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

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Tale of Two Parents

It's time for third quarter grades.

Two students. Two parents. Two emails.

Student One has turned in approximately two assignments each quarter so far. Her grade tends into the single digit percentages. She received a fail warning on her first quarter progress report and a failing grade at the end of first quarter. Same in second quarter and now the same in third quarter. Today, Mom's email said that her daughter needed to get a better grade in history, so would I put together a packet of work she could do over spring break to get her grade up.

Excuse me? I did my job already. I designed lessons (keeping in mind standards, multiple intelligences and multiple learning modalities), presented and facilitated learning and waded through mountains of paperwork (including a nine-hour session day before yesterday on the "grade-saver" project). I am not going to put another second into a whole new set of materials to make up for what sweet patootie chose not to do in the first place.

Student Two's MO read very much like Student One's up until progress report this quarter. Dad wrote me a couple of emails to clarify my expectations. After the emails, Student Two showed up and asked for a seat change away from his best friend and closer to me. For the last month he has come to me for clarification whenever he is confused about something. He has turned in every assignment (in his own handwriting). Today I got another email from Dad. Could he please meet with me? He wants to be very clear about my expectations for the next quarter because he would like to see his son leave middle school as a success. As I had just said the same thing to the boy myself, I am happy to oblige.

I don't mind sharing the load.

But they're too damn heavy to carry by myself.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Journal Therapy.

Be forewarned.

The authors of a number of blogs that I read have decided that their blogs will be where they focus on the more positive things in their lives and they choose not to share out the negatives.

Their blog. Their choice.

I've always tried to be up front here. This blog is my journal, the only way I've ever been able to maintain a journal in my 57 years. Although I don't expect anyone to find my rantings even slightly worthy of their time, I am always grateful for the few who do because just imagining that I am sharing my life with someone keeps me here. Imagining that I am sharing my life with someone who cared enough to make the effort to drop by (even by accident) changes the way I perceive what's happening in my life.

Recently I read a post in a favorite blog where the author expressed that she would prefer not to get too deeply into a blogger's personal life. This caused her to re-evaluate what her blog meant to her, and she was contemplating changes to her approach. Because I respect her (and her blog) so much, I decided that when I'm going to use my online journal for journal therapy, I will put a warning at the spot where I move into the sometimes painful personal details of my mostly boring life so readers will be forewarned that they might want to skip an entry. That said...

The first thing I want to share is not painful at all. We picked up our new puppy last Friday, and he turned eight weeks old Wednesday.

We decided to keep the name that DS2 gave him, so I introduce Dodger Blue. My son says his pedigree name should be "Dodgers' Designated sHitter" but I don't think the AKC would go for that.

This is the sweetest animal I've ever owned, and I give the breeder tons of credit for the work she did with this litter. I chose the puppy after meeting his mama, a very sweet , mellow bitch (as opposed to the other bitch who had a litter a few days older. That dog was totally hyper and so were all four puppies.) Dodger is a love and a cuddler. His biggest challenge in life is deciding which toy to play with (he can only manage one at a time) although that giraffe thing at his feet seems to be the favorite of the moment. He was almost potty trained when we brought him home. All we had to do was make sure to walk him outside after his major life events (eating, waking up from naps) and he knew what to do. Now, all we have to do is make sure to leave the kitchen door open and he will get himself out in time. Next is to be able to leave the door closed (and train ourselves to pay enough attention to get it open when he "tells" us he needs to go out.) We crate him when we have to leave him alone and - knock on wood - so far he has not messed in the crate.

I have to say, I don't know who is cuter, the puppy or my 6'6" 27-year-old who has fallen in love with the puppy.

They're so sweet together. Dodger sleeps in the room with my son most nights, but if DS2 has a gig or has to go to work early the next day, he sleeps in the room with me. So far, he seems to need to go empty his bladder at about midnight and then again about 4, although the last couple of mornings that latter time has been between five and six. I think he'll be making it through the night soon.

In other good news, I'm almost finished with my Easter stitchery.

Taa Daah!

One more egg and one more blade of grass on the bottom, fluffy white bunny tails, an eye on the chocolate bunny and the word "yum" in the bite and the stitching will be done. I still haven't decided, though, how to finish it. One idea is to make a decorative pillow with the stitchery in the center. I have several pieces of Easter fabric in the Fabric Museum but none of it is appropriate for this. I tend to be attracted to fabrics with vibrant jewel tones and strong contrasts. This piece is more muted country and I don't know what is hiding in the stacks that might work for this. Another idea is to just get a square frame for it. I have this plan to buy a couple of nice frames and then make multiple seasonal pieces to pop in and out. For example, I completed the Spooky Row by Bent Creek.

