pieces of me...

Monday, July 28, 2014

(Pre) LA Story

Before I got to LA last week I had a 72 hour jaunt in Vegas.  It wasn't in the cards originally for me to meet up with sorority sisters in our 4th summer meet up, but then the LA trip coincided the following week and well....



It was fun but the overwhelming thought that ran through my head all weekend was, "I'm too old for this #$%*" This is not to say I didn't love hanging out with my ladies, but I just felt old seeing tons of 20 year olds livin' it up like it was their last night on Earth.

My flight out to Vegas was delayed so I was the last to arrive late on Thursday.  I was really tired, but decided to head out before calling it a night, after all this is Vegas.  We stayed at the same hotel where Lady Gaga was performing the same weekend. Hello, primo people watching and gasping at the creativity in outfits.


Friday our group rented a cabana and this single handed was the best call of the trip.  For a $700 (in food and drink purchases) the cabana was ours all day.  We had a personal waiter and by 2 pm we were already over the $700 mark.  By 5 pm when we had to vacate, we were over a $1000.00.

I will tell you that as much as I loved having a cabana and people watching, since coming to Vegas 5 years ago one of the latest trends is the ultra pool/lounge/nightclub.  Our cabana was near the entrance to Wet Republic, the MGM version.  The home of beautiful people, aka I'm already drunk and loosing the partial amount of clothing I'm wearing and it's only 3 pm.  One of the best memories was poolside people watching with Meredith (who went to high school with Bill, I'll add.)  The number of times she stated, "oh the humanity," should have been a drinking game.



We saw one of the Cirque shows later and Friday night a smaller group of us stayed out until around 4 am as we found our niche, a club mixing 80s music with a much less imposing group of patrons.  Saturday we spent at the spa and then went to Mon Ami Gabi for a dinner out.  If there is such a thing as food porn, it's here with a cheese plate to top all others.  And there there's the view, strip side facing the fountains at Bellagio.

Speaking of porn, the ladies opted to hit up Thunder From Down Under afterwards.  Amid the throngs of batchelorettes was our group, sitting right up front.  It was everything you would expect, campy and over the top.  Wouldn't you know that of our group, I was the one singled out.  Seriously, I was the most tame one of the group, and had even opted not to drink. Despite me really trying not to be pulled out of my seat and push it off on someone else in my party dying to get on stage, I was the sitting duck.

Afterwards we hit up the newest hotel, The Cosmopolitan for nightcaps at which point I was done and went back to our hotel to crash.  I really loved this hotel and if ever (doubtful) back in Vegas there is where I would want to stay.

*Prerequisite bathroom photo about to head out for the night.  Actually I was convinced the light was meant to flatter even the most heinous of Vegas visitors (not us.)


I'm so glad I was able to go and catch up after missing last year's trip.  Plans are already in the works for next year involving most likely Florida.  God, I hope it's not Disney World.




Friday, July 25, 2014

Awesome and amazing CA trip, with the shirt to prove it.

I'm catching a ride to LAX around 4:30 am tomorrow to be home by Saturday afternoon.  I'll be honest, the last month I've been having some serious second thoughts about this conference.  I just came back from the Washington state trip and then headed LA via Vegas within the same week. After nineteen days away in July, I'm ready for some porch sitting with my boys and nothing to do before we head to Florida next month for my final summer trip. I'm a homebody by nature and frankly once I got the agenda, I was a little worried I'd be my own island in a sea of red state voters. The same people who I imagine want to lick this giant portrait of Ronnie in jelly beans.


I'm glad I came.  Not only because I wouldn't have wanted to be blacklisted from any future Gilder Lehrman conferences if I bailed so late, but because it has been an amazing week.  The Reagan Presidential Library is in a spectacular location overlooking Simi Valley. This was the view from our first night welcome reception.


Early in the week my roommates grabbed In and Out at my request.  While I didn't order a double, double animal style, I did laugh when one of my roommates (also from a Non- In and Out state) looked as if I had invited her to watch porn back at the dorm when I announced what else was available on the menu.


