Tuesday, February 27, 2007

HEARTBROKEN

Last night, I received a call that my Sweet Sadie Dog is in the final stages of kidney failure.

What kills me is that I can't be there to tell her what a great dog she's been and how much I love her and how much I'm going to miss her ...

Saturday, February 24, 2007

LOUISVILLE SCIENCE CENTER

Christy and I went to the Louisville Science Center today. The other day we were talking, and I mentioned that I was dying to go to a "big city" and soak up some culture at a museum. Christy suggested the Science Center, and so ... the photos below were all taken at the Science Center. It's a great place to go. Loads of fun for the kids -- these two big kids had a great time! Plus, the LOUISVILLE SLUGGER museum and factory is just across the street. Can't miss the GIGANTIC baseball bat on the side of Main Street!

This bannner greets guests has they come through the front door. Once inside, you can watch this pendulum swing swifty and methodically, knocking those little orange pegs over in ten-minute increments.



This little guy is part of the GROSSOLOGY exhibit. A discerning eye will notice the three piles of poo at his feet. This particular exhibit -- a talking penguin -- was explaining how you can tell the type of animal by its scat (otherwise known as poo).

This giant fly -- also a talking fly -- is sitting on a giant chocolate chip cookie. You can't see it, but he's just regurgitated on the cookie, getting ready to suck up all the broken-down parts of the cookie to take home to the wife and kids. And my mother said it was perfectly fine to eat the potato salad after a fly landed on it! Clearly, she never heard this guy talk about how he does his job!


I took this photo for my dad. Papa, perhaps you might want to try this ... or maybe not!


We even got to be weather forecasters! Here is Christy reading the teleprompter and broadcasting "live" from somewhere where there was lots of heavy rains and flooding!



This is a photo of Christy in a cave. I feel reasonably sure that this was meant for children, but we weren't really concerned with that. We got down on all fours and crawled in there anyway!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

AN ABSOLUTELY LOVELY SURPRISE

My dear friend, Debbie and I were wandering through a bookstore in Michigan about a year ago, when she pointed out a book by Adriana Trigiani. She insisted I read BIG STONE GAP, BIG CHERRY HOLLER, and MILK GLASS MOON as soon as I could get my hands on them (at the time, I was still unemployed, so purchasing them was out of the question).

Some months later, the book club that I was a part of asked me to choose the read for one of the summer months. I was in a slight panic because everyone else's picks had been so insightful and brilliantly chosen. I didn't want to disappoint. It was then that I remembered Debbie's recommendation of BIG STONE GAP.

After completing the book (in a day and a half!), honestly, I really could have cared less if anyone else in the group enjoyed the book one ounce, because BIG STONE GAP moved me in ways that I didn't think was possible. For that moment in time, I related to Ave, the main character in the Adriana's book, on a level that I have rarely experienced while reading. Minus the mountains, I was Ave, living in Ave's world ... corny as that may sound (those that know me well, really shouldn't be surprised with corny). Ave's fears, hopes, dreams, frustrations ... it all resonated in my life.

I was thirty-four years old, living in a small town where everyone knew me ... knew my family. My little spot in the world seemed entirely too small for the dreams in my head. I ached with Ave throughout that entire book-- knowing that I felt the very same things she felt! It was as if Adriana Trigiani had crawled right into my head.

You can imagine my delight when I'd read that she was writing a fourth installment of the series, and I eagerly awaited its arrival on bookstore shelves.

I almost bought HOME TO BIG STONE GAP for myself at Christmastime, but decided to wait. So, it was an absolute thrill to be given it as a birthday gift -- thank you, Annie!

The bigger thrill? And I will be absolutely crushed if I find out someone has played a joke on me ... the bigger thrill was opening up the comments page this morning and discovering that Adriana Trigiani had replied to my blog!!!

The woman that birthed Ave MacChesney had written to me ... even more surprising, she'd read my blog! For a girl that dreams of being on the NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER LIST some day, getting an email reply from Ms. Trigiani was a most happy surprise ... a cherry on a very large, sticky-sweet sundae!

