Sunday, July 18, 2010

Black, Brown and White

Since October of 2008, I've been an employee of FSI (food service) at Ave Maria University. Ave is located in Southwest Florida, near a small town called Immokalee. Immokalee is a town populated largely by immigrants - both legal and illegal - from Mexico, Haiti, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic especially. It is probably one of the poorest places in all of Florida with the average yearly salary of just over $17,000 which contrasts nicely with Naples (about 40 minutes away) where the median income is close to $100,000 a year and the median house/condo price is more than $800,000.

Naples is where really rich people retire. Their backyard in Immokalee is where really poor people are sometimes enslaved. ( ) It's quite the difference. Some of my coworkers at FSI are from Haiti and Mexico and Cuba and Argentina and ..well, you get the picture. I think there may be four Americans working there total: me, my boss, the director, and one of the chefs. LOL. A lot of my coworkers live in Immokalee. Some live in Naples (but definitely not the richer part).  I've always respected these people, but since I've been working there more this summer and it's slower, these people have really come to wriggle their ways into my heart. There's Roberto, from Argentina, whose wife is actually a bio professor here. She's had cancer for a while and he works in the kitchen with us. I'm not sure what his story is, but it must be really rough for him. He has two teenage girls and a sick wife. He's always smiling. He makes fun of me for.. a lot of things and he laughs as much as I do (which if you know me, you know is quites a bit). Then there's Cesar, a chef from Cuba. I also don't know his story because he speaks very little English, though he has started to pick up more and more. Our conversations are rarely more than 2 minutes, but somehow, we always manage to have a laugh at something. Sometimes he even makes fun of me. Then there is Bruno. He's one of my favorites. He's from Haiti and he left a wife and a little baby girl there. He's very dedicated and works hours that I would never want (though I think I am getting them the week after next. LOL). When I describe him to people they always - not one person hasn't yet- say "oh you mean the one who always smiles and is so happy?" Yes. That's the one. The one who even when he didn't know if his family was alive for more than a week still came to work and still smiled. There's Daisy, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, a highschooler in Immokalee. She's worked at FSI longer than I have and everyone loves her. Her biggest dream is to get into FSU or FGCU. She's determined, realistic, and super sweet. She's got a good head on her shoulders and I hope to highest heavens that she succeeds. I think she will. There's Illar, the other Cuban chef, whose stories from Cuba always either entertain or humble me. He's held down two or three jobs consistently while putting himself through trade school since he's been here. He learned English and expects others at work to do so as well. I think it is his influence that swayed Cesar to learn. I don't know a single person in the kitchen who doesn't like him or respect him and I've seen several people treat him horridly because of where he's from.

I've lived in Alabama and as much as I hate to say it, I've seen racism since I was in grade school. I remember one girl pulling another girl off the slide by the hood on her jacket for no real reason except that she was black and ahead of her in line. But I've seen so much racism this summer that I've been re-appalled all over. I've seen one of my (now former) coworkers say things to them that were entirely uncalled for. I've seen students automatically assume that I owned Illar's really awesome truck that we were using to carry tables to the pool, just because I'm the white one and he's the brown one. Then I saw him shrug and say "It's ok. They liked my truck."

No, it's not ok. It's not ok to have someone tell them that they deserve the menial kitchen tasks because of where they're from. It's not ok for someone to automatically assume that they are here mooching off the welfare system. It's not ok that they are disliked because of their accents (which I usually think are pretty cool) or their skin. It's just not ok. And it's not ok for someone to tell them that because of where they were born or what they look like, they can't take care of their families and they aren't welcome here. I really think this new Arizona legislation is a hideous thing. It won't solve any problems, it will just create more hatred.

I realize that there all sorts of legal and political things that go along with border patrol and such. And I am lucky that I work with people who are here legally. But if they weren't here legally, I don't see the how someone could say  "yeah, they should just leave. In fact, they shouldn't be here in the first place." Why shouldn't they? Can you imagine what it's like to live under Fidel Castro (and, from what I'm told, it's actually worse under his brother) or Hugo Chavez or to live in some poverty ridden place deemed "the most dangerous place on earth"? Can you? It's not like you told God where you wanted to go and He graciously put you there. We just got lucky in where we were born. That person who grew up in the slums of Port Au Prince, that could have been me or you or anyone. So why.. why would we say that just because you weren't born here, you shouldn't come and sure as Hell won't be welcomed if you do? What gives us the right to decide that someone is less than human because of where they were born?  I've had people tell me that "you can't make immigration a personal matter". What? How can you not? These are, after all, persons we are talking about. Persons that other persons love and depend on. Persons that have probably endured more suffering than most Americans will in a lifetime. And yet... we would like to think of them as somehow less than a person?

