Author Archives: rubycoops

End of the year bargains on classes.

Friend and former student, Alessandro, & me at the Trevi Fountain in Rome


Recently, my friend from Kazakhstan told me that in her ESL class the students didn’t understand why American women complained about their rights, because we have more than most countries.

Yes, we do have many rights, but we fought hard for them, and we are still fighting. In the early l900’s, the suffragettes died to get women the right to vote. During the past 100 years we have fought to be equal with men, to have control over our bodies, to earn equal pay for equal money, and many, many other issues. It seems that for each advance we make, there’s someone  who wants to strike it down. Men fight hard to keep women dependent on them. It will be an ongoing issue. It’s about power.

Would you like to continue this discussion, or strike up another one? Take advantage of my year end prices and lets talk. -ruby

Phrasal Verbs: Can you think of a phrase that is a verb?

Phrasal verbs are verbs and particles paired to make special meanings.

I was helping my friend from Kazakhstan practice for her drivers license. “Pull into that

Bartenders in Puerto Narino

driveway, and turn around.”  She looked at me, confused. It took a few minutes for me to explain the phrase ‘pull in.’ Because it doesn’t make sense.

 Why? Pull is a verb that usually means to move something in the direction of ones self, like pulling a sled up a hill, a tee shirt over our head.   But, there’s more. We could pull a muscle, (meaning sprain), pull out: of a place, or person as in sex), or pull off, such as successfully tell a lie, or execute a caper, pull up might mean to move forward, or what the cops say when they stop you. They might also say, pull over, or pull off to the side. Someone might say you’re pulling their leg or they could pull a fast one on you, which are idioms that use pull. 

So now that the lesson is over I think I’ll have the bartenders pull me a beer. 

Get down with your phrasal verbs. Converse and learn the easy way.



Pesky verb quiz.

O.K. Let’s go swimming.

“‘ There’s a little creek nearby to swim in. I swam in it yesterday. In fact,  I’ve swum/swam in it many times during the past month. ”

Swam /swum, What’s the past participle of the verb, to swim? What does the ve stand for?


If you answered swum and have to the questions above, you are right. Swim, swam, swum. And the ve is short for have, and is the helping verb. It makes the sentence present perfect because it denotes a repetition before the present time. Confusing? Not if you practice. Just by conversing, listening, and (of course reading too) you will know many pesky verbs that even vex some English speakers.

Sign up now. Speak English like a  well educated native.







Making Heads or Tails

American idioms don’t make a lick of sense-literally. They are a group of words that  are not predictable. Idioms are derived from dialects or jargon from different regions of the country. If someone can’t make heads of tails of an issue, it has nothing to do with heads or tails, it means they can’t figure something out.

It beats me has nothing to do with me getting beaten by an it. Again, I don’t understand.

If I come to grips with something, I have accepted it.

Use it or lose it means something needs active participation or it will get rusty, diminish, or disappear.  Like Language. Did you spend years studying English only to have it fade away after school because you have no one to talk to? That’s what’s happening to my Spanish.

I’m offering conversation classes on Skype to help you maintain your grip on English, your fluidity. Book 30 to 90 minutes, 1 to 5 times a week, depending on your schedule and it won’t cost an arm and leg. I teach any level & believe learning should be fun. Topics can be just about anything. Your choice.

So, let’s get this show on the road. Times a wastin.’Email me for more information.



At the Roman Colosseum








Teaching & Learning Another Language

imageLearning a language can be compared to dieting. I takes effort, consistency, and time. If you don’t stay on it, your effort is wasted. Learning is forever. It’s an easier process if you have someone to help you along. I mean, how do you have conversations with yourself? And, conversing is the key.

Words are just words if you can’t use them to express yourself. Grammar is only important when you have enough words to put sentences together. If you were a mechanic you would need  to know the proper placement of the parts: such is grammar. It just tells you how and where to put the words so they make sense.

When I was teaching in ESL schools, I urged the students to use only English during class, because, as they readily admitted, when the class was over they tended to hang out with other students from their own county, who spoke their native language.