Later today I will present my research project on the differences between the draft and final versions of the infamous 1983 "Evil Empire" speech.  To my surprise the final language was never intended to be included and was slipped into a speech on religious freedom and prayer last minute.  The how and why was too good not to spend more time researching given the resources in the library available to our group all week.

*Plus, did I mention they had a bar?  A BAR in a Presidential Library.  I bet Silent Cal Coolidge can't say that (or anything else about HIS Presidential library.)


The museum itself was short of Smithsonian-level packed with nerdy awesomeness with a solo focus (obviously) on Reagan.  Among the coolest things I saw was a full sized Air Force One used during his administration, parts of the Berlin Wall (including a fake East to West Berlin tunnel for children visitors that had simulated barking, for real, this scarred ME), and a mock simulation including oval office, press room, and command central.


I got to play Press Secretary and get my CJ Cregg on during a mock press conference.  I couldn't resist a little liberalism when asked  who my favorite news personality is/was.  All homage to the indomitable Tim Russert who didn't shy away from asking the hard questions equally from Democrats and Republicans.


No worries that I have drank the Kool-aid and am coming home with a "Reagan Country" sign for my classroom.  I am returning with a glass container of jelly beans with the Presidential seal for my display of all things Government-y. Yes, I have met a very few singled minded people this week who seem to think that regardless of the person or topic, there is only one set of talking points to a fault of being in-your-face rude.

More importantly, I've also met some great people who while I don't agree with politically, are fabulous teachers with great ideas to try with my students. Collaboration is and will always be the reason, outside of personal interest, to come to processional development on my own dime.  In the usual talk of who has been to what seminar/institute, I seem to be of legend to be been accepted into two seminars in the same summer PLUS be accepted into the Supreme Court Law Institute last year.  I may have gotten myself talked into applying to be an AP reader for exams next summer.

*When in doubt and you need to use the Red phone to Moscow, down some jelly beans first.


I tell my students prepping for Friday debate, you need to know not only your own position, but that of your opponents even more.  This is the approach I've taken all week as I have politely listened to those I disagree with on topics such as the Common Core, the rise of the Tea Party, midterm and 2016 elections, judicial interpretation of the Supreme Court, and of course, hours upon hours of conversation about the eight years that Ronald Reagan led our country.  I've hoped that I have presented my best argument, supported by facts, and grounded in reason rather than emotion.  Even I get a little lump, when I use the election campaign, "Morning in America" in class.  Never fear, it was on a continuous loop interspersed with "God Bless America" set to soothing heartland images.


Last night our group drove out to Malibu to a beach bar and shrimp shack.  One of the participants had rented a convertible and asked if I wanted to ride with him.  Let me think....I'm in California with the opportunity to ride in a convertible along the Pacific Coast Highway.  Nope, didn't have to think twice.


Thanks California, you have been an awesome and amazing experience.  I even have the shirt to prove it.




Monday, July 21, 2014

Checking in from the land of jelly bean lovers

Greetings from Los Angeles where I am for the next week studying the "Age of Reagan" at Cal Lutheran University.  We are at the Reagan Presidential Library every day for class and only at the school campus for meals and lodging.  When I pulled up today to check in to the dorm we are staying in all week, all I could thing of was, "I think a Lifetime movie about collage-age girl serial killer Ted Bundy was filmed here in 1982."  I can't complain though, we were treated to a wonderful dinner on the patio overlooking the beautiful valley below the Library.  The library is really beautiful and the chance not to be on this collage campus all day is a major plus.  Plus they have a FULL SIZED AIR FORCE ONE on exhibit!


All week we will be studying the domestic and foreign policies of the Reagan years, or what I call my kindergarten through 8th grade education.  I am teaching US History from the Gilded Age to Present history this fall and for the first time every will be able to teach a full on week on the 1980s and the end of the Cold War.  It is not without some parallels that my two summer conferences do fit together and will be useful in resources on the Cold War and Atomic Age.   I LOVE teaching the election of Reagan and the subsequent shift in US politics and I hope to get lots of documents and related items from this week to use with students (and also personal interest.)

