Friday, December 31, 2010

Greetings!

Happy New Year dear friends!Christmas was, if not the best ever, right up there in the top 30 or so. It was so good I cried on leaving Houston.

Pictures to come.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Packing


Houston is beckoning. Hubby says we leave Tuesday after school so we can arrive in Houston on the 22nd. Today I am packing. The gifts are in the living room, still in sacks. We wrap in Houston -- makes packing the car so much easier. Hubby picks up the rental car on Tuesday. We have the party at school. We dash home. I change clothes -- and we're off.

Yesterday I got all the wash done so there actually are clothes to pack. Also I dug out the few Christmas presents we had purchased pre-Branson and set then with the Branson goodies.

Last night we met friends for dinner -- and the sweetest of dessert celebrations at the home of friends who had created a wonderland of Christmas mementos, past and present.

Today I get the tote bags stuffed with clean undies -- and pick out the wardrobe for Christmas week in a city that's boasting of temps in the 70's.

Tomorrow I slog in the school with presents for my co-workers. Tuesday, we lug in enough food to feed 20 teenagers for the student luncheon / holiday party. And then we heave it all back into the car and home for washing up.
Finally . . . we're off.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Total Self-Absorption












I'm blushing with embarrassment over this post -- talk about self-aggrandizement . . .
Still is was a nice evening last Tuesday and I feel very honored to work in a district that would take this much effort to make an employee feel "valued."
The text is from the monthly district news letter. The first group of pictures show some of those people who nominated me (two are missing), the second and third groups are me accepting the award and making a small speech.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Elf


Hubby plays Santa to my Advisory kids -- these are also the kids on my caseload so I really get to know them pretty intimately. I have them for all four years of high school -- and by the time they reach their junior / senior year I pretty much turn the administration of my classroom over to them. Consequently, my juniors and seniors also get special Christmas presents.

When we go to Branson each Thanksgiving we spend one day of our trip hitting all the dollar stores. For some reason these stores are really better than the chain ones in our vicinity. Hubby takes his own debit card and figures out the budget and he makes the purchases. Last year the kids all got sunglasses, stuffed animals for the girls, and multi-purpose screwdrivers for the boys. This year the gift for everyone is gloves. The boys are getting flashlights and the girls are getting dangling earrings. Everybody is getting bags of candy. The special gifts are knock-off i-pods that Hubby managed to pick up somewhere at a sample sale for little of nothing.

Every evening Hubby wraps an assortment of presents and I cart them to school and put them around the tree. The excitement grows exponentially with the pile of gifts.

In Advisory this week we made the invitations and delivered them our special guests. All the administrators are invited. So are the counselors and the teachers in our school community (we're Health/Science). Then we have an "angel" who donates food, notebooks, paper, tabs (for the notebooks), and one novel a semester for each student in my English classes and she and her husband always come to our holiday celebration. For her we write handmade thank you notes. Also on Wednesday we set up the greeting committee, the set-up committee, and the clean-up committee. We finished decorating the room -- a set of lights around our door had gone out and we didn't have enough lights for replacement, so we had to figure a work-around.

Names for the gift exchange, along with a price limit, had already been chosen. Everyone brings something to share for the dinner. Hubby makes a huge pot of spaghetti as the main course. One girl brings cherry cheese cakes. Another brings pumpkin bread from her granny. The boys, of course, drag in with soda. Our special guest is bringing sparkling cider and Hubby has gotten Champagne flutes (plastic) for us to drink from.

After we had practiced how we would eat with our guests so they would feel welcome, the kids sat around talking about what they would wear to the party. Now these are 15 to 19 year olds. Never before had clothes been discussed for this event. But this year the group has decided they need to dress up a bit.

The party is Tuesday. I'll let you know how it goes . . .

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Survival


I made it through the ceremony tonight for the district's teacher of the month award. It was a lovely, warm, embracing presentation and I felt very honored.

Also I didn't fall on my face. I didn't belch at the wrong moment. I smiled pleasantly. The pants of my little velveteen sport suit did not fall down. My red Christmas shoes stayed on my feet.

I certainly didn't know what to do with my hands and desperately wanted to put them in my pockets. But I didn't. Unlike two performers before me I did NOT chew gum.

I made a little joke and everybody laughed. When asked to speak a few words, I was gracious to all my fellow teachers, especially those who had nominated me. I told everyone how proud I was of my school. I smiled at everyone until my cheeks hurt and I was sure my lips were glued into a leering grimace -- consequently the board president complimented me on my positive attitude.

I remembered to say that Hubby would not stand up when my family was introduced -- but he was the largest black man present and sitting in the aisle so nobody could miss him anyway. I felt a little lost when they asked if I didn't have other family members present . . . but I continued to smile as I shook my head no.

My picture was taken about a hundred times. I garnered a really lovely modern trophy on which my name has been etched -- the trophy is honestly as good as the nice ones the #3 phone company used to give out. Every board member came into the audience after the presentations to greet me and shake my hand.

It was a very nice evening -- and we were home eating dinner by 6:30.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Preparations


The weather is frigid with high winds which drives the wind chill below zero degrees. The boys think they want to go out but when their paws hit the concrete they plead to be allowed back inside.

Yesterday I enrolled for the spring semester at Pitt State: six graduate hours in functional learning needs and even worse, elementary adaptive learning. Fifteen hundred dollars in tuition and $200 for books. But I need these six hours to complete my SPED certification, even if I'll never teach functional kids in an elementary setting.

Hubby and I completed the Christmas shopping -- on-line today. We had plans to go the the luxury shopping mall at Crown Center and then have dinner at the famous Benton's Chop House there. But when I called yesterday for dinner reservations I learned that Benton's is booked solid every weekend until Christmas. So much for people feeling the recession. Dinner at Benton's is always over $50 a person but we had gotten a Groupon Coupon for $60 for which we paid $30.

Anyway, with no reservations, we decided to do the Crown Center shops but at noon -- and when we got to Crown Center the parking garage was completely full and folks were being required to park across the street and walk around in the cold. We had the boys with us so we elected to turn around and go home, where we left the boys, went to the local movie theater after eating a Chinese lunch.

On-line we ordered Kansas City barbecue for the Washington, DC relatives and I finished up my Christmas shopping for Hubby. I also ordered flowers for Mother in Colorado (at Thanksgiving she got the ham and turkey meal). Then we brewed a pot of tea, snuggled under the quilts, and watched cable movies. Cocooning can be quite a pleasant experience as long as the electricity works, the heat is on, the TV isn't showing reruns, and the books are in plentiful supply.

Seven more teaching days left in the year. No presents left to purchase. Grad school is now only nine hours from completion -- and six of those hours are committed. Hubby and I have completed arrangements for the ceremony on Tuesday (which, quite frankly I'm dreading) though I still have to choose an appropriate outfit to wear. My invitational letter from the district arrived in the mail today. I've given up on Christmas cards for the first time in 30 years. We are warm and safe and comfortable. Preparations are almost complete.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Lit

It's the next to last Friday in the year for teaching. When I got up this morning I donned my required Wyandotte tee with the Friday-allowed jeans but under it I put on the very old turtleneck printed with candy canes, ornaments, and stars. Layered on top was my lighted ornament necklace and the beads made from real Christmas tree light bulbs. On my ears hung huge Christmas lights -- one in green and one in red.

This morning I had metal detector duty. The social hall, where the detectors are located, was strung with lighted garlands. The marble fireplaces were blazing with aromatic logs on both ends of the hall. The jazz band was playing carols next to the huge decorated tree in the middle of hall.

Standing there lit up like the Christmas tree, every kid I knew came by and gave me a big hug.

It was a happy morning. I came upstairs wreathed in smiles, humming Christmas tunes, with a little extra lilt in my step. There's nothing like a little holiday cheer.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Surprise!

