Sunday, November 28, 2004

Holidays at the Pittman household are never without excitement. Wait a minute, what am I saying? Living a Pittman lifestyle on a day to day basis is never without trauma, opps - I mean excitement. Thanksgiving was no exception. As the turkey began its journey from our stomachs into our intestines, the family settled down on the living room couches in front of the glowing fireplace to discuss life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, or some other typical family topic. Silas, our ever perceptive (read A.D.D.) 10 year old son/brother/cousin (depending on your relation), asked, "What's that light in the dining room?" I, the ever perceptive (read delusional), wise eldest cousin replied, "That's just candles flickering against the dark walls." No one thought twice about the brief exchange of knowlege until Mary (cousin number 5) got up to put on her coat in an effort to get the family rolling home and into bed. "Oh," she said in her quiet, calm voice (is she blood related? i'm not convinced), "There's a fire." At this point everyone jumped up and rushed into the dining room to behold the (sure enough) now blazing fire on my mother's buffet. Now my mother, being the brilliant matriarch that she is, grabbed a two by four and began fanning the flames, banging the piece of wood onto the ball of fire (of what we're still not sure) on the buffet which sits underneith an enourmous oil on canvas painting of Jesus praying. "Oh shit," I thought in a panic, "Jesus is going to catch on fire." Finding the two by four useless and the flames larger now, my mother ran off to the kitchen and while the rest of us stood shocked, huddled and helpless. My father, stepping up to bat, pulled off his 2XL navy crewneck sweater, and threw it on top of the buffet banging his palms on the firey mass, smothering the flames. My father, the hero. The mass of flames, now a mass of charred remains was discerned to be a candle that had fallen over and shared its flame with the wicker basket it was sitting in. Wax was everywhere from the beatings the Christmas arrangement had taken from my mother and father: on the buffet, the walls, maybe even the painting. But thankfully the buffet wasn't badly scarred and my clean-freak sister Emily spent most of the next morning carefully removing the wax from the antique heirloom. Mother threw away the ruined candle and its counterparts: the basket and the other stinky decorations caught in the fire (literally). Even Jesus made it through relatively untouched, and remains in his prayful pose in the garden of Gethsemene overlooking our discombobulated, but relatively unharmed dining room. Thank God. I think.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Thanksgiving has come and gone, you know what that means: the Christmas List I made in July is ready to be dispersed to family and friends! Have fun shopping!

Connie and Carla
Moulin Rouge (special 2 disk set)
Reality Bites

Pedro the Lion (any of them)
Quiet Lovely
Prayer Cycle
The Cranberries "No Need to Argue"
Don Chaffer "What You Don't Know"

Sinead: Her Life and Music by Jimmy Guterman
Understanding God's Will: How to Hack the Equation without Formulas by Kyle Lake

Daily Planner
Black Pinstripe pants
Silver hoop earrings (large)
4x6 picture frames (not gold)
Unique rings
Ink cartridges: color and black for printer HP1350
Sheets: full, in tan or cream
Gift certificates to Hobby Lobby, Victoria's Secret or Petco!
Three days ago, I drove home to a white . . . Thanksgiving? Well, sort of. Monday night I left Austin for Waco. Stayed the night with the Eades and then Tuesday headed for the Friege's house in Wichita, Kansas. After 11 days of rain and trudging through my marshland front yard to load my suitcases in Austin Texas, it of course decided to rain all the way to Kansas. It was awful. Thankfully I missed the storm in Fort Worth that knocked over three semis and power lines. But I hit the drizzle and rain all the rest of the way. One would think that drizzle wouldn't cause many problems for an experienced driver like myself, but of course that is not the case. The drizzle was constant and after I lost my sunlight, the lights from cars travelling the opposite directions broke across my windshield as my wipers did all they could to remove the streaks of rain. The semis caused more problems as the water they spewed from their wheels washed my car to the point that i could see nothing, not even the kaleidescope of lights from the other cars through the windshield. i considered crying but figured that would add to my already growing sight problem and resigned myself to prayer and clutching the steering wheel. "Please let me be driving straight . . . please let me be driving straight." When I could see, i kept note of bridges and mile markers I passed so that should anything terrible happen, I could call 911 and give them an estimate of where I had crashed. I pictured myself flying off the cliff, desparatly clutching the babies (my cats) as we crashed. "Did you drive on any cliffs?" my Great-Aunt Ardys asked as I recounted the tale. "Well, no, but there were a few drop-offs." You get the picture.

I did arrive safely in Wichita where Carley (5) and Alex (3), my mother's two "best friends" waited to sit next to me for dinner and argued over who would sleep with me that night. The Friege's used to be our next door neighbors in St Jo, but just last month moved to Wichita, allowing me a nice breaking point to rest.

However, the next morning when I opened my eyes (which happened to be open most of the night as i struggled to sleep in a twin bed with my two fat cats and Alex who had woken up crying at 2am), I found snow on the ground. Crazy Carol was quick to call the Friege's and warn me of 7 inches of snow in Kansas City. Schools were closed. Be careful.

