my friend Joanne and I and the rest of the adults spent quality time together. We explored the nearby shops on the islands and loaded up with souvenirs and tequila. Amazingly, there's more than José Cuervo in Mexico. I had to sample several different kinds to determine good quality, and the shops were willing to comply. Imagine going into a liquor store at home and getting samples! There would be standing room only!

Revelations from the trip:
1. Be prepared. I didn't read any of the material about the trip or excursions until I was on the first flight. I really had no time for the research, and missed out on some exploration due to lack of knowledge. I hate getting ripped off, so I played it too safe.
2. Lay down ground rules with your kid before you embark the boat. I thought I did, but evidently they didn't register. Alternatives - an imbedded GPS system. Cell phones didn't work on the ship.
3. Make sure the travel company, or yourself, plans the flight route. There is no earthly reason to have taken a flight north to Detroit, then one to Ft. Lauderdale for a ship departing from Miami! We almost missed the boat. Literally, we were the last ones on the boat due to flight delays!
4. Resorty areas like Cozumel are stocked with bi-lingual Mexicans. I heard more English in those stores than I do back home in our Mexican stores! My español was useless. I need to travel inland next time.
5. Bring sea-sickness medicine with you. That first day was awful. Not a great way to lose weight.
6. Ask questions about the spa treatments before you plunk down your money. The detox red algae treatment was nothing like I imagined. Instead of getting a relaxing massage and toning treatment, I was rubbed with goo, and had 4.5 inches electroshocked away from my belly. Think labor contractions and you've got the picture. Hey, but it was an experience I'll never forget!
7. Don't zipline if you're afraid of heights or falling. I loved it, but once you're there, there's no going back.
8. Use sunscreen. Lots of it, or your face will be unrecognizable to even you.
9. Find a peaceful place to get away when you need to.
10. Go for the desserts every night. It's vacation! My favorite - chocolate melting cake :)

¡Hasta luego!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Burning the Candle

Why do I always do this to myself? This time it wasn't entirely my fault, though. Why is everything always due on the same day? There can be long stretches of nothingness, then blammo - the @*a% hits the fan and I'm covered in work. Not that I'm complaining, I'd rather write than clean or cook any day, but back-to-back projects can be a bit stressful.

I jumped from project to project, barely raising my head to acknowledge my family, "Sure, son, you drive our car wherever you want. Goodnight." Talk about laissez faire parenting, yea gods! My daughter is busy with after school sports and I rely on her text messages to summon me out of the twilight zone. At times, it feels like my head is actually sucked into the computer, but I'd rather be consumed with something I love, than wile away my life. Hey, you can sleep when you're dead.

So, the candle has been burning at both ends for a month and a half. Almost done - only taxes left to tackle before I can board that cruise ship with no worries, mon. It is so worth it. I'm bringing my Spanish books with me and will try my best with my newfound language. I have a feeling I'm going to break into my Franco-Italian Spanglish, however. Should be amusing (for others) nontheless.

Spring is official tomorrow. Yes! The birds are singing and daffodils have poked their yellow heads through the ground. We have made it through another winter. ¡Es hora de celebrar!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Our Lady is Back

On Sunday I met with my dance troupe friends for an Our Lady of Guadalupe reunion and planning session for this coming December. It's going to be an even bigger undertaking this year with practices starting in March ~ revving it up to full speed as we get closer. This year we're aiming to raise money to pay for new costumes to the tune of $450 for los hombres, and $250 for las mujers! Fundraisers consisting of selling authentic Mexican food after Masses. Hello, that's a lot of tamales! We'll see how this goes.

Also, new this year, we're planning to dance at couple other venues to bring publicity to our ministry - at the Latino festival and at the Germanfest. Fr. Gustavo saw other matachine dancers perform around a fire with torches and thought that would be a good idea for us too. Yii!!! It sounds like a very rigorous program, like the Olympics, that we'll be training for. Hopefully we can live up to our own expectations.

I spent a couple of hours with Rosetta today. All was good - the grammar is becoming natural as she only speaks in complete, correct sentences. It's really becoming a product of environment, as children of educated people speak well, and children of hillbillies speak hillbilly.

As I look back on this blog, I'm seeing large blocks of time with no entries. Mia culpa, mia culpa, but there is a fairly good reason. Remember how I wanted to get in shape so as not to collapse when dancing through the streets? Well, I've taken exercise to a new level, for me at any rate, and have been exercising almost daily at the YMCA. Good and bad. Good that I'm feeling stronger, healthier, and more tone, bad that I've actually gained weight, am developing this gluteus maximus, and don't have "free time" to pursue other interests. I will probably slow down after Spring Break or when my membership expires. In the meantime, I am a fighting kick boxer and body shopper, sporting muscles I didn't know existed anymore. And the batwings are receding, thank God.

