05 December 2011

After all my logic and my theory I add a...

I am about to go buy some RPGs, some grenades, some bullet-proof coverings for my house windows and doors, and some serious private security guards.


Because Saint Louis is the 3rd most dangerous city in the world.

Don't laugh.

It is, according to Urbantitan.

We are further up the list than Mogadishu.  Higher than Caracas, higher than a city in Chechnya, and way higher than a city in Pakistan, where al-Qaeda kidnaps US reporters.

I know I shouldn't take this mess seriously, but come on now.

To compare any US city to the listed international cities and so many more cities where people really do fear for their lives daily is absurd.

I have never gone to sleep with ear plugs in due to the noise of the bombs; I have never had to sleep with night shades over my eyes so that the bright lights of the exploding bombs and missiles don't keep me awake.

I have never had to walk through shrapnel, crumbled buildings, streets filled with tanks, alleys full of soldiers reloading and resting up before the next evenings attacks.

I have never had to adjust where I walk so that I don't have to risk my small child seeing and walking over piles of dead bodies.

I have never had to see (in real life) the disfigured, dismembered bodies of my neighbors or co-workers.

I know that people try to bring this city down.  I know that there is still high unemployment here (especially among African American males).  I know that there is a good deal of crime at times in some parts of the city.

I know that there are people who move out of this city after getting tired of being asked where they went to high school for the one-millionth time.

These people are not considered refugees.

They are leaving on their own volition.

But as I always say - the data is not really that accurate.

Most lists that include StL as the most dangerous in the country (now world) do not count the city as most other areas of the country do.  StL county is not counted as part of StL.  Almost every other area of the nation includes the entire metropolitan area in their city counts.

Not to say that the county is crime free, but they don't have as many violent crimes.  They just have kidnappings, meth labs, cocaine parties, and a ton of other events in recent history that I won't list because some one is bound to think I am making light of the various situations, but please, do your research.

When you do count the city and the county together, the statistics for StL drop enormously.

I'm not going to argue that there are not a lot of crimes in the city, but it definitely does not compare to many other places.  If you watch local news here, there is a constant barrage of crime being shared (though I'm not sure if that is because there is a lot of it, or if it is because that is what local people expect to see on their news channels.  And if you really look at the local news (which I cannot stand, sorry Ms Huda), you could see that most of the crimes are taking place in the same spots of the city.

I am not going to hate on the author of the story for not looking at statistics appropriately.

But I am going to hate on the author for saying that "East St. Louis is the area of nearly 65% of the crime".

EAST ST. LOUIS IS NOT THE SAME CITY AS ST. LOUIS.  It's not even in the same state.  There is a huge (though sometimes not so high with all the drought) river that separates the two cities.  And if you want to get even more technical with it, not all of the area on the east side of the river is East StL.  There are other cities that people tend to lump together that are not actually part of EStL.  Perhaps that is causing that area to have a worse rap than it should.  If you include East Saint in the statistics, then you should include the whole metro area, fo' real.

All in all, the blog sucks.

And now that I think about it, this is what is to blame for some of the students I teach and young people I see around the area.

They think they are super hard as shit.

Why shouldn't they even though most of them have never been in a fight, never seen a gun, maybe been detained for MIP of weed, and never had to deal with any large amount of trauma, let alone having a bomb drop on your house in the middle of the night?

And why shouldn't they when each year they hear that their "city" is among the most dangerous in the country?  They all think of the city as the whole metropolitan area.  And they don't watch the news or have classes that teach about what is going on in the world, so I guess according to them (and the author of this blog) they do live in the third most dangerous area of the world.

These people are the reason that I often feel like Lauryn Hill.  Even after all my logic and my theory, I (often want to) add a mother-fucka so you ignant n----s hear me.  Remember. Take notes.


29 April 2011

More than a pain in the neck

I seem to experience pains and circumstances like no one else that I personally know.  There are the simple dairy issues, the more complex back problems, and the even more worrisome cancer scares.  More recently, I have had a lupus scare lending itself to some skin issues that are going to be with me permanently and have forever changed the way I will do my hair.

