Friday, May 27, 2016

Rollin' on the River

The Corsica River begins at the convergence of two streams in a swamp-like area on the edge of the small town of Centreville, Maryland.  The city dock is about a mile from the town center.  Of course we never called it the dock- it was always referred to as “the wharf.”   One day I heard my grandmother talking to someone about where she or my uncles lived- down on the wharf she’d said and so that’s what we all (my brothers and sister) called it.  From her house it was a quick walk down to the river.  Along the way we’d pass by Uncle Billy’s house, as well as Uncle Toodles’.  We’d also pass by an old wooden green building.  It was a bar- I don’t know much about the place except that as kids we were instructed not to go near it.   I never did- but now sort of wish I had.  At the river’s start is a swampy area lined with green and brown cattails.  My mother grew up on the Corsica and boy does she like those cattails.  I recall many a time when she would pull over on the side of the road just so she could clip a few to put in a vase back home.

I’m pretty sure I caught my first crab on that river.  During the summer there were a lot of family trips southeast from Baltimore to my grandmother’s house and crabbing was often an event on the schedule.  My mother would borrow someone’s boat-much like she was borrowing a cup of sugar- and we’d be off.  My brothers, sister and I would find a seat and tighten up our orange life vests.  Mom would stock the boat with everything we’d need for a day of crabbing.  That meant a new Styrofoam cooler packed with a supply of ham and cheese sandwiches, and ice-cold Cokes in little green bottles.  There was also string, a few weights and chicken necks.  Wooden baskets and long-poled fishing nets awaited the first tug on a line. 

Really, crabbing is nothing more than sitting in the sun for a good part of the day waiting for the pull of the blue and green crustacean’s sharp claw.  I learned the difference between the males and the females early on and knew the females had to go back in the water.  Catching them was against the law- I heard they didn’t taste so good either. 

Sometimes to break up the monotony we’d steer the boat close into the shore.  My mother would tilt that outboard motor back inside the stern and hop in the waist-high water with a net in her hands.  She’d take a line from the boat and tie it around herself pulling the boat and her four young children as she searched the river grasses for soft crabs.  I’d sit in the back and sip on that cold Coca-Cola and watch as she slowly made her way along the shore line.

With any luck we’d return to the dock with a catch big enough for an evening crab feast under my grandmother’s Mimosa tree.  If the baskets came back empty we’d wait for the waterman to come in and pay for our dinner.  Either way we’d end the day with our hands covered in Old Bay seasoning and the sweet taste of crab on our tongue.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Opportunities for Learning

It never fails- whenever I find myself at the copier there are papers left behind.  Teachers, myself included, often leave behind originals of whatever they're copying.  Sometimes there are stacks of the same test, reading or exercise that have never been picked up.  The staff gets a few reminders here and there about saving paper and not being wasteful, and while I agree it's important to save resources I prefer to think of these orphan papers as opportunities.

Opportunity #1 comes along when I find something that I can use in my own classroom.  It doesn't happen all that often but when the right abandoned paper comes along at the right moment it feels real good.

Opportunity #2 comes along much more often and is a favorite of mine- extra tests.  I find tests and quizzes of all kinds- math, science, language and history.  While waiting for my own copy job to finish I like to take time to stretch my brain a bit to see how well I know subject areas different from my own.  Math is always enjoyable and rewarding- the problems are fun to mentally work through as I recall what I learned a long time ago.

Today I came across a test for history class.   I looked over the 25 or 30 questions and dug down deep to answer each one.  When my copying was done I put the extra test down and vowed to watch a few more documentaries on World War II.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Impressed and Amazed on a Daily Basis

I recently had a friend tell describe me as "not easily impressed."  I didn't really know how to take the comment.  Surely my friend didn't give her words much thought, but they may quite the impression on me.

The thing is I'm impressed with things everyday.  This morning I woke up to the alarm set on my cell phone.  With eyes shut and body wrapped tight in blankets I thought about the little wind up Big Ben alarm my grandmother used along with all the different alarm clocks I've used in my own life.  And then I thought just how amazing my little cell phone really is.  Call me impressed.

