Monday, April 26, 2010

The Pleasure of Real Food

Yesterday for Sunday dinner Hubby snacked on thin slices of ham straight from the Sam's package along with some super spicy red pepper cheese logs. Unable to tolerate the cheese, I settled for teaspoons of extra crunchy peanut butter straight from the jar. We were quite the gourmands.

In our defense, we had gone out for breakfast at 10 a.m. Both of us had eaten some scrambled eggs. Hubby added in biscuits, grits, and syrup, while I had some . . . mystery meat of some kind.

Last night I wandered around the house, feeling really unsatisfied, but the only thing I could find to eat was another couple of teaspoons of the peanut butter.

This morning dawned cold and dreary. I had "metal detector" duty at school -- exactly what it sounds like. Like at the airports, I shift through the suspect backpacks and purses after they have been submitted to x-ray scope eyes. It's hateful and tiring and demeaning for everyone . . . and sets the morning off completely wrong (and I'm on the duty until the end of the school year).

Then I was called down to an unexpected IEP meeting where I requested to take on another case. I didn't really want the child -- she's okay but the mother is a pain in the patoot.

Somehow through all of that, I just skipped breakfast. Lunch was a hot dog in a very old onion roll, that microwaving didn't improve. The orange that Hubby had included was all dried out and fit only for the trash bin.

On Monday afternoons I teach one of my students at the After School Program (ASP). He got suspended for the second time because of gang activity and since he is required by law to get SPED services, I'm on call on Monday's to be his tutor. Being cold and rainy, the kid didn't show, of course.

On the way home after sitting around an hour waiting for Hubby, I thought of asking to stop and pick up some fast food -- chicken or maybe fish, but even the effort to decide which made me even more tired and I decided that a bowl of Campbell's soup would be just fine, too.

The house, when I walked in, was full of meat smells. Honestly, I can't think of anything sweeter than simmering meat unless maybe it's chocolate chip cookies. As I was pulling off the bra -- the first thing that always comes off on arrive home -- Hubby was in the kitchen dishing up the sweetest pot roast, potatoes, carrots, onions -- and glory be! GRAVY!!!!! Homemade, thick, redolent, beefy gravy!!!!!

Now with a fully belly and after a warm bath, I'm ready for bed. But I think I'll make one last trip to the kitchen for another couple of those tender carrots bathed in a little cold gravy.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Guilty Pleasures

I have deep seated pleasures in my life that aren’t so good for the environment, my bank account, or my body.

Deeply chilled flavored water in pretty plastic bottle bring me such happiness and taste so very good. I like the square shaped bottles or those with plastic ones dyed blue. Call a drink Mango Memory, pump it into a pink plastic bottle and chill it for two days – and I’m mad for to have it and to heck with environmental warnings.

I love the feel of greeting cards – especially the ones that sell for $5.95 each even without the postage. An why bother with e-cards or Christmas letters on-line when you can open your real snow-covered mail-box to find a heavy red foil envelop with a beautiful postage stamp affixed to its right hand upper corner? The money I spend on sending Christmas cards is utterly selfish. And I honestly don't care!

At least once a month, but usually a lot oftener, I download a game from Big Fish. They send me an announcement of a new game a day and I pay for a monthly membership so I can get the games for $6.95 each (or less if they are having a sale). Sometimes, like during the summer, I even download a game a day. I now own over 125 of their games (only a couple reside on the Mac – all the rest are PC games). I started playing the “find” games – the programmer hides pictures of all sorts of things in a pretty setting and you seek it out before the timer runs out. Often these “find” games are set around a story line (shift through all the rooms of the haunted house to rescue the beloved maiden). Lately though, I’ve just been mindlessly playing the “match 3” games. Fine 3 matches in a row (or 4 or 5 or 6 or 8), highlight them, and collect points (or bonuses to help you find more matches). Most of the games I play require one to accomplish a task within a set time frame, but I find that frustrates me greatly so lately I’ve only acquired games that could be played in the “untimed” mode. It’s very relaxing after a hard day’s teaching to find 5 daisies running vertically across your screen.

My DVR gets quite a workout when I’m not in grad school. I don’t watch any reality shows, though, unless you count House Hunters and Property Virgins as reality TV. I record all the house buying shows and goggle in amazement that people are still paying $350,000 for a dump townhouse in Chicago that also carries with it high monthly tenant fees. Didn’t people learn anything from the recession?

I’m totally hooked on NBC’s Parenthood. What a wonderful show! What a superior cast! What great story lines! I’m convinced that since I love it so much it will be cancelled before a second season can run. Just as Lauren Graham captivated me on Gilmore Girls, I'm totally in love with her all over again. And then to have Jason Ritter as her two-show love interest blew me away. I adored Ritter in Joan of Arcadia, another show I was passionate about.