About a month and a half ago I was out eating a lovely sushi meal with my local sister and my brother from another mother and father and noticed a small bump on my neck.  I thought it was a pimple and made a note to look at it when I got home.  I didn't.  I remembered it a couple days later.  It was way larger and felt nothing like a pimple.  But I wasn't too worried.  Then it got larger and harder.  I went to the dermatologist.  He said he couldn't deal with it since it was too far under the skin.  I went to a general surgeon who sent me to get an ultrasound.

All in all, this lead to some incredible worrying.  And a lot of sub plan writing - one of the truly annoying things about being a teacher is that you can't just take a day off.  There has to be a plan for every hour and you have to write it all down for the person who will cover your classes for you.  It takes way longer to do sub plans than to actually stick out sicknesses and go to work.  Unfortunately, doctors don't work around my school day.

But, back to my neck.  The lump was growing.  It was becoming a nuisance when I swallowed, yawned, accidentally put the toothbrush too far and gagged when I was cleaning my tongue - it was really annoying. And becoming more and more scary!  What was this growth?!?!?!

The surgeon said it was likely a thyroglossal duct cyst - which he said usually develop in early childhood.  This added more to my confusion.  I know I can be immature at times, but WTF?  Am I a mutant?  Why is this happening to me?

He said it could be removed easily.  I set up a surgery date for two and a half weeks from that appointment.  And that began two and a half weeks of worry.

I have several doctors in the family, but I also watch a lot of doctor shows.  I have seen simple surgery turn into a life-long nightmare.  I have seen doctors leave items in body cavities and seen doctors operate on the wrong portion of a patient.

I went in this past Tuesday for the procedure.  Fortunately, my siblings were kind of sympathetic when I called and told them that I had had enough and that I was going to slit my throat.  One of them was really worried and thought I was actually suicidal.  But when I offered her my nice tv, she seemed ok with it all.

Luckily the worst part was not eating after midnight prior to the surgery.  The procedure was scheduled for 1:45, but the doctor was an hour late.  I was so hungry that I was actually past hunger.  I assume that my insides were already digesting my body... that would explain why I was significantly lighter when I stepped on the scale than I have been for over four years.  Oh, and not being able to take headache medicine or any other medicine for a week before the surgery - great time for my sinus to become completely f-ed up (neti-pot is my new best friend).

Actually, the worst part was not not eating before surgery.  It has been trying to eat after surgery.  The tube used during anesthesia caused irritation afterward, then the fact that they cut portions of my throat muscles and throat bones out has caused significant pain during eating, chewing, drinking, and any activity that involves moving the tongue besides talking.  Also, my neck is swollen and sore when I try and lay down or turn over when in bed.  As soon as I finish writing this, I am going to go back and get the cold pack and lay it out on my neck.

Unfortunately, it took me two days to realize that I could be taking two pills for pain instead of just one at a time.  That made a huge difference.  I still don't see why people get addicted to these sort of pills, but I guess my demographics don't fit the usual suspects for prescription drug abuse.

I took the gauze off yesterday and am now looking like a black Mrs. Frankenstein.  The stitches stick out more than the actual incision - which should blend a bit with the natural neck folds when they unsew my neck in a little over a week.  I guess there go my chances of showing a lot of neck when I finally get a chance on Tyra's modeling show.

Hopefully, this is the last of my medical ailments for a long time.

Oh, yeah.  All this happened after a massive tornado impacted my school district and made several of my students and colleagues homeless.  I feel for them and the people in the southwest recovering from that devastation.

Oh, and while this was all happening, I was doing another cycle of SIOL for 30 days.  I even managed to wear my six to the hospital for the procedure since Tuesday was the last day of the project.  I will continue until the end of May with my Project 333 challenge.

27 March 2011

Awesomely disturbing prank

I can't find a better video quality, but this is hilarious.

Check out his hang-time.

09 March 2011

05 March 2011

Near death experience

There's nothing to bring you into reality like some sort of major scares.

These were/are all scary for different reasons and to different intensity levels.

Thursday I experienced a new kind of scare.

After school, I went to practice (yes, track is back in session - I am back being sore demonstrating drills and trying to pretend in front of the kids that it doesn't hurt and is still easy for my ever-aging body, and I will soon be losing most of my free Saturday time).  Before practice, I decided to wipe down my dirty computer keyboard area.

