Monday, July 31, 2006

Feeling better

As part of my year long Teaching American History Program I attended the first day of a two-day technology workshop. The bright spot is that the week long technology class was knocked down from five days to two days. Unfortunately, since the class has been shortened so significantly the presenter has had to change the class. In doing so the morning session seemed a little off. After lunch we did some better stuff, but the morning was not so great. On top of that, Sarah and I did not return from North Carolina yesterday until about 1:30am. I was really hoping that the morning would be great to help me forget I was so tired. Instead the morning was lackluster and with the fatigue it was a pretty rough day at the workshop. I really was looking forward to dismissal.
As I mentioned, Sarah and I did not return from the Triangle Area until late last night. The silver lining of the late return is that the trip was fruitful. We left with an excellent idea of what we want for the wedding. We are finding out there are a number of factors to consider when choosing a date, time, and venue. This weekend we figured out that we needed to choose what was important to us and then go from there. In order to do this we set an unreal schedule that included looking at over ten places and a bridal show. I know this will sound real weak, but it was real tiring driving all over the place with no real break. There were a number of venues: great ones, not so great ones, lavish ones, and average ones.
Based on the description there were obviously sites that were not an option for various reasons. For example, the Governor's Club was, well, I can't think of the words, but since my name does not start with "Dr." it was not going to happen. I will not name names, but there were some places (hotels mainly) that were very unimpressive and not memorable. Then there were some places that were wonderful and in our realm of possibility. However, they did not meet the requirements that were considered important by Sarah and I.
Sarah's parents came up and were a real help in the process. I don't just say that because they paid for lunch and a frosty at Wendy's for us. Sarah's dad is a real trip because he will not often force his opinion or thoughts. He dances around it with questions and lets you figure it out on your own. It is kind of nice because when you figure it out you feel like it is your idea. One of the things we figured out with the help of Reid is that we wanted something that was memorable, something that will stick with our guests forever. This doesn't have to be both the ceremony and reception part; just one or the other. For example, my mom's reception was a nice little gathering. The memorable aspect of her day was the 10am ceremony on the shore of Lake Tahoe.
We definitely have an idea of what we want and hopefully we will be able to get what we want. The bright spot is that we have places in mind that will give us what we want. Most importantly, what we want includes a chocolate fountain and at least a soft bar (soda, beer, and wine). All in all, a productive trip.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