I made one promise to Bill before I left, that being that I would not punch any other participants or the lead Professor, whose 700 page book on Reagan was required reading.  Shhhh... I didn't make it but halfway in as I got so pissed off reading his very one-sided account that I just couldn't finish. At one point Bill told me, "who cares if he calls 1980 a realigning election, and you say it doesn't meet all four criteria, like who else knows that useless fact?"

From our posted bios, I am in the minority in the land of Reagan lovers.  From our dinner conversations about Common Core I think I may be the only person here that would be willing to take one for the capital L liberal team.  I smiled, commented that "since we are working on a document based research project this week, shouldn't we want our students to be using those same skills in class."

My roommates include the program director and a fellow teacher from Texas.  Both seem very nice and while I don't expect to be best friends, the program director and I talked a good 10 mins about House of Cards and her work with other Gilder Lehman past seminars she has been assigned as director. She may be my only ally this week, as when she asked about what I choose as a research topic for my other GL seminar on Women's Rights at Harvard back in 2009, I said. "the evolution of the birth control pill and legal challenges to contraception in the US i.e 1960s Supreme Court case Griswold vs CT."  She smiled and said, "Hobby Lobby won that one, we (women) sure didn't."

Have a great week.  I will with stories to tell I'm sure by end of time in the Land of Ronnie.
 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Selling t-shirts, "I came to B Reactor and all I got was irradiated"

Greetings from chance in a lifetime week here in Eastern, Washington state.  Since the highlight of our trip was the visit to the B reactor on Wednesday, I figured I would write up what has been going down before getting home to Camp Mommy.


I traveled out uber early Sunday morning and we spent the first night in Spokane.  First of all, I thought Spokane was near Seattle, not on the Idaho border.  Regardless, it was beautiful.  Our hotel looked out over a city park.



A group of us went out Sunday night for dinner at a refurbished steam plant. Sadly no pictures, but I can attest to the like mindedness of the participants.  At introductions I mentioned that I had a lifelong interest in nuclear power and creation of Superfund.  Sadly, several heads were nodding.  Can I tell you that this week,
I am with my people.

There are 40 teachers here from across the country and also Japan.  They allowed for a larger group than normal NEH conferences to allow for both history teachers along with science teachers. The presentations have included both areas which has been great for take home info for my students.  I "think" I could draw an copy of Enrico Fermi's first pile reactor from the early 40s after this week.  Most likely, I need to stick to my day job and not embarrass myself that I can teach anything about nuclear physics.

I've always wanted to see the Columbia River and see the beauty discovered by Lewis and Clark.  Now I have a picture of the real deal to use in class.


Monday and Tuesday we were in class all day and discussed the Hanford Plant and it's importance to the Manhattan Project.  In particular we talked about the how and why this location was picked to produce plutonium.  Hanford Engineering Works was built during the last two years of WWII and produced the plutonium for one of the atomic bombs.  It later became the producer of the majority of all plutonium used in ballistic missiles during the Cold War and 8 more reactors were built.  It was closed at the end of the Cold War where only one reactor, B Reactor was declared a national historic place and has been open to a limited amount of tourists a year since 2008.

The area itself is in a 600 square mile reservation. We drove through and past the other plants and a enormous chemical processing plant but were not allowed to get of the bus.  In fact we were not allowed to take video or photos outside of just being in the B reactor.  When I say I felt of the weight of the Federal Gov't yesterday, I did.

I am in awe of how the Federal Gov't could build a place with 50,000 workers and only a handful of people could know exactly what they were producing. At full production in the 1950s this was the B Reactor site. Call me crazy, but this place is a feat of engineering design and this is a site to behold. Below is a comparison to what exists today.



Also in the amazement department, this is pre-computer aided design and all the calculations to create the factory and the process to derive plutonium were done using a slide rule, drafting, and mathematical calculations only. To give you an scale of the size of the reactor (which is unconditioned and was predicted to be up to 115 degrees inside an all concrete building yesterday) here is the "face" of the reactor filled with a series of tubes (unlike this Internet, which is also a series of tubes, right?)


