Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Be The Right One At the Right Time, Redux

December 17, 2014

There are two times of the year when I feel my mother's loss more than any other.  You might think it would be her birthday, or the anniversary of her death.  Those are important days.  But the first day of school every year (she was a teacher too) and Christmas are the days when her presence is strongest.  She instilled in us a love of giving and Christmas spirit which is now an indelible part of the Christmases each of my siblings and I celebrate with our own families.

As we are fully in the holiday season, I am feeling reflective and nostalgic.  I thought I'd repost an excerpt from one of my favorite older posts, because it honors a value I hold dear, and because it honors Mom, who is part of our Christmases, even  though she is no longer with us.

Excerpt from original post (2009):

As we reflect on this season, the message of service is something I feel we have gotten away from over the years in this atmosphere of Looking Out for Number One. As we count our blessings at Christmas time, I think it it important to reflect on not just the people and things for which we are grateful, but also on those who might be struggling, for whom a hand held in service might make all the difference.  This is one of the most important values my mother instilled in her children.

Now, I’m not opposed to looking after myself and my children—of course not. Obviously, it is one of my greatest privileges and responsibilities to look after the moral, emotional, and intellectual well-being of my three children, as well as providing for them their basic safety and shelter needs. However, in providing for them, it is my duty to show them how fortunate we are as a family, and instill in them the desire to help others in need when we can.

There are lots of reasons that people don’t reach out to others—they are struggling with issues of their own, they feel hopeless that their small efforts will make a difference, they feel others might take advantage of their generosity, they feel they don’t have adequate resources to spare, to name a few. Compelling arguments, all, with some truth to them. We all struggle with our own personal issues, be they financial, emotional, or spiritual. And yet, I find that when I reach out to someone else, I view my own difficulties with a more balanced perspective. Those who are working hard just to pay the bills and put food on the table may lament the lack of resources to be able to reach out and help, but really, generosity of spirit is the only necessary resource; you can give of your money, your time, your self. Being of service to others means reaching out in your community and your world with what you perceive as a need, and sometimes, that might even be something as simple as adjusting one’s attitude towards someone in need and listening with a sympathetic ear. Are there those who would take advantage of someone with a generous heart? Sure. I’m an optimist, but I’m not naïve. I truly want to believe the best in others, and don’t mind if every once in awhile I help someone whose spirit is not positive and open. That’s not the point, after all. Perhaps those are the people who are in most need of all, but they just don’t know it yet. In time, perhaps if enough people reach out to them and show them kindness and generosity of spirit, a true positive change can be effected. Finally, for those who feel their ‘drop in the bucket’ won’t make a difference, know this—if you just reach out to one person, you have made a difference, and you never know how that individual effort may manifest itself positively, radiating outward and reaching even more people.

I remember a time in my young life when my mother was struggling. My brothers, sisters, and I may never know the full extent of the hopelessness she must have felt, but I imagine it must have been overwhelming at times—a weight almost unbearable. When my mom chose to leave what had become a dangerous situation for her, she brought along with her four of her five young school-aged children. (The oldest chose to stay.) Her only plan was to seek shelter at the Marjaree Mason Center, but she found, late at night, that there was no room at the inn for a woman with four children. She ended up spending money she intended to feed us with on a hotel room for one night. That was the end of her financial resources until the end of the month. With no home to go to, and virtually no money, we lived out of our car for a couple of weeks, rotating through the only clothes we had brought along—only what we were able to fit in the three suitcases in the trunk of the car. The oldest of the kids who came with her, I was in junior high and acutely aware that it must be obvious to my classmates that I slept in my clothes. My mom was lucky enough to have a few friends in the church take us in here and there for a night or two to brush teeth, take showers, and sit down for a meal. It is one thing to take in a woman in need; to take on four kids as well was truly a burden, and Mom was embarrassed to put people in the position of having to say no if such an offer of help were to stretch them beyond their means. One of the kind families who let us camp out on their floor for a night loaned my mom money to buy peanut butter, jelly, and bread, and that served as our main meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the majority of those two or three weeks until payday. We children complained about it vehemently at the time; I am quite sure we did not comprehend the toll it took on her to not be able to provide anything more. I myself did not eat another peanut butter and jelly sandwich for twenty years after those weeks were behind us.

When payday did come, almost all of it went to first and last month’s rent, and deposits for utilities. My parents were married in the days when a man was in charge of the finances; when my mother started out on her own, she had no credit built up in her name, and no savings to fall back on. She was starting off a babe in the world, with only one paycheck to her name, but with four human beings utterly dependent on her ability to move forward and survive. I’m sure there were days she didn’t want to get out of bed, but there were people along the way who went out of their comfort zone and reached out to help. I’m sure the lady at the church who donated a box of canned goods didn’t know if her ‘drop in the bucket’ was going to ensure that we survived as a family, but she knew that on that day, it made a difference to us. I’m sure the man who knew someone he could encourage to rent a home to Mom even though she had no credit history didn’t know if it would do any good, but he did it anyway. People who let us stay on their floors for a night couldn’t give us permanent residence, but they let us get one day closer to being on our own. Those teachers who noticed that something seemed to be different in our lives and checked in with us to make sure everything was okay—we learned that people were watching us, and were looking for ways to give of their finances, of their time, of themselves. We noticed, and it made a difference.

It didn’t ever become easy, but it certainly did become better. It was because there were people who chose not to just ‘Look Out for Number One,’ and reach out to someone in their community who was in need that our family survived and ultimately thrived. There were others who chose not to help because they said she got herself into her own problems, and it was her responsibility to get out. There were those who said she shouldn’t have had so many children. (Easy to say after the fact!) There were those who said they were worried about looking like they were ‘taking sides’ and therefore didn’t want to get involved. The reality is, that’s what a lot of us do—it’s easy to rationalize inaction by judging someone’s actions and saying they don’t deserve help. Did Mom always make the best decisions every time? Of course not. Do any of us? Is that really the best way to judge if another human being is worthy of another human being reaching out a hand?

Mom was a giving and loving human being. She sometimes had the financial means to reach out to others as the years passed, but more often did not. That did not keep her from reaching out. I think she lived constantly with the knowledge of how important service, in whatever form, is, at the most basic and individual level. She didn’t worry that her ‘drop in the bucket’ would be lost; if she saw a need she could fill, she did it. She raised us all to look at the world through those eyes as well, and as we are all adults now, I am proud to see the ways my brother and sisters put that service into action in their own communities. This is one of the most important values I hope to pass on to my children as well.

Are we all going to go out and change the world? All at once? Tomorrow? No. And that’s okay. We don’t have to wait for the grand gestures. One day at a time, one person at a time, we make a difference. The exponential possibilities are endless, as my drop joins your drop which adds to his and hers and theirs. The potential for good is limitless.