When I came back in, I had to clean up and get ready for three hours of parent-teacher conferences.  Then I packed up and headed down to meet, greet, share information.

At various times during these conferences, there are lulls where I can either sit and stare out the door (I was seated RIGHT in front of the entry door.  Not sure if this was some sort of social justice move to let parents know that yes, there are some black women we hire as teachers, or just a coincidence), grade papers (which I had none on this second night), walk and talk with other teachers who are not meeting with parents, get a snack of pita chips and cheese (which would not turn out well for me or the parents), or I can get on my personal laptop and cruise through some of my favorite safe for work sites.

I pulled out the laptop and turned it on.

The light came on, but it took a while for the login screen to appear.  When it did appear, my keys were not typing anything.  I restarted it and then it did not come on at all.

It was dead or broken or about to implode or something.

I wanted to scream for fear of all the data I had put on in the past two weeks that I had not yet put onto a jump drive or my Time Machine.  I wanted to get up and make a bunch of phone calls to see what could be done.

Instead I had to sit there for another 2 hours talking to parents (mostly about how well their student is doing since the parents who need to kick their kids into shape are often the ones who cannot make it for various work, school, a lot of other kids, not really paying attention/caring reasons - maybe they haven't heard of the proposed jail time and conferences issue in Detroit).

I had way more pressing issues.

That night and into yesterday morning the computer would still not turn on.

I had to go to the dreaded Apple Store.  First, that meant I had to go into the mall.  In itself a scary time, but I was hoping that since I would be in there around 1 on a weekday that it wouldn't be too bad.  Then there is the Apple Store itself.  Fun gadgets to play with, but too many people - many of them crazed gadget-hounds who think life revolves around their desire to acquire/fix whatever Apple devise they currently are servicing.  I braved the lunch crowds, but would have to come back at 4:45 because there were too many people and I had to leave for practice.

Later came back and got to look at all the cool new computers with amazing mouse pads.  They said that everything on my hard drive could be saved.  Then one of the nice workers said that I was still under a warranty and that might cover fixing the power button.  (I guess when I got the computer three years ago I must have done the normally unthinkable for me and purchased an awesome extended warranty)

The computer is fixed.  Even have a new casing that they replaced, new keyboard, and new mouse pad.

I still have all of my information.  I don't have to spend over a thousand dollars American on a new computer.  And I can now stay out of the mall for a while longer.

09 February 2011

Six Items or Less - No, undies don't count

Since January 10th, I have been participating in the Six Items or Less experiment.  Here is some information on it:

What do our clothes say about us? ...
The scope of the Six Items project expanded rapidly around the world, exposing individuals and even entire families to explore a life with less...
The experiment is simple: each participant gets to choose six (and only six) items of clothing and pledge to wear only these six items of clothing for a month...
Logistically, there are exceptions that don’t count towards the six: undergarments, swim wear, work-out clothes, work uniforms, outer wear (rain slicker, outdoor jacket), shoes and accessories. You can get multiples of the same item for laundry purposes, but different colors count as separate items.

For my six, I chose

  1. Black dress
  2. White button-up blouse
  3. Jeans
  4. Black cardigan
  5. Black long-sleeved t-shirt
  6. Gray sweater

These were really good choices for me.  I counted about 17 outfit options/combinations I could create with these six pieces (I only ended up wearing 7, but in different ways).  I was able to go to work and hang out and even attend the Lauryn Hill concert all with ease and without looking out of place.  The dress was something I have had for at least 8 years and have only probably worn about 5 times.

Initially I was worried about how hard this would be.  But, it turns out that it was way easier than I thought.  A couple years ago, I started getting rid of clothes that I didn't like.  Last year I got rid of some more.  When I decided to do SIOL in December, I got rid of even more.  I by no means am living super simple with clothes, but I have definitely pared down.  I also was worried about looking the same day in and day out.

Then I remembered that every summer I basically wear the same thing each day when I am not out coaching.  When Kid Sis #3 found out I was doing this, she asked, "Isn't that what you always do anyway?"  When I am not working, I am basically in similar clothes each day.

I was concerned that my students would notice my outfits and realize before anyone else what was going on.  I am in front of them and in the halls with them each and every day for long periods of time.