It was totally worth the dry but also intense heat to see the museum and the surrounding areas. Again for scale, the white elevator behind me was tall enough for someone to stand between and pull individual tubes from the grid.


Before we could enter we had to be processed by the Federal Dept of Energy off site location and I signed what felt like a gazillion security documents about what I could and could not take pictures of or take away from the factory.  Uh, hello, I don't want anything that could emit radiation going home with me (um... guy sitting next to me on the bus who had secretly taken rocks from outside for his classroom.) I'm sorry, but regardless of the whole, "let's get through airport security thing, how about this is a Superfund site."  The only thing I want is a tshirt that says "I came to B Reactor and all I got was irradiated."

I noticed that along the tour were dosimeters to measure radiation.  When I applied for this conference I looked up Hanford and what was happening at one of the largest Superfund sites in the country.  In case you are wondering, check out this report about the clean up to be scared out of your pants about what our government did for 40 years in the name of national defense.


I'll just add that this is the most barren, dry place I've ever seen but also really beautiful in contrast to home.  What happened to green, lush Washington State?  Seriously, this was the scene from nearby.  Speaking of dinner, our project directors took us to a trio of wineries for a very nice dinner and wine tastings earlier in the week.  In the "don't drink the water department," let us spend time talking about the hazards of nuclear waste in the nearby Columbia river all day and then drink wine from local wineries.  Nope, not paradoxical at all.


We will be spending part of Thursday on a boat out on the river talking about the impact on the environment and the clean up efforts.  I already have a list of questions to ask because I am going to be that annoying person. I won't be alone though, we have been broken into small research groups to present on Friday.  Our group met this afternoon at a local brewery called Atomic Ale that serves a bunch of local beers all named after Atomic age people and events.

Needless to say there is a old, dirty hippie teacher at every conference I've attended.  Our research assignment is to design a museum installation for a new National Park Service Museum on the Manhattan Project.  After 3 hours of planning and lots of beer our group gave in to his plan to make our presentation about all the negatives of the Atomic age, aptly titled "the room of doom."  I can't wait to see our professors' faces along the the Friday lecturers who are coming to hear these presentations.


We are back in Spokane late Friday and I return home on Saturday.  Just in time to leave late next week for Los Angeles for the Age of Reagan conference.  Because when I saw this yesterday of a 1950s GE (who was involved in reactor management) actor and spokesperson named Ronald Reagan I busted out laughing.

I still can't believe that for the 2nd year in a row I've gotten to visit amazing places of personal interest related to teaching.  No wearing of a Scooby Doo shirt to identify me as the oddball here, I am with my people and proud to be wearing my sunglasses at night.  And no, I didn't push any buttons in the control room and start a nuclear meltdown.









Saturday, July 5, 2014

2014 Camp Mommy Chronicles- Volume 3

It's been a tiring week here at Camp Mommy.  Ian was not in camp and Ben was only in camp 9-12 three days.  Needless to say, Mom is tired. Mom is very ready for a child-free week, despite that I know I will miss them dearly.

When we came home on Sunday from our lake weekend, Bill had built the following uber cool water board. I picked up the funnels from IKEA and created a big bucket of sponges, empty spray bottles, brushes, along with extra pipe and hoses.  It was a crafting success and reason to go out of town without Bill more often.


Ben did camp through the Town of Cary at the Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve.  The theme was Wet and Wild.  I don't know about the wild part, but he was definitely wet and his boots were covered in muck everyday at pick up.   The focus was on creek life and it sounded like they spent much time getting wet (and also wild) as there was a 14 to 1 boy to girl ratio at pick up.

Ben also had a friend over to spend the night.  I had hoped they would sleep until at least 7. Nope. I awoke just before 6 am to hearing them in their camp set up complete with two man tent to an epic Pokemon battle.


