Thursday, February 26, 2009


Every other day or so we get more news about the terrible condition of the budget for the state of Kansas. Education WILL be hit and hit hard in the next two years. Teachers, in particular, are going to face layoffs. Schools will need to increase class size to make up for the laid-0ff teachers. Supplies will be limited. No travel. No extracurricular activities. The times are tough and the Kansas schools will be lean, mean machines in response.

The news this month is that, though we need to create schedules for classes for 2009/2010 we must not list any personnel teaching said classes. No school knows who will be retained. Administrators, counselors, social workers, teachers, paraprofessionals, janitors -- all are in jeopardy.

I'm a nontenured teacher as this is only my third year in the district. The first year I taught I was slated to be transferred from my wonderful high school to another district position, but the teachers surrounding me pulled off a miracle and I managed to hang on. Last year there was no rumblings about lay-0ffs or transfers. This year not even tenured teachers feel safe.

We had been warned this month that all transfers and layoffs are going to come from the central office and not the school principals. The statement made was that the district should have notifications go out by the end of the first week of March.

Thus, when I came home today and found a letter from my district's Human Resources director in my mail box my heart lurched. I like this job. I would like to retire from it. I'm really good in the classroom. I no longer have the energy or ambition to take on the extracurricular activities or assume leadership responsibilities, but in the classroom it's hard to find anyone as effective as I am.

I actually prayed over that letter before opening it. I was prepared to find a notice saying that my services would no longer be required at my high school and if the district had an opening next year at another high school, I would be considered (way down the line with all those tenured teachers placed first).

Instead, the letter was an announcement that any teacher with 25 years service in teaching was going to be honored this year by my district. My records showed I had 22 years with another state and three years in Kansas and so would be part of the ceremony.

What a relief. I hope it's not short-lived.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Trials and Treats on Sunday

Once going to church was a refuge from the trials of the work week, a place where friends soothed and spirits were refreshed. It's not that way for me any longer. Instead of a soaring, Gothic sanctuary, we sit in a moldy, cold basement because we have not fixed the furnace and we have no heat in our inspiring sanctuary where the winter temps hover at 40 - 50 degrees. The organ is unplayed, the pianos are getting out of tune because of the cold, and the altar fixtures sit in silent, unappreciated splendor.

I used to love the old time Methodist hymns but now we sing these modern songs that all sound alike to me -- and we sing them at such a break-neck pace that I can't learn them either. It's somehow believed that if we have the words to these hymns we can just sing them -- we're never taught the melodies -- we're just given words and then the accompanist plays tunes we've never heard at race-course speed.

Hubby and I have been made to feel like outsiders in the new regime that has taken over the church, we're the old people whose opinions no longer matter, who liked out Methodism traditional. Hubby doesn't mind this much and I'm learning to accept my age more gracefully (I guess) -- but it annoys me that just because we're over 60 suddenly our opinions no longer matter.

Consequently, church-going is no longer a retreat for me. However, like with other commitments that I've made in my life that sometimes hit a rough patch, I'm trying to stick with this one. Hubby committed to attending the church through June -- and then if I continue to feel unhappy he has agreed to look for a new church home with me, somewhere that I'm not relegated to a folding chair in a dank basement. The truth is no one will miss us when we leave.

The good thing is that church is no longer a huge time commitment on our part. Now we get up at 9:30 so we can be out the door at 10 a.m. and to church by 10:30. I actually get to watch CBS Sunday Morning, a show I used to have to tape because we were up by 7 a.m. and out the door by 7:45. This late morning arrival is quite relaxing. And because I'm being a "good sport" and attending with Hubby on a regular basis, we treat ourselves to a lovely brunch / lunch after church.

This past Sunday we dined at a very exclusive restaurant in the heart of the city -- one that has been rated as the best Sunday brunch in town. Champagne with your orange juice, fresh raspberry juice shots, home-made waffles and omelets, prime rib, turkey, and ham -- all fresh cuts of meat (not that processed stuff). The seafood display is to die for -- crab legs, fresh shrimp, smoked and unsmoked salmon. This week there was also bouillabaisse -- made from shrimp, lobster, scallops, crab, and other white fish. They didn't bother with potatoes or veggies -- but made a milky sauce laden with fresh herbs to pour over all that yummy seafood. There was also fresh cream of asparagus soup. Cheese platters are mixed with fresh breads and rolls. If you yearn for breakfast food, the biscuits and gravy set a new standard for meaty deliciousness. Finally -- the desserts, if you still have room, are spectacular -- from fresh bread pudding (a regular treat) to all kinds of tiered cakes and hand-made sweets. The cost runs about $100 for two -- but my goodness, the food is divine and so worth the money. Of course, we can't afford to do this often . . . but when we do, what a swell meal! Sitting at the top of a sky rise, looking out at the city, with Thomas Hart Benton signed pictures over your booth, and your plate filled with all the delicacies you love the most -- this is the perfect afternoon. The only thing sweeter is driving home to take a long winter's nap on a peaceful Sunday afternoon. Which, of course, we did.


