Saturday, December 8, 2007

Irons in the Fire

I was asked a couple of days ago if I needed another iron. "What?" I responded, completely confused. "Do you need another iron in your fire?" the person clarified.

"Oh" realizing what was meant, "I do...what do you need me to do?" I asked with all seriousness and genuine concern.

Except...that wasn't what was meant. "No. I'm not asking you to do something for me, I'm asking if you think you need another iron in your fire b/c you have so many already."

Hmmm. The conversation ended and I left. Completely feeling like crap.

I spend every moment I have at work...with my colleagues, with my students, with my friends....trying to be a positive example and trying to get them to "push" themselves to be better at what they do and to do greater things. I never tell a can't do this. I never tell a have too many things going on. I never tell a can't further your education and continue to be a good teacher and wife/husband/mother/father. I never tell a spend way too much time at church. I never tell a've got way too many freaking kids.

I simply do not believe in the philosophy that if you are involved in a lot, you cannot be great at everything you are involved in. I think some personalities thrive on this and I am most definitely one of them. I get my energy, my soul food, and my love for living life by being involved...and coincidentally...I am a human BEING.

Why is it that some in society insist that because I choose to take on responsibilities to help teachers be better teachers, and that I make myself available to my students and former students to tutor, advise, recommend, and assist them with whatever I can, and that I seek ways in my job to make myself a better teacher OUTSIDE of my 8-3 work day, and that I find ways on the weekends to visit friends and family and catch up on their lives that I have too many irons in my fire?

My apologies. I don't chase around teenagers picking them up from basketball practice and dance lessons. I don't do laundry for my animals. I don't make dinner for my husband. I don't plan weekly schedules for five other people. I am me. This is what I do. I grade papers and make lengthy comments. I get text messages asking about homework. I get to school to see students waiting at the door for help. I take time from one class to help one student needing an answer "right then." I conference with my students. I have conversations with them individually about their writing and their research. I talk to teachers. I know their strengths and weaknesses. I know when they come to my room totally spent, I want to have a great lesson plan they can take, a good book to read, or a cup of coffee to drink. I welcome phone calls and e-mails.

I could not function as a human being if I were not BEING the servant I was called to be every moment of my life.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Here's the ending: I did not visit the cockpit!

"I don't know. Where're you going?" he responded, an inquisitive smile spreading across his face when I nudged the pilot in front of me at Starbucks and asked if he was taking me home. ( wasn't a come-on line!)

"Atlanta....then onto Springfield, Missouri." I said.

His quick, excited response caught me off guard. "By golly I am!"

"Really? No way!" I couldn't believe it. I know my eyes lit up from their tired state because, wow, how many times do you stand in line at Starbucks in LaGuardia behind the pilot flying you to your destination?

To prove himself, he pulled out his itinerary and showed me his line up for day, which started with my flight to Atlanta and ended up in Jacksonville, Florida for the evening.

We exchanged a few niceties and I managed to learn that it was his birthday. I insisted on buying his coffee...AND that he sign my boarding pass...AND that he take a picture with me.

He insisted I visit the cockpit during the flight.

"WHAT?! I can do that?! Are you serious?"

"Yes, I'd love for you to."

"Well, I'm with three other people."

"Bring them all, there's room."


"Yes. Seriously."

We parted ways from Starbucks and I ran off to the waiting area to find my friends. Laura was there reading her chick lit dutifully saving three other seats.

I told her the entire story in fast forward and showed her his signature, our picture, and the fabulous little Delta trading card (meant for kids obviously) he gave me..."since I'm out of wings right now."

Before I knew it, there he was again, heading my way in the waiting area. I introduced him to Laura and our conversation continued.

He left, and shortly thereafter, it was time to board. I was giddy...but found my way back to "steerage" in the back of the plane rather quickly. Once in the air, I got nervous. How am I going to do this? What am I going to say? "Hey stewardess, the pilot told me to come to the cockpit?" or "Hey, I bought coffee for the pilot, can I visit him in the cockpit?" Seriously. Post 911, how in the world does one enter the cockpit on a Boeing 757 at 35,000 feet? Do you simply knock on the door? "Excuse's me...the girl from Starbucks." Yeah. Right. And then I feel the tap of the Sky Marshall on my shoulder..."Excuse's me...a Sky Marshall...and you are under arrest pyscho Starbucks girl."

So needless to say, I was stumped...and scared...and nervous....and all of those things made me back out of going forward and seeing a commercial jet working at its best.

Yes. I'm sad. Yes. I'm mad. Yes, every friend I have thinks I'm crazy and that I missed a once in a lifetime opportunity. Who knows. Maybe destiny will let me have another shot, but here's what I learned from my experience (and from trading card#17):
  • At 255,000 pounds, the 757 is about the same weight as a diesel train locomotive.
  • It carries up to 186 passengers.
  • It can fly up to 528 miles per hour.
  • It can fly 3600 miles.
  • And you can visit the cockpit if invited. :)

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Man Gown CRACKS Me Up!!

This link is in honor of my sister's yarn hair ribbons from the 4th grade, although I'm pretty sure we didn't buy them at JC Penney.

I are up for a laugh...thanks to Johnny Virgil's 15-Minute Lunch Blog...although it might actually turn my blog into a "Rated R"'s a little risque, but you can handle it.

The picture to the right might be 1975...I think mom and dad are stuck in the 60's still...but my sister's pants are beautiful. I'm just adorable no matter what decade it is.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Three Days Shy of November...

1. Dear can stop sending me hateful mail and text messages. I'm back to blogging again after, what?, a nearly eight-week hiatus? Writers need time off too, man! My sincerest of apologies for leaving you with nothing better in this world to Henry James, or Margaret Atwood, or Kurt Vonnegut. I have to say the funniest e-mails were simply the ones that said..."Blog." ...and..."Blog." and finally, yes, "Blog." again. So thanks for all those simple, yet fruitful reminders.

It's not that I haven't been writing. My Hawaiian journal is nearly half full from first semester of writing so far with my classes. I'm going to peruse that tonight and post something so delightful you'll want to make more coffee and read it twice.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Pulltite to Round Spring...with spelunking in between...

It's official. I'm exhausted.

At 8:00 a.m. this morning I headed to river with a slew of friends, colleagues, and students. Michael and I spent the day in a "perfect" Old Town canoe that Mr. Gum threatened us with our life if we scratched, tipped, bent, or drove it directly into the bank..."you must parallel park this one so you don't scratch the front"....was his constant reminder.