Ian and I went to the Y spray park daily as well as Ian went to their "club" for 3-5 year olds called "Cricket Club" aka let's do a camp like experience during your two hours of time at the Y while mom is elsewhere.  Mom went to kickboxing, ran laps, did TRX while Ian did a dance party, went to the toddler pool, did crafts.  Did I mention that I love the Y?

In other Camp Mommy news we made freezer chalk (crafting fail.) I promise you that this artfully arranged picture is about the best thing about this attempt.


We also took a field trip over to Durham to Ho-B Max RC car rentals/racetrack and to Locopops afterwards.  I'm planning on a separate write up so I'll save the details.  It was a win win in places to take the boys.


We spent the 4th with our neighbors shooting off fireworks, grilling out, hanging out playing in the cul du sac along with monumental errand running with the boys to prep for being out of town all week.


I took the boys to 3 Bears Acres for most of today so Bill could have the day off ahead of Camp Daddy all week.  Granted both boys will be in full time camp or daycare, but he will have them all of tomorrow and Saturday.  I'm flying out crazy early to Spokane WA in the morning for a week on the "Atomic West-Building the US Nuclear Arsenal."  Yes, I know you would fight me for a chance to attend, but get in line to wear your sunglasses at night.







Friday, July 4, 2014

The Way North


Happy Independence Day.  I hope you spent it with family and friends.

The NYT did an amazing multi-day piece on what it means to be an American, entitled "The Way North." The newspaper spent a month along I-35 from Larado, TX to Duluth, MN conducting interviews, shooting pictures, and telling the story of those who are citizens and those who long to become part of the US.  Days 38 and 39 are particularly wonderful and will be used this fall as we dissect the debate of illegal immigration The 4,072 miles that cuts through the heartland of the United States is referred to as as "ground zero for a historic demographic shift."  It is not surprising that the one term I hammered over and over with students was the phrase, " the minority will become the majority."  It plays into future elections, laws, how we see ourselves as Americans.  It evokes both rage and romanticism as we discussion our history of being a melting pot of immigration and our future as we consider what role immigration should play in our history.

I am especially thankful on this day to celebrate of our freedoms of that of freedom of the press to bring such a story that will encourage debate.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Come As You Are

Over the weekend I met up with my four best high school girlfriends for a lakehouse weekend.  Melissa and her husband Todd live on Lake Norman, just north of Charlotte and have hosted us the last few years.

I had high hopes of a great day on the lake, and even though a little overcast, it was not humid or a gazillion degrees.  Happily, I didn't wipe out on the lake when pulled on the raft behind.



This is the 4th year we have been meeting up and my only regret was that we didn't get a shot of all the kids before they were gunning to get out on the lake.  I can't blame them, I mean in addition to the lake and a boat, Melissa had rented a water trampoline, sea kayak, and paddle board. Everyone under the age of 10 rushed through lunch to get out on the water.

Ben loved the paddle board!



Can we say how many times did the kids jump off?  



When Melissa told us what she had rented my first comment was to ask, "did she really want us to visit the finest emergency room facilities serving Lake Norman?"  Ian actually did really well for most of the day listening and not being near water without his life jacket.  He was enamoured with a giant monster truck bouncy going up nearby for a birthday party.


Nothing says summer like giant watermelon slices as big as your head.



I especially love this shot of Laura's older daughter Lydia.  One of the best things about seeing my friend's families is how much their girls look like how I remember them from being elementary aged. .


Some of my favorite picutres that later make the "calendar cut" come from this weekend.  This trip did not disappoint.  A little GQ, but that is a favorite smile on Ben.



I've said this before, but we have known each other literally our entire lives.  Our moms were pregnant at the same time, remained family friends throughout our lives, we all attended the same schools and church.  One of the things I love is that we can just pick up our relationship where we left off.  We spent the day catching up, talking about our kids, their parents, what everyone was doing over the summer and fall.  If there is a theme song with these ladies, it would be "come as you are," as you are accepted for who you are and who you've always been.

Thank you Melissa, Laura, and Jamie for sharing the last 40 years of friendship, I love you ladies!