A place for family and friends to see what I'm up to. Visitors welcome here.

Hail Guest, we ask not what thou art.
If Friend, we greet thee, hand and heart.
If Stranger, such no longer be.
If Foe, our love will conquer thee.
-Old Welsh Door Verse

Sunday, March 30, 2008


I'm back from my folks'. Dad is doing better but still coughing. So far he's seen five doctors, all of whom focus on the lung damage from smoking (which he quit 42 years ago) but I would swear he has that virus I had - twice - starting MLK weekend and lasting almost six weeks (well, I got it twice in a row so maybe that's why it lasted so long.) Anyway, Dad seemed encouraged when I described my symptoms, which matched his, and told him it just took forever to get over the cough but I eventually did. He seemed interested in my depression issues, too, as this has really thrown him for a loop. He managed some good naps while I was there (sans coughing) so here's hoping he's on the mend.

Chiloe reminded me to take pictures of our craft weekend. Unfortunately, I got the reminder when I got back and did not take my camera with me. On Saturday I did no scrapbooking, having taken three plastic tote boxes full of stuff that needed sorting and organizing from the attic clean-out. Got that 95% done. Today I frogged the fairy face to do it over, but the light is so bad at Mom's that I just brought her home to finish. Instead I worked on my "Spring" quilt and almost finished the first hollyhock sash. I'll take a picture when I finish that one. In the meantime, here are some misc photos that were on the camera.

Don't want Chiloe to go to long without a picture to look at.

I tried to take a photo of the fairy. The color is a little closer to the final thing but still not there. The camera is making the pink too pink. Still, the fabric is almost exactly this color, so I'm getting closer.

"How I Spent My Spring Break"

We don't have a "real" attic, just a crawl space between the ceiling and the roof . Over the master bedroom and smaller bedroom there is enough room to store the flotsam of our marriage. Two things have prompted me to attempt to get that space cleaned out and sealed up. 1) We hope to be moving out in the next couple of years (or three) and 2) DS2 is moving back home - into this room where the access stairway is - next month. I suspect he will be there until we move out, so I want this attic project done before he moves in.

In addition to getting the attic space cleared out, DS2 wants to do some "sprucing up" in "his" room before he moves in. We also need to have an electrician in to repair the outlets in both bedrooms. So, the pressure is on me to finish this project. I have managed to move down about 25 years of the 30 years that is up there. I figure two more trips up (handing stuff down to DH) will finish up the clearing out. Some vacuuming and insulation replacement shouldn't take too long, then a wallboard installer to replace the sheetrock and we'll be good to go. This picture is of some of the stuff that has come down. Of course, then it all needs to be opened and decisions made whether to keep or pitch. Keepers need to be re-packed for storage and later move.

Most of the stuff is pretty easy to decide what to do with, but there is always the flotsam. Definitely not trash (well, there are two shrunken heads in this batch that are headed that way) but also don't "fit" any of the collections as they are packed up. This stack includes a silk scarf map of North Africa ca. 1955 and two beautiful Moroccan leather portfolios. Do we use them or frame them? Under the folios you can see the border of an old photo of a band. DH thinks this may have been the band for the Moody Tabernacle when his grandfather preached there but he isn't sure and doesn't know anyone in the picture. At best it's a piece of his family history; at worst one of my musician sons would love this framed for their home.

These six pieces of broken China (the lid is not even of the same pattern) were in a box labeled "Callan China." My grandmother was Lola Callan. Her father was a descendent of one of the first frontiersmen to hunt, then settle in, western Pennsylvania. A leader in town politics, her father had traveled to Johnstown, PA, for a short visit where he contracted typhoid fever and died, leaving his wife with four small children and a fifth on the way. His family 'allowed' his widow and their children to run one of the family businesses, the Callan House Hotel, to support themselves. The children had to quit school (Grandmother was in third grade). Some years later, Grandmother had married Granddaddy and they had two children of their own. During the Depression they lost their home and had to move onto Granddaddy's parent's farm with most of his brothers and sisters and their families. Grandmother had an especially hard time as the "outsider" in this group. By the time I knew her, Grandmother was determined to fill her house with NEW things, not those old reminders of hard times, so I was quite surprised to find this box among her effects after she died. I have no idea which Callan family these belonged to. Her father's or his mother's or ??? Still, I've wrapped them carefully in bubble wrap, added to the box a copy of the family genealogy and dutifully packed them in Grandmother's memory.

There's not a whole lot positive to say about this experience. I'm finding it surprisingly depressing counting up all the wonderful times in my life that are over and done and gone and thrown into the garbage (literally and, in some cases, metaphorically as well). It was particularly tough to trash the baby clothes that I had saved in hopes that my sons might use them for my grandchildren. You know all those stains that you THOUGHT you got out before you packed up this stuff? Just give it 25 years and watch those stains magically reappear and gross you out.

However, I can revel in how delightful it has been to pack (and pack and pack) the car for trips to the self-storage unit. Our orange trees are in bloom and the fragrance is heavenly!

I'll close with this shot from my last trip to Disneyland Resort (I was working an event at California Adventure). This is one of the new signs over the security post on the way into the park. Chiloe knows me well enough to understand why I HAD to have this picture. I'm hoping to get back to the park in a couple of weeks so that I can let that inner child have free reign once again.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Mushy Stuff

I'm getting ready to leave for Mom's for the weekend, but wanted to check in on my blogroll first.

I know that some of you stop by and read my blog (I see you in the sidebar) and I want you all to know how much I enjoy visiting yours!

I don't have any friends who do what we do - no quilters, no stitchers, no papercutters , very few scrapbookers and not a cowman/musician/furniture artist within a hundred miles. It means a lot to me to be able to stop by and see what you're doing.

I know it takes time and energy to blog. Your efforts are appreciated!

Friday, March 28, 2008


I'll be 57 in June (how did that happen?) and experience plenty of senior moments. Most recently I found that I could not pull up any memory of junior high drill team, although I was pretty sure I was in one. I was really starting to doubt my sanity, so I was glad to find my old junior high drill team uniform as part of the great attic emptying. In fact, I found all my old uniforms from drill team, color guard and college songleader. I put them all in one box, then wrote out a history of each uniform to put in the box so that when I die, someone would know what they were. I ended it by advising the finder to just throw the things out or let kids play with them. As soon as I had the box finished I thought to myself, "Why burden someone with this?" So I'm going to pitch it all now. Except maybe for the frontiersman costume. DS1 might be able to use that in his 5th grade class sometime.

Anyway, I always appreciate it when someone triggers a memory for me.

Jace's last post is about being attacked by animals. I'm happy to say that this is an adventure I have not had (yet), but his story of the cat in the dip net did engage a memory from one of our visits to the Kansas farm. It was the year we went at Thanksgiving time when I was eight. My aunt, uncle and cousins were living in my "favorite" farmhouse. I don't know why I have such good memories of that house. You still mostly used the outhouse (although they were excited that they had running water into the kitchen and a toilet in the lean-to attached to the side of the house. I actually preferred the outhouse for some reason. It just seemed weird to go potty in a closet). I remember lots of corn in a big wagon (must have been going for feed 'cause it was hard like popcorn). I remember ornate metal vents through the floor into the downstairs so you could see and hear the people down there. Now I figure those vents were so that some of the heat from downstairs would go into the upstairs bedrooms but at eight I never figured out what they were for; I just thought they were pretty and wished we had them in our house at home (a one-story). I also remember Uncle being upset about the beaver that had built a dam and lodge in his stream, but I don't know if that was this trip or a subsequent trip. I remember being colder than I'd ever been (SoCA girl) when it got all the way down to 32 degrees.