I also have charts for a garden-themes row, snowmen and one called the Neighborhood Row

I should be able to get a frame made that will accommodate all of the rows (as long as I'm careful with the fabric) and should be able to pop the stitcheries in and out according to the season.

That's kind of what I'm thinking for this Easter piece, too. Maybe just get a frame (or have one made) to fit this piece, then go through my charts and find seasonal pieces that I can stitch up to fit the frame. Come to think of it, I have a Christmas piece already finished

that is almost exactly the same size and could pop into the same frame for the holidays. Of course, I made this one to be part of a pillow and didn't leave enough fabric for framing, but I think I could fix that.

Dang, this is what happens to me all the time. I get just so far into a project, then start obsessing about what to do with the finished piece and either 1) never finish it because I don't know what I want to do with it or 2) finish it and let it live with a stack of other finished pieces in a box. Which is where this piece has been since 1983. no wonder it's looking kind of icky. I'm going to have to try to wash it. I thought by wrapping these in acid free tissue it would keep them from discoloring, but some of these older pieces definitely have issues.

Which seems like a good piece to segue into depressing news, so...


The negative starts here so if you don't want to share my pain, stop reading.

I know we Californians are not alone in watching the horrific effects of our crumbling economy. But, as president of my teacher's union local, it's been a nightmare to watch it happen to my friends and colleagues. It has taken years - decades - generations - for our district to reach its current level of services and programs. It's is considered a good district. We have a strong SPED program, so strong that our SPED encroachment is crippling (almost 10% of the overall budget) because families with disabled students move to our town so that their kids can go to our schools. The middle school that I teach in has five special day classes, three resource classes and two county classes for the severely disabled.

Which is why I was so hopeful when I learned that California's portion of the latest stimulus package included significant funding to back fill the encroachment for the federally mandated special education requirements. This would have freed up money from the revenue limit (the unrestricted funds that are used to run the district) to save class-size reduction and JOBS! Instead, we're hearing that the state wants to apply the stimulus money (about $11 billion) toward our $53 billion deficit. So far the feds have not allowed states to use that money in that way (because the stimulus is to save jobs) but I'm not hopeful.

To prepare for the worst case scenario - which includes returning to K-3 class sizes of 30 instead of 20 - our district has "riffed" (given pink slips due to a reduction in positions) a total of 74 teachers. They were hopeful that they could rescind all but 27 notices (because we would be able to keep classes at 24 instead of having to go up to 30). But with the financial picture worsening by the day, and with class sizes pretty much contingent on passing all six tax-increases on the May 19 ballot, I am no longer hopeful. People don't tend to vote for tax increases when they're unemployed. I am having a hard time sleeping at night because I expect to see over 50 friends lose their jobs for next year.

As if things weren't bad enough, our school board has (as it always has) tried to turn the situation so that it will be the teachers' fault if class sizes go up and teachers lose their jobs. For many years, the teachers in our district have been the lowest compensated in our county. Now the Board has decided that we should take salary cuts in order to pay to keep smaller class sizes in K-3. We calculated it out and it would mean a salary cut of $8,000-10,000 per year per teacher. Our teachers just can't afford this. Teachers with families are already paying $1000 per month for their health insurance premiums (premiums that are paid for in neighboring districts.) And the cost of living in our pretty little town (an hour from downtown Los Angeles and ten minutes to the ocean) is among the highest in the state.

What a nightmare. And I know it's just going to get worse.

Friday, March 20, 2009

He's Home.

And we're all in love.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Progress on All Fronts.

But I'm not going to Disneyland.

I'm pretty excited that this just might get done by Easter. However, since I have no idea how I want to finish it I suppose it's just one more project that is still at risk of not having those last stitches completed. I purposefully chose this fabric because 1) it's a fiddler and therefore very easy to stitch as opposed to the linens I have going which are hard on my eyes and 2) I like this color and I am using it on a Bastin landscape that is so big I had to buy a roll of fabric to get enough, so I have lots. The problem is, it's hard to envision the fiddler sewn into anything (like a pillow or wallhanging); linens work so much better for that.