So I was careful. I drove at a moderate speed (75mph) and coasted safely through the rest of Kansas and even through Kansas City that had managed to clear the highways by the time I arrived. Snow everywhere, and it was beautiful: untouched by tractors, animals or humans. However, about 30 miles south of St Jo and 20 miles north of Kansas City, the snow stopped and I spent the last few minutes of my ride in the actual fall season of colorful leaves and dead grass, sights i feared i had missed moving from warm but wet south texas to snowfilled Missouri. But I hadn't. No snow in St Jo Mo, just family, food and thanksgiving.

And for all this I am so thankful.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Yesterday brought another day of subbing, my first job in two weeks. I played an ESL teacher for two three-hour block classes (English as Second Language - Spanish speaking students in an English class). Many of my students were fresh from Mexico and the level of English known was varied, but limited in general. The students were fabulous though, and I had a really fun time teaching them. I spent most of the day on my feet helping the students read and write out the definitions to their vocabulary words. I "trampled" through fields banging my hands on desks and drew pictures of flowers normal and then broken in half. I "striked" [sic] and "snapped" "spurted" and "crawled;" I explained "unnoticed" (you've gotta look up "noticed" in the dictionary and then put a no or not in front of it) and then "harmless" (less means no or without). "Poison" and "poised" are right next to each other in the dictionary, so look them up together. No you're name is not "Snoop Doggy Dog," write your real nombre on your paper. Five minute break - bano, agua - do it now if you want to. I would give instructions or reprimand a student in English and he or she would respond to me in Spanish. We would both stare at each other assuming that we understand our respective foreign languages, then I would shrug my shoulders and walk on to the next student. It was fun. They laughed at my foolishness, and I laughed at how ridiculous the whole scenario seemed. I now know how my French teachers in Montpellier must have felt teaching French to 15 students all from different countries. The interesting thing though is that when I studied in France at that institute for foreigners, often the one language we had in common was not french, but english. If someone from Germany didn't understand the French vocab word, a Sweedish student would give the English equivalent to which Germany would nod his head in appreciation. Strange. And here I am teaching teenagers living in America the word for "madurez": maturity, the process of growing up. "Little girl, big girl. You grow up. Little brain, big brain. You get smarter, wiser. And there is emotional growth . . . well, um . . . anyway, little girl, big girl: maturity.

Monday, November 08, 2004

This past weekend came at just the right time in my life. On Friday, I travelled north to my former place of residency and to my former church to attend a short UBC retreat. We drove to Latham Springs, a very shabby version of Windemere in Missouri (good in its own right, but not much compared to the pretty Windemere). Friday night, Mike Evans spoke on spiritual journeying, the importance of journeying out story. He gave us questions to ponder and journal about - thought provoking and self-disclosing. I loved it. Saturday morning's session was led by Kyle and focused on reading the Bible. It was geared mostly towards the college kids (and other new-ish members) I think, introducing them to a more open way of reading the Bible and interacting with the scriptures, typical to UBC conversation, but not typical to traditional, conservative churches. Although I was nervous about knowing many people, or fitting into the various cliques that would be represented at the weekend, I tagged along and participtated in some great "fellowship" and silly girl time.

Around noon on Saturday, the retreat ended and I headed further north to another church located in Dallas where I met up with Big Phil's big brother, Darrell Shepherd to record a demo. With just his guitar and my voice, we recorded ten songs (six originals) for me to have in case I find an accompanist here in Austin. This makes it easier to say, "Can you play this?" or "What could you add to this?" when trying to find a good music match. More than that though, the recording of the songs proved very theraputic offering me a chance to spit out my sorrow in song.

Moving to Austin has been hard. I am no longer a student - really for the first time in my life. Finding a job didn't come easy post-graduation, and even now that I have one, it certainly isn't what I'd call consistant. Emotionally it's been challenging letting go of people, meeting new ones, and still trying to find my niche in the grand scheme of relationships that run our lives. I live out of boxes in a small bedroom and although my roomies are fabulous, i still have felt displaced and disoriented, not all there, if you will. Most of my life (my books, my research, my art) is boxed up in a garage in Waco. I haven't sung seriously since Summer 2003 when I was in Into The Woods, and have had no real crative output. All this to say that singing this weekend provided me a great opportunity to unload my life in song, in music, in the pushing of all my air through my vocal chords and having it produce a song so much more beautiful than what I often feel.

I returned to Austin yesterday afternoon to find a "care package" from Bethany Chance on my desk: roses from her garden, a CD, chocolate and a home-made card. This was the icing on the cake, a little bit of incarnate love added to a very spiritually renewing weekend.

So I guess I'll say thank you Mike, Kyle and UBC, thank you Darrell, thank you Bethany and thank you God for holding out hope for me. I hope in You too.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

The Subbing Life

An update on my life as a substitute teacher.

