Friday, January 26, 2007

Go Tigers!

After our breakfast of beignets in Baton Rouge, (say that five times fast) Cam took us on a tour of the LSU campus.

He was happy to be back on campus.

We walked by the football and basketball stadiums.

And tried to see Mike the Tiger but I guess he was inside.

We walked over to where they play baseball.

Cam watched some players warming up.

And remembered past championships.

Cam and Sam shared some Tiger spirit.

It was a nice afternoon.

Sam wrote about it too.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

What we told the kids at school this week

Friday will be my last day as your aide, but not as your friend.

Thank you for being one of the first friends I made after my family moved here from Chicago last summer.

My family would love to meet you and your family for a play date sometime. We could swing on the rope swing or walk or ride along the bike path at Blackie’s Pasture. We could climb Ring Mountain, hike to the waterfalls on the far side of Mt. Tam, or trek to the ocean at Tennessee Valley Beach. We could walk beneath the giant redwoods at Muir Woods or take a ferry to Angel Island. Or you could introduce us to some of your favorite activities.

Also, I will see you when I am working as a substitute teacher at Bel Aire School.

Your neighbor and friend.

What we told their parents

After much deliberation, I have decided to resign from my position as an instructional aide at Bel Aire School. My last day in that role will be next Friday, January 26th.

Recently, I earned my substitute teaching credentials. My idea is that if I leave the part-time aide position, I should be able to work full-time as a substitute teacher for the district. The additional money I could make would allow me to stay home with my nine-year-old son, Sam this summer.

Hopefully, I will still be at Bel Aire on a regular basis, just in a different role. I have already been asked to work at as a substitute teacher here in February and have dates at other schools as well.

Thank you all so much for the friendship and kindness you have shown me. The Bel Aire community has been very welcoming. I'd love to stay in touch outside of school.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Baton Rouge for Beignets

Almost a month ago, we woke up in Lafayette, Louisiana and headed towards Baton Rouge to see where Cam earned his undergrad degree and more importantly eat beignets.

They weren't on Cam's food list but earned honorable mention on Eric's.

On the way, we drove for miles on an elevated highway over the swamp. It was amazing.

Our plan was to get beignets at one of Cam's old haunts, the Coffee Call. When we got there, Cam learned that a Wal-Mart had taken its place.

But all was not lost; they had built a new Coffee Call in the same shopping center.

Cam was pleasantly surprised with the interior. (Do you see him in line?)

They were so, so good.

I had to stop uploading pictures last weekend after seeing these and go make French toast.

I stuffed it with Mascarpone Cheese flavored with brown sugar and vanilla.

Sam and Cam thought it was good that way but the thought of these beignets made me want a sprinkle of powdered sugar on my French toast.

I added extra fresh blue berries for good measure.

I guess sprinkle isn't really an adequate term. I prefer a blizzard of powdered sugar on mine.

Happy eating, everyone.

Cam's Childhood Park

After enjoying our po-boys, we took a stroll through a park Cam played in as a child.

We saw a mama duck and her ducklings.

These geese remind me of the talking geese from some animated movie. Charlotte's Web maybe?

Sam is so brave.





Old Tyme Grocery

When Cam was asked to name his top of "Five Foods to Eat Before you die," #1 on his list was an oyster po-boy in Lafayette, Louisiana. Apparently, there are several good places to get one there. After our visit to Shadows on the Teche, Cam took us to Olde Tyme Grocery. I should have taken a picture of what the place looked like inside. It was packed to the max. After we decided what we wanted, Sam and I escaped to the tables outside while Cam placed our order.

You can see the eager grin of anticipation and enthusiasm over the sandwich and the availability of Zapps Potato chips.

If only they had had the Cajun Crawtator flavored ones.

Ready for my second bite of the oyster po-boy. Wondering why I only wanted us to order one to split and I had chosen a shrimp one.

I'm not sure if the picture does the taste justice but they were good.

Do you see Cam's reflection in the door? Thanks for taking us to one of your favorite places, hon. And thanks for giving me half of the best sandwich instead of just a bite.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Hello, Mr. Blackchin

One of the things we enjoyed greatly on our trip to Louisiana was the native birds. This black-chinned hummingbird greeted us often by perching on the feeder right outside the window next to the dining room table.

One of the things we enjoy greatly about our new home in California is watching the hummingbirds in the cedar trees in our back yard. Jim had a few books on hummingbirds. We flipped through them and tried to identify the ones we have seen at home by memory. I think I have seen Anna's hummingbird and the Rufous among others. They are fascinating little creatures.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Shadows & Hope

The day after Christmas, we were treated to sweet potato pancakes for breakfast.