Don’t wait for someone else to get up and get the ball rolling. Be the Right One at the Right Time for someone. Anyone. Donate blood, donate to charities, sponsor a child, reach out to families in your neighborhood who might need a sitter but can’t afford one, tutor a struggling child, champion the fight against illiteracy, or breast cancer, or fight for autism awareness. Find ways to encourage and support our troops, or their families left behind, or volunteer in your church nursery, for the Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, or the PTA. Find service in a kind word extended, or a shoulder to cry on. Don’t wait for the big opportunities to come along; opportunities for service surround us every day. Be the one to start building that community, one drop at a time. You may never know the impact you may have, but you will know that you have made a conscious choice to act on behalf of another human being. What could possibly be wrong with that?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

California League of High Schools

November 20, 2014

Last night I was honored as a top ten finalist for the California League of High Schools Region 7.  It was truly a beautiful and memorable evening.  I had my husband and several family members, dear friends, and colleagues there to support me, which meant the world to me.  I had to give a speech--one of my biggest fears--but I managed to get through it without stumbling too much, and I'm quite proud of myself for that.  Since some of my friends and family members weren't able to come celebrate with me, I thought I'd share the text of my speech here.  Just picture me, quavering voice and my signature 'hand gestures' and you'll get an idea of what it looked like:)

Good evening.  I want to begin tonight by thanking the California League of High Schools, my fabulous Learning Director, Jennifer Bump, for nominating me, and my family, friends, and colleagues who are here to support me this evening.  To be honest, I think most of them are here because they think it might be amusing to see me attempt to speak in front of a group of grown-ups.
As my friends know, I am neither blessed with the voice nor the nerves for public speaking.  So when I started thinking about what I might want to say—after the initial panic attack—it occurred to me that it’s okay that I’m not a public speaker—I have found the place where my voice is most at home, and that is in my classroom with my kids.  Years ago my beloved mentor, Mrs. Belman, showed this shy kid that she could speak in a way that could impact lives—she could teach.  Mrs. Belman helped me find my voice, and now, it is my mission, my passion, my privilege, to help students find theirs.
When I first started out in this profession, I taught a group of kids in a remedial 11th grade English class. These kids came to me disenfranchised, disenchanted, disillusioned.  Many were angry and frustrated. We slowly built trust, community, rapport; and they began talking and sharing, and even doing a little writing, though that part was a little slow-going at first. When the first progress reporting period came around, most of them were surprised they were not passing. Several asked me why before class one day.  I couldn’t believe they were surprised.  I said, “How did you think you were passing if you don’t turn in any work?”  The response of one of the students was, “But you like us.  You talk to us.  You listen to us!  In our other classes, no one listens to us, and they don’t like us.  We thought you did.” 
I had an epiphany then—these kids equated being heard—what they perceived as being liked—with success.  They weren’t heard because they weren’t successful,  but more importantly, they weren’t successful because they weren’t heard.  It broke my heart! They didn’t believe their voices had a place in an academic classroom because that’s the message they had been given.  It became my goal to help them find a way to use their voices and their personalities in the academic setting—and enable them to see themselves as part of the conversation, rather than silent spectators in an education that didn’t have a place for them.  It’s the very least we should expect for our kids, to know that their voices matter.
  On the other hand, some of our kids on the other end of the spectrum already have great confidence in their voices.  For those kids, my mission is to help them refine and articulate the voices they are already well on the path to developing. I hope to help them find their place to voice who they are as students, as citizens, as employees, as community members.  I hope to help them discover what they are passionate about, and where they want to make their voices heard in the grand and global conversation.   
Often, finding one’s voice isn’t about finding one’s academic or vocational passion; sometimes it’s about being able to express something even more fundamental.  One example is Tyler:  a sweet, creative and artistic young man who was just discovering his voice and testing, in a safe place, how to use his voice to begintentatively to speak who he was and who he was becoming when he said shyly to me, “Here’s a drawing I made for my Valentine. Do you think he’ll like it?” There was no emphasis on the pronoun “he”.  Just a brief moment of eye contact—did I hear him?-- I think he’d only come out to a handful of his closest friends, but he felt safe hearing his voice speak who he was with me--practicing sharing his true voice and allowing himself to be heard.
            These kids-and hundreds like them who have made my classroom their temporary home on the way to bigger and brighter things—are just like all of us once were.  While I’m trying to remember to teach all my standards and differentiate instruction and build strategies and maintain effective classroom management, my kids are really looking first and foremost for one thing:  Does my voice matter to you?  Can you hear me?  I want the answer to always be yes.  I want them to know that if they find a home with me where they feel comfortable letting their voices be heard and valued, there’s no telling where they might end up.  Artist? Engineer? Construction worker? Public Relations Manager? Teacher? Who knows—maybe even one day speaking in front of a large group of adults.

            Thank you.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

You Don't Know Me

November 9, 2014

Something happened on Friday which caused me to post the following to my Facebook page:

It happened out of the blue between classes. I was the recipient of this sage advice from someone with whom I have worked for many, many years, but with whom I am not close—someone I see on campus in passing only a few times a month.   She approached me out in front of my class as I was greeting my students.  Yes, it might have been more productive to actually tell her my reaction, but to be honest I was dumbfounded that she said, “I want you to lose weight for me,” so I didn’t exactly formulate a response to her, other than to say, defensively, “I have been trying!”  It felt akin to cajoling a young toddler to try peas ‘for me’.  I, as you know, am not a young toddler, and so suffice it to say it felt quite patronizing and condescending.

The response from my Facebook (and real-life) friends was immediate and overwhelmingly positive and supportive.  Well, it was supportive of me.  Of her, not so much.  She was attacked and called names, which then made me post this:

And I really do believe it.  I don’t think she was mean-spirited.  I actually do believe that she means well.

But the thing is, her words, seemingly gift-wrapped in praise and kindness, have stayed with me all weekend, ever-present in my mind.  They have continued to plague me, despite all of the positive things my friends said about me in response.  Why do we do that to ourselves—allow one negative voice to rise above the many that cheer us on?  We do though, don’t we?  We allow those to linger and grow louder and more pervasive, and we can forget about the wealth of positive attributes we have.  I am intelligent, articulate, loving, sometimes sexy, sometimes funny, and usually positive and generous-spirited.  I am a good mother, wife, and friend.  But instead of all of those things, I spent a great deal of my weekend fixated on how one person saw me from the outside.

The reality is, my co-worker, that you don’t know me well enough to comment on my weight.  We know each other, but you don’t know me.

You don’t know that I’ve struggled with esteem surrounding my weight since I was a young kid.

