Friday, November 30, 2007

BABY, IT'S COLD OUTSIDE

I froze my butt off at a football game this evening. I did it in the name of school spirit, and because my principal was assigning points to our staff team competition and helped to form a human tunnel out on the field before hand.

I've not frozen my butt off at a football game in YEARS!!! I'm from Michigan. Freezing one's butt off at a football game is as much a sport as the actual game itself. The freezing can begin anywhere from mid-August to December 1st and beyond, depending on the season and chances of championships.

I remember the year my alma mater, Albion College, went all the way to win the Division IV Championship. Seems to me, they played one of their games in a freakin' snow storm ... somewhere in Minnesota ...

At any rate, before the game, I decided to pull out the Michigan Big Guns. After all, it was 47 degrees out, and I'm a delicate flower.

I layered up, I tell you! I was ready to go!

Layer #1: Form-fitting cotton long-sleeved shirt, heavy tights
Layer #2: Jeans, wool socks, wool turtleneck sweater
Layer #3: Hiking boots, big fluffy made in the Andes Mountains wool sweater
Layer #4: Stocking cap, mittens, and big wool scarf mom made me
Layer #5: Chapstick and quilt to wrap up in

Can't move, but at least I will still relatively warm.

I got to the game and was summarily laughed at!

"You've become a weenie, Murray!"

"Hey, don't you hail from Michigan? Don't football games start getting cold in ummm ... September?"

Yes, yes, and yes! It's true! You can experience all four seasons in one football game. Trust me, I have.

Still, I will admit I've gotten a bit ... how shall I put it ... thin in the blood department since moving down to Kentucky. I can't help it.

Even with all those layers, my legs and toes still got cold, and it has taken me the rest of the night to warm back up.

Oh, and I lost my voice from the cold night air ... and possibly from yelling too much.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

HAVING ONE OF THOSE DAYS

Have you ever had one of those days where you have had this amazingly, strong desire to shake someone until their eyes fell out of their head and rolled through a mud puddle?

Okay, maybe it's just me.

I have so little tolerance for adults that do really stupid things, and today, I've had to deal with adults that have done stupid things.

I know I should practice patience ... people like this are just like giant versions of a three-year old. But seriously, I've had a great deal of experience with three year olds. I feel fairly certain three year olds could manage themselves and their journey through life much better than stupid adults.

I think I will sit on my hands to keep myself from grabbing the next stupid person's neck, who happens along my path ...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

THIS DOES A TEACHER'S HEART GOOD

I received the following email this morning. It made my day! This is why I do what I do ....

I wanted to say that as a teacher, it is sometimes hard to know whether or not your efforts are paying off. And sometimes you never know. Although M has appeared to have struggled with Science, I think the following story should make you feel good. It certainly did us!

We were on our way to a friend's place this past Thankgiving. We were in Tennessee when my husband stopped for directions. It turned out that we stopped at a bank where some of the employees were trying to figure out why the Christmas lights were not working. My husband, a retired electrician, was eager to help. When he returned to the van, he proceeded to explain what had happened.

After trouble shooting the inside problem they were just down to dealing with the outside lightbulb string which still wasn't working. He suspected that one of the lightbulbs might be out and that when that happens the entire string won't work because ... and before he could complete his sentence a little voice from the back of the van said,"becauswe you have an open circuit."

Well after a moment of silence my husband says very surprisedly "that's right!" I asked him where he had learned that. M very proudly and matter-of-factly said that he had learned it in Science class. So don't give up on M he is absorbing! Thank you.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I WANT TO RUN OUT AND DO THAT!

Yesterday, I received this email from Erin:

"You know it’s going to be a long day when you throw up in the parking lot when you get to work. Aahhh! I sure hope that it gets a little bit better as the day progresses. Oh well. The woes of pregnancy!"

Her story reminded me of a story Carrie told me about a year or so ago. She called me one day, while in the early stages of her pregnancy with Jack. This is a paraphrased version of her story:

"Dude, this baby hates me. I'm so sick all the time! The other day, I had to pull over on the side of the road and spew my cookies. I couldn't even make it to school!"