There had been some discussion about what we should do on this day. The day before, Camille invited us to visit her family's farm if we had time. She said they had horses, cats, dogs, etc. It sounded like a fun way to spend the day. She was off on the 26th and I was interested in taking her up on her offer. But we had already plans to tour Shadows on the Teche, one of the local plantations.

I wanted to spend time together but had negative feelings associated with plantations. In my mind, they are synonymous with oppression and slavery. I would have been more interested in learning about the plight of the slaves who survived on the plantation than the family who benefited from their labor.

In a movie we watched about the family, we learned that after the Civil War, many of the people who had been enslaved by them, stayed on to work for them. That sounds like a good thing but I imagine they were not paid a livable wage, were not offered adequate education and still faced intense discrimination.

Maybe in the week after we celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr., I can begin to read to Sam from one of the books that made an impact on me. In A Better Day Coming, Adam Fairclough educates the "general reader" about "the history of race relations since the American Civil War." Much of the information in his book was never presented to me in my educational career. I learned that there was slavery, then the Civil War, then the Civil Rights Movement and finally today. But that period of time after the Civil War where the blacks, who had been treated like property, were still horribly oppressed was skimmed over.

Even today, so many people do not have their basic needs met. Last week, I spoke with my friend, Cass, from Chicago. She has recently received her Master's degree from the Jane Addams College of Social Work and been hired to administer a grant intended to help people who cannot pay their utility bills. She talked about how our society doesn't work for everyone.

We talked about Barbara Ehrenreich's book Nickel and Dimed. Barbara was, "Inspired in part by the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform, which promised that a job -- any job -- could be the ticket to a better life. But how does anyone survive, let alone prosper, on six to seven dollars an hour?"

""Millions of Americans suffer daily trying to make ends meet. Barbara Ehrenreich's book forces people to acknowledge the average worker's struggle..." --Lynn Woolsey, member of congress

It he end of the book, Ehrenreich states that we shouldn't just feel bad about the plight of the working class but that we should feel ashamed. I think she used the work despicable about the way we still allow so many people to struggle against adverse conditions on a daily basis.

Regardless of my feelings about the ethics of the society of the time or the family who lived and operated the plantation, it is part of our history.

I appreciate having the opportunity to take the tour and learn.

It was a beautiful day.

The grounds were lovely.

It was nice to have time with Jim and Liz.

And run around outside.

In my quest to find work that will allow me to make a difference, I having worked some low-paying jobs myself lately. The difference is that I don't have to. I am grateful to have been one of the lucky ones.

But what would my life have been like if I had been born into different circumstances?

I can hear an old boss say, "Here you go again with you idealistic, socialistic..." I don't have the answers but do have a desire to find solutions that work for everyone.

This week, when Barack Obama announced his historic bid for the presidency, Cam and I started reading his book, The Audacity of Hope, together. In the prologue, Obama acknowledges, "I can't help but view the American experience through the lens of a black man of mixed heritage, forever mindful of how generations of people who looked like me were subjugated and stigmatized, and the subtle and not so subtle ways that race and class continue to shape our lives."

I am thankful for the glimpse of our past I was given and hopeful that as a nation we can be kinder and more compassionate to one another in the future.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Cold, Fishing on Christmas Evening

After a lovely Christmas day with Cam's Dad's side of the family, Cam & Sam headed out to the backyard pond to try their hand at fishing.

They used the worms they'd found on Christmas Eve Day.

Then spent some time talking about the mechanics of casting.

Sam illustrated his casting know-how.

Then the pole was his.




I brought Sam's coat out with me but you can see how much use it was getting laying on the ground between them.

The guys seemed impervious to the cold.

Sam moved to the other side of the gazebo to try his luck over there.

Cam got some pictures of me watching Sam untangle his line.

Then helping a bit.

Sam gave up on worms and decided it was just as fun casting and reeling his line in without them.

While they were fishing, I decided to take advantage of the better cell phone reception outside and give my family a call. They packed up and went inside, leaving me out there talking. I was able to talk with my Grandma, Aunt Shirley, Uncle David, Aunt Gayle, Dad, Mom, Sister-in-Law and Brother.

For warmth, I finished my calls from Jim's greenhouse. Unfortunately, while I was saying hello to my family, I missed saying goodbye to Brian and Camille. We sure were glad to have had time with them that day.