Sunday, November 30, 2008

my favorite holiday

So we started this Thanksgiving season with a Gamma Day at Mike and Katie's. For those of you who don't know, Gamma Day started years ago because my darling husband never, never, never gets enough turkey and fixin's at Thanksgiving proper. So, we'd do it all over again, usually right before or right after, but sometimes randomly months away. When Lea was very little, Mike (Gupiga to our kids) dubbed it Gamma Day (because they call him Gamma, of course). Gamma claims that only he can call an official Day, but he never complains when one of the rest of us calls one, because it means more turkey, which is always a good thing.

Today, with the help of Mike and Katie's new and nicely functioning oven, we hosted our own Gamma Day. I headed to their house to cook the bird and the stuffing, and he got the root vegetable medley started here. It's mashed potatoes, but with carrots, sweet potato, and parsnips thrown in. After 3.5 hours, I trucked the cooked food back home and got the gravy and broccoli and asparagus finished. Bestfriends came over with their leftover pies, and we finished the Thanksgiving season together, enjoying each other's company.

Forever more, this will be my favorite holiday. Not only does it mean our friends will be present, but it also has the flexibility of us deciding the best day for it. And there are very few people who have ever celebrated this holiday, which makes it pretty darned special. So happy Gamma Day, everyone! Let the leftovers commence!

Saturday, November 29, 2008


A great idea from SJ and Katie.

1. Friends, all of them. I love my Dickvale crowd, my RVBs, my DHS friends, my bestfriends... I am blessed to b surrounded by so many wonderful people.
2. Stuff. I have everything I need and then some. I am comfortable, warm, and full.
***EDIT: Except my oven, which just died. Humph.***
3. Health. Aside from a few minor issues, my friends, family, and I are all healthy and going strong.
4. Work. I am lucky to have found a job that I love that provides us with the paycheck we need to keep #2 & #3.
5. Family, immediate and extended. As much as they can drive me nuts, it is good to have so many people to care about, and to be cared by. And the 3 others who reside here with me, well, I'd be lost without them.

so happy Thanksgiving, all. May you find peace in this coming hectic season.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving #2

Yesterday's school based Thanksgiving was a success. Kids and teachers and administrators working together to put together a meal for us to enjoy (and to share with a few elderly residents). My June graduates from last year came by as well, and it was nice to hear "One Good Thing" that has happened to everyone in the room recently. It was a good day. As long as my middle school counterpart and I are in this business, it is what the day before Thanksgiving break will look like.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


My idea is not a post for me to write, but one I would happily comment on. I would love a Joe Pos* or WB or Mike post on the greatest athletic commercials of all time-- Be Like Mike, That's De-termination, many of the early SportsCenter promos. Just making my desires known.

*I know it gives my husband great joy that I, a non-obsessive sports reader, check this blog daily. I skim the ones that are all about sports, but his writing is so good it's worth the effort. When he writes about non-sporting things, well, that's just another sign of a good day.

go with your gut

I was scheduled to give blood today, but woke up a bit stuffy. I pondered whether I should go or not, but WB convinced me I really wasn't the kind of sick that would render my blood useless. Well, turns out my body disagreed. I was sent away after being stuck because I would not bleed. 3 techs tried, to no success. So now I still have to be gentle to my arm ("no dishes for 3 days"... ha!) but no one benefits from the injury. So it goes in my life-- I've been sent away for not bleeding fast enough before, and I'm often right on the edge of making it. Better luck next time.


If I were asked to define myself as an educator, in one word, it would be connectedness. Honestly, I think that one word defines me as a human being-- I still send Christmas Cards to my fourth grade teacher. (At one point in my life, I sent out close to 100 cards every year. I've whittled it down to about 50, which really took some work.) Anyhow, while my 'lessons' focus on the MLR of the day, I scrap it all for the "teachable moment" that deals with whatever the given kid needs at the moment-- a conversation about safe sex or quitting smoking, my recipe for chicken and broccoli alfredo, or finding out whether or not Castro is still alive during math class. My ultimate goal at the end of the day is for the kids to realize that knowledge is important, but in this day and age you can find anything (see the Castro question and google). What really matters is that someone cares that you found out. Or thought about finding out. Or really didn't care to find out, but did because it was a hoop that had to be jumped.

I've mentioned before that this was a rough week in my world. But there was a lot of good, too. I had a conversation about this very topic with one kid-- and she really appreciated my approach. Another boy admitted, probably for the first time in his life (and I'm so not exaggerating here) that his actions caused the punishment, and the fault was all his. The other parent thanked me for doing what I do, even as I was talking to her about the drama that had altered our plans for the day. A boy came to visit me-- one I'd never taught, but would check in with as he struggled to finish school-- to tell me how he was doing, and to check on his brother (who I do teach) because things are rough at home. Every day ends with "Bye, Buckaroo. Have a good night." I think that's a pretty big deal for kids racing out the door to freedom.

