Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Ought Decade

After reading the year and decade windup in Time, Newsweek, Entertainment Weekly, and People I began to think about our own decade events.

  • 2001 was a pretty good year but it was the beginning of the end of my tenure at the #3 Telephone Company. I had a good run there and I loved the people I worked with. I was only a contractor (my choice) for them but I was employed by the smartest group of women I've ever encountered. Not only were they smart, they were also ethical and people-oriented. It was a great combination. My boss was brilliant, had a great sense of humor, and really cared about the people she employed. I have never worked with a better group of people in my life. Hubby and I bumped along. Wolfie was still alive and Fritzy had entered our lives. We were becoming very active in our church.

  • 2002 was a bonus year at the #3; one I didn't expect. But the great women I worked with saw to it that I had a little cushion of time to get my life in order before all contractors were dismissed from the company. I lasted there most of 2002 though I really didn't have a whole lot to occupy me. Hubby and I stepped up our church activities and the boys were still full of vim and vinegar. I think this is the year we formed a lasting friendship with two couples we had met while attending the UMKC Signature Series concerts (one of the best bargains in town).

  • 2003 was a year of change. The big event was the celebration of our 25th wedding anniversary with a concert to benefit our church. Wendy came from Houston, Lou showed up from Louisiana, and Hubby sang his heart out. The video of the event shows how really wonderful it was. My beloved Seville finally bit the dust and Hubby replaced it with The Tank -- a huge Cadillac and that never ran properly and made my existence miserable. My career sputtered. I got three temp jobs but none of them were satisfying. The worst was a weekend taking credit card applications over the Thanksgiving holiday at Nebraska Furniture Mart. Finally at the start of December I landed a job in construction which kept us from going to Houston to celebrate Christmas with family. It was a sad time.

  • 2004 saw me continuing my construction job. I had a great boss and I liked him so much that the drudgery of the work kept me entertained. We continued to step up our church activities and that helped. Hubby and the boys seemed to be doing fine. We resumed our Christmas holiday in Houston, vowing never again to spend our Christmases apart.

  • 2005 was dreary. The construction job had moved from its original small location to the Legends in Wyandotte County. I was now traveling 35 miles a day to and from work. The boss I had loved resigned. I was forced to give up my temp status with the company and become a permanent employee. I was so afraid of being unemployed yet again, that I agreed and this was a huge mistake on my part. I went through five insane bosses in a very short time - each one more dysfunctional than the last. My old boss helped us find a newer Cadillac to replace the dreadful Tank and the car ran a lot more smoothly. In October Wolfie, my heart dog, died. My heart broke into pieces. Though Gus came into our lives with his sweet ways and huge amber eyes, my heart refused to heal. We began to realize that our beloved church was losing ground and was in danger of dying. It was a very hard year.

  • 2006 really shook the ground on which we based our lives. First the Cadillac burned in Hubby's driveway. He replaced with a 1991 Lincoln that looked exactly like your grandfather's car -- really dreary. Except it ran like a top and never gave us a lick of trouble. Hubby nearly died from a cranial aneurysm the day after Easter. He took the rest of the year to recover. I was informed a month after his attack that my job at the construction site was ending. A dear friend at church took me in hand as I dithered about what I was going to do and insisted that I apply for a teaching position with the KCKS school district. I finally did and I was eventually hired -- at the perfect job for me in the perfect school with the perfect staff. So, though three quarters of the year had been horrible, suddenly, at the end, everything was wonderful. The only flaw in the ointment was that I needed to go to grad school to get SPED certification, but even that turned out fairly well when I enrolled in the local Pitt State campus for six hours. At Christmas Hubby performed his last big concert and it was bitter-sweet. Age and illness had taken away his power of singing, not his love of it, but his ability to sustain great music for more than a couple of songs. Still Hubby was alive, I was finally working at something I loved, and we spent Christmas with our beloved family in Houston.

  • 2007 found me hitting beginning to hit my stride in teaching. I continued taking grad courses. Hubby continued to gather strength. We found less contentment at church but continued to doggedly try to hang on to a dying situation. The boys were healthy, our friends were supportive, my career was flourishing, grade school was okay, and at Thanksgiving all the family met in Branson, taking in two concerts a day for four days. We had a blast and found we loved the resort town. We've been spending Thanksgiving there ever since.
  • 2008 was more of the same. Hubby reconnected with his biological sister in Washington, D.C. and went to visit her in the summer. Fritzy died of kidney failure and Hubby insisted we drive to Tulsa to rescue a little mite of a nearly blind Schnauzer only eight months old. Luie quickly became an integral part of our lives. Our church lives changed miserably with the retiring of our old minister and the hiring of a new one. I succumbed to every illness the children at school could pass on and lost 30 pounds in the process because I was literary too sick to eat most of the year.

  • 2009 found us doing more traveling than ever. We went to Chesapeake Bay in July to visit Sister, Branson for Thanksgiving, and Houston for Christmas. We finally left our church home, though it was a very sad occasion for us as a family. I started my fourth year of teaching and completed 24 hours of grad credit towards my SPED certification -- earning an A in every course. I continued to love everything about my job. We acquired a 1995 Lincoln to replace the 1991 one damaged in December by a tow company. We all drove to Houston for Christmas -- and it was the best one yet. Family love simply cannot be overrated.

Hubby will be 75 in 2010. I will turn 64 but have no plans to retire. Gus is now five and Luie is probably around two. We are all aging fairly well except for the bad knees and arthritis. We have friends who care for us, family who love us, and we have each other. I have a job, Hubby has his health and life. We own our home and our 1995 car. It's all good.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Relaxed

Sitting here in the computer room with snow softly falling, I'm dipping my sour dough toast covered in Christmas fig and ginger jam into Christmas cocoa. And I'm dreaming of the Houston weather. Normally I'm not a fan of Texas heat and humidity but today, with the temps hovering near 20 degrees, the wind chill around 10, the snow still piled up everywhere in the city, I'm wishing for those 70 and 80 degree days we had in Houston.
It was a spectacular Christmas holiday full of love and cheer and good times. We ate fabulous food: fresh crab in a buttery casserole, prime rib cooked to perfection, shrimp salad, fried chicken and potato salad, ambrosia with the freshest of melon and fruits, steak, barbecued beef and pork, chocolate pecan pie, key lime pie, and chocolate bundt cake. We had fantastic entertainment: a play filled with sweet music and good acting plus a warm Christmas message, the movie Avatar in spectacular 3-D at the Houston theater where dinner is served with the movie -- a treat we absolutely loved, games of Hearts, Zion-Check, and Sorry. We talked late into every night, sharing the stories of the year, our hopes and fears, and our love. We wrapped presents and then opened presents and we laughed and laughed and laughed. It was simply perfect.

The trip down to Houston was uneventful and so was the trip home until we hit northwestern Oklahoma. Seems from Miami, OK to KC there was a Christmas blizzard while we were basking in Houston heat. The ice on Highway 69 was bad. We did some white knuckle driving for awhile until we picked up Turnpike 44 over to Joplin and followed Highway 71 home. We found Kansas City still buried under drifts of snow and the side streets barely passable. Luckily our driveway had been shoveled out or we would still be parked on the street. The trash men have found the side streets impassable and thus trash is piling up from Christmas orgies of gift giving. The temperatures are very cold and last night we got a fresh layer of snow to cover the ice that had formed.
This morning Hubby ventured out to take me to the foot doctor for a check-up. Luckily we didn't have more than a mile to go and my foot is healing nicely. I need to go for one more follow up and then I should be completely cured. The doctor was not nice to me because I had not been following his orders. Seems because I have an open wound I should have been keeping it bandaged during the day and putting on the special antibiotic oil I had picked up from the pharmacy on his prescription. Except I lost the bottle the second day I had it. And I was supposed to soak the foot for 20 minutes every morning and evening and I didn't ever do that either, especially in Houston where only showers were available. But I'm a really good healer so though the doctor was concerned the foot was a bit red, it still was healing nicely even though I didn't do one thing right.
Yesterday I cleaned up the kitchen, washed all the sundry cups and glasses and odd forks we had sitting around, and we did a smattering of grocery shopping. The frig was empty by the time we left for Houston. Now we have bread and eggs and milk and mushroom soup so we can survive. I baked a frozen ham, too, and got some Swiss cheese and pepper jack for sandwiches.