You don’t know that I have faced ridicule and even bullying because of my size or shape—long before I was in the particular size and shape I currently inhabit.

You don’t know that a handful of years ago, I started infertility treatments that entailed a long process of daily self-injections of hormones that left me, heart-breakingly, with no baby.  What did it leave me with was a metabolism out of whack and a bonus stubborn weight gain.

You don’t know that looking in the mirror is often a risky proposition, as my worst critic is the one looking back at me.  Luckily, I have an amazing husband who sees me with different eyes.

You don’t know that whenever someone takes a picture of me, I strategically place myself where I am partially hidden.  I do, however, allow myself to be in pictures now, because I want my kids to have those memories with me in them in their later years.

You don’t know how desperately I try to shield my children from inheriting my body image issues.  I don’t always succeed.

You don’t know how often I hear my friends talk about their own issues and negativity surrounding their own figures—women who are beautiful and amazing and healthy.

You don’t know that I have tried—and continue to try—to become more healthy.

You don’t know that I have been walking five miles a day for the past ten months and have been more conscious than ever of healthy eating choices.  You don't know that because of that I have lost 15 pounds so far in the gradual, healthy way that doctors recommend.

You don’t know how proud I am of my progress—and how easy it is to negate it with an unthinking comment.

I know many people reading this will think, “Well, why don’t you do something about it if you are  unhappy with yourself?”  And the answer is, you don’t know that I’m not.  Because you don’t know me.

Just because you know me doesn’t mean you know all there is to know of me, which means you don’t know me well enough to tell me to lose weight.  You especially don’t get to tell me to lose weight for you.

I take that back, actually.  The reality is, even if you do know me, you don’t get to tell me I should lose weight.  I know.  We all know, all of us who struggle with weight at times.  You are not letting me in on some grand epiphany.  Even if you do know me, unless you have M.D. behind your name and I’m your patient, you don’t get a say.  I can’t afford to have your negative voice in my head because it’s far too loud.

Now, can we put this conversation to rest and talk about something that’s really important?  Funding for education, for example? The state of the economy?  The homeless?  We have much bigger fish to fry, friends, than figuring out what dress size I should wear.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

You Might Be Jealous (But Probably Not!)

October 21, 2014

I took both kids to the eye doctor today, then came home and hung laundry (old school-style, since the dryer is on strike), loaded and unloaded the dishwasher and cleaned up in the kitchen, picked up cat vomit (thanks for that, Kelly), scrubbed the toilets, went to the store, did rounds two and three of mom taxi, supervised homework, and shuffled the kids off to bed. It's a glamorous life I lead! Time to chill a bit before heading off to dreamland.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Nightly Walk

September 14, 2014

On our nightly walk tonight we stopped into Walmart. I spotted in one of the middle aisles a stack of boxes containing camouflage reclining chairs. (Aside: a Box o' Recliner? Really?) Me, to Hubby: "Who buys a camouflage recliner? What need do you have to hide in the living room? 'Hey look at Elmer--he appears to just be floatin' in the middle of the room in front a' the t.v. set!'"

Also, in a nearby aisle, Hubby says, "Look over there-do they have hookers in Walmart now?" Me: "You can pretty much get everything at Walmart these days."

Walmart always provides fun topics of conversation...

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

We're All A Little Mad Here...

September 9, 2014

Nicholas' new acquisition.  He's really bummed that dress code won't allow him to wear it to school, but I'm sure he'll find other places to sport his style.  I love that he's got his own thing goin' on!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Senior Pictures, Round One

September 4, 2014

I can hardly believe that we had our appointment for Nicholas' senior pictures today.  We are planning on doing a full sitting at a later date, when I do a photo shoot with Nicholas, Taylor, and Devin, but today we went to Larson Brothers Photography to get the shots we'll have to choose from to go in the senior yearbook.  Obviously, I wasn't allowed to take pictures inside the photography studio, but Nicholas was game to let me catch a few extra shots when we got home.  Just like when I took Bree to get her senior photos, there was something surreal and exciting about seeing Nicholas taking his picture in a graduation cap and gown.  Even though we're only in September, the end of the tunnel is going to come in the blink of an eye.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

These Are The Days

August 27, 2014

Today's the kind of day I'd like to mentally file away for future use, perhaps sometime in early December when fatigue and senioritis have taken hold in my students and the over-scheduled stress takes its toll on the kiddos. Today, with the exception of a minor cell phone conversation we needed to have in one class, every one of my classes was invested, engaged, and actively participating in the conversation and practice of how and why we read. I loved the things the kids were saying and the way they were thinking. These are the days that see me through the tougher days. Lovin' this week. Lovin' this start to my year!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Reading Identity

August 26, 2014

I'm often amazed at how many of my students see themselves as 'non-readers'.  Then we get to talking and sharing all of the different kinds of reading we all do in our everyday lives--traditional and non-traditional--and they share ALL KINDS of things they read.  Novels, sure, but also cookbooks and gaming magazines and baseball stats and computer code and music notes and movies and even body language, just to name a few.  My job is to teach my students to think through processing the written word, but often they haven't seen that their skill sets in other kinds of reading--sometimes quite deep and intuitive and very thoughtful--can translate into application to the written word.  It's pretty cool when students feel validated in their own areas of expertise and can begin to see the transfer potential.  It's my goal to help all of my kids see themselves as readers, because ultimately what I mean when I say that is that I want them to recognize themselves as thinkers.  This week, we begin that journey together.

Monday, August 25, 2014

First Day Pics

August 25, 2014

It's getting harder to get my kids to humor me and let me take 'First Day' pictures, but I managed it!  I even got Bree to send me a picture of her first day of her senior year of college (since I couldn't be there), and Danielle took a picture of my first day of my 25th year as well.  Since the kids have to have their experiences documented, I might as well too.  Senior year, senior year, and sophomore year--here they come!

 Danielle and the bestie, Megan.
 Duty bright and early the first week of school.  Me in my safety vest.

 Bree and the bestie Brandon--representing SDSU Ambassadors on the first day of school.

Nicholas and his girlfriend Treasa

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Year 25, Here I Come!

August 24, 2014

Bookshelves are stocked, copies are made, posters are up, lessons are planned, rosters are printed, and teacher is ready to open up the doors to welcome her students.  It's the beginning of my 25th year, and I still think it's the best job in the world.  Bring on the kids!  (Two sections of World Lit, one section of Expository Writing, and two sections of AP Lit.)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Calm Before the Storm

August 23, 2014

It's the last Saturday night before the kids show up in my classroom on Monday morning.  Dinner at home, swimming and then hot tub, and a quiet comedy movie to round out our night.  The calm before the storm...