By 10 we were floating 10:02 we stopped so Justin, Lindsey, Jacob, and Michael could jump from a tree swing. A few hundred yards down the river and we were stopping again to jump off some bluffs (which I hear now is a whopping $75 if busted by a conservation agent.)Following that, a walk up to Pulltite for a group photo at one of Missouri's most unattractive falls, no bluffs, just cold water bubbling up from the earth. Thank you God, but Man, we don't need a sign and a hiking trail that leads to every spring on the Current River.

A bit later...gravel bar for lunch. Mine was cheese, salami, cantaloupe, water, triskits, yellow peppers, one bite of almond butter from Kay--delish, one bite of homemade salsa and a chip from Jimalee--delish, a cookie from Pinky--delish, and a cookie I made last night--double delish. haha.

Swimming with jumps by Justin, Michael, and Quencie from an "island rock"...NOT a bluff...followed.

An hour later....a cave. Time for some spelunking with Jacob, Justin, Michael, Chris, Josh, Caleb, Quencie, Lindsey, Kiley, and Beth. We spent an hour crawling on hands and knees, squeezing between stalactites or stalagmites...whatever...bumping our heads and scraping our knees and basically freezing our rears off in the 60 degree cave and near freezing water. We never reached the end (which was apparently supposed to be a wall with a calm pool of water we could swim in.) Frustration set in b/c we had been trekking for what felt like we turned back...much to Jacob's dismay. "We're ALMOST there," he kept adding at every twist and turn. When we finally saw natural light again and swam out to the opposite bank, the Current felt like bath water...warm and soothing.

On down the river...the two professionals, Michael and myself, crashed....I nearly broke my leg. I don't remember EVER tipping on a float trip w/o the assistance of someone else doing the job for me...but this one was bad. Michael...(I'll blame him)...led us right into a tree...that I tried to kick us away from, but the tree won...and we sunk.

We finally emptied our canoes around 5:30 p.m. and made it to The Dairy Shack at Eminence for some quality burgers and shakes before returning to Willow.

I probably won't be able to move in the morning. I'd like to curl up on my couch and sleep for a week!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Sisters, 1976

This is a picture of us—
Nine and three before
Death knocked
On our door and took away
The one focused on us.

This is us bonding in love. And comfort.
And Patience.
Before we knew we’d need it.

This is life before we were
Defined by careers,
Computer identities,
Love—and love lost.

This is where we belong—
side by side.
On a new sled in the middle of winter.

This is a picture of us.
In the harshest of elements—

Monday, August 13, 2007

180 days and counting....

Today kicked off a new school year for me. I love teaching. I keep complaining and saying I need to do something different, or I need changes in my life, or I need a better job with better benefits and a better salary, but the truth is I love the classroom. It fills so many needs for me. It's my comfort zone, my mission field, my challenge in life, my good times, my bad times. It's the place I see a dozen smiles a day and hear a dozen curse words. It's the place I see the hardest workers in the world, and the place I encounter the laziest. It's the place that makes me feel like I'm ahead in life, and the place that puts me behind in life. It makes me cry; it makes me joyous; it makes me less judgemental; it makes me appreciate.

It defines me.

I've been working on my syllabus, rearranging my classroom, putting up bulletin boards, deciding what to wear, and organizing my thoughts for the first few days of classes. It's a big job, and gets bigger every year I teach (And I thought the longer I taught the easier my job would become...WRONG...definitely not in the technology age!) But what a great time in history to be a teacher!

So as I started thinking about this year, this cartoon always come to mind. I've searched for it online, but couldn't find it to I"ll just write it for you.

One student, with backpack in tow is talking to a lawyer.
"I want to sue my teacher for stupidity," he explains.
The lawyer replies, "Your teacher is stupid?"
"No," says the student, "I am."

I've gone to tables this year rather than chairs. I've been asking for the last four years and this year I just finally did...the age-old adage "it's easier to ask forgiveness than permission" seems to still work. So, with the new furniture and new look of my classroom will come a new phrase..."GREAT NEWS! There's lots of room for learning in here today!" :)

In my cooperative learning groups this year I'm going to focus on remembering three things:
First...individual written work
Second...bring that individual work to a small group....then come to a consensus within the group
Third....take that to large group discussion...thus mediation/arbitration
Then...moving further...we might use this to solve a problem....???

I read Marzano and Kendall's new book "The New Taxonomy of Educational Objectives" last week and I want to keep in mind that students can interact four grade levels higher than their reading level.

I hope this year my classroom is going to be one Giant Metacognitive Organism....Thinking, Reading, Discussing!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Prince Charming on a Lily Pad

The pool has been fixed. After much delay, a lot of money, a lot of time, and a lot of elbow grease by Dad, Kory, and Caron, there is water in the pool and people to enjoy it.

My last official day off for the next 10 months was today. So Caron and I spent the afternoon lazing around on rafts, enjoying a cool, refreshing drink, and sneaking off for an afternoon oreo blast from Sonic.

I occasionally did some watering the plants around the water garden. And it was here I found this adorable prince charming floating on a lily pad. He wasn't about to budge. He stayed there through the rain showers of the plant watering, and he stayed there long enough for Caron to get out of the pool, see him, go inside the house for the camera, and come back to snap some pictures. What a cutie. He just wouldn't let me catch him to try out that kissing theory. Too bad. I think he might be the one. It's hard to come by someone who just sits around and does nothing and says nothing. hehe.

Now that the day is winding down, I've enjoyed dinner just after the sunset on the deck and relaxed in the little bit of coolness the summer evening has provided. And now that I'm not coaching volleyball, I'm hoping to have many more of these over the next three weeks or so before the pool officially shuts down and summer officially ends.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

ALL... I want for Christmas...

is a Lady Taser. Yes! It's true, ladies. You can get your very own pink Lady Taser this year. I am impressed by this and putting it on my list well in advance. I mean, any taser is good. But to have a Lady Taser...oh the things I could do.

Thanks to The Salchow Spot for finding this article. :) I stole it from her.

Friday, July 27, 2007

the vacation answered prayer

Nuria from Ethiopia took me to Alamo Car Rental out by the airport in New Orleans. She misses her family and has been in the States four years now, driving in NOLA for a year. She was smart and pretty, and honked and waved at every cab driver we passed.

She took two phone calls on the drive and I took one. Thirty minutes later I hugged her, thanking her for her kindness, with my mind prepped to drive into the sunrise toward the Gulf Coast.

