book(s) of the month(s)

I know you all think I've so quickly abandoned my New Year's resolution of reading one new book a month - not the case, my friends!

I don't remember where I left off. I will list the books from the past couple months and rate them for your intellectual pleasure.

Rating system:
* blah
** blah, but something sort of worthwhile
*** okay
**** really good
***** stop what you're doing right now and go buy this book - talk to no one until you have finished it.

Teacher Man by Frank McCourt : ****
I highly recommend to you teachers out there (Jeanette, that's you. OH! And you too, Jim!).

Can I can brag for a second? Thanks. I CRUSHED my New Year's resolution during April. The Florida vacation really helped.

Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald : ***
Um, love the way he writes, but always wind up feeling depressed out of my mind when I finish the book. Really, F, you're like the forefather of emo.

Nine Stories by JD Salinger : ****
I love JD Salinger. His style is great. The short stories cracked me up, because it was like he started writing a novel, then got bored, so he just stopped writing.

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin : *****
Phenomenal. My knowledge of Middle Eastern conflict is severely limited, so this book was perfect for me. Very inspiring. Buy it, read it, love it. Thanks, Victoria!

The Fifth Vial by Michael Palmer : ***
A book that I wouldn't typically pick up, but it was a page turner. Thanks to Victoria (and Aunt Mary, right?) for bringing this on vacation!

Is it almost June already? Where did May go? How did this month disappear so quickly? I just read my first book for the month over the weekend.

Freddy & Fredericka by Mark Helprin : *****
A HUGE thank you to dear Megan for this suggestion. One of the funniest, most touching, incredible novels I have read in quite some time. Beautifully written, fantastic protagonists - I laughed & somehow refrained from crying. Loved it and will be purchasing it hopefully in the near future.

Plans for June reading? Well, I went to the school where I'll be teaching today and met with the head of the English Department, and she gave me 4 textbooks to look through before we start revamping the curriculum. Homework, yes - but I couldn't be more excited!


stop teething me

Yesterday I got my first filling. Let me tell you, the dentist isn't nearly as bad when you don't have any feelings to go along with the horrendous noises. I had some difficulty talking afterward, since half of my tongue was numb. Doug had a great time laughing at me, and I was comforted by the fact that he had to get a filling today, so I knew I would be able to laugh at his expense. The joys of marriage - I never cease to be amazed... or amused. 

However, as luck would have it, Doug returned from his appointment (in which he got 2 fillings!) talking absolutely normally. No pain, no lisping, no intense focus on making his tongue form the words he wanted to say - nothing! So disappointing. Upon discovering my husband's propensity for overcoming novocaine, I instantly reverted to my inner 3-year-old and whined, "No faaair!"

Anyway, tonight I made [in my opinion] a delicious meal, which I adapted from a recipe I got from Mandi. This is the second time I've made it, and with the few changes I made tonight (the secret: don't measure things exactly. A little guessing is good! I used less mayo and tossed in some Italian dressing as well.) - thanks for the great recipe, Mandi!

Doug's brother is here with a "friend" - who happens to be a girl - you do the math - so I'm gonna go entertain and make sundaes! 


memorial day weekend

What an absolutely beautiful weekend - gorgeous weather, fantastic family & friends, delicious food, lots of laughter, time spent sewing with my favorite crafter ... it was very near perfection.

Saturday we went to Batavia to watch Ethan & Emily in marching band:
Little Em, playing the mellophone (marching French horn)

Ethan on bells... and tambourine, apparently.

Saturday evening, Doug & I went to Katie & Ryan's house for a bonfire with a bunch of friends. It was great to catch up with them and hear about what family friends are up to.

Sunday morning Victoria came over, and she & I went to Gram's and did some sewing. We've got some great plans for the Strawberry Festival! 

That afternoon, Doug & I carpooled with Victoria, Robert & Taylor to Uncle Bob and Aunt Lori's for the traditional Bannister Memorial Day picnic. We were happy to also be celebrating Donna & Bill's engagement! It was a lot of fun - so good to see so many of our relatives. 

Becca, hiding from the camera, with her boyfriend Joe

Cute little Charlie ambles about happily & curiously...

as his adorable little sister, Amelia, is entertained by Victoria (shortly before removing one of the chimes!).