Thank you, Ms. Trigiani, for making my birthday end on such a sweet note!

BIRTHDAY BEDAZZLED





Thanks to the members of OPERATION DECORATE A ROOM for this! You are the best!!!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!

35 is here, and, I must admit, it has been a wonderful day! So many people went out of their way to make my birthday feel special, and who doesn't like to feel that there is a special day just for them?


It was an incredible way to enter this next great adventure I like to call the "tail end of my 30s," and, I gotta say, it feels like it's going to be a blast of a ride!

This is a photo of a black and white photo my father took of me circa 1974 or 1975 ... hell on wheels even then!


My special day started off early, yesterday, by receiving a card from my parents along with birthday money! I will be spending it tomorrow afternoon, mom and dad [wink, wink]!!!!



To top that off, I received a package from my terrific friend, Denise. Now, Denise has this amazing sense of humor. I laugh everytime we hang out, and the gift she sent was not only SOOOOO ME, but it was pretty darn hysterical. Denise, you don't how much I laughed OUT LOUD last night ... between the cards and my gift, I think Maddie the Cat thought I was losing my mind (she should only be so lucky) ...



I got to school today and was ABSOLUTELY BLOWN AWAY by the decorations that covered, what seemed like every inch of my classroom. I left them all up so that I could take photos tomorrow -- so be on the look out for them. Of course, I didn't have my camera with me this morning!



My friend Christy gave me such a wonderful gift. We've only known each other a short time, but she already knows me well ...

The little ice cream cone thing is a pack of playing cards. I collect funny-shaped playing cards ... it's weird, yes, I know!


My little sis, who made sure to remind me that I will always be older than she, took me out for dinner. Yummy!!! I LOVED it and was thoroughly pleased with that, but, as we were walking to our cars, she surprised me with another gift!!



Now, Ann's gifts are always BEAUTIFULLY wrapped, and they are a gift in and of themselves ... almost too good to open up. However, I'm certainly glad I did open it, as it was a book by my current favorite author, Adriana Trigiani!!! The fourth installment of her BIG STONE GAP series. YEAH!!!



I was touched to receive a gift from my principal, Cynthia. She wrote the nicest card that almost made me cry. I miss her so much, and she's only been gone three days!


I was serenaded by what seemed like half the sixth grade class during morning announcements over the PA, and both my first and third block classes broke out in spontaneous song to, once again, sing me happy birthday.



Yes, it was a good day, and it made entering the Year 35 so much more palatable.






Tuesday, February 20, 2007

ON THE VERGE OF 35

Okay, so it's not as bad as I thought it would be. I am sitting here, staring 35, practically, right in the face, and it's not nearly as bad as I thought it would be.

I can't say as though I'm particularly happy about turning 35. However, the world, as I see it, hasn't come to a full stop ending with an explosion yet either.

I rather like the fact that people mistake my for being younger ... most of the time. It makes me feel good ...

35 ... I'm trying it on for size, folks, and I think I'm going to like it.

"ROASTING" A PRINCIPAL

As you may have read in another blog entry, my principal was reassigned to another building.

[Sniff, sniff ... ]

We are all very sad about it, but we wanted her to know that we wished her well. So, we had a little roast in her honor at one of our favorite hang outs, Case Fiesta!

We all contributed to a kitty of items that we felt she might need in her new assignment.

My gift to her was a magic kit as seen below:
What you can't see very well, as it was hard to get a photo of it, was the 2007 Turbo-Boosted Broom that I thought perhaps she could zoom through the hallways on ... she loved it!










Saturday, February 17, 2007

A PAINTED LADY



A night spent with photoshop and too much time on my hands.

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A CAT


Sometimes, a cat likes to do a little computer work.
It can be tough work, when you're working with paws, but I'm craftier than you're average feline.