Problem: I had no idea where I was heading.

Solution: There's a Ramada up ahead on the right, I'll pull in there, get out my travel atlas, ask the front desk clerk how to get out of town, and I'll be on my way.

Problem: My briefcase is missing.

Solution: It's in the trunk.

Problem: It's not in the trunk.

Problem Magnified: My briefcase is in Nuria's cab.

Solution: None in sight.

Panic starts to overtake me. What am I going to do? I have to have that back. Ohmygosh---I'm never getting that back. I don't even have a receipt.

I manage to think clearly for a second and call my only hope...the bellman at the Hilton Riverside who put me in Nuria's cab at 6:30 a.m., less than an hour ago.

"Hi, My name is Casey and I was a guest in your hotel. I checked out this morning."

What can I do for you?

"The bellman put me in a cab and I left something in that cab? Would you have any idea if I could talk to my bellman?"

Let me put you through to security.

This is Terrance.

"Terrance....Hi...I....I took a cab from the hotel this morning to Alamo Rental Car out by the airport...and I've left something in that cab. Do you think there's anyway the bellman would know the cab driver?"

What color was the cab?

"Ummm. I have no idea? Tan? It was a mini-van. Maybe it was multi-colored. I don't know. Ohmygosh. I have no idea?!"

Did you get a receipt?


Do you happen to know the cab number?


I'm completely defeated.

Honey, can you tell me anything else about the cab?

My voice is deflated: "I had a woman driver, from Ethiopia, she's been here four years, she misses her family, she likes driving a cab...." I shake my head and close my eyes.

Well, that certainly narrows it. I'll go out and see if she's possibly returned here. How can I reach you?

"Do the cab drivers usually head straight back to the same hotel? Do you think she's gone over to the airport or somewhere else?"

No, usually they do come back here.

"Then I'm on my way."

Terrance takes my number and tells me he will call as soon as he knows anything. He gives me directions and on the 30 minute drive back to the French Quarter I silently, and selfishly, pray that my bag falls into the hands of good people. I had faith in that, but doubt planted by the media after Hurricane Katrina kept seeping into my thoughts..."New Orleans is full of crime...everyone steals in New Orleans...beggars will take your belongings...." How will I explain this to the school? What is Mrs. James going to say? How am I going to pay this back?

Please...let it fall into the hands of good people. Someone who will find me.

There was nothing in my bag that would identify who I was or where I lived. But my school computer was there, my I-pod, a digital camera, my planner for work, and most importantly, something far more of me and my mother...I brought them along to do some writing about us over vacation. My praying intensifies.

Please...let it fall into the hands of good people. Someone who will find me. Or one good person. Someone who will do what it takes to find me.

Problem: When I arrived at the Hilton, my good buddy Terrance, the security guard who calmed me on the phone, was on break.

Solution: Call another security guard.

Second solution: I'm going out to talk to cab drivers.


I'm in the middle of Poydras Street and Convention Center Blvd when the new security guard yells at me. I turn around to walk toward her when, from behind, someone else yells..."Casey!"

I turn back around to find Nuria. I started running toward her, my hands on my head in disbelief.

"I have your bag."

Ohmygosh! I cannot believe you found me.

"I drove all the way back out to Alamo to find you."

Ohmygosh. I cannot believe it. And I hug without even getting my hands on the bag yet.

"You have pictures in there. And journals."

I don't even understand...those are of my mother and me...before she died. I was 10. You don't even know how important it is to me to get those back.

"I was going to find you."

Thank you. Thank you! Thank YOU!!

She leads me to her cab and I grab the bag and look at the envelope with the pictures. I don't even think about the computer, the i-pod, the camera. The photo I pull is a faded one, but my mother's smile still glistens when I kiss her cheek in the dining room.

I kiss Nuria's cheek. "Thank you," I whisper one last time in strong embrace.

She walks me to my car and says a prayer for my safe journey. Two hours later, I'm finally heading toward the sunrise.

Problem: Doubtful of the goodness in the human race.

Solution: Leave important belongings in a cab on a Saturday morning in a city of 2 million people, still living in disaster zones, and meet Nuria, an immigrant from Ethiopia.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Beachside: Day __???__ (who cares)

Just a run down of today--maybe mixed in with yesterday--possibly tomorrow too:

8:20: Wake up: I don't what is wrong with me...I can sleep and sleep and sleep here. Must be that 10 months of the year I don't sleep. So this is me, like a big mother bear hibernating, but in the summer, and at the beach. So nothing like a big mother bear hibernating.

8:30: Sporting tennis shoes, I head down the beach for a morning jog to the pier and a walk back. Whew! It was hot. I had to stop a few meters short of the pier though: the Daytona Beach Shores Lifeguards were running in front of me and they all ripped off their shirts and ran into the ocean. I thought this was what were were all supposed to do, so I ripped off my shirt and followed. haha. Just kidding. I planted my rear in the sand and watched them all dive into the water, swim their "lifeguard" lap, and swim back to the beach. This was a pleasant divergence from my run.

9:30: Hot and sweaty and back at my umbrella and chair, I rip off my shoes and walk through the water. Then head up to the room to make lunch and pack my cooler.

10:00: My rear again is planted back down on the beach. I'm trying to finish my Greg Iles book (my fourth book since I've been here.)

10:10: Ice cream truck...ding, ding, ding. Sounds good, but I pass.

10:30: oops. Think I dozed off.

11:00: I'm dying of a heat stroke so I head to the water. The surf is up today...waves nearly five and six feet tall. I steal a board from a little kid and ride the waves for a while. Not really, I made friends. We boogie boarded until after 12. I think my back is burnt. :(

12:30. Lunch...egg salad sandwich today. yum.

1:00ish: send hateful text msgs to friends and family not at the beach with me. hehe.

2:00ish: asleep...well, pretending to be asleep, but watching a group (I'd say 20) of college boys playing football about a hundred yards up the beach. This keeps me from sleeping.

3:00ish: finished my book...thankfully, this one has taken me two full days at 646 pages. Whew.

4:00ish...head back to the room to have my daily dose of the Internet.

Tonight...dinner at Boondocks...where I'll sit on the dock, feed the fish, look at the boats, and find a place to sit and dip my feet in the Atlantic. :)

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Sun Also Rises....

...on the Atlantic at 6:26 a.m. Delicious!

After a supposedly nine hour drive from New Orleans, (I took the touristy Beachfront Blvd across the Panhandle), I finally arrived in Daytona Beach Shores Saturday night.