True to form thus far this semester, I have had several more Special Ed jobs and one job as a Spanish Teacher putting me up to a whopping total of 8.5 days of subbing this semester. One of my more interesting days of subbing came at a school that I had been specifically asked to return to work at again in Special Ed. I started off with a delightful and smart autistic teenager named Bobby. All morning I attended classes with him, quietly encouraging him to stay focused on his work and the teacher's lessons. He was very articulate and very concerned about when the pep rally was and what time the football game started. "The pep rally is Friday and the game will probably be that night," I told him. "Oh that's very interesting," he'd reply.

That afternoon I became a different TA and entered an "emotionally challenged" classroom of three students. Now, keep in mind that I have many friends with foul mouths and quite a little mouth myself, but honest to God, I've never heard such language come out of students in the presence of their teacher. I was flabberghasted and eventually retreated to the teacher's desk to contemplate. Since I was the TA in the class, I could do this. Thank God, cause if I'd had these three (that's right - THREE) teenagers on my own I'd have not made it. "I'm not doing this f---ing homework. This is bulls--t." Out loud. Directed toward the teacher. At one point, the only girl in the class hauled out and punched one of the boys in the crotch for getting too close to her. It was unreal. The next class was better behaved, and even though it was larger, the teacher had more control. This class was interesting because I had one student with no arms. There was another TA in the classroom, and I wasn't sure if she was there to help the armless girl or the girl in the wheelchair, so I just sort of sat and watched the class unfold. I was curious if the girl without arms would use her feet like I've seen in "Amazing stories" on TV. Sure enough, about halfway through the period, I looked over at her and she was running her toes . . . through her hair! "That f---ing rocks!" I thought to myself. Then she then opened the three ring binder that someone had layed on her desk and took out some paper. She picked up her pen and began to take notes on the teacher's lecture, drawing x and y graphs on her paper. Amazing. If she hadn't had such an attitude (classic, don't-want-to-learn, bad attitude teenager), she and I could have been great friends.

The spanish classes I taught were probably going to be okay I thought as I entered the classroom. No insanely vulgar language directed at me, just taking roll and giving assignments. Easy, right? Well, not exactly. First hour I had two students up and walk out of the class for no aparent reason. They never returned to class. So I wrote two referrals. In second hour, I had a "group walk-out." You see, in the whole day, I'd say all but maybe ten students weren't hispanic, i.e. didn't speak spanish as their primary language. So in second hour, after telling several students to stop flicking each other with their pencils, the bitter teenagers devised a plan . . . in Spanish. Unbeknownst to their English/French speaking teacher (me) they planned a "walk-out" and sure enough at a given word (in Spanish) ten or so students stood and marched toward the door. I was shocked and and they left the classroom, I shouted "referrals!" the most effective (?) threat to High School students. I have to admit, most of them chickened out once they reached the door, and with defiance and a giggle, returned to their seats. Two students however, were not disuaded with my referral threat and by the time I got to the hallway, they were gone. Now, don't get me wrong, third period was delightful, fourth period was volleyball, and sixth period was okay. The day overall moved from insanely stressful to pretty average. But the walk-out kind of scarred me, I can't tell a lie.

All in all, it's been sort of a depressing experience. I spend much time contemplating the education system we have in America, or at least the one I've seen in Austin, Texas. What is going wrong? Why don't students want to learn? How do we teach respect and human dignity? It depresses me to see the hands into which I and others will someday hand our great (?) nation, indeed, our world.

But maybe I'm just not teaching the right classes. Or maybe it doesn't start with classes, the masses, maybe it starts with individuals; individuals like Bobby. After all, the world is is very interesting. Maybe education starts with one who can recognize that.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Dear John

Dear John,

I'm so sorry you didn't win. I watched Jon Stewart and colleagues last night, pulling for you. But when your opponant (I can't even mention his name) was up to 69 supposed electoral votes, I went to bed. Today when you stepped down from the race, I retired the book I was reading and again went to bed. I slept all afternoon in defeat. But John, please don't be sad. If I could wrap my arms around you in a big, encouraging bear hug, I would. Don't fret. Just stay active. I will try to do the same. Besides, we'll get 'em with Hilary in 08.

Ann Pittman

Monday, November 01, 2004

Halloween News.

So halloween has come and gone. The previous picture of "the babies" shows my darling cats who were kept inside on halloween to prevent any foul play by twisted trick or treaters. Bethany and Gabe Chance had a party on the 30th at their house in north austin (cedar park). it was tons of fun and lots of people showed up: both Bush and Kerry (sigh*) were there, as were two fairies, two housewives, a flapper (yours truly), rapper Flava, Hugh Hefner and his playboy bunny, potassium, calcium, and others. The best part of the evening was watching Dracula and Alien without no volume, while listening to Gabe's eclectic CD's and providing dialogue ourselves. All in all it was a very safe and fun Halloween party. Halloween itself was good too. The babies were safe and I went to church that night and was responsible for communion. From the mouth of a girl wearing a black shirt and scary bat earrings came, "This is the body of Christ, broken for you." Amen.