Friday, February 28, 2014

Remembering the 28th of February

1970 Dad was still working and happy
February 28, 1903 in Lawrence, KS my daddy was born.  He was the third son for his dad but the eldest for his mom.  One more brother would follow.

He was certainly a product of his generation but he was also smart enough to figure out that times change and whether you approve or not, sometimes you must accept life on the terms presented to you.  Unfortunately he married a woman who didn't understand that but believed that you had to mold life to meet your own needs and beliefs.  They often found themselves at loggerheads until Daddy would relent and give in to Mother.

Daddy enjoyed his life throughout this twenties and thirties.  He bought automobiles, he traveled, he bought beautiful clothes.  He had a job he absolutely loved.  He lived at home with his mother and dad and they made sure he was well fed, his bed was made, and he had clean underwear.

Then Mother snared him.  He was 38 and she was 16.  She pursued him with all the ferocity of a lion hunting a lamb.  Only living a block apart, she kept a watchful eye on his comings and goings, especially his girlfriends.  She chased after him for three years and finally, when she was 19, she caught him and within the year they were married -- and she was three months pregnant. 

They only managed to product one child, me.   Sometimes I was the delight of their lives; sometimes I was a spoiled, rotten brat.  But to my daddy I was always the apple of his eye, the orchid in his lei, the sunshine after a violent storm with Mother.  He loved me unconditionally and when I was happy, he was ecstatic.

To me he was the calm port those wild typhoons that my mother loved to create.  He was bookish, he enjoyed writing and speaking, he was not coordinated, and he couldn't repair anything.  I take after him in so many ways.

He loved to travel but after he married, Mother decided she hated being away from home.  My grandfather (Mother's dad) took us around the U.S. when I was a kid, but Mother was never happy about going.  Eventually she found a way to stop travel when she and Grandfather bought a cabin in the mountains where we could spend the summers.   

Dad loved being well-dressed and before marriage his clothing came from the best stores in town.  After he married, Mother bought his clothing from the bargain basements.  She let him have three suits -- blue, gray, and brown.  He was allowed one pair of shoes for work and one pair for weekends.  He had a herringbone overcoat and a gray felt hat.  He enjoyed nice ties and sometimes he even wore bow-ties but he never had flashy ones. On weekends he would wear jeans with a western shirt and a bolo tie.

He went to church regularly and became an usher.  Mother criticized him mercilessly about the job he did gathering the collection, but the church loved to have him part of their crew.  They asked him time and again to be on the usher board and Mother couldn't understand why, such a "clumsy oaf" was wanted as part of the visible crew of the church. 

He had a warm sense of humor and never made enemies.  Mother was always mad at somebody or other and she couldn't understand why he didn't take her side.  He forgave easily any wrong done him. 

He loved puns and would spring them on you without warning.

My grandparents (Mother's parents) could not understand Mom's attraction to such a man.  He wasn't wealthy, he was not driven, he had only a so-so job, and he told punny stories they couldn't understand.  My grandfather, who never went beyond 8th grade, couldn't relate to this college guy without ambition or the desire to make the big bucks.  Still, they knew him to always be a gentleman and they supported my parents all throughout their lives and beyond.

Dad loved the mountains, almost more than life.  He had spent his summers in the Pike's Peak area from 1907 and he always felt at peace once he heard the wind in the pines at 8000 feet above sea level.  Some of my best memories are of us driving across Kansas to reach Colorado Springs, then driving up the mountain pass to our "pine rest" cabin.

My dad always had my back.  He once told me that if he vanished, there was a letter in his desk at work, that explained he had stayed in the marriage as long as he could for my sake.  But he never did leave me, he stayed and he loved and he nourished my spirit in ways that food never could.

He wasn't a perfect man -- but he was a wonderful, generous, kind father.

Happy Birthday, Dad!    

Forced to retire in 1971 he was the most miserable man alive; he had loved his job and never wanted it to end; now he was stuck at home every day without the intellectual stimulation he required. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Just a couple of little things . . .