Walking toward the car about an hour later I spied the first oranges of the sunrise as it started to peak above the horizon.  The bare trees stood tall and strong waiting for the morning light.  It was quite an impressive scene.

This afternoon I met up with Pete-the guy who would be measuring me for my new orthotic inserts.  After a little chit-chat Pete told me he would be taking a cast of my feet.  Imagine my surprise when he pulled out his iPad to take pictures of my tired, less than perfect feet.  Once Pete was done he showed me the 3-D images he'd created and then with a click of the mouse sent them to Charlottesville so the lab could start creating my inserts.

Wow.  I was impressed.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Oh Edgar

The first sounds I hear when I arrive home each evening are the soft, but urgent, meows of my new cat Edgar.  He is a young one- about six months old- and still at the stage where he worries that I may never return.  I am barely able to set down my bags before he is weaving in, out and all around me. When I walk upstairs cries come from the first floor, for once again Edgar thinks I have left him.

In the kitchen the meows continue and I am always fooled into thinking that hunger is the problem.  I work quickly to get his evening meal prepared only to be met with a toss of the head and another cry.

Finally, I take a seat on the couch.  Edgar is right there- jumping on my lap and rolling over so I can scratch under his chin and stroke his soft, black fur.  It's then I remember that he's just a baby and needs a little one on one attention.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Too Soon to Start Counting

Looking at the calendar I see we still have 13 weeks left in the school year.  With the memories of 10 days off on Spring Break fresh in my mind I'm thinking that seems like a damn long time.  There will surely be ups and downs in the that time.  I'm hopeful that the ups outweigh the downs.  Even if they don't I know that when the last day of the year does come I'll look back and think, "wow, that went fast!"

Sunday, March 27, 2016

No Plans, No Problem

My Spring Break was spent at home.  If you asked me what I was going to do over the break ten days ago I would have responded that I had no plans.  I figured I'd enjoy some down time and make a dent in a stack of papers I brought home with me.

Things didn't quite work out the way I thought they would, but that's okay.  My unplanned break was fun from beginning to end.  Over the past ten days I was able to:

1.  Have an impromptu Easter dinner with most of the family 8 days early.
2.  Sample 4 different crab cakes in my search for the best crab cake in the Baltimore area.  (I found the best one so far in my hometown of Bel Air).
3.  Enjoy laughs and drinks with two of my dearest friends.
4.  Tour a gravel pit and get fresh eggs from a friend's chickens.
5.  Enjoy a long dinner out with a friend I rarely get to see unless I'm sick.  (She's also my doctor).
6.  Spend two fabulous days touring DC with my sister and niece, including a great showing of the cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin.
7.  Enjoy Sally Field's latest movie.
8.  Watch a lot of NCAA basketball.
9.  Clean my house...mess it up...and then clean it again.
10.  Find out what was going on with my knee.  I'm on the road to recovery!
11.  Grade exactly one of those papers I brought home with me.

I couldn't have planned it any better.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

A Family Quorom

With three of her four children at home my mother threw together an impromptu Easter dinner last weekend.  Brother Joe was in town to run a marathon and I came up to visit.  My mother's house is attached to my sister's, so it was only Mark that was missing from the pop-up celebration.  The dinner was simple- there was ham, some macaroni and cheese and a salad.  We all sat down at the table and enjoyed a few laughs as we reminisced about days gone by.  To have almost everyone together is quite the feat.  Mark and his three children made it down to see my parents a few days later.

I wonder if he had any Easter dinner leftovers.  If he did, does that mean we were kinda all together for the holiday?

Maybe next year.

Friday, March 25, 2016


There was a pink/blue cotton candy swirl sunset this evening.  The bare tree in my neighbor's yard stood tall and strong as it silhouetted the colorful sky.  A cool breeze blew as three young children raced around the soft grass.

I've had a great time away from work this week.  My vacation comes to a close on Monday morning. Experiencing the beautiful, happy sights and sounds in my front yard this evening gives me hope that summer break isn't too far away.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Did You See That?

