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

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Quick Check-In

I really do appreciate those who pop in to see if I'm up to anything.

"May Madness" is crazier than ever this year. I was telling someone this week that I feel like that guy on the Ed Sullivan Show who would race around like crazy trying to keep plates spinning on the tops of poles. He would start with one plate and keep adding them, but there was clearly a maximum number that he could keep spinning. Eventually they would start to fall.

I exceeded my max this May. May is always nuts. In a normal year May Madness is manageable, but this year I've got too many plates spinning.

School is nuts. Kids and teachers are losing it. But this year, our principal is retiring and we are trying to get some things in place before the new principal comes in. Our current principal is a very nice man - probably the nicest I've ever met - but not a good principal. For example, apparently several weeks ago our PTA told him that they were donating $2000 to each grade level. He never told us and now, in a budget crisis year when we haven't been able to order anything except paper for our classrooms, we're going to lose the money.

Also, because of Grand Jury duty, I also have had to rearrange my lessons and create two days of substitute lesson plans every week. One of our better subs committed to taking the job for the rest of the year, and I know I can give her things like learning games or plays or whatever. But occasionally she has something she needs to take care of on a Friday or Monday and I get a different sub who does not handle flexibility so well. When that happens I have to re-plan and re-write what I've already done so that I give her something she can handle.

May as union president usually means elections and our teacher retirement dinner. This year we layer on emergency meetings with the district because of continued budget cuts. It's getting really ugly in California and, with the defeat of the emergency initiatives (a process that must stop, but don't get me started) I expect SoCA to start feeling like Blade Runner pretty quickly. I expect our school year to get shorter (which means teachers get even less pay, thank you very much) and - more importantly to parents - children's free babysitting will be cut off and the kids will be out on the street getting into what they get into. All up and down the state policemen are being laid off, and the justice system is getting ready to release non-violent offenders from the prisons to cut costs.

You get what you pay for.

If I had known I was going to get on the grand jury I might not have bought the puppy, but he's in our hearts now. He's 16 weeks old and - in doggie years - in his Terrible Twos (which will last another two years). As if living with a four-legged toddler wasn't challenge enough, he has developed some food intolerance issues so we can only feed him cooked rice and boiled chicken. I spend more money and time shopping and cooking for the dog than I do for myself! He's definitely worth it, though, and we're hopeful when his digestive system matures that he will straighten out. DS2 started an obedience class with him Thursday and he did very well. This trainer uses the clicker method so we're all functions with clickers and treats in our pockets. Whenever we catch him being good we click and treat. If he does something wrong (like this morning boosting himself up to the kitchen table to check and see if there were any snacks there), he gets a 15-second time-out in the laundry area of the garage. Interesting. When I'm doing laundry and he follows me out he's nosing into everything. When he's put out on time-out and fifteen seconds later I open the door, he's sitting there staring at the door waiting to be let back in.

Yesterday I spent the day with my mom and sister. We were supposed to be scrapbooking, but in the chaos of my life I couldn't face digging everything out and loading the car so instead I cut out all the pieces for the Bunny Hill basket BOM (I had traced them during breaks at jury duty) and made some decisions on fabrics. Mom's quilt group (that she's been part of for 30 years now) is doing a block exchange. Her block is Crab-Apple Hill's Linda teacup from their Tea Party series. I had finished what I'd brought to work on so helped her baste her traced blocks onto backing muslin. Then, as we were finishing up, it dawned on here that she might have put the designs on the wrong fabric (put the design on the backing?) so she's going to have to check with one of the others. She hates to trace and I enjoy it so if she's got them wrong (and can wait until school's out) I'll go over and re-trace them for her.

This is our Memorial Day weekend, a time to remember with gratitude those who have fought and died to preserve the values of our founding fathers. I won't say to preserve American values because I'm not real sure what they are right now. I sure hope nobody's beloved child is dying to preserve our apparent greed and selfishness. I posted here last year a clip of Morgan Freeman introducing a reading of the Declaration of Independence. I think he says so beautifully what we are supposed to be fighting for. We should strive always to reach the ideals of Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness, inalienable rights for all human beings. NOT incredible wealth for some while others suffer from want.

Holidays are always appreciated. I am doubly appreciating this one for not only do I NOT have jury duty on Monday, I also did not have to write a sub plan for that day. I am hoping to pot up some miniature roses I ordered online a couple of weeks ago (three? four?). I'm worried about these roses. I have had some of these varieties in the past and excitedly ordered replacements when I discovered they were exclusively carried by Nor'East. When they arrived and bloomed, however, they were not the pinks and salmons I had ordered but were all whites. I wrote to complain and the company assured me that if I would let them go through another bloom cycle, the would probably bloom color as promised but if not, they would replace them. Now I go to their site and they are closing their retail online ordering and if people have problems per their warranty they will replace with, apparently, whatever they have in stock. Why do I have this sneaking suspicion that I am going to be stuck with white roses, whatever happens?

Well, I hear people up and moving around. DH is supposed to be taking DS2 and a friend up into the mountains for an overnight camping trip to try out their new gear. I need some puppy training advice before they leave so I'd better go close this up and catch them.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Things that Make Me Happy

I've started a couple of posts in the last couple of weeks, but my whining makes me depressed so I'm not going to post them.

So tiresome.

Instead, I'll post a few things that have made me happy recently, in no particular order.

I took myself off to the last showing of the new Star Trek movie Wednesday night and I loved it!

I remember gathering with the family for our weekly Star Trek tv series viewings when I was in high school and this movie hit just the right combination of nostalgia and entertainment for me. I got such a kick out of watching these youngsters show me just exactly what those original crewmen (and women) were like when they were just starting out.

