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

Wednesday, May 31, 2017


Today I graded my last set of assignments.

160 of them.

Or, actually, I finished the four sets that I've been working on for a few days.  But that last class felt special.  Like, this is for reals.

I don't have to do that ever again.  It was truly the WORST part of teaching, grading papers.  Not that I minded reading some of them.  Sometimes.  But who am I to judge where a kid is in their life, what drama they are enduring at the moment they created what was on that piece of paper, what trauma they escape just to come into my classroom and have me tell them they are a failure when all they really want - all they really need - at this moment on this day in this school year - is a safe place to rest for a while?

I hated it, and I never have to do it again.  I won't miss it.

There are four people - two teachers - retiring from my school.  A total of four teachers in the district. Tomorrow I will be among three recognized at the union retirement party.  The fourth teacher retiree is the other teacher from my school, but declines to participate in the dinner.  We have had a lot of gloating fun for the last few weeks, however.

We have a secret sign.

"I don't care, I don't care..."

We sit through meetings.  The bandwith isn't strong enough to support the number of computers on campus and must be fixed for next year.  I look over at my colleague and we both start doing the "I don't care" hand flip.  New textbook adoptions.  Handflip.  New frameworks.  Handflip.  Homework policy.  Handflip.  Upcoming students with challenges.  Handflip.

There is a lot to not care about.

I'm supposed to give a little speech tomorrow.  What I won't miss, what I will.

What I won't miss?

Cavalry parents.

Call slips from the office.

The stock phrase when teachers want to pull their students out of my class.  "They know they have to make up the assignment."  Gawd, I hate that phrase almost as much as the practice.  Because, yes, I do think what I'm doing in my class has value, as much as what the other teachers are doing.

Fortunately, the list of what I will miss is much longer.  Big things, like the colleagues who have been crewmates in this lifeboat I've been in for half my adult life.  Little things like the glorious view of the mountains between me and the ocean as I pull into the parking lot.

But as I tried to figure out what I will say during my little segment of the program tomorrow, I decided it best to focus on just three things from that list that represent the one big thing I will miss most about being a teacher.

I will share about the girl who was tested and qualified as retarded but placed in my regular ed history class anyway because her parents didn't want her to be away from her friends.  She was so disabled that we (her special ed resource teacher and I) created special tests for her.  Five multiple choice questions instead of twenty-five (and no essays) with only one correct answer and one distractor and the correct answer highlighted.  She still failed them.  Nevertheless, in age-old eighth grade tradition, all of my students are required to recite the Preamble to the Constitution from memory, and this girl had the same assignment as the others.  Memorize it, stand at your seat when called, and recite.  For a grade.  Mom called and begged me not to make her daughter do this in front of the class.  "She can do it during lunch."  Um, no.  The speech pathologist came to me and begged me to let her do it during the nutrition break.  Um, no.  These parents insisted on her being in the regular ed class; she would do what the regular ed students do.  As I recall, even the principal questioned whether making her do it with the rest of the class was the best decision.  The big day came, and she stood when called and recited the Preamble.  Perfectly.  The class applauded her as they had everyone else, but she was the only student who floated out of the classroom.  Mom called me the next day and apologized for pressuring me.  "She has never been like this before."

Just this year, another student, this one with a serious speech issue faltered his way through the Preamble.  When it was time for the three-minute Genius Hour presentation, there we were again.  "Doing it during a break is a perfectly acceptable accommodation."  Um.  No.  And again, he got up in front of the class with his brilliantly assembled slide presentation and used his hard-practiced speaking skills to do his three-minute presentation.  Not perfectly and I'm sure was the only person in the class with teary eyes watching him use his coping skills when the stutter threatened, but he stopped and he breathed and he focused and he got through it.  And I got the thrill of yet again watching a student grow exponentially in self-confidence and self-pride.

None compare, however, to my experience of three years ago.  I've written of it here before.  His mom still gives me giant hugs whenever she sees me.  I had a student with cerebral palsy.  Movie star handsome with a killer smile and a wicked sense of humor, he walked (or, more honestly, dragged himself around) with crutches and had serious speaking  challenges.  When it was his time for the 3-minute presentation, I gave him a choice.  In class or break?  At your seat or in front of the class?  I was pretty sure what he'd choose but I gave him a few days and finally he told me, "In front of the class."  I scheduled him for fifteen minutes at the end of class, knowing that he might have some computer issues because of the CP.  Ultimately, because of those issues coupled with computer slowness issues, his presentation took thirty minutes.  On pizza reward lunch day.  Five minutes into the lunch period, I stopped the presentation and offered to the class that they could leave and go get their pizza.

