Slice of Life #24- What I Learned Driving from NJ to the Bronx

I love and adore my grad school program.  I’m working towards my master’s in biology through Miami Ohio University/Project Dragonfly’s Advanced Inquiry Program. It’s a hybrid program and classes are split between an online component and in-person class meetings at my master institution.  My master institution is the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York City so most of my classes are at the Bronx Zoo.

I had class tonight and while sitting in traffic I started thinking of all of the non-academic things I’ve learned while driving back and forth from NJ to the Bronx.  Enjoy my slightly facetious and sarcastic list!

  • The Hamilton cast recording is the perfect length to get me through the whole trip.
  • Related, I can play all of the parts in when performing it in my car.  Still working on Daveed Digg’s ridiculous rap in”Guns and Ships”, though.
  • I hate traffic.  There’s a reason my work commute is 25 minutes through rural-suburban towns.
  • The commute to the zoo can take anywhere from 1 hour and 20 minutes to 3 hours.  Tonight it took almost 2 and a half hours.
  • The George Washington Bridge is ridiculously long.
  • I can drive in the Bronx.
  • I can drive in Fort Lee.
  • I can hold my own with crazy New York drivers.
  • There is a distinct lack of public transportation options between NJ and anywhere that is not Manhattan.
  • None of the March Madness games are broadcast on the radio.
  • Hamilton by Ron Chernow is a great audiobook to listen to while commuting.
  • I’d rather take the long way up the Henry Hudson Parkway than suffer through the hell that is the Cross Bronx Expressway.
  • I can identify most of the gorillas in Congo (exhibit) by sight.
  • It’s pretty cool walking through the dark, empty zoo.  Lots of animals make noise at night when there are no visitors!

These are just a few of the things I came up with while driving home tonight.  Thankfully, the ride home only took an hour and thirty minutes!

I love this program and I learn so much every time we have class.  But man do I dread the commute!



Slice of Life #23

One day more. One more day. 

Spring break can not come fast enough. I’ve graded thousands of papers in the past few weeks, written many responses for my own classes, attended way too many meetings, and been otherwise stressed out. 

One more wake up. One more wake up. One more wake up. We can do it! The kids are ready, the teachers are ready, everyone is ready. Come on, spring break!

Slice of Life #22


5:45am- wake up and walk the dogs

6am- back home, feed the dogs, get ready for the day, watch the news about Brussels, frantically scroll through a list of friends who could be there, breathe a sigh of relief when it seems like no one is, pack a lunch, head out.

6:40am-7:10am- drive to school, stop for gas and a drink at Wawa (I need the caffeine), continue on towards school.

7:15am- sign in

7:20am- grab my stuff and head up to the copy room.  Talk with colleague while waiting to use our copy machine.

7:30am-7:35am- Copy vocab tests and then rush to homeroom.

7:40am- attendance.  Pass out vocab tests and Zipgrade answer sheets.  When a few hands go up remind students I can’t define the words for them.  Die of embarrassment when a student points out they don’t know the words because I copied the wrong test.  Panic and find someone to cover for me so I can run upstairs and copy the right test while the students enjoy some extra study time.

7:50am-8:51am- give out correct test.  While students work I grade reading journal entries.

Repeat (minus the wrong test part) for 3 more periods.  Have a lockdown drill and panic because of the events in Brussels.  Sigh of relief when it’s just a drill.

11:15am- LUNCH.  Eat very quickly, copy quiz for seniors.

12:00pm- repeat vocab test for 4th period (and last period) of freshman.  Grade reading responses.  Book talk.

1:09pm- Seniors!  Great conversation about Jekyll and Hyde and the duality of man.  Listen to some amazing two voice poems the students wrote.

2:35pm- head home.

3:00pm-4:00pm- Let the dogs out and deal with 100 things going on.  Lots of phone calls.  Returning calls, listening to messages, cleaning out inbox.

4:20pm- Change and head out to walk the dogs.

4:45-5:45- 2 mile walk and bird watching with the dogs

6:00- read/reread 4 chapters of Your Inner Fish for my own class and work on dinner.  Start drafting discussion question for class on Thursday.

7:30pm- dinner with Chris.  We watch Last Week Tonight while eating and cleaning up.

8:00pm- let the dogs out and give them their bully sticks.  Settle in for an episode or two of House of Cards and post my discussion question.  Cross that off the to-do list!

10:00pm- finish House of Cards for tonight.  Chris switches to Agents of SHIELD.

11:00pm- get ready for bed.  Read over student slices for today.  Realize I forgot my own slice.  Brew tea and brainstorm.

11:59pm- post and go to bed!

Slice of Life #21

Whenever I am feeling run down I brew myself a cup of tea before bed.

Last year I ordered a box of tea on Amazon.  Little did I know, this was the nesting doll version of tea.  I received one large box of tea with many smaller boxes within it.  Inside those smaller boxes were tiny tea bags.  There were dozens of flavors and I knew there was no way I’d get though them all. (Side note: does tea expire?)

All of the teas are Sleepytime tea, the best kind ever. There’s vanilla, chamomile, mint, honey, peach, and many other flavors.  It’s a whole world of tea flavors that I didn’t know about until my giant order of tea arrived.

Tonight I am feeling run down.  Tonight I am drinking peach sleepytime tea.  Tonight I am hoping to sleep well!