The only thing that "missed" for me was McCoy's accent - where is that Georgia accent? Such a small thing, though, and Chekov more than made up for it. I got such a kick out of the little references to the old series ("Fencing.")

I enjoyed it so much that I took DS2 to an imax showing of it on Thursday night and enjoyed it even more. The digital experience was well worth the extra $6 on the ticket. I went to the 10:00 pm showing both nights (because I hate putting out any amount of money to listen to middle school kids talking in the back of the theater - something I hear 180 days every year - or to little kids whine for food, drink, bathroom or boredom). Interestingly, that two hour escape seems to have been more recuperative than straight sleep. Both mornings after I awoke more refreshed after 5.5 hours sleep than I usually am after seven or eight hours.

The Dodger dog is such a sweetheart. He is loving and smart, although he is into his "terrible twos" in doggie years and keeping us on our toes. He's so sneaky it's funny. He knows there are things he is not allowed to chew on, so he carries one of his toys over to the thing he wants to chew and pretends that he is chewing on his toy when he is really chewing on the piece that is not allowed. This picture was taken when he had met bubbles for the first time. [I just heard, "Off! Off!" coming from the family room. Apparently another first - he just got up onto the coffee table. Sigh.]

I've been managing to spend some time in the garden, if not every day, certainly every other day. This is the sweet pea bed. I planted seed this spring, but it didn't germinate. I've had good luck growing them as long as I order fresh seed (not the stuff in the nurseries), soak it for 24 hours, score it, plant it deep in well-composted soil and plant in OCTOBER, not March. None of my nursery-purchased seed came up, but yesterday I found these lovely seedlings at a local nursery so for $4.18 I got a jumpstart.

This is my "Cecile Brunner" climbing rose. I bought it three years ago and for a year it lived in a pot. I finally managed to get it in the ground and it was adapting pretty well when the winds blew down the fence behind it. After a few months we had a fence company out to replace the fence and they pulled her over and tied her down out of the way, breaking the stake in the process. I was too busy to repair the damage until this past spring break. I made a new support, but to get her back up straight I had to strip her leaves (she's well armed) It was exciting to see her leafing out again this week.

Last year I planted a hydrangea in the corner behind this urn fountain. I didn't really expect it to survive since that corner gets full sun most of the afternoon. This year when I checked back there I noticed lots of weeds and bare sticks where the hydrangea had been. I spent a few weeks deciding what to try next and decided on a snowball bush. Today I got back there and pulled weeds to plant the bush and - lo and behold - the hydrangea had leafed out and even had a small flower on it. I ended up moving the hydrangea over where it will get more water, then planting the snowball behind the fountain as planned.

Jury duty.

Yeah, I know. Go figure.

When I found out I had been assigned duty on the County Criminal Grand Jury I went into shock. And, indeed, it has been a tremendous challenge to juggle my Monday and Friday jury schedule with my teaching duties. But I've pulled it together. And I have to say, this has been a fantastic experience.

As a teacher of the Constitution, I'm learning a lot that will improve my teaching of the Bill of Rights. As Grand Jurors, we are treated with much more respect than I receive as teacher (from students, their parents and even my superiors). Our activities are scheduled by the District Attorney's office and many of the witnesses we hear are law enforcement officers. I am happy to say that I am developing renewed respect for our justice system in our county (and am convinced that our country would be better off if the Law and Order series - in all its forms - were banned).

I will be on this jury until July 31 and regret missing one of my Utah trips, but in the long run I think I will look back on this experience with pride. I definitely feel that I am contributing to my country in a way that I never have before.

The promise of summer.

I can smell it, it's so close.

I've already warned my family that, with my jury service over July 31, I will be in the car and on my way to Utah August 1. Don't know if anyone will be with me or if I will have to bring Dodger with me or what, but I am out of here and in Eden (really! That's the name of the town) for almost three weeks. Quiet. Reading. Quiet. Cross stitch. Quiet. Embroidery. Quiet. Friends. Quiet. Shopping.

And quiet. I crave it, and it doesn't exist here.

I will be working on this piece, which I reserve for my Utah visits because I get too distracted here at home and make too many mistakes.

I've actually finished more than is shown here. The floss work is finished on the blue and orange fairies, and the petticoat is finished on the green one. I think I should have all the floss work done on this piece by the time I leave Utah. Then I will block it and mount it on a Q-snap frame for the metallics and beadwork. My goal is to have it finished in time to take it to Utah in June of next year. I will leave it for framing with the Shepherd's Bush framer, then pick it up when I return in August.

I'm also planning to work on the Bunny Hill applique BOM. I've traced all the pattern pieces onto freezer paper and am going to try a technique for needle turning where you put the piece on the RIGHT side of the fabric and needle turn following the edge. I was delighted to find that I have enough of this fabric

to do this BOM. I think I will use the stripe (actually, it's not that dark) as the background. I will supplement with other lines but if I keep the baskets themselves in this line I think it will be stunning.

Finally, and most importantly, my kids seem to be OK, and that makes me happy. DS1 is benefiting from being in a charter school as he seems to have escaped the layoffs in the LAUSD (knock on wood). DS2 is going back to school starting with a summer school biology class. It's good to see him so excited.

Things are not good for California teachers (I'm expecting to lose at least ten days' pay next year) but if my kids can hang in there, I can hang in there, too. 27 teachers lost their jobs in my district last week. If our six initiatives don't pass next week, we will probably lose 30 more. I feel lucky to have a job, even if we have to tighten our belts for a while.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!