The Kansas City Kansas School District consists of 47 schools, an administrative office, approximately 20,000 students and 3,330 employees (1500 of which are teachers). All employees are eligible to be named "employee of the month" - and two are selected each month to represent the entire district. They are nominated by fellow employees and their principals.

Today I was "unofficially" informed that this month I am the KCKSD employee of the month. I was also told that official notification would be sent to me through the mail to my home and that next Tuesday evening I was to be presented to the Board of Education along with the letters of recommendation that accompanied my nomination. The teachers who supported my selection will all be attending the meeting with me.

I am completely "flummoxed." I had no idea that I was even nominated. Those guys can really keep a secret!

The nomination was championed by my high school's language arts coordinator and backed up with letters of recommendation from the English teachers with whom I develop curriculum, along with my two collaborative co-teachers, and the high school's SPED department.

This is truly an honor and certainly one that I never expected to come my way.

I just pray that next Tuesday I don't have to make a speech -- and that I don't look like too much of a dork when they take pictures (good grief!) for the newspaper, the district newsletter, and the web site. Maybe I really should rethink about actually dying my hair . . .

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Merry Holidays!


When you are traveling and living out of a motel, Thanksgiving dinner is anticlimatical. And there are no leftovers for that cold plate of dressing at midnight or the dippy turkey sandwich in your brown paper lunch bag. So Saturday Hubby baked the turkey and today he created all the wonderful sides that make a Thanksgiving dinner something to be truly grateful for. And we ate. The boys ate wings. We ate breast meat. The boys crunched on dry leg meat. We savored cornbread dressing and the drippiest, most cinnamon candied sweet potatoes this side of the Mason Dixon line. Oh, my! The eats were good!

Then we laid around and listened to Christmas music and read our respective books / magazines / and half-watched the football games.

The Christmas spirit descended with the advent of holiday feasting, the music from the past week, and the myriad bags of Christmas presents littering the living room floor waiting to be packed for Huston. I feel happily, deliciously holiday-ish.

"It's a wonderful time of the year . . ."

Friday, December 03, 2010

Music to Soothe the Soul

Branson over Thanksgiving was simply THE BEST. We ambled down the road early on Wednesday and were in Branson by noon. Checked into the motel -- La Quinta happily accepts dogs withOUT requiring deposits (no pun intended) -- so they were booked solid, of course. I had arranged our room early and we had a handicapped room with a handicapped parking space right in front of our ground floor accomodations. The motel was clean (spotless, in fact), the beds were new and comfortable -- and the bathroom was a big as the room. We loved staying there. So did the dogs.

We saw two shows; both were excellent. On Wednesday night we took in Yakov's Russian Family Circus (dinner) show and we both loved it. Great acts with an amusing dinner served, not at tables, but in your seat in the auditorium.

On Thursday we went to the Welk Family Resort for Thanksgiving dinner -- the only bad meal we had in Branson (pressed turkey should not cost $28 a person). The show was Tony Orlando and the Lenon Sisters -- with a very superior live band. The performances were professional and we enjoyed them -- not as nearly as much as the circus. Still a good evening and as I had grown up with the Lenon Sisters I was glad to catch their acts. Only three of the sisters perform now -- two have retired -- and the third sister was the youngest and was never part of the original act.

Of course, we did some shopping. We took in the I-Max theater and saw a show on Alaska. We ate out at all the cheap restaurants and buffets. Usually we'd have breakfast about 9 or 10 -- and then an early bird dinner around 4. We took naps when we felt like it. We loaded the trunk with Christmas presents. Mostly we laughed and relaxed and de-stressed ourselves.

We came home early Saturday morning, arriving back in KC around 1 p.m. and we just laid around the house until time for work on Monday, watching TV, reading books, and playing computer games.

Tuesday night we attended the season's second performance of the Kansas City Chamber Orchestra. It was a wonderful concert -- Schumann and Chopin music -- featuring a married couple of Russian pianists. The music was both approachable, lushly romantic, and buoyant. The orchestra played at full strength -- 32 professional musicians who live in this area -- and the soloists were beyond exceptional.

Thursday night we attended a performance by Leon Fleisher, and again we were simply carried away by the music -- and the story of Mr. Fleisher. During the 1960's, Fleisher was probably one of the top three pianists in the world. After losing the use of his right hand -- for no apparent reason -- he also lost his family and career and became suicidal. It was a hard road back but, after discovering a selection of music created after WWI for a maimed soldier who had lost his right hand, he staged a miraculous come-back -- playing only with his left hand. Eventually he was diagnosed with a brain disorder that caused his right hand to curl under into a ball -- and he found a love of teaching and conducting. Through the use of botox injections and massage he regained the use of right hand -- but at our concert, because of recent surgery on this thumb, he was once again only playing with his left hand. The concert opened by showing the HBO Emmy nominated movie about his life, then he played, and finally he answered questions for the audience. Now at 82 years old, he has learned that his disability was a blessing, rather than a curse -- and he wowed us all with his talent, his humor, and his grasp of music.

So . . . in the last two weeks, we have heard some spectacular music, met / seen some music legends, and prepared our souls for a holiday of wide-ranging surprises, romance and joy, and the harmony of spiritual delights. Thank heavens for the music in our lives.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday, November 14, 2010

November Calm

This was a lovely weekend. We did calming things. We read books. I'm going through the Maisie Dobbs series again. I read it piece-meal last time but I've acquired most of the series now in sequential order (up through 2007) and I'm rereading for consistency. Jacqueline Winspear creates a world during WWI and the Depression that simply absorbs the reader. Hubby is still pouring over his rereads of Robert B. Parker. Parker's death this year made Hubby go back for a third and fourth time to his novels.

We went to the movies and saw Morning Glory, a delightful film. We laughed. We held hands. We laughed some more. Harrison Ford as a curmudgeon just can't be topped -- except maybe by Jack Nickelson.


We visited the $200 store (Sam's) and only spent $95. We bought comfort food -- a roasted chicken, cookies, chips, milk, yams, and real butter (with salt in it -- to h*ll with high blood pressure).


I drank a quart of eggnog. Every year I wait with eager anticipation for the eggnog season to begin. For dinner last night we ate fresh sour dough toast with real butter, grape (for Hubby) or strawberry (for me) jelly and hot tea (Hubby) and eggnog (me).


Hubby started shopping for Christmas. He actually went on-line and found presents for his sister -- which caused the on-line store to send us a coupon for the exact item we had been looking at. We immediately ordered said item -- and then were so excited that we had finally started the process, we actually went "store" shopping for another Christmas present for his sister. We now have a half dozen Christmas presents ready for December.


Hubby baked a lovely pork roast and we boiled up taters for mashing and we've eaten that for the past couple of days. Delicious comfort food when paired with our Sam's cookies -- and a wonderful Sunday dinner.


We slept, of course. We napped on Saturday. We were in bed by 9:00 that night. Now Hubby is napping during the football games. He switches between violent movies and violent games -- but I hear him snoring away during both.


I paid the bills this afternoon -- and since Hubby had gotten us new debit cards, I activated them and changed over our online accounts to recognized the new numbers. We had used the old cards until they had cracked and folks were having to enter the numbers because they no longer swiped easily. I always think that the bill paying will be an onerous chore -- but sites keep getting easier and easier to use (and they remember more and more of your information so you have to remember less and less). And finally -- glory be -- the water company has moved bill paying on-line so I'm not now three months late in paying.


We needed to clean the bathroom. We needed to get the rest of winter clothes up from the basement. I'm sure I needed to do a load of wash. We needed to change the sheets. We didn't do any of those. We DID enjoy ourselves thoroughly.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

10 Days before a vacation


First block started off with a fight. One of my SPED girls who has been spiraling down into angry despair, flew into World History where I collab with a nice guy who is never in class at the start, found her seat, raced across the room and proceeded to beat the pulp out of another kid. Honestly, for the first time in my career, I just stood there and watched.