SUNDAY CHAMPAGNE BRUNCH: We feature over 100 different items every Sunday and have been quoted by local publications as the area's best Champagne Brunch! Our brunch includes fresh fruits, salads, shrimp, salmon, omelet station, carving station and pancake/waffle station. Breakfast traditionals including: bacon & sausage, biscuits & gravy, breakfast potatoes, eggs benedict, apple crepes, and a wide variety of desserts. Carving Station includes Prime Rib and Turkey Tom every Sunday. Entrees alternate every week; examples include Bacon wrapped Pork Tenderloin, Braised Lamb Chops, Free Range Chicken Breasts, Tilapia, Halibut, and Chateau Roast.

And this from a local paper: This recently redecorated steakhouse has one of the best views in the city, which is only one reason to make reservations for a leisurely dinner and enjoy sterling service, an oddball array of appetizers including a few favorites from the long-gone Trader Vic’s, juicy steaks and seafood. The Sunday brunch is one of the city’s last remaining elegant buffet brunches — a terrific special-occasion place — with well-laden chafing dishes, piles of chilled shrimp, excellent salads and pastries ... and caviar. - Charles Ferruzza )

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Lovely Saturday

It's been a very nice day. A good day, even. No stresses and one important thing was accomplished.

We arose around 8 but I went back to bed until 9 a.m. Hubby left me my "little" car and I hopped over to my local Fantastic Sam's for a perm and cut, which I was badly in need of. My stylist was in but it was an hour wait for her, so in the meantime I shopped the grocery that's in the same shopping center. Some steak soup, a couple of cans of hash, and $52 later, I ambled back to Sam's and finally got my perm and cut. I feel so much better when the perm is new and the hair is off the ears.

Back home Hubby took us to the local Chinese buffet for a filling lunch and then I took him to the suburban metroplex to see "Taken" which he enjoyed very, very much. Conversation heard on the way out of the theater: "Well, he couldn't top Rambo, but that guy sure took out a lot of dudes." Translation: the men in the audience, including Hubby, LOVED the film. The hero gets the girl (his daughter) back home safe and sound and stays the hero and alive, so even I was moderately impressed.

Doggies have had three park jaunts so they, too, are quite happy. Basketball is now on the telly, we have snacking food in the fridge, and though we did no housework at all, we are feeling mellow and relaxed. A very nice Saturday, all in all.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Goodbye -- Hello

My SLC (Small Learning Community) is experiencing turmoil. For at least the last seven years , my SLC has had only one coordinator to interact with administration. The role, as interpreted by the current coordinator, has been mainly disciplinary. Given an extra 45 minute planning period, the coordinator has handled tardies, student disputes, and teacher / student problems -- and been the intermediary between these discipline problems and the floor administrator.

As one can imagine, the role of coordinator rather became like a mini-fiefdom, entrenched, like the role of department chair became in more traditional schools. The administration, under a new principal, began to troll the communities, asking for a more wide-spread taking-on of responsibilities within them.

Yesterday we "deposed" our coordinator. Instead of acting like adults, we acted like the more dysfunctional students we teach. The coordinator took the loss of his role personally. Today one community teacher stayed home in bed rather than face the "discord" created within the community. She did, however, text the current coordinator to explain why she couldn't come to school. However, at yesterday's meeting she fully backed the usurpation -- and this is the woman wanted to fullfill a role in counseling our SLC students.

Two people actually wanted to be the new coordinator for next year -- but only one could get the job. Now that he has it, he wouldn't eat lunch with the rest of us today because he couldn't face the tension that has been created by his new selection. In point of fact, every single member of the community stayed away from our normal lunch together -- except for the foreign language teacher and me. We ate lunch together, rather quietly, talking mainly about the weather.

Instead of acting like professionals, we teachers have behaved like squabbling teenagers. I suppose its expecting too much to want us to act like the role models we really should be. This so clearly reminds me of why I left education in 1990. I'm sure we'll work our way of this little silliness. And silliness it is when we face students who are homeless, on drugs, in gangs, and fearing for their lives every day.

I still love the classroom. I love the school I'm in. I love the kids I work with. I find great joy in seeing my students gather knowledge, take leadership roles, and feel successful. Every organization baulks at change and I should expect that -- I just wish we'd act more grown-up in our discontents.

Monday, February 16, 2009


I have three paintings that might -- or then, again, might not -- be valuable. I have no idea what I should do with them. It worries me at night, during those godawful 3 a.m. hours when I don't sleep. I think about these paintings that no one looks at and feel like I should find someone to love them. If they are valuable it would be lovely to garner some reward for having kept them from the Goodwill, though. And if they're just "starving artist" paintings worth $19.99 each, well, then, someone has empty space in their den right now and needs to be cheered by the artistic endevors of these gents who put their souls into their work.

One, a landscape of Pike's Peak, was painted by a distant relative, Frank M. Benedict. The painting, in wonderful shades of blues and grays, was given to my parents as a wedding gift. My mother did not appreciate the painting, though both Dad and I liked it a lot. Of course, we liked Pike's Peak a lot and Mother -- well, I'm not so sure. However, she always talked about Benedict as being a dilettante painter with little to no skill and a man who never made enough money to count in this life. I think Daddy and I liked the painting because it looked like Pike's Peak. Mother never saw beyond the fact that Benedict was a failure in her estimation. I should have used the flash in taking this picture -- but then you could have clearly seen that a plumbing problem made Hubby remove the ceiling (2006) which we never bothered to put back up. The Benedict painting is surrounded by a print of New Orleans, a strange metal engraving of London, and a Caribbean mask -- we're nothing if not eclectic.