Friday, August 22, 2014

Family Dinner Night

August 22, 2014

It's Friday night--the last Friday night before school starts up again.  As usual, we did Family Dinner Night.  It was my choice tonight, and I decided I was feeling hungry for Wingstop.  We're really loving that this place has opened up so close to our house.  Nicholas asked to invite his girlfriend Treassa to join us tonight, and it was a lot of fun having her along.  She was a good sport about our Family Dinner Night question tradition, and even offered up a question of her own for all of us to answer.  (My question to everyone, since it was my choice tonight, was "What will you do this school year that you didn't do last year that will make this a better year for you?"  My answer was that I was going to implement some of the strategies I learned about this summer at my workshop into my classes this year.)  We then invited Treassa to give us all a question, so she wanted to know what each of us considered our favorite memory.  It was a lot of fun to hear everyone's responses to that one!  After our dinner at Wingstop, we popped in next door for frozen yogurt for dessert.  Despite the goofy looks on their faces, we had a good time!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Rah Rah!

August 21, 2014

Today we had our annual Rah Rah General Session to kick off the school year.  We gather every employee in the district to celebrate all of our accomplishments and generally get inspired to go out and help make a difference in the lives of the the kids who will walk in our doors this coming Monday morning.  I actually really like General Session.  In the past, Mom and I used to go together every year.  For the past several years, I've gone with my good friends Victory and Allison.  I seriously love these fantastic women, and I seriously love my school and my district!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

This Is Where I Leave You

August 20, 2014

Our book club met tonight to discuss our first book, This is Where I Leave You.  This was the first book our group has chosen--our first discussion.  Most of us are Buchanan teachers: Christine, Marci, Jen, Kristin, Tina, Allison, and me.  Let me tell you, these are some really fun, intelligent, and fascinating women!  For the record, the general consensus was that we didn't much like the book, because none of the characters, especially the protagonist, was particularly likable or sympathetic.  Our dislike, however, didn't remotely hinder our conversation, and like all good book discussions, it started out with the book and then expanded to real life connections and general philosophizing. Our book talk was funny, non-stop, and insightful. (The book was about a dysfunctional family, which most of us can relate to, although this particular family had its own special blend of every possible dysfunction concentrated in one fairly small family.)  One of the deciding factors in choosing this book was that it's been made into a movie that's coming out next month, so we had already planned to follow up with a movie night.  Even though we didn't love the book, we watched the movie trailer, which has a fantastic and funny cast, and we think this may be one of the rare cases of the movie being better than the book. We've already chosen our next book and the next meeting date, and I'm already looking forward to getting together with these fantastic ladies again!  I'm really hoping that we don't let the crazy busy-ness of the school year push off our get-togethers--I feel like this is going to be a great way to recharge our batteries if we decide to make it a priority for ourselves.

Our Own Cheer Squad

August 20, 2014

Monday we came back to school for two days of grade level/department-specific meetings.  Today, however, was our first day back with the whole staff.  I don't know too many places where you come to work and are greeted by rousing cheers, yells, chants, and ovations, but at my school, that's what met us when we got to work this morning.  Our amazing Activities Director, Marci Beddall, had our leadership kids show up in full spirit regalia, full of enthusiasm and excitement, to cheer us on as we got ready to kick off the new year as a staff.  What a great group of kids--what a great way to set the tone for the year!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Growing Up as the Kid of a Teacher

August 19, 2014

Today was the second day of back to school prep and planning meetings.  At least four of my colleagues brought their young kids to school to help with the classroom set up, which means a little bit of help and a lot of coloring and racing wheelie chairs down the hallway to the joyous sound of chortles and giggles and belly laughs, and generally spending time charming all the other teacher-friends of their mommies and daddies.  It's seriously one of the things I love about the pre-school planning week.  We get to feel like the aunties and uncles of all of these kids that we are watching grow up year by year, just like when my kids were younger, they looked to all of my friends as their own personal bonus family members.  I remember being equally at home in the hallways of my mom's school when we'd go help her set up her classroom every year.  It's strange to think that there are lots of kids around for whom this is not the norm....  Anyway, I got to see several of my favorite kiddos today, and tomorrow I get to spend time with one of my very favorite kiddos, because Danielle has volunteered to come and help me out in my room tomorrow--and probably wheelie-chair race and charm a few of my friends along the way.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Time Well Spent

August 18, 2014

More than any summer in recent past, I feel this summer has been full of exciting and interesting adventures for us.  We went to my niece's wedding, I did two separate week-long curriculum development/work-enhancing sessions, took a photography excursion to Morro Bay with a fellow photographer and another friend, went to a couple of out of town soccer tournaments with Danielle, and went to a couple of different big gigs for Doug's band.  In addition, Nicholas completed summer school so that he wouldn't have to take P.E. this year (yay!) and got his driver's license (yay again!), and he and I got to take a mother-son trip to Monterey Bay, just the two of us, to visit the aquarium.  Danielle and Bree went on vacation with Bill in Oregon for a week, went to a weekend beach retreat with her church youth group, and then went on a week long summer camp for church as well.  Bree got a second job and moved into her new place, as well as continuing her work with the Associated Student Body and the Ambassadors at San Diego State.  Doug and I got to spend quite a bit of time together this summer, as we were both off work, and amid all of the flurry of activity with the kids, we managed to get away to Cayucos for a weekend with our friends Joe and Wendy.  And then, of course, there was Costa Rica!  Lisa and I spent five wonderful days in Costa Rica for a long-awaited, very overdue sister bonding excursion.  From start to finish the vacation was beautiful, and just made us vow to make these kinds of trips--checking places off our Life Lists--a priority again for us.

More than any summer in recent past, I feel fully rejuvenated and refreshed.  I don't feel like I wasted away my days sitting idly in front of the TV wondering what happened to my vacation.  And now, although I'm already planning some pretty exciting things to look forward to the next time summer rolls around, I am also more than ready to step back into school and kick off another fantastic year!  Today was my first day back--planning and prepping and getting back in touch with my work friends and my teacher-self.  We've got four more days of meetings and lesson designs and making the room welcoming and homey, and then the kids come bright and early next Monday.  I'll be ready!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Bill Cosby

March 19, 2014

I was flipping channels tonight and landed on Bill Cosby's "Himself".  If you've never seen it, you're missing out.  On the other hand, if you have children, you've lived it.  Heck, I was living it just last night.  Not so funny when you're in the middle of it, but when Bill Cosby reminds you that all children suffer from the same 'brain damage' and we parents are all in this together, it puts things in perspective.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

In Defense of Fiction

March 13, 2014

                I just finished reading a novel called Little Bee, by Chris Cleave.  I came upon this book accidentally, as is often the way I come across a particular book.  I’m a haunter of thrift stores, bargain bins, and garage sales for new and interesting titles to line my bookshelves with, both the ones in my home and the ones in my classroom.  I’m a big believer in the power of the written word to transport and transform, to ignite and incite, and to engross and entertain.  I believe in surrounding myself and my children with words, because I believe it encourages them to know that their voices, too, are powerful.  Entertaining.  Valuable.