Last Friday, the girl's aunt showed up for a conference with us and to announced that I had become the girl's "monster." The aunt has taken over guardianship of the child after a horrible transition that began last March when the family home burned. Since then the kid has been spiralling further and further out of control. I'm the "monster" of course because I'm trying to hold her in place and insist that she follow the rules and do the classroom assignments. The aunt believes the child should be allowed to make her own decisions -- regardless of the consequences. At the end of the meeting, we agreed that she could, in fact, make those decisions until they affected the learning of other students.

Yesterday, instead of agreeing to sit our advisory class, the child elected to sit across the hall in an empty room. Today, however, I allowed her to make the decision to beat up another girl which will, of course, force an entirely new series of events.

A behavior plan will now go into effect through her IEP (which has the almighty power of federal law behind it) and this child will no longer be allowed to make her own decisions. This will occur after a blessed 10 day suspension in which we all get to cool off. Then our little miss can decide to either work with me or go to the behavior discipline room where two huge guys hold sway and allow the kids out of the room only under supervision (no breaks, no lunchroom, no attending class -- all work is done in the smallest classroom possible). You get to pee only with a guard at your side.

Bet I won't seem like such a "monster" after two weeks of this treatment!

And if you detect a note of glee in my words, you'd be right.

Next block a whole stream of staff (teachers, administrators, and I don't know who all) paraded through our junior English collab to see what a real collaboration should look like. We didn't know anyone was coming until 7:30 this morning when my collab partner was called by the vice-principal to announce the impending visitation. We had, of course, planned a parallel teaching lesson -- not the best for seeing how well we actually do collaborate. But we decided to do our initial bell work unit, do a brief discussion of MLA standards in which we actually did a team-unit, and then go our separate ways. The students are writing a term paper -- and we didn't divide the class by SPED vs general ed students -- we divided it along the lines of the topics each group was writing about. Some SPED were with me -- some with the English teacher. Generally my group wanted more hands-on help -- but I also had the five brightest kids in the room with me. We have 35 in the gen ed room -- so this division means we can work with more quiet and in a more one-on-one approach without falling all over each other. We wowed our observers (of course -- we really are a great team) by using both approaches in a 25 minute span.

We spend third block standing in a long line waiting to have our sophomore students hearing and vision checked by a staff of student nurses from the local university. Because no one had planned well, all third floor teachers showed up at once and the university staff yelled at the teachers that we didn't have control of our students and everyone was too noisy. They actually got in our faces and yelled! Meanwhile the kids stood around in long, long lines for 45 to 60 minutes waiting for the tests. Clearly ivory towers have little contact with inner city public schools.

With my world history collab partner we ended the day by planning to give a demonstration tomorrow of how true communism works -- facilitated by a huge pile of really realistic paper money. The kids will love it. But we will be noisy. Money calls for noise for some odd reason.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Finally Autumn Seems to Have Arrived


The midwest has been warm all through October. It just hasn't felt much like fall. But now the signs are here:

1. The trees began turning about 10 days ago, very slowly. The graveyard across the street from Hubby's house has gorgeous red, orange, and yellow oaks and maples.

2. We had the first freeze this morning. It felt lovely -- partly because this was a school holiday and instead of getting up and trudging about in the 4:30 a.m. cold, I was snuggled down with Hubby and two boys.

3. The last workday of October is a school holiday (see above) -- and since we've been in school solidly since Labor Day we so look forward to it.

4. My last permanent and serious hair cut was July 30. I got the new perm and hair shaving today. I'm ready for the holiday season.

5. We turned on the furnace. Why suffer proudly when you can just flip a switch and get warm air?

6. Hubby demanded a blanket on his side of the bed.

7. I began to put away the summer clothes. I also began to drag up from the basement the winter clothes. I hate this job.

8. Hubby sent Halloween cupcakes to school for my Advisory students. They cheered on Thursday when they saw them -- each had a huge Halloween ring stuck smack in the middle of the purple icing.

9. I went to the store this afternoon to buy myself my own bag 0f Halloween candy -- I wanted some candy corn. Now that I have it -- why do we eat this stuff? It has almost no taste and no redeeming value.

10. At the store I bought my first bottle of -- EGGNOG! I love eggnog!

11. This weekend I'm making Thanksgiving reservations for Branson.

12. I'm beginning to think just a little bit about writing the Christmas letter and addressing the Christmas cards.

13. Lucky number 13. Typical of me, I forgot that this year my conditional SPED teaching license was due to be renewed in August. Actually, I can't remember if I ever knew it needed renewing. Anyway, the SPED honcho sent me a very evil email yesterday saying my conditional certification had lapsed, she didn't think the state was renewing anybody at this particular time, and my contract would NOT be renewed if I didn't have certification. Again, typical of me, I went to all the bad places in my head -- but had the good sense to contact my grad school advisor with a frantic plea for help. Within 40 minutes she had the whole situation in control -- the SPED honcho had been put in her place, I was again calm and breathing, and my certification papers will be in the mail on Monday and Pittsburg State University will handle the whole matter for me. There are real advantages in going to a small school that takes an individual interest in their students (of course, that's only IF you have to go back to grad school). I have 9 more hours before I gain full certification (6 in the spring and 3 in the summer -- AND I'm done -- 36 hours of grad credit BEYOND my masters).

14. The district issued new contracts this week -- and I happily signed on for another year at a very pleasant (not rich, of course) salary.

15. Hubby did the winter-tune up on the Lincoln. For a car with 162,300+ miles, we only needed a few minor things repaired (at this time).

16. The boys are getting longer monthly hair cuts from the groomer. No more shaving off leg and belly fringe -- they need a little hair to keep 'em warm.

17. We've been gearing into the concert season. The last couple of concerts -- especially the Baroque by Candlelight -- were fabulous.

18. Hubby and I went this week to the last soccer game of the season. My school's team made it to the regionals -- but then we got slaughtered. (The soccer coach is the same teacher who made us the wonderful spaghetti sauce.)

19. The kids in my Advisory are already asking about the annual Christmas party.

20. Cider. Cocoa. Donuts. Homemade pumpkin bread. Pumpkin spice cream cheese muffins from Starbucks. Yum. Yum. Yum.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Time

I suppose that in autumn my thoughts turn to endings. Warm weather ending. Wearing sandals without socks ending. Going outdoors without a coat ending. Leaves on trees ending. Daylight savings time ending. Tornado warnings ending. Chilled tuna salad and watermelon for dinner ending.

There are beginnings, too. Rainy, dark mornings beginning. Finding those beloved cheery red happy pants beginning. Wearing new suede shoes beginning. Planning for Thanksgiving and Christmas vacation beginnings. Chili for dinner beginning. Thinking about starting grad school, AGAIN beginning.

Endings. Beginnings. The cycles of my life keep speeding up. I'm getting dizzy.


Monday, October 04, 2010

Life's Little Pleasures

Today my school teacher neighbor, the man I share a classroom wall with, came into the lunchroom carrying a large sack from Whole Foods. Al is known for bringing little treats to us -- usually a pie or a cake. Today he had a lovely banana layer cake which helped make Monday just a bit more palatable. But his huge sack contained another surprise.

Al is old school. An Italian immigrant, his parents brought him from Southern Italy when he was 12 years old. Not knowing a word of English, they immediately threw him into public school -- way before the days of ESL classes. From a family that never believed in complaining or failing, Al made his life a wonderful success. He raised three children with his beloved wife. He has taught school for over 40 years. Three years ago his wife, who had been the provider of fabulous homemade treats for our lunchroom, caught the flu. Within 19 hours she was dead. Al, never complaining, carries on. Now his treats are store bought. Every time he brings them we fondly recall the delicacies his wife used to make us.