Yesterday, I sat at the pool and drank my coffee and watched the ocean. That's it. Just watched the ocean. It wasn't going anywhere but I couldn't take my eyes off of it.

After that, a brief jaunt to check e-mail.

And then down to the beach to sit in my lounger under my umbrella all day. The first thing out of Cindy's (the beach chair lady)mouth was..."I bet Cindy (my aunt) is so mad at you!" And of course, I said "Yes, and I'm rubbing it in!" Then she instructed me to call to let her know how beautiful of a day it was on the beachfront. :)

At 2:30, the rains came. At 3:30, it was sunny again.

At 5:30 I came in and fell asleep on the couch watching Pretty Woman. At 7:30 I woke up, showered, and went down to Caribbean Jack's for dinner and Bananas Foster. I made friends with the valet guys, and they recommended the Ocean Deck. I've never been there, so that's on tonight's schedule.

So...that was my first day at the beach. Enjoy work this week Cindy and Caron and Dad! And Lindsey and Jordan. And Tonya and Whitney. I guess I've just covered my readership! :) haha. I will be thinking of all you while I'm snoozing this afternoon. Well, maybe not. I've just finished one book and starting a new one today. :)

Thursday, July 5, 2007

the miracle of life...on sale at Wal-Mart

It was the 4th of July...a hot, breezeless Wednesday. Montana and I had packed up the car for a day at Aunt Cindy's pool and an evening of fireworks. A stop for gas in Mountain Grove ($2.59! YAY!) and a brief entrance into Wal-mart. (Don't worry...I left the car running with the AC full blast for Montana.)

I followed a couple in through the double doors. I was in a hurry. They were not. Bickering back and forth, she was limping, pushing a cart with two barefooted, dirty-faced children in it, and he walked with a cane and carried a diaper-clad boy. I wanted to rush around them when they stopped the foyer...between the entrance doors and real entrance doors.

Their attention to their left made me look too. Between the quarter motorcyle ride and the 50 cent "Claw a stuffed animal" game lay a tiny Pug dog. "Wow, Mama! That thing sure is fat!" one of the barefooted kids in the cart shouted. Mama replies "Look at that thing,'s bloated." Denny, looking closing, says "She's not bloated, she's having a baby" and using his cane as a pointing stick he adds "look at it's butt." And sure enough, this little Pug dog was laying, pregnant on the cool tile of the Mountain Grove Wal-Mart, giving birth to little Pug babies on the Fourth of July.

Oh, the chaos that ensued. I felt for this little girl, now an exhibition. Wal-Mart employees were quickly notified, and by the time I left the building, the floor was being disinfected and the Pug lay outside under a parking lot tree with kids surrounding her watching the miracle of life...for free.

Monday, July 2, 2007

i've been googled...

I feel kind of bad for not writing anything recently. I haven't been on my blog much because of the Writing Project (which doesn't even make sense) and I've been trying to catch up on commenting on that blog, reading Janet's blog (and all my other blogging brothas and sistas), and blessing, pressing, or addressing pieces on the NWP's E-Anthology.

But I just checked my blog and SOMEONE out there was trying to find me. That's awesome! :) (Wink if you know who you are!)

In the last couple of days, my blog visitor number has jumped up dramatically...I've been googled twice...and someone else came to my blog by searching for Kermit the Frog! Sweet. I don't have the answer to why there are so many songs about rainbows...but there is some semi-good reading in bits and pieces throughout the blog.

So today Grandma and I at at Ocean Zen (my first experience) and, yes, Cindy, the California rolls were pretty dang good. Grandma overloaded on wasabi, but we didn't have to resuscitate her or anything. I enjoyed, ????, hmmmm, something so good I forgot what it was. Chicken with fresh pineapple and mandarin oranges and jasmine rice. Scrumptious. Grandma, nearly cleaning her plate, had Shrimp Fettuccine.

After a stop at MSU, Caron's, Bass Pro, Sears, Penney's, a mall walk, and Barnes and Noble, we headed back to Sparta with a cup of Cinnamon Sunset tea...just in time to watch Wheel of Fortune.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

For the good of the people...

Liz sent me this site to rate my blog...and I'm rated "G" for all general audiences. I was curious if Dirty Santa would hurt me...but he didn't...although I did get docked for the word "kill."

But Liz...she uses big words like herion and murder. So you can't visit her blog until you're 17. :)

Online Dating

Mingle2 - Online Dating

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

post by Caron (response to "i see her in my hands")

Response to “i see her in my hands”
Note: This is a sestina, a 39-line poem, but the formatting of the blog reconfigured the lines of the poem. The shorter 2- to 3-word lines should be connected to the line prior. I think you'll be able to still understand the poem although the formatting is skewed. FYI: This is in response to an assignment dear Sister gave me earlier today. Regardless, I hope you enjoy this. I'm the closet writer in the family--nevertheless, still a writer. I prefer the avenue of poetry. And with no further ado... I present to you:

yet i see her in my cheekbones and eyes...

I don’t see her in my hands; I see her in my features, most specifically in the brown eyes
I inherited from her. Those who knew her, really knew her, when they see me see a ghost
from the past. Her girlfriends who learned first-hand she was pregnant with me – their faces reflect their memories of her. Just by seeing me. I love that their non-verbals speak with such boldness
and clarity. They don’t see their own transparency. But it’s obvious what they revisit -- their memory
of her as well -- is a pleasant one. I smile at the common statement: “You look just like your mother.”

Long ago, as a youth, I was uncertain how to respond to that statement. Looking like one’s mom
serves as a great compliment, but for a young woman, who still felt in some way responsible, the eyes
too often reflected the anguish, the thoughts, the wonders – the notions of those haunted by memories
of a woman dead too young yet present in my high cheekbones and rich brown eyes. For them, a ghost
of decades past. For me, years pass before I understand human development. With a boldness
unseen, she circled an article on dating in a most recent Seventeen magazine. At 41, I reflect

on how difficult that was to have “the talk” with your 15-year-old daughter as you reflect
on your own life, your own choices. At 15, she would not know she would be a mother
within 3 years, yet she [and dad!] welcomed me to the world 11 days into 18, with a boldness
of spirit. My memories of those early years are filled with tenderness and love; her eyes
comfort me. She slips on the ice going to Fred and Bessie’s, yet her arms guide me to safety. Ghosts
of winters, springs, summers, falls past… they all dance with such ease across the fabric of memory.

