Sunday, March 15, 2009

Spring Break

Last spring Hubby cleaned out the basement -- where I store the summer clothes. He brought in a huge dumpster and managed to clear out 34 years of accumulated crap; both us tend to be pack rats. He also tossed out MY summer clothes. Most of his he managed to keep -- not all, but most.

Last summer and early autumn were tough on me. I had only a minimum of clothing to wear unless I put on the winter stuff. I still suffer from awful hot flashes (23 years of 'em) so long sleeved, heavier clothing just wasn't an option. I've got GREAT winter clothing -- pretty, comfortable, and varied so once the weather turned crispy, I was fine. But I wore the same pair of black Capri's until they were wash-worn and ragged.

Early this morning we piled in the old jalopy -- dogs, hubby, and me -- and headed out for the closest outlet mall (three hours drive down into the Ozarks). The day was overcast but the weather tolerable; we only had sprinkles a couple of times. We missed our turn-off into the heart of the Ozarks and instead went an hour in the wrong direction, forcing us to make another hour's correction, but in the end we got to the mall with plenty of time to shop. We only needed two hours, actually. We did exactly four stores.

I bout nine items at the Koret store -- only most of them weren't from the discount racks so my bill was substanially higher than usual. I needed spring / summer gear and it was the winter stuff that was drastically reduced. I did get a pair of winter "happy pants" for $5 and a $10 tee to match one of my winter suits. Most importantly, I got three pairs of Capri pants in plain, solid colors so they will go with any of my tees (those I seem to have plenty of). I got a pair of "happy pants" jeans for $7.49. And I bought one good outfit -- matching tee with capri pants and the shocking total for the whole thing was $60. That's a ridiculous price but . . . I really liked them.

We spent quality time in the bookstore, coming out with three huge shopping bags full of half price books. I wandered through the Christmas store and got four odd Christmas candles at ridiculously cheap prices for my classroom. At the Harry and David store I bought Hubby his favorite diabetic chocolates.

Then it was time to turn around and drive home. I got enough light clothing to last until the fall when I can pick up the bargains. Also we will be reading in bed through the hot summer nights a ton of mystery and detective stories. We had a very nice day together.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

We're Getting Older

Yesterday was Hubby's birthday. He turned -- it seems impossible to me -- 74.

I first met him when he was 37. I was a blushing 26.

We started "dating" when he was 38. We had two dates, actually, in March of 1973. We've been together, a couple living together, ever since the end of the second date.

We got married when he was 43.

He nearly died when he was 71 -- but he was just too stubborn to realize that the aneurysm he suffered was supposed to do away with him. Every day since then has been a bonus.

He's getting deafer. His knees are shot. He's insulted because his optometrist told him he was getting cataracts. His blood pressure is very difficult to control. He has diabetes.

He's always lived life on the edge, never traveling the safer road. In 1973 he told me he wouldn't live past 50.

I see him as invincible. It's been more a struggle for me than for him to admit that there are physical things he can no longer do. In my eyes he's the same as he was in 1973. He's been more accepting of the indignities that occur with the aging process.

So we head into his 75th year, our 36th year together, our 32nd year of marriage. There is both security and fear in these numbers.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I've Been Stimulated!

Got my paycheck this afternoon with the new tax table applied -- supposed to help stimulate the economy, don't ya know, when you have more cash to spend.

My stimulus package: a whopping $3.04 for a two week period.

Damn. I'm rich! Wonder what thrilling thing I can spend it ALL on?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Post 189

Nothing exciting to say. Nothing grand to report. Just the little things:
  • It's cold here in the Heartland -- we have wind chill. Bah.
  • It's hard getting up an hour earlier. I've been struggling out of bed at 5 a.m. and nodding off while Hubby drives me to work. I'm required to do a turn on my floor first block (planning) because I can't stay awake at my desk. By 4 p.m. I'm ready for the nap which can last anywhere from 2 to 5 hours -- not a nap you say? Probably not. Then the sleepless night ensues because I'm used to only 5 hours of sleep a night.
  • Spring break is only 2 more mornings away -- tomorrow and Friday.
  • No kids on Friday but the teachers are required to attend work shops and submit quarter grades before they can leave to start spring break
  • The first of my school district cuts were announced to day -- 35 administrators are being laid off. Teacher cuts come in two weeks time.
  • I'm wearing my "Miniature Schnauzer Carousers" shirt today. My principal announced she liked it a lot.
  • Today shortened Wednesday schedule is for Blocks 1 & 2 and then Advisory. The kids go home at 12:30 while the staff must stay for meetings. I like the 1 & 2 schedule and hate it when we have Blocks 3 & 4 instead.
  • For one day last week I actually got to drive to school in daylight -- dim but still not "stars out and pitch black" night. I'm rapidly becoming a proponent of getting rid of daylight savings time.
That's today's post. Out of the way. And the next one can be post 190.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Praise and Attack

A week ago Friday I orchestrated a Pizza Celebration for the kids in my community (Health/Science) who earned a grade of C or better in all their first semester classes. My community has been very good about disciplining students; not so good about praising them. After three years of watching this, I thought, "Self, let's give them a little lesson in how to actually motivate kids."