Hubby has hooked up the Christmas Wii but I haven't read all the instructions yet. That's part of today's challenge. Also I've got a stack of new magazines that arrived while we were away and a new series of mystery books I've started and I can laze happily under my soft quilt, burning my many Christmas candles and cuddling with the boys.
It's good to be home but I miss the love of the Houston family and friends. It really was the most perfect of Christmases!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The 12 Joys of Our Christmas

I dislike singing the 12 Days of Christmas - and every year it seems I end up singing it somewhere. This year Hubby and I are not singing anywhere, so I thought, "Why not list the 12 Joys of Christmas" in lieu of singing that nasty song. So in no particular order: the 2009 12 Joys of Our Christmas.

1. An A grade in my grad course -- yeah! 24 hours of A now.

2. 2009 Christmas blessings at school with the kids and staff. Lots of food, happiness over the gifts, teachers satisfied with their remembrances.

3. Friends and a Hubby who support my efforts at school. Besides supplying my classroom with notebooks, index tabs, novels, and nourishing treats throughout the year, they hike into Wyandotte and celebrate Christmas with the kids.

3. Almost all the washing complete before the trip to Houston. I discovered when I finally ventured into the basement that we hadn't done the wash since Thanksgiving. Oh my! Maybe my joy should be that Hubby and I have enough underwear to last for a month without doing the wash.

4. A new car (to us) that Hubby brought home yesterday evening -- a really pretty 1995 Lincoln Town Car. I can drive it! Now that's a real joy! And right now, at this moment, the car is pristine beautiful! With two dogs and a Hubby who thinks that a car is only utilitarian, it won't stay that way -- so I better get out there and take pictures NOW!

5. Two little boys who bring both Hubby and me so much love and delight. Gussie, the little guy who doesn't jump, managed this morning to claw his way into the bed (he jumped, he slipped, he clawed like mad -- and made the top of the mattress) just so he could cuddle with his mama. Luie's eyes are doing do well and right now he is functioning on all cylinders.

6. A trip to Houston where all dogs and humans will be welcomed with open arms.

7. Friends and family in Houston who go all out to make Christmas a jolly event. Before Christmas a lobster and prime rib dinner is being held in our honor!

8. Employment! It's wonderful to have a job that is rewarding.

9. Employment in a beautiful school working with the most talented people I've ever encountered. The SPED department at Wyandotte High absolutely rocks!
10. My computer friends -- I may never see you but you bring so much joy into my life. Technology has made my world so much better.

11. Good health for both Hubby and me. My foot is healing perfectly. Hubby is alive and well. Last night I got the start of the stomach flu (all the miserable symptoms -- and spend two hours in the bathroom bemoaning my fate) and suddenly, the symptoms were gone. Today I'm tired and my tummy is a bit queasy, but I'm not going to have to eat chicken soup all through our Christmas trip (bring on the lobster!).

12. The resources to have a good life and share it with others.
Our home -- our family -- our boys -- our friends -- these are the most important joys in our lives.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Success

Our holiday celebration was, to put it mildly, a rousing success. The kids had a great time. They ate and drank and opened presents -- and talked with each other and kept their computers shut and their music off (mainly). They acted like adults.

When we ran out of girl gifts, the girls gladly accepted boy gifts. When the pregnant girl, who had just been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, got a bag of candy and a tool, she quietly announced to the boy next to her that she could not eat the candy or take the tool home. She was under court order to live in a group home and they would consider the screwdriver set a weapon. So the girl on the other side of her said she would gladly trade her stuffed animal and her sunglasses for the screwdrivers because she had always thought having something around the house to use to repair things would be "neat." And the trade was made. When I asked the other girl, who got a flashlight and a screwdriver what she would do with them, she said her dad could use the tools to help fix the old car they had in the driveway and maybe then she could drive it -- "It's all good, Mrs. Hubby."
The freshman girl being given the stuffed dog (who when you petted him moved his ears and forelegs) was the last to be gifted. She thought, of course, that she was being left out of the celebration and she was struggling mightily not to cry. She's a very strange child, usually friendless -- and the others, who are pretty strange themselves on bad days, tolerate her but think she's weird. We waited until all the gifts were given, then asked if she remembered what she said was the ONLY thing she wanted for Christmas but could never have - and she screamed out "A puppy!" So she was sent on a hunt for the dog and when she found him (the kids pointed the way for her) she was so delighted. She got that dog out of the box and walked around having everyone pet him. She explained he needed a name and then she cradled him like a baby and that's when she discovered that pushing his tummy caused the movement and she was beyond happy. She left the room, dog clutched in her arms, wearing the biggest smile we've ever seen.

When our guests of honor arrived, they class cheered. They offered up notes of appreciation and a gift that they had arranged before hand -- NOT my arrangement, but theirs. When the principal showed up they made small talk. When the SPED administration showed up, they made small talk with them.

They ate until they were full but they did not eat up everything. In every single instance, they left a little of something on a platter. With the spaghetti they left enough for the Health Community staff to have lunch after them.

And they cleaned up. When third period ended, without my saying a word, two boys and five girls stayed behind. The boys moved back all the extra chairs to the staff room. The girls got out the trash bags and made sure all the plates and cups and wrappings were disposed of. We had moved all the desks into conversational groupings and now they put everything back into my four desk groups. We had set up the food in the community staff room right across the hall from me and once the staff had eaten they completely cleaned that room.

They gave me a round of applause at the end of the gifting. They sent Hubby lots of love and kisses. And they beamed with delight as they carried their gift bags away. And teen after teen hugged me and personally thanked me. It was a sweet ending to a lovely celebration.
I am beyond exhausted.

It's All Good

The foot feels wonderful! It's too bad I was so scared / busy to take care of the problem earlier. I assumed, based on past experience, that the cure was going to be at least as awful as the problem -- and for a couple of days much worse. Instead, just as the doctor promised, there was nearly no pain involved at all. My foot never hurt worse in the last 24 hours than the pain caused by the original problem. When Hubby helped me remove the huge bandage tonight so I could soak the foot and add the required medicated drops, I had no pain at all. None. I could see only slight bruising and the actual incision site looked clean and healing.

Also got through my last class tonight. Made the final presentation and heaved one huge sigh of relief.

At school today (Thursday) the kids assembled the faculty gift boxes -- 15 total. The theme this year was "Happy to be Home" and we had cookbooks, soup mixes, Godiva chocolates, Christmas ornaments, and calendars for everyone -- as well as really special fancy boxes to arrange the items in. The school psychologist said every time she saw one of my kids today they were just glowing.

Friday we do the celebration lunch -- Hubby has made a huge vat of spaghetti, the 40 gift packages are arranged under the tree, and we are set to entertain outside guests and selected members of the administration -- as well as the kids themselves.

Yes, I'm tired. But all this effort is worth it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ouch!

We spent the morning trying to work out something with the Lincoln. Hubby had it completely overhauled all through November and into December. We got to drive it for a week -- and that car was running so smooth and sweet and I even thought maybe I could drive it. But then something went wrong with the solenoid and the car started only sporadically. Once at Walgreens we had to call Triple A and get it started and then in front of the mechanics house (not his garage) Hubby had to call to get the car towed to the garage. Except they sent a brand new employee who loaded the car onto the flatbed, chained it down, and drove down the street where the Lincoln rolled off the flatbed onto Prospect Blvd -- kerplunk. Bent the frame, forced the right side tires sideways, and moved the entire engine forward (or maybe it was backward) a couple of inches. Now we have the insurance to deal with . . . and you know that no one is happy in this situation. The Lincoln is already super old, though the mileage is still reasonable considering (it's a 1991) and it did just get a new engine and many new parts. Hubby loves the car and is really holding out for a good offer from the tow company. So far out insurance company has been backing us.

In 45 minutes I trudge over to the foot / ankle specialist to get my MRSA looked at -- and I'm imagining the worst. I bet they decide to "cut" something -- on my foot -- involving needles and bruising and soreness. I've worked myself into a lather over it, of course. I'm hoping for the best - but deep down I'm expecting the very worst.

This just hasn't been my day. Insurance dickering and now doctoring. And I had to take a sick day from school to do it all.

Meanwhile we're driving around in the van Hubby purchased from the widow across the street who sold it to us after her hubby died this summer. The van has 250,000 miles on it -- a quarter of a million miles. My goodness. That's some mileage! Hubby has had all the joints refurbished and a tune up done -- s0 the van, though way too huge for me to drive safely -- runs pretty good so far. I just don't want it to be the only vehicle we have to get around in. Hopefully the garage's insurance will offer up a nice little settlement and we can begin the horror of looking for another Lincoln in as good a shape as ours was.
_____________________________________________
7 p.m. Oh yes! The podiatrist took one look and got out the needles (4 of 'em), the scalpel, and the bandages. And two hours later he was done and I was hobbled.
Now I need a bath. And my hair washed. So I figured I'd put the foot in a baggie, seal it up, and just hop in the tub. Except at my age and girth I no longer hop anywhere. I got my right (the good one) foot in the tub and then realized the only way I could sit down was to put the left foot in, too -- or fall straight backwards into the tile. I stood there one-legged awhile, contemplating my predicament and then got out and pulled the plug. I'm not willing to unwrap the darned foot until tomorrow -- when I've been ordered to soak it and put "drops" on it that cost me an arm and a leg at the pharmacy (but not a foot, of course).

