Thursday, August 2, 2012


Crowded flight
Crying baby somewhere up front
Weary passengers
Formidable tension
Then slow, deep sounds
A rich reverberant hum blankets every ear
It is the four men dressed in African robes and sandals
Somewhere behind us
...Singing? Yes.
Chanting with the pulse of a calming heartbeat
Not one word is spoken
Released from the shackles of stress
A long collective sigh
And the baby sleeps.

Friday, May 25, 2012

My Love Affair With World History

Last semester, I took a deep breath, and enrolled in World History.  A core requirement, I had failed this class after trying, twice, back in 1989 and again in 1990.  Now, 22 years later, I endeavored to give it another try. I had no choice, really- it's a required class, but the University has a three try limit!  Given my previous experience, I was convinced that four months of history would likely kill me.  I was so wrong.  Not that any of it came easily- I worked desperately hard in this class.  I needed to overcome the failure that had haunted me for more than two decades.  Mind you, I went into it accepting the fact that an A would be out of reach; simply passing this class would be hard enough.  Imagine my surprise when the first quiz came back marked "90."  It was a Scantron, electronically graded, so I grumbled that reading it right side up as "60" made more sense.  The girl next to me had to clarify. "No. Wow. You made a 90. See?  You only missed one."  What.  Oh.  But what about the exams?  Dr. Roberts' teaching assistant already said "don't worry. I don't give 100's."  I scoffed.  No worries, hot shot. Just give me my C and we'll call it a day.

There were only 3 exams in this class.  Two, plus the final.  On a study guide for each exam we were given a list of ten items, and 5 essay topics.  On exam day, the ten items are narrowed to five, and we pick three to write identifications for, essay answer, one page minimum that includes dates, names and historical significance of each.  The essay topic is one we get to choose ahead of time, and for the exam it is full essay: thesis statement, intro, body, points, and concluding thesis.  All handwritten, no notes allowed, including prominent dates, names, historical significance, all in under an hour.  The first exam I made a 91.  Shocked, but happy. Shocked again that I was looking forward to exam #2. For the second one, I knew more of what he was looking for, and scored a 93. Considering a 100 was for some reason "unreachable," I salivated at the thought of my next conquest:  the final.  Same test format, only for the final, we were to be given two hours to finish.  Two. Glorious. Hours.  My adrenaline spiked when the study guide for exam #3 was posted.  I've been waiting for you, Mistress. Bring it on.

Carrying a full 12 hour load, the two weeks of finals was busy, and I did my best in all my other classes.  In the back of my mind the whole time, though, was history.  I ached to get the other nonsense taken care of so I could turn my focus where it really wanted to be. My other finals done, and A's in all my other classes, I had four days to dedicate to history. Four uninterrupted days. I stopped writing only to quickly eat, and feverishly sleep.  Each morning at about 4am my eyes would slam open, my brain commanding me to get the hell up!  We have work to do!  You'll never make it at this rate!  Read it again! Make a list! WRITE!  I didn't shower... for. four. days.  24 hours before the exam, I was close, but had not yet reached the point of confidence.  I made myself retire early the night before, so that I could read again in the morning before the 8 am final.  

I sleep with music playing, classical usually- it helps me stop the ruminating thoughts in my head should I awake during the night.  The playlist is a random shuffle of everything I have tagged "classical" and I never set an alarm.  But the morning of the final, at exactly 3:00 am, something strange was waking me.  Is that what I think it is?  I stilled myself to listen closer to the iPhone laying on my bedside: it was a classical piano arrangement of Europe's 1980's mega hit "The Final Countdown."  I sat straight up in bed, laughing out loud, and with a renewed burst of hope, headed downstairs to begin my final review.  Looking at my notes with rested eyes, and after a hearty laugh, I realized I had it.  I went over the timeline of names and dates again, and read through the essay I planned to use, and enjoyed my coffee in the dimly lit corner of the house where I had spent so many hours preparing.  This is it.  And I'm ready. What a relief.  All I needed was a 91 on the final exam to make an A in this class, something I never thought I'd be contemplating. I even took a shower.