It’s Sunday morning in the newly-built house in Gainesville. Orange counters pervade this memory.
I roll biscuit dough flat for cinnamon rolls. I lean in from the bar side as mom, as I reflect,
is across from me on the kitchen side. White flour sifts across the countertop. To this day, this ghost
flits in and out of my psyche as I relive this moment, among many others cherished with my mother
as we grow and live and be. We have such varied remembrances, Casey and I, of this brown-eyed
woman who loved the Beatles, “Love Me Do”, 45s, vacations, and chocolate-covered cherries. A bold

woman, she experienced childbirth, graduation as a wife and parent, factory work. With boldness,
she began a college transcript, relocated, supported her husband’s career, developed new memories
as she established herself as the central pole of support for her young family, the one on whom all eyes
fell, whether we were chasing bats in Thayer or tarantulas in Gainesville. Through her, I reflect
on my childhood of yarn ribbons, banana-flip haircuts, Johnson’s No More Tears, and my mother,
this woman who made sure I made ballet class, learned the step-ball-chain, and discounted any ghosts

that I thought I saw in Grandma’s old house in Sparta. To relieve my fears, she showed me my ghost, the literal yet proverbial coat hanging on the coat-tree at the end of my bed. With a tender boldness, she showed me the tiger stalking outside my window, allaying my childhood nightmares. This mother, this woman whose life in some way was symbolized through red cowgirl boots, held memories
we’ll never know, resources we’ll never tap, intelligence we’ll never learn. Of sixteen years I reflect;
just shy of half of her life. At this stage, it’s almost 1/3 of my life. The years pass before my eyes.

I see her in my hands… but I lose her in my green eyes” opened a lot of vaulted ghosts
as we were asked to reflect on her, Carolyn Sue Johns Daugherty, an action requiring boldness
as we took a moment to relive memories and praise this woman, this wife, this mother.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Get Your Red On...

Get your red on, but I'm getting a tan on. I'm at Hammons Field, sitting on the Springfield Cardinals dugout, my feet positioned on the g in Springfield. There are no games today and the stadium is quiet.

It's amazing that I'm sitting here. Keri and I, as part of a Writing Marathon, decided to try the stadium and see if, as writers, the staff would let us onto the field to write in this environment for a few minutes. It was that easy. "No problem," said Chris, the receptionist, who within the first few minutes we waited on him in the lobby secured a sale of six tickets for the Cardinals-Travelers game on Sunday, making a whopping $108 for the organization. We applauded his sale and he beamed with pride.

He showed us to the doors that led to the field and now I'm here. A groundskeeper is working on the pitching mound. I feel slightly bad about this. I'm sitting just a few feet from him, feet propped up for relaxation and rest while I'm writing. He's using things like large buckets, edge trimmers, shovels, hoses, watering cans, seeders, and rakes.

It's hot, but not too hot for me just yet. At least not to the point of sweat. I can't say the man on the mound feels the same way.

At the Steak 'n Shake sign in center right field another man in red paints the wall green. Green on green. Is this necessary? I wonder. The American flag does not sit still above him, and I wish I had a picture of this lonely outfield painter.

There's a man behind sitting behind home plate up near the concession, between a Budweiser sign and Domino's Pizza. He's just watching. Maybe breaking. Maybe he's the boss and watches the field workers as they stay on task.

Back to the outfield painter...I'm not sure he was painting since he is now spraying down the wall with a strong force from a large water hose. Now I think he must have been washing rather than painting and now I wonder Is this really a job? Can someone wash the outfield walls for a career? Who knew they got dirty enough to wash on Thursday afternoons.

Redbird Roost is empty.

KY3 and JOCK 98 have closed their press box windows.

I was here--Opening Day 2005 when the STL Cardinals came to town to kick off our Double AA Cardinal affiliate team. And that's my memory. My dad could tell you who hit doubles and what runs came in and what innings produced home runs. But not me. I ate my hot dog and drank my frozen lemonade and enjoyed the ambiance of the new "cool" place in town and the company of 10,000 fans. Thankfully I didn't have to clean up their mess.

Sunday, June 10, 2007 I was sitting in seat 11F...

Ahhh. An exit row. How awesome is that. Nothing beats being able to stretch out in the exit row on a plane with crowded seats and crying babies. I was headed to Minneapolis/St. Paul and was prepared to sleep my way there.

Then came 11E. He was a handsome fellow...and I knew there was no way he'd be sitting next to me...I always get old men with hankies and mothers with babies. But in the aisle he came and immediately started talking about how great the extra room in the exit aisle was. One sentence led to another (you never know how much a person next to you on the plane wants to talk...and even when you are with friends or family, the chances of you talking the entire two and a half hour plane ride are minimal.) But somehow, Joe (his anonymity name) and I were able to do it. We had a cadre of things to talk about once we started. One loop of a conversation led to another loop and before I knew it, we landed in Minnesota.

We started of course with work.
"I'm a police officer," he says, kind of under his breath.
"Really?!" In DC?," I ask.

From this, I lay a multitude of questions before him.
What do you do? Where specifically do you work? How long have you been on the force? What brought you do DC? Do you have your own car or do you ride with a partner? What are your shifts like? Mornings? Afternoons? Are you out in the streets? Do you work undercover?

Blah, blah, blah. I just wouldn't give it up. Growing up with a father who retired from a 30-year career with the Missouri State Highway Patrol, my automatic was to compare Joe's job to that of my father's and contrast the differences. It was apparent Joe had a college degree, possibly in Criminal Justice or something, and his work experiences were in Colorado and now DC. So I knew he had some talent and knowledge in his field.

He quite nicely, but vaguely, answered all of my questions. And when we realized he left his cell phone in the airport lounge back in DC, I was quick to encourage him to use his DC police credentials to have security at Minneapolis help him start the "cell phone hunt." He told me that probably wouldn't be right, but I insisted. I told him stories about Dad using his patrol ID and things always worked out, like, for instance, the time he was stuck at the Canadian border and when asked to produce ID, was whisked across the border like royalty. Nothing wrong with that.

So, needless to say, the majority of the time that we talked about his job, I dominated the conversation with my "extensive" background knowledge of police work. When we got off the plane, he offered to have a drink if we both had layovers. I declined due to my second plane already boarding, but as we walked toward my gate, he said, "Well, I thought, since we're parting ways now, you might like to see this," and he hands me his badge. It was large, and looked like your typical police badge. It was on top of a large, black leather wallet, and I thought it was awesome that he wanted to share it with me. "Awww," I was touched by the gesture, "Thanks for showing me."