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Destruction

Little Luie is nearly two years old. In dog years he's nearly an adult. He's behaving in more adult ways, too. He almost never has accidents indoors anymore unless his humans aren't being vigilant. He speaks his mind (Schnauzers DO talk -- just ask their owners) and lets you know his wants and wishes. He no longer chews up expensive shoes and more expensive eyeglasses or burrows in the trash unless . . .

And it's the unless that catches you off guard. Leave him home alone and everything in the house is fair game. Take him in the car, though, even if you must leave him alone for a couple of hours and he's fine. Gussie, of the even temperament and the innate desire to be the "good boy" never destroys anything -- his, Luie's or ours. But Luie, if left to his devices, has a natural curiosity he simply can't seem to control.

It's been cold here, bitterly cold. So the boys have had to stay home if we venture out places they can't go. The Chinese dinner last night was just such an occasion. I had carefully moved the kitchen trash to the top of the stove -- a place a blind Schnauzer cannot reach even on his best day. And we left for a two hour dine and chat with dear friends.

On our return, Luie had appropriated the stuffed Schnauzers from the top of the living room couch but otherwise the kitchen, living room, and bedroom were in neat array. Then I entered the computer room where I had stacked (on the floor -- but atop a huge pile of presents), the addressed Christmas cards, the still to be addressed Christmas cards, the printed Christmas letters, and on top of that -- a huge 10 pound box of chocolates we had found in Branson to give to one of the faculty members. Luie had lunged at the pile until he had toppled it. I'm sure the toppling must have scared him silly -- he'd not be sure what had fallen on him. But he quickly found that most of it was calendars and paper so he happily set to tearing off the cellophane on the calendars and rooting around among the cards until he smelled the chocolate.

Chocolate to most dogs is lethal -- AND addictive like crack cocaine. They crave it -- but can't stand it in their systems. When we opened the door on arriving home the house was strangely silent. Two wiggling, wagging, jumping boys were not there to greet us -- it took about 30 seconds before they both charged the door. Luie had just reached the stage on the chocolate box where he managed to get all the cellophane removed and had finally made inroads on the cardboard container -- BUT he not yet reached a single chocolate.

We helplessly looked at the disaster that was the computer room -- Christmas cards strewn everywhere, 10 calendars for teachers all unwrapped, and a 10 pound box of chocolates with the ends chewed off and the chocolate just peaking out. I sighed and began picking up the pieces. Hubby took the boys for a little walk and Luie pranced outside like he was king of the household.

It was a good thing we hadn't had dessert with our dinner. We each ate chocolates for a bedtime snack.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

10 - 9 - 8

Well, Christmas IS more than ten days away, but our countdown has begun. Once the grad papers were typed, printed, and submitted (one to submit but it's written) then we could start Christmas preparations in earnest.

I spent the morning doing Christmas cards. I had thought I wouldn't bother this year. But I love the cards we still do get so much. I also love picking out the perfect card. I'm not so found of writing the cards and composing the letter. But once again, when I get a beautiful card with just a signature inside, I always feel disappointed. This year so far we've only gotten three cards, and of those, one came with a letter and pictures. The second card had a sweet drawing inside. The third was just a signature. I always feel so let-down when I don't learn about family news. So I sorted through the cards I purchased last year and I thought long and hard about the Christmas letter. In the end I went with a collage of photos from the year -- I think grad school had written me out. Then I began the assembly -- choose card, sign with simple message, fold letter (picture collage), seal, insert, stick on address label and return label and stamp. Repeat. This is truly a labor of love. I know that e-cards are more eco-friendly and gaining in popularity but it's just not the same opening e-mail as finding a creamy (or crimson) envelop in my mailbox and inside that a velum paper card with sparkles on it.

We started celebrating with a warm, loving and tasty Chinese share-all supper with dear friends tonight. We had the dinner for four or more (five in attendance) at the local Chinese eatery and we caught up and shared stories. Always a good way to start off the holiday countdown.

The presents are purchased, just not assembled into gift bags and sorted by person. The faculty gifts will be dragged into school on Monday and Tuesday so the kids can make gift baskets to distribute. Hubby is creating the "kid" gifts for every student from the presents we purchased in Branson and throughout the year. Some of my kids wouldn't have a Christmas without the little trinkets we give at school -- this way everybody has something to open.

On Friday we host a spaghetti lunch for the kids. Hubby brings in the main course and the kids bring what they can -- usually lots and lots of sweets, but it's the last day before the winter vacation so what's a little sugar high?

Over the following weekend we assemble Houston gifts but I wrap things in Houston. I've learned that unwrapped presents take up a lot less room in the car than protecting all that gift wrapping from snoopy dogs. On Monday we get the rental car, stop the mail, throw enough clothes for a week into the car along with the requisite gifts -- and we're off.

The time frame seems very short with lots to do. We may need to mainline the gin and tonic while singing along with "White Christmas" to make it through.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Kaput!

I just typed the last few phrases into my next to final paper for grad class. Whew! I feel so relieved. It only ran 30 pages -- I thought it might go longer. I have one form to send home from my school computer to paste into the adendum and I'm all wrapped up. The final-final presentation is already in the can -- created, printed, and copies run for the class (because we have to stand up and present the dang things). This time around I'm not sweating out the grades -- so far I have 100% in the class, so even if I blow this final paper, I should be okay.

I'm not taking a spring course. Instead I'm concentrating of building curriculum for the two English classes I'm teaching. Spring semester will be English 1 second block and English 2 fourth block. The English 2 class is pretty large but I know a lot of the kids already so that will help. The English 1 class will be the pain in the patoot. These are really, really low Special Ed kids and I'm not the most patient of people. I may need to take up meditation. I'll also be collaborating in American History.


Our weather is blasting cold air. We were predicted to have a heavy snow, once again the really awful weather skirted us and we only got a misting. I'm going to have to dig out the thermals for tomorrow morning at 5 a.m. though.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Never Post When You're Tired -- and the Osmonds Get Me Readers

Yes! To every responder from the last post.

Yes. I do not recall the exact first name of the any of the Osmond Brothers from the Branson show -- and I didn't look them up. The only one I know is Donny. And Maria but she's not a brother. And they both were in Vegas. Not in Branson.

Yes. Rolls are NOT roles. Silly me. You eat rolls. The Osmond who came for the rolls did play a role in the show. I clearly do not know his name. He had white hair. A lot of it.

Interesting to have so many anonymous readers. I never knew . . . I don't keep stats, I have no idea how many times this poor little blog is accessed, and lately I haven't been posting. I write only for me and the "family" so if you happen along, please respond nicely. My feelings get hurt easily (NOT!). Actually, just finding responses is kind of cool. So write anything you want. I've been teaching for 26 years now -- my hide is so tough I can't even see the slings and arrows, much less feel 'em.

No posts lately because grad school is kicking my butt. Big time. It's awful the amount of work required in the last four weeks of this semester. Up to now things haven't been bad and so, of course, I should have been doing the work all along (writing massive papers) but I wasn't and I haven't and I didn't . . . and now I'm overwhelmed. I did the final, final paper for a final presentation over the weekend but I have a huge project due on Thursday. The final presentation is due a week from Thursday. I'm not so worried about the grade this time -- I've gotten 100% on everything so far.

Last Friday I got diagnosed with a mild case of MRSA. My doc says he's been seeing a whole lot of these skin infections lately. I've got a referral somewhere to a specialist to have the offending problem looked at . . . but I've got to get this grad stuff done first and I've misplaced the referral. The infected area is on my foot so I just can't wear pretty shoes -- which I don't do anyway anymore and it only hurts when something touches it.

The school kids are hyped for Christmas. We put up the classroom tree and strung the fairy lights everywhere and we plan a big party for the last week -- with the 20 boys. Should be interesting . . .

We've read over half of Huck Finn and boys are really into it. They can even identify irony now without a prompt. That's a real achievement!