                So I came across this book on one of my treasure hunts.  I looked first at the binding, then at the cover, and then at the synopsis on the back.  We tell kids not to judge a book by its cover, but my students—especially my reluctant readers—don’t often know where else to begin.  And if we’re honest, we adults who attempt to guide students through the world of knowledge outside their own worlds, we’ll admit that it’s often where we begin, too.  Why on earth else would publishers and artists expend so much time, energy, and money on what the outside of the book looks like?  If we want people to walk into our house and cozy up on the figurative couch with our ideas, we’re going to want our front porch to be inviting, right?  Of this particular book, Little Bee, I thought the graphics and the title were interesting.  The back cover summary, which intimated a dark secret that bound two women inextricably, was intriguing.  I dropped the book into my cart with several companions, made my purchase, and then set out to divide my new acquisitions between my classroom and home libraries.  Little Bee was one I couldn’t immediately place—not until I’d read it and determined what, in fact, was the secret, and whether or not my classroom was the right home for it.

                I dove in, not knowing what to expect.  Little Bee turned out to be the name of our protagonist, one of two alternating narrators in the work.  The world of Little Bee, a sixteen-year-old illegal immigrant fleeing the horrors of her native Nigeria, is shocking, unsettling.  How she comes to find herself connected to Sarah and her son Charlie is a series of choices, each one setting a subsequent one in motion, until their worlds collide and become simultaneously uncomfortably and comfortably intertwined.  The secret that binds them? I will reveal no more than the back cover of that novel did.  Suffice it to say the secret continues to be revealed and unraveled throughout the course of the novel.  Each piece of the secret that comes to light lays bare another part of the story—and it’s worth digging in deeper to find the whole story.

                It’s not a nice story.  In fact, it takes the reader to some very dark places.  I wanted to look away; I wanted to put down the book and be done.  But it was compelling, you see, shining a light on a place and an injustice most of us will, thankfully, never see in the kind of first-hand nightmare-you-can’t-escape kind of way.  We can put the book down—take a break from it for a while, live our reality, flawed though it may be—and remember that we are not in that place.  But the point is, there are people for whom this is a reality, an existence from which they can’t escape.  And in the end, I had to go back; I had to know what happened to Little Bee and to Sarah.

                In my neighborhood, there are no guerrilla troops raiding villages; there is not a violent power struggle between powerful factions that leaves torn and broken human collateral damage in its wake.  This world I stepped into as a brief visitor is, however, real.  The story is inspired by theft and greed and corruption over real crude oil in a very real Nigeria.  The true events are well-documented and thoroughly researched.  If I’d come across a news article online about the human injustice—the unadulterated disregard for human life at the expense of a land-grab that might yield financial gain—I would almost certainly flick the page or scroll past the story.  I would exercise the kind of purposeful ignorance that many who are comfortable in life often exercise.  If I don’t see it, it doesn’t exist.

                The book, though—it made it real.  Funny thing, that; a fictionalized account is what made the thing real to me.  Why?  Because it humanized the circumstances for me.  It made it personal. I cared about Little Bee’s experience; I cared about her life. I was invested and I was moved.  Her story continued to stay with me when I was not with her, and her story continues to affect me even though I have turned the final page. This is not to say that a non-fiction account couldn’t have done the same thing; this is to say that it didn’t.

                This perhaps sounds like a book review, or possibly the initial workings-out of an analysis.  That is not my intent.  What continued to reverberate in my mind for quite a while after reading the book in addition to the fact that I had been educated about a facet of the modern world I didn’t even know existed was something entirely outside of the story itself.  As teachers of English, we have seen a seismic shift in the past several years regarding the importance of reading.  What do kids need to read in order to be productive citizens?  What do students need in order to adequately and appropriately enter the work force?  Overwhelmingly, the answer from the world of business and even the world of academia has been a sharp aversion to the luxury of reading fiction ‘for fun’ and a turn toward non-fiction.  Functional, informative, necessary.  That’s what our kids need.  They need to be critical thinkers and they need to be problem-solvers.  Nowhere in their world, unless their aspiration is to become a stuffy and quaint 19th Century Literature professor, will they be asked to read novels to make a living.  Why on earth hold on to such antiquated ideas about English curriculum?  Why bother?  The novel is dead; no one needs to read fiction anymore.  It isn’t relevant.  It isn’t real

                Except that it is relevant; it is real.  Unrest in Nigeria is real, and citizens are dying.  Government tyranny and oppression, like Orwell’s 1984 or Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale, exist.  Today.  Right now.  Compelling and disturbing choices have resounding and long-lasting effects on the human psyche, such as those illustrated in The Kite Runner or The Poisonwood Bible.  Real?  These authors aren’t writing about characters; they are writing about life.  Real life.  Issues in our world.  Problems that need solved.  Questions that need to be faced.  Questions that need to be answered.  Oh, they’re real, alright.  And although nonfiction writers write about some of these same issues and ask us to contemplate the hard questions, fiction writers dress up those issues in raiment familiar and close to us, so that we may examine them firsthand, walking hand in hand with the characters on their journey.  They allow us to see the human-ness behind the story and see the way in which a person can inhabit the experience in a personal way.  The fiction, in fact, makes it real.  We are drawn in by the cover or by the artwork on the front, and we are dropped headlong into a reality we might never have known we didn’t know.

Functional, informative, necessary.  That’s what reading should be, according to the pundits of the day.  And make no mistake; I am not advocating abstaining from reading nonfiction.  There is a wealth of fascinating, engaging, and informative nonfiction to take in.  But to sweep under the rug the vast landscape of literary fiction as a superfluous luxury is not only erroneous, but dangerous.  Fiction draws us in because we are human, because we want to relate.  And because it draws us in, it is able to delve into what connects us as human beings because we become invested in the lives of those we spend time with—in real life and in between the pages of a book.  Good fiction is functional; it begs us to think and draw parallels and understand what it means to be human.  Good fiction is informative; it shows us vast landscapes, both literal and figurative, that expand our horizons.  Good fiction is necessary; it connects us to each other across time and across place.  It reminds us that there is more that should bind us as humans than that should divide us.