On the road again

In what shall hopefully prove to be a giant step forward in wedding planning Sarah and I are heading to the Raleigh/Durham area in North Carolina to scope out wedding venues. The staggering truth seems to be that many places, even decent places, are barely within what we want to spend. It truly is out of control. I would blame these venues, but obviously people pay what they ask or the places would go out of business. So people, shame on you! That is unless you have money saved or family willing to pay. Why pay so much for one day? These people who cannot afford a huge wedding, yet have one anyway are giving themselves a wedding gift that will last a lifetime: debt! I would really like to have Dave Ramsey accompany people who spend out of their league on weddings. I believe it would be high comedy. I know it is only my opinion, but this is my blog. Ha!
One of the ladies put it best when she described the trip as a "fact-finding mission." I seriously doubt we will drive home on Sunday with a place and date set. If we do, hey, that would be the coolest. However, if we don't it is no big deal. The purpose is to head up, see what is available, and get an idea of what we are looking at. Let's face it, the internet can make any place look like an ideal wedding venue and in reality it is a dump. I am sure some places we have booked tours with are out of our price range, but one, they don't know that, and two, it is fun to look. When we get home on Sunday we can look at all the material and make an informed decision. The nice thing is that when we have a place and date set everything else will make sense. The rest will be tedious, but they shouldn't be hard.
Ok, that is enough of wedding update. This is the beginning of year two for me in Birmingham and eventhough I am a big college football fan, I normally don't get into it until late August. College football season is about a month away, but when you live in SEC Country the calendar year is divided into two sporting categories: football season and waiting for football season. Day 2 of the SEC Football Media Days just ended and while that doesn't hold much water for me since I don't really care passionately for any SEC team, it has given me an excuse to get into football season a month earlier than normal. My team is obviously USC (2 year's worth of graduate tuition gives me the right to be one, so if you are going to hate on me since I am a Trojan fan that is fine, but know that I am not a bandwaggoner, I am an alumni, so that tuition money gives me a legitimate reason to be a fan). However, since everyone around here is all abuzz about football season I can be too. I know that I am not excited about the same teams as they are, but I don't care.
I am aware that I have bought into the "college football is king" mentality. However, when I think about it though, I believe I have always been that it is just that I have never lived in an area that thinks that way. It goes without saying that I am not as diehard as some fans in the area, but it sure does make for a fun place to live. Some Alabama and Auburn fans seem to live and die with their teams' performance each week and while that may seem like overkill it is a great environment to be a part of. Yes, I know that last sentence ended in a preposition and it is not grammatically proper so save it! It beats the west coast attitude which is ambivalent towards sports. As a teacher, I know that is the way it should be, but it sure is not as fun.
My anticipation all boils down to this: I need to see some USC Football to wipe away that Rose Bowl. The team only lost two game in three years, I know. The team won two national titles (1/2 one of those years, I know, so save it LSU fans and don't get so bent out of shape), I know. But I wanted more. I wanted my school to make history. This makes me one of those annoying fans who has a team that is successful yet I still want more. I don't care. If you don't understand it is because you haven't experienced your team winning a title. It is like heroin. Once it gets in your system you need that title fix as much as possible. I will not live and die with each game like the aforementioned fans in Alabama, but winning is by far more desireable than losing (that goes without saying).
Man, am I jacked. The wedding planning (which is surprisingly cooler than anticipated), school starting back, and college football season starting is all happening at the same is grand!

Monday, July 24, 2006

So, it has come to this

Summer has been great. In a later blog as the summer ends and I go back to school I will inventory my summer. Until then, just take me on my word that it has been a great summer. After attending a 5-day class last week I am slipping into the life of a hermit. Over the weekend I took out the trash, but that was about the extent of my leaving the apartment. If the old addage is: "all dressed up and nowhere to go" then that was me. I guess the bright spot is that I have got a bunch accomplished around here. At this moment I am engrossed in recording Law & Order: SVU episodes that I had saved on the DVR box. The motivating factor to get this done is that the DVR box was about full. The box holds 30 hours and about 8 of them were episodes I wanted to tape. The kids in my Street Law class should like them since they cover some controversial topics and it should make for some heated classroom discussion.
Keeping busy has also deterred me from buying NCAA Footbal '07. I am not sure if that is a good or bad thing. I would love to have the game (despite mixed reviews online), but I don't have the time and can't quite justify spending the money on it. This is the excitement that is my life. Again, summer is great.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Things only a teacher would understand

I am aware that it has been awhile since I have posted, but let's not focus on that. I am posting now and that is what matters. My activities over the past week revolve around one of two topics: the stalemate that is wedding planning and things only a teacher would understand and appreciate.
As I may have mentioned, so far I have found that so much hinges on place and time when planning a wedding. I think once we get that figured out then we can work on everything else. We still would like to have the wedding in Las Vegas but we cant shake the notion that planning a wedding that far from where we live might be a hassle, as well as an extra financial strain. The new candidate is Duke Chapel in Durham. The place is unreal. Unfortunately, unreal costs a pretty penny. It would make sense to host the wedding near one of our families (in the case of Duke Chapel, near Sarah's). The issue seems to be that if we hold the wedding in Durham we want Duke Chapel. Again, this must all be worked out.
The past week has been pretty eventful teaching wise. Friday was my last day for leading the tutoring sessions. The kids take their history exam tomorrow. I wish them a ton of luck and you do the same. They are all smart kids, but luck never hurt anybody. I had a little I believe when I took the PRAXIS II test in Stockton back in June. I had just got back from Europe the day before but managed to pass that test. I know that does not sound like a big deal, but there was a lot riding on that test. It is one of the requirements I had to meet to be counted as highly qualified under the No Child Left Behind legislation. I am pretty sure that was all I had left to do. So it was nice to get the report saying I passed. Also, the high school has posted preliminary class rosters for the upcoming year. I will be having some kids for the third time in three semesters this fall. There are some kids in that category who are quite interesting to have in class. Lastly, I am three days in to a 5 day workshop for the History Alive! program. It is a workshop so it has that against it. The bright side is that it is one of the better ones I have attended. I am excited about the program because I remember activities from the program when I was in school as real awesome. Hopefully, I can execute them half as well as Mr. Tilton did.
That is my last week in a single post.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Excitingly Overwhelming