Alessandro & me in front of the Trevi Fountain in Rome

Alessandro & me in front of the Trevi Fountain in Rome

Most online English classes have set agendas. They aren’t much fun. In my online classes you  are free to discuss whatever subjects you want or need to discuss-well legal stuff. Maybe you are preparing for the TOEFLand need to identify key words, maybe you are writing an essay, and need to proof it, or discuss the content, maybe you need to understand some academic language that just doesn’t make sense because you don’t understand the reference. Maybe you just met a beautiful person whom you would like to date, and you need a few pointers, or ideas. In my classes, you will learn the grammar painlessly while discussing subjects you care about.

imageAs a storyteller, stand-up comic, writer, world traveler, mother and Jack-of-all trades, I have vast experience (and the perspective that goes with it), Email me for rates and payment information, or any questions. Read some of my blogs to get a better feel for who I am and what I write. Hope to hear from you.

Florence, Italy

My friend, Alessandro, met me at the station and saw that I got on the correct train to Florence. In a blink of an eye, or in Italian terms, one caprese sandwich and a small bottle of vino rosso, I was there. I went to the bus ticket window to get a city bus ticket. The man at the window shooed me away. I was confused. I went to the next window. A young women laden with a huge pack beside her was having an in depth conversation that I could see was not going to end soon. I stood a few minutes, watching other people get their tickets at the shoo man’s window. Determined to get one, I read the phrase book, marched up to him, and said louder than necessary, but that’s what you do when people dont’t understand, or try to ignore you.  “Un biglietti para la citta, por favor.”  He handed it to me, and replied in English. The bastard. “90 minutes.” Fine. With any luck I will be able to find the hostel in an hour and a half.

And then, because I didn’t read the directions correctly, I spent a frustrating 15 minutes asking where To catch the bus. (I especially love people who send you to the wron\g place rather than say they don’t know.)  One man rudely said, ” What makes you think I would know where the busses are?” Finally, I found the bus, and arrived at the hostel. It was a recently converted convent: cavernous, acoustically suited to mournful chants and prayers, but light and clean. Downstairs was a nice outside patio, and in the morning they put out a tasty breakfast. I witnessed my first automatic pancake machine. Imagine that: uniform pancakes, no burned edges, or mismatched sizes, no cause for arguing who got the best.

Florence, of course is gorgeous. It was worth it just to see the works of Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Bottachelli. The David gave me goose bumps just looking at it. Do you know Michelangelo carved his eyes into hearts? Through the guides knowledge, I viewed the magnificient statue differently, more personally: his ready stance, his poised muscles, his erect, confident posture, his astounding, perfect  beauty.

And then on the way back to the hostel I got busted by a civic snark (much like a parking  ticket person) for not stamping my bus ticket. 50 Euros!! That’s quite a shake down, but according to all of my Italian sources, the place is corrupt, run by the mafia down to the smallest details. I would have stamped it, but I didn’t know that’s the way the system worked, because in Rome I never stamped anything, and Alessandro, remember, is the guy who said it doesn’t matter what side of the road you drive on.

The following weekend I took the train to Pisa to meet up with my friend, Rene, who I met in the Amazon two years ago. I reserved a Smart Car with full insurances just in case. Happy trails.




Rome is bustling with old, vibrant with new. My friend and former student invited me to visit him in this astounding city where he is studying to be an aerospace engineer. “Of course,” was the only answer.

I’ve lost all track of time. Maybe it’s been 8 days-maybe more-or less. Surrounded with spirits and artifacts that go back to Etruscan times, 700+/- BC one loses track. Put into perspective, Christianity is a new religion.

The inhabitants produced the most incredible beauty. Walking around I felt as if I was in some enchanted forest of towering walls, surrounded by statues that are too sensual to be made of rock, hubris that defies reason. Here are a few photos.

Rome: Not for Sissies

At the colosseum

At the colosseum

Rome is flooded stimuli: energy that permeates and disrupts the senses, swarms of tourists clogging crooked streets, illegally parked cars, designer clothes , gorgeous shoes the price of a month’s rent, alleys with hidden treasures, and sadly, ubiquitous cheap Chinese stuff.