I took my yearly trip downtown to catch the cherry blossoms in peak bloom around the Tidal Basin. As usual I saw people of all ages and nationalities out to enjoy the  DC tradition.  One thing I didn't expect to see was a Chihuahua in the arms of an older woman being paraded along the concrete path. The dog itself wasn't the surprise- the thing that made my head turn was seeing the young pup dressed in green dress complete with matching tam and sunglasses.

One thing I like about living in the DC area is that there are oh so many sights to see.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

My Bobby Pin

I was cleaning Granny’s trailer when I took it.  The dust rag was moving slowly, back and forth, along the nightstand when, pretty much without a thought, I swept the small copper bobby pin into my pocket.  There were a few more bobby pins scattered about so I knew she wouldn’t miss just one.  Besides, she was in the hospital at the time and it wasn’t exactly clear if she’d be coming back home again.
I was missing her being in that space.  From the moment I walked into the small trailer that sat behind my uncle’s house I felt an emptiness.  Looking around I could see pictures, plates and other knickknacks that told me I was in Granny’s house.  The sun was shining bright through the sheer curtains but without her presence there was a coldness in the space.
The bobby pin reminded me of another time- when I was much younger, somewhere around the age of 5.  Many nights were spent in my grandmother’s room.  I’d curl up in her bed and watch as she’d carefully roll up her hair.  First came the small wire curlers, then the bobby pins used to secure them in place.  Finally, she’d lay a gray hair net across her head to keep everything together.  Then it was bed time- time to do a little talking, some praying and finally sleeping.

Those days are long gone. Feeling the hard wavy edge of metal takes me back and brings a smile to my face.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


I'm back at the knee doctor again this morning after feeling little to no relief from the cortisone shot I got three weeks ago.  The waiting room is quiet except for the occasional interruption by a staff member in blue scrubs who appears at the door with clipboard in hand and calls out the name of the next patient.  The  faint smell of antiseptic in the air reminds me of visits I would take to my pediatrician when I was little.  Dr. Cooper was an older man filled with kindness and patience.  His wife, who worked with him each day, always greeted me with a smile and made sure I left with a lollipop in hand.  The waiting room was a mix of adult-sized chairs and small tables that were just my size.

I would always hear the gentle click of heels on the wooden floors before Mrs. Cooper opened the door and called me back.  The exam rooms were large and filled with glass jars of the kinds of things doctors need on a daily basis: cotton balls, tongue depressors, Band Aids, and the like.  It was a quiet place.  Sure, there were the inevitable cries of small children on the other end of a needle of some sort, but when I think about the time I spent at Dr. Cooper's office I always smile.  That's probably because I don't really remember the shots that much.  I also think the quiet, positive experiences at the office in the big yellow house are the reason I never much mind going to the doctor today.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Balancing the Week

I'm hanging around at home during this Spring Break week.  I love being able to sleep late in my own comfy bed.  I make a pretty good cup of coffee on most mornings so it's nice knowing there will be some consistency in my morning beverage choice.  There are quite a few cleaning/organizing projects to be completed around the house so I'm hoping to knock a few things off that list.

Getting away is nice too.  Last year I went to South Carolina with some friends.  I was a tag-along guest which meant that none of the vacation planning was my responsibility.  All I had to do was get in the car and drive myself 7 hours south to warmer weather and a sandy beach.  Once I arrived I had no real responsibilities and no projects to complete.  It was a different kind of down time.

Even with all that I'd like to take care of around the house I'll be sure to make room for some true down time.  Tomorrow I'm off to Annapolis with friends. Plus, I hear the cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin will be putting on quite the show later this week as they reach peak bloom.  It's supposed to get up to 70 degrees at the end of the week.

I'm down with all that.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Drive-by Memories

A quick drive-by of my elementary school jogged a few memories of the years I spent there.  The hill of paved black-top was gone but I could still see my friends and I running down that hill as fast as we could- trying our best to step on the fallen leaves that were blowing around.  The windows of my first grade classroom window were adorned with new art work, but I could still see what the rows of desks in my class looked like back in 1968.  No one was playing on the open blacktop, but I could still see myself standing in line waiting for my turn to jump into a twirling rope- nervous that I might not time it all correctly.  The old incinerator was gone, but I could see the spot where 4th grade me would sit and talk to my friends as we watched the boys play dodgeball.