The Houston presents are ready for Christmas travel if I can just remember where they all are stashed when we're packing the car. Thank goodness sister-in-law does all the decorating. That WOULD be the last straw.

So mea culpa on the previous post. I'm NOT fixing it. The comments about it were just too priceless . . .Happy Holidays everyone!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Pizza's On Order and We're Home Again

We just called Waldo Pizza for the yummiest veggie pizza in the world -- and though it will take 95 minutes to get here we know it's worth the wait. We also just pulled into the driveway from a Thanksgiving holiday in Branson -- and man! did we have fun!

We left Wednesday morning pretty early (before 9 a.m.) and stopped at IHop for some festive pancakes before hitting Highway 71. The road trip to Branson was uneventful and we arrived around before 1 p.m. Checked into our motel -- a new one for us called The Windmill -- and found our pet-friendly room. We liked the motel quite a lot and will stay there again. Then we picked up our tickets for the three shows we decided to see and went and found an A&W Root Beer joint in the outlet mall where we were spying out Black Friday bargains and had a super dog with suds.


After a little nap (I seem to need naps nearly every day) we drove over to the Osmonds Theater where we had dinner with Maurice, the lead Osmond singer. Well, actually we had the dinner and he showed up to cage a couple of dinner roles. The meal was surprisingly good and Hubby really lapped up the beef tips, chicken, baked potato and fixings. We watched a video of the Osmonds' lives though dinner which we thoroughly enjoyed. My dad had loved the Osmond Brothers on the Andy Williams show in the early '60's so it was a trip down nostalgia lane for me. The show which began at 8 p.m. was the best of the trip -- clearly the Osmonds have become a world class act and know how to reach out to their audience. Their voices, like Andy Williams himself, are not the best anymore but their harmonies are still top notch and they put on a super delightful show. For the last three years they have been touring so this is their first time back in Branson for a Christmas show.

Thanksgiving Day in Branson is shopping time. Almost all the mini-malls are open and one of the Outlet Malls opens at noon. We had a little turkey buffet and did a lot of shopping, especially at the dollar stores. We filled the trunk with little Christmas stocking stuffers for my kids at school. Also I bought a red suit at my favorite store.

That evening we took in the relatively new show Pierce Arrow. It was okay but kind of fulfilled the Branson stereotype of "redneck" entertainment. The music was fair but the comedy, which it's known for, is geared to the conservative hick living in Missouri and though Hubby managed to laugh, mostly I felt insulted.

Friday we hit the other Outlet Mall and I got some wonderful Christmas presents for the sister-in-law in Houston -- and her brother. Plus I bought a Christmas present for me to have Hubby give me on Christmas Day. We did a 3 p.m. show called the Spirit of Christmas which I had wanted to see for three years and it was AWFUL! Taped singing, poor dancing -- just bad. So we left at intermission and ambled out to the Target which Hubby wanted to shop at -- while I did the Dollar Tree and got 26 items at a buck each for my classroom.

Saturday we got up at 8, pack up and ambled down 65 to the Osage Beach Outlet Mall -- because clearly we had NOT done enough shopping. We had rented a Grand Marquis (full size luxury car) for the trip -- and by the time we were driving out of Osage Beach to go home, the trunk of the car was overflowing into the backseat and the dogs were balancing on several big boxes.
It was a great holiday and a wonderful respite from the daily grind. And the Houston crowd is going to have the BESTEST Christmas EVER! Really!








Sunday, November 01, 2009

Day Tripping, Paper Writing, and Plumbing

Friday was a "non-duty" day for my school district so I spend it laboring over a grad paper that was actually due on Thursday -- but I got permission to turn it in a day late. I hope it also wasn't a "dollar short."

Saturday morning dawned another beautiful day in the Midwest, just the right touch of crisp in the air, leaves pretty well gone due to heavy rain during the week but now just a little cloud cover. We headed out, once again, for a good breakfast and then Hubby took the notion to drive to Lawrence. We used to go frequently when they had a thriving Outlet Mall but that is now a thing of the past.

We ambled up Highway 10 past the Haskell Institution, the Indian College just outside of Lawrence. We drove around the town center for a bit and let me remember my dad who had been born in Lawrence, lived there during his early childhood, and proudly went back to attend KU in 1920. My family drove to Colorado nearly every summer and we never went by Lawrence without singing the KU fight song full voice. Dad was very proud to have been a Jay Hawker.

Lawrence is exactly like the charming college town one would expect. The main drag is lined with trendy shops and ethnic restaurants. The population is either very young and funky or old and professional. The houses are circa 1850 and up. There are lots of apartments. There are two major cemeteries and all that I know of my father's family is buried in one of them.

We drove the main drag, inspected the city parks, and then headed out of town when Hubby went by the Half Price Bookstore. These are usually in outlet malls in the Midwest -- and I hadn't been in one in over a year. Hubby pulled in -- and I entered a fantasy land. This was different from any mall outlet store I'd ever been inside. This store sold everything a book lover could desire -- and stuff we never dreamed of.

You know all that expensive stuff that clutter the counters in Borders and Barnes & Noble? The stuff you admire, know you don't need, wish you could buy, but can't afford? Well, this store must buy up the stuff that doesn't sell - and then they price it at $2 to $5. And now you CAN afford it -- even when you know you DON'T need it.

An hour later and $100 poorer, I finally tore myself away because Hubby and the boys were waiting patiently in the car for me. I had boxes of Christmas cards, fabulous Cd's, a day planner, boxes of assorted greeting cards, five books, and Christmas presents for Houston crowd. I toted three heavily packed bags to the car -- and promised Hubby that Lawrence needed to become a regular jaunt once again.

Today we enjoyed the extra hour of sleep. Then I spend an hour in the kitchen, cooking up Hubby's favorite meal which will last us through most of the week. The laundry needed to be done -- and thankfully is mostly caught up now -- but right in the middle of the afternoon the water heater sprung a huge leak from the bottom. We've been mopping up every since. So, while I'm off teaching next week, Hubby will be plumbing. Such are the joys of married life.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Entertainment

Yesterday was a beautiful Saturday -- clear blue sky, trees in full color, temps crisp but not cold. We slept well and got up to go find plates of scrambled eggs, French toast, and bacon / sausage at our favorite breakfast bar. Then the boys romped in the park. We all felt fine.

Hubby suggested a movie so I checked online and our favorite local movie megaplex was showing the The Metropolitan Opera live performance of Aida. Projected on the big screen in Staller Center’s Main Stage Theater, performances are shown in high definition with Dolby Digital surround sound. I have never seen the Verdi opera. Hubby thought I might not really like it, but agreed that $20 a ticket was a fair price and four hours spent at the opera might be a good way to spend the afternoon, so off we went.

Dressed in our sweat pants and Obama sweat shirts, we loaded up on Goobers and fresh popped buttery corn along with a huge soda, and we settled in for one of the most enjoyable afternoons ever. The theater was nearly full, though I admit the patrons were all on the old side. I don't think there were any in the audience under 50 except for a couple of grandkids that had tagged along. Some had gotten pizza to munch during the performance, many had sodas, but on the whole this was a very serious audience who appeared to be regular attendees at these live performances.

Renee Fleming does the "backstory" -- she fills in the intermission with great tidbits about the opera itself, and interviews the stars. Before the show opens and during the intermissions, the film crew shows us sets being constructed and props placed. It was only during the last 45 minutes or so that either Hubby or I began to squirm in our seats, simply because we were tired of sitting. Otherwise the movie production and the opera itself was riveting.

Violeta Urmana stars in the title role of the enslaved Ethiopian princess, with Dolora Zajick as her rival. Johan Botha, the South African tenor, plays Radam├Ęs, commander of the Egyptian army, and Daniele Gatti was the conductor. Interesting, especially from Hubby's point of view, both Violeta and Johan started careers singing in other vocal ranges: Violeta was a metso and Johan was a baritone. Hubby oved the Johan interview because he gave voice to many of his own memories of vocal training. Dolora Zajick, though, stole the stage from everyone else. She had played the Egyptian princess over 250 times and she could both sing and act the part to draw the audience into her feelings and motivation. My favorite interviews were with the "supers" -- those people who just come onstage to fill it up. One man was an attorney, another had his own business in health care management, and the woman made her living as a full time extra on the Met stage.

Though I had heard the Aida march many times, I never realized that what I was hearing was FROM Aida -- and yes! the staging, even without the elephants, was wonderful. I loved the second act very much. The stage was filled to capacity with all manner of visual treats, including live horses -- and the full voiced chorus was beautiful.