Friday May 11, 2012 9:40 am
I've done it.  I feel confident in all of my writing; there are two dates I need to check when I get home, but even if I missed those two points, overall it went well. I feel flushed with excitement.  I am one of the last few students in the room when I finish.  One hour and forty minutes of straight, hard writing.  It was exhilarating. As I sit up and shake out my cramping hands, I catch the teaching assistant, Jack, looking up at me.  I give him a huge smile and a goofy thumbs up.  He looks at me as if I've lost my mind, and gives a reluctant and sarcastic two thumbs back.  Bite me, Grumpy.  This is worth at least a 91.  I stroll up to the front where he and Dr. Roberts are standing and hand in my exam booklet.  "That was awesome.  Thank you."   Whew.  But what about those two dates.  Hell, I can't wait till I get home, and I stop in the stairwell.  I drag out my notes and there it is:  I actually got those right.  What!

Friday May 11, 2012 11:00 am
I know it will take forever to get all those exams graded, it always does.  But since we won't be meeting for any more classes, I wonder if I'll ever see how I did on mine.  When grades officially post, they're just the letter; I'd never know how I really did without seeing it graded.  I email Jack about getting it back, and he says Dr. Roberts will have to be contacted in the Fall if I want it returned.  I shoot a quick email to Dr. Roberts, saying that I definitely would like to have it back in the Fall, and to please hang on to it for me.  Here was his reply:

Hi Stacy,
You aced the exam, thus cementing your A for the course. Excellent job! Jack will be dropping the exams off to me early next week, so you can grab it this fall at your leisure. We are required to hold onto final exams for a 1 year period. Hope you'll take another class with me. Enjoy your summer.

Walter Roberts, UNT Military History Center Fellow
Continuing Lecturer and Graduate Adviser
Department of History
University of North Texas

Already Graded?  That was quick!  And.. Aced.  That could mean one of two things: I made an A, aced.. or ACED.  Fingers shaking, mouth dry, I wrote back: 

Thank you, sir!  Are we using the same definition of "aced!?" I am so happy!  I put in many hours of work into that A, and learned a tremendous amount.  It was a pleasure taking your class this semester!

Stacy Zimmerman

Sent from my iPad

His reply:

Aced as in 100. Take care!

Walter Roberts, UNT Military History Center Fellow
Continuing Lecturer and Graduate Adviser
Department of History
University of North Texas

aced as in 100. ACED AS IN 100!  Wait. WHAT! But he doesn't give- Oh my. Oh my. Aced. As in 100.  I just pulled a 4.0.

It's been two weeks since that fateful day.  I've reflected a lot on my accomplishment.  I put more hours into that History class than I've ever invested in any other.  Truth be told, when I look back on it, I get emotional.  So this is what it feels like to do well.  This is what it feels like to succeed.  This, this is why I know I am exactly where I am supposed to be.  School- school is a lot.  It's grueling at times, a cruel and relentless Dominatrix, and I am the Subordinate, taking whatever orders she gives me, painful or not, and exhausting myself to please her. Then my pleasure comes, not easily, but very intensely.  The reward I feel at the end of a semester like this is palpable. And is oh, so addictive. This is why I push myself to the edge.  Because the view from here is breathtaking.

In the last two weeks, I've aced the impossible history final, made the President's Honor Roll with a 4.0 GPA, been accepted into UNT's Honor College, and awarded my first scholarship, a $1,000 USC scholarship for returning students, based on my academic accomplishments.  To say I feel motivated is quite an understatement.  And I'm only getting started.

I'll close by sharing this, as I am rather proud of it.  
Essay question on my final exam in World History:
What factors allowed Islam to spread so quickly from the Arabian Peninsula by 1500 CE? What do you think was the most important impact of Islam on world history prior to 1500 CE and why?

My answer, which earned me a perfect 100, follows.   