Anybody else who drove by St. Joseph Elementary today would have seen a pretty empty school yard.  Not me though.  The school yard I saw was filled with memories.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Crab Goals

My sister, niece and I have been working on a fun little goal.  We've decided to track down the best crab cake in the area.  The idea came up after I read an article in The Baltimore Sun that listed the 10 best crab cakes in the Baltimore area.  We started off sticking to the list provided but soon went rogue when just about everyone had their own idea about the best place to find the delicious treat.

Stops one and two on our crab cake tour took place last month.  The tastings were okay, I'd give them a B- and a C- respectively.  One had a nice base of lump crab meat but had some suspicious pimentos added to the filler that held the meat together.  I did not appreciate that.  The second sample was made mostly of back fin meat and tasted too fishy for me.

Today was lucky stop number three.  The 8 ounce crab cake was broiled to perfection and made up of lump crab meat.  There was no filler holding the meat together.  My sister took the first bite and let out an audible "yummmmm."    I followed suit as soon as the first chunk of sweet, white meat hit my tongue.  The three of us agreed that it was the best cake we've tried thus far.

If time allows there may be another tasting before I head home tomorrow.  Yeah, it's tough work but we're prepared to complete our mission no matter how long it takes.

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Thrill and The Agony

Today's spelling bee reminds me of that popular tagline from ABC's Wide World of Sports- a popular weekend sports show.  Yes, today's competition had it all.  There was the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.  So many students went in to the auditorium sure they were the best speller- they were sure they would win.  Unfortunately most left with their heads hanging down-wishing they had been much more sucesful  successful.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Memories of a Family Meeting

St. Patrick's Day has me thinking about my own Irish roots and a memorable meeting I had with family while visiting Ireland four years ago.  Here's a little slice I wrote the evening of that family meeting:

Standing in a cemetery an hour outside of Dublin it's hard to know what to think.  I'm looking at the grave of my grandmother's great, great grandmother and it's just a tad overwhelming.  Here are people I obviously don't know, but if it weren't for the lives they lived here in County Kildare, Ireland I wouldn't be here at all.

The question connected am I?

First of all, I have to say I was impressed at the care that had been given to the grave.  The headstone begins by celebrating the memory of one Elizabeth Kearney born in 1864 and ends with the death one Henry John Garrett in 1998.  To see those 134 years connected on one headstone is pretty impressive, but really even more intriguing was that in my thirty minute visit to this small, off-the-beaten track, cemetery I ran into 3 other people-locals-who were there on a sunny Saturday morning to pay respects to their own.

I wandered about looking for the names of other family members I'd been given.  In my wanderings I was taken with a younger man who was standing at a gravesite with a pile of freshly turned soil.  He stared at the head stone for a bit and then made a quick sign of the cross before turning on his heels and heading back along the small country road to his next destination.

It was then I headed back to Elizabeth's grave for my own moment of prayer and reflection.  I thanked her for living the life she led which in turn allowed me the privilege of standing before her today~ and then with a sign of the cross I walked off to enjoy a bit more of the scenery in this home away from home.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

I Like Ike!

Can I just give a shout out to my local grocery guy Ike?  On a day when I was definitely feeling blah and overwhelmed with life the last thing I wanted to do on the way home was stop at the store. Unfortunately, the lack of half and half for my morning coffee meant I was in a grocery emergency. With a short list scribbled on the back of a torn receipt I willed my way through the aisles to resupply my food stores.  There wasn't much of a crowd early this afternoon so by the time I made my way to the checkout line I was feeling strangely zen.  It was so quiet inside the Giant I found myself wandering aimlessly just happy to be someplace where no one demanded anything from me.

I spied my guy Ike waiting for customers at an empty checkout line.  He greeted me, just like he always does,  with a wide smile and a "How are you young lady?  Did you find everything you need?"

He noticed the beer on the conveyor belt and inquired about my age.  Just like he always does.  After ringing up my total of $89.16 he laughed and announced, "That will be 89 thousand dollars!"