I'm getting into a new routine in the evenings. I absolutely hate the things my husband watches on evening television (except The Daily Show - that's our 8:00 pm date Mon-Thu) so I usually spend the evening here on the computer. My new routine is to throw a dvd into the laptop next to me or plug in some music on the ipod to drown out the sound from the TV while I get some stitching done. It's quite amazing. As long as the frogging gremlins don't come in and rip out what I've done (hasn't happened yet, knock on wood), then the piece grows a little each night. What a concept!

My school district has a relocated Lincoln Birthday holiday today and I looked forward all year to going to Disneyland (along with the rest of our town, I'm sure). But as I look at this week I realize that I need to stay home and finish the projects to be ready for the puppy to arrive. He'll be here Friday and I still need to clear stuff out of the kitchen and family room. I also need to go to the hardware store for temporary fencing materials. We have a small pond in the backyard. It's only 18 inches deep but is steep-sided and plastic. Add a lab puppy to the mix and there's a very scary possibility of drowning, so we're going to surround it with a fence, at least until Dodger is big enough to haul himself out if he jumps in. I've thought about making some kind of cover for it to keep debris and raccoons out and will pursue some ideas but for now, temporary fencing seems the proper response to the need.

I've been working on cleaning out some spaces in the garage. People (mostly my husband and son) have been stacking crap where it's easy and convenient rather than make an effort to put it where it belongs. Over time it got to the point that there is just a narrow path through flotsam to the washer and dryer (on the other side of the garage). There was no place to put a bag of dog food out there, much less the metal canister I will need for it (so as not to attract rodents). Meanwhile, the garage space where this stuff actually belongs (paint from refurbishing my son's room last year, his golf clubs, the 3-gallon plastic water containers we used before we got the filtering system, a small table that belonged to my mother-in-law and so on) has filled over the years with - well - rubbish. DH bought a deep fat fryer almost five years ago and the product and shipping boxes he apparently just threw on The Pile. As the boys have moved around, they've just thrown stuff on The Pile. To make a long story short, I just dragged The Pile onto the driveway, rearranged the space so that it made more sense to me for long-term storage and rescued what I wanted to bring back into the house (I found some quilt squares I've been looking for, DH's inherited Chinese rug and my Brooklyn Dodger jacket.) There were a half-dozen boxes and another four bags of mystery stuff that I brought into the house. Yesterday I went exploring and re-packaged what I wanted to keep. Most of it is put where it should be, but I still need to deliver some books to the library bookstore and figure out how and where to store a couple of things. I found a decent comforter that we can use with the aerobed when we have guests, but I have to figure out how to store it. There are a couple of things to go to the storage unit, and a couple more destined for my classroom. Once this stuff is all disbursed to their proper homes I can finish the final preps for the puppy.

I had such a nice date with my son last week. I was sitting here doing some genealogy data entry when he poked his head in the door and asked if there were any plans for dinner. I said I hadn't decided what to do yet, and asked if he would like to go out to eat. He got a twinkle in his eye and said, "We could go puppy shopping and then go to dinner." So, off we went! We had a delightful hour or so at the local PetCo. It has been over five years since we had a dog (15 since we had a puppy) and I got the giggles over some of the designer stuff. I mean, really? $21.00 dental chew treats? Venison and blueberry bits? I guess I shouldn't laugh: we did buy not one but TWO Dodgers collars for little Dodger Blue.

I drew the line at the $129.00 dog bed, however. I knew I'd seen them at Costco, although I didn't remember how much they were. When I did my weekend shopping I found this one.

It has all the prerequisites we had talked about. Large and with a removable, washable cover the same color as the dog's fur. $19.64 is more like it. I grabbed the only one with this light cover and didn't realize until I got it home that the other fabric matches my family room very nicely, so that was a bonus.

I guess I'd better finish this up and go to work.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Family Madness

A week of poor planning fun.

Normally when I plan lessons for my students, I also plan work for myself while they are engaged in what they are doing. Or are supposed to be doing. (I refuse to walk around and goose 13-year-olds to get them to put pencil to paper.) Usually I'm working my way through stacks of papers to be graded (1 assignment per day times 5 days times 170 students = insanity).