The opera began at noon, had two intermissions, and was over just before 4 p.m. The next showing is Turnadot in two weeks and I don't think we're up for another four hours so soon, but Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss in January might be just "the ticket."

I feel bad that I don't really want to attend live performances of opera here in Kansas City. I really enjoyed this movie version, which speaks badly, I'm sure, of my true interest in opera. But it was so easy to understand Aida with the huge translation at the bottom of the screen and the camera kept me focused on the parts I should be watching instead of what I usually do at live opera -- watch to see if the guy in the back who's hat is on crooked is going to keep it on or will lose it and trip of the dancers in the supporting ballet. Plus I could clearly see the details of the costumes and the staging -- and when the beauty of the music lagged for me, I was visually thrilled the entire time. And finally -- seeing opera in sweat pants with a box of Goopers is, honestly, the best way to view a four hour spectacle.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Death

We were notified today that a teacher who had been having health problems last year and then let go at the end of the year died over the weekend. She was only in her 40's.

Last year she got the flu. The flu turned into pneumonia. The pneumonia turned into respiratory failure, followed by some kind of stroke-like episode, leaving her a pale shadow of the once out-going woman we had know and admired. Her last semester at school had been agonizing. Sometimes she wasn't sure where she was and would leave her classroom and wander the halls until an administrator would find her and take back to her room. She could no longer handle disciplining the kids and they ran rough-shod over her at every turn. Whether she could still handle the curriculum is also debatable. I'm not sure. I do know that it was mutually agreed that at the end of the year she wasn't capable of returning to our high school.

This fall she worked at a private academy. They seemed to appreciate her and work around her "episodes" of mental wanderings. No one expected, though, that she would not have long to live. The news today that she had died was just shocking!

My own mortality has suddenly been imperiled.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fit as a Fiddle

It took a long, long time but suddenly this week I got "all better now." Thank god!

August and September were perfectly horrible months for health. Once that dreadful stomach flu sapped all my energy, I just vegged. Yes, I went to school (most days). Yes, I went to grad classes (every meeting). But weekends I collapsed. Every night required a nap before dinner (when I could eat dinner) and then at least six hours of dead-to-the-world sleep. And every day it took every ounce of my strength just to get my hips to move my legs and my legs to carry my body around and my brain to make some semblance of sense. This went on week after week after week.

But now -- finally -- things seem much more normal. Naps are NOT absolutely necessary. They are still welcome but I CAN stay awake for eight hours without keeling over. I can function minimally on the weekends. We met friends last night for dinner and a lovely concert. I didn't need to spend all day in bed just to make it to the dinner.

Last Sunday I managed to get the 2.5 month hair-cut and perm. I've managed to load up the summer clothes (if not get them downstairs yet) on the couch to make room for sweaters and long sleeves and locate the trash bag of happy pants for fall. I've done minimal grocery shopping and no cooking -- but then how would Chinese restaurants subsist if we all started cooking every meal?

Maybe I can even check in here now and again and write a small entry.

On that note, for family and dog friends -- Gus is turning five this week. Little, tiny Gus -- the sweet boy who came to us a week after Wolfie died. And yes, this weekend is the 4th anniversary of Wolfie's death. I will always miss him -- but the tears are more sweet than bitter now. And Gus is such a dear, gentle, loving little boy. Happy Yapday, my love!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Crash and Burn?

In the month (almost) since I've had the energy to check in here, life has gone on . . . and on. . . and on. The flu has struck and laid me low, including three days away from school. Grad class has held two sessions. The plumbing at home has stopped up. The weather has been ridculously cool for August / early September. My mother had her 84th birthday which went uncelebrated by me, at least. My students settled down. My work load increased. And I've been tired. So very, very tired.

The flu caused both humiliation and vast seas of misery in my life -- it all struck below the waist, so the less said about that the better. The indignity of my repeated bouts of desparation should only exist in one's imagination. I'm still unable to eat. Chicken soup has been the staple in our house, along with huge, chilled bottles of 7-Up.

Labor Day was spent trying to recover from the flu but I was so dehydrated by that time, that even tepid water caused a bad reaction.

The kids at school have been great. They listened as required to Obama's education speech, even through all the technical difficulties we had accessing it. They have helped me survive in the classroom this week, even though I've barely been able to stand up straight.

I love collaborating in Physical Science and only wish I had the energy to do it justice. The teacher is so encouraging and positive and never makes anyone feel stupid, no matter how many times he has to explain how to figure out atomic structure.

I hate departmental meetings. H A T E! Nothing is more soul stealing than an hour spent making smart goals and trying to decide how to weight gradebooks. This is the first year I'm stuck in them -- and after only a couple I feel bowed with the weight of every dry tome Herman Melville ever wrote. Bah!

Inside the walls of my classroom, though, life is pretty and harmonious and riveting. I just wish that school politics and community building and departmental expectations could be eliminated.

I have four huge projects due for my grad class but except that they are to be presented creatively, I think they can be completed within the timeframes allotted. There is a fair amount of reading along with class, but the text book is not awful (damning with faint praise, I know).

I've watched every episode of NCIS from the beginning of the series. I'm now watching Crossing Jordan. I tried Stargate but, honestly, except for Eureka, sci fi is just not my bag. Luckily, every once in a while Joan of Arcadia is repeated on A&E (I think) and I've got them all recorded, too. I love my DVR. I love a good TV show.

Until my energy levels come back up, I probably won't be around here much. But I'll be thinking about writing. Too bad we don't have an apparatus that can just record thoughts . . .

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Is It Because I'm Tired?

Damn! I held to my good intentions for the last three years -- and in year four I blow it. Well, hopefully not big time, but blown, none the less.

My goal this second round of teaching was to stay out of trouble and off every administrator's radar range. I'd tilted at my windmills, I'd fought the good fight -- and in so doing I'd left education in 1990 after 22 years of teaching. This time I was doing it differently.

Until Friday morning.

The school Alma Mater song is short and dull - but loud. It starts off "Wyandotte forever, we'll be true to thee" and never gets much beyond that actually. Our principal, good intentioned I'm sure, played it through one time every single morning last year - over the intercom system.


The song was recorded from her computer and it was of the girls' choir singing the song with a piano accompaniment. The playback was from her computer at full volume to the intercom turned full volume. The sound was awful. Every morning at seven a.m. this song blasted through the hallways of an empty school except for staff.

I could understand playing the song for the students -- but for the staff? The staff requested the practice be eliminated this year. The principal gave her reasons for continuing to play the song. The alumni had heard it once and told her it meant the "world" to them that the song was still around. Also, the song is to build a "family" spirit for the staff and students.

This year for the last two weeks the song has been played at ear-splitting volume not just once but three times every single morning. Friday morning at 7 a.m. she played it four times.

F O U R freakin' times. It reacts on my eardrums exactly like fingernails on a chalkboard.

I lost my mind. I went crazy. I got so angry that if you could have seen me, steam would have been rolling not just out of my ears but from my mouth, nose, eyeballs, and out the top of my head.

So I sent an e-mail. I did title it "Heartfelt Request" but I was still very angry when I composed the e-mail. I had some sensibilities left and I did re-read and try to temper the worst language out of it -- and it did occur to me that it was NOT in my best interest to send the note off -- but then I thought about Monday morning - and maybe we'd be hearing that god-awful song FIVE times and I pushed send. I still had sense enough to avoid requesting she stop playing the song altogether -- I merely asked that she turn the volume way, way down so the sound was not so distorted.

The problem is -- I really have followed my rule of "being invisible" to the staff. I stay way up in my third floor classroom and do my job. The admin doesn't have to deal with discipline problems from me. I'm a good teacher and can impress "wildly" when / if an admin needs to visit to see me teaching -- but because my students aren't creating disturbances, nobody ever needs to visit. Even for the required observations (really). I invite the admin to my special classroom events and they come, meet the students for five minutes and go away. My room is pretty -- if you stop by and glance in the door, everyone remarks that they would like to spend time there. It is always neat and clean and full of sunshine -- even on gloomy days. My door is always open and my kids are always engaged in learning -- not always quiet but working at normal sound levels for students actively participating in the learning process.

I am always early to school - by at least 30 minutes, usually more. I stay in my classroom when the kids are there. I am not absent unless I'm sick. I go to the meetings I'm required to attend.
But. I do not join committees. I don't volunteer. I don't go to sporting events this time around. Bleacher seats hurt my back and Hubby's knees. I don't want to hang around school after 3 p.m. I don't offer to tutor gen ed students. I don't toot my own horn. I don't brag about my accomplishments. I don't party with any of the staff members. I don't carry gossip and I don't take sides in faculty feuds. I really have tried to stay off the radar screen.

