Saturday, January 31, 2009

Mr. Congeniality

I took a quick trip to St. George this weekend to watch Holland run in the Mr. Dixie pageant. He was great. Honest, I am usually the first to give Holland a hard time, but he was fantastic. The contestants all participated in an opening dance number. Holland was FABULOUS. His facial expressions are something I will remember forever. He was pretty cute. For his talent, he caught various food items in his mouth-- one behind the back, another tossed by someone 30 feet away, etc. The audience really enjoyed it. His evening wear consisted of a smoking jacket (DI jacket turned inside out but looked snazzy) and a pipe that blew bubbles. During his question someone poked a tray through the turned and allowed him to refill his pipe so he could blow more bubbles. It was hilarious. At the end of the night, he didn't win the overall title, but he did get Mr. Congeniality. The whole thing was very entertaining. Bret, Lori, Faye, and I cheered and cat called all night for Holland and had a blast. 

On the way home, I had another adventure. I witnessed a motorcycle accident. I was driving north of Cedar when a motorcycle I had been playing leap frog with since the city was passing me at 80 mph. I looked over at him and imagined how cold it must be for him, when all of a sudden he looks like he is a x-games competitor. He veered off the road over the shoulder swerved into the snow and skid several fit on his bike. I pulled over immediately, thinking to myself that I am glad I am CPR certified, and ran to make sure he was okay. To my surprise and the surprise of several other drivers, he was fine. Seriously shaken up and upset about his bike, but fine. Another lady and I gathered up various things he had lost or thrown off in the tussle-- suitcase, side view mirror, part of a blinker, helmet, gloves, glasses-- while he tried to get his bike started again with the help of a two other guys. The police and EMT's showed up in really good time and checked the guy out. I filled out a witness report for the first time in my life, and hopefully the last. The highway patrol trooper asked me a few questions and let me go. It was crazy. I thought the guy would be seriously injured. Not many people can say they walked away from a motorcycle accident at 80 miles an hour. I am pretty sure the foot of snow on the side of the road saved his life, but he's a really lucky guy. 

Anyway, it was a crazy weekend. Oh, and maybe you want pictures of the pageant, but alas, Bret and Lori's camera was dead, and I left mine on my bed. Holland said someone taped it for him, so maybe we can get a copy and post it somewhere for all of you to see. Later-

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Grad School News

I guess the excitement continues. After news in my family of an engagement, a baby, inauguration fun and so much more, life continues to move  full speed. I got a letter yesterday letting me know I got accepted to my preferred grad school. It is called the Bread Loaf School of English and it is a program run by Middlebury College in Vermont. It is pretty prestigious. I hadn't heard of it before, but my Aunt Sara says it is a great school. That was confirmed by some people from Vermont I met on a bus in D.C. It is a summer 8 week program. You attend 4 or 5 summers and get your master's degree. The coolest part is they operate from four different campuses: Vermont, North Carolina, Santa Fe, and Oxford. I am elated. By going with this program, I can keep teaching the rest of the year in Gunnison and travel around the world in the summer. Now isn't the best time to give up a good job, so I am counting my blessing with this program. Plus it will be easier for me to pay for school if I'm working full time. I applied to two other programs and will probably wait a little bit to see if I hear back from them, but this program fits so well into my life right now that I think it is the smartest (and most adventurous) choice. I know a lot of you are rooting for me to find a husband and get married, and my chances of doing that while staying in Gunnison aren't high, but I really am happy here. I love my job and the kids I teach, and for now that is enough. 
Anyway, you know me. :) The next adventure has presented itself, and I'm off to greet it. I get to live in Vermont for 8 weeks-- a dream of mine since I visited there the summer after my senior year. It's funny how life works out so differently for different people. 

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Inauguration Photos!!