All of my fears were for nothing.

I loved the clothes I chose.  That dress that had seen so little wear in the past years has now become a favorite.

Scarves have become my favorite.  I have tried out so many different ways of wearing them around my neck and around my body that it is truly amazing.

I got so many compliments on so many days on my outfits.  Some one I don't normally see at work (outside of my coaching clothes) even asked me if I was going on interviews after school since I looked so nice.  The kids even complimented me on my outfits.  One girl compared another student to me as the after portion of "What Not To Wear" and the kid as the before.  The minimal items and the desire not to look the same each day made me really focus on looking put together each day.  It also made me use accessories, tights, and shoes to make my look different each time I wore something.  In these pictures you can see two examples of how I mixed up the dress.  In the first, I wore the black T on top with the scarf to break it up and make it look more like a skirt.  I wore ballet shoes that day.  In this picture I rocked my boots and just had the cardigan on top (the dress is short-sleeve, so I always had something on top.  I wore the dress with the white shirt on top, with the gray sweater on top, tucked in to the jeans to look like a shirt, and different colored tights and shoes and a lot of different jewelry.

I was really impressed by my creativity throughout this.  I have not seen myself as being really good with fashion, but perhaps with time and practice, that may be a calling of mine somehow.

I only told three people that I was doing SIOL, and no one else noticed (or at least said anything to my face about it).

I have always gotten my clothes ready for the week on Sunday nights, but with SIOL, it made it even easier to do so.

Today is the last day.

Next, I am going to up it to 15 items (no experiment, just doing it on my own) and continue to the end of February.  When I picked my 15 pieces, I started trying to figure out how many ways I could mix them and had to stop counting, because I was becoming overwhelmed with all the choices.

Through this experiment, I have come even closer to figuring out a few things:

  • What type of clothes I really like and what I need to focus one when I go shopping for clothes - I know that quality is way better than cheap items that will only be ruined after a season of washing and wearing.  Each of my items were good quality and made it through a lot of washing and (most of them) three times a week wear.  
  • I know that I can live off of very little - Again, no one noticed.  That is a credit to my creativity, but as many on the SIOL site have said, no one really cares what you wear.  It is really about wearing clothes that suit your body and lifestyle, and not looking out of place.  I have donated or sold even more clothes.
  • I have started trying to travel with just a carry on - After this, I know that this will be even easier.  
  • I love this six - With exception to the white shirt, and I don't totally love that because I feel like the arms aren't as long as I would like them to be.  They are by no means the MJ of sleeves, but I have long arms for a woman and like my sleeves to come to a certain point on my hands.  When I picked my 15 pieces, it was almost hard to get to 15 because I wanted to make sure that the pieces fit my style and that they would all look good together and be a decent quality.
  • I am not easily bored with clothes - Not until this past Sunday did I get antsy about wearing something different.  That was when I was getting my clothes ready for the week and was getting excited/anxious about all the options for Thursday.  I stuck with my 6, and Thursday will wear something totally different.  Though, I did consider wearing the dress again since I like it so much.

During the experiment I even tried things out with my ever growing TWA.  I had my sister braid some of it and tried out some of those comb-thingies that you can slide into your hair.  It may be time for me to invest in some of PeaceImages hair combs - I have been looking forward to the day my hair is long enough to mess around with since I became natural (finally stopping the cutting has really helped out - who would have thought, right?)

So SIOL no more.

It is still rather likely that I will keep wearing some of the same outfits in the next few weeks.

The community on the website was really great - it was cool to read about their journeys, trials, and tribulations as well as to see some of the options they chose.  I may do one of these experiments some of them suggested next.  Each of which will be a breeze after limiting myself to 6 items for 31 days.

Or maybe something completely different that comes up or that I create - for now it will be 15IOL for the next 19 days.  Perhaps after that, I will be able to pare my wardrobe down even more.

19 January 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Sign language

I really hope this girl got a good grade on this assignment.  It is super cool and I hope she gets an invite from Cee-Lo to do one of his shows.

17 January 2011

Lauryn Hill is still amazing: Pageant concert review

I know there was incredible anticipation and questioning about how the Lauryn Hill show would turn out here in St.L at the Pageant, but as a good friend put it, "She can show up and be kind of horrible, and it would still sound and be great!"