I mentionted yesterday Sarah and I have entered the preliminary stages of planning the wedding, and I use preliminary loosely. I have never planned an important event that isn't difficult in the initial stages, but this is unreal. There seem to be so many factors that depend on one another, it is near impossible to plan the initial things independent of one another. This makes it a blast since we get to go through a ton of options and choose what we like. This makes it a hassle because we have to go through a ton of options to find what we like. I am not worried. After all, I am marrying a valedictorian.
This is my last week of exit exam tutoring. It was a nice way to keep busy this summer and at the same time earn a few extra dollars. For the most part last year at Pleasant Grove High School I taught the younger grades (7-9). The exit exam tutoring is for the older students (grades 10-12) so it has been nice to interact with a different group of students. The tutoring is an optional deal and with that in mind I have been real relaxed with how I run the class. Some of the kids in the tutoring will have me for Street Law and I can just see it now: "Mr. Erreca, you were so cool in the summer, what happened?" But hey, I will deal with that when I get to it.
Random thought: I can't wait to see Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Back in Birmingham

I asked Sarah to marry me last week on Wednesday and of course we were asked a couple hundred times when the date of the wedding would be. The answer was always something along the lines of we were enjoying the newness of the engagement and would start figuring it out when we got back to Birmingham. So between Wednesday and Sunday we lived it up with people looking at her ring and congratulating us, all was grand. But don't ya know it, now we are back home and hitting the reality that we have to plan a wedding. I am not worried though. We just got back from Barnes and Noble where Sarah bought a number of bridal magazines. I feel confident that the solutions to our questions are within the cover of those fine publications. Let the good times roll.
The drive from the 'Lands to Birmingham is about 10 hours and can be a pretty rough haul in certain places. Sure we listen to the radio, our MP3 player, and chat it up to pass the time. However, that doesn't mean that I don't look for new forms of roadtrip entertainment. In the past we have put a premium on looking for gas stations that look well kept for pit stops. Now, this is still good policy because those are the places with clean, well-stocked bathrooms because as we all know there is no feeling in the world more helpless than realizing there in no toilet paper in the dispenser in your stall. The only downfall of such quality bathrooms: clean walls.
Before internet message boards where did people in a community participate in written conversations: that's right, bathroom walls. I am not sure what is more hilarious about writing on bathroom walls, but I have it narrowed it down to the following aspects: 1) people find the appropriate medium for their message is a bathroom wall 2) the apparent maximum education level that comes with bathroom wall authors...there is an unwritten rule that says anyone with an education level higher than 8th grade is not allowed to write on bathroom is the incorrect spelling, misplaced commas in contractions, all of it, just high comedy 3) the people, sometimes numerous people, who respond to the writing or 4) the original author who is writing again to defend his or her original statement that has been argued by the other people that have added to the thread. Again, high comedy for the road warrior. In the choice between clean bathrooms and entertainment the clean bathroom always wins. Unfortunately, sometimes I choose a gas station that has a not-so-great bathroom. When that is the case I make the best of it by enjoying the humor, intentional or not, and reading what the local bathroom laureates have to say.
It was nice to get back home though. I went back to tutoring for the social studies portion of the exit exam. It was nice to see my kids again and even though there are only a few more days of tutoring left it was nice to get some new kids in the class today. Most importantly, it was 35 cent wing day at Fox and Hound, ah good times.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