Victoria & Eli share a moment.

Bannister Boys - Ethan, Eli & Robert. They're so hot right now.

Heather's boyfriend, Ralph, with a supremely content LG.

Jayne stalking her unsuspecting prey (most likely a cousin).

Really cute pic of Lynz.

Apparently the red frosting on the cake leaves traces...

This morning, Doug & I went for a walk around the farm to see the new filly. Unfortunately, our walk was cut short by a downpour, which thankfully was brief, and allowed us more time to enjoy the sunshine while at home.

It was so good to see everyone, although these trips to NY are definitely getting expensive with the gas prices. We were rudely greeted back to Plymouth, MI with a sign reading $4.19/gal. Thankfully, the gas station closest to us was $4.06, so we filled up there. Really, what kind of world are we living in when we're thankful to get gas at $4.06?! Sigh... you guys are lucky we love you! :)


hey look!

I'm politically aware & published... sort of!

That'll probably be the last political thing I ever write.

Unless it turns out to be highly lucrative. I hear there's a hot market for a poignant political haiku...

on letting go and starting again.

I wrote the first part of this yesterday, and edited it today. This isn’t my typical, lighthearted entry. It’s really long, but it’s an outpouring from my heart.

It’s been over 4 months since I was laid off. That’s 123 days that I’ve harbored bitterness toward Last Chance Academy. 123 days that I haven’t fully forgiven the man who called me and told me that “unfortunately” they “no longer had a position” for me – 2 days after telling me that they were “desperate” to keep me “on board” and that a lot of changes were being made, but I was “definitely” still a part of the team. 123 days that I’ve carried around the insecurity and baggage from feeling like a failure.

Was it a blessing in disguise? Maybe. Probably. I don’t grind my teeth in the middle of the night. I don’t suddenly realize that my facial muscles ache because my jaw has been clenched for who knows how long. I don’t cry multiple times a week. I don’t unleash a fury of emotions on my patient, supportive husband every day. Also, by being laid off, it wasn’t my choice to leave the students. I gave it all I had.

I’m still mad, though. Mad that I was robbed of a chance to properly say goodbye. Mad that they made me carry all my belongings out in front of the whole school while they had a meeting. Mad that I didn’t go over to the students I could hear saying, “Ms. Parton?” Mad that the secretary wished me “all the best”. Mad that they told me one thing and turned around and did another. Mad that one of the teachers proceeded to tell her students that I quit. Mad that I poured so much into my job there – for what?

I’ve processed, analyzed, cried, sorted through feelings, tried to forgive – so now I’m just going to let it go and say goodbye.

Dear Mario M., Andrew, Anthony S., Tawanda, Mario B., Syesha, Sasha, Gabrielle, Gina, Dymond, Martha, Andrea, Rose, Carl, Rayshawn, Jasmine, Rachquel, Jarmel, Alicia, Breanna, Harley, DaJuan, Rasheed, Sparkle, Charniqua, Matthew, Rayvon, Kierra, Jerry, Carlett, Darren, Davonte, Tanisha, Faydra, Gwen, Tiante, Tamika, Krystal, Fannia, Johnathan, Bryant, Kamel, TaJuan, Jamie, George, Ronda, Nico, Natalya, Dwight, Jonika, Amanda, Paris, Robert J., Darrius, Nakema, Donta, Dominique, Shanell, Shakayla, Shelina, DaMarco, Delmarco, Demarco, Rakheem, Deontha, Santonio, Britney, Brittani, Denyond, Keisha, Shatoria, Jeffrey, Rodney, Lavis, Lashawnda, DeAndre, Qwanitta, Tyrone, Malcolm, Brentley, Jozlynn, Shanae, Courtney, Terrance, Mekael, Da’Vaughta, Desirra, Ashley, Anthony W., Reggie, Eddie, Darrell, Lorenzo, Shenese, Raymond, Delvon… and even you, Robert N.:

You’ve probably never given my absence a second thought, but I think about you almost every single day. I’m just another white teacher who couldn’t cut it. Another person who has left you and disappointed you. I’ll never know if my words sank in. I’ll never grade one of your papers again and laugh at the funny things you wrote. I’ll never have to scold you for chatting with your friends instead of doing your work. I’ll never be able to smile at you again. I’ll never watch you try to text your friends for answers during the unit test. I’ll never fight you every minute to keep your attention and keep you from leaning out the window to talk to friends, walking out the door to “go to the bathroom,” or just plain talking over me while I’m trying to teach. I’ll never pick up all the wrappers you left all over my floor. Never again will I have to run to the bathroom during lunch and lock myself inside, praying that I can hold it all together to prevent breaking down in front of all of you. I’ll never be able to rejoice with you when you bring me your report cards with all passing grades. I’ll never be able to cry with you when you visit me during your lunch to tell me about your brothers who were shot. I’ll never watch all of you every day and feel hundreds of emotions course through my veins.

Robert N. – You were my first challenge. You were the first student I’ve ever seen come to school totally high and dance with an open umbrella. You were the first person to tell me “F*** you” to my face when I told you to put your cigarette away. You were the first student who made me cry the whole way home from school, but you weren’t the last. You hated me, and I probably hated you sometimes, but what I hate most is that you’ll never know how much I loved you and prayed for you and tried to be good to you.

So, dear students who at one point walked through room 200 – thanks for being part of my life. Thanks for teaching me. Thanks for letting me talk to you and try to impart some knowledge to you. I miss you all, and I hope you think of me once in awhile.

Goodbye, my kiddos… and good luck.

Ms. P

I find it very ironic that I wrote all of that yesterday, because after I wrote it, I found out that I’m getting a second chance. Another opportunity to reach students. Another opportunity to share a little bit of myself and hope to make a difference.

About 2 months ago, I applied for a teaching position at a school here in Plymouth. I didn’t tell very many people, mostly because I was carrying that deadly insecurity, and I didn’t want anyone to know if I failed again. Yesterday, through God’s grace, my hope was renewed. I had already begun to mentally berate myself for getting overly hopeful about this opportunity, because I hadn’t heard from the school. I couldn’t wait any longer for them to call me, so I called the principal to follow up and find out where they were in the process. After steeling myself so long for the inevitable, “Well, we’ve actually filled the position,” my heart leaped into my throat when he said:

“You’re our girl – you won!”

And I realized… I have won. I had viewed my time at Last Chance Academy as a failure for so long, but it wasn’t. I am not a failure. I won. I won by relying on God’s strength every day and trusting that He would keep me going. I won by waking up every morning and going to a hostile environment where I was fighting against ridiculous odds. I won by taking a chance and leaving my future in God’s hands.

Thanks so much to those of you who shared this burden with me, to those of you who have been praying for me.

I get to be a teacher again!

"Ms. P - I say you are the best teacher I've had." - D.H.


Good Apple Boutique

Ladies & Gentlemen... friends & lovers...

Victoria & I are proud to present the grand opening of our business:

Good Apple Boutique!

We've created a blog where you'll be able to stay updated on our latest products and upcoming events. Our first show of the season is taking place at the Strawberry Festival in Albion, NY on June 13th & 14th. We hope all our family and friends will come out and support us! Hope to see you there!


increasingly mundane.

Some random things that have happened in my life since my last update:

- I started a new job. I know, WHOA. It all happened really fast, and I feel great about it. I’m actually working in Doug’s office for the summer, although we don’t work together. Doug DID lead my orientation, though. We officially have a secret office romance. Yet another life goal accomplished. Except it's not really a secret when everyone knows you're married. Close enough.

- We had another Imprint meeting. This one was a little better – we had 3 new people! Baby steps.

- I helped paint our friends’ new condo. We saw an amazing rainbow that night, which we decided was God’s blessing on their new home. We also saw a raccoon prowling through their backyard. I’m not really sure what that symbolizes.

- I played piano at church for Youth Sunday. My leg shook during the prelude because I was nervous. I haven’t experienced that in awhile – mostly because I haven’t played in front of anyone in awhile.

- My morning glories are sprouting, my spinach is sprouting, and my chives are continuing to grow. Perhaps my thumb is greener than I originally thought.