 I don't know any solution, I don't know anything except that what I've seen this summer is sad and the people I work with are kind of amazing. But I leave with this: 

‎"No human being-no matter how poor or how weak- can be reduced to just a problem" - Archbishop Thomas Wenski (Archdioceses of Miami) July 1, 2010

And I ask you to keep Bruno in your prayers. For the first time in over a year, he's going to visit his wife and child! 

Friday, June 04, 2010

From the "Adult Child" Perspective

Homeschooling, specifically "unschooling" has been in the news quite a bit lately, what with this story of Dominic Johansson, seized by Swedish authorities 10 months ago as his family was fleeing to a country where they could legally homeschool, and this segment on Good Morning America (with this rebuttal at The Huffington Post ). It has set me thinking quite a bit. I'm spread out on my dorm room floor, with my books, and my laptop, and my food (haha), writing a paper about the political, musical and philosophical idioms present in Beethoven's only opera, Fidelio and reflecting.

Tonight I sang in 90 voice choir with members of the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra. Last year, my professor told our chamber choir that we were all quite capable of singing in professional choirs, if we work. I can sing opera arias and Schubert lieder and complex polyphony. I can write in the style of Palestrina and Bach (though not well, yet) and can analyze the heck out of a Beethoven sonata.  It amazes me because this is a field that I never thought I'd ever "be good enough" in to study.

My mother took me out of the public school system after I finished 6th grade at age 12. At first, I was not really happy about it. And at first it was rather difficult for all parties to adjust, I think. But eventually we got the hang of it - or we at least pretended to.

My first formal exposure to music was when I began taking piano lessons at age 7ish. I also sang in the choir then, but I don't think I could call that formal. In the 5th grade I started playing clarinet in the school "band" which had a total of eight members in four grades, three of whom played sax. After we began homeschooling, there was a need for high school art credits and a we had a friend who wanted to start a children's chant group. For close to six years, we sang chant ordinaries, hymns, antiphons and early polyphonic pieces. This was probably my most... life-forming encounter with music. I love chant, but it wasn't with that that I fell in love. It was the polyphony. Palestrina? Victoria? I absolutely love them. Des Prez? So gorgeous. And intricate. And ... just amazing. My mother signed me up for a class at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Resource Center to take a theory class where I learned that I am actually capable of studying music. Every year for about 7 years I was able to go to a chant conference in Auburn, AL (or Roswell, GA or Ave Maria, FL)  run by the St. Cecilia Schola. It was there that I met Jeffrey Tucker, Arlene Oost-Zinner, Dr. William Mahrt, and Mr. Scott Turkington. They're kinda big shots in the Catholic Liturgical/ Sacred Music world. And that's kind of an understatement. (Who knew Alabama was such a hubbub of Catholic culture, eh?)

It was at the last conference held in Auburn that I learned that my fellowship application to start a Gregorian Schola at Southern Catholic College had been accepted. My first thought was "Holy crow. WHAT have I gotten myself into???" Mr. Turkington's were "That's absolutely wonderful!"  I was not so sure. He was. And I probably have him to thank that I didn't back out right then and there. He gave me books to help me out. He talked to me about strategies and plans during his free time. He also told me to check into to the three week chant practicum at Catholic U. So I did. And thanks to Fr. Robert Skeris I was able to go. To D.C. By myself. For three weeks. (It was really great. I did a lot of touristy things and met some awesome people and I also got to hear the National Symphony Orchestra twice; once they played the 1812 Overture WITH CANONS. Stevie Wonder, Michael Bolton and Vanessa Williams were also there. It was so great. But that's a different story.)