Not one student moved.  They just looked blankly at me like, "Are you nuts?"

I quickly sent the aide to the pizza line to tell them what was going on while the speaker valiantly continued his presentation.  A total of thirty minutes, fifteen minutes of their lunch time.  On pizza award day.  The entire class stayed to the end, then applauded and left with smiles and high fives and "Awesome job!"

The last students were heading out the door when I lost it.  On my way out I was greeted by a wide-eyed, teary principal coming in who said only, "Oh, my God!"

That's what I will miss the most.  Watching students who are given a chance to do something the world is telling them they cannot, do what seems impossible.  Having the privilege of watching their spines straighten, their faces light up and their feet lift off the floor.

As I've packed my classroom, I've run across a thin file labeled "Inspiration."  In it is an end-of-the year thank-you note from yet another special needs student.  She wrote, "For the first time, in your class I felt like I could do what the other kids do."

So, I guess most of all, I will miss kicking kids' butts into what the world tells them they cannot do.  And absorbing the joy when they sparkle with the knowledge that they can.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Celine Dion - How Does A Moment Last Forever (live in Las Vegas)

The new music for this movie really resonated with me.  I loved the new songs.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017


... and firsts.
Tonight was my last Open House.

These things always make me nervous.  I have just enough "issues" in a school year to nurse a little bit of dread before an open house.  But, I'm happy to say there was not a hiccup.  In fact, it was a lovely reminder of why I should be a little bit sad to be retiring.  Ex-students from years past who won't be able to drop in and say hello.  A little sister that made the sign of a tear track when she learned she would not have me for a teacher as her two older brother had.  And parent after parent sharing how much their child had loved my class and how much the family had learned because their student brought home and shared what they had learned.  (The "Wizard of Oz" lecture is always popular.  "Mind blown.")

Tonight was particularly gratifying because there was a record number of parents wanting to thank me for assigning the family history project.  As part of the project, each student has to interview three relatives, then write their biographies to be bound into a magazine.  (That's some of them on the wall tonight.)  The parents wanted to tell me how much it meant to their parents or grandparents to actually have a child ask them questions and learn their stories.  I couldn't receive a nicer compliment.  As  I reach the end of this career, I calculate that my students have documented nearly 12,000 stories that would not have otherwise been recorded.  It's the achievement of which I am most proud as a history teacher.

I really hope my replacement continues the tradition.

I had SUCH a nice weekend, this past.

I decided to go to Disneyland for some special shopping.

Dang, it was packed!

First time I've ever waited an hour just to get to the kiosk in the Mickey and Friends parking structure.  The line was all the way onto the freeway, and I believe I was one of the last couple of hundred cars allowed to park in the structure.  It was full - I was in the next to the last row on the top level with the others full - before 9:00 am.  I heard that they had to start turning people away in the afternoon because they had reached capacity.  I left early so wasn't there when it happened, but the crowd I did experience in the early hours is enough evidence that it was a remarkably full day.

Still, I rarely ride anything anymore, and didn't have any problems doing what I wanted to do.

I started with a nice bacon and eggs (and biscuit, no potatoes) breakfast at the Rancho del Zocalo, then a few songs by the Silver Dollar Six over the entrance to the Golden Horseshoe.   I had stopped at World of Disney for the new Sleeping Beauty Tsum Tsums, but they didn't have them so trekked out to ToonTown to see if they had them.  Nope.   I had promised some friends to send a picture of the new light saber churros in Tomorrowland, so I detoured through Tomorrowland on my way back to Main Street.

While there I slipped into the Little Green Men pin shop for some special purchases, then headed over to Coke Corner.  Met a new friend in the bushes behind me...

...while an old friend entertained on the ragtime piano.

After a couple of sets (appreciated hearing some special favorites), I headed over to the Disneyana shop to check on my cell set purchase.  It was not really time for it to be done, but they had said they would call to tell me when it was ready and I had realized a few weeks ago that I had no idea what their number would be.  Since my husband died I no longer respond to strange numbers on my phone, so I thought I should find out what number I should keep an eye out for.

Turned out, the cast member I was talking to was the one who kept track of the comings and goings of these special orders.  She asked my name, then disappeared into the back room.  She came out to confirm the name I'd ordered under, then disappeared again, re-appearing with my purchase!

This picture isn't anywhere close to showing how gorgeous this cell is.

Perfect timing.  It had come in during that week, so I could take it home at this most convenient time.

I left the park, then took a walk up to Wonderground, where I didn't find anything to tempt me (for a change) before doing some shopping at the Acorn gift shop in the Grand Californian Hotel.  I was able to complete my collection of Arts-and-Crafts styled tiles that I hope to use in a kitchen remodel.  Someday.  I was a little disappointed that the piano player I had heard there a few weeks ago wasn't playing again, but I figured I already got lucky once that day so I shouldn't be piano greedy.