Yeah, I'm not sure they realize what a fabulous walking testimonial the two of them are on the "joys" of pregnancy. It makes a single girl want to run out and get pregnant immediately ... NOT!

Monday, November 26, 2007

HAPPY POST THANKSGIVING!

It's been awhile since I've posted.

So sorry ...

I was dealing with a bout of tonsillitis courtesy of my allergies mixed with nasty 4th grade germs. Then, I hosted my parents for Thanksgiving.

I've had a wonderful time hanging with my family as I always do! And when my parents leave, I realize how much I miss hanging out with them and my sister. We always have such a good time together.

It's the second holiday season my sister and I are spending down here in Kentucky, and I'm glad to be able to create some new traditions. The first one being going to the Southern Lights display at the Kentucky Horse Park. The lights are so pretty, and despite the crazy crowds, for me, it really started the holiday season off right! I loved hearing all the Christmas music while we wandered through all the displays.

We spent a good deal of time at Ann's new house, helping with quite a few home improvement projects. While I don't personally feel like I did much to help out, I did finish a small painting job Ann was eager to get finished, and I did whip up a mean tuna fish casserole another day while dad, mom, and Ann were busy working on various little issues.

Overall, her house is looking great! She's a tiny bit closer to getting her place settled and looking fabulous!

It's so easy, at the holiday season, to get down, depressed, and homesick. I refuse. I am so blessed in so many ways. I have a roof over my head, and I have a good job. I have a family that I love and that I know loves me. Oh sure, we can all get on each other's nerves every now and again ... misunderstand each other ... generally act like idiots around one another. However, I think, when it comes right down to it, we love each other and would stick up for each other no matter what! So many people don't have that with their families. So many people haven't any relationship with their families due to the extreme disfunction. I am very thankful for my family!

Overall, it was a good start to the holiday season. It's my goal to savor every last bit of it. Perhaps I will pack my calendar full of stuff to do! I want to experience every tangible nugget of this time of year!

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

I PAID HOW MUCH??

I recently read a magazine article that said a person can save a huge wad in their grocery bill by purchasing JUST from the sale ad.

Okay, I'm all about saving some cold hard cash to pay bills or save for traveling. So, I thought to myself, "Self, let's try it. What have you got to lose?"

I headed off to Kroger East last night, sales ad in hand ... ready to rake in the dough I was going to be saving. I spent hours in there, pouring over every sale tag in the place. I was determined to save money!

Then, I hit the register ... and the price kept going up and up ... $52.85 ... $67.32 ... $76.77 ... $83.12 ... $90.81 ... $117.85 ... a cold sweat broke out on my forehead, and I think I become death-bed pale. The computer calculated my savings by using my Kroger Valued Customer card, and that took the total down, yes, I said down, to $107 and some change.

"Is that it, ma'am?" The clerk said ... she being the one who had reminded everyone within a 20-mile radius that she couldn't wait to leave for the evening.

"Good glory!" I croaked.

"Something wrong?" She practically growled at me.

"No, it's just that I've never spent that much money grocery shopping at one time."

"Huh," she muttered completely unnerved by the fact that I was taking the time to write a check. Heaven forbid!

"Need any help with this ma'am," the bag boy smiled cheerfully.

"No, unless you want to pick me up from my poor spell." The bag boy laughed.

"She's never spent this much at the grocery store before," the clerk yawned, mocking me.

"Yeah, do I get a prize for this or something?"

"Wouldn't that be nice," the bag boy laughed. Apparently, I'm a hit with the grocery sackers of the world, but not the apathetic grocery clerks.

Anyway, I spent my short ride back to my place fretting about the amount I'd spent. That was until 4:30 this morning ...

I woke up and couldn't get back to sleep. So, what's a girl to do?

Balance her check book!

As I started looking at the amount of money I spend, on average, running to THREE different stores buying groceries that are on sale, it adds up to just about what I spent last night at one store!

Huh!?

I remember, when I first started out making my own way in the world, I could buy two-weeks worth of groceries and not spend more than $50 or $60!

Okay, yes, just starting on my own, occurred roughly 11 or 12 years ago. So, I guess, to answer my own question, inflation happened ... a bear market happened ... the sub-prime happened ...

Oh well, one person ... $100 every two weeks. Does that seem extravagant?