None of which has anything to do with Jace's cat in the dip net. That year Aunt had chickens and would go collect eggs every day. She would let me try to get eggs, but I was afraid of the hens (who would peck at your hands for this insult). On our way out of the chicken coop one day I saw an interesting tool leaning against the wall and I asked what it was. Aunt explained that it was for catching chickens. Naturally, later I had to go try to catch a chicken with it. Mind, it was a nasty thing . Much later I figured out that it must have been to catch a chicken that you intended to kill right away and thus put the poor thing out of its misery after you had poked it with holes with this catcher thing. I did not manage to catch a chicken (thank goodness) but sure managed to rile up the chickens trying. Again, years later I figured Aunt probably didn't get many eggs from them thanks to my scaring them that way.

Kim mentioned her "seven-foot ball of belly button lint" today which sparked another memory. When DH and I were first married, he and my mother somehow ended up in a conversation about belly button lint. No, I don't remember how and don't think I want to. Anyway, DH ended up telling her how, in college, he and his roommates had a basket in the middle of their dining table where they would stash said lint. I was pretty grossed out, but they had a good time speculating what the growing Chinese manufacturing industry could do with that lint. A couple of months later I was cleaning out the lint basket in the apartment laundry facility and was struck by how clean and fluffy it was (must have been those new towels and sheets we newlyweds had been gifted with) and took a handful up to show DH. I don't remember which of us had this particular attack of the orneries , but somehow that handful of lint got put into an envelope with a note that DH had finally collected enough belly-button lint to send to China, but he thought he should send it to her first to see if she had any ideas of what to do with it.

HaHa. Good joke.

Mom never mentioned receiving the package, but several weeks later DH received a package back. It was a little patchwork pincushion (pillow shaped) complete with the needle holder. With it Mom had put a note that this was a prototype and did DH think he could keep the lint coming so that those Chinese craftspeople could fill the thousands of orders?

I keep hoping I run across that pincushion. I know I didn't throw it out but haven't seen it in years.

Lisa's blog asks, "How do you spell procrastination?"

I spell it b-l-o-g-g-i-n-g. My spring break is almost over. I never got my drive up the coast (big surprise), did not finish the attic project and - if I finish one of the garden chores today - will have only finished two of the four garden projects I had hoped to do this week. Today is technically my last day of break since I will leave early tomorrow to go spend the weekend with my parents (Saturday is scrapbooking with Mom and Sis, Sunday is quilting with Mom.)

To finish the garden project I have to dig and install four of those retainer block things, lay some landscape cloth and put down three bags of mulch. Before I do this, however, I need to rake up what I did in phase one and lay the new, 48" landscape cloth that I bought yesterday because what I had put down in phase one didn't quite cover the ground. I sure don't want to be pulling grass around the edges of these pathways so will take the time now to rake it up and change out the cloth. I look forward to showing DS2 that I did something to stay on top of all the work he did last summer when he pulled all the grass out all over the yard. He said his favorite flowers are snapdragons (and this area is what he will see when he moves back home next month) so I bought a six-pack of snaps to plant in that planter.

I also need to get some major work done on the attic project. I probably won't go back up there again yet, but will pack and stow in the storage unit what I have decided to keep. My goal is to move stuff from the second bedroom to storage, then move my scrapbooking stuff out of the bigger room (where DS2 will move into next month) into the smaller room. Once the bigger room is cleared out, DS2 can come by on his time off and do the fixing up he wants to do. I realized I don't have to have all the stuff out of the attic for him to do the demo he wants to do (he wants to take off the old wallcoverings (paper and paneling) and ceiling popcorn. I can empty the attic while he's doing that dirty work. By the time he's done with the wall prep stuff, I'll be out of the attic and we can remove the stair unit and seal up the ceiling. Of course, now that he's moving home because he doesn't get enough hours to support himself out there, they are scheduling him for time and overtime and he doesn't have time to come fix up his room like he wants). Oh, well.

I'd better get to it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


A little happy dance for Debi (actually, I finish so few pieces - even the small ones - that for me this is Busby Berkeley stuff).

This is Le Papillon by Nimue.

Chiloe did her a few months ago and when she posted the picture my greed kicked in and I HAD to have her. Chiloe changed out some colors but I stayed with the chart colors and I'm happy enough with her. She's showing a little dark here because I haven't figured out my scanner yet. Chiloe also did a better job than I (and at great effort )of capturing her pouty face. I've decided to leave her as is, at least for now.

Also, if you click on the picture it will take you to a squatty-body version. I don't understand what my scanner does but it compresses the picture and darkens it. When I scan a photo it usually comes out looking better than the original, but doesn't do so well with stitchery. I've stretched it in this post so that it looks more like my piece.

Now I get to decide what to do with her. I'd love to find a frame that looks like bark. Guess I'll just put her in the completed stuff box (after I show her to Mom and Sis on Saturday) until I find the right finish for her.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Karin over at XStitchinProgress asked what large project I had. I'm a long way from starting it (no room to leave up such a large frame for an extended period of time) but look forward to it after we move.

It's called "Pumpkin Pines" based on a landscape by David Armstrong. I did a Google search for it to link but it doesn't seem to be available any more.

I always wonder about businesses that scan art for cross-stitch. I assume they're paying the appropriate royalties but you never really know. Go read Mary Kathryn's sidebar piece on copyright. She explains the issues much better than I could.

Can you tell...

That I am really bored with my blog?

Heading out for a couple of hours in the garden, then back in for a day of stitching. Will post progress later.

Monday, March 24, 2008

It's 7:37 AM

on a Monday morning and I am NOT at work!


I have kind of a too-many-things-to-do-in-too-little-time plan for the week. Saturday went OK, though, all things considered, so I am hopeful that I will end the week rested but satisfied that I got enough accomplished.

Yesterday my boys came home for a little while and then we headed to my sister's for my mother's birthday/Easter celebration. Everyone was very excited that my mom actually got to celebrate her birthday ON her birthday so that overshadowed the Easter part. And it rarely happens, but she was the only one being celebrated at this bash ("Wow," she said. "Does this mean all those presents are for me?")

Dad decided not to attend, which is quite alarming. At this point in his life (he's 82) he lives for these bashes when all of his children and grandchildren are together. but he caught The Crap finally and is really suffering. He had been having problems with his legs (fatigue) and his doctors finally figured out that they weren't getting enough oxygen. More tests showed that he has extensive lung damage from the cigarette smoking he did between the ages of 13 and 36 and, even though he quit over 42 years ago, the damage has never healed. So, his lungs will only "process" (not the right word, I know) 50% of the oxygen to his tissues that a normal 80-year-old should expect. As of yesterday one of his lungs was starting to collapse but the doctors didn't know what he had. They had given him "oxygen things" (Mom's words) and antibiotics and inhalers to try to knock the thing out. Still, the fact that he chose to stay home tells us he is feeling awful. Sis and I are supposed to go scrapbooking at the folks' next Saturday. I hope he takes an upward turn so he can at least enjoy that visit.

So, my plan for today is to work on the attic project until I have enough stuff to fill my car for a trip to the storage unit. After I drop the stuff off I will head to a garden center for mulch. When I get home I'll weed the walkways around the raised vegetable beds (not too bad thanks to DS2's efforts last summer) and spray Round-Up and pre-emergent, then put down landscape cloth and mulch between the beds and the back fence. I'm also going to put down the pink sweet pea seed I collected last summer. This variety self-sows every year and is just starting to germinate (everywhere but in the sweet pea bed) so I'm hoping the seed I collected will do the same. I had planned to plant a variety of colors last fall but didn't get to it. Same old, same old.