 Functional, informative, necessary.  I suppose all depends really, on how you choose to define those terms.  If you boil them down to the lowest form, the most basic of terms, one might say you only need the barest of essentials.  On the one hand, perhaps one might define that as eliminating ‘superfluous fiction’.  Read only what you need to do in order to function appropriately within the construct of the job you’ve chosen to pursue.  Perhaps you only need to read science documents for your job, or perhaps read government policy.  I would agree that those are necessary skills.  On the other hand, might one not define the most necessary element of our future as the ability to read a common thread of humanity among us?  The ability to put a human face to the issues that need our problem-solvers and our critical thinkers?  This is not a luxury or a past-time for the idle; this is what we need as a society.  We need never to forget our connectedness, and fiction allows us to remember in a real and personal way.  It may, as it turns out, be exactly what we need.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Here's Why Danielle Doesn't Get to Start Driver's Ed Just Yet

March 11, 2014

My daughter cracks me up.  She had to write "10 Pieces of Advice" for an English assignment, and true to form, she decided to take a tongue-in-cheek approach.  Here's her take on being a good driver.

Danielle Lutjens
Prd. 4
Ten Tips to Be a Successful Driver

1. Never stop for pedestrians
     The road was designed for cars, not humans; put them in their place. They have sidewalks, so if you need to nudge pedestrians a little, go for it.

2. Your horn is there for a reason
    It wouldn't be installed to just sit there; use it and abuse it. Horns are the way cars communicate. Be prepared for a full-on horn battle, but make sure that you can deal with what you dish out.

3. Turn up the tunes
    Don't be selfish, crank up the radio and roll down the windows. Let everyone absorb the glorious music that you have to share. Obviously all the surrounding drivers will be grateful for the obnoxious, heavy jams, that you too enjoy rocking out to.

4. When parallel parking, be encouraging 
    Believe in yourself and go for it. You're not THAT big, you can fit into the spot. Your car will eventually squeeze in. Who cares about the gaping holes and monstrous scratches in the adjacent cars?

5. Keep your phone in sight at all times
    Nobody follows the laws anymore, what harm will it do, your phone is way more important. I mean, what if you left your phone in the backseat and got a snap chat from your bestie, or someone comments on your post, and you just ignore it? They would hate you forever, and there would be a brawl of besties. Not having your phone causes drama. Keep it close.

6. Speeding relieves stress
    Do you ever just have a horrible day? Well the best way to turn that frown upside down, is to put the pedal to the metal. Make a game out of it. Set the timer on your handy dandy phone, and see how many small creatures you can turn into roadkill in ten minutes.

7. If you hit a car, drive like the wind
    Fast and furious.Test your car's limits. The fuzz will never catch you, and you will be good to go. If there's a crash, what's the point of staying; knowing how fast you drive, they are probably goners.

8. When you hear a siren, slow down
    Go as slow as possible, when any emergency vehicle is behind you. You need to teach them to go the speed limit, and shut off the blinding, patriotic lights. If they are the ones that want to keep you safe, why do they go so fast? They are going to crash. 

9. Always have alcohol handy
    Just keep an open bottle in the cupholder. You never know when you'll need an extra boost of confidence. Just think of the perks you could get if a thirsty police officer pulls you over and you conveniently have an ice cold beer saved just for him.

10. Resist police arrest
    Never believe what officers will say, most are high school dropouts. Get out of arrest any way possible; you'll never survive in jail. If you have tried every method, just request the striped jumpsuit; orange is so out of style.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Hittin' The Road

February 28, 2014

I finally felt up to taking myself and my FitBit out for a walk tonight (after being out of commission due to a very painful dental emergency for three days)---and promptly fell flat on my face. I mean, literally. I stepped weirdly on a rock on the sidewalk, lost my balance and suddenly pitched forward. In order to avoid landing on my surgically 'enhanced' knee, I landed instead totally flat-out on my face and hands--like I had suddenly decided to do push-ups on the sidewalk at 11:00 at night. Three days without taking my FitBit out and about, and suddenly it's like I've completely forgotten how to walk. On the bright side, my cartoon pratfall offered a little humor break to my hubby (before he so kindly checked to see if I was okay and then helped me up).

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

And It's Only Tuesday

February 18, 2014

It's been an eventful few days.

--Traveled to San Diego for the CATE conference with my friend Julie
--Met a vibrant and energetic new friend at CATE
--Met several authors and got signed copies of several novels
--Met an author/artist who designed some of the computer graphics on blockbuster movies who is interested in coming to talk to our robotics team
--Got to visit with Bree twice while I was down in San Diego
--Got pulled over by the police who let me know that unbeknownst to me, I was driving around with both taillights out. (He was kind and didn't give me a ticket, thank goodness.)
--Went to my fourth Rick Springfield concert with my friend Francine
--Had a beautiful belated Valentine's dinner at Capo's with Doug
--Woke up this morning to discover that my debit card had been hacked and frozen
--Got a letter from the school acknowledging Nicholas' Honor Roll from 1st semester
--Found out that as a freshman, Danielle beat out several upperclassmen to fall in the top five discus throwers who qualify to throw at the upcoming track meet
--Got a little bit of a family bombshell revealed this evening

All that and it's only Tuesday.

There's Got to Be a Book in Here Somewhere

February 18, 2014

For the conference I attended in San Diego this weekend, I traveled with a long-time colleague.  When we got to the conference, she ran into an old friend she hadn't seen in about ten years.  They fell back into immediate familiarity, and the three of us spent a great deal of time together over long, comfortable meals full of food, drink, and lots of conversation. As new friends often do, we shared quite a lot about our backgrounds and histories, tossing about the stories and anecdotes that shaped our particular paths in life.  Seriously, get three articulate, passionate, creative writers and storytellers together--the entertainment just keeps going.  We often think our own lives to be fairly mundane and pedestrian because we were there, of course, so it seems matter of course to us.  However, as I think back on the memories and situations that came up in the course of the conversation, I am struck once again that if seen by the objective eye, my life might not be quite so mundane as I often think it to be.
I shared stories, to name a few, about...
--the stream of illegal immigrants my parents hired as nannies when we were young in order to give them a start in their new country
--the morbid fear of knives I developed--and still have--because a babysitter (not one of the illegal ones) chased us to our neighbor's house, threatening to kill us
--the time my brother nearly blinded me as a very young girl
--the time my brother nearly blinded my sister as a slightly older young girl
--the time my brother smashed through our patio door to prove he had 'learned' karate
--the time we blindfolded and tied up my younger brother and left him, forgotten, in our attic for several hours
--the time I was homeless for a short while in junior high
--the time my parents bought a private school and we tried to make a run of it for the blink of an eye before they had to shut it down for financial reasons and we were shuttled back to public school
--the private investigator my father hired to spy on us during high school
--the time a party at my apartment (thrown by my roommate, who just happened to be my brother) very nearly ended my teaching career before it ever began
--the time I found nearly $4000 worth of drugs in my apartment
--the last time I ever saw my dad alive

We did, as I said, a LOT of talking.  My counterparts shared just as much of their own histories, which were fascinating and as foreign to me as my experiences were to them.  At the end of the weekend, we came away with two things: we all really enjoyed each others' company, and we all quite possibly have a book in us somewhere.  I mean, I could write a whole book on my brother alone!  Someday...