At 67 years old Al can still beat his soccer team up the four double case flights of steps. They've learned not to challenge him. He agrees that on the straight away the boys can beat him -- but not charging up those steps. Some nights he's at school until 11 p.m., head coach of a group of immigrant boys struggling with English and in love with soccer.

Two summers ago, his son flew him back to Italy first class to reconnect with his relatives. We're still sitting through the picture shows of that trip. This past summer, with his mother now 92, Al spent the summer in Omaha learning how to make his favorite Italian dishes. He came home the master of spaghetti sauce.

Over the weekend, Al went to Whole Foods and got all the freshest ingredients. Then he made his mama's sauce -- organic tomatoes, fresh oregano. He also bought two packages of Italian pasta and pretty good sized wedge of parmigiano reggiano. Then he spent four hours making mama's sauce.

In that lovely shopping bag was dinner for Hubby and me. All homemade. All fresh. All made with love. Pasta, cheese, and a gleaming, fragrant jar of real Italian spaghetti sauce. What a pleasure!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Still Trudging Along

A note arrived in my inbox from my beloved sister-in-law in Houston gently reminding me that this blog has lain fallow for nearly a month as I slog through school readjustment. So here's a very brief update for family and friends.

Teaching this year is so hard. Much harder than in any year since I started teaching -- and this, gang, is my 27th year of being an inner city classroom teacher. Physically, I'm so exhausted that I haven't seen a TV show or read anything other than a magazine with more depth than People in a month. I'm even too tired to eat. I'm so exhausted that a couple of cheese cubes satisfies me for lunch. A handful of grapes can be dinner. A bottle of diet sweet tea sustains me all afternoon. It's just too much effort to get the food into my mouth and chew it. This is creating problems for Hubby, who is the lunch-putter-upper but he's manfully trying to create something to give me a little energy and not have me just shrug off the meal (tuna fish seems to be the staple right now). I've quit trying to "look pretty" before I head out the door at 5:15 a.m. every morning -- it's just too wearying to figure out how to apply makeup when you're eyes are glued shut. Clean clothes seem to be my biggest fashion statement. I have meetings every single night after school -- even on Fridays. I also have a meeting on Monday morning at 6:30 and the onerous metal detector duty on Friday morning -- which means that on those mornings I get up half an hour earlier. Every night I'm in bed -- and asleep -- by 7 p.m. However, because I now can no longer sleep longer than three hours at the most at a stretch -- at midnight, I'm back up trying to figure out if I can eek out three more hours of sleep before I need to start dressing for the day. Did I say I was falling-down exhausted?

Sounds awful, doesn't it?

I'm having my most productive year of teaching since I started the college prep program back in 1984 (which ended with the demise of Paseo High School in 1990). I work with a fantastic cohort of junior English teachers and they are open and willing to use my ideas for curriculum development. Somehow, without even realizing how it came about, I turned myself into a really good lesson plan writer -- I can scaffold skill development so kids have a foundation on which to lay a solid build up of learning -- and they understand and retain my lessons. My cohorts are open to the process and we have, together, taken my basic lessons and turned them into really dynamic units for the new curriculum that our district is trying to implement. More than any other group in our city, my cohort is showing ease with the new processes and test scores reflecting our achievement. Everyone -- including me -- is astonished and delighted. The acclaim we are beginning to receive is even more amazing.

The collaborative teaching assignments that so worried me before school started have turned into dynamic, innovative, and wildly successful ventures. Both teachers have been open and welcoming. Both teachers have made accommodations for me, physically and intellectually. Both teachers have seem me as an equal teaching partner and made the students aware of my status. Both teachers share my love of kids and we have similar teaching styles. The English teacher (the one I worried about most) and I also share the same discipline style. I love working with her! We aren't best friends, but as equal professional educators we are so in sync! I love collaborating! And the kids love having me in the classrooms.

My social studies collaboration has not been as visible to the district, since I'm not part of the social studies professional meetings (I'm stuck with English) -- but my collab partner has been open to my creating our social studies teaching units and then he has been presenting them at the district meetings. We got a call this week from another high school asking to use my material at their school.

This week we had our first district mandated testing session to see how well we were implementing the new curriculum. The tests were written on ACT level and administered by computer. We were not permitted to see them before they were given. The process did not go smoothly and by week's end we had teachers in wild disarray and very angry -- all the teachers but the ones in my English cohort who showed some of the highest scores in the district. We came close to already meeting the high norm set for the district (80% passing). Okay -- our ESL students scored quite low. In our collab English classroom we have 31 students -- and 21 are ether SPED or ESL. The two students from Nepal with almost no English did quite poorly. But my SPED kids -- 60 to 70% scores for the most part. Now that's an achievement! And using my curriculum -- the gen ed students were scoring in the 80 to 90th percentile. WOW! Our principal stopped by to congratulate us on what is currently believed to be the highest scores in the district!

So -- the year is hard! So hard! So tiring! So much work! I'm writing curriculum for both World History and English 3 from the ground up. I'm working my butt off inside the classroom. I'm loving the kids -- and the kids are loving me back. I'm so impressed by the openness of my collab partners. I'm working with intelligent, professional colleagues in a mutually respectful environment. It's okay to be tired when you're actually accomplishing something wonderful.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Summer Sizzle

It's August, we're the middle of the country on the Kansas plains, and it's supposed to be hot. If you decide to open schools during August, wouldn't it make sense to plan for this heat? And if it gets very, very hot -- shouldn't you have contingency plans for high heat and humidity days?

I love my school district. I think they usually plan well and they care about their charges AND employees. But where heat is concerned, this year they have made stupid decisions based on cost cutting.

At 3 p.m. each Friday they have decided to turn off all the air-conditioners in the schools. My building, built in 1935 in the old classical school model, was retrofitted with air, but it's not really an operational unit. Especially on the far end of the third floor where my room is situated. The rule is that our huge, high old-fashioned windows are NOT to be opened, except in emergencies. We have no room fans. We DO get hot, but in past years this has been acceptable heat. The air circulates and when we complained, a little more air would be filtered our way.

But this year when the cooling goes off on Friday, it stays off until 6 a.m. on Monday, so the heat and humidity build. And build. And build.

This Monday morning the AC in our building did not come on. They jimmied with it all day yesterday. The admin gave in and allowed windows to be opened and we tried to get what cool breezes we could. The temps outside rose to 95 and inside it was 93. We sweated. A lot. Finally around 1 p.m. the air came on and stayed on -- but at 3 p.m. the district shut it back off -- to meet their cost saving goals.

Of course, again, this morning the air would not come back on. The heat continued to build. Outside, by 1 p.m. it was 97 degrees -- and the heat index was 107. ONE HUNDRED AND SEVEN DEGREES. The humidity -- because a huge storm is headed our way -- must have been at 130%. The air dripped with moisture.

Inside, we baked. It was so hot we could barely breathe. We opened up windows -- but then would be required to put them back down every time they thought the air was working -- but then the air wouldn't work.

If the air comes on tomorrow we might get our huge historic high school just cool enough to walk around in without sweat dripping into our clothes and turning us sopping wet. But every night that air will go off, negating what little cooling has been done during the day.

And to make matters worse, the district, to save a penny, will turn the air back off for the weekend, so for three days (Labor Day weekend) the heat will continue to build and on Tuesday we will be broiling all over again.

Last week I got sick on Thursday night -- woke up at 3 p.m vomiting. Initially, I thought stomach flu -- but it wasn't. I was simply over tired from all the rigor of starting school -- and from the heat we had been fighting all last week. This week the heat is exponentially worse.