. . . to prove that I haven't forgotten about the blog yet again.
  • A bit of warmer weather has made me feel happier.  We had nearly a week of temps above freezing.  Of course we are now hearing reports of intermittent snow and no temps are supposed to go above freezing for the next six days but still my bones got a small reminder that one day sooner, rather than later, spring will come.  
  • Heard about and activated it on the desktop PC (which runs McAfee) and so far have found 143 Malware hits on the computer.  Such a problem -- especially since Hubby continues to download suspicious items that he find interesting.  I'm not going to renew McAfee again.  
  • I'm almost solidly using the laptop now -- and running Norton on it -- I like Norton much better.  The Malware problem has not invaded the laptop (yet).  
  • Haven't heard from Google for install date -- but I'm pining for them.  We were tentatively scheduled for a January - March install, but the bad weather may have delayed things. 
  • AT&T service has been much better since New Years when that poor repairman worked in the snow and cold on New Year's Day to find that problem in an outlying line.  However, on Saturday we once again didn't have internet service. 
  • The pink Lincoln fuel line problem re-surfaced so Hubby had a new one installed; that led to several downturns (fix one thing another goes belly-up) but we now seem to be running smoothly.
  • Cooking every day is a chore most of the time -- I really miss eating out.  However, having good cookware is a decided blessing.  I've tossed a lot of "crap" out of the kitchen -- things we didn't use or ugly, worn out pans.  The only thing I've added has been the iron skillet which I use about once a week.  Still that skillet is really heavy and it's hard to for me to easily move it around.  Thankfully, most days Hubby is willing to eat whatever I fix but one day last week he threw a tantrum over a baked potato with a peel on it.  I think the arthritis pain must have really been getting to him; he's even cooked potatoes with the peels himself.  
  • We missed water aerobics on Wednesday and Friday of last week because the Lincoln wasn't running.  We have started back this week, though, even in this new cold spell. 
Pretty much that's the news from our crib.  Until next time . . . peace out.  

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Gus and Luie Wish You Much Love

What's a holiday without a greeting from the boys!

Happy Valentine's Day!


Clarifiying for Margaret

The question was asked about suet pudding (from my previous post).

The English call it plum pudding or Christmas pudding - but there are rarely if ever plums in it.  You know, it's the dessert from The Christmas Carol and Tiny Tim ate it. 

Suet is the fat from roast beef.  It's used in the pudding to make it so decadently good that you only will eat the stuff on special occasions. 

Real suet (or plum or Christmas) pudding is actually made with a hunk of suet from the butcher that you grind or mince and then add a lot of the same ingredients that you put in fruit cake.  Finally you steam it for hours -- or if you are lucky you find a decent recipe that can be made in the microwave. 

Here is a pretty good recipe for suet pudding (made in the microwave) from a blog called Lavender and Love:  Microwave Suet Pudding with fruit

My mother steamed hers in orange juice and vegetable cans. 

It was always topped with wonderful hard sauce, the pudding served steamy hot and the hard sauce chunky cold.

The Food Network's recipe for hard sauce is perfect and their steamed suet pudding is good, too. 

Thursday, February 06, 2014

The Last Supper

Today on the Chew part of the discussion revolved around what each host would eat for his / her last meal.  Which got me thinking, of course. . .

I would need a buffet because I simply can't choose between these favorites:

The first course would be a seafood snack:  de-shelled lobster tail with drawn butter, de-shelled crab with more drawn butter, and finally boiled shrimp with cocktail sauce.

Lobster tail and lots of butter
The second course would be a cup of creamy rich lobster bisque; however I would forgo the oyster crackers, just to save a bit of room for dessert. 

The third course would be salad -- I'm NOT going to eat European style and hold the salad until after the entree.  Would I have lettuce of any type?  Not on your life.  I'd have deviled eggs and potato salad prepared by -- wait for it because you'll be surprised -- my mom.

Mother's eggs were purist -- a bit of mayonnaise, a dab of golden mustard, a bit of dill and salt & pepper

Mother's potato salad also contained mustard and lots of eggs with onions and celery and good seasonings; I like other kinds but always come back to a mustard base
The palate cleanser would be a small bowl of Hubby's spaghetti -- he does the most wonderful made-from-scratch sauce.