Just like he always does.

As I turned to leave Ike gave me a wink before adding, "See you tomorrow!"

Just like he always does.

Thanks Ike, for always being an expected friendly face.   You were exactly what I needed today.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Hopeful Humpday

On a day when many things did not go as planned I was not happy to find out that of three of my teaching teammates will be out tomorrow.  Three substitute teachers in one small team area with ninety-plus students can only mean tomorrow probably won't go as planned either.

Here's to hoping for the best!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Like, Dude!

My homeroom is an odd assortment of students.  There are 13 members in the group and at this point in the year they have segregated themselves into two distinct groups.  The boys sit on one side of the room and the girls sit on the other.  Among the girls there is another divide- the eight girls split themselves among three different tables which I would categorize as follows:  the serious students, the not so serious students, and the one loner who is quite comfortable with sitting alone.

The boys would prefer to sit as one group of five and spend most of homeroom talking over one another.  This morning the buzz on their side of the room was rather loud as they each tried their darnedest to best someone else in the group.

The conversation went kind of like this:

"Dude, I played the beta version of the (something this older gal has never heard of) game over the weekend,"  said Dude #1.

Dude #2 replied, "No way dude!  Dude, have you....?'

The conversation continued and there was a whole lot of dudespeak going on.  I looked at the girls on the other side of the room and whispered, "wow, they use that word dude a whole bunch don't they?"

Annabelle smiled.  "Yea," she replied, "but, like girls, like to use like a lot."

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Five Questions- Part 4 and 5

The challenge ends here...

4.  Give four reasons why you remain in education despite today's rough culture.

Teaching has been really the only career I've had.  Yes, I had other jobs in fields like personnel, mortgage banking and unemployment insurance...but they were just jobs.  I didn't feel the urge to learn more about the mortgage banking world.  I enjoyed my time in personnel at the Smithsonian Institution but didn't find it particularly challenging.

I'll admit there are days that I wish I worked in a less challenging field but overall I can't think of a better place to be.

Yes, my job as a classroom teacher is challenging, but that's what keeps it interesting.  Sure there are many things happening in education that  I disagree with,  but I enjoy the overall challenge of bringing out the best in each student.

I look at each new school year as a new work project.  I can spend some time looking at data on my new students before we meet but find that data means very little until I spend some time with the faces and minds behind all the numbers.  I am so lucky to have almost 10 months to make a change in their lives.  Maybe I'll introduce them to a book that becomes their all-time favorite, or maybe I'll make them see that they are writers and readers.  Hopefully, they will leave my classroom with a better understanding of who they are and who they can be.

I like that my "project" comes to an end each June.  At the end of the school year I can smile (big smile) and wave goodbye knowing that I've done all I can to move each student forward.

When people ask me what I think of teaching I always say I love my job...and then I add,  I don't love every day of my job but when I put all the days together I find I have many more days that I love than those that I don't.

5.  Which five people do you hope will take this challenge by answering these questions?

I've never liked chain letters and the like so I'll just say if anyone out there is looking for a reason to think about their own work in education this might be the challenge for you.  Try it!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Five Questions- Part 3

The challenge continues with question 3...

3.  What are three things you hope to accomplish before the end of the school year?

Simply put- more writing, more writing, and more writing.   Yeah, I know that's sort of cheating...but...

As the reading teacher I missed working with students to become better writers so when an opening came up as the English teacher on my team I grabbed it.  Unfortunately, my new job coincided with the county's decision to push reading in all areas.  It seemed like every county-level meeting looked only at the reading instruction side of English.  Writing was put on the back burner.  

I've found that students are more reluctant to write as of late- and that's not coming from just the reluctant readers- I see it in students of all levels.

With the time I have left I'd like to work on writing fluency by offering more quick writing opportunities during instruction.  I'm also working on having the students do a little of their own blogging through an end of year writing challenge.  (Thanks to my friend Tracey for continually pushing me to do this!)

Before the end of this year I'll also look over my plans for the beginning of the year to add more writing.  Come next September we will start the year off with even more writing.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Five Questions Part 2

Here is question 2 of the challenge I started yesterday.