Okay Everyone! I'm back, and with quite a weekend finished. I'll breeze through the Albuquerque stuff and get to the good part though.
So I went to New Mexico for the Western Regional Leadership Conference for the NEA Friday through Sunday. I met some really cool people and learned a lot about the teacher's union. I am new to all of it and didn't know much, but I fed into all the propaganda and really believe in this stuff. The NEA is a pretty cool association with education needs and the needs of teachers at the center. I heard the head of NEA, Dennis Van Roekel, speak and it was amazing. He is quite a speech giver and had the whole audience on their feet by the end. So, pretty much I learned some neat things about the future of education and the need for the union.
I only got away from the hotel one night, so mom and I went to "Old Town." It's basically a tourist trap with Southwest-style souvenir shops and restaurants. We ate at a restaurant our cabdriver recommended, and it wasn't that great. The Mexican food we have here in Utah is much better.
Anyway, we got home Sunday and repacked for Washington D.C. With any early flight time, Mom and I got to the airport at 5 or so to get through security and everything. Once we landed in Baltimore, the adventure began. The airport had a booth specifically for helping people coming to town for the inauguration. Mom asked a helpful lady what we should do and got all the maps and information we could use. Outside the terminal, we needed to catch a bus to take us to the beginning of the Metro system. So we met our first line :)
People on the bus were really friendly. We caught onto the spirit and chatted with those around us. I met a guy from Boston, and a mother daughter pair from Vermont. They were all shocked to hear we flew in from Utah. I got talking to the Boston guy and he asked me about the church and, of course, Proposition 8. I couldn't dodge the question so I answered as best I could. It may not have been church approved, but I was honest and stuck up for the sanctity of marriage as best I could. That was the only Mormon question I got the whole time.
We got to the Metro station 30 minutes later and found our first "long" line. I'd say easily a thousand people were waiting in line to buy passes for the metro. Again, people were really nice. We met some people from North Carolina. Some random lady cut in line so we were complaining about it and became fast friends.
After standing in the wrong line for 30 minutes (we were in the line for one way rates and we wanted to buy day passes to use the next day) we bought enough fair to get us to Doug's stop and boarded a train. Anyway, we met more people and exchanged stories and hometowns with more people. Doug picked us up and drove us to his house where we met up with Sara and Cameron. Cameron is so much bigger than I saw her last, talking and giggling, and sweet as ever. I realized I haven't seen her since this time last year at my niece's blessing. We went to dinner and talked all evening. They are very good hosts.
Doug, Sara, Mom, and I packed up and bundled up the next morning and left for the metro at about 8. And then the real line standing and crowd fighting started. The crowds were insane and we got separated from Doug because they kept opening and closing the metro station. Police Officers would close off the entrance until the platform cleared of people and then they would let more people down. We finally got down to the platform and waited for a train. Five or so went by before we finally crammed in--literally-- to a train that could barely hold more people. Doug and Sara were able to get on a train before us because the people mom and I were shoving into flatly refused to let us on. Not taking no for an answer the next time, we barged our way in and were on our way. Now having a personal knowledge of what sardines feel like, we went from stop to stop until we got downtown. We caught up with Doug and Sara who were in line to get into the Silver standing area (that is what our tickets were for). The line was a good four blocks long and the inauguration was starting in an hour.
Depressed and feeling hopeless, Sara and I went exploring. People we talked to made it sound like we were never getting in. "The line is too long." "Security is no longer letting anyone in." "Even if you get in, you can't see." So we radioed (we remembered walkie-talkies and good thing too since there was hardly any cell phone service) Doug and mom to join us at the front of the line. I know it isn't honest, but I didn't fly in from Utah to stand in a never moving line and not see the inauguration. So we cut in line and shoved our way through. The crowd was literally body to body people. I've never been closer to people in my life, but no one didn't care. We all had the same goal in mind: getting into the inauguration. Once we forced our way through the security blocking area, we were jubilant. Jumping and screaming with joy. We had lost Doug somewhere and couldn't reach him, but we knew was in somewhere.
I stopped to use one of the 4000 port-a-potties, and mom and I lost Sara. The two of us stayed together though. Doug eventually found us. His extra height helped him pick out mom's hair in the crowd. We radioed Sara and through arm waving and calling eventually found her too. Our location wasn't too bad either. We had a great view of the Capitol Building and were right next to some speakers. We heard every word.
So here is what the experience felt like:
Incredible, once in a lifetime, amazing, powerful, hopeful, joyful, legendary, and . . . fill in your own adjective with a positive connotation. People were yelling and jumping for joy. President Obama's speech was powerful and the spirit of his words are something I will never forget. A lot has happened politically for our nation, and I think President Obama knows the stakes of failure. No matter who you voted for in the election, I think we are looking into a bright future with Obama driving our nation. I'm excited. I'm excited about what he stands for, about his intentions, about his message of hope and change. I'll never forget that day. Especially when I caught my first glimpse of the First Family. Mom and I stuck around for the parade (well the part where the President got in his limo and drove down the street). The sun was at just the right angle so I could see through the tint of the car and could see the First Family waving back. I almost cried it was so cool. I got to witness and be a part of history first hand. Now I have photos and tickets to frame for my future grand kids to ask questions about the time I got to be around when the United States elected our first African American President. I don't know, I think it is pretty cool.
The day ended with Mom and I getting in another line for the metro and heading back for Doug's (they left earlier to reunite with Cameron and the babysitter. I'm sure his blog will have their story of walking back to Virginia soon). That evening, I met up with my dear friend, Casey Chadwick. He is stationed there in the ceremonial guard of the Navy. We hung out most of the night until he got called in to cover the night shift. Poor guy. He had (got to) usher for the seated areas at the inauguration. He had a great view. It was really great to see him. There is nothing quite like being reunited with a close friend to end such a perfect day.
So I made it back safe and sound, but exhausted to boot. I started teaching again today; I must say I really missed my students. On class even planned a return party for me. They brought sodas, cookies, doughnuts, fudge, and other miscellaneous goodies, and wrote "Welcome Back Ms. Olsen" on the board and signed their names. They are sweet kids. Don't worry, it was business as usual, we just had refreshments to go along with the learning. :)
I need to end by saying thanks to Doug and Sara. They were great hosts and made us very comfortable. Doug even got up early (4 a.m.) and drove us to the airport. Much thanks and love.
So that's my story. I put together a slide show, but pictures don't really do the spirit of the event justice. Anyway, enjoy.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Getting ready