Islam emerged from the Arabian Peninsula, an area largely inhabited by nomadic Bedouin tribes.  Organized as clans, ancestry and family were vital to protection and survival.  In the harsh desert environment, water was a precious resource; rivalry over a single well could provoke a blood feud for generations.  Without the tribe's protection, no one could endure.  Scattered across the peninsula were countless bands of people, all embroiled in bitter struggles to defend precious grazing lands and trade routes.  In spite of the constant state of conflict and suffering, an element of beauty emerged from the Bedouin.  There was a tremendous respect for the spoken word, and anyone with the gift of eloquent speech was held in the highest regard.  Poets were among the most important people in the tribes.  To the Bedouin, the word had a mystical importance.

In 570 CE a boy named Mohammad was born into the Quraysh tribe.  Orphaned at age six, he became a ward of the tribe, "a child of everybody."  As a result, he learned at a very young age a passionate concern for those who are left out of society.  This would be pivotal to his character, and in his influence on others, as a man.  Muhammad also possessed the gift of poetic speaking.  He was an intelligent, articulate and charismatic man who had a remarkable way with people.  Not only was he a successful trader, he also had a talent for resolving disputes without the use of violence.  So strong were his bonds with people, and honored by so many, he came to be known as al-Amin, "The Trusted One."

In 610 CE, at age 40, Muhammad had an experience that would not only be defining in his life, but would also serve as the foundation of Islamic existence altogether.  He was visited, it is said, by the Angel Gabriel, and given the task of spreading a simple yet radical proclamation: that there is only one God.  As a result, Muhammad took on the role of Prophet in Mecca, delivering God's messages of monotheism and of strong social justice.  He preached against the division of the haves and have-nots, insisting that this should not be, and that all people should share the wealth.  This message was so well-received that it became the new order, the new way of life in Islam.  Everybody was equal: men; women; children.  One God also meant one people, and the end of tribal divisions.  Muhammad's following quickly grew, calling themselves Muslims, "those surrendering to God."  It was because of this universal appeal, coupled with Muhammad's trusted reputation and speaking ability that the new order of Islam was able to steadily establish its roots and spread so quickly.  This evolution was not without conflict; in 622 CE Muhammad, his life in danger, fled from Mecca to Medina, then called Yathrib.  This journey is known as the hijra, and the Islamic era A.H., after hijra, is calculated after this date.

Even after numerous confrontations between Muslims and their opponents, most of which the Muslims were not favored to win, they not only survived, they flourished.  By the 650's the Muslims had conquered the Persian Empire, and by 712 central Asia.  Through the Crusades, in 1187 Salah al-Din recaptured Jerusalem and by 1291 the Crusaders were driven out of west Asia. Mansa Musa's pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324 resulted in the conversion of the Malayans and Indonesians to Islam, and in 1453 the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople.  But these were not merely territorial conquests.  Islamic culture spread in cyclic waves of conquest and conversion, seemingly entrancing all those who were exposed to it.  People of conquered lands were often given the freedom to continue practicing their own religions, and would do so, side by side with Muslims.  Even when faced with opponents fueled by hate and lust for dominant power like the Crusaders or the Mongols, the Muslims prevailed, either coexisting with or converting their conquests to Islam.  The Mongols were so taken with Islamic culture that they became some of its strongest leaders;  the Ottoman Turks brought to Islam a true bureaucratic element that strengthened it further into a formidable political power.  

The tolerant and respectful nature of the Islamic philosophy became the catalyst it needed to spread so prolifically throughout the East; by 1500 the Islamic empire reached from India to the Atlantic Ocean.  The Islamic ideology itself had a greater impact on the world's history- socially, religiously, economically and politically- than any other single contribution.  No other culture before or since has been able to rise against such odds and evolve with the same unrivaled fortitude as that of the Dar al-Islam.  In the prayer that is heard in Islam five times every day, it is said "Come and pray. Come and flourish."  And flourish, they did.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Holiday Inflatables

For some reason, in my 'hood, there seems to be an obsession among certain neighbors for those ridiculous inflatable holiday decorations.  And some of them are giant, AND some of them have LIGHTING... as in, special effect type lawn lights from Home Depot or some shit. Do you know how hard it is for me not to take a butcher knife and disembowel those freakin things?