Until this year. Last year the SPED department asked me to pilot and teach a new English class for SPED kids. Somehow the Language Arts coordinator got wind of the class and because I wasn't attending the English curriculum meetings, his nose got out of joint. He went to my SPED department, our administration, and finally to downtown about the classes. This year when I still showed up on the schedule with even more kids, I got wind of his discontent. Ever since I've been trying to "build bridges" between the English teachers and me by providing them proof that my work actually does dovetail nicely with theirs. In fact, I've been sharing my curriculum with them and agreeing to develop some lesson plans for them. Right now things seem to be smoothed over.

But I have become a blip on the administration radar screens. Hopefully not a big one - but now I've sent off a complaining e-mail. So -- when I finally surface, I've done so in two negative ways right at the very beginning of school.

Darn it!
The response from the principal to my e-mail was very cryptic: point taken. I'm hoping this does not mean that I'm the one actually "on the point" -- and skewered.




Thursday, August 20, 2009

It's ONLY the First Week?

Tomorrow, thank the lord, is Friday. I'm just holding it together physically until I can be rolled home Friday evening and fall into bed. I don't intend to get up until Sunday -- evening.

Teaching is wonderfully satisfying but never let anybody ever say it isn't a physical activity. This year, even more so, with my schedule.

I have co-taught in social studies second block for the last three years but really in name only. I love the social studies teacher but being in his room for 90 minutes drove me nuts and my need to verbalize with my kids drove him nuts, so contrary to actual district policy I did "pull-outs" with the students. I taught a group in my room with students that benefited from lots of interaction and he did "quiet seat work" in his room. We were both happy. In my room I have it set up so I can work with up to 10 students without having to move around on my feet constantly.

This year, however, we (okay, he decided) that we would have a "protected" classroom. He is fluent in Spanish and is a certified ESL teacher and I know how to teach "slower" students. So second block we have a 23 students who need lots and lots of interaction. He gets credit with admin for meeting student needs and they get special funding for our work and we no longer do "pull-out" sessions where we separate the kids because everybody is pretty much on the same level. This means that I'm on my feet for at least 60 of the 90 minute period, moving between desks and doing my "interaction" thing. The kids benefit -- I know that. But by 10:30, I'm already tired.

My 110 minute third block English group can be paced a little more evenly. I have the room set up so I can use my rolling chair (a desk chair with wheels) in the center of the room and I can get to everybody without having to always stand up and walk around. During my oral readings I sit. Tomorrow I'm stealing three more student desks from the first floor with the help of my guys and then we will be even more "comfortable" in my class. Right now I'm short two student desks but with the addition of three even I can sit comfortably with the students when I need to.

The 90 minute fourth block is split between my classroom and the physical science room. This is the first time since my first year in the building that I've tried collaborating with science. We have a new, young, energetic teacher who seems to like kids and is willing to do a true collaboration (which is different than co-teaching) and he has agreed to take the health community SPED kids and make modifications to his curriculum. I'm working with him three days a week for 45 minutes to help him out. Today during his class period, my first in his class, we had a fire drill. Down three floors (six flights of stairs), stand outside for ten minutes, back up the six flights of concrete stairs. Then it was move around lab tables for the next 30 minutes, bending down to help students take notes and learn vocabulary.

By the time I hit my own final literacy study hall for 45 minutes, all I could do was sit in my rolling chair and gasp. Luckily these kids are the ones going to the vo-tech school, so they had work they needed help with and I didn't have to initiate a lesson.

I explained to Hubby on the way home that there was no enticement in the world that could get me to go anyway other than home to bed. Obama could send his jet and limo to get me to the White House for a state dinner and if I had to walk onto the plane, off the plane, and from the limo to the White House -- I'd refuse to go. I simply didn't have any strength left.

Next week grad classes start -- 7 to 9 p.m. I'm not sure how I'm going to make it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Man Thing

Walked into my combined junior / senior English class to find: 16 male faces and only 5 females. Shocking!

Collaborating with the Health Community I usually get girls, lots and lots of girls. Girls with attitude. Girls gossiping. Girls needing the bathroom every 15 minutes. Girls with boy trouble, girl friend trouble, and parent trouble.

If I saw a boy, he was usually a man by the time I got hold of him. Last year's junior / senior mix had 10 girls and 4 men.

But this year they are boys. Sweet faced, gentle, responsive, courteous. No back biting. No gossip. Just lovely, even-tempered boys.

My planned lessons have gone out the window. I'm digging up sci-fi, Huck Finn, Poe, and war stories.

So far these sweethearts have been receptive to nursery rhymes, cartoon drawing, and actually learning the vocabulary words first time around.

I LOVE it!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

First Week Successes

The first week of school went smoothly -- of course, we only had students on Friday and then only freshmen for their orientation day. Still, I'm heaving a sigh that many things were accomplished:

Juniors and seniors were in the building to provide most of the interaction with the freshmen on Friday; they trained for three days prior to meeting the incoming students. That meant we had students around and about and with them came their brothers and sisters, which for me meant that one of my senior boys was available and willing to help me set up my room. All the heavy labor -- and there was a lot of it -- was done by him. I'm forever grateful!


  • My room looks nice. My kid did a herculean job of moving furniture and desks. We got everything out of storage and set back up and while I orchestrated, he pushed and shoved. We even have a reading corner in the room this year. The frig is cleaned, turned on and chilling and my boy even got the clock set on the microwave.

  • My SPED presentation on Tuesday to the entire secondary SPED staff went well. I managed to be brief and sound intelligent at the same time.

  • I worked with the English department at my school but avoided the all-district English meeting and hopefully can avoid them in the future. I'm trying to align myself with the reading crew for all-district meetings.

  • I tried making "nice-nice" with the English coordinator because it seems he has gone to the district level to complain about my teaching an English class. Luckily my SPED coordinator is always in my corner but this means I'll have to tread with diplomacy and tact throughout the year with the English teachers. I think my plans for matching their benchmarking have so far been successful. When I presented them at their meeting and gave a copy to the Instructional Coordinator (IC) they reported back to my coordinator that they were very "happy and impressed" with our current level of cooperation. This means, of course, that I'll have to be willing to meet with them often and put on a positive face, and honestly, I'm not much of a bridge-builder, but in this cause I'll try my best.

  • I have a plan for the first day of school. Admittedly I don't have a plan for day #2 but partly that's because I have no clue what this new group of students is going to be like. I need to get a feel for them because the class roster shows I've got 14 boys in a class of 20 -- and that's way, way different from the make-up of the class from last year which was mostly girls.

  • I have 18 regular student desks in my room, but I've got a plan to have my favorite seniors sit around my back table in wooden chairs. I think (hope) they can cope.

  • Hubby provided breakfast for the NEA folks -- and it was beyond delicious: just scrambled eggs topped with smoky links but all hot and bubbly and tasty. During the meeting it was announced that our salaries are frozen for the year but we were grateful not to be taking a cut in pay.

  • My collaborative teacher is pleased we are working together again, as am I. We have an easy time of making our second block class work well.

  • My SPED team is, as always, my home base and my grounding in the school. I'm so tickled to be working with them.


Monday the entire school arrives. We've had over 1300 students enroll and that is about 250 more than planned for by the district. Classes will be over-flowing. We have many new first year teachers in our building. I imagine they won't sleep very well tonight. We will cope, though. We are urban-core teachers -- we ARE invincible!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

First Days


Wow Boy! Monday was tough -- physically tough. During the summer the janitors remove everything from your room so they can buff the floors. It appears they don't do much else except maybe turn your desk upside down six or seven times and shake it and leave your lounge chairs in the classroom across the hall and completely lose your bookcase. They don't clean anything. But the floors sure do shine. After doing the floors, they put stuff back in classrooms, but they don't much care whose room things go back into.

The first days are always spent on a scavenger hunt, looking for your desk chair, the keyboard to your computer, and your overhead projector. I didn't go in to school early this year; I spent the last free days of summer wallowing in TV reruns of Stargate and Burn Notice. So Monday, I came into a huge classroom mess.

It was hot. And humid. Very humid. Though we are air conditioned, the size of the school and the height of the ceilings preclude us getting nice and chilly. I spent the first hour pushing around loaded bookcases and file cabinets. By the time I had worked up a complete sweat it was time for the first all school faculty meeting.