When I got to SCC, I had some skills (though I doubted them at the time), I had a plan, and, I had a schola. Eventually the schola developed into the first choir at Southern Catholic. When that happened, a group of five of us still continued to get together and sing. And then we were recruited to sing at a few events around Atlanta - fundraisers for the school and such. One  event was at an Atlanta hospital. There was a big gala/ reception thrown by the Serra Club for a group of sisters who played a big role in the comfort and care of patients at the hospital. It was a very interesting experience to sing this:  for a group of Sisters in cargo pants. (I have nothing at all against them. We just tend to have different views when it comes to musical taste.) It was interesting to see the reactions of people hearing a group of five random college students sing music like that.

Personally, I had a lot fun singing like that. It was challenging to learn new pieces, it was frightening to perform them. It was a blast. So I switched schools. I'm now in my (hopefully) final semester at Ave Maria University and in December, I will be certifiably Bad A$$ when I complete my Bachelor of Arts degree in vocal music with a concentration in Sacred Music. For the past two years I have sung with some of the most talented people I've ever met. I got into the chamber choir (20 students as opposed to AMU Choir which has 80). I have studied with some very learned professors and gained insight into every aspect of life that you could ever think imaginable and then some. I've developed a sense of self and of purpose. And why am I saying all this? Because I doubt that had I stayed in public schools, I would have gone on this journey. Maybe I would have. I can't really say. But having been "unschooled" I was able to focus on music in a way that probably would have been discouraged in my school. I say that because there had been other academic endeavors from which I had been discouraged. My school was not a bad school. It was just a systematic school; one which had no bend room for people who didn't really fit the system - like my sister who was reading at 9th grade reading level when she was 9. AR was fun for her. (not).

I think the biggest thing that I have learned is go for it. If you sit around thinking "I can't" - well- you won't. If you want something, it's up to you to make it happen. Some people would call it rash and stupid. I say life is an adventure and I am following the advice of Dr. Seuss:

Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself 
any direction you choose.
You're on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go.

You'll look up and down streets. Look 'em over with care.
About some you will say, "I don't choose to go there."
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet, 
you're too smart to go down any not-so-good street.

And you may not find any
you'll want to go down.
In that case, of course,
you'll head straight out of town.

It's opener there
in the wide open air.

Out there things can happen
and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footsy as you.

And then things start to happen,
don't worry. Don't stew.
Just go right along.
You'll start happening too.


You'll be on y our way up!
You'll be seeing great sights!
You'll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.

You won't lag behind, because you'll have the speed.
You'll pass the whole gang and you'll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you'll be best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don't.
Because, sometimes, you won't.

I'm sorry to say so
but, sadly, it's true
that Bang-ups
and Hang-ups
can happen to you.

You can get all hung up
in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on.
You'll be left in a Lurch.

You'll come down from the Lurch
with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then,
that you'll be in a Slump.

And when you're in a Slump,
you're not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself
is not easily done.

You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they're darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?

And IF you go in, should you turn left or right...
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it's not, I'm afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.

You can get so confused
that you'll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles cross weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place...

...for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or the waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for the wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.

That's not for you!

Somehow you'll escape
all that waiting and staying
You'll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.

With banner flip-flapping,
once more you'll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky.
Ready because you're that kind of a guy!

Oh, the places you'll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. There are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all.
Fame! You'll be as famous as famous can be,
with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.

Except when they don't
Because, sometimes they won't.

I'm afraid that some times
you'll play lonely games too.
Games you can't win
'cause you'll play against you.

All Alone!
Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something
you'll be quite a lot.

And when you're alone, there's a very good chance
you'll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won't want to go on.

But on you will go
though the weather be foul.
On you will go
though your enemies prowl.
On you will go
though the Hakken-Kraks howl.
Onward up many
a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.

On and on you will hike,
And I know you'll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.

You'll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You'll get mixed up 
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life's 
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never foget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)


be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea,
You're off the Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.

So...get on your way!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

On Granola Bars and Food Processors

I love granola bars. REAL Granola bars. Not chewy chocolate chip coasted in sugar to make me actually taste good granola bars. My favorite was the Nature's Valley kind. I'd eat them breakfast. I'd eat them for snacks. Once I even ate one for lunch.

Not any more. :(

However, a couple weeks ago, I went to a nutrition seminar and the facilitator gave out samples of Larabars. These things were very intriguing. And they have two ingredients: nuts and dates. They were REALLY good and the perfect substitute for waking up in the morning and rushing to class while still managing to have a decent breakfast bars. They are in the "energy bar" and "dieting bar" section (at Publix) and... they are not cheap. lol. I've seen worse, but still they come out to about $1.25 a piece.