I tell you what would be funny as hell:  build a giant litter box for the giant inflatable cat. Now THAT'S festive.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Hope Solo on DWTS: Degradation With the Stars

 This is Alex, then, age 10.  The photo below hers is Hope Solo, world renowned athlete, #1 goalie in US and International Women's Soccer.  Uncanny, isn't it?

Hope Solo has been Alex's idol since forever.  Out of the 8 years Alex has played soccer, 7 of them have been as the goalie.  There are soccer posters covering her walls, including those of Hope.  So when we heard Hope would be on "Dancing With the Stars," something we'd never watched before, we tuned in.  We waited.  And we watched.

The segment with Hope began, with her stumbling around in the unfamiliar heels, dancing. She went thru the physical transformation first, with the big hair, the makeup, the dress.... a pink sparkly feathery number, backless and cut-to-the-ass-crack, "And," Hope explains to the camera, "with the sleeves specially designed to camoflauge my muscular arms."  Um. Oh.  Let me just say, Alex- age 12- worked all summer on her upper body strength, to have arms just like that.  The look on her face when Hope said that still haunts me.  Needless to say, that's when we stopped watching, and had a long talk about what we had just witnessed.

I've always taught my girls never to allow someone else to treat you in a way that degrades you.  Ever.  Now, thanks to this, we have another rule.  Never allow anyone to talk you into degrading yourselfEver.  What a fiasco.  Was any thought at all given to the millions of young girls that would be tuning in to watch their idol on this ridiculous show?  Apparently not.

I can't help but think this was probably a 100% success for some people.  There is now one less-powerful woman in the world.  And millions of little girls have a brand new shadow of a doubt when it comes to setting goals for themselves in the wonderful wide world of sports.  I'm really pissed off to feel this way.  As women, we cannot afford to take any more steps backwards.  Our daughters deserve better.  The women our sons or daughters grow up to marry deserve better.  We deserve better.

Final score?  Oppression 1, Hope Solo.. Zero.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

oh, Ellen..

I never watch daytime tv, but oh.  When I do, I try to catch the Ellen Degeneres show.  I just love her!  And could those eyes get any bluer?  Nate Burkus tho, oh my.  Poor Nate.  Yes I know you're one of Oprah's finds.  Yes, you lost your man-love in a Tsunami.  But OMG who is producing your freakin show, honey?  You should talk to Ellen.

Bathroom Squats

Yep.  It's my new plan.  Every time I go to the bathroom, I've been doing 25 toilet squats.  It's to improve my "bottom line" so to speak.  I figured, what the hell, I must pee 5,000 times a day, maybe that's the key to my success.  I'll assign a number of squats to each toilet visit and see what happens.

Today so far I've logged (haha, "log") 125 squats.  Potty, flush and SQUEEZE.  Oh yeah.

Home Improvement Blogs.. Help

I'm a sucker for "Before and After" photos, and blogs are no different. There are quite a few Remodeling themed blogs out there, and I follow several. I am totally down with the whole DIY movement.. I myself have posted my own AMAZING remodeling project befores and afters after completely re-vamping my entire life with a $4 can of spray paint. If you follow remodeling blogs, you know what I'm talking about. However. There are SOME people out there that THINK they know what's up, but sadly, they haven't a fucking clue. I can't tell you how hard it is just to click the X and close the window, without leaving the comment I SO BADLY want to leave. This is what I would say.
Dear Remodeler,
Wow. It took a lot of fucking creativity to buy everything pictured at Home Depot. Your builder's grade fixtures are just the cat's meow. Thanks for nothing.

Dear Remodeler,
Am I the only one noticing that you only put one coat of paint there, when you needed at least two? Have you HEARD of primer? And by the way, ever LOOK at your photos before posting them for the world to see? Yeah. I didn't think so.

Dear Douchebag,
There is something called INFORMATION that goes between "Before" and "After." We're not fucking MIND READERS here, how did you DO. IT. DUH.

Unfortunately, most remodeling bloggers are pansy candy assed whiners that can't tolerate questions from me, so I am therefore reduced to venting here, on my own blog, where it's safe. Where I'm also allowed to yell FUCKOFF!!!!! Whew.