Once I've finished those two chores I should be about ready for a hot shower and an evening of stitching my fairy.

Or I'll be ready for a hot shower and a collapse, too tired and sore to do anything but stare at whatever DH is watching on the television (probably two college basketball teams). I don't know. I'm not a sports nut although I'm happy to let him be one. I'm all for guys hugging and showing emotion, but wouldn''t you think by the time you hit 20 and are six-and-a-half feet tall you would learn to control your crying after you lose a game?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Dang, Jace

Jace got me laughing again this morning, which would not be a problem except that DH is still asleep. His subject is roadkill.

Sounds like Missouri is like Utah, not big on clearing the roads of the stuff. Here in SoCA our roadkill is mostly ground squirrels, raccoons and - yes, Jace - opossum. In season, of course. The little stuff is greedily snatched by crows and, if it's fresh enough, hawks. The bigger stuff is scraped up by animal control pretty quickly.

In Utah the roadkill is much more exotic. To me, anyway. Lots of deer. I've seen as many porcupines along the road there as possum here.

Wonder which would win a race across a highway - possum or porcupine?

When I take my mom to see my aunt in Kansas I will, at some point, tuck them both into the car and head to Oklahoma City to see my uncle. It's almost like they drew the state line around the roadkill. "Aha! Here's where we start to see armadillos along the road! Spray paint the state line right here!"

I will not entertain you with a roadkill picture. I will let you pop over to Jace for that (no, really.) If you haven't visited Jace yet, you're in for a treat. Be sure to scroll down to his wife's quilted projects. This is a multi-talented (though delightfully warped) pair.

Hemp Linen

Has anyone tried cross-stitching on
hemp linen?

OK, so where did that come from? I believe VERY strongly that the only way the US is going to recover economically is if we bring manufacturing (and - hello? - JOBS) back to the states. As demonstrated in the 1990's when the textile industry ran its "Look for the 'Made in the USA' Tag" commercials, this will only happen if we buy American. So I was intrigued when I sidebar hopped into Schoolhouse Quilt's site that some of their fabrics are milled in the United States.

I didn't know we still milled quilt fabric. Now I'm on a quest to have US links in my sidebar. If you know (or even suspect) of quilt fabrics that are milled in the United States, please let me know.

Which is what got me to the hemp linen question, although this hemp linen is milled in Romania, not the US. I'm just curious whether it's an embroidery-quality linen.

A couple of years ago I had a student (showing the typical American ignorance of hemp) argue that our colonists were growing (and therefore must have been using) recreational marijuana. I suspect that the Founding Fathers were as vice-ridden as Americans today, although I can't claim to know their recreational habits. I do know, however, that the industrial hemp that they grew for ship's rigging is quite different from the plant nicknamed "hemp" today. I did my homework so that I could come back the next day with some real information for my young genius. Even I was surprised to learn that while both plants have some levels of THC (the part that makes recreational marijuana - well - recreational), the levels in industrial hemp are very low and it also contains CBD which is believed to counteract the effect of the THC.

Shut him up.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Look what I found!

I'm going to have to ask my mom to be sure, but I think this might be an early piece of Debi Stitches. I have a memory of doing a stamped cross stitch kitten bib first, but this was in with my old dolls and I may have done this. I'll ask her tomorrow. She may have done it for my last doll, a large Betsy Wetsy. Mom would make full wardrobes for all my dolls and I still have a flannel nightgown (that matched our Christmas nightgowns that year) and gray corduroy coat for that doll. What makes me think I might have done this is that the fabric is shredding near the binding in a couple of places which would relegate it to child practice piece.

I'll just have to see what she has to say.


If you are curious why NY Governor Eliot Spitzer was "outed," check this video.

If you don't want to watch the piece, read the editorial here.

How do you figure...

I admit it, I don't get guys.

I was so disappointed that I could not spend this week in our condo in Utah (repairs still not completed) that DH said last month that he wanted me to be thinking about where I'd like to go for a couple of days to get away. Like most of the US (and maybe the world) we're really watching our pennies right now and there is nowhere I'd want to go for even one night at what hotels cost around here. But the weather has been fantastic and I haven't been up the Central CA coast for a long time, so I told him I would like to take a day trip, maybe as far as Cambria (about three hours). It's a beautiful drive along the ocean and the poppies and lupine should be gorgeous. So, DH just came in and announced that he had decided we would go see the desert wildflowers.

Now, I've always wanted to go to the Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve and I'm sure it's gorgeous now. But to get there, we would have to drive 1.5 hours (each way) NOT along the beautiful Pacific Ocean, but through the pit called Simi Valley, San Fernando Valley and (shudder) Santa Clarita Valley. As much as I would like to see the flowers, driving through hell both directions is NOT how I want to spend one of my days off this break.

So, I don't get the thought process. Debi can't go to Utah on HER break (remember, DH is retired) so Debi will pick out a destination so Debi picks a drive up the coast but DH decides to go to through the city to the desert.

I don't get it.

Yesterday was day one-half of spring break. I ate an ice cream sundae for lunch and snuggled in to watch the news and frog some more on my fairy. That was an adventure. Of course, every time you take out a row of stitches, you run the risk that they were anchoring some other color. Indeed, I found myself frogging more than I'd planned because of this but by evening the frogging was done and I was able to do some actual stitching. I decided to use one of those arrow-shaped post-it thingies to mark the color I'm using so that I don't get confused again.

I decided to alternate "work" and "lazy" days so this morning I went to buy strawberries for tomorrow, then hunkered down to work in the garden. I worked about two hours and when I came in DH said, "You're not overdoing are you? You've been known to overdo." My reply? "That was when I was young enough for my back to handle the work and when it was fun to do. Now everything is a fight." How did I fight this morning? Let me count the ways.

Where are my gardening shoes? I wear little K-mart slip-on deck shoes which can be thrown into the laundry. I bought a new pair last summer so I know I didn't throw them out. They should be either next to the back or front door (where I would have kicked them off last time I used them) or on the dryer (where I would have left them to dry). Never did find them.

Where are my pruners? They should be either in my gardening stool or in the tool drawer in the kitchen. Where did I find them? When DH and DS2 demolished the fence they helped themselves to my pruners so they could cut up the trumpet vine (still miss that thing). In true DH fashion, they did not put them back and I found them this morning still sitting on the plant shelf in the front courtyard, somewhat the worse for having been there through our best rainy season in years.

Where is my little rake and long-handled dustbin to rake up clippings? No clue. Never did find it. Found lots of things full of yucky water (DH ran a mosquito abatement district in Santa Barara! You'd think he'd know better than to leave a wheelbarrow sitting so that it could collect water.)

After 45 minutes of searching I was finally able to work with plants. I pruned some begonias. I had moved them off the porch so they could get some nice clean rain (rather than chemical-laden alkaline tap water). I tried to put them back on the porch, but DH (again, in true DH fashion) had filled their space with firewood and water sealer for the fence.

I was also able to weed some pots and now have some fairly nice potted plants (gardenia is looking good, hydrangea is leafing out and the annuals I planted in that large pot with hydrangea reseeded and are looking healthy.)

Last summer DS2 and his friends completely cleaned out our back yard while we were on vacation. This was a wonderful gift and we are still grateful, but DS2 made some decisions on throwing things away that were questionable (maybe that's where my shoes went?). One of the things they did was take down the little bench I have under my office window and move four of my hydrangeas to the front courtyard. I went into the side garden to check that it was OK to move the bench back. This was an area that had been full of grass that the kids cleared out so, to prevent the grass from coming up again, I laid landscape cloth and covered it with recycled tire mulch (at $8.99 per small bag). The grass is coming up now through the landscape cloth AND mulch. During my next work day I will take up the cloth, collect the mulch for re-use, spray the area with Round-up and pre-emergent and re-lay everything.