Friday, November 16, 2007

MY BIG, GIGANTIC HEAD

I came down with a head cold. Nothing to knock me completely out of commission, but just enough to muddy the waters quite a bit.

For instance, Carrie called me after school on Wednesday. I wasn't able to answer because I was teaching my after-school class, but I made sure to buzz her as I was driving home. She, however, was in the process of getting beautiful hair at the salon. So, I had to leave a message.

I left a rambling message about not feeling well ... wishing I had some one at home that would get me hot tea and dote on me ... and did Tom do that for her? Or did he just annoy the crap out of her when she was sick ...

I left all of that and more. Then I just set my phone down on the seat next to me.

I am not sure how much time went by ... what I might have said while motoring home in commuter traffic ... what I might have screeched to along with the radio ... because I don't remember how, exactly, I got up E. Main Street. It's all a bit foggy until the recorded voice from Carrie's voice mail shouted at me, "You have now run out of time for recording your message. Please hang up and call again."

It's a wonder I didn't run off the road!

Example number 2 ... looking at a small package sitting on my dining room table last night, I wondered out loud, "Hmmm ... wonder what this is?" And then realizing, with a sickening lump in my stomach, that it's the little something I planned to send to Denise on her birthday ... which was a few days ago! By the way, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DENISE!!!! You will have something winging it's way to you very soon!

Yeah, a good head cold makes for an interesting week. I can honestly say, I don't have a clue what I've taught my kids ... not one clue! I think we learned about coming up with a main idea in reading, but it's all a bit vague to me ...

Maybe that would explain the underwear on my head ....

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

NOT FUNNY, GOD

You know what's not funny, God? The gray hairs I am having to pluck out of my eyebrows! Sooooo not funny!

Also, not funny, is the head cold I now have. I don't see the punch line in this ...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

OPUS

Probably 13 years ago, I went with Denise (correct me if I'm wrong, Nene) to see MR. HOLLAND'S OPUS in the theatre.

As I recall, the movie didn't garner great acclaim. It seems to me that it barely registered a blip on the MOVIES THAT ROCK OUR WORLDS arena. But it rocked my world. It was ground-breaking for me.

At the time, I was viewing the movie from a former student's point of view ... and from the perspective of someone who just desperately wanted to make a difference in her world and didn't have a clue how.

I remember being in tears as Mr. Holland walked into that auditorium and the crowd burst into uproarious applause in those final scenes. To be able to plow through a life and make that much of an impact on people ...

Today, I watched it again except, this time, I was watching it from a teacher's perspective. I gotta tell you, I wept more this time around than the first time I viewed it. It had a greater emotional impact for me than I ever could have imagined.

What an impact this man had on generations of students, in a job he didn't even want in the beginning ... it became the one thing he hated giving up.

How I can relate!

This career isn't something I went searching for ... rather, it found me, and it wouldn't let me go.

Mr. Holland loses his job at the end of the movie, when his principal is forced to cut the entire arts department in an effort to make budgetary cuts that will save his district. The scene where Mr. Holland sat in the empty classroom, with his last few boxes packed and ready to be taken away ... it brought me to tears ...

I remember the day I left my classroom in Michigan for the very last time ... I'd received yet another pink slip ... everyone else had already left for the summer, and there I was ... in an empty classroom, in an empty building, with just the memories of children's voices hanging in the air around me. Shutting the door, rattling it to make sure it was locked, it broke my heart. I remember leaving the building in tears ... knowing, deep in my soul, I wouldn't be coming back ... and not having a clue where the rest of my life was going ...

The pivotal scene is watching a tearful Mr. Holland lead his current and former students through a stirring performance of his opus, composed over a thirty year span of life and love and loss ...

I saw a student from last year at the book fair yesterday. She gave me a hug and then said, "We all miss you! We've taken a vote, and every single one of us want you back. You were an amazing teacher."

Beyond the fact that for one brief moment she buoyed my little ego, I felt almost sick in my heart. I don't want her to miss me. I want her to be irrevocably changed by something I said or did in that classroom. I want her to feel like she can tackle the world, as a woman and as a scholar because of something she discovered in my classroom. I want her to be a ripple in the sea of her humanity because of the impact of learning!

