Thursday, November 10, 2016

What do I say to my students?

I teach a Chicanos and the Law class, it's often my favorite part of the week. I love talking to college students about race and bias and history. It's also an interesting class because of the makeup of my students. The class is cross listed in Chicano Studies and Criminology and it fulfills a diversity requirement of some kind. This means that I get brown activists, people who want to be cops, and people who want to go to law school.

I usually get a pretty left leaning crowd but there are always some (usually white and usually male) students who have never thought much, let alone talked about, race and bias. I really struggle with how to create the right space. I want to support, encourage and validate my activists and my students of color. I know that students do better in school when they are taught by people who look like them and that there's a certain freedom to learn and to be courageous when your own experiences are validated...when you don't feel crazy. And I want to create a space so empowering that my students of color can take that validation and confidence and use it to kick ass in their other classes.

I also want to create the kind of space where the people who are newer to this work can learn and grow. I want to challenge them in a way that doesn't frightening my white, straight or male students but where they are just uncomfortable enough to really evaluate their own ideas and values (interesting, I cannot do this at all in my personal life. As a professor it's my responsibility to create a space where everyone can my person life it's not my responsibility to put up with your racist bullshit).

So tonight I will be walking into a room where we've been talking about race for the last few months. Where I know that many of my students are undocumented. Where I know that many of my students will question their safety. And where some of my students might be happy that Trump will be there new presidents. And I'm not entirely sure how to approach it.

Academic discourse it good...until it's used to mask the actual harm that is being inflicted, the real pain that people feel, and the humanity that is in us all. I'm planning to devote about half the class to a discussion of our current political reality but I'm not sure how to strike the balance that will allow my students to feel ok.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

DIY Bathroom Remodel

Denver's housing market is insane so when we bought our house last year we knew that we'd be buying a house that needed some updates. When we bought the house the bathroom was a hot mess. A rose colored toilet and bathtub, a weird soffit that house a florescent light, floral wall paper, terrible laminate flooring...mess!

We started renovating the bathroom in October...and we got about 80% done before we hosted Thanksgiving in November. Truman did all the demo and we hired a tile guy to do the shower but we did everything else ourselves and, not going to lie, it got a little stressful at the end. Maybe people who work 60+ hours every week shouldn't DIY there own bathroom. 

Thankfully, the wallpaper came off really easily. The, that was another story. The subfloor was uneven in parts, had holes in others. Once we got it level (there was an unfortunate event with some self leveling concrete though) tiling the floor was actually easier than I thought it would be. 

So we got the bathroom functional by Thanksgiving and then we never looked back. We just went back to being work aholics and had a not-quite-done bathroom fro eight months. This last week we final got out act together and put the finishing touches in place.  Now that we have baseboards and a framed mirror I love it! Here are pictures of the finished room:

I'm not only proud of the way this came out, I'm also proud that we did it on a budget. We got a new vanity, new marble counter top, added a second sink, new flooring, new marbles shower surround with glass tile inlays, all new fixtures (shower fixtures, 2 faucets, and two light fixtures), new toilet, a new storage piece, tools and labor all for under $6,000. Basically we gutted the bathroom and started over. Here are some ways we saved money:

  • Floor & Decor - if you live near one of these they are a great place to buy tile. All the marble and tile was cheaper there than Lowe's, Home Depot, or any stone supplier I could find online. 
  • Lowe's online "how to videos" - What can I say, you tube taught us how to tile. 
  • Craig's list! The going rate for a 60" and marble counter top was $1,400 - $2,200 even at the discount places. I found the vanity and counter top on Craig's list for $700 total. Someone had ordered the wrong size and couldn't return it. Lucky us! Same thing with that mirrored storage piece. someone was moving and I got it for $50. 
  • Framing the mirror ourselves. You can buy kits to frame out a mirror but they cost around $200 for a 60" mirror. We also looked at putting in two new smaller mirror but that also would have been a little over $240 even at the big box stores. We decided to frame the mirror ourselves using trim meant to frame out windows. All in we spent $56 on supplies and it was pretty easy to do. 
  • DIY decorations - I love my little "get naked" saying which I made in photoshop myself. 
  • Knowing your limitations - we could teach ourselves a lot of things ourselves on youtube (Installing tile? we got it! New light fixtures? We're basically pros at this point) we watched three videos and decided that tiling the shower and having it not leak was not one of them. We hired a pro and I'm pretty sure it saved us money by not having to do it twice. :) 
  • Resurfacing the tub - it turned out that the lovely pink tub was actually a really sweet, not to mention deep, cast iron tub. Getting it restored but in white was going to cost a damn fortune and buying a cheap fiberglass tub didn't make a lot of sense. We decided just go get it refinished, the guy did a great job and we've been using it every day for 8 months with no problems. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016


So, the Vegas rule applies to calories consumed in Tennessee right? The "east nasty" biscuit at biscuit love, duck fat fried tots at Merchants, grilled cheese and lava cake from Goozy, and some freakin' delicious hot chicken from Uncle Lou's (ok, this one was back in Memphis on our way back to the airport). Honestly, we didn't plan anything for Nashville other than a place to stay so we pretty much just ate and listened to music. 