Occasionally, I get a little upset with the papparazzi. I can't blame them, though. They're just doing their job.




When it's all said and done, I get very tired. I climb down from my perch in front of the computer, and opt for going behind the computer desk for a little cat nap.


Other days, I'm most content sitting and watching the snowflakes fall.



But watching the snowflakes makes me weary, and so I find myself retiring to the cozy comfort of the papasan chair.




Friday, February 16, 2007

JADED AND CYNICAL

NOTE: Our 5th and 6th grade team eats lunch together everyday. We've bonded over the months, and we're a pretty tight group that just loves to spend time together. One of the things we love -- and perhaps it's because we, with one exception, are all women -- is chocolate!! Anything that just hints of chocolate, and we are all foaming at the mouth.

Our pincipal gathered our team together at lunch time yesterday and presented us with a giant, frosted, chocolate chip cookie! It was a heavenly-looking token of appreciation for all the work we do on a daily basis. Adam, our one token male, was given the charge of cutting the cookie, and I was practically drooling all over myself waiting for my piece.

Then she got very emotional as she announced that she was being reassigned to the high school for the remainder of the year. You could have heard a pin drop in the place!

Adam stopped cutting.

And, I'm ashamed to admit this next part, and this is where I feel like, because of my past experiences at Albion Public, I've become very jaded and cynical ... while everyone else was getting very emotional at the prospect of losing our principal, all I could think of was, "why did he stop cutting the cookie!?!?!?"

Please hear me!!! I'm very sad about losing our principal to the high school. She is one of the best principal's I've ever worked for, and I've worked with a few ... 6 to be exact, counting my current one. Not to take away from anyone else that I've worked for, but Cynthia, to use a bit of middle school vernacular, is the bomb!! She's tough -- she's demanding -- she's incredibly fair -- she's ... she's just great!

However, I guess my years of watching a school district systematically raped and pillaged and countless students left behind over the lack of money that the state is willing to give and then take away, has caused me to be callused. I'm no longer surprised when ridiculous cuts are made that seem to make no academic sense whatsoever. I will not be the least bit surprised when I am served my pink slip as the year comes to a close ... do I hope it happens? Absolutely not! I really like this school! In my short time, I've put my heart and soul into my students. I would be very sad to, once again, be out scratching for a job ... something I thought I would no longer have to deal with when I moved down here.

I feel like there's a reason children are being left behind, and I wonder if it isn't that when it all comes down to it, there isn't FULL ON priority when it comes to education. Yes, I know, I'm opening a can of worms here. I mean, I will be the first to admit, I come at this whole education thing from an entirely different angle than most public school employees. And yes, there are many, many families that are rabidly dedicated to our children's education. However, American kids, by and large, keep falling behind, and I have to ask myself why? As an educator, it's my job to ask why.

I don't know the answer. I've never seen a "business" run like the business of education is run at this moment, and, let's face it, this is a business, and it can no longer afford to be run this way.

Ahhhh ... if only I had a magic wand ...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

WISHFUL THINKING STILL-LIFE

My kingdom for some SPRING ...

AN ODE TO VALENTINES


MIDDLE SCHOOL DANCES -- A POST SCRIPT

Well, the dance is over. So, with a flurry of activity, that can only be described as a tornado sweeping through the unsuspecting throngs of citizens in its path, let the middle school break ups begin!

Yes, folks, this is how it's done, in case you weren't really versed in the HOW TO BE A FLAKY MIDDLE SCHOOLER handbook. You see ...

  1. first you spend a month and a half leading up to THE DANCE, fretting over asking the right person
  2. then you begin fretting over making sure that you ask him or her before someone else does
  3. after that, you start fretting over the fact that you DID ask that person, and now what are you expected to do??
  4. of course, what closely follows that is the worry about what to wear and whether or not you should talk to that person while you are in the hallways or at lunch and how many times you can possibly write his or her name in bubble letters on the piece of paper you took from your teacher's stash, because you certainly didn't want to waste your perfectly good notebook paper to bubble-letter someone's name ...
  5. you go to the dance, spend the great majority of your time holding up one of the four walls, while the good, Sunday shoes your mom made you wear, cut blisters the size of Cleveland into your toes.
  6. you do a couple of group dances, where you pray you won't look like a big dork,
  7. and then, finally, you can heave a giant sigh of relief that the dance is done!