Maybe I'll have better luck.

Chiloe asked if my break was a paid vacation. As teachers we get really tired of hearing how easy we have it with all our vacation time, usually by people who DO get paid vacations. Teachers' "vacations", though, are actually short lay-offs. In my district we are paid for the 18o days that we teach plus 4 days of training each year, and we have to save money for those periods when we don't get a paycheck (about two months a year). New teachers end up making about the same as garbage collectors and a lot less than daycare providers. Used to be that at least the health benefits were good but that's not the case anymore. Most of our teachers with young families are out-of-pocket about a grand a month for their health coverage. A lot of them would choose to work during breaks to earn money to get by, but it's hard to find jobs that will schedule you for a week or two here and there or two months over the summer. And to be honest, the school year can be really intense with LOTS of work done at home after instructional time. Most teachers need those breaks to catch up on the home and yard maintenance we neglect through the ten months of the school year.

You gotta love it to choose this profession.

Or be crazy.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Frogger Friday

Yes, it's supposed to be TGIF and - believe me - it is! Of all the short lay-offs teachers get (no, they are not paid vacations) the spring break is the most crucial for it comes at a time when most of us (at least in middle school) are at least very cranky, at most homicidal. I stopped at the drugstore for a few things before I came home to crash and as I was at the register I hear a young voice call my name. I turned and it was (shudder) David. I am safely at home now and looking forward to nine glorious days split between playing catch-up in the house and garden and getting some rest.

So, why Frogger Friday? Because last night, having made fantastic progress on my fairy, I realized I was off by one stitch. Sometimes, of course, one stitch here or there isn't worth tearing out, but this one stitch was going to ruin the line of her arm so I decided to pull it out. In the process of figuring out how to replace it I realized (oh, horror!) that the entire section that SHOULD have been in 841was, in fact, 842.

There's a difference that would have made this piece seem very weird.

I got my monitor off yesterday. As always, I now look like I have the pox. I seem to react to some of the adhesives the medical profession uses. Yesterday about 2:00 pm the leads (all seven of them) started to itch and, sure enough, I now have big red welts all over my torso. Oh, well. This, too, shall pass.

It's a gorgeous balmy day here and I'm looking forward to getting into the yard tomorrow to do some damage control (still haven't "fixed" everything from when the fences blew down this winter. I want to start by putting the front courtyard back in order. Also have to make my sister's tablecloth.

Which reminds me, I have to do some laundry, including washing up the fabric for her cloth. Since it will, no doubt, have to be washed I'll go ahead and prewash the fabric to reduce shrinkage after the cloth is made.

I used one of our Costco Executive Account rebate coupons (somehow ours "got lost" the last two years and we finally got them - yes, it took some calls) to buy myself a memory foam pad for my bed. My back hurts so much some nights that I wake up four or five times with the discomfort. Once I'm awake, I use the bathroom and then read myself back to sleep. Last night, though, I nearly wet the bed because there was no pain waking me up and I missed a couple of potty runs! Wooooohoooooo! The only downside yesterday was that the pad had a strong paint odor (petroleum product?). Fortunately, that seems to have disipated and my room smells fine now.

Can't decide what to look forward to most. Would I like to celebrate being on break by staying up real late stitching and reading, or would I like to go to bed early and enjoy my comfy new sleep?


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I'm wired!

Am I a spy? No, I'm wired up with a Holter Monitor. This will track my heartbeat for 24 hours and - I hope - give some usable information leading to a conclusion about my rapid heartbeat. The only discomfort is that, if I wanted to wear a bra to work tomorrow, I had to leave it on so that the tech could run all the leads over the garment so now I have to wear it to sleep in. Usually when I get home it's the second thing to be flung (right after my shoes). At least I didn't have to shave my chest!

TMI? Sorry.

So, I have a couple of Whiney Wednesday entries.

Whine #1 - We've been at our contract action for a year now and the district has regressed in their offer. They have kept close to 11 percent of COLA that has come to our district for salary increases over the last nine years. This year they want to keep more than half of what came in. Big surprise. I feel sorry for the kids in the district. Teachers who do not feel valued and appreciated will choose to stop doing so much volunteer work for their students and elect to spend time with their families, exercise, keep up their homes and enjoy their hobbies. Kids who used to be able to get lunchtime tutoring, for example, will find that their teachers are choosing to actually take their whopping 30-minute lunch break instead. Meanwhile, the Republican minority (just large enough to block an override of Ah-nold's veto) in our legislature is sticking to their "no new taxes" vow and so teachers will now have to pay for increased district costs out of our grocery budgets. The big cut I see coming in our district is busing. We are not required to provide transportation for students, but the cost of our busing program is over $1,000,000 a year. Wait to hear the parents whine when that goes away!

Whine #2 - David. I have a student. We'll call him David. He was so disruptive when he sat at the back of the class that I moved him up front near me. After several weeks I couldn't stand this sexist brat any more and sent him back to the back of the classroom to get him away from me. My whining here is NOTHING compared to what comes out of this kid. This is a 14-year-old, as tall as I and easily 200 pounds, whining DAILY,
"Why do we have to do this? Do we HAVE to do this?" Today the whine was over the project that I consider the finale of their year of American history, their personal heritage project. (There is an alternate project if they are uncomfortable doing a project on their family, but both require some actual -gasp!- work.) I assured him that he did NOT have to do this project; he could settle for a zero. Of course, I'd also told them they could not pass fourth quarter without it. I wrote to the counselor to see if I could exchange him for a student in another class but I'm sure I'm stuck with the creep for the rest of the year.

In Happier News...

Yes, I did a little stitching on the fairy and hope to do some more tonight. I'm liking the color, and am in awe of how
Annaïck Chauvel (Nimue) has managed to capture the velvety texture of a butterfly's wing.

Speaking of butterflies, two of the three Monarch caterpillars have pupated, but I fear they will not survive. One definitely has a problem (it's head didn't get included in the crysallis - eeeuw) and the other is very small. I think it wasn't warm enough yet for them to grow enough. Still, it is good news that the Monarchs are finding their way back.

Day after tomorrow is a half-day morning and then we have the first afternoon of Spring Break. Whew! People are really needing this break. This is, in many ways, the toughest time of year and people are REALLY cranky. I haven't really decided what to do this break. Some yard work must be completed or we will be overgrown with grass again (and the rats will return, no thank you). The attic must be cleaned out completely. And I must have some down time. Over winter break I just pretended we had gone up to our condo in Utah. Ignored the phone, tucked into my recliner and stitched away. I need to give myself at least two days (maybe three) like that.

Sunday is my mother's birthday and - coincidentally - Easter. I am happy with the gift I found for her and signed up to bring strawberries to the dinner. My children will be there for the party and my older son will have spring break next week, too, so may be more inclined to stick for a little while. Often he is just too exhausted and/or has too much to do to get ready for the next week's lessons to sit and visit. His wife, he tells me, is getting work doing translation (bilingual Japanese/English.) As awkward as the online translators are with - say - English to French or English to Spanish, they are impossible for English to Japanese or vice versa. Nice for her to be able to make a little money since jobs are impossible to find.

I also have to go get some fabric for an Easter tablecloth I promised my sister (who is hosting the meal). After I get my monitor off tomorrow I'll head to the fabric store for some fabric.