- I met my ornament quota goal of 15 for the week. Victoria met her supergoal and made 20. She is amazing.

- I made ice cream sandwiches with chocolate chewy cookies and mint chocolate chip ice cream. They were incredible.

- We had hot dogs for dinner on Friday, for lunch on Saturday, and for dinner on Sunday. Wow.



Well, at least I made it through 23 years with no cavities.

I went to the dentist today - I HATE going to the dentist. The worst thing is that little scrapey tool. Get it away from me. Anyway, I have my first cavity. Look what marriage does to you...



A huge thumbs up to welcome the newest addition to the Parton family!

mom & emily's day, pt. 2

Thanks to everyone for all the comments about my family's home... I thought I'd indulge you all a little more. You can also check out my dad's website for some history, horses, and of course, more pictures.


mom & emily's day

We went home for Mother's Day and Emily's birthday - both on Sunday. I took a lot of pictures.

Doug & I went for a walk and fed the horses.

Robert's dirtbike provided a little excitement on Saturday afternoon. Ethan's driving in this pic.

We all took turns jumping on the rope swing - here's Jayne.

Dad ups the ante...

Jayne riding "Sugar"...

The birthday girl takes a turn.

Mom arranging flowers for Emily's birthday dinner...


Delicious birthday/Mother's Day meal, prepared by Dad - steak kabobs!

A glorious weekend at the Bannister homestead!


happy mother's day

This might seem funny, but in writing this, I first tried to think of everything Mom does that annoys me. I thought it would be funny to make a list of these “annoying” things, and then contradict myself by writing about how they actually reflect on what an amazing mother she is. Unfortunately, the only thing I could think of is the fact that she loves to sporadically put butterscotch chips in chocolate chip cookies. They’re called chocolate chip cookies for a reason!

Wait – I just thought of another thing. I’m not sure how thrilled she’ll be to have me talking about this on the Internet, but oh well. That’s what kids are for – public embarrassment. Here it is: my mom doesn’t need to wear deodorant! Seriously, how is it possible that this woman does not smell? Maybe this is weird or gross to people, but I’ve checked for her before, and I am telling you – this woman does not sweat. Actually, I’m not so much annoyed as I am impressed. The only thing I’m annoyed about is that she’s hogging all those fresh genes to herself. Where’s the love, Mom?

Anyway, allow me to extol my mother’s virtues:

My mom hasn’t had a day to herself in 23 years. Even when she’s on a business trip, indulging in a rare soak in a bathtub, you can rest assured that her cell phone will be ringing at some point later that evening, with kids or husband calling to check up on her. We love to joke that my mom hasn’t even been able to go to the bathroom peacefully in the past 23 years. Someone’s always walking in, calling up the stairs, yelling for her intervention in various disputes, etc. She seldom has time to relax when she’s at home –always running kids up to various sporting events, church activities, band concerts, etc. She is one of the most selfless people I know.

My mom is also one of the smartest people I know, if not THE smartest. She’s got an astounding memory. She’s incredibly humble. She’s the best cook in the world (minus the butterscotch chip obsession). She has an incredible work ethic – at her job, at home, around the farm – wherever she is. She has a flair for crafts and artsy projects, although she rarely has time to indulge in these hobbies. She is hilarious (even when she doesn’t mean to be). She’s tough – she went through childbirth 5 times with no painkillers whatsoever.

Basically, there is no flaw to be found in my mother. She’s been weighed, measured, and found AWESOME.

Thanks for putting up with my shenanigans all these years, Mom, and for giving me something to aspire to. I love you!


real life conversations

Doug: "Do you ever pick your nose?"

Me: "Umm, yes? Doesn't everyone?"

Doug: "I never see you pick your nose!"

Me: "Um, well, I usually do it in the bathroom instead of in front of people. I can let you know next time."


catching them riding dirty

Last night, on the way home from work, I saw a car chase. This makes number 3 for me.

Car Chase #1: Occurred in old Kent, NY. It was pretty exciting, just because it was the first car chase I'd ever seen in real life, and let's be honest - it was in KENT.