If she can do that ... if she is shaped by the things she internalized ... if she can be a better human being and a stronger woman because of a nugget she was able to analyze in my classroom, then it will all be worth it ... all the tears ... all the hard work ... all the sleepless nights ... all the sacrifice I've made, financially, personally, socially ... that, my friends, will be my Opus ...

Friday, November 09, 2007

QUEEN OF THE 4TH GRADE TRICKS ... I'VE TRIED THEM ALL

*Names have been changed to protect the guilty as well as the innocent.

Callie* fell spread eagle on the pavement the other day as we were heading in from recess. She's constantly taking spills of one sort of another. I really thought she'd hurt herself this time.

As she's picking herself up, three of my boys, Brian*, Jimmy*, and Zed*, commence to laughing ... out loud ... obnoxiously. None of them bothered to see if Callie was okay. They just started laughing.

"Gentlemen!" I bellowed. This could be the reason I have a permanent case of laryngitis -- I don't know. "Gentleman, since you thought that was so funny, you get to spend tomorrow's recess writing letters of apology to Callie. HOW RUDE! Did it not occur to any of you to help her up or see if she was alright?"

"No ma'am," said in unison.

"Unbelievable!"

Fast-forward to today.

Brian, who has just looked up at the board and realized that he will be walking for his next 18.72 recesses (we make them walk laps around the playground to "pay recess back"), sees an opportunity for some negotiation.

"Um, Miss Murray," he says meekly. "I wasn't laughing at Callie yesterday. See, Mitchell told a joke, and I was laughing at that."

His name has been on the board since yesterday. I can tell it's taken him the whole morning, today, to come up with this little gem. This could explain why he's gotten nothing else done!

"Really? Huh. What was the joke?"

You could just see it in his eyes and all over his face ... "D'oh! Didn't think she'd ask that!"

"Ummmm..."

"Yeah, nope. Not buying it. Get your clipboard and start writing!"

These kids don't believe me when I tell them. I AM THE QUEEN OF TRICKS! I wrote the book ... I've field tested them all! There's not much you can pull over on me.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

A WORD ABOUT TRAFFIC

That word?

GRRRRRRR ....

Someone in the ivory tower of government has decided to shut down a part of I 64 to do some bridge work. I'm not complaining because I sure don't want to have bridge collapse or anything like that. However, shutting down I 64 means that they have to reroute traffic THROUGH Frankfort. This translates into: "Send 'em down the EAST-WEST CONNECTOR, folks!"

The East-West Connector is exactly that ... a road that connects the eastern portion of town to the western portion of town. What this means is that a BAGILLION and one cars and trucks are now laboriously motoring down the connector on any given day during any given time of that any given day.

Now, motoring implies one is actually MOVING, when in actuality, it is more like a slow meandering marked by a violent stomping of the brakes, every half second. I made the silly mistake of trying to get to my bank on Friday -- its one and only branch situated right on the corner of E-W CONNECTOR and HELL. It wasn't fun.

All of the locals are aware of this traffic snafu, and, so, they are dutifully altering their routes. This is all well and good EXCEPT when I am trying to get home after work, and your altered route comes in direct contact with my getting home ... as was the case today.

Okay, I will give you the fact that I chose to leave at the exact same time that ALL the state employees were heading off for home ... do try to avoid that time of day like the plague! However, getting stuck behind the man hell-bent on following the speed limit for COVERED WAGONS sort of sours a mood quickly.

Seriously, people! It SAYS 35 miles per hour! Let's try to keep up!

It also didn't help that I'd spent an entire day -- actually my second day -- in a building where the outdoor temperature was ACTUALLY warmer than inside. Yes, I did have the heat on so high and at such a rate of speed that my eyeballs did, in fact, begin to adhere to the insides of my eyelids. HOWEVER, this should have IN NO WAY impeded my ability to get home.

And yet, I was impeded!