In fact, I'd better close this up and track down the border. Wonder where I stashed that stash?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Fun with Chiloe

Chiloe seemed to have so much fun building a relationship with her computer tech support person that I decided to give it a try myself. Yesterday morning I tried to log on and my computer would only loop back to the password screen. I didn't have time to deal with it then so had to try to figure it out this morning. I started by trying to find the manual (without success and making a remarkable mess in the process) and - happily - ran across the toll-free number for Dell support. After two hours (interrupted when the battery in my cordless phone died just as we were getting ready to reinstall the operating system) my new best friend, Rishma, was able to get me up and running in spite of us being "separated by a common language."

Turns out the problem was the automatic update by Dell, so she also helped me take control of that piece of business. Update on MY command from now on.

Yesterday I went to Disney's California Adventure to help with the DCA Dash, a combination scavenger hunt/amazing race event. I was only helping and was pooped by the end of the day. I don't know how the players held up. I enjoyed myself, though, and got to see the new "PixarPlay" parade at DCA (wonderful fun!), then went across to Disneyland just in time to catch "The Parade of Dreams."

There has been stitching! I got a teeny bit done on the fairy, but not enough to make it worth posting. I'm hoping to do more tonight, but for now MUST clean up the mess I made in the great manual search. The good news is my room - and thus my life - should be somewhat less chaotic for next week.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sometimes Jace over at Sawdust and Cowpies just makes my day. Today he's posted an entry about bringing a delightful piece of furniture back to life.

It would be nice if he made house calls (from MO to SoCA? Uh, I don't think so.) Most of our furniture will be blessing some broke, escaped-battered-women's home when we move to Utah, but we do want to take our dining set. We bought it about 25 years ago from Ethan Allen and it's as sturdy today as it was when it was delivered. I still love the design and we've designed our new dining room around it.

I had a club meeting at my house one time, though, and one of the members sitting at the table ran his hands over the surface of the table and asked, "Did you distress this table?" My reply, "This table has been distressed by life."

The worst scars on this dark pine set are the dozen or so grooves dug all the way down into the light pine (through the varnish and the walnut stain). I thought they'd been made by my husband scooting his computer across the table (yes, I blame him first for everything.) DS1 finally fessed one day that his dog - a 110-pound Akita - had gone after a plate of ribs on the table one night and dug the ruts as he kept slipping back. Can you get the picture of this big boy? His back legs were on the floor on one side of the table, his front paws trying to get purchase on the tabletop on the other side of the table.

The rest of the set is festooned with scratches from car keys and drum keys in growing boys' pockets.

Maybe I won't get it refinished, after all.

Make it Healthy Monday

Check another health hurdle off the list.

I went for the follow-up consultation with the cardiologist.

To recap the story, in August my internist was alarmed that my heartrate was high. She asked if I was experiencing any shortness of breath or tightness in my chest. I explained that I felt like I needed a big sigh from time to time, and my chest had a "bad air" feel to it (the Ojai fires had been burning for two or three days and there were ashes falling in our town, it was so smoky.) The whole story is here and there throughout my blogs since August but the bottom line is that I did follow her advice and went to a cardiologist six weeks ago. He ordered a myocardial perfusion scan (stress EKG, nuclear style) and echocardiogram, which I had a month ago.

I really fought doing this, emotionally, until - on the day before the tests - I visited Debbi's blog and learned that she had just returned to her blog after multiple heart attacks and surgeries.

I stopped fighting.

So today I was sitting in the exam room when the doctor came in. When I met him the first time I thought he was a grouchy jerk. Today he came in all smiles and "How are you?" After the niceties he opens my file to look at the results of my bloodwork (drawn last week). "Wow," he exclaimed, "I wish my numbers were this good." My total cholesterol was 212 last year which, he said, wasn't too bad - especially since my HDL is high and my ratios good - but I also have high blood pressure and the two work synergistically to increase the risk of heart disease. I agreed to go on Lipitor and after a month my total cholesterol was 172!

Next, I thought, we will get into the results of the tests. I've been anticipating a long conversation hunched over the dozens (hundreds?) of photos from the MP scan and the videotape from the echocardiogram. Allow me to record here, for all posterity, the sum total of said discussion.

"Well, your stress EKG was good and your echo was good."

The end.

He still doesn't know what's causing the rapid heart rate. I told him about having the same thing ten years ago when I took enalapril, and how it went away when we reduced the dosage. He found that interesting. "Or, " he suggested, "you may just be one of those people who reacts to the white coat." He went on to explain that he could change my blood pressure meds to a combination that would also bring down my heartrate, but if it's White Coat Disease, there's no reason to do that.

So, next Wednesday I will be fitted up with a halter monitor for 24 hours to see if my heart races all the time or just in times of stress.

Not to complain (because I am very relieved to have good news to record here), but this all would have been easier to take it the goal was something fun. "Yes, you're healthy enough for that world tour," would have been fun, or even, "Great! You're healthy enough to be out at sea for two weeks on that stitchery cruise." Instead, we're trying to determine that my heart is healthy enough for a colonoscopy.


Sunday, March 09, 2008

Farewell to Tink

I've decided to clear out my sidebar tomorrow and Tinkerbat will be returning to her own batcave. I enjoyed getting to know her. Did you play with her? If you click on her, she will flutter around following the cursor. Since my cursor is Flora the fairy from Disney's Sleeping Beauty that was pretty funny. Tinkerbat has a sweet little "Hello Kitty" kind of face. Until you feed her (click on "more" in the corner). When you feed her she sends out sonar to locate the bug and when she's getting close she gets this really intent frown and huge fangs appear. There is an audible CHOMP when she catches the bug.

How funny.

I'm weird about these things. I know this is just a computer program, but I feel somehow disloyal, like I'm hurting her feelings, to remove her. Kind of like Clippy. I can't bring myself to turn off the Windows paperclip helper guy 'cause I'm afraid his feelings will be hurt.

Get a grip, Debi.

Still no stitching...

and I'm going into withdrawals.

I've updated my journal in the following post. I can't imagine that anyone would actually want to read it, so decided to put the highlights of my week here.

I had a really nice, relaxing weekend last week. Got lots of sleep and, aside from an occasional chest/throat clearing cough seem to be pretty well over The Crap. I got it twice and it's still making its way through the school (now both admins have it). I'm doing lots of hand washing and using hand sanitizer because I do NOT want that again.

My week started off with a delightful surprise. A week or so ago I was sitting and coughing in my recliner when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a large butterfly flutter past the window. I didn't move fast enough to see what kind (we have host plants in our yard for Monarchs, Gulf Fritillaries and Swallowtails). A few days later when I felt a little better I checked the milkweed in the side yard to see if there were any eggs and I found one! I brought it in and set up my usual "butterfly nursery," a large blown-glass bowl with several milkweed cuttings in water. I checked it for several days and had concluded that the egg must not have been viable. I got busy and didn't do anything about the bowl (the cuttings were looking kind of sad). Monday (since I'd taken a day off for a doctor's appointment) I headed to the bowl intending to empty it out and counted THREE healthy caterpillars chomping away. They were already about an inch long and had just about finished off the milkweed in the bowl. What a happy, hopeful feeling that is. The first year I did butterflies (planted lots of host plants and imported caterpillars) I released close to fifty over the season. Now I feel lucky if I even see them in the yard and can find a couple to bring into the house. To hit with three! And I haven't even checked the other plants, yet.

The rest of the week was stressful and boring and I've journaled it below. Not recommended reading.

Yesterday I braved another foray into The Attic. Happily, it seems that we have finally (knock on wood) gotten rid of the rodents. When I started the attic clean-out last fall I think I chased out the last (shudder) of the rats and it was really rank up there. This time there was hardly any odor at all and was much easier to work. My routine is to drag boxes to the access, then hand them down to DH and sort through the stuff later. Nothing is going back up there and one of the goals of this project is to throw stuff away before we move to Utah. Last batch of stuff included old Christmas decorations (still deciding on some of that stuff) and Halloween decorations. DS2 has gone through the Halloween stuff to reclaim his own and what of mine he wants. The rest has either already been pitched or will be soon.