The district, however, is adamant about turning off the air conditioning every afternoon. God only knows what will happen if we also have a very frigid winter -- and they insist on turning the heat off.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Put Your Paws Together Please

A little boy in Singapore is having surgery today on his paw -- and his parents are very worried. Please send them good vibrations and hold them in your hearts.
They have had much dog heartache in the past - and like me, they hold their dogs as their children.

Good luck, Roop! We are all pulling for you.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

#300

Two weeks of school completed. Yes, I'm keeping track this year. Yesterday, on the way to a movie that we walked out on (Scott Pilgrim -- lordy! did this movie prove we were old fogies! and man! did we hate it), I actually listed for Hubby all the school holidays and how soon they would arrive.

It's not that the two weeks were awful -- they actually were really good in terms of students and productivity. It's that they were so very, very exhausting. Every afternoon, the only thing I could manage on arriving home from school, was throwing off my clothes and going to bed. Eating wasn't an option. Reading was out. No TV. It was sleep. By 5:30 every single evening last week, I was sound asleep.

The collaborative / co-teaching model is going far better than I could ever have imagined, both in junior English and world history. My work with the junior English teacher cohort to develop a new curriculum to meet the new standards is going even better. Everybody is very complimentary of my lesson plans and ideas. And they have started contributing really great ideas of their own. My caseload kids are just wonderful -- smiling, friendly, happy to be back in school. They make every day a joy in the classroom.

The meeting schedule, however, is extremely arduous. I meet with the junior English teachers on Monday morning at 6:30 to 7, on Tuesday evening from 2:30 to 3, on Wednesday from 1:50 to 3, and sometimes on Thursday from 2:30 to 3. I meet with my co-teacher in English from 7:00 to 7:20 every morning. I meet with my co-teacher in social studies from 1:45 until 2:20 every afternoon and on Friday from 1:45 to 3:00. I meet with the SPED community from 2:30 to 3:00 every Monday afternoon.

The only morning without a meeting is Friday -- when I do metal detector duty from 7:00 until 7:20 checking student ID's.

I write the weekly lesson plans for all the English 3 (junior English) teachers in our building and also post them on-line for the district teachers. I write the world history lesson plans only for my co-teacher but he offers them up to anyone who wants them.

In the classroom, we are actually doing co-teaching in world history and English 3. Our world history class of 32 started the year with a text book "investigation" and map of the world review and now we are completing the artistic revolution of the Renaissance. I'm the disciplinarian in that room. I keep the kids on task -- and I teach the "basic" stuff (like vocabulary) and rewrite the lessons (especially the primary resource material) to make them more kid-approachable. I have worked with the social studies teacher now for three years but this is the first time we have actually co-taught the lessons.

In our English class of 31, I'm less the disciplinarian and more the equal partner, partly because the English teacher, a young woman, already has a firm grip on her classroom and because I'm a much better in English than in history. Though, so far, I've developed the entire lesson plans for our first unit, it's clear that eventually we will be sharing more and more the responsibilities of that job. So far, in both classes, I've also done all the grading of assignments -- because I believe that letting kids know exactly where they stand in class (and that you KNOW what they are doing) is extremely important.

Both teachers have opened up their usual processes in the classroom to accommodate my needs -- and this isn't easy. I can no longer stand for long periods of time and in my own space, I arrange students so I'm in the middle of them, sitting -- either in a rolling chair or on top of a desk. Both teachers have gone away from straight rows into group seating to accommodate my needs. This is huge!

Both teachers have pulled back on their own egos to allow me to interject into lessons, to dialogue with them and with their students -- and to find ways to give me equal "billing" with the kids. To teachers who have been "king" or "queen" in their silo-typed classrooms, this a decided and complicated change.

So the first week with kids has been fantastic. I believe we are improving the educational process -- and I think we are forming a pattern that can be copied by other teachers. But -- this is HARD work on all of us. The meetings, the sharing of space by very different personalities, the changing of methods that we have always found comfortable . . . this is real work.

Lastly, as to the title of this little piece -- this IS my 300th blog entry.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

One of the Many Reasons My Marriage Works

After 37 years of togetherness,
this is what a wife does on her weekend to keep her husband happy


(and he didn't snore once -- and his verdict at the end: G R E A T!)


You really don't want to know what I thought of the movie -- and it was too loud to sleep through, darn it.



Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Luie's Gotcha Day

Sweet, nearly blind Ludwig was adopted two year's ago from a rescue in Tulsa, Ok. What a joyous addition he has been in our lives.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Whew!

Just got an E-mail from my prof on the final paper. Hallelujah!


Saturday, July 31, 2010

Done

While June was a perfect month for me and I enjoyed nearly every moment of it, July turned into the month from hell. The grad course, The Professional SPED Educator, was beastly -- and ate into nearly every waking moment of the month (even when I wasn't working on the projects, I was agonizing over them). Then mid-month something settled into my joints, belly, and head leaving me exhausted, dispirited, and foggy. It started with a bout of what seemed to be the 24 hour stomach misery -- but once that was over, my whole body turned into a huge pile of misery and exhaustion.

However, the final project was completed on time. The prof in the course wanted to add a few more days of agony so she assigned us two more projects to be completed after the final course session, but I even managed to get those in on time. Now I'm only waiting on the grades.

On Tuesday of last week Hubby and I celebrated our 32nd wedding anniversary (37 years of living together) by ignoring the whole thing. Well, he made me a bowl of tuna salad and bought me six lovely bagels with veggie cream cheese -- bagels seem about the only thing I can currently eat consistently. Then we took a long early evening nap and after a tuna sandwich we had a long night of snoring side by side.

We took in two movies: Salt (ho-hum) and Dinner for Schmucks (perfectly dreadful). I started Justin Cronin's The Passage which is long and really just an updated version of the stuff Stephen King writes (I don't read King anymore but this reminded me of him). The writing is good but the plot has been told over and over and over again.

On Friday the boys and I had a day of beauty. Gus and Luie were groomed while I swung by Fantastic Sam's for a perm and a head-shaving. They are always amazed that I keep saying, "No. Shorter. Shorter!" I get permed / cut once every 12 weeks -- and it only costs me $37.00. The boys, on the other hand, get groomed every four weeks for $80. Somethings in life just aren't fair - but Schnauzers need to be kept trimmed so they will not look like furry little bunnies and start to shed.

School starts for me on Monday -- a three day workshop to look at the new curriculum for this year in the high schools. We have workshops all the following week -- and the students show up two weeks from Monday.

Summer is over, at least for me.

I sure wish that somewhere in there Hubby and I had managed a little vacation, a little time away from home, a little time away from the mice that invaded the kitchen, the dogs on the diet, and the never-ending wash always in the basement.

Here's looking forward to Thanksgiving . . .




Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Little Treat

Woke up very, very early this morning with the "stomach flu" -- it was a mild case but left me exhausted and depleted and sleeping until noon. Then I climbed out of bed, opened up my Pitt State account, set up two Google.docs for the group work assigned for the coming week, and saw that I had been assigned grades on the homework essays, the group essays, and the midterm exam -- all taken in the last two weeks. I had 97.8% of the grade (or 137 out of 140 points) at the half-way point.

Feeling a tad relieved (though the final huge paper is still due), I climbed back in bed, put in an SOS call to Hubby for some 7-Up, and read my new copy of a very old John Irving, The Water-Method Man. Irving wrote this in 1972 and it was his second published novel. As with all the novels I've been pouring through, I was unable to put it down until I had finished it.

Many of Irving's themes are present: Vienna, dancing bears, sex as a force of life, man lost in his fears and failures. And many of Irving's delights are present, also -- his humor even in the darkest moments, his ability to make you care about the protagonist even when he's truly a jerk, his use of juxtapositions with time and place. Not his best, but riveting none-the-less.