I spent lunch snacking on the sandwich Hubby had provided and moving my teacher's desk and setting up the computer equipment. Then it was time to head down four flights of stairs to the cafeteria to get the equipment needed for the newest faculty push -- MIRP (used to be called Sustained Silent Reading back in the '80's -- now it's Monitored Independent Reading Practice). The whole school will be participating this year. The tub, the file folders, and labels, and the hanging strip blanket (which looks a lot like a shoe rack with much smaller cellophane panels) had to be lugged back to the third floor.

Next we had MIRP training. Then back up to the third floor to push around more furniture and work up a good lathering sweat before finally going home at 4 p.m.

I got home, fell into bed, and passed out. Hubby fixed me a plate of pancakes (comfort food) for dinner, I took a bath, and passed out a second time. My whole body hurt. I told Hubby the only thing not in dire pain were my lips, my ear lobes, and my eye lashes. Somehow I had wrenched my bad knee, strained my back, and pulled my shoulder and neck muscles. I took a muscle relaxer at bed time and when I woke up at midnight I swallowed my second Celebrex of the day (I try for only one a day and only if in dire pain -- but by midnight I was still unable to walk upright).

At 3 a.m. when I woke up to turn over (the arthritis is bad enough I can no longer turn over in my sleep) I was still in misery. But two more hours helped enormously and by 5 a.m. I was feeling much more normal.

Today we had Convocation -- away from my high school. Then it was SPED meetings in the afternoon at the downtown convention center. I spent the day, happily sitting on my butt. It was much needed rest.

Tomorrow I'm once again back at my high school, going to meetings and pushing around my classroom furniture to try and find a pleasing arrangement. Thursday is dedicated to spending a whole day in our classrooms, working on lesson plans and adding "pretty" touches to make the room feel more home-like.

On Friday the Freshmen will come for a day of orientation but this year, for the first time, a group of student mentors will be handling the entire day -- and the faculty is delirious with the joy that this freedom brings us.


Let me add that Convocation today was really lovely. Instead of importing pompous speakers and people of dubious importance, this district puts on a home-grown show of good cheer and support. The faculty members who can play instruments make up the band. The ROTC brings out the flags. The teachers of excellence selected throughout the year are honored. The superintendent tells some funny stories about her year. This year, at the conclusion, a kid came out and asked if we believed in him (the district motto is "We Believe") and he was charming and outgoing and well-rehearsed and we cheered him lustily, as he ran through the secretaries, the custodians, the cafeteria workers, the principals, the down-town administrators, and the teachers. It was a sweet, warm, soulful experience from a district who is proud of its accomplishments and aware of its shortcomings.


I'm very, very proud to say I teach in here. Now if only my poor old body would just cooperate . . .

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Off to School

It's that time of year -- school starts on Monday. This is my fourth year in this school district, my 26th total. My beautiful, historic building awaits.

I've accessed my roll through the school software and see that I have 18 students in my first semester English 3 / 4 class. That's a healthy number for SPED kids. Not nearly as big as gen ed classes which I hear are running 35 and up -- but these are special needs kids and you get more than 20 of them in a room and it's tough on everybody, especially the teacher trying to meet individual, critical needs.


I'm still co-teaching with the same social studies teacher who this year is also head of my SLC (small learning community). I like working with him -- he's easy to get along with in a classroom setting. Not always so easy in person, but then neither am I.


My SPED community is fantastic. I love these folks. They are knowledgeable, aware, and caring. The school psych is beyond great.


So, though the summer is ending for me -- I have a fine job for the next year. I am one of the lucky ones. I earn enough, I'm respected in what I do, I find satisfaction in it, and I'm good at it. The only flaw in the ointment is that I'm still working on SPED certification and start three hours of grad school in mid-August.


I'll be probably not be very vocal on this blog for a week or so while I try and get acclimated. Then I'll be back with kid stories instead of dog tales.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Just the Prettiest Two Boyo's Ever

From our vacation, two wonderful photos of the boys.

First Gus, the amber-eyed beauty who never, ever misbehaves. He's sitting in the back-seat of the rental car, somewhere in Illinois on the first day of the trip. Gus is five.




Next up, Luie, the character -- he's "woowooing" me here, to let me know exactly where the rental car is while I'm standing outside the car taking photos of DC; he's blind so he thinks I need help to find the car because my nose and my ears don't work nearly as good as his. Luie is 18 months.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Hero Bashing


I just finished watching the news coverage of Bill Clinton returning with two live journalists who had been sentenced to hard labor in North Korea for spying. Al Gore sent him, he met with Kim Jong Il, and secured the safe release of the women.

Now the conservative press have their story for the week. How many conspiracies do you think they can find in this event? How many villains can they name? Just how "het up" can they get? And how many evil, pernicious attacks can they make on Obama, Clinton -- both Hillary and Bill, Gore, and the press itself?

I'm all for free speech but the conservative pundits of this country have become vicious and ugly and mean -- and they see conspiracy and racism against THEM at every turn. How long will the American public buy into this reprehensible behavior?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Last in the Series


I've been waiting patiently for the final Harry Potter book to be published in paperback form. The books are just too big for me to hold and read for 1000 plus pages. I learned that with the first, and only hard back, Harry Potter that I bought.

The series had been out awhile when I bought my first book from Sam's, the Walmart big box store. I wanted to see what all the shouting was about. I fell in love -- and I passed my book around to my friends and they all became hooked, also. After the first book though, I only read the series in paperback form so I was always a couple of books behind everyone else.

My Potter collection is now on the bookshelves of my classroom. I bought the entire Twilight series at the school library book fair last spring and read the first three in that series, but couldn't stomach anymore of it and never got through book 4. My kids love it and if it gets them to read, I'm fine with that. But the writing is nowhere near as good or the plots as inventive as the Potter series.

I suppose because a new Potter movie is out that Scholastic decided to publish the seventh Potter in paperback -- finally. I've been waiting impatiently since the book came out two years ago. In fact, I did cheat and read the last chapter online -- just to make sure Potter didn't die. On Saturday, there in the children's book section at Sam's, was Harry Potter and The Deadly Hallows.

I didn't open the book until Sunday evening and I've been wrapped up in it ever since. I cried when Dooby died and cheered when Potter went back to Hogwarts. I'm nearing the true and final end of the book now and I'll be sad to put it down. Three summers ago I re-read the series 1 - 5 books just to review all the events. I don't watch the movies but I love the story telling of the writer. I doubt that I'll ever re-read all seven books but I have found pure escapist entertainment in the series. What more can you ask from a good book?

The readers of sci-fi among my family and friends scoff at the Potter books, but I think they are just being intellectual snobs, believing that book meant for "children" can't be all that wonderful. When I read the last page sometime tonight, it will be like losing a good and close friend. It will take me awhile to find anywhere near the delight in another book that I have had from Rowling's Potter series.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Memories of Fritzy

In August of last year, Fritzy -- our 11 year old miniature Schnauzer -- was put "to sleep" because of kidney failure. We had done our best through the summer to keep him alive and the first week of August we let him go.

In October of 2005 I had put my heart dog, Wolfie, "to sleep." He was somewhere between 17 and 19 years old so I should have expected it -- but he had been healthy and hale everyday until the Saturday he suffered a massive bleed in his gut.

I agonized and second guessed myself about both decisions. Euthanization is hard, even when the dog is very sick. I sometimes wish that we could perform the same service for sick humans -- I know I'd choose it for myself rather than suffer an agonizingly slow death -- but then I think how very traumatic these decisions are to make. Anyway, both Wolfie's and Fritzy's deaths were quiet and peaceful. Hubby had away when Wolfie died and I had to make the decision and handle his passing alone. It never occurred to me not to stay with either dog; you are with them in life and you don't abandon them in death, even when your heart is breaking.

With Wolf I was bereft. Both Fritzy and I went into deep decline. I've written about this before -- but after Fritzy and I viewed the body (I had to go and get Fritzy and bring him back to the vet so he could understand what had happened to his pal) and had gone home to grieve, I heard Wolf's distinctive snuffle breathing all afternoon, until Hubby got back home to complete our family unit. When we all cried together -- that was when we knew Wolf was gone. With Fritzy, however, all three of us (Hubby, Gus, and me) were in the room with him. He lay quietly after the injection, the vet told us it would be a minute or so, and suddenly we all knew the exact moment his spirt had "left the room."

I was laying in bed this morning, canoodling with Luie, who came to us at Hubby's insistence, a week after Fritzy died, and remembering Fritzy. Luie is a character. Completely blind in one eye and able to see a little light and shape in the other, he is a whirlwind of motion. He runs and chases and investigates and talks. His "woo-woo" is a wonder to hear. He is always good humored -- and he seems to like playing jokes. He loves with great emotion -- but he can't stay still long enough to express it during daylight hours. Life is his playground.