I can't say enough good stuff about those plastic, flip-top storage bins. I'm finding a lot of damage to stuff stored in regular cardboard boxes, but the stuff that was stored in the plastic bins is pristine. And not only did we have critters up there (two species of rats, racoons, possom, cats) but we had replaced our shake roof with asphalt shingles and that made an incredible mess.

Anyway, I hit treasure in yesterday's boxes. Two of the plastic boxes contained part of my doll collection. Some of the dolls I had made (and am ready to gift to someone else) but I was thrilled to find two of my childhood dolls (including a large Betsy Wetsy and a "pretty" baby doll my mom had dressed in a christening outfit for me. Somewhere along the line I had also bought an old Tiny Tears, my favorite doll, and it's not in bad shape, either. I was so excited to see them.

In addition to my stitchery/quilting passion, I am also a scrapbooker and found two boxes full of old photo albums and memorabilia. Some of it was mine from junior high, high school and junior college. I got rid of some stuff (good girl, Debi, good girl) but kept a lot for the biographical scrapbook I'm planning. I was thrilled to find a set of photos from a 1963 trip to Disneyland to add to my "50 Years of Fun at Disneyland" album I'm working on.

The real treasures, though, were old albums of my father-in-law. My FIL was not a nice man. He had an interesting life, but was an abusive hypocrite. The family was living in French Morocco when DH graduated from high school and DH got on the first transport to the states that he could arrange (at the age of 17) just to get away from the jerk. He wasn't much fonder of his mother, having a lot of anger at her for tolerating his father's abuse of DH and his brother. Anyway, I've always known that DH would not be particularly interested in seeing his father and mother's lives preserved in a scrapbook that I might make. Years ago, when I was trying to "find" some storage in the house I came across a half-dozen very old photo albums. I went through them quickly and concluded that they were albums of my FIL's life before and during his first marriage, which had nothing to do with my husband. I packed them away and put them into the attic. Yesterday was the first time I'd seen them in years. As I was thinking about what to do with them I decided to go through them more carefully and realized that my frugal MIL had decided to add their family pictures to empty pages in these older albums. I found dozens of pictures of my husband as he was growing up. It put a crimp in what I had hoped to accomplish yesterday (DS2 will be disappointed that I didn't get more of "his" room cleared out) but I really wanted to get some of those pictures out of those albums for my husband's biographical scrapbook. My MIL had glued the pictures down real good and I couldn't pop them off the pages (couldn't even get them off with dental floss) so I ended up spending a few hours scanning them (72 pictures). Today I'm supposed to go to my Mom's for scrapbooking so am taking a big box of stuff to sort.

Since I haven't done any new stitching I'll share this scrapbook page with the little bit of cross-stitch on it. This is the first page of a set of albums I did for my older son. The name is cross-stitched using letters from the "Spooky Row" chart by (I think) Bent Creek. When DS1 got married at age 28, I put together a set of albums for him. The first started with a few family history tidbits and pictures, then wedding pictures for both sets of grandparents, then childhood pictures from DH and me, then our wedding pictures, and then into his life from birth to marriage. There were two full albums ("Mom, you put it ALL in here!"). A third started with his "wedding" pictures (he was married in a civil ceremony in Japan at New Year's so they're really pictures of their trip and New Year's celebrating with his wife's family). That third album had lots of empty pages to add pictures of their own. Now I'm starting on DS2's. I told him he would have to get married to get his, but really I'm planning on giving it to him for his 28th birthday, too (he's already 26 so I'd better get going.) Both boys have traveled a lot and I also have beautiful Creative Memories tapestry travel albums to fill with their trip pictures. One thing at a time, Deb.

Tomorrow I have my follow-up visit with the cardiologist. Last week I had taken a sick day on Monday for my bi-annual visit to the ophthalmologist. No glaucoma, no cataracts, no disease of any kind. I had been legally blind (without corrective lenses) for most of my life and treated myself (with some help from DH) to Lasik for my 50th birthday. In the first year the improvement regressed somewhat, but I can still function for days at a time without glasses which still seems like a miracle. It was good to hear there has been no further regression and I was good for another two years. I am sure I will get orders tomorrow to start an exercise program, which will mean a visit to an orthopedist for guidance (and maybe physical therapy) on how to start exercising without doing more damage to my knees and hips. I know there are people who enjoy the drama of visiting doctors but I'm finding it very tiresome. So far, though, two doctors tell me my blood pressure is under control, my mammograms are normal, my teeth are repaired and clean and all pre-cancerous growths have been removed. I still have the dreaded "colon scope" to look forward to (if you want a laugh, go read Jace's story about his parents' adventure in "colostomy") but barring any horrible news tomorrow that should hold me until next year.

Another Busy Week

Definitely feeling the strain, here.

This was one of those weeks where I chanted each day, "If you can just make it through Thursday night, you'll be OK." I had committed months ago to making a presentation about the Supreme Court to our local Democratic Club on Thursday night. The research was done, but I've been so busy with teacher action and doctor's appointments and being sick that I hadn't actually - well - WRITTEN the presentation. Monday and Tuesday evenings went to that task.

I had a bit of a challenge with it Monday because I'd taken a day off to go to Santa Barbara for my bi-annual visit to the ophthalmologist. Of course, I had to have my eyes dilated and it takes FOREVER for my eyes to go to normal. DH drove me up and back (I can't see a thing in that condition). When I got home I decided it might be a good idea to just shut my eyes for a while and ended up taking a two-hour nap. It did wonders in helping me kick The Crap (fingers crossed) but then I was groggy for the rest of the afternoon.

The principal canceled our staff meeting on Tuesday (he has The Crap now) and I managed to get the presentation mostly written. Wednesday after school I had to go to the Costco (in the next town) to get my prescriptions refilled and do some shopping.

And then it was Thursday. When I committed to the Dems, I didn't imagine that we would STILL be needing big demonstrations at school board meetings. But, that stupid board and the nazi they hired for a new superintendent (who, we learned last week, insisted that his staff take an oath of allegiance to him) just keep baiting us into action. Last December they made an "offer" of 3% (the COLA that came to the district was 4.56%) and they had tacked on a whole bunch of "poison pills" (like increasing class sizes and giving principals power to decide what we do in our prep time). Impasse was declared and a mediation date set for last Wednesday.

Now, there is a very important date coming up for the district THIS Thursday. For ten years, a majority of the board of trustees has been pushing to change our district from a K-8 to a K-12 "unified" district. It has proven to be very controversial, and the board has been lying to us about the costs to the district to make the change, so they don't have a whole lot of support from teachers. And teacher support is a very important element in getting state approval of this move. So, as of last week, they were faced with having to go to their final hearing this Thursday having to admit that they are in impasse in their contract negotiations. Not a good thing for them, so the superintendent ASKED our team to return to the table. Five teachers pulled out of their classes for the day, only to finally get the offer on salary at 2:30 in the afternoon. 2%! I guess they figured since they wouldn't get the poison pills, they could take back 1% of their offer. Our team did not agree, and we declared Black Monday. Thank goodness for email. On Monday morning a majority of teachers were dressed in black picketing for 20 minutes in front of their schools, and we scheduled picketing in front of City Hall Thursday at 5:00.

We had a decent turn-out of about a hundred teachers. A photographer from the local paper was there for an hour (but nothing's been published). The police were patrolling (this has not happened before so we assume the nazi sup't called them) but we were peacefully moving all the time so he didn't bother us. At six we moved into chambers for the opening of the meeting, then the board went into closed session. At that point I hightailed it to the Dems meeting for my speech.