Hopefully my head will be clearer and my stomach much more settled tomorrow. Next Wednesday my final project paper is due -- and I haven't written a word of it yet. Plus there are still those two Google.docs I've got to participate in the writing of. And one other essay that's supposed to involve the interviewing of three paraprofessionals (at a minimum). I don't have a para at my school, nor do I know one to contact now. Still, I've worked with them during the last four years - so magic tea leaves do your thing, invent me one more essay out of whole-cloth.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Reaching Beyond My Abilities

Over the weekend we took ourselves to the #1 movie of the week, plus the one all the reviewers were claiming to be the summer hit -- and Hubby slept through it. I liked it -- but mostly I was impressed that anybody thought I could understand it.

We saw Inception. Honestly, to get any real insights into the movie I would need to see it at least six more times. There were so many levels -- both physically and symbolically -- that I had to work just to follow the plot lines.

The end result for me was positive. If nothing else, the panoramic views of Paris and the cities visited in the film were fabulous. The trick played in Paris with the mirrors was highly creative. The fact that folks could imagine this movie was beyond impressive. That they thought the average movie goer would understand it speaks well for how Hollywood is viewing its audience these days.

Hubby thought the whole thing was one giant snore and he received multiple punches in the side while I tried to keep him from making those snores audible. Probably this doesn't bode well for the "legs" of this movie as the summer progresses. I think audiences today are much more geared to understanding "Toy Story 3" (which by the way we both liked very much) since the message is clearly and repeatedly telegraphed to the audience.

At home, I read David Nicholls' One Day, A Novel. The story is reported from the viewpoint of two characters whom we meet every July 15th from 1988 until 2008. This is the only day in their lives that we, the readers, are privy to. The two characters, Dexter and Emma, meet -- have a brief fling and then eventually become best friends. The novel has been compared to the movie When Harry Met Sally -- and there is some resemblance but not the humor. However, the characterizations, since this is a novel and not a movie, are much more in-depth and shaded.

The thing is I didn't much like either character but the writing was so riveting, that once again I couldn't put the book down and spent all last night completing the novel. The blurb says "roaringly funny" but I didn't find the novel so. I found it sad and in many ways "true to life." We all have big dreams but the reality is that if we can just make the small things in our lives work, we should settle for that as being successful.

On both media, novel and movie, I think my thinking has become simplistic and trivial. I supposed, if pressed, I could develop an in-depth essay, at least on the novel -- probably not the movie, but I don't want to. I liked them both. Enough said.

PS -- I read on the web that Ann Hathaway is in London making One Day into a movie.

Black Olives

I hate black olives. I pick them off pizza and out of salads. I spit them out if they find my mouth. Their taste is just weird.
I love green olives. They are salty and tart and melt in my mouth.

This week, while wildly trying to complete one of the 12 miserable essays due in my grad class by Tuesday, Hubby ordered pizza for dinner. With all the meds I've been taking -- to sleep, for the gouty toe, for the high blood pressure, etc. -- my stomach has been badly upset. Keeping this in mind, he ordered me a salad, in case the pizza was not something I could digest.

The salad came with blue cheese dressing and lots of little piles of things from the pizza salad bar, including a huge puddle of black olives. Initially, I couldn't eat either pizza or salad. Oh, okay -- I had one piece of pizza. The salad sat on my desk, smelling mostly of red onions, while I slogged away on my essays.

Unconsciously, I reached over, opened the salad box, and pried the top off the blue cheese dressing. I dunked a carrot into the blue cheese and nibbled. Without looking I grabbed up a couple of lettuce leaves and dipped them, too. Thinking I had another carrot, I found that my fingers were instead clutching a fist full of black olives. I popped them in my mouth without even thinking about it -- and man! did they taste good. So I ate some more. Pretty soon the entire mound of black olives had disappeared.

You think I'm pregnant, or something (ha! ha! ha!)? What in the world caused me to down a huge pile of black olives?

Then, after 15 years of avoiding any type of literature other than a couple of John Irving novels, about 5000 cozy mystery novels, all of Harry Potter, a 100 regency romances, and every People, Time and Newsweek magazine, I suddenly find I only want deep literature -- and I can't put it down once I've started. I lay propped up in bed reading all night long, while Hubby and the dogs snore blissfully around me. I've ordered all kinds of hard back books from Amazon -- but I've only read paper backs because of the carpel and how difficult it is for me to hold hard backs in bed for the last 20 years. I somehow desperately need the "fine" literature I have avoided since writing my master's thesis on Gunter Grass's Tin Drum (after that disaster I swore I'd never again read a book I didn't enjoy).

I'm doing okay on the essays, too. I managed to get all 12 finished by sunset this Sunday evening. That's a day ahead of schedule.

Sleeping? What a waste those pills are on me. It's 3 a.m. now and I'm wide awake, ready to chug away at 100 more pages of the current novel (review to follow).

I'd say I was going through the change of life -- but at 64? No. I've been there and done that. Weird times this summer is all I can think. Maybe it's the heat?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Gift for Myself

Reading and writing for grad class sent me into a frenzy of need for some really great literature and so I broke down and ordered a box of books from Amazon to soothe my broken spirit. My partial order arrived today and I greedily opened the smallest of the books, Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain.

Unable to put the book down even knowing I had three more essay questions to write, I finished it at 2:19 a.m. this morning. Bleary eyed, swollen faced, tears streaming, nose completely stopped, fingers convulsingly grasping Gussie's soft fur, I admit to being in love.

I swore off dog books when Wolfie died. The dog always dies in these stories and I simply can't read books or see movies or even hear stories about dying dogs any more. I just break down completely and go back to that moment when Wolfie left me, taking from me the purest love I will ever experience, leaving me so alone . . .

I read the reviews of The Art of Racing on Amazon and thought, "Maybe just this once I could take a chance." I'm glad I did. The story opens, though, with the dog dying. I started crying on page one. But then I quit almost immediately. And the ending is so life-affirming that my tears then were not from such a desolate place.

The story and the message of the book are wonderful and touching and uplifting. If you like dogs, you must surely meet Enzo and his owner Denny, a race car driver. Enzo adores racing, watching television, and especially Denny. He deeply regrets not being able to talk and is sure that with an appliance like the one used by Stephen Hawking's, he could make himself understood by the humans.

This book is magic.

Wisdom from Enzo:
"That which you manifest is before you."
and "In racing (as in life), they say your car goes where your eyes go."
and "We had a good run. Now it's over. What's wrong with that?"
and most certainly "Somewhere the zebra is dancing."

Friday, July 16, 2010

Shoot me now!

Last week, in my grad class called "The Professional SPED Educator," we were required to write eight (8!!!) essays. I thought that was a tough week.
This week we had seven (7!) essays but the prof threw in a mid-term exam -- all essay questions. There were five (5 -- F I V E -- 5! 5! 5! 5!) questions.

That makes 12 essays in one week. There are only seven days in a week. Don't college professors realize that? Plus she assigned three chapters to read - another 150 pages. And some kind of form to fill out that I haven't yet even looked at.

One of the questions asked us to design a collaborative teaching model for our school with by-in from all staff members -- as well as design the training program from the model. This was one of the throw-away questions. This could a disertation! It can't be covered in a couple of pages!

Another asked us to interview a consultant in our district and write a detailed overview of his / her training.

Yet another essay must be developed as a group process, including four other team members. The topic: how to provide treatment integrity for a given intervention.

Finally, for this week there is the essay test -- the directions were: write in-depth answers with annotation. Four questions required some creativity but mostly were answerable by doing research from our reading -- with a lot of explanation. But the last question was a case study of a first grader! The kid is six! I work in high school, for pete's sake.
There is still a huge project due at the end of the course. I have an idea in my head about what to write about -- but I can't find any time to even outline my thoughts.