The community agreed as a whole to the party but would not cough up funds to host it. The vice principal on our floor said she would donate $50 and she did. The coordinator, who planned to be away on a cruise the week of the party, gave me a twenty dollar bill as he was leaving town. We asked the other seven teachers in the community to give us two large bottles of soda for the party and all but two did. The rest of the expenses -- the cups, plates, silverware, napkins, Kool-aide, table decorations, invitations, certificates, pizza, and cake were mine to purchase.

So I turned my senior SPED kids loose with a check list, a budget, and a phone. They did a damn fine job. They got the counselors to eventually cough up a list of our kids who met the requirements. Once I showed them how, they entered all the names along with their third block teachers into an Excel spread sheet. They designed, printed, and delivered the 78 invitations. The talked repeatedly with the local Pizza Hut until they met my budget requirements (my cost would be under $200 -- they could go as high as $199.99 but not one cent higher). In fact they brought me in for $168.49 (that included 28 pizzas!). They designed and printed 80 lovely certificates. They delivered invitations, sent out e-mails to remind teachers of the event, and followed a check list of items that had to bc covered before Friday.

On the week of the event they notified all the proper school authorities. The recital hall (small enough to be warmly inviting for such an event) has been previously booked for months. The auditorium -- cavernous -- was offered but we rejected it. We decided to hold the event in the community's lounge -- just a large classroom -- and use the hallway outside for seating. Luckily the lounge is directly opposite my own classroom and at the end of the hall so we could block off the doors leading in and out. Six cafeteria tables were delivered the morning of the party along with 30 folding chairs. Inside the lounge itself we could seat 40 students -- so we have seating for everyone attending.

My students spent the morning setting up and making everything look pretty. Pizza Hut delivered 30 minutes early but that was far better than 30 minutes late. Students began arriving 15 minutes early for the 40 minute celebration -- held just before their own lunch period. The event was very successful. Everyone enjoyed the pizza, talked, and had a good time.

Until . . . the party was winding down. We had only five minutes to go. Most of the students had already gone back to their third block classes in preparation for the lunch bell. My students, a small group of rowdy girls, and two boys I didn't know were still in the lounge. One of the boys tore a girl's dollar bill in half. She cursed him. He threatened to pour red soda on her. I asked for his cup. He "played me off," holding the cup high above his head and claiming he was drinking it. I asked for the cup; he waved it around. I told him to drink it down or give me the cup. He played like he was drinking and waved the plastic cup around. I asked for the cup. He laughed. I took the cup away. He shoved me away, ran back to the back table, poured a full glass of grape soda (with ice for heaven's sake) and threw the entire cup at my white high school tee shirt. Everyone, including me, gasped. He ran. The students gathered and tried to clean me up. I asked who the kid was -- and, of course, he was the kid shot last year, a hard core gang member, with a reputation as long as your (his?) arm.

Security alerted administration. My SPED students quietly and quickly cleaned up the hall and lounge, putting up the tables for the janitors, emptying the trash, returning the Igloo which held the ice to Hospitality. They asked if I need anything else done -- and fled. No one wanted to be involved if there were to be repercussions.

Admin finally found the kid, who beside being a gang banger, is also one of the main basketball players -- and the state tournament was that evening. He was, of course, suspended with a parent conference and not allowed to play in the evening's game. By the time I met with the kid, and the administration, I was over being "so mad I thought my brain would shoot out of the top of my head" and my blood pressure was significantly lowered. Then I found out this kid is a brother of one of the kids I teach -- and I had met the father on several occasions. The boy's story is one of misery and hard knocks, of course, but that does not negate the fact he could not control his temper.

On Wednesday of this week I met again with the kid and his father -- all properly nice and respectful. Dad had done his job -- though unfortunately Dad is NOT the primary guardian. I got a very earnest apology. We shook hands.