Come Monday, it's time to shed the whole ugly affair, and that would include the girl or guy with which you "danced."

This is where I, the teacher, come in, usually with a gigantic headache. I grumble and complain and squeal and holler and tell you that, if you don't stop the arguing with the girl sitting next to you over who broke up with who, and when, and why, "I'm going to mark all of your cub cards, and I'm going to have fun doing it!!!"

Please pass the valium ...

HAPPY VALENTINES DAY

For Valentines Day this year, I got .... ICE!

Yep, it rained ALL DAY yesterday, and then, Mother Nature decided to turn everything an icey cold. That meant, this morning, after I had a near death experience with a patch of ice covered by snow in my parking lot, I got to stand at my truck coming up with as many adjectives (we're reviewing those in 6th grade) as I could possibly think of to describe the individual that didn't call a snow day today in my district. Every single one of my truck doors were solidly frozen shut! NO HOPE OF OPENING THEM!!! Thank goodness for hot water. Now, I'm not entirely sure I will be able to open them this afternoon after school. However, I did make it to school on time!

On a slightly different note, I walked into the office this morning and was assaulted by a massive amount of roses!!! Red ones! Beautiful red ones! Knowing that none of them could possibly be for me, I decided to march my nosey butt over to them to see who would be receiving flowers.

KIDS!! ALL OF THEM KIDS!!!!

How does that work, I ask you?!

Friday, February 09, 2007

JUST CALL ME THE "BUZZ-KILL"

I broke up a little make-out session in the darkened hallway of the elementary wing this afternoon after school. You can't see me, but I've got a big cheesy grin on my face right now, and I believe I feel an evil laugh coming on ...

Tonight is the infamous Valentines Dance, and I, stupidly, volunteered to help chaperone the thing. Yeah, I know! What was I thinking?

Anyway, it's at 7 o'clock this evening, and school ended at 3:25 p.m. So, I decided it would be prudent to run a few errands, grab dinner, and then come back to school to work for a while.

The elementary wing of our building is the first to be cleaned by our afternoon custodians because the primary lets out earlier than us. As is the case everyday, when the custodian for our floor is done with that end, he always shuts the lights off. Save for the emergency lighting, it's pretty dark down there, and, I suppose, slightly romantic ... if a fourth grade hallway can really be romantic.

Imagine if you will, me, trudging up the two flights of stairs, bags and keys in hand, not being extremely quiet. Imagine me getting to the top of the stairs, huffing a bit as I kick myself for volunteering for the chaperoning gig in the first place, and then turning to see two middle schoolers in a lip lock.

Now, as a general rule, sixth, seventh, and eighth graders don't move with much speed. They tend to move at, shall we say, a snail's space, and that's usually ONLY when they are in a hurry. So imagine my surprise at the speed-of-light movement that occured as the eighth grade boy and seventh grade girl realized I'd caught them swapping tongues and exchanging spit!

I asked them where they were supposed to be and to get there, but, apparently, they really didn't take my warning to skee-dattle, because as soon as I passed them, they began phase two of Operation Suck Face.

[Insert evil laugh here] If this was the strategy they planned to employ, I decided to employ some of my own strategy by pulling out the big guns! The "big guns" would be our principal, by the way. [Insert my bigger, cheesier smile here] She marched down the hallway and caught them ... well, caught them lip-locked ... again!

What was more humorous than catching them in their passionate embrace was the excuses the young lethario made for why they were so close ... they were just talking (I often get that close to my friends when talking) ... they were hugging ...

Personally, I was holding out for the, "I swear! I was walking and I tripped and my lips hit hers ... I swear it!!!'

