Saturday, February 28, 2015

Mail Call

I'm sure a few of you out there have had the experience of finding money you forgot about in an old jacket or purse.  You would probably agree that no matter what the amount, finding that little treasure would most likely bring a smile to your face.

Today I finally tackled the stack of mail that's been taking over my kitchen counter.  I scanned the contents of each envelope quickly to determine if the contents were of any importance.  A piece of mail from my mortgage company caught my attention as soon as I noticed the phrase CHECK ENCLOSED.



Imagine finding $196 in your pocket.

I've been smiling all day.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Friday Night Lights

The smell of smoke arrived at my nose at just about the same time the distant roar of sirens hit my ears.  Within moments the aroma of smoke was so strong that I ran to the back window to make sure the fire wasn't in my backyard or even in my very own house.

I don't like the gawker types but before long my curiosity got the best of me so I slip on my black clogs, grabbed my coat, and headed out the door.   Red and blue lights lit up the horizon, illuminating the smoke-filled sky.  My senses led me down the street to an intersection filled with fire equipment in every direction.  Even from my vantage point at the top of the stairs it was hard to tell exactly where the fire was.  No matter where I looked there was some sort of emergency vehicle.  An equally interested neighbor filled me in.  The house in question was just up the hill.

"Best not to get any closer," he suggested.  "There's no need for us to muck up the works."

I agreed.

So now as I sit on my cozy little couch with the smell of smoke in the air I'm thankful that all is good here in my house.  I also hope and pray that those neighbors down the way will be okay.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Waiting Around

Sitting in the small waiting room at Sears Auto reminded me a great deal of sitting in a hospital waiting.  I tried distracting myself with games on my phone but my mind kept racing back to what was happening in that area that I couldn't see.

Before too long a tall gentleman walked slowly down the hall in my direction.  His expression was void of any real expression.  It was hard to tell if the news was good or bad.

"Ms. Brown," he began.  "How long have you been worried about your brakes?"

The news wasn't too bad.  He led me back to the service area and let me take one last look at my rusted rear rotors and worn brake pads.

Ninety minutes later I was out the door- a little lighter in the wallet, but confident my car was fixed up and ready to hit the road again.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Communication from the Front Lines

Dear _________,

_______________was asked to leave class today.  Not only did he make monkey noises when returning from the fire drill he also called another student a name while they were they were working together. 
The students are currently working on a collaborative project.  _______ has had difficulty with this project.  He is unable to work with his partner without making inappropriate comments or engaging in other attention-seeking behavior.  Today while working he was burping loudly, and eating earwax from his ear in attempt to gross out others at his table.
I would appreciate any suggestions you might have for ways to get ________ to act more appropriately in class.

One thing about teaching-  two days are rarely alike.  Here's hoping that tomorrow is a better day.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Bake and They Will Come

Tonight I've got a batch of brownies baking away in my oven.  It was two weeks ago that I promised a group of 6th graders I would bring them some brownies if they showed up to my next homework club.  We were scheduled for last Tuesday but the treat of a late winter snow kept everyone home from school that day.

This afternoon I wandered across the hall to check out who came to homework club this afternoon.  I asked if any of the 7 present were planning on coming tomorrow when I would be hosting again.  Two or three hands went up while the other four students averted their eyes and hung their heads down.

"Wait!" one girl called out.  "Aren't you making us brownies?"

I responded with a nod of my head and before I could get the word yes out those hanging heads perked up. All hands were up and I could see that my little plan had worked.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Talkin' About the Weather

How cold is it?  Right now, according to Accuweather, the temperature in my fair city is 13F.  The wind-chill temperature is at 3F.  Yup, that's damn cold.

Earlier today my niece's boyfriend, Dan, made reference to the cold temperature in his location on social media.  It was a ghastly 28F in Savannah, GA this afternoon.  Certainly with temperatures like that no college student of the south could be expected to leave the comfort of his or her dorm room. At least that's what Dan thought.

My mother quickly shot back.  It was 15F in Bel Air, where she lives.

The final shot across the bow came from my niece, Megan, who is busy freezing her butt off north of Pittsburgh.  Her response came IN ALL CAPS- IT'S NEGATIVE 15 HERE.

Megan wins.  Game. Set. Match.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Say Aaahhh--Part II

Root wasn't too bad.  As promised my endodontist had all kinds of great bedside manner. He was able to talk me through the procedure and shoot my mouth up with anesthesia without so much as a wiggle from me.  While I waited for my mouth to get nice and numb his assistant offered me a glass of water and a fresh supply of People magazines.  Once Dr. Chun got to work he quickly scraped out what needed scraping all while making sure I wasn't feeling any pain at all.  The slightest wince on my part was answered by another hit of numbness from the good doctor.