A parting phrase from my calendar for Martes, Febrero 23, 2010: Riase todos los días. Laugh every day.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Memory Full

I don't know how many times my cell phone has told me that it's memory is full. My voicemail's memory is full. My email box's memory is full. My memory is full and it's time to delete something before I can cram more in. Thank goodness Rosetta gives me recall exercises when I log in, so the Spanish doesn't leak out accidentally.

At the moment, I am reading Julia Child's My Life in France, a delightful true account of the years she and her husband Paul spent in Europe; he working for the Foreign Service as a consul, she working on the famous cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. She off-handedly recounts having to learn French, German and Norwegian in order to function in these foreign lands. Remarkable. This woman was in her 40's, and thought no more of picking up another language than she thought of picking up her fork. Why do most of us freeze at the thought of speaking anything other than our mother tongue? I'll tell you why ~ we don't have a reason. Joke: What do you call someone who can speak three languages? Tri-lingual. What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bi-lingual. What do you call someone who speaks one language? American.

I am amazed at her level of energy, to spend weeks on perfecting a recipe with various ingredients and techniques. My family gets one shot at my cooking, "Eat it or make something yourself, " is my version of bon appétit! Perhaps her tireless energy stems from the fact that she lived in beautiful France with beautiful shops full of the freshest of fish, fruit and cheeses (subsidised complements of the French government), and the fact she had no outside employment or children. Sure, she and her two "cookery-bookery" friends ran a cooking class called Les Trois Gourmandes, but other than that her time was her own to cook and write. Contrast that with your typical American woman who is juggling a job, a home (no servants), the kids and all their activities. I don't care who you are, if you have kids, your life is no longer your own. Cooking is a treat to be wedged in when possible, often augmented by Pizza Hut and McDonald's on the run.

Getting back to my recall activities, I revisited the Spanish Gringo, my old VCR tape. I picked up a few more gems from the crazy guy. There was a scene where he went around identifying his body parts. Tóquese la cabesa (touch the head), las piernas (legs), los brazos (arms), el codo (elbow). He also explained the most obvious thing I should have realized months ago. When your noun ends in an "o," it's a masculine word preceded by el; ending in an "a," means it's a feminine noun preceded by la. Also él with an accent mark means "he", and el without an accent mark means "the". People don't call me Captain Obvious for nothing!

Also very important for travellers - directions! It's one thing to say, "¿Dónde está el baño?", and entirely another to grasp their answer! For the directionally challenged, here goes: a la derecha (to the right), a la izquierda (to the left), arriba (up), adelante (straight ahead), abajo (down), enfrente (in front of), detrás (behind). And if you can't decipher their quick responses, just say, "Mas despacio por favor." (speak slower please).

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Roast Pastor and Small Potatoes

My Sunday plans changed at the last minute today. I was to have met with some of my former dance troupe members for Mass and brunch. I was looking forward to attending the Spanish Mass with them and sharing a meal with a lot of " ¿Como se dice eso en Español....? (How do you say that in Spanish....) sprinkled on the side. Rosetta is a wonderful companion in that she only speaks when I summon her, but she always gets to pick the conversational topic.

Faced with going to the Spanish Mass alone without my friends, I caved in and chose another parish where I could literally blend in with the other pale faces. Path of least resistance, or so I thought.

The second reading was on 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient, love is kind, love is not envious or boastful - you know the verse. I love that reading - it was in our wedding. In fact, I'm reading Love Dare which examines that verse with a magnifying glass. If I'm not getting the most out of my love relationships, it's because I'm falling short in the love department. Sure, anybody can be kind and patient and unselfish when you're head-over-heels in young love, but add 25 years and some irritating habits. Not so easy anymore - this is work!

Something must have set the priest off earlier in the week, because his homily was peppered with things he was fed up with in his church family. He wasn't delivering fire and brimstone; he was poking sore spots with laser beam accuracy. He talked about people being habitually late (guilty), leaving early, talking in church (guilty), parish hopping (guilty), and roasting the pastor at Sunday dinner. I'm actually roasting a pork loin, but it's food for thought. I suppose we all think the pastor doesn't notice our sins, but I guess he does! Mia culpa, mia culpa, mia culpa.