My presentation to the Dems went very well. I had not picked up on the fact that Thursday night was the annual pizza dinner so attendance was at maximum, and we had just heard last week that, for the first time in generations, Democratic voter registration had passed Republican and we are now a BLUE county so everyone was in a festive mood. I started with the story of the phone person calling to make sure I wasn't the Miller on the school board; I just pointed to my shirt and said "I'm the other one. In fact, I'm the one who coordinates the protests against the board." DH came to watch me, and he spent part of his time judging how the audience was receiving rather than how I was presenting. He said they were "rapt" the entire time. I don't know about "rapt," but it was sure nice to give the presentation and not have to be watching for illicit phone use, drug deals, making out, spit wads... My presentation only took about 20 minutes, then I opened for "questions I probably won't be able to answer" which developed into a marvelous discussion. Interestingly, the people asked questions and made points during the discussion that gave me GREAT seques that I couldn't pass up. One woman got up and made a point of how important it was to get Dems to run for local offices. I took the opportunity to say, "I know at least a dozen people in this room right now who would make fantastic school board members. Teachers would love to see school board members who are wiling to do their homework, look at all sides and most of all, put what's best for kids ahead of personal agendas." Finally, the president signaled me that it was time to wrap up so I said I needed to get back to the school board meeting and I would take advantage of the captive audience to share a couple of pieces of information with them about the teachers. I told them that the school district received a total of 12.8% COLA over the last two years. I said that teachers don't automatically get COLA, we have to bargain for a part of it. That as of right now, our salary reflects 8% instead of 12.86%. In December, we had been offered 3%, but last week the district took that back and offered 2%. I said the teachers are not happy. I said that "today" (meaning Thursday) we received a copy of the agenda for next week's unification hearing in Sacramento that showed that instead of the 3% recommended reserve, our district has over 5% in reserve now, with expectations of being over 11% in two years. "I guess I know where my raise is." was the last thing I said about that. I thanked them for having me and headed out to applause, thanks, hugs and one gentleman who followed me out and stopped me to thank me again and again. All in all I think it was a successful effort.

I was delighted when I got back to chambers to see that more teachers had shown up for the regular meeting and most of the seats were filled. I had missed the interim budget report but heard, not surprisingly, it was doom and gloom. I got there just as the Board was having its "pat ourselves on the back" time. One of our more vocal teachers had a sign with "BS" on the back which she would turn toward the board at opportune moments.
Here are some of the highlights from the public comment segment of the agenda:
Two elementary teachers had created (and a bunch of us had signed) a huge card congratulating Trustee Miller on her 5% raise with the neighboring high school district. They did a mock presentation (meaning everyone, including TV) saw it but they didn't actually give it to her.
Our union president introduced the president of the union from a neighboring town, who proceeded to rip the guts out of our Board. He started with chastizing them for moving public comment to the end of the meeting and making "all these people" wait - "That's just rude!" he exclaimed. (I've never met this guy; he's no shrinking violet and was, in fact, shouting at the board.) "And then," he continued, "they come with prepared 3-minute statements, and you tell them NOW that you're limiting them to two minutes. That's rude, too!" He proceeds to tell them that their claims that they can't afford raises because of declining enrollment is ridiculous. "My district lost 1200 students last year and we're getting a raise! My district cares about us teachers and makes us their priority!" Then he turned to the teachers, sweeping his arm dramatically to the room and said, "Come join us. We give ten years [experience on the salary schedule], and we would welcome you!" He says to the board, "If you can't afford a raise that's not declining enrollment, that's mismanagement!" Then his two minutes were up and he walked out to applause and teachers calling out, "Thanks for coming!"
A parent got up and railed at the board for the way they're treating the teachers. Apparently there had been a lengthy discussion about the change from AM/PM kindergarten to all-day Ks (while I was gone) and several parents had spoken during public comment about the issue. At the end of her rant, this parent looks directly at Sandra Berg and says, "And how can you NOT KNOW which schools have AM/PM kindergarten!?!?!"
One of my colleagues spoke, giving an eloquent statement comparing the nazi sup't salary as a one- and three-year employee to my colleague's as an 18- 20-year employee ("By the end of three years the sup't will have made $245,000 more in his three years than I will have made in the same time with my 20 years of experience." And a $10,000 car expense allowance? What's up with that? We have teachers commuting from Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, Moorpark, Oxnard, Ventura and Ojai and we don't get a car allowance!")
Finally, another of my colleagues (one of the Evil Eleven, a group of citizens that has dared to challenge the unification movement) got up with the agenda from the hearing in Sacramento next week. Her presentation was particularly powerful because one of the board members had already waved the report about unification in front of the camera and encouraged the general public to go look at the report because "you won't find a more thorough, accurate presentation anywhere". She started by saying she agreed with Mr. Speakman that people should go read that report. You should have felt the change in the energy in the room when she read from the report herself (citing page and section numbers), that even though the Board has been saying for ten years that PV teachers would get a raise from unification because the law says you have to make salaries consistent by raising the lower salaries, actually that raise is not required. By the time she finished that part of her statement, her two minutes was up and she said she had more but "guess my time was up." A tight-voiced board president said, "Go ahead, I haven't stopped anyone yet." So Nancy delivered the second of her one-two punch with the data from the report about the reserves being higher than the legal requirement. She ended by reminding them of their closed-schools-for-raises promises last year and expressed doubts about their promises of raises with unification. Very powerful.
She was the last speaker and the president could hardly get the words out to close public comment.
Most of the other teachers left at that point. I decided to stay (as I told one person, "They haven't looked me in eye enough tonight.") was glad I stayed because I was there when they were presented with the report of how the schools had spent their one-time block grants last year. One of the trustees was really ticked. Apparently last year when they moved the structured school and changed their focus from structured to magnet school, the board had assured the school that they could choose their focus and that the Board would support them financially with whatever they chose. They have chosen to be an arts/technology magnet and are now expecting the district to buy them computers. This trustee had, it seems, decided that each school would only get the $12,000 minimum block allotment, then the Board would use the rest (about $20,000 per school) to pay for computers for the former structured school. Somehow (maybe because of chaos in the district office?) that word didn't get to the right people, each school got their full allotment and, as of Thursday night, had not only ordered but had received the goodies! Now there's no money for Los Primeros. "But, we promised these people..." Just more proof of the meaninglessness of their promises, huh?
The other piece of important action was approval of March 15 (intent of non-rehire) notices for 25 teachers (15 elementary, 10 middle school.)

I did make it through Friday, although I barely made a dent in the grading I have to do. I got so behind while I was sick that I just have to accept it's not all going to get done.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Old Book Meme

But I've never done it so here goes. Bold I've read, italics I'm interested in reading.

1. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Rowling)
17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25 . Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34. 1984 (Orwell)
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner(Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. Bible
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. She's Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)
55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. Les Miserables (Hugo)
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According To Garp (John Irving)
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen)
86. Watership Down(Richard Adams)
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In the Skin of a Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Sleep is Good

I got out of bed at 6:30 AM. It's 5:16 PM. I've spent a little over three hours of this day napping.

How delicious.

Nothing stitchy...

Just updating my journal.

Re: Make it Healthy Monday. I'm still sick. I think I got this bronchial flu, which lasts a good two weeks with a residual cough that drags on and on, then as I was getting over it, caught the bugger again. It's closing in on five weeks of a nasty cough. I've seen two different doctors during that time on different matters who have both listened to my lungs and assured me my lungs were clear. I was pretty sure early this week that my luck had run out, though, as my lungs were rattling every time I exhaled. Had it progressed into pneumonia?