When I handed it back, he opened up the wallet showing me the ID inside...and his agent number for the United States Central Intelligence Agency.

Yeah! This only happens to me...give him all the downlow on how to be a great police officer and he's a stinking CIA agent!!?? And the worst part...I won't even tell you all the details of our conversation I covered on how much I love CIA movies and books and how I can't wait for the new Bourne movie to come out.

I am such an idiot!!! And I'm sure he thought so too. But, that's just me. It was a fun ride and memorable experience. I'm definitely going to develop this story into something even greater! :) Maybe a big spy story lie about how I helped him apprehend a criminal on the wouldn't that be fun!!!

Sunday, June 3, 2007

...the program to kill handicapped children...

is the title that finally emotionally broke me in my journey to read War and Genocide: A Concise History of the Holocaust by Doris L. Bergen. I had to take a breath before barreling into it, but then came to a complete halt after finishing the opening paragraph:

Like Jews in Germany, people deemed handicapped also experienced the open Nazi aggression of 1938-1939. Hitler and other proponents of so-called racial
purification would have to wait for the cover provided by war to implement
murder on a mass scale, but by 1939 they felt confident enough to take steps in
that direction. They began with the most defenseless segment of an already
vulnerable group: the children.
And there you have it. That's where I finally let loose. A gentle, elderly man sat next to me on the plane and finally leaned over to ask if I was okay. He took out a handkerchief, handed it to me, and patted my leg. I could only show him the book's cover and he understood.

Probably one of the worst thoughts that comes from this is the fact that to a decade of children born in the late 1920's and into the 1930's, the normalization of Nazi power coincided with their child these acts were normal to an "Aryan" child. So if a handicapped child in the neighborhood disappeared from his home to never return...that was normal. When grandpa, who fell to Alzheimer's and was being cared for by his children and grandchildren in their home disappeared, that was normal. When a van drove down the street with "Kaiser's Coffee" emblazoned down the sides and girls outside jumping rope would make jokes about "they are coming to pick you up to die", that was normal. (And just so you know, the back of the Kaiser's Coffee van was full of poisonous gasses that killed the lucky ones who got a free ride.)

I'm not quite finished with the book. I still have a chapter titled The Peak Killing Years to get through.

For now, I am sick and upset and although I have known about this my entire life (like studying the history of the Holocaust was normal to me in school) this book has been so insightful for me. Especially in regards to human nature and Hitler's tactics. He carefully plotted to pit people against each other, and he used natural human weaknesses that every one of us has succumbed to at some point or another in our lives to his advantage.

There are points of light in these moments of disparity, but they are individual...not on the mass scale that Hitler offered up his claim for Race and Space. But the Holocaust Museum in Israel offers up a memorial and lists names of those who found it in themselves to help the weak and vulnerable. They are known as "the righteous among nations."

So, in the midst of this book, I've questioned myself several times. Where do I go from here? What information do I take and what do I do with it? Of the notes I've jotted down in the book itself, I know I want my students to decide what is normal for them...and possibly debate this. I was troubled by the voyage of the ship Saint Louis, who brought fleeing immigrants to Cuba and were then denied entry there...and every port north of there along the Atlantic seacoast. I know, that current immigration laws weigh heavy with me and I want my students to know the impact they could have. And, of course, there's Darfur and Sudan...there's so much we can study and discuss. And there's so much my students can learn about themselves in hopes that if, ever presented in a situation where the weak and vulnerable are being taunted and abused, they will stand up and be known as part of "the righteous among nations."

Friday, June 1, 2007

fantasy island beach bums...

My cousins are at the beach. They are taunting me with text messages...

"Miss you."
"Wish you were here."
"Thinking about you while I'm sipping my cool drink, napping to the beat of the afternoon waves, and planning my delicious seafood dinner tonight."

Okay. So they weren't that detailed...but that's exactly what they meant I know.

Tonya's probably into Sudoku under the umbrella. Cindy's reading a novel she doesn't need to think about. Faron's on the computer or playing football or frisbee with Richie and Jim. Linley and Eric are running up and down the beach chasing the waves ... and then letting the waves chase them. Blue plastic shovels and red sandbuckets litter the area around the Adamson clan. And then the whole family stops to eat ham sandwiches and cheetos for lunch.

Then back to Sudoku, reading, playing, napping, swimming, and building sandcastles before Russ and Cindy close the afternoon umbrellas when the sun begins to disappear behind the hotels of South Daytona Beach and our little Fantasy Island.

Awww....the life of a beach bum. I'm insanely jealous! (So I won't mention all the sand in swimsuits and places you had no idea existed, bickering children, cloudy afternoons, cramped rooms, restaurant crowds, towels that never dry, and sunburns...but I'd definitely trade spots...I think.) :)_

Thursday, May 31, 2007

ancient history and cheese pizza...

I only had three bucks left. After a 14 hour train ride followed by a 4-day jaunt around Italy's capital, I was down to my last American dollars. The train back to Vienna didn't leave for another seven hours, and I was stuck my with two girlfriends, a backpack, and no money (this was before ATM's.)

We decided to wait out our final hours in Rome on the steps of the famed Colosseum, where we hoped to find some cheap food and cheap entertainment by doing some quality people and pigeon watching.

The tourists were thick and the pigeons were thicker; the tourists were flocking to vendors selling paintings and other "Colosseum" riff-raff, and the pigeons were flocking to tourists leaving behind crumbs from baguette sandwiches at outdoor cafe tables.

We sat watching the collage of events unfold as the crowds grew through the afternoon. Kids were enjoying gelato, families found picnic spots, and old men sat on park benches feeding the passing birds. All this eating made our mouths water...and we realized we were starving. But what were poor girls to do?

Choosing our prey wisely, we sweet-talked one of the food vendors who graced the plaza into three hearty slices of pizza. His Italian hospitality gave us a slice each, along with a coke AND an apple for road. And our American ideals took them without reservation...:)...but we did give him all the Lira we had...which to my recollection, wasn't enough to pay for our delicious dinner. But genuine smiles and pouty lips do wonders for half-starved American girls begging for food.

I had a greasy, cheesy slice that spilled over my paper plate and I was ready to eat it. The three of us walked rather awkwardly, toting our large packs on our backs, our pizza, drink and apple nestled in and under arms. We found an open spot in the sun on the main gate steps of the Colosseum, sans pigeons, and prepared to enjoy our last meal for the next 14 hours. I tried to carefully place my coke on the ground (note my pack was heavy and nearly knocked me over every time I bent forward) before I took my pack off.