2.  Share two accomplishments that you are proud of this school year.

Becky is a reluctant reader.  In the beginning of the year she would show up every morning with a pile of large encyclopedia-type books.  Her weekly reading logs were barely filled out and every time I would talk to her about what she was reading she was at a loss for words.  She read parts of many things but didn't have much to say about any of it.

I can understand readers like Becky.  I am not one to plow through novels that don't interest me.  Recently I told someone about a book I had abandoned and they tried to convince me to keep going.  "It gets real interesting once you get to about page 250."  Sorry, I don't have time for that.

I tried many books and authors with Becky and found little success until about 6 weeks ago when I told her to look over Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.  Something happened.  Her reading logs showed up with fewer missing entries and she was talking to me about what she was reading.  When she finished I told her there were a few other books in the series.  Her eyes lit up.  She wanted to read more.  I quickly bought the next book in the series and had it in her hands two days later.  I'm not ready to say I've "cured" her of reluctant reader syndrome, but at least we're heading in the right direction.

On a more personal note, I'm proud of my own ability to take better care of me this year.  Through the winter months I strived to leave work before the sun went down.  I get to work somewhere between 6:45 and 7:00 each morning- meaning I often pull into the parking light with my headlights on.  Somewhere around the beginning of November I decided that I deserved a little more me time each night.

For the most part I was successful.  Getting home a little earlier meant I could make my way down to the gym and put in a little on the exercise bike.  It also meant I could eat earlier and, in turn, get to bed earlier.  More exercise...more sleep. That's what I call a win, win situation!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Five Questions- Part I

I was recently tagged by two other educators to take part in a semi-viral blogging challenge.  The task is relatively simple:  write a post answering five general questions about your teaching practice.  I've avoided responding to the challenge for a while now, but am going to give it a go...over the next five days.

1.  What has been your one biggest struggle this school year?

If I'm going to be honest- and of course I should be- my biggest struggle this year has been sitting through my twice a week Collaborative Learning Team meeting.  Don't get me wrong, I'm all for collaboration and have been since I first stepped in the classroom years ago.  It was August of 1993 when I entered my 5th grade classroom for the first time.  As soon as I took in everything the room had to offer I walked next door to introduce myself to Catherine, the other 5th grade teacher.  From that point on we spent just about every lunch period together discussing our different educational approaches as we took time to refuel for the afternoon.  As a new teacher I knew Catherine had a lot to offer from her years of teaching experience.  My ideas were not discounted.  Catherine was happy to listen to and implement ideas I brought to the table.  We spent about 6 years teaching together- never relying on past successes, but always looking at each new group of students and adjusting our teaching as needed.

Nobody told us to meet.  We did not take notes on our meetings.  We just met and got down to business.

This year my CLT is required to meet twice a week for 45 minutes.  We are asked to come up with meeting norms and submit notes on what is discussed at our meeting.  As an IB school we have been told that we must align our teaching so each 6th grade English teacher is teaching the same thing, or at least giving the same formative and summative assessments.

There are 3 English teachers in the group- two of us see pretty much eye to eye and the other seems to (my perspective only of course) disagree with just about every idea that is brought to the table.

I feel like I get along with people pretty well.  I'm not into confrontation so I'm willing to do my best to work with others-but in this case I am stumped.  Just about every Tuesday and Friday I leave work feeling frustrated and worn down as I wonder if it's time to move on to something else.  Mostly I leave thinking about how much I miss those lunches with Catherine.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Okay Spring, I'm Ready. Bring. It. On.

Just this time last week I was tracking the possibility for one more snow day.  Even though things didn't work out as I would have liked, I quietly hoped that winter still had one more snowstorm in its bag of tricks.  After all, the county I work for builds a total of 10 extra days into the calendar for winter mayhem.  Days that go unused stay that way...unused.  My feeling is- let's take what was given because we can't give it back.

Yesterday the thermometer soared up into the 70s.  This afternoon we hit the 80s.  My neighbor's daffodils are blooming and the DC area is in quite the twitter because the world famous cherry blossoms may just peak a week or two earlier than expected.