Hubby's spaghetti, when made for me, is a meat sauce topping -- and it's sweet to the taste.
The entree would have to be my grandmother's pot roast dinner -- if she was preparing it, I'd eat whatever she put on the plate -- but there would have to be pot roast from her Therma-well, boiled potatoes, and carrots.  Topping everything would be Granny's gravy -- OMG!  Just for one more taste of that woman's gravy -- you simply can't imagine how good it was -- it was so good we used to make a meal of it with a piece of white bread. 

This is a Chamber's Thermowell Stove -- the Thermowell is the round lid on the back right; the oblong lid on the left was the griddle from which came the best pancakes in the world; the Thermowell cooked the meat while we were all at church

Actually, if I could have all this -- and stuff it all down - I could forgo dessert.  Really.  BUT -- if I still had room I would want to be seated at Grandmother's Christmas table when the specialty desserts created by each woman in the family were passed around:  Mother made suet pudding with real hard sauce (yes, it had suet in it), Grandmother made fondant and mince pie (with more hard sauce), my aunt made a lovely brittle, and I always spent a day producing coconut balls hand dipped in chocolate.

The suet pudding was a recipe from my father's mother; it was boiled in tin cans for hours -- and usually looked just like this but with a lot more hard sauce on it
It's interesting that, except for the seafood dishes (which we didn't really eat being landlocked in the middle of the country), every single one of my favorite dishes comes with family associations -- my grandmother, my mother, my husband.  If a dish is cooked with love you can actually taste it, I think. 

Christmas Eve dinner at Mother's home -- I'm peaking out from the far back but seated next to my beloved grandmother --  Dad is at the head of the table and on his right is his mother of the suet pudding recipes;  this was probably 1951 and I was five
This was a Christmas dinner at my grandmother's house; once again I'm standing next to her, Grandfather is at the head of the table, Mother and Dad are on the right and Great Aunt Frances is taking the photo -- probably 1961.  The only person in any of these pictures still alive is me. 

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

The snow lay on the ground . . ,

Our biggest snowfall this season and this year (2014) was yesterday.  It came down pretty heavily all day and into the night -- the weather person says about 2 - 3 inches an hour.  The temps, not to be outdone, turned hideously cold -- wind chill this morning was -20 degrees. 

We already had ice on our sidewalks, streets, and lawns from the weekend weather "event" and now we had a foot of snow covering everything, including the ice.  I actually worries yesterday morning when I had to drag the two trash bags to the curb for pickup and the driveway was a sheet of slippery ice -- I could just see myself toppling over and being unable to get up. 

Temps for tonight are supposed to reach -15 or lower -- and that's not wind chill, folks -- that's actual temperature.

Hubby had one of his "workers" delivered to our doorsteps early this morning, since we couldn't get out -- and that included the dogs.  The poor man shoveled into the early afternoon just to get our driveway and front walk cleared -- and the car heated and snow removed. 

While he worked away, hubby and I had a nice warm breakfast of sausage and scrambled eggs with English muffins and hot tea.  Lunch was chicken nuggets and fresh corn-on-the-cob from our last Costco trip -- along with a pretty decent honey dew melon, sliced and sugared.  Fresh food on a cold, snowy day is a real treat!

Now we're warmly ensconced in our little house, thermostat set at a consist 75 degrees; tea kettle on very low heat at the back of the stove; boys, finally able to navigate the walk outside, have managed to pee and poop and are happily settled next to Pops in our cozy bed; and the car is unearthed and ready for travel if the need arises. 

This is when I feel so blessed.  We are safe, we are warm, we have plenty of food and drink, the TV has lots of shows for viewing and the Kindles are charged.  And we are only token prisoners of the storms -- we can get out if we want.  Life is damned good.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Memories are made of this . . .

Paseo High School in 1989
Once upon a time I envisioned myself as Don Quixote and I joined with a group of fine folks to tilt at windmills.  Like Don Q my efforts were in vain but that is not to be said that they did not bear fruit.

I taught for 22 years in the Kansas City School district -- first at the Southeast Complex and after seven years was transferred to Paseo High School.  I worked there from 1976 until I resigned from the district (if you have tilted at them publicly for over a year it is in you best interest to resign your position with them) in 1990 -- the year every high school in Kansas City became a magnet school.