I only play an idiot on television

Sarah's birthday has come and gone. She is now an old school maid at the age of 26. This is a fact I consistently remind her of by taunting her with: "You are old, who will have you now?" I would like to think though that she had a great birthday. We have been making an effort to get to the gym lately and before we left Birmingham I bought her a pair of sneakers. That is mentioned in a prior blog entry. I also bought her a gift card to a day spa in Birmingham that offers among other services, massages. Now I will massage her when she asks and even when she doesn't, but I guess I don't cut it because she always talks about getting a good massage. Geez, I do the best I can.
We came back to the 'Lands this week primarily for her birthday. However, there was another motive for our trip back. I was proposing to Sarah. I am no fool! She could do a lot better than me so I had to do something before she realized that. In a total departure from the norm, I played the whole thing real cool. I didn't lead on at all. The whole cloak and dagger, super spy stuff is not my bag. This was a tough secret to hold. The nice thing was that only 1 person east of the Mississippi knew my intentions(her dad). Yes, while over 10 people knew in Stockton only one knew here so it was all good. With the help of her dad, I had a ring shipped here and it was on.
She hasn't been feeling well so the grand visions of proposing on the beach or river was axed. It turned out all right though because without about 10 minutes left on her birthday I proposed and she said yes. Woohoo! Her mom, dad, and sister were all there and while Sarah remained calm her mom and sister starting crying (especially her sister). There was a great range of emotion. Her mom was excited for us, then all of a sudden got fake mad at her husband since he knew and didn't say anything. Then when Darlene found out that she signed for the box the ring came to her house in and it had been here for almost two weeks she felt real bad since it was under her nose. It is in the works, but look for the Reid and Mike super spy agency. We pulled a fast one on a bunch of Barbee women. A feat rivaled in its near impossibility only by escaping from Alcatraz and finding a high school janitorial position that pays over $100k.
The question yesterday was when are you getting married. Now everyone wants to know the date. In the words of Ted on How I Met Your Mother (of course slightly modified for my scenario): "That is something for future Mike and future Sarah to figure out." This much I do know: I am only an idiot on television. I know when I have found someone out of my league and did something smart (or tricky, depending on how you look at it): I used a female's natural attraction to diamonds to create a momentary lapse in judgement in order to get her to agree to marry me. All this time I thought diamond rings were a symbol of committment. No, that is way off. They are designed to stun the girl and throw her logic and common sense off track. It is during that moment when a diamond is in front of her that her natural attraction to diamonds makes all logic obsolete. That diamond will lead her to make a decision she would not otherwise make if her wits were about her. But I needed that advantage, how else would I have gotten someone as great as her to agree to marry me.
I acknowledge that she is smarter than me, but I finally won one when it counted. By the way, we don't know when the wedding don't ask! We will let you know. Seriously, good last few days. I mean, Reid even grilled steaks. An engagement and steaks within 24 hours, it doesn't get much better than that.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Fireworks in the 'Lands

Happy 4th of July everyone! Southern summer storms are unlike anything else and I don't think you can understand until you have experienced one. There was thunder, lightning, and downpour for the better part of the night. Thunder was so bad that it kept me up for about 90 minutes. By the way, not only did this storm keep me up but it also pushed back my tee times this morning...not cool.
I went with Uncle Chris, his friend Kurt, and Kurt's boy CJ. As a radio personality Reid (Sarah's dad) listens to says: "lotteries are a voluntary tax for the dumb." Well, taking part in a money game when you are a mediocre golfer, at best, follows the same principle. Yet I still threw in my $10 since it was only $10 and all I had to do was get hot and birdie a hole nobody else did. Seemed reasonable for only $10. It started out like a day where it seemed like I was just going to be donating my money. The astounding part was that I actually had some decent birdie tries. Unfortunately, I only made one on a hole someone else birdied which meant no money. Then I remembered that it is not like I make my living playing golf and when that is the case your score is not what is important. The number that really matters is how many beers you drink. And when you look at it that way my round was a complete success.
Afterwards Chris grilled burgers and hot dogs and, brace yourself, I ate way too much. I managed to avoid overdosing on beef (or whatever it is that is in hot dogs that makes them so delicious) and watched the fireworks show. The show was sweet because Chris bought some this morning and he was setting them off in the backyard. Ahhhhh, good times.