So... today, I dragged out my blender, put in some dates and some peanuts (I wanted cashews, but I ate them all. oops. Planters were B1G1!)  Anyway, I came out with...

and now, I have my very own breakfast on the go bars. THAT I MADE! I think they taste a little better, too. The others are slightly more dry than mine. I think I may need to put these in the fridge, but they may be just fine. Either way, I'm super excited.

I feel like these are just really great in general. I would make them for my brothers (they loved my granola bars lol) and they are so much better for you than a cookie. lol. They're perfect for snacks after playing/fishing/reading/exploring all day.

I think I'll play around with combos of different nuts and fruits. Maybe prunes would be good. I see on the larabar website they have all sorts of flavours (at publix they only have three. lol) I have come to the conclusion that I should invest in a food processor, though. The blender has unequal  distribution that makes the stuff in the bottom buttery ish while the stuff on top is not.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Simple Things

Every Sunday, one of the Ave professors brings his family to eat in the cafeteria after the 12:30 Mass. I think the entire staff enjoys seeing them there. They are really little (I doubt the oldest one is more than 8) and I think there are five of them. They are well behaved and polite. They will also randomly break into Spanish, which delights the majority of the staff (who cannot speak English or who speak it as a second language), especially since some of them take after their mother and sport blonde hair and blue eyes.

Not only are the children lovely, but so are Dr. and Mrs M. Dr. M will will have children climbing all over him, or he'll toss them up in the air and catch them and they shriek with delight (remember those days? lol), sometimes Mrs. M will have books and there will be small children gathered around listening to her read. And Dr. and Mrs. M interact with each other in a wonderful way. It's just... absolutely wonderful to see this family. They are one of my favourite "professor families" here. One of my friends said, "that family always makes me happy. It's like, my dream future family".

On Easter Sunday, I was working. For work, it was a rather laid back kind of day. It was super slow, anyway, since most students went home for Easter. My boss (Chuck) had a "dinner with the director" set up where students could go and eat with his family and it was actually really nice. Actually, we basically got paid to play with his kids and nephew.

Dr. M and his family walked in, and though they didn't stay, the oldest boy came up to me and said "Excuse me, are you the cashier today?" "Yes, I am, do you need help?" "No, but I left something on the counter for you" So he took me over to the counter and shows me....

A package of iridescent stickers.

Really Awesome Iridescent Stickers on the back of my key card.
The picture does not do them justice. 

Let me just say, they are REALLY Awesome iridescent stickers. I put them on the back cover of my phone (I have a touch screen, so the front is not an option, lol) and people will be like, "what is that on your phone?" and I show them and they are amused for minutes at time. I am at a university that is known for its academic rigor.They are freakin' awesome stickers. LOL. Anyway, that MADE MY EASTER! It's the only Easter present I got this year. haha (oh the hardships of being at college).

Today we (the other cashier and I) put a Dr. Seuss thank you card in Dr. M's mailbox. Because, it really really did make our Easter day so much happier. In fact, just looking at them makes me happy. So I had to tell you all, too. :)

Friday, April 02, 2010

Good Friday

In music:

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Catholic Win

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Experiments in Gluten Free Eating

I think it runs in the family.

Looking over at my sister's blog and over at my mother's blog I found that... well... they talk a lot about food. We love good food (something kind of hard to come by on a college's meal plan...). They however, are talking about bread food. It's one of my favorite foods. And it also happens to now be a forbidden food. :(

I recently realized that I have problems eating wheat or gluten, I'm not 100% sure which. I guess it doesn't really matter because it's pretty hard to find bread that doesn't have them. Well... unless you like to eat cardboard, then there are plenty of options. I...really don't care for cardboard that much. But I love bread, pasta, FRIED CHICKEN :( , onion rings, fried shrimp (ok... I'm a southern kid, I like almost everything fried...) gravy on mashed potatoes, cheddar chips (they have some form of wheat in the flavoring, biscuits, chicken Parmesan, you name it... it probably has wheat in it.