This afternoon I left work around 5:00 and pretty much every car in the parking lot had cleared out. Even Tracey, my working late buddy, had departed for an unlikely shopping trip for some new pants.  I climbed into my car, rolled down the windows and blasted the radio.  Feeling the warm breeze on my face it was damn near impossible not to smile.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Behavior Management

I've got a new feline friend in the house.  Edgar moved in to my home and heart a mere five days after Scout, my 15 year-old cat, died.  I miss my old friend and his more mature behavior.  While new cat is friendly and a pretty easy-going companion I do find there are some habits that need some redirecting.  So far I've been successful, for the most part, in keeping young Edgar from treating my body as a tree to be climbed.  For a while I never knew when I would suddenly feel those sharp kitten claws digging in my back as my curious friend climbed onto my shoulders for a better look-see.  Thankfully that behavior came to a halt quickly- right after a trip to the vet to have those tiny little claws trimmed.

Yes, Edgar is very curious.  If I'm preparing anything in the kitchen he is right by my side, jumping onto the counters for a closer look at what's happening.  Breaking this habit has been difficult.  I've tried the more gentle approach of placing him calmly on the floor with a stern "no!"  Unfortunately he would jump back onto the counter as soon as I let him go.

I stepped up my game by experimenting with the coins in a can approach.  Again, this didn't do much.  The only reaction I got was the feline stare which I can only assume translates into something like..."what?"

Last night my wonderful new cat pretty much jumped into the fire when his leap toward the counter landed him right into a warm skillet full of asparagus and olive oil causing quite the uproar in the kitchen.

Tonight young Edgar experienced the shock and surprise of a spray of water.  So far, I may be winning this battle.  

Don't worry, the little guy is fine.  He's off the counter and curled up in the crook of my elbow as I try to get these very words on the page.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Missing Someone

The first sound I heard as I opened my front door this morning was the distant squawk of a skein of geese flying overhead.  In a split second my thoughts went back to the cornfield next to my grandmother's house.  As a young girl I saw more than my share of geese flying over that field.  I would watch as v-shaped formation would glide through bright blue skies and wonder about the sights they might see on their journey.

This morning I looked up and wondered exactly the same thing.  In that moment I felt like I was 10 again.  I smiled and turned toward my car to head to work as I thought of all the other memories that cornfield held for me.  By the time I pulled open the car door I found myself missing my grandmother as much as I did the day she died thirteen years ago.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Not the Bee's Knees

My knee problems returned with a vengeance today.  After 5 days of relative knee comfort I find myself wincing with every step and wondering what happened.  I felt good after last Tuesday's cortisone shot and followed the suggestions of the physician's assistant by continuing with ice and elevation.  It's frustrating because I was sure my knee would be getting better and better each day.

Fortunately I have a follow-up with the orthopedist in two weeks.  Until then I'll think of do my best to rest, ice and elevate.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

A Good Day

My sister is visiting for the weekend so we've been spending some time doing the stuff we like to do. The day started with a ride out to a few junk/antique shops about an hour west.  We did a lot of poking around and Jeen was able to pick up a few pieces to match a discontinued dinnerware set she owns.  We weren't the only ones poking around the small town of Lucketts- the crowds in a few places were definitely messing with my claustrophobia.  By 1:00 pm our stomachs were starting to growl so we headed home for a late lunch at a local Mexican restaurant.

With stomachs full of fajitas we headed home for a little rest before a 7:00pm showing at the recently renovated movie theater down the street.  We were able to watch Brooklyn in full recline position while nibbling on popcorn and M & Ms.

Thinking about the day reminds me of a painted sign we saw at one of the stores we visited.  It read, "Today is a Good Day."

Yup, it was.

Friday, March 4, 2016


There was a new format for Spring Conferences today.  In the past the meeting has been a nice bookend for a 6th grader's first year in middle school.  Parents and student would meet with their homeroom teacher so students could review the goals they had set for themselves at the beginning of the year.  If goals were met we could talk about the strategies they used to find success.  If the opposite was true we could brainstorm ways to get back on track for the last part of the year. Students would work during homeroom to gather some of their best work so they could be prepared for the conference they would lead.  