Monday, February 3, 2014

Now You've Done It

February 3, 2014
I’m not a Coca-Cola consumer in general—most of my soda dollars (which are considerable) go to Pepsico.  I just like the taste better.  Oh, I’m not one of those who would rather drink water than a Diet Coke; that would be silly.  I’ll drink a Diet Coke if Diet Pepsi is not available, but on the whole, brand me Ms. Pepsi.

However, during the Super Bowl yesterday, Coca-Cola did something that gained my attention.  It gained the attention of a lot of folks, actually, because naturally it happened during one of the biggest television-viewing events of the year.  What did they do? They aired a commercial.  It was a simple, feel-good advertisement meant to celebrate all the harmony and diversity in our country.  Or, if you ask others, it was yet another example of the insidious and intentional un-doing of all that makes this a great country.
Any guesses which side of the metaphorical fence I fall on in this debate?  Because there was a debate, of sorts: an immediate flurry of social media posts of both support of and outrage at the advertisement.  The issue at hand?  The commercial showed several successive vignettes of folks singing “America the Beautiful”.  The actors in the commercial were young and old, from the city and from the country, and represented several ethnicities.  And they were singing the song in lots of different languages.  It started off in English, and ended in English as well, but in between, several other languages were represented.  Beautiful, sweet renditions of people singing about the country that they love.

But they weren’t all singing in English, which was the heart of the matter.  I saw Facebook posts which read, “You’ve done it now, Coca-Cola!” and “I guarantee you not one serviceman died in the service of his country so that you could speak another language!”, among others.  Well now, I’m not so sure about that.  Since when is freedom defined as being required to speak one language?  I’m not saying that folks who live in the United States shouldn’t learn English; I think it’s the way one learns to navigate successfully in this society.  But do I think that means they must forsake any other language they might know? Effectively separate themselves from a culture, a history, a family they also call their own?  How arrogant and single-minded to want to negate the multiplicity of culture that is what makes this country so great.

Mind you, I am not here to engage in the “Official Language” debate, or the “English Only Ballot” debate.  Those are separate conversations that involve so much.  Economics. Opportunities for upward mobility. Business.  An informed citizenry.  Even the idea of nationalism and patriotism.   These issues and more all figure into the discussion of whether or not we should call for an “Official Language” of the people, and honestly, there are good, rational points to be made on both sides of that argument.  We are not, however, discussing that issue.  We are discussing how offended we are (or are not) that Coca-Cola dared to air an advertisement where people were singing—celebrating—this beautiful country in just a handful of the languages that represent the vast multicultural landscape of its inhabitants.

I am not offended.  I don’t think one has to forego one language to embrace another.  When one speaks Spanish, for example, where is it written that it means he or she refuses to learn English? Or is somehow ungrateful to have the opportunities they have in this country or is being disrespectful to servicemen who protect the freedoms afforded us here?  This is not an either/or, black and white world we live in.  The richness of experiences, including cultural and social experiences, is what makes this country beautiful, not the absence of difference.  Not whitewashed sameness.

Coca-Cola got my attention, and the attention of a great many others, for better or worse.  And the company knew that it would, and aired the commercial anyway.  They knew they might (and in fact will) lose some customers because of it.  They decided to celebrate diversity and simplicity by highlighting one of our country’s beloved ballads, letting many voices shine, rather than let divisiveness of potential detractors sway them, and for that I have great respect.  They may not always get my soda dollars, but yesterday, they did earn my respect.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Winter Formal Speech

January 23, 2014

This Saturday is our Winter Formal, and as is my tradition, I give my kids the Winter Formal speech in each of my classes.  It's my little way of trying to help them make good decisions and good choices on an evening when sometimes they get caught up in the moment and forget about potential consequences.  Do I think every single kid will heed my advice?  No, of course not.  But if the speech makes even one kid reconsider making a potentially devastating poor choice, then it's well worth the time I spend in class talking about it.  Here's what I tell them:

This is a speech I give every year in my senior classes, regarding a couple of things I find important to remind kids of before each of the Big Three: Winter Formal, Prom, and Graduation. Pay attention, because this is serious stuff. I give this speech because I'm a mama, and you'll just have to humor me. I have my own kids, but you're my kids, too, so you'll just have to deal with me being a mama for a moment. There are three things I'd like to address.

The first one is, I'm excited to see your pictures from the Formal.  It's wonderful to see you all looking so grown up, such ladies and gentlemen! It's one of my favorite things to see.(I'm sad that I didn't get selected for Formal duty this year, so I'll miss it in person!). However, that being said, one of my least favorite things about the dances is seeing the kind of dancing that goes on out on the dance floor. Having fun or being close and romantic is one thing, but the 'freaking' on the dance floor? Not pretty. Not attractive. Simulated sex on the dance floor is not dancing! And it totally undoes the elegant sophisticated look you took all day cultivating as you were getting dressed up like young ladies and gentlemen. Would you dance like that in front of your mama?  No? Then why do you think it's okay to put on that kind of display in front of your physics teacher or your English teacher.  It's just uncomfortable, you know?

The second part of the speech deals with a much more serious thing, which is the whole issue of drinking. There are a lot of you who think that because you're feeling all grown up and dressed up, and it's a festive time, that it's okay to drink. First of all, let me remind you that IT'S NOT LEGAL. But you know that, and some of you will choose to ignore that. So if you choose to make the first bad decision and drink on the night of the dance, don't make a second bad decision to get behind the wheel of a car. When you are driving home from the dance, so will lots of other people, all hoping and expecting to get home safely.  Don't be the one who changes that due to negligence. I want all of you to make it home alive and to be back here on Monday for school, safe and sound. I want you to make it to your graduation, which you have all worked so hard for.

This is not just about you drinking. If you are with someone who has been drinking, don't let them get behind the wheel. They might be mad at you, but that's okay. They'll get over it. Don't be the one who watches someone drive away, and then later finds out he spun out of control on the way home because he shouldn't have been driving. Decisions like that--one stupid decision--can irrevocably alter people's lives. Forever. Don't be that person. Don't let your friend be that person. Make good decisions. And if you make the first bad decision to drink, make a second good decision, and stay where you are, or have a designated driver. Call mom or dad to pick you up. Call ME to pick you up. I don't care if you call me a three o'clock in the morning. I would jump in the car and come get you to take you home, rather than have you driving out on the road, drunk. I am absolutely sincere about that. I'm not that hard to get ahold of.