I asked Alessandro which side of the street the Italians drive on because it isn’t apparent here in the city. ” It doesn’t matter,” he answered. “Doesn’t matter! Of course it matters. I’m renting a car in Pisa and need to know.”  It’s the same as the US.” he says. Lordy.

The violent past of the colosseum invaded my dreams last night. I was fighting for my life. Hitting some snake like thing with something no bigger than a golf club. Afterwards I felt sorry. It’s not who I am. In the colosseum, only 3 % of the gladiators lived, none of the slaves or criminals or animals. Huge boatloads of reptiles, tigers, lions, bears, etc. were imported  from Africa and Egypt to fight in the ring. An estimated 100,000 animals were killed during the Romans short reign. Some species  became extinct because of the emperor’s thirst for entertainment, of public executions called games.

imageIt’s astounding how brilliant Roman  engineers built aqua ducts, astounding architecture, roads and the government was democratic. And yet, a couple of times a month, screamed for blood to entertain them . Or, maybe they didn’t attend the gory get togethers.

Romulus and Remus raised by a she wolf raised a city from dirt. Beloved Cesar stabbed by Brutus. Myth mixed with fact: legend with history. Barbarians brought down by barbarians. The fallen city plundered and pillaged by everyone, including the hollier than thou popes who used the heathen’s  materials it to build their Rome.

imageAnd then there were the vestual virgins, In charge of keeping the eternal fire lit. If you lost your virginity, you were buried alive; If you let the fire go out, you were beaten by the emperor (I think him). Rome, gorgeous, but not for sissies: not then-not now.




Murphy’s law and Chinatown in Roma.

imageIt was unusual for me to have dire thoughts prior to leaving on a trip. But, this time I did. I had visions of being robbed, left alone, lost…. I think they came from the guide books and a travel book my friend sent me. ” Watch your stuff!” Beware of late-night train & bus stations, keep you money secure in your belt.” Maybe it’s because I just felt too lucky, and too blessed- the shoe will fall. What ever silliness runs through one’s head like a bullet train, it is hard to drive those thoughts away.

It all started well. My flight was on time from the U.S. My burly English seat companion was of my ilk. We slept and laughed-slept and laughed. The flight from London was two hours late.

In Rome I found the train. Two ticket machines were defunct. But finally, I got one. When I was taking it out of the tray, I spotted a 20 euro note on the ground. Found money is a good sign. To counter that, the last train was pulling out of the station when I got there. I ran for it anyway. I was the last person standing in the cavernous station. Alone. A guy looking through the garbage cans was working the perimeter of the place. He looked at me and passed. Finally, an employee opened a door. “Last train. Go to bus.” It was English-enough to make me feel better.image

I found the bus. The passengers were sitting patiently, waiting to leave when the driver came in and yelled at an obviously gay, young, Asian passenger across the aisle from me. “Get off the bus!” He yelled something about his purse. The passengers sided with the passenger. “It’s just a purse. Just a friggin purse!” They yelled at him. the young  man held his ground. (and niggled the driver just a bit) “I’m never getting off this bus!!” Ah, I could have been in New York in the 70’s.

20 min later, I got out of the bus, took a cab driven by a tout driver who preys on tourists, ( even though my shoes DO NOT LOOK LIKE I AM A TOURIST )and, because I had no idea how far the hostel was, took him up on his offer of 20 Euros for a three or four block trip. 20. Easy come: easy go.
(Btw, it was the second time I’d been gifted a 20 dollar bill on the ground in a week!)

At the hostel the night guy said there was a problem. “What problem?” I asked nicely. I have been on the road 24 hours, I am tired, cranky and need to sleep. And, I have a reservation.”
“The hostel has been closed. I can send you to the Downtown Hostel. ” “Will you pay for it, otherwise I am not going anywhere.”
He looked at the computer and called someone. ”
“Good luck. You can sleep here tonight.”
I slept like a baby. Now I am in the Downtown Alessandro, Roma. My bed is comfortable, my belly full. Two slices of mushroom pizza-2 Euros, one half bottle of vino tinto-2.5. Huge fresh strawberries, 1.5 E. And, image
imageI found Rome’s Chinatown. See. Good luck everywhere
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