This year the county changed to a sort of "speed dating" approach.  The full day set aside for these meetings was scaled back to a three-hour time block in the afternoon of an early-release day.  No appointments were made, nor were students part of the preparation.  Parents waited in the hall to speak to teachers.  Students were asked to join their parents for any meetings but did not always do so.

I've never minded conferences.  In fact, I think I'm one of the few teachers that actually likes them.  I suppose this is odd for an introvert like myself, but I really enjoy getting a more complete picture of the students I teach.  I've heard a lot over the years but was not prepared for one opening statement today.

"Okay, I have two things. sent her to the office on a dress-code violation?  Really?  I mean that's the first thing I need to say."

That moment was a blip on my hours in the classroom this year.  As I searched my memory for the details of the incident I could only think about why I had been taught to start each conference with something positive.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

First World Problems

I wonder if other teachers feel that little change that comes on just before Spring Break.  Over here in 6th grade we are experiencing a whirlwind of attitude and shenanigans.  Even though it's not much different than other years- trying to teach while thoughtfully wading through behavior issues that pop up like prairie dogs can be challenging.  Just today the math teacher on my team had to deal with a sobbing 12 year-old boy.  The student was distraught- not because he was injured, not because he was failing math...he was distraught because his iPad was to be confiscated for the weekend.

Apparently, the teacher took it yesterday after finding more than one non-approved app on the school-issued device.  When the student came back at the end of the day to retrieve it the teacher was in a meeting.  After 3 hours without his iPad that 12 year-old boy was no doubt suffering from the first symptoms of technology withdrawal.  I can only imagine the stress and anxiety he was feeling mucked up his thought process- he took his iPad from the teacher's desk and went home.

I always tell my students actions have consequences.  Taking something from a teacher's desk is not cool kids- no matter how hard it is to live for 16 hours or so without the ability to feel the warmth of that germy iPad in your hand.  Today, said student learned his iPad would be locked up until Monday.

Cue the hysteria.

 Spring Break, where are you?

Wednesday, March 2, 2016


One thing over 20 years in the classroom has taught me is patience.  Don't get me wrong-I can lose that skill on a daily basis when I find myself repeating the same directions over and over.  In the classroom there are plenty of events that can ruffle my ability to smile and stay calm, but in the outside world I find myself with an uncanny ability to wait when others cannot.

This evening I stopped in the local Giant to pick up a few items.  It was early so with very few shoppers about there were only two full-service checkout lines open.  I took my place in line behind an elderly woman and watched as she placed her 2 yogurt containers, one onion, one red potato and loaf of bread on the conveyor belt.  I eyed the candy display and considered the calories in a bag of peanut M&Ms- too many, so I shifted my attention to the magazine rack.  Unfortunately, the magazine covers on display were the same ones I had read last Saturday so I turned to slowly placing my items on the conveyor belt.  Once I had unloaded my 10 -12 items I realized the lady in front of me was having some issues with the card scanner.  Her troubles didn't really bother me, but they were definitely creating quite the line behind me.  Before long there was a call for back up along with a few groans and mutters as a few less patient shoppers shifted to a newly opened register.  

I held my ground and waited...patiently.  I was happy to be still with nothing but the thoughts of Hollywood's latest news and M&Ms in my head.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Easy Math

It was a blue sky, 65 degree gorgeous Tuesday in my part of the world.  Lucky me- it coincided with a sick day from work.  I got to sleep until the realistic hour of 7:00 am and lingered over a second cup of coffee before heading out to a 10 o'clock appointment with my orthopedist's PA.  I have not met with this particular PA in the past but am happy we crossed paths today, as she administered the least painful cortisone shot I've ever experienced.

Yup, by 10:30 I was whistling a happy tune thinking it was a pretty darn good day.  And then it got even better.

I met up with a colleague who is out on maternity leave and we headed out for lunch.  Pretty nice, right?  It got even better when we noticed that wine was on sale.

A painless cortisone shot + lunch with a friend + a delicious steak salad + a bottle of red on sale = a damn good Tuesday.