Car Chase #2: This is the best to date. I was driving either to or from home during college with a fellow New Yorker when suddenly, a car went zooming past us, with cop in hot pursuit. We watched in amazement as the car swerved off the highway and plummeted down a hill. Unfortunately, that was all we were able to see.

Car Chase #3: Last night. It was pretty mediocre. First of all, it was around 4:30pm, in broad daylight. Second, it was on Hines Drive. Third, it was happening at about 45 mph. Snore. I heard the siren approaching, saw the car and the flashing lights coming toward me, and I realized, "Oh hey, that guy's not pulling over!" I watched in my rearview mirror as the car took a quick turn off Hines Drive, followed immediately by the cop, and he kept going until he was out of sight. The teenage boys in the Jeep ahead of me were elated - they turned around and went back in the opposite direction, presumably to follow and hope to see the end result of the pursuit.

I have no desire to watch car chases on television, but if I see one in real life, it's pretty awesome, in my opinion.

Rachel's Tips for Seeing Car Chases:
1. Don't look for them - let them find you.
2. Drive around Detroit as often as possible... or Kent, NY.

That's about it.


you may say that i'm a dreamer

Sometimes I forget the things I do at work while I'm bored. I just found this saved on my computer as "random - being a writer"... written, apparently, 18 days before we left for Florida.

In an effort to better effuse a vibe of “SERIOUS WRITER,” I like to keep a strategically cluttered desk at work. That means bottle of water at 2:00, where I can easily grab it with my right hand while keeping my eyes on the screen, scanning what I’ve written. Cell phone out, on top of a small legal pad, as though I’m just waiting for my editor (who doesn’t actually exist) to give me an update on my most recent submission (which also doesn’t exist). My wire “inbox” has stacks of papers with the notorious manila envelope – unclipped, of course – on the top. The mere presence of this manila envelope suggests that the thoughts are pouring forth from my brain through my fingers into the clacking keyboard and onto the computer screen, ready to jump out of the printer and tuck themselves neatly inside said envelope, to be addressed, stamped and mailed to be published. What’s actually inside the manila envelope is case notes from someone else who actually does their job, instead of sitting at the computer, making various faces at the computer screen as the words aren’t coming out as neatly coagulated as initially intended. Although, when alliteration slips out, I can’t help but emit a slightly smug smile. Again.

I also have my 2008 weekly planner located to my immediate left, as well as a gigantic desk calendar propped up against the wall. This is, one would assume, to keep me on track and remind me how much time I have until my looming deadlines. One would never be so brash as to suggest that the only reason I have these calendars within such close proximity is so I can count and re-count the number of days remaining until my vacation to Florida (18!).

SERIOUS WRITER Rule #1: Never run out of Post-its. Post-its are a necessity in a writer’s life. I like to have at least two stuck to my computer, reminding me of various work-related tasks. In addition, I like to keep a couple stuck to the desktop a few inches from my mouse. The top sheet of the Post-it notes should never be blank. Writers must always have a freshly scribbled note waiting to be plucked and stuck somewhere supposedly useful. Stacks of Post-its litter the insides of my desk drawers. Probably one of the reasons I wanted to be a writer was because I innately knew that writing = paper. I do happen to be obsessed with paper. Pads, journals, Post-its, looseleaf, spiral notebooks, composition notebooks – these are the things dreams are made of. The place where ink meets paper is a sacred spot.

On my desk I also have the mandatory PICTURE OF THE BELOVED, circa July 7, 2007. The wedding day, complete with small heart sticker, indicating that this photo has been on other desks, where it received the complimentary sticker. This photograph sits directly behind my work telephone, which only rings about twice a day. Next to the photograph are the mandatory stapler and tape dispenser. No one, least of all SERIOUS WRITERS, would ever consider having a desk without a stapler and tape dispenser casually displayed. In a rather bold move, I keep my staple remover inside the top right drawer. Many people would argue that the staple remover should also be casually displayed alongside the stapler itself. However, my staple remover prefers the dark solitude found inside desk drawers. After lunch, when I hit that mid-afternoon lull, I'd gladly trade places with my staple remover.