This is simply beyond incredible. This is I M P O S S I B L E.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Ouch! Or Round 2

It's been raining a lot here in the heartland. It's also been very humid. This kind of weather proves ugly on arthritic geriatrics -- which, as much as I wish I weren't, I am.

This weekend I didn't want to cook, so Hubby and I ate out twice. Once I had crab legs and once I had buttered shrimp, boiled shrimp, fried shrimp AND crab legs.

Can you guess where this is going?
Two years ago I ended up in the emergency room being pumped full of heavy duty pain meds after ending up sobbing hysterically because of the pain caused by -- gout. Gout caused by arthritis and sometimes, the eating of certain foods -- like seafood.

Good grief. Gout. Only old men in Regency romance novels ever got gout. Certainly I couldn't have it.

But I did. And the pain was simply unbearable. If I could have, I would have cut off my foot -- anything to have stopped that endurable pain. Once the opiates kicked in, I still had the pain but didn't care so much that it was there. In fact, I had such a heavy dosage that I could sleep right through the pain for the next 24 hours.

The cause of the first bout of gout (poetry!) was judged due to arthritis and an infection that settle in the joint of my big toe. Plus eating a lot of sea food. So to cure it I took anti-inflammatories and antibiotics. Once the gout was gone I never had a recurrence.

Until yesterday.

Gout arrives while you are asleep. The doctors tell me this is because your heart will keep that blood pumping while you are up and around but things slow down while you are sleeping and your feet, which are farthest away from your heart just don't get enough pumping blood and gout settles in around your arthritis.

Saturday I just didn't feel right. So I took a nice long afternoon nap. Sunday I didn't feel very good either so I took another nice two hour snooze but when I woke up I knew that the gout had struck again. I tried like crazy to tell myself it was just arthritis because my right big toe (the one afflicted previously) was not hot to the touch nor was it red. But it did hurt pretty badly.

This morning I knew. The red band circled the toe. The steam rose from it in the nice cool air conditioned house. And the pain had doubled.

I called my doctor at first light and requested relief. You don't talk to doctors anymore on the phone. You talk to automated routers that shift you from front desk to office nurses -- but none of them are people either. Instead you leave lots of phone messages. I tried very hard to be succinct and complete, stressing I had ended up in the emergency room last time this happened and I was again in a great deal of pain and wanted to avoid at all costs another $2500 bill.

By the time I had to leave for my group class meeting to complete our Problem Assignment due tomorrow I still had not heard from anyone. I left both my home phone number and my husband's cell as he was driving me because I could not put pressure on the foot to accelerate the car, much less brake it. On the way home from the meeting (we did finish the paper), I stopped at the Walgreen's Walk-in Clinic, hoping they could give me a prescription. After a 75 minute wait they told me they never prescribed for a "chronic" illness.

"This isn't chronic," I complained. "I've only had it once before."

Never-the-less, no prescription. I could, however, go to the urgent care clinic another five miles down the road. So off Hubby took me. Except it was only 5 p.m. and they wouldn't see anybody until 6 p.m. and there were already two people ahead of me.

I went home. And there on my answering machine was the message that the doctor had called in the script and Walgreens had it ready -- and all I needed to do was eat a meal, drink a full glass of water, and take a pill (twice a day).

Damn foot. It had better heal quickly.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Summer Reading

When you get a new computer one of the things you are required to do is update your Internet bookmarks. This is when you find how many are outdated and no longer exist. My biggest bookmark folder, by far, consists of blogs / online journals that I read either regularly, semi-regularly, or once-in-a-blue-moon. I only list a couple of blogs that I have loved for a long, long time on this site -- but I have recently updated my favorite blog folder to include these:


Ampersand: a New Zealander with good, clear writing

Bayou Renaissance: a retired military man with an interesting political slant

BERNTHIS.COM: spicy opinions from a very witty woman

Cliff Morrow's Blog: a farmer and grandfather with a delightful mid-western slant on life

Big Fat Deal: I've read this blogger in other incarnations and she has always been a good writer, but in this blog she discusses the perception of the media about fat people -- and being a fat person, myself, I found her opinions both freeing and insightful

Dooce: honestly, if you don't like Dooce you just don't get good writing or like wonderful photographs; both she and her husband create blogs that are the basic primers for the rest of us

Everyday Stranger: a very good slice-of-life woman writer who leads a much more exciting life than I do, obviously

finslippy: like Dooce, another Internet staple blogger because she's a really good story-teller

Funny the World: the only blogger I read every single day; I know this woman on levels she will never realize; she's just back from a trip to Russia and her pictures are wonderful

Hyperblogal: a local photographer who takes wonderful photos of my city

Just Me: another local woman, around my age, who writes about her life on her farm with her husband, their animals, their gardens, and their motorcycles; right now she's cruising through Arkansas

mimi smartypants: another excellent, witty writer who makes motherhood seem like it might be possible AND productive

MoxieMama: a woman in my hometown who writes about as often as I do, but she always tells a good story

My Beloved Monster: a dad whose writing I have followed through a number of different writing venues, even bought his book from Amazon; his tales of life with his daughter are touching and wonderful
pamie: her tales of the life of a writer in Hollywood are like reading articles in People; you must read about her experience at the Korean spa!

Plain-Jane: another hometown writer but one who is snarky and sarcastic most of the time though she's real, too; she just needs to get over her dislike of other more popular bloggers

Ride Cactus: a dad telling about his adventures at work and at home

Snugpug: a friend in Singapore who writes about her precious dogs, her husband, and her life; she has a real talent with words

Stargazer: we have a mutual admiration society; she's a great teacher with a fantastic family out on the west coast; she's another journalist I read weekly, if not daily

waiterrant.net: another blogger who turned his writings into a book that was most readable; no longer a waiter, he still makes wonderful stories out of everyday events

I don't communicate with these bloggers (except for Snugpug, Stargazer, Just Me and once in while MoxieMama). I'm the silent reader, the lurker. But I am a fan of their writing and if you're looking for a good relaxing summer read, you might want to check them out.












Friday, July 02, 2010

A Holiday Weekend


We are having as quiet a 4th of July as is possible when one lives in the "hood." Firecrackers go off at all hours of the day and night. People also find it entertaining to fire repeated rounds of gunshot. The boys are miserable. Gus especially has developed a fear of loud noises.
My advisor and college professor for the July round of grad school has sent out messages telling the class what to have completed before attending the first class on Tuesday, July 6th. Lots of reading. Even more writing. I spent this morning creating four different "small" essays: an introduction of yourself, and explanation of the style of collaboration used in your school, how are the new methods of technology affecting teachers and their collaboration, and what qualities does an educational leader need to posses and which of these do YOU have. Plus we have to have read over 150 pages before the first class begins. My weekend will be busy.
Hubby took back the Dell computer because he did not think that the read-write DVD drive worked properly (it didn't) but this was after I had almost completely finished setting it up. It took me a good week before I could even look at the replacement Dell he brought home -- a brand new one this time. Then, instead of messing around with downloads, I ordered through Pittsburg State the newest Office products and the newest software they recommended to go with them. They cut a pretty good deal when you are either a student or an educator. It took a couple of days before all the new soft ware arrived and I could face the installation process, but we are now running Windows 7 and Office 10 -- which should hold us for a couple of more years before we need to update again.
This weekend will be spent calming frightened dogs, reading dry education tomes, and proofing final drafts of the four essays. Nothing thrilling but certainly necessary stuff.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Long Week

This has been a hard week. Certainly not as difficult for me as those facing the loss of a spouse, child, sibling, or parent. Still the loss of a greatly respected friend affects the heart deeply.