The last word about drinking is please don't show up to the dance already drunk. I've had students who have been ejected within 15 minutes of their arrival because they had so obviously been drinking. This is supposed to be a fun night, and getting kicked out of the dance is not fun. Even really good kids sometimes have a lapse of judgment, but you don't want that kind of lapse in judgment to put to waste all the money and time you spent getting ready for this event. And what if you are the girlfriend whose date got caught, drunk? You are either stuck there to finish out the dance alone, or you have to go home. There's also the issue of having to face your parents with the bad news. Even worse, students who get caught drunk at the dance will get expelled under Zero Tolerance. After all those years of hard work, after all that time invested, don't make a decision that could lead to you not walking graduation with all of your classmates when you are so close to the light at the end of the tunnel.

And finally, speaking of graduation, let's do the math, shall we? We are about five months away from the big night, the culmination of all your years of academic work. Winter Formal night is a big night for a lot of kids. You're feeling grown-up, you're feeling you are on the verge becoming a fully independent young adult. And a lot of students feel that this is the perfect time to experiment with other 'grown-up' behaviors. All I'm going to say, girls, is that five months down the line, right about graduation time, you don't want to be the one who is suddenly starting to show evidence that you've accidentally come away from the Winter Formal with an extra souvenir----one that will be with you forever. Boys--you don't want to give in to temptation now to be left with a souvenir you aren't ready to be responsible for for the rest of your life. Be careful. Make good choices.

And have a great time!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Now We're a Matched Set--Or Maybe Tomorrow We Will Be

January 13, 2014

We got Doug a FitBit today.  He's been walking with me to help me meet my daily 'steps' goals, so he figured he might as well be logging his steps, too.  We've been really good about working toward our walking goals since Lisa got me my FitBit for Christmas.  Sadly, the one we got for him appears to have a previous owner, because he'd burned over 2,000 calories before he even got the thing out of the box.  Then, while trying to set it up and sync it to the computer, he kept hitting a brick wall--a non-functioning piece of technology.  Or at the very least, a piece of technology with its own agenda.  We just couldn't get the device to communicate with his computer correctly, although his phone showed some indication of stats logged in the device's previous life.  It looks like we're going to have to take it back and see if we can get one that doesn't have a past.  Maybe tomorrow we'll be a matching set.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Comfort Food

January 10, 2014

I don't like the cold in general, but one of the things I really like about winter season is that Doug makes homemade soup.  Tonight's dinner:  chicken noodle soup.  Delicious!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Math Homework Is Killing Me--And I Haven't Had to Take a Math Class for Years

January 8, 2014

This is an excerpt of an email I had to send to Nicholas' robotics coach, after explaining to him that Nicholas would need to forgo robotics for math lab in order to get some work done that he failed to complete when he was supposed to.

Whatever job he has in his future career path, I pray that it involves a diligent and meticulous secretary who will attend to the pesky details he can’t be bothered with.  I’m retiring from that position when that kid graduates from high school!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Black and Blue, With Tinges of Yellow

January 7, 2014

A few days ago when we took the kids skating, Danielle fell down within minutes of being there--twice.  (Mind you, she's the one we generally consider the coordinated, athletic one.)  Most of the rest of the session, Danielle hung out at the snack bar, but I gave her a hard time about 'wimping out'.  Tonight she showed me the residual effect of her encounter with the floor.  I guess she probably DID hit the floor pretty hard when she maneuvered around those little girls to avoid skating over them.

Monday, January 6, 2014

It's What Time?

January 6, 2014

Much as I loved having two weeks off, today I had to say goodbye to late, late nights and lazy mornings once again.  We eased into it a bit, since the students didn't have to come back to school.  They got one more day to sleep in while we settled into a long day of inservice/curriculum development.  Honestly, it wasn't a bad day, since I miss my work friends over vacations, but it didn't start off particularly well.  Despite the fact that I was very, very careful to make sure I re-set my alarms so that I would wake up in the morning, inexplicably I did not take the same meticulous care in making sure my phone was plugged in to recharge itself over night.  In case you were wondering whether or not a phone whose battery has died will still emit a gentle wake-up call in the early morning, I have solved that mystery for you.  No.  The answer is no, it will not.  Amazingly, my husband has an internal clock which wakes him up without electronics, and about 40 minutes after my alarm should have awakened me, he tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Hey Babe?  What time did you set your alarm for?"  For two seconds I was back in yesterday-world where there was no possible reason for me to be awake at 6:40, and then I bolted out of bed like there were wolves chasing after me.  Not a pleasant start.  But thank goodness that my husband's internal clock hasn't synced with mine, which thinks I should go to bed at 4 a.m. and roll back out of bed somewhere in the neighborhood of 10.  -Ish.

I still got to work on time.  Ah, back to my home-away-from-home.  And tomorrow, the kiddos come back, and we get back to the business of learning.  I just hope my alarm goes off in the morning.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Time Flies

January 5, 2014

Two weeks always seems like such a blink of an eye on the evening before we have to go back to  work after Christmas vacation.  Seriously, I am not ready for this.  I want to keep staying up until 4 a.m. and sleep until 10.  At least Doug and I got a nice quiet date night tonight before the hustle and bustle of the school schedule kicks back into gear.  We walked downtown and had a lovely dinner at DiCicco's.  We figure walking there helps to mitigate the calories of the meal we ate.  That's what we're telling ourselves, anyway.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Off They Go

January 4, 2014

My sister just left after a four day visit. I love it when we get to spend time together, but I'm always sad to see her go. This time around, Lisa and my beautiful nieces brought along two lovely young ladies to add to the party. As always, no matter what we do, we make our own fun, and this trip was no different. Already looking forward to the next time we can all get together!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Full Day

January 3, 2014

We got the kids all rounded up and headed out to Cal Skate--Roller Town to us--for the afternoon.  Nicholas and Danielle weren't terribly adept, but they managed.  Lisa's girls were a little more light on their feet, but I can't say anyone was especially good at skating.  Luckily, we don't need exceptional skill to have fun.

After skating, we went to pick up Doug at Classic Billiards and ended up letting the kids stay for an hour or so to play a little pool.  Next up was a delicious dinner at Capo's, followed by a very long walk around the neighborhood while blasting tunes and singing loudly and unabashedly.

Once we got back home and settled the kids in to watch a movie, Doug and Lisa and I went to Thai Fusion for a little karaoke.  It was a pretty fun ending to an overall great day.  I love being so close to my sister and my nieces!