The only other Desktop Regulation for all SERIOUS WRITERS is THE PEN. There must be a pen – UNCAPPED – strewn on the desk somewhere AT ALL TIMES. I like to keep mine on a pad of paper, signifying the fact that I am ready, at a moment’s notice, to let the ink flow, should inspiration strike.

Bonus points awarded for: binder clips, random sheets of paper with lots of typed print on them laying about, half-eaten sub (apple core will also suffice), highlighters, subliminal political/social message (preferably a poster/printed picture).

As a SERIOUS WRITER, I would never admit to using Thesaurus.com or Dictionary.com. Naturally, having my Bachelor’s in English, I know every word and it’s precise usage. I never need to look up words when my brain is frozen, because that doesn’t happen after you major in English. Your thoughts spew forth seamlessly. And good heavens, there is certainly never a word that I’m unsure of it’s exact meaning. Some English majors might still struggle with that, but certainly not after they took Latin for four years in high school. No, I know the roots of all English words derived from the great Romans.

SERIOUS WRITERS draw their inspiration from what happens around and within them. If I were to follow those rules today, I would be writing about a case of stomach gurgles, whose noises are droned out only by the vicious wind threatening to throw massive trees into our old building.

The funniest thing about all of this SERIOUS WRITER business is that I’m not. I work at a foster care agency, typing out documents so foster parents can get their state-mandated money. If I were to write the Job Description, it might look something like this: “Determination of Care Writer must be able to maintain a look of intent interest while perusing a variety of material via the Internet, regardless of content. DOC Writer will be required to submit anywhere between 2 to 200 documents per week. DOC Writer will be given little to no notice of what each week’s (or day’s) workload will be. DOC Writer must possess strong self-amusement qualities, as he or she may experience hours at a time where co-workers will not respond to emails, making actual work impossible. DOC Writer must have decent “people skills” – or at least enough to prevent you from lashing out at workers who don’t think your job qualifies as a REAL JOB.” Which, perhaps it doesn’t, which would explain why I daydream about being a SERIOUS WRITER.


give it a rest

Subject of annoyance: this pouty-lipped tight smile that is all the rage among celebs.

Thanks to the Olsen twins and Maggie Gyllenhaal, we may never see teeth in Hollywood again.

(sidenote: does anyone else think Manda looks kind of like her - with the exception that Manda knows how to smile?)

Seriously - stop with the half-smile, "we're-politely-tolerating-your-photographs-and-adoration" smirk. I don't know if these actresses think it's flattering, or if they're just hiding years of poor orthodontic work... whatever it is - it must stop.


the catcher's stance

I’ve been promising my husband for quite some time that I would publicly embarrass him (yet again) by posting a blog about his unique approach to playing video games.

Now, if you know Doug, you know that he’s a pretty intellectual, mature guy. However, give him a controller and some old-school Mario games, and he reverts back to the days of his youth. Doug has been known to get pretty intense during various rounds of Mario Kart, Bond, Mario Tennis – whatever game he’s currently playing.

As a result of this intense involvement in the game, it is impossible for Doug to play a video game and remain in your standard, sitting position, demonstrated below.

In high school, Doug played baseball and was, for some time, a catcher. Apparently this technique worked so well for him during game time, that he’s adopted it for playing video games as well. I give you Doug and the Catcher’s Stance:

I'd better get him some knee pads...


i like to blame it on the blue eyes

Dear Internet,
Alright... I admit it.
I have a problem with taking pictures in sunlight.

Seriously - gorgeous picture of Victoria. Who's the freak next to her, though?!

And it always seems that this... abnormality surfaces at the most inopportune times. Take, for instance, the day I'd want to look better than ever...


Trust me, Internet, there are more where these came from - I just don't have time to search through all the various folders on our C: drive.
Even my senior pictures were a bit squinty. When Tom Smith got out that huge golden reflector thing (I'm sure I just made some photographer cringe with my terminology), it was downhill. Tom is a fantastic photographer - he just didn't know what he was up against.

I wish I could say that this is a recent development and, therefore, temporary. Unfortunately, my record would prove otherwise...

High school: Late junior year/early senior year. You know you can see the squint.

First day of junior year.

8th grade.

If I had earlier pictures of myself on the computer, I'd have more material. Just take my word on this one.