But carefully didn't work for me that day. When I leaned forward, my plate tilted as well, and in slow motion... while time stopped and the plaza sat still, my pizza followed the force of gravity and landed, cheese side down, on the steps of the ancient building.

I know I screamed. I KNOW I cried. And I knew I had no choice but to pick up the pizza from the grime and dirt of thousands of gladiators, and animals, and Romans, and tourists and eat it with a smile. It was delicious.

Friday, May 25, 2007

summer stay longer...

It's not officially summer...and it's not the end of summer...but I want all of my summer days to be like today. On my first official day off, I enjoyed my morning coffee on my deck (I did have to run into work for 10 minutes..and I took four work related phone calls throughout the day.), and wrote a plan in my mind of things I wanted to do.

You see, I needed to sweep and mop my floor, wash the windows, vacuum the carpet, do the dishes, wash the laundry, hang up clothes, clean out the spare bedroom, wash the pool deck, clean out the sun room, plant my tomatoes, re-pot my schefflera, tend to all my plants, start the water garden back up, unload my car, clean off the kitchen table, sweep out the garage....and the list goes on and on.

These are all things I haven't done since 1987. So, I'm telling you, filth. :)

And some of them I accomplished...all with Dad's help. It's so nice to get things you need to get done when someone else is helping. Dad prepped the pool for the new pool liner, measured the pool deck, put together my new adirondack patio chairs (backwards the first time), hauled off junk from the garage, and ate a hearty lunch of homemade tacos followed up with an afternoon bowl of strawberry ice cream.

Such a sweet summer day!

Monday, May 21, 2007

where will they go from here?...

A milestone for 63 young lives has been reached at Willow Springs High School for the Class of 2007. Only 13 years ago, these seniors entered the new and exciting world of kindergarten. A world full of swing sets and merry-go-rounds. Kool aid, cookies, numbers, and letters. Secrets, mischief, scraped knees, and band-aids. A world where a helping hand wasn’t far away and a shoulder to lay your head on was nearby. A world where tadpoles and puppies made everyone smile, and fishing with daddy on hot summer afternoons at the river made long days go fast. In this world, curiosity reigned, imagination grew, and exploration began.

Today, seniors, you again enter a new and exciting world. Today’s world is a ride down the information superhighway, a step into new technology, and a jump into the unknown. And with this leap, a nauseous anxiety comes with closing a chapter in your life and beginning a new one.

Physically, life is much different. Metaphorically, life is the same. In this world, again, curiosity reigns:
Can I become a doctor? A lawyer? A teacher? The president? Could I graduate from college? Will I pursue happiness? What is life like in China? India? Europe?

And imagination still grows:
What if I added these lyrics to this measure of music? How can I paint Frankenstein as American Gothic? What types of dance express my freedom and my personality?

And finally, exploration is just beginning:
Where do I go from here? What challenges will I face and which will I conquer? How can I revolutionize the next 10 years? What changes can I make to the music industry? The arts? The medical field? The scientific world? The political stage? How will I affect my family? My community? My nation? My world?

What is it, Class of 2007, that will make you rise to new occasions? To continue your curiosity and imagination? To explore like the historians and travelers of our past and find new frontiers? As graduates in the 21st Century, I encourage you take a leap into the unknown world and write your symphony along the way. How will you make a difference? And what will you accomplish?

As a final assignment in my English class, students write a valedictory farewell speech and share it with their classmates. Through the emotional goodbyes and sincere thank you's, students also take the opportunity to say final thoughts about themselves or their lives. One graduating senior bravely spoke for what I think many felt: “There’s more to me,” he calmly said, “than what I let on.”

What more does the Class of 2007 have to offer? How deep does your surface go? Where will your intellect take you and how will you use the opportunities you have presented to yourself through your hard work and dedication to your education?

You have a lifetime to answer that.

Learning is like breathing...

“Learning is like breathing.” I tell my students this on Thursday, April 26, 2007, just hours before they are to begin one, if not the, biggest academic nights of their high school career. In what I like to think is my own little pep talk before the big game, I lead students through a relaxing breathing exercise and discuss how very similar breathing is to learning. All academic school year our Willow Springs High School seniors are inhaling—through research, reading, writing, and creating—and “at some point,” I tell them, “if you don’t exhale, you will explode.” Smiles creep along their faces, but most understand the metaphor. After a year of taking in, students enter Senior Project Night accomplished and prepared to share knowledge they deem important. “It’s your time,” I explain, “to exhale.”

Senior Project Night gives our students the forum to display work completed through the year. The Senior Showcase jumpstarted the evening’s activities in Grimes Auditorium, a display of all projects and products were on hand for parents and community members to observe, and students were present to discuss their projects with those who attended the event. “I’m so impressed with the passion our students have about their products,” noted School Board President Chris Rutledge as he walked through the maze of student work. “What’s happening is our students are intimidated with the magnitude of the project and find themselves honing in and focusing on something they are interested in…and when you pour hours and hours of research and time into something, we begin to recognize it as passion.”

Following the Showcase, the evening continued when formal presentations began at 5:20 p.m. at the high school. Sixty-two seniors presented on a variety of topics, from training coon hounds to tanning leather, from writing scripts to writing novels, from building hot rods to dancing the fox trot. And the beauty of this? Students didn’t just tell their audience about their topics, they showed their audience their hard work by bringing in products they created from and through previous research. Although I tried to relax students before it all began, it wasn’t long before the halls and classrooms of the high school were buzzing with excitement and energy. Willow Springs High School was swarmed with over 200 community members and students who came together to pull off another successful Senior Project Night.
Although students do extraordinary work, the event would not be the same without help from over 150 judges, 25 volunteers, and 30 student volunteers.

I would like to thank all who participated in some way to make the night a fabulous success for our students and our community. “Thanks for the opportunity to be involved as a judge this year,” said Faron Adamson, a board member for the Hartville School District and professor for Webster University, “The entire experience is an experience for a lifetime for these students. What a significant and real world project, no matter whether students attend college or head to the work force, these are necessary skills for any 21st Century job.”

One of my favorite quotes comes from Margaret Thatcher, British Prime Minister from 1979-1990. She reminds us to look at a day when we are supremely satisfied at the end. It’s not a day when you lounge around and do nothing, it’s when you’ve had everything to do, and you’ve done it.