And while we're on the subject of ANNOYING-THE-CRAP-OF-ME people in their cars, the lady that drives by me with the NEW MOM AND BABY ON BOARD sign ... I have a few choice words for her:
  1. Honestly, while I'm thrilled that yet one more couple has figured out how to procreate, I really don't care that you are a new mother. Really. My life will go on ...
  2. You've been driving by me with that sign stuck in your window for months! You have ceased to become NEW any longer!
  3. Am I supposed to start following the SPEED LIMIT FOR COVERED WAGONS upon visual contact of your dumb little sign? Because if so, you might want to do some self-analysis of your own driving abilities. I mean, flying by me like a bat out of hell, doesn't necessarily exude CAREFUL, WATCHFUL driving.
  4. Does being a new mom give you more of a right on the roadway? Or are you just warning us that you are operating a heavy piece of machinery on little to no sleep? Just wondering ...

I think I need a good, stiff drink ...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

THE KISS OF DEATH

I'm trying not to take this personally, but I'm beginning to think that my karma is the KISS OF DEATH.

Case in point ...

I was laid off every time you turned around when I taught in Michigan. In case you aren't sure about the calculations, that is pretty much ALL THE TIME.

Last year, I took a job down here in Kentucky ... in a district where they haven't seen lay offs in they couldn't even tell me how long (their words, not mine). Three weeks after the year started, the powers that be started talking about pink slips. Amazing!

Apparently, along with the financial ruin that I brought to my new job, I also managed to drag done here Michigan's infamous weather patterns, where as a person could very well experience spring, summer, fall, and winter within a span of a couple of hours. I know this, because we had UNSEASONABLY frigid temperatures this past winter. I am sure this is the reason, too, that a drought came to stay for the summer months, essentially wiping out half of most farmers' crops, and thus, their pay. Again with the financial ruin!!

Tonight, after sending my after-school group out the door, I was piddling around in my room, when my friend, and fellow teacher, Jody walked in.

"Just so you know, there is smoke coming from the ceiling of the cafeteria."

Jody's husband is a fire fighter. I figured she had this one under control.

"Ummm, okay." I reply. "Is the fire department coming?"
I can see the firehouse from my classroom window. Furthermore, I CAN BLOODY HEAR THEM every time they scream out of the barn, not that I'm complaining or anything, but it's at least 6 times on average ... A DAY.

No such activity was occurring at this precise moment.

"Well, Rich [our principal] is looking into it right now."

"Okay," I say, still with much hesitation in my voice. I mean, he's a great guy and all, but last time I checked, I didn't see any turnout gear hanging in his office.

"I just thought I'd tell you, in case you were planning on staying at all."

Okay, so I've lived through one fire at a school. One was enough. I threw what I could into my bag and made a fast exit.

"So, is the fire department going to be called to look at this ... ever?" I asked Jody as we exited the building.

"I think they might," Jody said, "eventually."

"Would this be before the school burns to the ground? Or after?"

"Rich called Eddie [our maintenance man]. Eddie's going to check it out."

"Oh," I say looking to see if I see smoke rolling off of the roof of our building.

Seriously, people. Is my karma turning around and biting me in the butt or what?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

WAIT A SECOND! SERIOUSLY!?!?!?

Today is Election Day.

Kentucky is gearing up for a pretty hotly contested race for the Governor's seat. We shall see how it all ends.

I heard this announcement on the news this morning; "Don't forget citizens. Liquor sales will be suspended today for election day. It is illegal to be intoxicated at voting polls."

Okay ... wait a second!

I've never heard of such a thing ... stopping the sale of booze for an election!? Unbelievable!

While I'm pretty sure it's illegal to drink and vote in Michigan, I don't ever remember Michigan banning the sale of liquor on Election Day. Although, I could be wrong.

So, this is a problem in Kentucky? Have there been wide-spread drinking and voting epidemics? Hmmm ... have I been approaching my voting technique completely wrong all these years?

I mean, there might be a call for such a thing ... say, with the upcoming Presidential Elections. I mean with the plethora of shifty candidates we've got on both sides and the flip-flopping on "principles" that seems to be prevalent in our American politics these days, a fifth of bourbon and a yank on the old election poll lever might be just the thing to turn this country around ...

I don't know ... I'm just sayin' ...

Saturday, November 03, 2007

AN HOUR OF MY LIFE GONE FOREVER

I just spent an hour watching a KENTUCKY AFIELD Hunting Special.