Still, a event lovingly planned and joyfully executed ended on a very sour note for my kids and me. That was the sad part. On Wednesday afternoon, the community students who had attended made us a huge booklet, signing the pages with notes of thanks for the wonderful pizza party. The administration asked us to do the event again at the end of the year. We shall see.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Taking Steps

The Sony PC had begun to limp along. Only three years old (we think -- it might be a tad older but as we age we lose track of time) it was fast getting ready to deliver the blue screen of death. Microsoft XP was still allowing it to function but just barely. The PC had come with a partitioned hard drive and we had frilled the C portion with no idea really how to successfully access the D portion (which for some unknown reason was larger). Then sometime last month I jacked up Earthlink, our Internet provider, and only the e-mail was working properly. We could access the web but through a very round about way - and the virus protection ceased to function at all. Thus, of course, we got infected with a couple of Trojans. I quit sending e-mails two weeks ago just in case.

During the past week I located the application disks and the Sony software disks -- a couple of years ago we got a metal disk holder and relocated all the application disks to it. Hubby unplugged the PC this morning and we lugged it over to the "Nerd Guys" -- not their actual name but a shop only a couple of jogs from the house. These guys will wipe hard drives clean and save your documents in the process. Handing over the PC was rather like giving up a member of the family, especially when they admitted it would probably be nine days before we'd see it again. They only had 45 desktops ahead of us . . . they thought that was a small number. But they were very accommodating and made me feel secure when they looked at the Sony restore disks and said, "Gee do you really want us to use those? We can, but, you know, you get a lot of junk with them and we could just put XP on your restored (and undivided) hard drive along with all your saved Documents." And I thanked them profusely and agreed. They also took my Office application disk but really thought that probably they'd let me reinstall Earthlink and the HP printer application. Which is okay because you probably need to be with the printer and have the router hooked up to make those work.

It was scary though to suddenly be forced to finally learn to use the Mac which had been sitting on our desk along with the Sony for the past year. I had one so long ago (1989 - 1993) that the technology and vocabulary is no longer intuitive for me. I spent two hours just trying to figure out Mail (the Mac e-mail system). Eventually I began to realize that I could make it work just fine if I'd overcome the fact that words like "folders" and other regular PC terminology just aren't appropriate. Sigh. Learning curves seem to get longer and longer for me. Hubby got the Mac last summer and I've used it to create two newsletters and to play the Sims. That's it. Then from November on we have not touched it at all -- the machine sat so dormant that I forgot where the turn-on button was (behind the monitor screen). Here sat this beautiful, expensive, and vibrant computer and we didn't even acknowledge we owned it.

So the Sony is being restored and we are learning to use the Mac. It has the newest software (well, newest in 2008). I'm impressed with the calendar. It works as well, if not better, than the one in Outlook. The address book is separate from the mail program -- but Mail knows exactly where the addresses are. Also it's a nifty little application all in itself -- you no longer have to open your e-mail just to see an address or a phone number. The addresses were input from the Sony when we acquired the Mac. Hubby had the forethought to take it to the Apple dealer and have EVERYTHING downloaded from the Sony into the Mac. Now that's sweet. All my files are in-tact and in order and look just like my files on the Sony. Mail carries a 3 star (out of 4 stars) rating and I'm learning that it will do the things I want (like always check my spelling before I send out e-mail), I just have to get used to it doing things a tad bit differently and with different names (you don't save your mail to folders but to mailboxes on the MAC).

Because the Sony needed a healthy shot of regeneration, we're learning to use this lovely bright, visual Mac. And the Sony, according to the Nerds will be returned as good as new and since it was a high-end machine three years ago will be good to go for another three years -- especially if mostly what we plan to do with now is play games.

Then we stopped at our favorite shoe store, just down the road from the Nerd repair store, and used our Christmas store credit to buy me two new pairs of summer shoes. The spring styles were in and my feet felt free and fanciful. I got a wonderful pair of cloth covered, embroidered Sanita's (the Danish clog like the one at the right but mine are not traditional clogs but have backs) and a pair of sandals that had to be ordered because I wanted them in black instead of brown. Of course we could have bought a very serviceable PC for what we spent on just two pairs of my shoes -- but my feet just danced out of the store in my Sanita's.

Finally we hunted the aisles at the local U.S. Toy for accoutrement for the spring reading by my Freshman/Sophomore English class of Julius Caesar. We found Roman helmets for a buck each but I had to spring $5.50 for the stand-out one for Caesar -- it had a red feather comb on the top. The package of swords ran $15 but I got an even dozen so my boys will have a ball sparring with each other. This should make the reading of the play just that more dramatic.

On a more somber note, little Gussie had his teeth cleaned on Thursday and had a very hard time of it -- not physically but because he lost three more of his precious teeth (and my bank account lost half a grand plus). Our vet assures us he has at least three more dentals before he's completely toothless, but that boy sure inherited some awful teeth. He came home all wobbly and shaken but by today he was ready for his pork chop bone.

We are all ready for spring.