Friday, December 31, 2010


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.