Okay, now, my friend Erin, who will eventually read this, is going to say, I guarantee it, "Why would you do this? What's wrong with you? That's an hour of your life you can't get back!"

Erin also just her foot down with her husband, Joe. Not another dead deer head on the living room wall. Three's the limit.

I would tend to agree with her. Seems to me, they are just crying out to be decorated in all sorts of fun ways with hats and sun glasses and scarves and other such accouterments ... but Joe says that by doing so, you are disrespecting the deer. Who knew!

But I digress ...

So, I sat mesmerized by this call-in hunting show.

It caught my attention because one of my neighbors was on the show as well as a friend of Erin and Joe's that I'd met in the past. However, what kept me watching was all the interesting information I gleaned.

For instance, did you know that there were such things as bearded hens (female turkeys with male/Tom beards)? I didn't!

Also, were you aware that there are horned does walking around our Earth (female deer with antlers)? This fact escaped me somehow!

I also learned that the deer population here in Kentucky can suffer from a disease called EHD, commonly known as Blue Tongue. It makes their internal organs hemorrhage (yuck), and their tongues swell and hang out of their mouths. This was fascinating to me ... slightly morbid, but nonetheless, fascinating. Our deer population has been hit particularly hard this year, based on the number of dead deer bodies along water sources ... interesting indeed.

AND, there are white-spotted deer -- slightly rare, but not too rare ... I had no idea!

You can hunt bobcat too, but there is a limit of 5 and only 3 can be taken with a gun. Amazing! I had no idea.

Being the good daughter that I am, I called my dad to share my new-found knowledge.

Apparently, he was already aware. I guess that stands to reason considering he's spent the better part of my life (and then some) pouring over any sort of wildlife what-not-and-so-forth he could get his hands on.

I suppose, all this information will find it's way into my TRIVIAL KNOWLEDGE ABOUT TRIVIAL JUNK file in my brain, only to be pulled out at cocktail parties ... when I run out things to say ...

I'm a hit during those 7 second lulls in conversation ...

"Say," I say, sipping my white wine, "have you heard about the biting midges that pass EHD disease to the Kentucky deer population?"

A HALLELUJAH SORT OF MOMENT

I have been having a pity party for myself the last two weeks.

I've been frustrated with my job. Things have not been going according to plan. I am under an immense amount of pressure from all angles and corners, and I know my every move is being monitored by my team under a microscope, for what reason, I am not sure.

I am being made to prove myself under unreasonable circumstances, and my kids aren't cooperating.

There have been moments where I've felt like throwing myself off of the Singing Bridge in a giant heap of books and assessments and portfolios.

Then I faced having to put together what I felt was a stupid presentation for my Ketucky Reading Project meeting earlier today (yes, you read that correctly ... a Saturday morning meeting ... boo hiss!).

I opened my assigned reading begrudingly and ....

... and I had a HALLELUJAH, MEET JESUS sort of moment.

Come to find out, this particular reading was exactly what I needed ... the shot in the arm necessary to help me recognize that I need to get back to what I know is important ... teaching to the individual needs of my students. The short passage I wasn't at all willing to read, validated who I was as a teacher and a person ... it helped me recognize, once again, that what I know to do in my classroom is best practices ... is appropriate ... will make my students succeed!

I am doing it right!

So, my new plan of action is to ignore the nay-sayers that keep telling me to do it their way. My students will succeed if I follow the philosophical fiber of my being and what I know is best practices.

So there!

W

Friday, November 02, 2007

PORTRAIT OF AN ALLEGEDLY BROKEN TOE



Please ignore the fact that my toes haven't seen a good polish in weeks ... flip-flop season is, sadly, over ...

BROKEN TOE

I woke up yesterday morning, wandered into the bathroom in a sleep-drunk haze, and crawled into the shower, where I immediately SMASHED my right pinky toe on the side of the tub.

Note to self: be a little more awake when entering any shower area.

I now have what I feel pretty confident is a broken toe.

How would I know this?

Well, it's two times bigger than it should be, and it's purple! Oh, and did I mention I have trouble fitting it into any shoes, and when I try to move it, I feel sick to my stomach from the pain???

Yeah, good times!