Here's Truman making his "east nasty" face. Can you believe they intended for only one person to eat this meal for breakfast? We split and were still crazy full. 

I've pretty much never met a tot I didn't like. 

On the first night we happened to stumble upon Morgan Frazier (from the voice) singing in the back of Tootsie's. We hung out for over an hour and it was awesome. 

There was also this rockin' lady and at Layla's.

The next day we did some work in the morning and then went out looking for food and exploring. We kind of struck out on the exploring. While this printing press was cool we weren't super impressed with the shopping or walking around in East Nashville. Maybe we just didn't go to the right spots but we ended up abandoning the exploration early and heading over the famous Bluebird Cafe for more music. 

This was the line outside the Bluebird Cafe an hour before it opened. Truman hopped in line and I made a dash for some lava cakes at Goozy (I tried to get them to spike the hot chocolate but they wouldn't go for it). The Bluebird was highly recommended on all the tourist sites so we were pretty shocked to discover that it was in a strip mall in the 'burbs. Overall it was a cool experience and some of the talent at the open mic night we went to was quite good...but it wasn't really any better than an open mic night in any other city with a lively music scene. We had fun and their wasn't a cover because it was a Monday night but if you're from a city like LA or NYC you can probably skip this one. 

Oh, and the place only holds 50 people. See those poor souls behind Truman? They didn't get in. We were the last people to make the cut. 

What Nashville does well (you know. other than fried food) is music so we headed back to Broadway for more country music. People told us to go to Robert's, which we did but weren't impressed with on night number one. We decided to give it another shot on night number two and the band was way better. Josh Hedley & the Honkey Tonk Heroes were pretty fantastic. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Visiting Memphis

Truman and I love to visit new cities. We like walking, we like eating and we like spending time together so we usually plan a couple of activities and then just wander around. Work has been pretty stressful so we decided that a little get away was in order sometime this winter and when Frontier had a sale for $80 roundtrip tickets to Memphis we decided that Tennessee sounded like a great destination. After looking at the offerings in Memphis we decided to rent a car and split our trip between Memphis and Nashville.

Memphis was, well, a little sad. The neighborhoods that we were in totally lacked transitions. We were either in a pretty empty feeling neighborhood with homes in desperate need of maintenance and shuttered store fronts or, just a block a way, we were in a historic district that had one of the most dense collection of huge turn of the century homes that I'd ever seen. There wasn't any middle ground.

We visited Graceland, the Stax Museum, and the National Civil Right Museum at the Lorraine Hotel and they were all great...but they were also all pretty sad stories of men, movements or moments who were ended in their prime. Memphis felt like the physical embodiment of that same theme. The tragedies of the civil rights movement changed Memphis (as they did the country) and, it looks to me, that white flight bankrupted the tax base and, from a tourist point of view, I'm not sure that meaningful reinvestment into the city center ever happened.

Overall, I think Memphis is worth visiting once but I'm not sure we felt like there was enough to see to justify a second trip. I will say, if you're a bit of a policy wonk Memphis is fascinating and definitely sparked some good conversation on our three hour drive to Nashville.

Saturday's itinerary was central bbq (good, not great), the Stax Museum (worth the visit!), dinner at Second Line (really good, we waited out the hour long wait at Bari next door where the fancy cheese plate was awesome), and walking around Beale Street. We quickly learned that in the South all meals should be much food!

Sunday: We spent the morning at Graceland which was fun (Elivis had the same refrigerator that we currently have and the same coffee table my grandma used to have). Graceland definitely viewed Elvis with rose colored glasses and Truman and I had an interesting conversation about whether or not it was a history museum or a tribute. As a tribute, I thought it was great. 

After Graceland we at at the delicious Rizzo's for lunch, and then went to the National Civil Rights Museum which is located at the hotel where Dr. King was killed. It was awesome but really dense, my brain was a little fried by the end. 

Next stop: a three hour drive between us and Nashville!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

I actually kept my new year's resolution

Last December I was the heaviest I've ever been. You know how you have your normal size pants and then your "fat pants"? The ones that are a banana republic size up (you know what I'm talking about...them are some generous sizes over at the banana). Well, I was outgrowing my fat pants.

Between just feeling kind of crappy about how I looked and really not wanting to spend more money on a new size of jeans I decided that my goal for 2015 would be to lose 17 pounds. I'd tried to loose a little weight before (and I actually lost a bunch thanks to a generous supply of adderall during law school) but this was the first time I'd ever set an actual number goal. To be honest, I'd made a policy of not weighing myself over the last few years (in an attempt to not obsess about a number) and I was pretty shocked that I weighed as much as I did. So in January we went on a crash diet, in February I joined classpass and started working out 4-6 times a week, we abandoned the crash diet at the end of January  but continued to eat healthier and in smaller portions. Basically, I lost weight the old fashioned way.

It was slow going and it took me all damn year but I actually met my goal (and as a Pilates instructor pointed out, it probably took me just as long to put that weight on in the first time).

I don't have any great "before" pictures...because when you're feeling super heavy you throw those damn pictures away, but here's what I could find:

December 2014

December 2015