At first I was just... bemoaning a fate of never eating fried chicken or homemade wheat bread again. But, I've found that it's not so bad. I eat healthier (I get lots and lots of remarks about how healthy and delicious my salads look at lunch. hehe) I haven't eaten fried food or pizza in THREE WEEKS! I would usually eat it at least once a day (french fries are easy foods...). The other day, I was able to buy some gluten free biscuit mix. It was ok. Not great. I wouldn't use it again. It tasted more like cornbread than biscuits. BUT I managed to redeem it:

WIth some turkey and tomato, muenster cheese and ...french onion dip (that I checked for any sort of wheat derivative in) because I am also allergic to eggs and cannot eat mayonnaise, it made a decent lunch. That is the closest thing to a sandwich I've had in a what seems like forever (since they were a staple. I ate them literally every day...). Some guy said to me the other day "make me a sammich woman!" (Catholic college guys' joke, much?) but I refuse to make any man a sandwich while I cannot eat one.

Today, I decided to cook for the week. I've been kind of just doing whatever. A lot of times I wind up eating just salads which leave me hungry. Or else, I ask one of the cooks to make me something special (I'm not the only one who does this) or if I am at work, I'll just find something and fix it myself. It gets a little annoying to eat the same things, though. So today, I started with this:

which after a while I managed to make look like this: 

so that I was able to carry it all at once to a building that has a stove.

First thing on the list was dinner: Zucchini pasta. I had a vague idea about it: I wanted something good. With mushrooms. I have no idea why, but today I really wanted mushrooms. When I got to the kitchen I decided I wanted onions and peppers in there as well. So, I sautéed some onions and peppers while I sliced the zucchini. Well, really I just peeled it to the seeds with a peeler. Easier that way. After the onions began to  caramelize, I added the zucchini and mushrooms. After about three minutes, it was ready. EXCEPT... it needed sauce. Meat sauce. So, I threw some of the beef and pork that I had browned in and added some spaghetti sauce, sprinkled some cheese on top and....

it was really good.

I also tried some tinkyada brown rice penne. I was surprised.... it tasted...almost normal. O.o Joy! 

Then there was the margarita chicken. THe other day, I was CRAVING Chili's margarita chicken... so I made my own. Complete with rice, refried beans, guacamole, and pico de gallo ...or rather, an imitation of pico de gallo. This was the finished product: 

Tacos and chili were the final end of the rest of the browned meat. I also made some meatballs so (with, of course, the solemn exception of Good Friday) I am good for the week!

I also made some dessert. (In anticipation of Sunday!) You know that the kid in you loves these. Going for weeks without a single cookie or cake or even pumpkin or banana bread ... built up. I caved in a bought Rice Crispies and marshmallows. (I am highly glad that I still can eat these)

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Because I haven't in a while.

After I moved to Florida (and away from the people who I associate with this blog) I did not do a very good job of keeping up with almost anyone, and I did not do a good job updating this blog. This could be because my school work load has doubled and my work time is weekends which leaves me with very little time at all. Now it is Spring break and I have free time for the first time in I don't know how long. Can I just say, spring break is pretty much the best thing ever invented. And I don't care if Dr. Hartmann would disagree because I'm not using my break to go home and help put crops in the ground.

Not that I could really go home if I wanted. My family now travels the country in an RV with my "secret agent" dad. Whose job apparently did actually bring him to some government facility with an official sounding name that I forget. Area... something... 34? Maybe. Anyway, here's the update:

In August of 2008, I applied and was accepted into Ave Maria University's Sacred Music program. It was a far cry from the philosophy that I was used to. I do love it, though. Even though sometimes I wish Beethoven wasn't dead so I could kill him myself. Well... at least yell at him. (Of course, even that wouldn't help as he was deaf.) It's very challenging, but very wonderful. I have no idea what I will do with a music degree. Some people think I should teach, but I am not sure that I am too keen on that idea.

Right now, I almost ready to say, I don't really care WHAT I do as long as I wind up in Colorado. Have you ever been to Colorado???? It is only the best state in the Union! Absolutely gorgeous, and it has clean air, to boot! lol.

Call me crazy, but I am really determined to get back there. The decorations on my walls are a map of Colorado and several paintings of Colorado that my sister gave me. Because I am obsessed. I even have Colorado realty magazine subscriptions. Not that I'm going to buy... but it's good to know my options... right? 

I'm excited because my best friend is from Colorado and wants me to come visit this summer. Any excuse will do... :D hehehe.