Today the district has abandoned that magnet plan -- just as we predicted in 1990.  And today they have put on the market or sold many of their fine historic schools built from 1890 to 1950 -- just as we predicted they would be forced to do because they could not maintain the infrastructure they were building back in the 1980's and '90's. 

This story of how I came to walk away from teaching has been told many times and in many other forms and I'm certainly not going to bore you with a repetition today.  You can learn all about it here if you want to wade through horrible accounts of mismanagement and hypocrisy:

History of Paseo High School
Why Did Kansas City public schools fail?
The Paseo Alumni Association

I vowed I'd never go back to teaching but then in 2006, when Hubby got so sick and my current employer was so awful, life threw me a curve and offered me a slot teaching special education in the Kansas City Kansas public schools.  I was always destined to be an urban core high school teacher -- I never wanted to do anything else.  So I grabbed the gold ring and was profoundly grateful to Kansas City Kansas for showing me that a decent urban core school system could find successes without doing harm to their parents, their children, and their employees.

When Hubby's physical condition worsened in 2010 and 2011, I realized it was my time for actual retirement.  Thanks to the last years spent back in eduction and a rigorous savings program, we could just about afford it.

Last spring I was notified by email that the alumni of the school I had fought so hard to save was putting together a program to remember the efforts made by their members, my students, and our lawyer.  Did I want to come? 

I actually had to think whether or not I did want to relive those times -- they weren't heartbreaking to me but they had been to some of the participants.  My major reaction to that time was still anger:  that a district could be so callous to those they were supposed to educate, that a court system could still enforce segregated education in the name of desegregation, that the power structure of my city only wanted to realize profits from their failing school district rather than actually improve it.  Still, I looked at the guest list and said, yes, I'd come.  Would I speak?  I replied that I'd said everything I had to say back in 1990.

Plans were made.  Old friends, long unseen and unheard of, were contacted.  Telephone calls were made.  A pre-meeting was held.  Visuals were made.  Media was contacted.  Suddenly a small luncheon gathering of Paseo High School alumni was turning into a huge deal, all put together by the alumni association.  Those of us being honored just kind of cruised along in amazement at what a big deal all this was becoming. 

On Monday of this past week, January 27, the Paseo Alumni gathered at a posh Plaza restaurant.  There were tables and tables of memorabilia from our time in 1990.  The local TV station sent out a camera man to interview the participants who had come to reminisce.  Some of my favorite students were there to speak of those days.  The lawyers who represented my students spoke.  The alumni who had worked so hard to save the building spoke.  And yes, even I got up and gave a little talk. 

Monday afternoon was time of healing for me.  It was also a time of reconnecting.  My anger has eased just a bit because I am so very clearly aware of the good things that come from those days -- my kids, now 40 year old successful adults -- told me about how our efforts taught them lessons that could never have been learned in a classroom.  They reminded me that we may have lost a building but we always knew we had stood up for what was good, true, honest, and right. 

If you would like to see the speechifying you can tune in here (the kids come in about half way through and they are worth the listen):

Video from Saving Paseo luncheon

Finally, here are some pictures of the day:


MGW & Calvin Well, leader of the Paseo 18
Materials gathered to commemorate our achievements

Just one of the tables of memorabilia
Suzette Naylor, comptroller KC Art Institute, Calvin Well, DeVry Institute, Terri Barr, aid to Senator Claire McCaskill, Donald Frazier, vice-principal in the St. Louis area
Calvin Wells

John Kurtz, lawyer, introducing Donal Frazier, educator

Suzette Naylor, last valedictorian of the original Paseo High School with John Kurtz, lawyer for the Paseo 18     

Claudio Molteni, lawyer -- John Kurtz, lead lawyer -- Suzette Naylor, Paseo 18 -- Calvin Well, Paseo 18 -- Hubby, supporter Paseo 18 -- Me -- Terri Barr, paralegal for the Paseo 18 -- Donald Frazier, Paseo 18
Sharon McCone, leader for the Alumni, John Kurtz, lawyer for the Paseo 18, and me -- teacher of the Paseo 18