Now loaded with purchases, I went to Storytellers Cafe to re-hydrate and have a terrific Cobb Salad for lunch.  Got to interact with the BEST Pluto ever.

While I waited for lunch, I looked up the nearest Disney Store to try to find the Sleeping Beauty tsums.  Turned out there was one just a few minutes drive down the 5.  I caught a limo-tram (happens all the time that I load onto the tram from the wheelchair ramp - I was using my walker that trip - and they end up taking just me to the parking lot) and in a very short time was in a comfortable mall in Santa Ana.  I was thrilled to find the little toys I wanted just two doors down from See's.  Irresistible.

All of this was just time killing before my real reason for being in Orange County.

A few weeks ago someone posted a video of a male hula dancer on facebook.  I was impressed, not only with the dancer but with the off-screen singer.  Turned out the singer was the amazing (and famous) Hawaiian artist, Robert Cazimero.  I shared the video, and an old friend asked in comments if I had ever seen a Cazimero live performance.  I had followed the Brothers Cazimero on facebook for a few years but no, had never seen them live.  My friend then informed me that Robert Cazimero would be performing in Whittier in May, so I hopped over to the website and got myself a ticket.  I managed to get to the theater relaxed and ready for an evening of hula.

This was one of the best musical experiences of my life.  The little theater was intimate and the production beautifully crafted in every way.  I'd heard of the "spirit of Aloha," but have never experienced it before.  Aloha energy filled the theater.

And Cazimero!  What a voice!   What a piano!  He was getting over a virus and noted he was not in top form (really?) but even in not top form, his singing was stunning.  It was a full program of beautiful music and gorgeous hula dancing with a thread of unexpected humor through the evening.  I was lucky enough to buy a copy of his latest album before the concert (ten bucks, such a deal), and then got it signed afterward.

 (I might be just a little bit in love with this man for a while.)

It was a long, late drive home, but I had no problems staying awake with that fabulous baritone teaching me new songs to sing.  In Hawaiian.

The next morning was a slow start but I managed to get a few chores done before heading to the garden.  I'm working slowly at getting the vegetable garden whipped into shape, and Sunday's chore was adding a new composting device.  As is most of the garden space (which takes up about half the back yard), the space where I wanted the composter was full of weeds and covered with leaves, so I spent over an hour cleaning.  Eventually I had to engage in some jiu jitsu with that weed in front of the planter, but thought I was victorious in the end...

 ... and the composter landed in its new home.

As I wrapped up my couple of hours, I decided to water my little container garden and something zoomed past me to land in the rosemary.  I thought it was a hummingbird, it was so big, but was shocked to see the biggest grasshopper I've ever seen.  Anywhere.  And my uncle was a Kansas farmer.  They have grasshoppers there.  But mine wins.

I don't use pesticides and in general have a "let nature do its thing" philosophy.  I admit to inviting the mockingbirds to make a lunch out of this guy.

I ended my weekend on a slower note that I began it.  Remember my claim of victory over the weed?  I was somewhat premature in declaring the win.  Sometime during the match my sneaky opponent managed to injure my knee.  According to the MRI, my left knee has six things wrong with it, one of which can be helped with surgery.  And that's my good knee.  My bad knee is now practically un-use-able.


I did not need this, now.  Fifteen work days left and a classroom to clear out of by the 16th of June.

Wish me luck.  Me and my best friend, ibuprofen.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Happy Mother's Day

Mine is the best.

Sunday, May 07, 2017


It doesn't make practical sense, but when I get overwhelmed with the things I cannot control, I often find myself making a big mess - usually re-organizing storage - that I can control.  This morning I realized that I was digging into a box (which usually has stuff stacked on it) for something I wanted several times a week when the drawers the box sits on sat full of stuff I never needed.  So this morning I dumped all the contents of the drawers and the box (which usually has stuff stacked on it) onto the bed and spent a calming hour re-arranging so that the rarely stuff will sit in the box (which usually has stuff stacked on it).

While I was messin' with the mess I ran across a stray page from a writing group I belonged to for a while.  I guess I needed to re-read this now.

I decided to store it here.
December 12, 2012

What Was Left Behind

Half of the flour from
the cookie recipe

A tune that meant something

An invitation floating
to be acted on or forgotten?

Rows of baby plants not yet checked for survival
Seedlings and bulbs hibernating in the garage
Stratification run amok

Regrets not left
carried along though the years
like pocket lint
in a Goodwill sweater

Sometimes they just come out that way.

8:55 am