Whew! What a week! I started reading To Kill a Mockingbird with my students at the return from Christmas break. My students aren't thrilled, but I think I am slowly winning them over. We'll see. Getting ready for this weekend has been tough. I swear, preparing for a sub is harder than teaching myself. I had to lay out three days worth of lesson plans and it took forever. I left tons of work for my students to do. I hope they don't hate it, but they will. 
Anyway, I am off tomorrow to Albuquerque with my mom for a Western Regional Leadership Conference for the NEA. I don't know a ton about union stuff so this should be cool. I've never been to ABQ before so I am looking forward to the trip. We'll be there until Sunday and will return to SLC for the night. Monday morning we leave early for D.C. hoping to get through all the hustle and bustle and find the place where we will pick up our inauguration tickets. My Uncle Doug and Aunt Sara are letting us stay at their place for the whole trip, which is really nice of them. It sounds like Doug is on a list for stand-by tickets and might even get to join us for the big day. I am really looking forward to this event, I mean once in a life time right?
In fact, our Gunnison newspaper has already contacted me for an interview when I get back. They want me to make sure to take a picture (obviously won't be slacking on that). I guess it's all a little Mr. Smith goes to Washington for our tiny town. Everyone is pleasantly excited for me, which makes it more fun for me. I have a ton of people to be excited with. 
Mom and I are packing right now and trying to squeeze all our 3 ounce bottles into a stupid quart size bag. It's harder than I planned. We are having an ongoing debate about whether or not toothpaste is a liquid. I think I'm winning, but I'm going with the better safe than sorry philosophy. I mean if you can't have gel shoe inserts, toothpaste has to be a liquid, right? 
I am taking my laptop with me so hopefully I'll be able to put up a timely post for all of you who want pictures. My students told me to get one shaking the President's hand. I told them that it might be hard to fight my way through the easy million people who will be vying for a close spot. But, might as well try. Secret Service shouldn't have a problem with me walking right up to him and saying hi.  
Anyway, my overstuffed carry-on is calling my name. *sigh . . . stupid toothpaste