I really hate the whole doctor thing, so I did what all good net surfers do when they think they MIGHT have something. I hit Google. I learned there are several different kinds of pneumonia. The only way to know FOR SURE if you have it (and not something else like lung cancer or tuberculosis) is to get a chest x-ray. The only symptoms that I've had fit viral pneumonia, for which there are no drugs; the treatment is rest and liquids. I didn't figure I needed to wait for a half hour in my internist's office to be told to go to the emergency room for an x-ray, where I would wait anywhere from one to eight hours (depending on how many drunks were running into each other on the freeway) for the x-ray only to be told to go home and rest and drink fluids.

Today is slated for rest and fluids.

Tuesday we had a faculty meeting. We've been badgering our principal for two years to update our disaster plan. There are people with jobs on the current plan who haven't been at our school for years, new teachers who are not assigned anything, new portables that are not even included (in fact, our plan has our entire sixth grade lining up where those portables are now.) He's the nicest man in the world but lazy. Anyway, there was a school shooting in the next town the day before Valentine's Day (DH says it made the papers in Salt Lake so you may have read about it.) Once upon a time our disaster drills were to prepare us for earthquakes (or the possible fighter crash since we're under the flight path for Pt. Mugu Naval Air Station); now we try to prepare for an insane person going wild with a gun. Anyway, once this horrible thing happened, we thought the principal was finally going to get us together to make the corrections to our plan and train the new teachers, remind the rest of us of the procedures.

Not a chance.

He loves being the one "in the know," so we sat for twenty minutes listening to him tell us what he knew about what happened (most of which we already knew) and how the teacher had done all the right things (which again brought up sincere doubts about our plan.) And then he let us go. We still have a defective plan.

Wednesday I was asked to participate in a joint meeting of Building Reps and Crisis Captains for our union (I'm the Crisis Chair). Early last year the superintendent of our district came to teachers with this message: Our district is not getting applicants for positions - ANY positions - because our "compensation package" (salary and health benefits) is the lowest in the county (by thousands of dollars). Compensation is low because the district runs too many small schools, too close to each other. The district is going to close schools in order to raise compensation.

We've been telling them that for years.

We know,
he continued, that this will be unpopular with parents; school closures always are. We need you teachers to show the community that you support our efforts.

This is not good. In reality, the district had a laundry list of programs - especially music and art and technology - that they've been wanting to reinstate for years that they can't afford but COULD if they closed these schools. They knew that parents would never stand for having schools closed to support the arts (not in this jock town) but they do support teachers so, the district hung our salaries out there as the reason for school closures.

I was asked to be the chair for the action that would support the board of trustees as they did this difficult thing. Let's just say I looked at it a little differently.

Four of the five board members have been on the board for two terms and have started their third. I've been watching them work for a decade.
I know them. I do not trust them. Here's what I think they expected to happen. I think the board thought they would throw out there that they were going to close schools to improve teacher compensation and they wanted teachers to show their support. They did not expect teachers to do anything. This would give them an out. They could close the schools, then, because teachers didn't show their support, they could use the money saved NOT on salaries but to reinstate programs. As Action Chair, I saw this as an opportunity to not only show our support but to show them that if they didn't keep their word (closing schools to improve compensation) we would be able to rally support against them instead of in support.

It went very well. So many teachers attended school board meetings that they started calling the police and fire marshal to control the crowd (never unruly, but huge). The result?

Two schools closed. Not a penny has come to teachers.

So, Thursday I was asked to attend a meeting with one of the state crisis advisors. She had a lot of good advice for us and I look forward to meeting more with her, but I had to leave early because...

Thursday DH came home from Utah. Poor guy, I think maybe he expected me to be home with a nice welcome-home dinner on the stove. Instead he got home to an empty house and a wife who came hacking into the house, gave him a hug and - as I've been doing for weeks - stretched out on the recliner with a warm blankie. He felt sorry for me and make me a bowl of soup, but I haven't eaten dinner for two weeks so it wasn't really necessary. He's a nice guy that way.

Yesterday (Friday) I caught a break. The counselors from the high school came to our school to begin their registration process. All I had to do was keep an eye out for behavior problems, which are not usually an issue during these presentations because the kids are so anxious to move over to high school that they hang on the counselor's every word. I didn't have to talk at all, just sat and graded test papers from the day before. It was a good recovery day. I still went home and crashed in my chair with my blanket, but I wasn't coughing as much and definitely felt much better than I had in weeks.

Today is R&R day. My younger son is babysitting for my 9-year-old nephew while my sis and BIL take a little vacation for their anniversary (they married on February 29, so every four years they do it up big). DS2 has to work this morning so my nephew is here with us. Judging from his appearance, I'd say the boys stayed up very late last night and that nephew will crash here pretty soon if we keep things quiet. Then DS2 will pick him up for a visit to LazerStar and pizza (at the place where DS2 works).

Sad to say, the highlight of my week has been the Disney sweepstakes. Each day in February I could go enter the sweeps, then get a special digital prize. There were some really good ones like a list maker (that will print out Mickey and Minnie lists) and memo pad maker (four memo sheets per 8.5 x 11 with Peter Pan and Tinkerbell.) There were bobble heads and snow globes, and even a Goofy toy (you remember those toys with the five metal balls that would crash into each other?) I would get mine every day, then go to my favorite Disney fan site where I was running a list of the daily prizes. On the 28th the prize was a pretty spectacular (read tacky) snowglobe, so we were all excited to see what the last one would be.

On the 29th I went to enter and get my prize and had to laugh. When you clicked the link to get your digiprize after entering you were sent to the infamous white "file not found" screen. All through the Disney netdom we were cracking up because it appeared that Disney had forgotten it was leap year! As it turned out, someone had made a mistake in the url and fixed it late in the day. Unfortunately, for all of us who had already entered, there was no way to go back to get that prize. I am grateful to the folks at micechat.com. Someone posted the link and I was able to go snag my prize - a really cool desktop calendar with a different classic Disney movie poster for each month. I'm really happy to have this. I learned to read and tell time in the old analog (or paper) days and have a very difficult time with digital clocks and day-runner type calendars. I need to see time and date in relation to the entire picture for it to really make sense to me, and for years have kept a little calendar next to my computer so I could see relationships in a glance. Now I have it right on screen.

Today I have to run a few errands (out of milk and bread and laundry detergent and deodorant and other essentials), then am going to come home and crash for the rest of the day. We are celebrating DH's birthday tomorrow; it will be my DIL and me in a house full of big boys as both sons, nephew and maybe DH's "little brother" will be here. DH has asked for Chinese take-out for dinner (thanks, honey) but I'm going to make up a bunch of Mimi's artichoke and spinach dip; it's remarkably easy for as good as it is. I have part of a Costco chocolate cake in the freezer and will go to Marie Callendar's today for a lemon meringue pie for the birthday boy. Pretty easy and should not set my recovery back too far.

Monday I'll take a sick day to drive up to Santa Barbara to our ophthalmologist for my bi-annual check-up. I have a little growth on my eyelid to get checked (and the name of a good cosmetic surgeon for removal if it's a cancer) as well as the usual stuff. Dh is going to drive me up there and I look forward to the drive along the beach. Often the porpoise pod is prowling along the shore, and one time I saw an Orca near the surfer beach. It was a shock to see it there and I wasn't really totally sure that's what I had seen until I got to the OTHER side of the pier and saw all the surfers (about three dozen of them) just sitting on their boards in about six inches of water. A surfer on a board looks very much like a seal from under the water, favorite food of sharks and ORCAS, so these folks weren't taking any chances.