When it comes down to it, all you need is love. Lots more love. Thank goodness Valentine's Day is around the corner. Cupid, shoot me!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Hard Core Lesson Four

Rosetta and I have made progress in our relationship. If I spend some quality time with her every few days, she'll make sure I have a good time in Mexico and Spain. Guaranteed. (I'd have a good time anyway, but I'll have a BETTER time knowing what the heck I'm talking about!)

Spain you ask? A wonderful surprise trip with my husband at summer's end. Right when my year with Rosetta is completed. My reward at the onset of this project was rather vague, but now I have two destinations where the Spanish will come in handy. The latter one involves a cruise stopping in Barcelona, Spain as well as several cities in Italy. My last trip to Italy was on a bus tour with my mom for two weeks in 1996 and we hit all the highlights: Rome, Florence, Venice, Assisi, Pisa, and Tuscany. (Don't be duped by the "great beef in Tuscany" - our Indiana corn-fed beef is much better!) It was a trip of a lifetime - an art orgy. My eyes were filled with so much beauty per square foot that it filled me up. France is a food orgy - I'd go back there in a minute just to eat. Italy is much more romantic though - one fella I met said that Americans live to work; Italians live to love. Bonus - if you can speak decent Spanish, the Italians will understand you. I witnessed that as one of our younger Spanish bus-mates was yelling at some Italian thieves who made off with his wallet. I didn't say Italy was without it problems. I have no preconceptions about Spain except that it's supposed to be a new foodie capital on the cutting edge of gastronomy. That, and they don't necessarily speak the same Spanish that the Latin American speakers speak. Maybe the difference between British English and Louisiana English. We'll figure it out when we get there.

In Lesson Four of Unit Three, Rosetta displayed a delightful assortment of pictures of smelly huelen mal, dirty sucio, wet mojado, clean limpia and dry seco dogs perros, shirts camisas, socks calcetines, faces caras, teeth dientes, feet pieds and hands manos. We cleaned lava or brushed cepillo everything with soap jabon and towels toallas. When we were done, we laid our head on our pillow almohada and slept under our sheet sábana and blanket frazada - thank God. A very busy day.

Next Sunday, some of Our Lady of Guadalupe troupe members are getting together for Mass and breakfast. It's only been a month since the Feastday, but it seems longer somehow. Glenis said, "I miss you too much!" "Te extraño tanto!" The feeling is mutual.

Hasta luego

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

La vida es buena

Yes, life is good, now that I have a nifty little Spanish calendar of 365 phrases with phonetics. (Bonus - it was on sale after Christmas!) As you know, a phrase that rolls easily off your lips is far better than a labored literal translation which makes no sense at all to native speakers. Now I am equipped to razzle and dazzle, provided of course, the proper situation comes up to utter my new found phrase.

Todo el mundo dice lo mismo (Everybody says that).
Impecable (clean as a whistle). If you tried literally translating that, I'm sure it would sound stupid.
Sólo somos amigos (We're just friends). Hmmmm.
Viviendo la vida rica (Living the high life).
Que te vaya bien (Have a nice day).
Callado como un muerto (Quiet as a mouse). Literally quiet as a dead person.
Compórtate (Behave yourself).

Masa luego...

My other great find is the Spanish accent mark guide for English keyboards. Finally! I can use the correct punctuation. My mission is to go back to all prior entries and clean up my act. If I missed one, it's bonus points for you!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Third Time's a Charm

What is it, January, and I'm on my third headset from Rosetta?!! Part of me believes that my headset abuse is a secret message to quit learning Spanish. "Jane, all the cards are against you. You have so little time to practice. Your family thinks you're crazy. The headset malfunctions are a sign from God."

Call it a perverse death wish, but I bought #3 headset which came in the mail today, plugged the damn thing in and voila! I am estudiando español again! Tonight's lesson was a review. I learned that leche (milk) can be fea (bad/sour) or rico (great). You just needed to look at their faces when they were bebiendo. If you didn't want to drink it, but just sniffed it, it could huelen mal (smell bad) or huelen bien (smell good). Actually the sniffing pictures were of un hombre smelling his calcetines. And if you've ever smelled ripe socks, you'd make an awful face too.

So many resolutions for the New Year.... Luckily, they're basically my ongoing resolutions - lose weight, get organized, exercise more, learn Spanish, travel, get a better paying job. Me merezco un aumento. (I deserve a raise.) Don't get me wrong, I'm very thankful for my job, and know I'm darn lucky to have one in this economy. I love my office mates, my hours, the students I come in contact with, pero, I know I can do better considering I have a college degree and am not really using it. Okay, I'm not sure about using my Animal Science degree -I'm kind of over the animal fascination part of my life, but I know I'm destined for a more challenging job.