An hour later my tooth was free of any diseased pulp and I was up to date on the latest entertainment news.  I'll check back next week.  There may be more drilling, but at least I know if there is it's no big deal.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Meeting Vivian

The snow day that so many teachers, and yes students too, have been hoping for finally arrived today thanks to a beautiful overnight snowfall.  Snow days mean a relaxing morning followed by a little bit of snow clearing and then an afternoon of catch-up activities.  On this afternoon I decided to catch up on a few videos I've wanted to watch.  First on the list was a documentary of found street photographer, Vivian Maeir.  

Wow is the first word that comes to mind.  First of all, I found her photographs to be stunning.  While I'm no expert on the art of photography I do know that I was intrigued with the work.  I'd like to see more.

Then came the pieced together story of this Nanny/Street Photographer's life.  It seemed to be a sad life- one without many real connections, other than the ones she made through the lens of her camera. Perhaps it wasn't the happiest of documentaries, but it's definitely worth a watch. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Time Travel With Mr. Bill

Watching last night's 40th anniversary show for Saturday Night Live was a little like watching my own life.  Not because I'm that funny or anything, it's just that I've been watching the show from pretty much the beginning.

Back in 1975 when the show started I was an awkward teen.  My much cooler friend, Pat, lived up the hill from me.  She was the one who first tuned me into the Not Ready for Primetime Players.  We sat in her bedroom one Saturday night watching the crazy sketch show on her little black and white TV.

The original cast from 1975 will always be the real SNL for me.  My favorites were always Jane and Gilda.  I missed most of the early 80s when I was away at school, but apparently I didn't miss too much.  I tuned in here and there during the 90s and sporadically in the 2000s.  Nowadays I watch when I can but find my need for sleep keeps me from catching the live broadcast, but I try to tune in for at least the first 30 minutes.

Seeing everyone come together last night for one big love fest was great not only for the collection of talent.  A few hours of feeling younger was a nice bonus.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Nice Ending

Today was a light day in school.  It was International Film day so the students and I were treated to a documentary/drama about a Mongolian family and their found dog.  It was a treat to spend the day with a small group of students who were just as enamored as me with the little foreign film.  Sure, we've all seen the big Hollywood films but today in our group of eleven we shared a great appreciation for the small story set in a foreign land.

It was a great way to end the school week.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Summer Nights at the Amoco

Growing up in a small town in the late 70s and early 80s made for a lot of memories that cause the mouths of others to fall open just a bit.  Just this afternoon I was telling a younger colleague about the summer I spent working at the local Amoco station.  

"Wow, was that even safe?" she asked.

Not only was it safe, it was the place to be that summer.  My usual shift was from 3 - 11.  At 11 my friend Moe showed up to take over for me.  Moe was often late as she was usually coming from another job.  Moe worked a whole bunch of jobs that summer.  So when she showed up around 11 we finally had time to catch up.  Once the shift change was complete we would often pull out a few beach chairs and sit beneath the fluorescent lights with a Playmate cooler between us.  We would toss back a few beers and chat away the evening.  I would head on home about midnight or so and leave Moe to finish off her shift.

 Sleeping on the overnight shift was to be expected, as there was bound to be a lull in customers from about 2:30 to 5:00.  With a few overnight naps under her belt Moe would head out at 7:00 AM, start up her orange VW Bug and head off to her next job at McDonald's.

Silly me, I only worked the one job that summer.  Moe may have had more money when it came time to head back to school, but I was definitely better rested.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Lady in Waiting

My students are getting ready to begin a pretty big collaborative assignment.  Today I asked the class to consider what they were looking for in a partner.  With that in mind I asked that they come up with a few interview questions.  To make sure they were on the right track I asked for volunteers to share questions they might use in the interview process.  For the most part they were on target.

Do you like writing?
Will you be able to stay on task for this assignment?
Are you willing to listen to different ideas?

And then there's the wise-guy question that was posed by one boy.

Are you willing to do all of the work?

Later as I walked around the class I noticed that one girl included the question, Are you a girl? in her interview list.

I stopped and asked if she would only work with girls.

"Yes." she replied.  "The boys are so immature."

Uh, yeah.

Don't worry, I thought, they'll catch up eventually.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Peaceful Coexistence...For Now

So it seems there's a mouse somewhere in my kitchen.  I'm not all that surprised, as I've seen a few mice scurry about the house over my past 15 years of ownership.  Having a cat, one who sees himself as quite the hunter, can be helpful.  My furry friend has caught his share of mice over the years. Really it's hard to say what's worse- the droppings under the sink that tell me there's a rodent in the house, or the small bloody present my cat has been known to leave on his scratching mat. 

For now cat, mouse and myself exist in harmony.  We can continue that way for a little while, as long as the tiny rodent understands Scout's sleep schedule.  