Well, she definitely did more than just show up.

I got an email a few weeks back that pushed the door opening time back from 7 to 9.  That actually reassured me that she was going to come and that it wouldn't be too late like in some previous concerts.  There was still no official start time on the tickets, but I was feeling good.

The DJ that was on when we entered the Pageant was good.  Played a mix of mostly old-school jams that got the crowd hyped up.  Almost didn't seem like he was on the stage for the whole two hours that he was up there.  Close to 11 (the time the doorman said the show would start around), a second DJ came on stage (onto the actual stage) and started to hype the crowd up even more.  He played for another 52 minutes.  Around minute 40, the band came on.  Bassist even started playing along with the DJ - sounding super cool as he thrashed his locks around to the beat.

About the band, they kind of looked like they had been found by Ms Lauryn on Craigslist yesterday morning.  There was just no cohesive look about them.  One of the bassists kept trying to take pictures of the crowd with his cell phone.  One of the keyboardists looked like he would rather be about 100 different places than on the stage.  When the DJ said that Lauryn would be out soon after the crowd started chanting her name, two of the back up singers gave a look that basically looked like "We'll see if you still want her when she comes out."

From my phone, you can kind
of see the shrug-thing
Well. At 11:52, she came out and told everyone that she was going to "do old music new ways."  And with that the show started.

Set list:
"Forever Loving Jah" by Bob Marley
"Lost Ones"
"When it Hurts So Bad"
"Final Hour"
"How Many Mics"
"I Only Have Eyes for YOu"
"Killing Me Softly"

And two encore songs:
"Turn Your Lights Down Low"
"Doo Wop (That Thing)"

She changed a lot of the songs up, but I thought it was musically amazing.  She had the live band (Which played better than I expected - way better, though the level of their sound was really high and sometimes distorted.)

The way she played most of the songs was more upbeat and more rocked out.  Kind of a funk-rock fusion of some kind.  It was mesmerizing.  It was still possible to sing along to favorites once you caught on to the new beat and sound.

I'm sure that some fans were disgusted because they are so attached to the old songs (those songs have such strong meaning to me as well as so many other people).  I saw some people leaving and not coming back... not sure if it was their disdain for the music or the fact that it was getting late and they may have had to work on this MLK day.

I feel like a lot of the songs have a really strong meaning to Hill, as well, and that makes it hard to play them the same way she played them years ago without starting to (possibly) feel as vulnerable as she did when she first made them.

The new sound was amazing.  She even did "Ex-Factor" two different ways.  Really, really fast and rocked out, and then more slow and mellow.  Kind of weird, but it was ok.

She seemed really, really sincere and passionate.  She many times thanked the crowd for coming out and supporting her for all this time.

One thing that made the show even better was the genuine looks of enjoyment from her and the band at several points.  It was almost like they were shocked that things were going so well.  The bassist took his phone out a few more times to snap pictures of the crowd.  And the back up singers and one of the keyboardists looked like they were truly amazed by the show and sometimes amazed by Lauryn's singing and rapping and interactions with the crowd.  I even heard later that night that she had stuck around out back in her vehicle saying hey and greeting people.  Very much seemed like the Lauryn Hill that I believed was the most beautiful person on the planet back in her heyday.

She danced a-la James Brown at times, she sang in her trademark raspy voice (now a bit raspier with age), she rapped with such speed and fluidity that I was in awe.  And.  It.  Was.  Awesome.

Several times she got on the band (in jest?) to let them know that they need to "move the crowd."  She even told them once that they needed to not "waste this tune."

I cannot express the vibe of the crowd jumping in unison with the each other and the band during "Fu-Gee-La" as soon as the familiar beat and tones came out to let us know that was the next song.

So glad I got the tickets.  So glad to share that experience with friends, and strangers, and the band, and Lauryn.

Only complaint would be that she didn't take off the crazy shrug-thing that she had to keep annoyingly adjusting the whole night (like, every 20 seconds throughout the night).

I am pretty sure this may be the last time she goes on tour sounding so good.

I hope she makes some kind of recordings of the new versions of her songs.  I would buy that just like her early Fugees, the big Fugees, and her solo stock.