They've both been banned from the dance tonight, and now I must worry that my tires may be slashed or my truck keyed.

Ah ... middle school ... good times!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

CHRISTMAS AND FLOWERS IN JANUARY???



In Gatlinburg, they like to keep their Christmas decorations up until sometime around February. Apparently, they like to have their flowers blooming about that long as well.


THE BIG BEAUTIFUL WORLD


One of my favorite shots ... it was taken on the top of the mountain (or close to the top) at Ober Gatlinburg, the ski resort there.


GATLINBURG-BOUND

I can see the mountains!!! I can see the mountains!!!


This photo is one I took as we were entering Pigeon Forge. Check out the mountains!


This is my friend, Christy. She is going to protest this photo ... ask me how I could possibly put this on the web for the whole world to see. Well, it's adorable, girl, so deal with it. Plus, this is the same look I've seen her give many of her students. I feel honored that I was privy to "THE LOOK."


Action shots from the car ...

WHITE TRASH FORMAL ACTION SHOT


Okay, folks, yes, these women are responsible for molding and shaping the minds of our youth. It's the WHITE TRASH FORMAL "CHAIR-EE-OKE" MARATHON!

HAIR PIN!

More photos from my trip to Gatlinburg. My computer finally decided to cooperate and load these photos properly.
This is the hair pin curve immediately below Dogwood Place, the chalet we stayed at while in Gatlinburg, TN.




These are the smart-alecs of the group (love ya girls!), standing on the deck, yelling down to the cars below, "HAIR PIN!"


They really are a "helpful" bunch.


WHAT'S ALL THE FUSS ABOUT?

Winter scenes from Kentucky, where, apparently, this amount of snow causes all sorts of panic on the roadways. Please note the grass sticking up through the snow.


Just another day in the world of winter, where I'm from (i.e., Michigan!). I mean, it wouldn't be an adventure if you didn't add a bit of slip and slide to your afternoon commute.

Anyway, what I'm coming to realize is that it's all relative, really. I know I wouldn't be much good in a sand storm ...
The neighbor's dog.


I WANT A LOVE LIKE THAT

The news just ran a story about a couple in downtown Lexington. They had a house fire this morning ... a bad one. It was significant enough that it shut traffic down. It was significant enough that it landed the wife in the hospital, fighting for her life.

You see, her husband was partially paralyzed due to a stroke. When she realized the house was on fire, she threw a wet blanket over him as he lay in bed, sat down next to him, grabbed his hand, and waited for the fire fighters to get there and rescue them both. A gamble on her part, but she wasn't about to leave her husband there to perish alone. She loved him enough that she was willing to die with him rather than save herself and risk living the remainder of her days without him.

I want a love like that ...

PLEASE PASS THE ELECTRIC BLANKET

It was ONE DEGREE when I crawled into my truck yesterday morning.

It was NINE DEGREES when I crawled into my truck this morning.

A veritable heat wave!

I had the opportunity to move to Phoenix last year, at about this time, and for the life of me I can't remember why I didn't go ... (oh yeah!!!! ran out of money ... ).

It is freakin' cold, and I just HATE freakin' cold!!! It makes me crabby, and, oddly enough, it makes me sleepy. Or maybe that's just because I was up until 10:30 p.m. doing homework for my on-line class. Don't even get me started on that one ...

I think I understand why hot toddies are so popular this time of year. It has nothing to do with taste, because I understand that Hot Buttered Rum is relatively nasty! I think it's because people are desperate to stay warm!

Monday, February 05, 2007

NOT ENOUGH HOURS IN MY DAY

It is 8:43 p.m. I am on the phone with a good buddy that just really wants to talk ... I've got a BAG full of grading to do ... I've got laundry to finish up ... I've got homework for my class UP THE WAZOO TO DO ... and I don't have enough hours in my evening.

How does it get sucked up so quickly????

I came home and hit the ground running. I started dinner ... I got a load of laundry in ... I picked up ... I folded towels ... I did the dishes ...