Monday, February 9, 2015


I left work before 3:00 this afternoon.  That's some sort of record for me.  Yes, there were definitely a few things that needed doing but my body didn't have the energy to accomplish them.  Perhaps it's because it's Monday.  Maybe it's because watching The Walking Dead last night drained me emotionally.  It could be the overcast skies.  Most likely it's a little bit of each of those things.

This afternoon I'll take a little nap under a soft blanket as my feline friend tries his best to get an early dinner. 

Me? I'm hoping a little rest, a good dinner, and an early bedtime will have me back in the swing of things tomorrow morning.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

A Different Kind of February Day

The temperature shot up to near 70 in the nation's capital today.  So like many others I headed to the C & O Canal path that runs from Georgetown to Cumberland, Maryland.  I slipped onto the sandy byway at Lock 10 near Cabin John and enjoyed the sights all the way up to Great Falls.  There were a few other cyclists out, but today the path really belonged to the hikers.  

Families, friends and their dogs were out in force.  With the trees bare of all leaves the views along the way were quite different from what I usually see along the way in the spring, summer and fall months.  A couple of my favorite animals made a showing.   I spied a stately heron surveying the canal from the perch of an oak tree.  A redheaded woodpecker scurried up the bark of another tree determined to escape my camera lens.  There were a few ducks paddling about as they enjoyed the weather along with the rest of us out for the day.

Yeah, it was damn nice.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

My College Radio Debut

About a month ago my niece, Megan, put out the call for writing.  She's in her first year of college and has been spending some time on the college radio station.  This semester she was interested in trying to create some podcasts of other people's writing.  Being the supportive aunt and writer that I am I looked through some old blog posts and put together a little something.

I put together three separate blogposts from 2013 and emailed her my memories of college.  Not being a fan of my own recorded voice I told her she could find someone to make the audio of my words.  Unsure of what she would do with my work I pretty much forgot about it.  Until last night.

That's when the word came that her radio theme for the night was college.  I sent off a quick text suggesting she play Steely Dan's "My Old School."  She thanked me for the request and let me know that she would also be playing a recording of the writing I'd sent her.

Friday was an eleven-hour workday for me.  By the time I got home at the end of a very long day I could only think of ordering a pizza, putting on my pajamas and waiting for an appropriate bedtime. Megan's news gave me a little energy, just enough to keep me up long enough to hear most of her radio show and my own words read over the air.

It was pretty cool laying in bed listening to my own scattered thoughts.

Friday, February 6, 2015

It May Take Some Time

So I'm in the thick of the new education fad of one to one devices in schools.  Last December all 6th graders were issued the very own iPad.  Back then we teachers clearly outlined the county's acceptable use policy so students would understand what kind of iPad activity is allowed and what is not. Everyone signed an agreement saying they would abide by the given rules and the devices were issued.

Six weeks later and I'm feeling just a tad over the whole thing.  Believe me, in the end I think it will all work out.  But right now this teacher is wishing kids would remember to bring their homework, pencils and paper with the same gusto that they remember to bring their iPads.

On a more positive note I have found some great ways to connect my homework assignments to the student's new device.  I've also found that these kids can be quite creative in their problem solving. When they do download things like Instagram, Snapchat, Kik, Madden Mobile, Crossy Road and a host of other games they shouldn't, they are real good at hiding the icons in the secret folders they create inside of other secret folders.

Here's hoping that once the novelty wears off they will use all that creativity for the greater good.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Plans? Not Really

When it comes to planning I’d say there are a variety of levels.  There are detail-oriented planners- the type of people that wake up every Monday knowing pretty much how the week will go.  Detail people may even know what’s for dinner every night of the week. 

Confession- I am not a detailed planner.  You could classify me as more of a plan on the fly type of gal.  Dinner?  I just know if I don’t know what I’m having I have a big box of Corn Flakes to save the day.  I’m a-okay with that.  Don’t get me wrong, I make plans.  They just don’t come with a great deal of detail. 

A few summers ago after listening to a friend yammer on about her interest in yurts, I was intrigued.  So I got online and looked for a yurt to stay in. Being the kind of girl who does, at times, judge a book by its cover I went with a yurt located in Colorado’s western slope.  The pictures looked nice and all but really I was sold the minute I read the name of the property.  Kit and I would be spending 5 glorious days atop Cedar Mesa at The Yurt at Screwball Ranch.  The rest of our time would be spent driving around and checking out what Southwestern Colorado had to offer the tourist industry.

The yurt was the only real plan we made, everything that happened after that was pretty much on a whim.  Yes, we did do a little research on the area ahead of time so we knew a trip to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison was in order.  That little bit of planning didn’t hurt as we wandered aimlessly around checking out the magnificence of it all.  We peered cautiously at the canyon as it dropped 2,000 feet to the bottom where the Gunnison River flowed.  We wandered down to the bottom of the canyon and were treated to an array of wildflowers I’ve never seen on the east coast. 