But I seem to have blown it this month. Grades were due last week for progress reports so I made sure I was all caught up. Students are working on a collection of stuff that they will turn in all at once in a "Civil War Journal." This past week they were reading articles in a reader I put together on interesting things like drummer boys and the siege of Vicksburg (the citizens had to live in caves and eat rats which is way cool stuff to eighth graders) and camp food ("They ate the dishrags?!?!?" They can be so dense!) Next week they have to do written responses to each day's viewing of Glory!

So, what's the problem? Well, while they are humming away on their assignments, I have nothing to do. My desk is cleaned off. Lessons are planned for weeks. Grading is caught up.

So, last week I ended up spending time browsing the internet, plugging in family names from the family history I've been working on for the last 27 years. I'm stuck on a few lines and didn't really get unstuck, but folks have posted some new stuff (since the last time I had time to look) that was fun. I made notes and spent yesterday following up on some of it.

And got into a bit of a mess.

The backstory on the mess is that my dad was born in Ohio and his parents were born in Pennsylvania. Granddaddy's immigrant ancestors came in the 1850s and Grandmother's were pioneers to the western frontier (Cambria County) in the late 1700s. My mom's mother was born in Texas (from Missouri after Tennessee after Virginia) and her father was born in Arkansas (third generation after Tennessee).

So, for the last few years as I've gotten further back I've started to notice that the place names started to sound familiar. For example, Dad's Carruthers ancestors and Mom's Stewart ancestors seem to all be hanging around the court of Scotland. A couple of years ago the most amazing thing I noticed was that one of Dad's female ancestors was sister to one of Mom's male ancestors.

This is way cool, but makes for kind of complicated entering into the computer because they all have to be attached to each other so that the reports come out right.

Then yesterday I was following up on the notes I'd taken during the week, I'm popping around, printing stuff up and reading through it and danged if it doesn't all sound familiar again. To make a long story just a little bit shorter, it turns out that I'm related to THREE siblings from one family back in Colonial America. George BROWN married Mary STEVENSON and they had eleven children. Three of them - Rachel, Edward and Nancy - are ancestors of mine.

Until I prove differently. Still lots of documentation to do before it's "real." But the speculation is sure fun.

I totally messed up my database trying to enter these folks since they all name each other after each other so there is at least one James, Richard, Edward, Patience, Mary, Nancy and Rachel in each family per generation. It took me a couple of hours of deleting, detaching and reattaching to straighten it all out but I think I'm there. It's funny to look at the finished poster as three lines are the same.

déjà vu.

BTW, it appears that I may be part of the "Little Wells" group.

Which will only mean something to you if you are, too.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Making the Most of the Week...

...so far.

It's been hell around here. 57 teachers and another half dozen counselors and administrators are getting pink slips. Our district has to cut $2.7 million from an already lean budget, which means salary cuts and increased class sizes throughout our district. I'm not going to dwell on it other than to say that I was especially happy about the nice things that happened.

Had a 70th birthday dinner for my husband at one of the nicer local restaurants. Both sons and my daughter-in-law joined us and we had a lovely time. My boys are so funny. My husband has a weird habit. When he's finished with his meal, his mind moves on to the next thing on his internal agenda, then his body follows. After I'd paid the check, the kids and I were still sitting and talking when we realized DH had just gotten up and started walking out of the restaurant. We sat and giggled, wondering if he would ever realize we weren't behind him. He never did. He was all the way out of the restaurant and standing with his back to the door staring out across the parking lot before we decided we'd better join him (after all, it was his birthday). Still, we got some good giggles out of it.

As I was working on the computer yesterday morning (I was awake at 4 AM) the room gradually turned pink. I looked over my shoulder at this.

This is the view from my room looking to the Northwest, so I had to run to the front of the house to see the sunrise in the east (run being a relative term, of course.)

I tend to obsess over the sad reality that I am not living in my Utah retirement home. In fact, we may have to sell the property (there has been some interest in it). I need mornings like these to remind myself that SoCA does have some redeeming qualities.

I made some progress on the Easter piece.

I had finished the "peep peep" and found a truly glaring error in the first "E" of the second "PEEP" so there was frogging and re-stitching. but it went quickly. I was stitching while I watched Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. I thought it was delightful.

I'm all caught up with my grading (progress reports had to be on the computer today) so had nothing to do while students took a quarterly writing assessment (80 minutes and THEN my prep) so I was poking around on the internet and found a new line of ancestors to pursue. The line of Sir Rowland de Thornborough. Sounds like fun, huh?

The T-Mobile Dance

Does anyone know if this is the same group that did the pause in NY (?) a while back?