Then it all came to a screeching halt!

This makes me so mad!!! Doesn't the universe understand I am up to my eyeballs in alligators!? Does the universe even care?????

Saturday, February 03, 2007

PLOTTING MY DEMISE


EXPECTING THE WORST -- PLEASANTLY SURPRISED OTHERWISE

Maddie had her first vet appointment in a new state. The anticipation as to what exactly she would do to alienate Dr. Massie was HUGE! Two states away, family is currently waiting with baited breath to here the newest tales regarding Maddie's thoroughly hideous behavior (the only kind she has, by the way) at her doctor's office.

Well, she didn't disappoint.

There was no screaming like a banshee, which, by the way, is something for which she is well-known. However, true to her amazingly grouchy nature, there was much swearing in cat language to be had.

It starts out pretty typically. I quickly shove her in her cage to which I am always met with a look of supreme and utter confusion. Something along the lines of, "Ummmm ... hey! How did that just happen?"

Generally, there's a bit of stunned silence before a soft bleating comes from the depths of the cage. This is her initial tactic. I think she wonders that if she starts out sounding pitiful, I might suddenly take pity on her and let her out. Maddie doesn't usually stick with this strategy long. I think it's a combination of her not being extremely patient and the fact that she's just really cussid.

The soft bleating turns into a pretty overt display of a cat's version of swearing. I know without a doubt that it's swearing because the tone of her little kitty voice goes up about 10 octaves and the sweet pussy-cat phrasing turns immediately into incessant blurts of ugliness.

Of course, when we hit the doors of the office, the blurts, or should I more appropriately say, BLEEPS, segue into low, guttural growls ... growls that would put a pit bull to shame! The growls will increase in quantity as well as quality, until they crescendo in the exam room when the vet techs have the absolute nerve to unseat her Grand Dameness from her cage.

Now, I must stop here and tell you that Maddie the Cat hates men. This will be extremely interesting when and if I ever find one of my own to marry ... or at least spend a bit of time with. Yes, she is less than welcoming to anyone of the opposite sex, with the absolute epitome of hate directed to my dear father. Maddie can not abide the male half of my parental unit.

I have been especially interested in being witness to how this vet appointment all plays out because Dr. Massie is a man ... an older man, at that ... the double kiss of death where Her Royal Butt-Headedness is concerned.

I think it might have been the fact that Dr. Massie had a very thick southern accent. Or maybe it was the fact that the vet tech let Maddie stuff her ornery little head into the crook of her arm (as if that would suddenly make her disappear), but Maddie was, for her, relatively well-behaved. Oh, don't get me wrong, she growled ... oh did she growl! It was so bad that Dr. Massie started laughing at one point. And, yes, I knew by the way Maddie shot literal daggers of death in my general direction, that I probably shouldn't try to fall asleep tonight ... I'm fairly certain she plans to rip my jugular out. However, it was, overall, a relatively stress free visit.

She is currently laying in the sun plotting ways to make me pay.

A WRITER'S STILL LIFE


Thursday, February 01, 2007

IS THAT BAD?

I told one of my students today to "pull up your big boy panties and deal with it."

Is that bad, do you think?

CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENT

Another snow day for most EVERYONE in central Kentucky ... everyone except me!

Snow days in Michigan ... there was an unwritten rule that ALL of the grass should be covered, i.e., no blades should be showing at any time during the time of "vital call." Not the case down here, which I find so very funny. Having said that, though, there are roads here that would be one step away from death if you sneezed on them, let alone sprinkle a tad bit of snow on them. So, I give them some credit for the snow calls.

Still, it seems so cruel to be from Michigan, where getting that call from the person ahead of you on the phone tree, "NO SCHOOL -- SNOW DAY -- CALL THE NEXT PERSON," was literal music to an over-worked teacher's ears.

Oh well ... life goes on. They are calling for more snow tomorrow.

A girl can dream ...