The second painting is very 1950's in aspect, and again was passed on to use by my mother -- in point of fact it WAS painted in 1948. It is by a another landscape artist who was also a teacher at the University of Wyoming. My great aunt bought the picture, I think, because she thought that it would one day be valuable, she liked the pink color because she had a an all pink apartment, and she knew the guy (Don Wiest) who painted it, as they taught at the University together. The picture, lots of cream swirls on a blue/green and pink landscape is supposed to be (I think I was told) Vedauvoo National Park in Wyoming -- which I only visited once when I was nine and I remember it had interesting rock formations. My aunt took us to picnic there and I have an old black and white Brownie Kodac pictures of a chubby me on the rocks. Anyway, the painting is quite modern in aspect -- the rocks look like swirls of whipped cream. I brought this picture upstairs and photographed it in the light -- made for a heck of a clearer view.

Here's the real Vedauvoo rocks: they do somewhat resemble this painting, I guess.

The final painting is a wall sized mural and was painted by an African American, Hank Smith, to chronical a rich woman's party. It's supposed to be a painting "of the guests interacting" -- but mostly it's just globs of paint that look like they were thrown at the canvas. We're talking 1970 psychedelic art here. Anyway, Hubby was doing odd jobs for the woman who commissioned the piece and when he admired it, she told him to "take it away, please." And so he did. It hung in his house around the corner for several years but when his mother moved in, she thought the picture had an evil feel to it and asked that he remove it from her living room. Hence, this mural joined the other two in the basement. Again, as you can see, I should have used the flash in the basement.

I suppose it's criminal, really, t0 have all three hanging in the dark in a room no one visits except to pass through to the washing machine. Nobody ever looks at them other than the spiders. They should be sold to someone who would like them. Other than the one of Pike's Peak, I have no heart-felt interest in any of them. And according to the little on-line information that I could gather about any of the artists, only Frank M. Benedict every had much of a reputation (at least his reputation survived my mother's contempt). His painting is in the worst condition -- Mother smoked all the years we owned it and it is quite old (Frank lived from 1840 to 1930 -- probably painted it about the turn of the 20th century which makes it about 109 years old now). Having spent the last 20 years in my basement (since Mother shipped it to me) and not been appreciated by anyone, a good cleaning is clearly needed for it to show well. The Vedauvoo painting would look great in someon'es 1950's retro apartment but doesn't do well with my Victorian era furniture. It just took me 20 minutes to clean off the spider webs clinging to it's canvas. And the wall mural? My lord, it's big! I don't remember how we got it into the basement, but we'd need movers to get it out.

This is our upstairs living room. So just what the heck do I do with these three interesting paintings? Where's the Antique's Road Show when you need 'em?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Celebrating Valentine's Day

We had planned to go to a school dance this evening. Hubby was taking me to the Winter Formal at my beautiful high school. But gang warfare interfered. This week a Latino gang had a shootout in front of a local elementary school. A middle school student was killed and one of our high school students was wounded. The gang members go by the nickname F13 -- so the rumor mill was rife with retaliation reports scheduled for Friday the 13th. Extra police and even undercover cops were placed in three of the area high schools, including mine. The Winter Formal fell victim -- it was just too expensive to hire the needed security to protect the attendees.

So Hubby spent the day plumbing. In his little house around the corner he has opened a day care. Currently they have six tots and one certified woman who oversees all the action. Hubby makes sure the house passes inspections, of which there are many. This week some kid flushed something large down the toilet, so today Hubby spent the day snaking out the plumbing lines. He has exhausted himself in the process. So probably our NOT attending a formal dance was beneficial for him.

After 35 Valentines together, cards are just paper to recycle. Flowers die too soon. Don't need 'em, don't crave 'em. Diamonds would be nice, but in this economy? Think not. So instead, I boggied over to the local high-end grocery and bought -- meat! $110 worth of steak, roasts, and chops. Frankly, that's really not much meat. Two fillet mignons, one lovely chuck roast, two butterflied extra-thick pork chops, and one huge T-bone. That's what I got for $110. Well, the butcher threw in a special - with the fillet mignons he added in two lobster tails free. That tells you how expensive those steaks were!

For dinner I made Hubby's fav -- the butterflied pork chops. I floured and seasoned them, browned and crisped them in hot oil and then baked them along with a medium sized pan of home-made mac and cheese (made from a real white sauce, too). Added with some garlic bread and Hub's favorite ice cream we had quite a feast.

Cooking in the crock pot is the pot roast for Sunday's dinner. Simmering in the juices are pearl onions, tiny red potatoes, and baby carrots -- along with enough stock to make some fabulous gravy once everything has cooked (in about another five hours).
Our house smells absolutely delicious. One wants to bathe in the smell.