This afternoon I was at the grocery store and bumped into a graduate of mine. This kid is a great one-- hard working, smart, kind-- but his path has not been an easy one, and he's spent some time in the county "hotel". His younger half brother was with him, and they were preparing to have a Thanksgiving together. "Be a gentleman and help her with those bags." Little Bro is not a current student of mine but one on my radar screen, and I thanked him for being such a sweet kid. I'm not sure how often he hears that, but it is so very true. "I'm lucky to have you boys" I joked. But I swear to you, I am not kidding. I am so lucky to have all these kids in my life. I hope they never stop letting me know how they're doing. Connectedness. You betcha.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

what not coaching looks like

Never in my life have I felt this ready for Christmas. The box to go to my sister is ready to be mailed on Monday. Christmas books for the 4 bestfriends are created, ordered, and ready to go (thanks, Shutterfly!) As you can see, the gifts that I have in the house are wrapped and tagged. It's not even Thanksgiving yet! Yea me!

I do have some work left to do. Calendars for both sets of grandparents, half-dips for my dad, stockings for the family, and purchasing fewer than a dozen items for people still on the list. Then, of course, I have cookies and chocolates and pot luck dishes to make and enjoy. I'm feeling like I'm really going to be able to enjoy this season because I'm so far ahead of the game. I guess the economic crisis has been good for something-- it forced me to start shopping early so I wouldn't have to use any credit cards.

I'm feeling like quite the Boy Scout: I am prepared for the next month of mayhem and joy and love. Bring it on... but don't start playing the carols until I flip the calendar. That just bugs me.

Friday, November 21, 2008

always planning

My mother in law and her sisters laugh at me annually because I want to start making holiday plans in late August. We are busy people, and I need to know where we're going in order to be sure we get it all in. It's become a family joke, which is fine, because I know I'm right.

As a follow up to my budget woes post, I've been working on plans. How to payoff the van; what extras can go, and where I might work. I may have stumbled upon a plan, rather randomly. My alt ed conference had a legal session (a great session, BTW) which followed a post by Beth about her job. I haven't stopped thinking about becoming a guardian ad litem (also seen spelled lietem-- not sure which is right), and many have commented that I would be good at it. So, if my dream job disappears in a puff of budget woes, the kids I love dealing with may have a new advocate on their side.

It's a plan, which is really all I need to sleep through the night. I can do anything with a plan... just watch how many Christmas parties we get in every year!!!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

low battery

Today started with one impending drama, moved into another bit of daytime drama, and ended with the predicted drama being as bad as feared. Suffice it to say I cannot even envision going to work tomorrow, never mind sticking around for house and staff meetings, and THEN having to come back on Friday. That excitement I've been feeling about our way cool Thanksgiving event... yup, gone. Nicely done. I'm sure I'll rebound by Monday, but right now, Friday night can't come fast enough.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

playing along with SJ

The idea here, according to SJ, is to bold the things you've done.

1. Started my own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than I can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sung a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught myself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown my own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitchhiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught myself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had my portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had my picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee

Friday, November 14, 2008

working towards a 4

Beaner Bean called me tonight with some news. She didn't call Boy or Girly, but me. "You're important to me and you should know." For over a decade we've been talking about how cool it will be when our kids talk to us, or at least one of us, about the important stuff. We're now reaching that actual point. The next 10 years should be fairly ...interesting, but I'm hopeful that we'll all get to the other side, adults and children both, and realize we all did the best we could. That's really all we can hope for.

I then had a quick little conversation with Boy about various things, and for the moment, anyway, he cares what I think and what I have to say. Let's hope that continues, too.

I love these 4 people more than I ever thought possible. Watching them grow up is just the coolest. I am truly lucky to have them.

(Let's hope they're not the only ones!)

I understand the drop out rate more and more...

Why, why, why, do we have to make everything so boring? I'm not at a How to Make Kids Lives Miserable conference, so why would I pick up the boring Growing a Nation CD that kids can sit and be prattled to about how important agriculture is? Here's a crazy idea-- how about getting outside and getting our hands dirty instead of watching a prefabed program. The whole reason I'm here is that some kids WON'T SIT AND LISTEN TO YOUR STUPID, BORING NONSENSE LIKE I AM RIGHT NOW! In fact, if the presenter wasn't smart enough to be blocking the door, I'd be outta here too.

I come to this conference for innovation... we've covered boredom in the classroom in many different ways. I want to know what someone has done to get kids interested-- or has tried that didn't work for them. I want to leap frog ideas, and get a little wacky. I want to come away enthused, not exhausted.

She's moved from the door. Time to make a break for it...


I think it may be time to switch from receiver to presenter. Who knew I was doing "harm reduction"? Well, me, I guess, but I didn't know it had a name.

I wonder if I can start a Friday tradition around our random conversations? How was your week? What did you learn? What can you teach others?

I also need to start some sort of WB's Free Forms.

Conferences are great for new ideas... even if they're not the ideas of the presenters. Maybe better, in fact...

just ask Cracker.

"What the US needs now is..."

(... another folk singer like I need a hole in my head!)