Tomorrow is Sarah's 26th Birthday!

Monday, July 03, 2006

This one's for North Carolina...C'mon and Raise Up

My first out-of-state blog, how exciting!!! Sarah and I drove in to Richlands yesterday. I love Sarah very much, but there are only so many topics that can fill a 10 hour drive. Luckily, I had my MP3 player (a gift from Sarah) that would could both listen to with an adapter that plugs into the cigarette lighter and plays through the car radio (also a Sarah purchase). Isn't Sarah great? I found a few Pearl Jam songs she was willing to listen to and the rest of the time we spent rocking out to music from our middle school and high school days. We made a goal to introduce our music to Kelly. We want to introduce Salt N' Pepa, 112, and all the other acts of our youth to a younger generation. It starts with Kelly and it will spread amongst the youth of the nation.
Speaking of Kelly, she has gone vegetarian. I cannot figure out. But hey, good for her. A vegetarian lifestyle is supposed to be super healthy. However, if the choice is vegetarianism and a long life or meat and a slightly shorter life then the choice is obviously simple: bring on the charred animal flesh. Eating meat is man's way of keeping the population of deadly and delicious animals under control. They may look cute and cuddly, but dont think a sheep wouldnt eat you if it had the chance, or thumbs to hold the knife and fork to eat us with...but that is a whole other blog.
Tomorrow I am getting up at 7:30 to go walking with Aunt Kathryn. She is doing crazy well on Weight Watchers...go Kathryn! Besides, I think the fried chicken dinner last night, Mongolian BBQ lunch today, cinammon roll snack, and late night sammich have destroyed the working out I have done these last few weeks. A little activity will be good for me and we are getting it done early enough so it is only a little hot versus the ungodly hot it will be the rest of the day.
We have been here for two days now and we have not been to Smithfield's BBQ or Grandma Jones's house yet. I know going to the grandma's house should be the priority, but have you ever had the Value Pack at Smithfield's? If the answer is no, then you can't understand why I am conflicted.
Have a Happy and Safe 4th if I don't post tomorrow.

Countdown to Sarah's 26th birthday: 2 days
Countdown to Mike's 26th birthday: 108 days

Ya, I'm dating an older woman ;-)

Saturday, July 01, 2006

100% Effective, 0% Creative

Sarah's birthday is coming up and whenever your girlfriend's birthday nears there is pressure to get a gift she will like. This leaves me with the responsibility of being creative and getting something she likes, but without having to ask. I mean, after all, I love her and I should just know what she wants. Let's face it. I am not that creative or perceptive so I took the weasel way out. When Sarah was shopping for tennis shoes I bought her a pair and said Happy Birthday. Yes, it is a weasely way out, but the ability to weasel our way out of obligations is what separates humans from other animals, except for the weasel.
This is the holiday weekend and I am doing it up in style. I have spent the last day and a half cleaning the apartment and doing laundry. It's a crazy life I know, only a few can survive. Then throw on top of that we are watching Law and Order: SVU episodes off of DVR tonight...I'm a wild man...woooooo!
It's all good though because in a few moments a Pearl Jam performance on VH1 will be recorded on DVR. Yes, I am aware that my favorite band is on VH1, so save it. But since Pearl Jam seems to be ignoring the Southeast United States this might be as close as I get to a show this tour so lay off me. Also, tomorrow we head to the ''s gonna be super sweet.
By the way, Detectives Benson and Stabler are awesome. I'm telling you, put those two on the case with Grissom and Catherine in the lab and that would be a Superfriends version of a crime solving team. That crew could solve the JonBenet case and then with the extra time find Holloway. Who do I have to talk to in order to make this happen? It would be great TV and solve crimes. I think I am on to something.