On the plus side, this week we found out that little sweet Schnauzer Gus does not have Cushing's disease. That leaves us with another expensive test that has given us no conclusive results. The vet has decided to treat him for a thyroid condition for the next 30 days and then test again. I thought we were buying the vet clinic a speed boat for the summer -- now we find out they actually need a yacht.

Little Luie, Gus's boon companion, needed his six month checkup at the eye clinic. Walking in the door there requires a hundred dollar bill. If they open the door to the exam room, you can count on another hundred. And if they give you the drops his eyes need for the next six months . . . well, you get the picture. Still, Luie's eyes are doing great. He has a new cataract forming on the blind eye but that is not a problem at the moment. The eye that sees some light looks as good as it did six months ago -- that is the aim for us, keep that eye healthy as it can be. Plus the eye pressure is still good and there is no ulceration.

The diagnostics on the 1995 Lincoln are much like the tests for Gus. Unless and until the car won't start they can't diagnose the problem. All the tests they ran turned up negative and the car continued to start just fine. So we bit the bullet and rented a car for the weekend, leaving the Lincoln with the mechanic which is when the Lincoln said, "What? You think you can replace me! Well, okay. I'll just refuse to run!" and the mechanics began to find some of the old car's problems. Currently, Hubby is out driving it to see if, finally, the correct repairs have been made.

I did the annual doctor's visitation to get the meds renewed. Except that I was advised to "not go on a diet but you really must lose some weight," I got a clean bill of health. Plus, she substituted a light tranquilizer for the sleep meds which I would NOT take because they made me groggy in the early morning hours. I took one last night at 2:30 a.m. and managed to get up by 9 this morning. That's six hours of uninterrupted sleep. That's a little bit of heaven, frankly.

On Saturday we attended our friend Bruce's funeral. It was a mighty impressive affair held in the main Episcopal cathedral downtown. The diocesan bishop led the high mass (it was the official Easter mass according to the program). I had not been in a place with 300 white men in suits or sports coats with ties in a very long time. Even the mayor of Kansas City came. Bruce had been a political force for preservation of historic landmarks in this city for many years, as well as a respected Episcopal priest and teacher. Consequently, those in power turned up to pay respects -- and probably rub shoulders with others in power. I hadn't realized that the wealthy and powerful still thought the navy blazer, beige slacks, and penny loafers were the uniform of those kind of men. Or that on a summer day where the temps reached a heat index of 103 men still thought they needed to wear suits and ties. Clearly, I am not part of the power elite.

Mostly, the pomp of the funeral felt foreign to me and I couldn't find a way to say goodbye to Bruce in that atmosphere. But then his younger son got up and provided me with a wonderful, clear image: evidently, when Bruce was found in the lake he was on his back, still holding his fishing pole. His son said he would always think that Bruce, always a fisherman of souls and fresh bass, had simply found that he had two fish on the line and so he put his hand over his heart -- and as he had done with so many souls before, simply laid back into the final, ultimate baptism in the arms of God. What a beautiful, comforting image.

To start our week out in a better mode, today we met our dearest friends, Lou and Debby, for a long, leisurely brunch at the neighborhood bar and grill. Over corned beef harsh and eggs, we shared and reminisced and eased our souls. We agreed to take in our favorite concert series in the fall -- and add a new one into the mix. We remembered our individual wedding celebrations. We caught up on health issues and discussed new dentists. Two hours flew by and we left revived to face the joys and sorrows of the coming week.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Dr. Bruce Rahtjen


Bruce's body was found today in the lake where he had been fishing. The news reports have made a ridiculous amount of noise over the fact he was fishing in the lake that belonged to a nudist camp. Bruce and his wife, liberal to the core, were NOT nudists but did not find fault with alternative life styles and the lake was a wonderful place to catch bass, I'm told. Bruce's body was found with his fishing pole still in his hands and two fish on the line. Even in death, he was still a fisherman of souls and refused to let the good ones get away.

One of the smartest men I'll even know, Bruce was a decent, caring, gentleman. He came to a dying church as the part-time pastor and gave his all to the project for seven years. He kept the church alive and he brought in new members. With his wonderful wife, JoAnn, he was the HEART and SOUL of the beautiful, historic church he agreed to help in the northeast corner of our city.

I heard some wonderful advice from Bruce during the time he served as my pastor. I found peace in his presence. Dr. Bruce added a great deal to my life. I'm grateful I got to know him. His presence in our city will be greatly missed. It's hard to say farewell to the very best people in your life.

Added on Wednesday, a clip from the local news:

Monday, June 21, 2010


Dear Dr. Bruce --

Our prayers and hopes are with you.

May faith sustain your family.

All our love --as we keep the faith --
Milly & Hubby

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sundry Summer Surprises

The basement flooded. Massive rain overwhelmed the gutters and then the windows leaked and rain poured through the foundation. I found the entire dryer covered in water. The basement floor had an inch of water on it. The water has evaporated now but everything smells moldy.

The Lincoln broke down with me in it -- and no phone. I had made a quick run to the grocery and only had my wallet with me -- driver's license and debit card. The grocery let me call Hubby who sounded highly annoyed and told me to just sit in the car for 30 minutes before trying to start it again. We knew we were having sensor problems but thought they were all fixed. It was 95 degrees in the parking lot and I was sitting in the sun. Thirty minutes went by. The car would not start. My underwear got damp from sweat. Another 30 minutes went by. Now my outer clothes were sweat logged. The car still would not start. Twenty minutes went by and I was considering whether I was going to break down in tears when Hubby and the mechanic showed up, loaded the groceries and me in the mechanics truck and took me home. Hubby never looked so good!

Hubby had the old van repaired so the air conditioning in it would run. He also had it detailed at the same time. The van is so much nicer now that the years of smoker residue has been removed (previous owner). However, the van was still at the mechanics when the Lincoln quit on me yesterday. We have it back now, so things are much brighter on the car front. Plus, the mechanic thinks he has a fix for the Lincoln.

Little Gus and Crazy Luie had their wellness exams and cost us a fortune at the vet. Luie is fine. Gus continues to gain weight and gets inordinate amounts of tarter on his teeth. Today we had them cleaned and he lost yet another molar. Plus, because he's still gaining weight after being on a diet for a year, he's now had a complete blood panel drawn to check his thyroid. We spend nearly a $1000 on vet bills in the last seven days. The vet will be sure to have her vacation this year.

I downloaded Microsoft LIVE on the advice of Microsoft. It blew out Outlook Mail. After a chat with Earthlink I found that lots of people are having problems with LIVE. So I uninstalled it -- and voila! problem fixed.

My instructor for my July grad class e-mailed out the first assignment -- five chapters to be read before the first class in a $110 text book. I ordered the book from Amazon and got the international edition that was only to be sold in Asia from a second distributor. The book came today and the print is so small I may need a magnifying class to read it.


Also I found the syllabus for the course on-line. It's going to be a very long, trying July.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Making Changes

Blogger has added new templates. As long as I'm changing my life around on the desktop, I figured I might as well try the new template here. I think I like this except that the pictures suddenly seem to overlap.

Meanwhile, the desktop Dell Studio Windows PC is nearing complete setup. After 24 minutes on the phone with Earthlink today (reminding me why I pay such a huge price for Internet service -- because they actually DO provide service!) all my email issues were resolved satisfactorily. The second account was set up and we can now send email to all our thousands of friends and family (yeah, right).

The Outlook contacts have been synced with the roll-a-dex and the most current files from MAC Mail. Hubby has all his programs where he can find them and he can get his mail without going to the Internet itself.

In a week's time we have rebuilt our lives. Strange that 20 years ago our lives did NOT revolve around a computer screen. Now we're lost without it.