Slice of Life #20- March Madness


I’ve been watching basketball all day. Sure, I taught an SAT prep course this morning, ran errands, walked the dogs with Chris, cleaned up for my cleaning lady tomorrow (ironic, I know), cooked dinner, and did a few other things.  But all day long I had had basketball on in the background.

I love March Madness.  The first few days of the tournament are my absolute favorite days of the year because the games are exciting, the upsets are awesome, and basketball is on all day long.  It will start to slow down as we enter the Sweet Sixteen so I savored today.

Today’s games were full of buzzer shots, overtime, bad calls, great fouls, and great sportsmanship.  I should be heading to bed right now but how can I when there’s still four minutes left in the Oregon vs. St. Joe’s game??

My bracket is busted at this point so all I can do is root for the Cinderella’s.  Let’s go, underdogs!!

Slice of Life #19- Divas


As we handed our tickets to the usher I heard the usher in the next aisle suggest that people check their cell phones with their coats.  Ummm, I think not, I thought to myself. Patti may be a diva but she can’t demand everyone do that. I am not checking my $600 phone. 

Patti would be Patti Lupone, Broadway legend.  She’s pretty infamous for flipping out on people who use cell phones during a performance so my friends and I knew that we would be leaving our phones in our bags.  If, by some chance, we didn’t know about her hatred of phones the humungous signs throughout the theater reminded us that photos and recordings were strictly prohibited.  No lie, the placards had to be 5 feet tall.

As we made our way to our seats an usher walked over to us and said, “Welcome!  Let me just go over the rules with you.”

We laughed. “Oh, we know.  No cell phones or Patti will flip out!”

The usher looked at us very seriously.  “Yes, that’s correct.  Also, you may leave to use the bathroom during the 1st, 2nd, or 4th song.  If you need to enter or leave any other time you will not be permitted to return to the theater until intermission.  After intermission you can only leave and return during the 4th song.”

We stared at her.  Then one of my friends burst out laughing.  The usher sighed and told us she was not kidding.


These were the rules Patti Lupone set for her show.  The usher made it clear they were not rules the theater agreed with but they had no choice.  I assume that the rules were a surprise as there was no mention of the house closing once the show started anywhere on the tickets or website.

Needless to say, it was a stressful show.  Every time someone sneezed, coughed, or rustled around in their bag my friends and I would stiffen up.  Would this be the moment Patti Lupone stormed off stage? Let me tell you, that’s no way to experience a concert.  I’m completely supportive of the no cell phones rule and I understand not letting people come and go during quiet moments or specific big numbers.  But controlling exactly when people go to the bathroom?!  This does not make for an enjoyable concert.  Plus, what if you were an attendee with a medical issue?  Or a small bladder?

I felt awful for the older couple behind us.  They used the restroom during intermission but then during the 4th song in the second act they left to use the bathroom again.  They were one seat from the aisle and the woman in that aisle seat yelled at them when they excused themselves.  Then when the ushers let them return she cursed at them and told them they should not have attended the concert and that “….you should have used the bathroom during intermission.  That’s what intermission is for!”

Can you believe that?  Just another reason the concert was stressful.  I felt awful for that poor couple. (Luckily, when the concert ended my friends leaned back and told the couple not to worry about, that woman was completely out of line.  We didn’t realize she was still there until she snapped at us, “Well you talked too much!”.  My friend was this close to saying to her, “Who do you think you are, Patti Lupone?!”)

The good news is that it was worse the price of admission just to hear Patti Lupone perform “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina!”.  I listened to the Evita cast recording for years in middle and high school and I may have cried when she sang it last night.  It was an incredible moment.  The only song that came close to matching it was when she sang “Being Alive” from Company. 

Patti Lupone is an amazing singer and a huge diva.  The concert is full of songs from musicals she was cast in that never made it to Broadway or which flopped, which isn’t exactly enjoyable for the audience.  But when she did sing well-known songs it was absolutely incredible!

Slice of Life #18- Unicorn Birds


I am a very amateur birder. I put up a bird feeder last year and it’s become a bit of an obsession.  This year I joined Project Feederwatch so that I can contribute citizen science data to the project.  I love watching the birds and I’ve logged some pretty cool species at home this year.

I also bring my camera on every hike I take with the dogs, and the hikes usually take place daily.  I log most of my hike sightings on eBird, another citizen science project that collects birding data.  The eBird data is also shared with the public so I can keep track of migrations and rare sightings.  I’ve seen some pretty cool birds on our hikes but I have one unicorn bird.

The pileated woodpecker.

I discovered a family of pileated woodpeckers at a nearby park last year.  They are huge and look like dinosaurs.  On top of this, they are loud. But when I checked eBird I noticed that pileated woodpeckers don’t usually live around here.  They used to, but humans pushed them out with habitat loss.  At that point I assumed I was wrong, that I either misidentified the birds (that were very high in the trees) or the birds were just passing through.

But then I saw and heard them again.  And again.  And again. It was soon normal for me to hear them or see them 3-4 times each week.  At that point I became determined to get photographic evidence.

Not an easy task when the birds are usually 90+ feet in the canopy of the trees.

I got one photo like this.




A lot of photos even worse than this:


Both of these are heavily edited.

And then this week I finally, finally saw the pileated woodpecker up close!  I still didn’t get a fantastic picture, but I got a pretty good one.  A birding achievement, for sure!

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