I could say the same thing about keynote speakers.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

on my mind

Another scary email from our boss today. I don't think I'm on the first-to-go list, but I am not foolish enough to think my program is not expendable. I haven't updated my resume yet, but moments of panic are creeping in. Let's hope it doesn't go any further than that.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

political insight of the night

We watched 60 Minutes tonight, and there was a story about the Obama election team. They commented that Obama's reaction to the Reverend Wright situation was a big turning point. I say it is the reason he is our next President. (To be honest, WB does too, but this is my post. I gave him the Grant Park East one.) Think about it: faced with a situation that could have become the Monkey Business of this election, Obama stood up and controlled the news cycle. He spoke his mind rather than saying what people wanted to hear. That is what a leader does, and ultimately why he was elected.

During the primary run, I made the prediction, based on history, that America would elect a black man before a white woman. Black men earned the right to vote in 1870 with the Fifteenth Amendment while women had to wait until 1920 and the Nineteenth Amendment. I have to admit, that while I would have voted for Hillary if she was the nominee, I am so very, very glad I was right.

Friday, November 07, 2008

mad lib (from SJ)

SJ this great little blog mad lib from Debra (Reflecting) who found it from Friday Fill-Ins. I can't resist playing along, so here are my answers.

1. My blueprint for success includes just keep swimming.
2. Kissables were the last candy I ate.
3. The best facial moisturizer I've ever used is Mary Kay Timewise.
4. Being with people you love can be good therapy.
5. I'd like to tell you about a great book.
6. My extroversion is my strongest characteristic.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to having some pirates show up at the door, tomorrow my plans include a visiting my friend in Belfast and Sunday, I want to get ready for the week ahead!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

why I do this

Today was one of those days that wouldn't be obvious to the outside world as a successful day. But I think I planted some seeds that maybe, if I keep tending them, will grow into something real.

The day was chaotic. Kids were yelling-- I was yelling in response-- and everyone kept moving around. Walking in circles. Leaving the room. Going out one door, tapping on the windows, and then back in the other. One kid is working on an independent humanities course, one a science. Both need help. The four who made it in on time needed to go get breakfast first; everyone was hungry all day, including me. Some relationships have changed over the last week, so there was some anger and, later, some reconciliation. That is huge. Massive. Last week I didn't think we'd even get close to resolving things this calendar year. That alone would have made it a good day.

But we also talked about a lot of other things, in between getting work done. Saw a headline in the paper about a car accident and talked about a cousin's accident (drinking and driving) and a few other tragedies. Learned more about the local man who died from cancer this week but donated his body to research. He lived hard, but he treated these kids with respect, and they in return. One person-- even someone who 'wasted his life' according to some-- does make a difference. We all talked about the Articles of Confederation and the Great Compromise, followed by some Algebra. Talked about our work and personal values and how they'll impact future jobs. Decision making again for English class. I learned a little bit more about tracking a deer. Lots happening here. Lots.

Interwoven around it all was the election. Half my class is racist, and not afraid to say so. And so each time they say something, or joke, or let something slip out, I address it. Every time. So by the end of the day, I was asking what they were so afraid of? The immediate reaction was to deny it, but I saw the glimmer of questioning in their eyes in return: what am I afraid of? That was something no one had ever asked before.

People often comment about what I do all day, and how insane it is. I try to explain it, but I really can't. It just makes sense to me. Some days it's hard. Some days it's torture. Some days even I wonder what I think I'm doing, and how I can think, even for a minute, that I can be teaching anyone anything in this chaos. But after a day like today, I understand in my every fiber why I do this, and why I wouldn't succeed in a regular class, although I still can't put it into words. They're rough, vulgar, crude, and insensitive, but if you give them respect they'll eventually give it back. They'll consider your point of view for a split second, even if it's one that has never ever even occurred to them before. And tomorrow it might not seem so crazy.

Yup, we had a good day today. Thank God I wasn't observed, because they would have done their best to sit and be quiet and make me look good-- and we wouldn't have accomplished half as much.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


I am full of hope today. It took the electorate 8 long years, but finally we've learned.

Thank Heavens.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

nothing like my hubby

But I had my first (maybe only?) "ohhhh" moment of election coverage: Luke Russert reporting on the youth vote. Very classy, NBC. Well done.

Monday, November 03, 2008


So I've been reading back posts of 6yearmed, because she has a way with words. She posted about a blog of a sick little boy and, hesitantly, I checked it out. Suffice it to say I won't be a regular reader of this one, as I can't take on that kind of sorrow-- Danielle is at about my outer reaches for sadness that does not have direct impact on my life. But sometimes it is good to be reminded of just how lucky we are.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

best morning of the year

Going off Daylight Savings Time is one of the great joys of my life. I love being able to stay up a bit later, knowing I can sleep in guilt free. And then the sleeping part... I just love that feeling of being enveloped by my blankets, all comfy and cozy... and knowing that I will be able to stay there until I am ready, with no feelings of regret for staying there too long. I do love this day... much, much, much more than the day that allows for this one, but that is another post for another day...