Each dog has had their own personality -- Milly, our first, was the queen of everything she surveyed. Wolf was my lover -- as selfish as it sounds, my biggest heartbreak when he was gone was that no one or no thing would ever love me the way Wolf did -- heart and soul, he was mine. Fritzy was beautiful -- and persnickety. He wanted things done his way -- he knew where he wanted to sit and sleep and what he would eat, and he would go off alone if we defied him. Like me, his heart broke when his pal, Wolf, died. Gus, who came two weeks after Wolf's death, is serene. He is small and gentle and always calm. He does not complain. He likes to watch. He is the perfect dog, actually, for old folks. He loves to sleep most of the day and all night. He can hold his bladder for up to 18 hours with no complaint for he would never think of making of a mess. And then there's Luie.

Sometimes, I think the universe took Fritzy from us so quickly because there was Luie, in Tulsa, waiting. Sometimes, I think that Wolfie, seeing, from wherever he is, that my broken heart had to be healed somehow -- called Fritzy from us and imprinted Luie -- and voila! the rascal came to mend pieces of my heart together.

However, it happened, this morning, in bed, I was remembering Fritzy and lamenting once again my decision last August to end his life -- when I realized just how quickly and quietly his little spirit had left that room where the vet put him into his final sleep. I think he must have been ready to go, having been sick for so many months. And somehow, he must have known, that though he could NEVER be replaced, a little blind boy was waiting in the wings and desperately needed a home and an expensive eye doctor.

Fritzy was a wonderful dog, smart, loving, strong-willed, beautiful, and protective. Strangers were drawn to him because he was so pretty but they quickly knew not to touch. He was very vocal with strangers. He liked his alone time but he also wanted lots of cuddles and kisses every day -- and would demand them until they were delivered. He would paw and maneuver until he would get us to put aside the book or magazine or TV remote and focus directly on him. When he got sick, he never complained. Last July he lay in our bed, not wanting to eat or play or run outside -- but wanting to cuddle and be loved. He let me know in so many ways that he was ready for us to let go -- and then, when we did finally come to that fateful decision he was gone in an instant. His memory, unlike Wolf's, does not haunt me. That in itself is a lovely parting gift.

And then, with his going, came Luie. What a voyage of discovery we are all on! Wherever Fritz is I hope he knows how much I love and miss him -- and I hope with all my heart that somewhere he and Wolf are playing tug-0f-war with their favorite toy, Bite the Man. Meanwhile, I've got a wild child to take on an early morning romp.

Friday, July 31, 2009

A Fabulous Vacation


Two weeks ago we were sitting on the deck of a private home in Annapolis, directly on the waterfront of Chesapeake Bay watching the sail boats waft homeward to the harbor and the commercial liners chug toward the Atlantic. We had spent the morning touring Washington DC and the afternoon meeting Sister and then driving into Maryland for a week's stay in the most beautiful of homes with it's own private Bay entrance and dock. We had the sole use of the home which has seven bedrooms and multiple baths, a huge kitchen, formal dinning room, formal living room, two sitting rooms, a huge glassed in porch, and an open deck. The setting and the house were simply, absolutely perfect.

Our two day drive to DC was uneventful, the countryside green and lush. Most of the way was along I70 but we hit a stretch of I68 through beautiful historic towns like Cumberland, PA where we snacked on homemade ice cream and enjoyed the historic architecture. The only problem we encountered was one I hadn't anticipated -- Hubby had not informed Sister we were coming so Friday night we needed a motel room in the DC area before we dropped in "unannounced" on his family. You would have to understand the hub's family unit to know why this shouldn't have surprised me . . .but it did.

The problem was NOT finding a room for two -- it was finding a room for two WITH two dogs. One motel wanted a non-refundable deposit of $150 per dog, per night. One thought $75 per dog was reasonable. It took us five hours of driving to finally find a Comfort Inn (in Alexandria -- if you ever need one) that would take the dogs for $10 each if we would stay in a smoking room. We had no problem with the smoking room or the deposit -- but finding all those DC suburbs (and by now it was dark) was NOT fun. Thank god for our little GPS.

The next morning, though, Sister was thrilled to find we were in DC and delighted to let has have the beach house for our stay. We picked up the key and headed to Annapolis where the house is located -- and our vacation continued on without a single hitch.

On Saturday Sister and her husband came to have lunch with us and we offered to go with her to church on Sunday. We learned that her church requires "formal" attire -- meaning long pants for Hubby and a skirt / dress for me -- but a stop at Penney's fixed us both up at fairly reasonable prices, thought I've never worn a Penney's dress in my life, I really like the skirt and matching tee I got there.

Sunday we spent with Sister and her husband, going to church, seeing their business and homes (they have three), and sharing family stories. It was a warm, caring day full of laughter and good memories. Sister, at 90, is still working full time in her own day care business (215 children five days a week) with 32 employees. She and Hubby only reconnected last year -- so lots of family stories were exchanged.

Monday and Tuesday we were on our own. We toured Annapolis and Baltimore on Monday and on Tuesday we headed south and did Mount Vernon and Fredericksburg, VA. Then on Wednesday, Sister and her husband came back to the beach and we sat and visited, had lunch, and visited some more before they departed and we packed the car for an early morning departure for home.

Friday evening we pulled in, tired but replete from a really spectacular ten days on the Eastern seaboard.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Weighing In

We were reading the Washington Post in the Plymouth Church parking lot in DC when we came across the first article about Professor Gates arrest by the Cambridge police department. I hooted -- and read the article aloud to Hubby while we waited to meet with Hubby's sister and attend church with her. We both agreed that the Cambridge police has stepped "in it" big time -- and frankly we were delighted that a prominent and respected figure like Gates would now be the spokesperson for a disgrace that every African American, especially male, has suffered throughout his lifetime.



Do we side in any way with the police? NO. A resounding NO! Racial profiling exists, folks. If you are Black you live with it daily. If you are white, you probably don't understand because if you are polite and responsive when the police stop you -- for legitimate reasons -- you are treated in return in a polite, responsive way. If you are a Black male you can expect to be under suspicion, stopped, questioned, and even arrested -- just because you ARE Black. The police, once they make the stop, have in the main, learned to be polite in the stopping and questioning -- but THEY STOP you simply because YOU ARE BLACK. This is frustrating, humiliating, and degrading. And if you, the Black male, aren't properly respectful and polite, then, like Gates, you are arrested for "disturbing the peace."

In my white life (36 years now) living with a Black man I have been stopped numerous times in both Kansas and Missouri -- not because we were breaking the law but because we were driving through a white world. When our own house was robbed -- and everything that wasn't nailed down was taken -- my husband spent 40 minutes in front of the house proving his identity -- while the crooks one block over loaded a semi and drove away with all our possessions. Especially in the white suburbs of Kansas, we have had to prove we owned the car we were driving. I have had to assure the cop that I wasn't driving around with a Black man under duress. At night we have been stopped and asked exactly where we "thought" we were going and had to verify that we were visiting friends -- at their invitation.

Driving across country I can drive ten to fifteen miles over the speed limit, directly by a cop and never be stopped. Hubby can go three miles over the speed limit and he's immediately pulled over. In Arkansas, we were stopped and the car searched by the police because we were in our brand new Toyota.

When I was senior class sponsor I used to let the class treasurer drive to the bank and deposit our funds during the noon break. He would take my old beat-up Toyota, definitely not a car anyone would steal, and drive five blocks away to make the deposit. He was stopped so often in that car that I used to have a signed note with both Hubby's and my phone number on it so the cops could verify he was driving with my permission.

Hubby has always handled the repeated cop invasions into our life with quiet dignity and respect toward the law. He never says evil things. He doesn't spout off. He just accepts the numerous intrusions with patience and forbearance. He understands that to react in any way means jail time. Me? I'm furious. I've been known to ask the police, "Did you stop us simply because I'm a white woman riding with a Black man?" It makes me seethe with anger every time we're stopped and questioned.

I totally understand Gates reaction to his being questioned -- in front of his own house -- and his anger when confronted with the reality that fame, education, money, respect -- nothing keeps him from being lumped into the whole African-American "fear" mentality of this country.

Gates had a right to be mad -- and with his anger we are finally having a dialogue that has been hundreds of years in the making. I've enjoyed Gates' PBS shows on ethnicity -- now he's my new hero. The white people of this country can say he should have been more respectful towards the police. They've never experienced the degradation that comes from facing racial profiling. After years of fighting it -- you GET mad! And this is righteous anger!