Finally, if you love doggies as much as I do, please go check out the wonderful photos of my friend in Singapore's two sweet babies. Snugpug had some great black and white photos taken of her poochies and these shots will brighten your day as much as they did mine. Finally -- something healthy to recommend.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Selling Your Soul to the Devil

When I quit teaching in the KCMO school district in 1990, I explained to astonished friends that I had grown tired of selling my soul every year to the devil. I needed to find a place where evil wasn't done on a daily basis, both to children and adults.

On returning to teaching, one of the things I have most valued in the last four years was that I worked for an ethical employer. Though an urban core district with all the inherent problems therein, I have deeply respected their approach to education. By promoting superintendents and administrators from within, USD 500 in Kansas City, Kansas put the value of their employees first. By working diligently to increase test scores and provide a coherent, cohesive, seamless curriculum across the district's varied schools, they put the educational advancement of their very diverse students first. I have been unfailingly proud to be a part of this district.

Yesterday, though, I learned disturbing news. A women I have grown to value and rely upon, a woman who always put the children first, a woman who added great value to our Special Education department, was "non-renewed" and told she would not have job for the next school year. The news wasn't delivered nicely. She simply got an e-mail and was told to report to the Director of Personnel's office at 2:15 on Tuesday evening. The Director handed her a form letter telling her that her services were no longer needed, as the SPED department had decided to "go another direction" and the position of transition counselor would now require full teaching certification. This woman had been hired 22 years earlier because she had training to work with adults with disabilities in finding career help. She was hired because she had abilities beyond those of a certified teacher.

Yes, 22 years she had worked for the district. Now her services were no longer needed.

This is the way my previous employer had always handled things -- throw out the baby with the bathwater. Damned are the teachers and doubly damned are the students. I stomped around my third floor for awhile, spouting off. I hugged the sobbing woman in her office. I told everybody that had a modicum of power within in my school and that I would do "anything" required to try and keep the lady in her job.

And at 2:30 my department chair came to find me to explain that my principal was at that very moment in meetings with the Personnel Director to save the lady's job.

Arrangements have now been made to ensure that this fine, competent lady will be employed in the fall of 2010. She has been enrolled at the same college I attend, in the same program, actually -- and the district is paying for the courses she needs to earn her teaching certification. If at all possible, she will be placed in our high school -- but if not, a promise has been given that she will be employed in the fall.

This is why I work in the Kansas City, KANSAS school district. It isn't perfect. The initial release of this good person should have been handled much more humanly. But when things went array, powerful people stepped up and spoke out and made the right things happen.

The administration and teachers at MY school have earned even more of my respect. I certainly landed in the right place four years ago. They worked together to save my job the first year I taught with them. They have gone the extra mile to help a respected colleague again. Some educators really do get it -- to have a good educational system you have to treat your employees decently.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Easter Weekend

We've had a really grand Easter weekend, though we no longer get school days off around the Easter holiday, which I miss very much, of course. The weather cooperated beautifully for the most part.

On Good Friday we had a large and noisy morning storm which shut the electricity down a couple of times for a few moments -- and in a high school as big as mine, that makes for serious darkness. However, the lights came back in timely fashion and the students only went partially berserk. By noon the skies had cleared and the temps were in the 70's. Hubby had provided me with Easter baskets filled with simple, sweet chocolates and candies and my friend, Debbie, had given me a fresh box of rice crispy treats so the kids enjoyed our small Easter celebration.

Saturday was another fine day. We met friends we hadn't seen in at least two years for lunch on the Plaza -- and we nearly extended lunch into dinner. We had a fine time, catching up on family news, telling stories, remembering times spent together, and laughing, laughing, laughing. It was really a gloriously spent three hour afternoon. I hadn't realized how much I missed these truly good people and I'm so glad they didn't give up on us, but persisted until we all found time to be together. I don't know when I've had more pleasurable afternoon.

Today, Easter Sunday, we used an Internet coupon for a delicious lunch in Martin City at the Jess and Jim Steak House. You can't go wrong with a New York strip broiled to perfection -- along with a huge twice baked potato. Then Hubby drove the four of us down 135th street to see the new shopping centers and out to Gardner, Kansas. We set a leisurely pace with all the car windows open and the boys happily pushing their snouts into the breeze. We made a stop at the D0llar Tree store so I could pick up some pencils and bandaids for my classroom stash before we finally headed home.

This spring weather is improving my mood immeasurably. Even the rainfalls seem refreshing. This is the time of renewal, after all, and Easter worked its magic on me today.