There was a whole bunch of wandering going on that week.  On a near perfect summer day we headed down the road and happened upon a rodeo where we were shocked to see young, blonde-headed girls gallop down the dusty arena, jump off their mounts and proudly tie up a poor bleating lamb.  It was interesting, entertaining and a tad freaky all at the same time.  After filling up on our fair share of rodeo we happened upon a fantastic little barbecue joint and a local winery.  The day, filled with no real plan, meandered along in a fabulous way.

The other thing we planned on was a trip to the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde.  Kit had majored in Anthropology and Sociology in college and was thrilled with the idea of seeing the homes of the ancient Pueblo people.  Unfortunately, we never considered the effects Colorado’s high altitude would have on us.  Driving through Mesa Verde National Park was not all that taxing, but once it came time to hike down to the Spruce Tree cliff dwelling the lack of oxygen had taken its toll on Kit.  Looking back, it was by far the only low point of our trip.  Here was the place she desperately wanted to see up close, but she didn’t feel like she could push her body to take her there.  I carried on alone wishing the whole time that I could have convinced her to try a little harder. 

Later that night we found ourselves in a tiny Mexican restaurant where we tried to forget the low point of the day over chips, salsa and Margaritas.  The food was great but didn’t keep Kit from feeling like she missed out on something glorious.  Walking back to the car I looked up and saw a bright patch of color falling across the sky.

“Let’s follow it!” I suggested.

In a minute we were off, driving down unknown streets in the small town of Cortez looking for the end of the rainbow.  It took a little doing but before long we found it, at the end of a residential street.  After driving as far as we could along the side streets of the town we were met with an empty lot of land.  There was an abundance of brown earth with a scattering of small bushes and brush.  In the middle of it all was the end of our rainbow.

There was no pot of gold, but suddenly our day was just a little brighter.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

I Promise I'll Try

Just last week a colleague of mine shared an activity she had done with her class to help solidify their knowledge of plot, conflict, setting and point of view.  She gave me a quick run-through of the activity and suggested I give it a try.

I tried to picture how that would go with my 2nd period class and, I'm a bit ashamed to say, I didn't see it going well.  My inclusion class during that time has a group of kids that struggle with written language, so when I tried to visualize the lesson I could only see chaos.

Tracey assured me, "No, really, it's going to be great!  Look at some of what they wrote, it's great stuff!"

I decided to leave my comfort zone behind and give it a try.  The kids worked together in groups of 4 to write a story in the round.  They used their writing to show not only their own creativity, but also their knowledge of all those story elements we'd been talking about in class.

Yeah, they did look a little scared in the beginning.  So I made sure to tell them there was only one rule they had to follow.  They had to be willing to try.

Try they did and succeed they did.  Today we shared a few stories before the lesson of the day.  We'll share some more tomorrow because there's nothing better than hearing a student read something he or she is proud of.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Say Aaahh

My pink, squishy tongue has long resided inside my small, by doctor's accounts, mouth. Tongue, gums and teeth are well acquainted so when my tongue slid around my mouth the other night it was instantly aware that something wasn't quite right.  With a little more probing I could feel a chunk of my upper molar missing.

Fortunately, I wasn't suffering from any real tooth-related pain so I didn't panic too much.

Until this afternoon when I went to see my dentist.

A cracked #14 was confirmed by x-rays, as was decay in the root.  I looked at the x-rays, which meant nothing to me, as Dr. Gregory explained what needed to happen.  There would be root canal by an Endodontist, followed by a new crown.

Then we talked about money and the approximate cost for everything that needed to be done.

Ouch, now that hurt.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Getting to Know You

I recently had a visit with a friend who had just adopted an older cat.  This particular friend is going through chemotherapy and radiation treatments.   She thought a little pet therapy would make the time spent napping off the effects of those drugs easier.  I strongly supported her decision, as I know from personal experience there is nothing like the purr of a soft feline to make a sick day on the couch a bit more tolerable.

This friend of mine, she's more of a dog person- so her understanding of cats and their odd little ways was limited.

"I think I'm going to have to take her to the vet," she started.  "She sleeps all the time and isn't eating much other than the treats I give her."

I laughed and then went on to explain that cats sleep an average of 16 hours a day.  As they get older they sleep even more.  I'd say my own 14 year-old cat sleeps about 21 or 22 hours a day.  Food? Yeah, I think that's a control thing.  Anyone who's had a cat knows the one who is really in charge is walking around on 4 legs while the 2-legged human tries to do whatever they can to make their feline friend happy.

After three weeks together Kathy and her furry friend, Matilda Louise, have settled in.  Matilda sleeps away the day and Kathy has found a food she likes.  When Kathy naps under her soft tan blanket on the couch she can depend on her new friend to be purring away by her side.  It seems they were made for each other; it just took a bit of time to get to know one another.