I say that and reflect what I did on my day off: worked out, juiced a bag of oranges, made peanut butter blossom cookies, sewed up my son's pants, practiced Spanish, and spent time with dear friends for dinner. It was a nearly perfect day with no "work" involved. If only I could get paid the Big Bucks for a day like that...

Hasta mañana

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Spanish on the Road

A casual dinner with friends a couple Sundays ago led to an impromptu trip to Memphis to attend the Liberty Bowl. Just the girls.

My friend Brenda mentioned that her daughter was going to perform during pre-game and half-time with other Homecoming Queens across America. What?!! Whoever heard of that? I guess I'm not in the pageant or Bowl Game circuit; ask me how to change majors at Purdue or make buffalo chicken dip, but I'm clueless on how the pretty half lives. Well, I was clueless.

Her sister and brother-in-law were unable to accompany them at the last minute, and here were two prepaid ticket packages that were ripe for the picking. I had the time off, with nothing better to do than laundry and reorganizing my life, again, so my daughter and I rode shotgun to Memphis.

What could have been a lovely, balmy New Years weekend ended up being blustery and bone-chilling. For heavens sake, it was 23 degrees during the outside stadium night game that had previously been 70 degrees in years past! But queens persevere, no matter what the weather, and we did too. Even after reading ahead of what the program entailed, we were in for some surprises.

Enter stage right on the set of Miss Congeniality, complete with a Candice Bergen character. I couldn't remember her name from the movie, so we called her Murphy Brown. Murphy with a deep southern accent. "I'm so happy you all are here to celebrate the 51st Liberty Bowl, of which our Queens have played such a big and important part all these years. You have been selected from entries from Queens all over the United States, and believe me this truly an honor. This is not a scam." Just my cup of tea - a bit of adventure with a dose of healthy scepticism to spice it up.

During the reception on the first night, we got a good look at all the participants and their mothers. That alone was an eye opener to genetic transference. The cloning experiments have been successful... All but 14 states were represented. It was impressive, I have to admit. All the girls brought their tiaras with them, "Did you see the size of hers? It wraps around her head!" and were given their own sash with Indiana or California or Whatever on it. It was a bonding factor and a geographical guide to hairdos. Southern girls have the biggest hair, by far. We didn't even have a Bump-It.

The schedule would be filled with parades, a trip to the St. Jude Research Hospital, rehearsal at the stadium on the morning of the game, and of course the Liberty Bowl festivities. The rest of the time was ours which we spent mostly eating barbecue. Ever try barbecue nachos with jalapenos? Really good! We never ran into Elvis, but we did see Eddie Money and a real razorback pig. We mingled with tons of University of Arkansas and East Carolina fans on Beale Street. Beale Street was closed off to traffic and reminded me of New Orleans during Mardi Gras with the free-flowing booze and merry-making/vandalism. Kids could go into the bars, so my 16 year old got initiated into bar life (without the beer). Our favorite part was when all red attired Arkansas fans would spontaneously "Woooooooooooo Pig Souie! Woooooooooo Pig Souie! Woooooooooo Pig Souie! Razorbacks!" It actually scared me the first time I heard it. It sounded like a tornado was approaching, they were so loud.

After the rehearsal, the girls went into High Maintenance gear. Again, envision the plucking, waxing, hair curling, major makeup part of Miss Congeniality. Times 88 teenage girls, preparing to go on national television in below freezing temperatures with only a white gown and Under Armor under it. They were not allowed to wear the white gloves nor white coat they were required to buy while on the field. They looked beautiful, but this could easily be a class action pneumonia suit. The primping part was excessive, in my opinion, but who am I to judge? It was their one chance in a lifetime and they were gonna look good. My daughter is only a sophomore, and it'll be interesting what will happen if she's selected in a couple years. I'd have to eat all these words - with barbecue sauce.

And the Spanish on the road? Yes, sir, we habloed español from my nifty Mexican Spanish phrasebook both at the hotel and in the car. Probably made Brenda enferma. That was the deal - if I came on the trip, I had to practice my Spanish. Actually, the Australians that wrote this book added many important phrases that you might not normally find in a textbook which made it fun. Like, Se me está subiendo mucho (I'm feeling drunk), or Quiero lo mismo que ellos (I'll have what they're having). It got rather specific, in fact, and we feel quite prepared for any situation in Mexico. We laughed our way through the dictionary, and feel empowered to know the word for fart, pedo. Farts are funny, I don't care who you are.

Hasta luego. Tengo Sueno!