Back in September, our students saw only that they had “everything” to do, but at the end, I hope they are supremely satisfied. Senior Lindsey McElyea said , “Now that it’s over, I’m so glad for this opportunity. I grew mentally, and I stretched myself academically, but most importantly, I had a chance to do something for myself and to give back to my community and to families in need, and that means a lot of me.”

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

"it's all for cancer..."

I have cancer survivors in my family. So when it's time for Relay for Life fundraisers and activities, I find the checkbook and sign up.

When Jordan (Chili) walked in to ask me a favor last week, I thought I was going to be coerced into a sweet tea run at McDonald's. But I wasn't. Instead, I was coerced into playing a game in which I have zero talent. She needed a tennis partner for the high school Relay for Life team tennis tournament. Little did she know how bad I was...but of course, the beautiful weather, the outdoors, the camaraderie with friends and students at the tennis courts, I jumped at the chance. (Little did I know how bad she was!)

Barely making the start time, (I had to borrow a racquet) Chili and I were first up to play a couple of tennis pros (aka, the tennis coach AND a player from the team!) Realizing right away we were doomed, we decided to have a great day. Our theme became "It's all for cancer," and on good shots, bad shots, great shots, and absolutely downright pathetic shots, we'd high five and quote, "It's all for cancer."

We lost every game in the first match. We lost every game in the second match. And, improving our skills, we finally won 3 games in the final match....securing our 10th and last place finish.

The day couldn't have been more perfect. As much of a competitor as I am, I enjoyed my time losing with Chili. And although Ms. Lindsey, aka Tournament Director, officially warned us for obnoxious behavior, (not really, she was just trying to exert power she didn't have over us), no one could get our spirits down. We were thankful for the day and for the life, cancer-free so far, we've been granted.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

i'm wired...

I can't help it. When something big is about to happen, I can't sleep. My cats are nestled in their favorite spot on my comforter; Montana sleeps at my feet; the night is still with a bit of a chill to air; and the crickets have come out after hiding from the thunderstorm...but I can't sleep.

Tomorrow...or tonight I should Senior Project Night. From what was once a handful of faculty and staff and a collection of brochures and scrapbooks has turned into 183 volunteers and homemade electric guitars and ballroom dancers. This year I'm overwhelmed. Every year gets better and better and I know we haven't reached the peak...although we're getting closer and closer.

Tonight, students will put on their best duds, head to the high school, and spend 20 minutes presenting their research study and their creations to a panel of judges, many of them in front of strangers. I'm feeling a little in awe right now. I have always been an outgoing person, never afraid to speak to or in front of people. In high school, I entered as many public speaking contests through FBLA and FFA as I could...but this? I don't know if I could have done this. Perhaps if the expectation was placed in front of me, I would have met the challenge...and how I wish I could have done a project such as this for a grade in high school (although I know my students don't believe me!)

For now, let me just say, again, I'm overwhelmed. I've sat with students at my desk for conferencing over papers...not once, not twice...but several times in many instances. I've helped research sources and find books and peruse websites. I've watched kids run back and forth to the printer, sit down, and highlight information they found interesting. I've been text'd at 10:30 p.m. to answer a question. I've been interrupted talking on the phone, answering e-mails, visiting with colleagues and eating my lunch just so students would "have my opinion" on their work. I've gained respect for many...and lost respect for some. I've been angry; I've yelled; I've stormed out of my room and stormed right back in; I've been so irritated I couldn't even speak; and I've been so frustrated I refused to answer the same questions over and over.

But it's all part of the game of teaching. And when students walk out of their presentation rooms tonight and scan the halls for me, it's then that I know it's not only them who has conquered the world and accomplished a feat they never thought possible.

With a little persistence, with a little patience, with a little hard work and dedication, ALL is possible.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

cookies and milk for breakfast...

Cause today is my birthday! ;)

I slept on new, clean sheets under a new clean comforter in new, clean pajamas. Nice.:)

Dad texted me early and Montana woke me up with cold nose kisses when it was time for our walk.

I'm watching one of my top 5 favorite shows of all time, CBS Sunday Morning, and they are about to do a story on one of my all time favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut, who recently died.

Valarie and Melanie took me to Springfield Friday night for a birthday dinner at Flame Steakhouse with eight other friends.

Granny sent me a hilarious birthday/Easter card, and grandma is bringing me strawberry shortcake today for our lunch at dad's.

And I'm now dunking a warm chocolate chip cookie in a cold glass of milk.

A beautiful, sunny birthday.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

chalk: i like the trailer better than the short clip...


happy birthday janet...

From 10 to 35, I don't remember a birthday without you. ;) We weren't always together, but always near in spirit.

There's no remembering the worst...although I'm 100% positive you've got it somewhere in that memory machine...but the best were spent eating chocolate chip cookie cakes with a dozen friends and playing Q-bert and Pac-man and Galaga at the video arcade on the square in Gainesville. Or maybe the best was inviting every friend possible to squeeze into the hot tub in Zanoni when we were 12 (mixed swimming...scary! Oh, but never fear, we were the only ones forced to wear t-shirts over our swimsuits). Or maybe it was the time we celebrated 16 with cake and ice cream in Mrs. Pettit's Home Economics class 3rd period.

Or maybe...the best is yet to come. :)

Have a great day...and just for you--the quote on my daily calendar for April 10th is from Alice Walker: " It's so clear that you have to cherish everyone. I think that's what I get from these older black women, that every soul is to be cherished, that every flower is to bloom."

Keep bloomin', girl! And keep making the seedlings around you bloom; the weather isn't always good, but the seed still learns and grows.

Monday, April 2, 2007

as complex as DGP...kudos to Ms. Daugherty

DGP stands for Daily Grammar Practice. It's something I do in my classroom that my students abhor. This blog is a refresher for why I am a read no further if you don't want to know.

Being in the classroom trenches everyday below mounds of papers and lesson planning, I sometimes get down in the dumps and think..."Why, exactly, do I teach?" But, as I've said since I came out of my retirement, I do love my job. I love my students. I love my classroom. I think public education is the best gig in town.

A few days ago someone asked me how my students would describe me and my teaching. I answered with a variety of things, but it made me realize that I wasn't really sure what my students would say...and that's frightening. I always have my students write me evaluation letters about assignments...about projects...about the classroom...but never about me. So today I put them to the task and posed the question, "What three words would you use to describe me, my teaching style, and my classroom?" This falls right in line with my teaching philosophy that tomorrow I will be a better teacher than I was today.

Yikes. Scary. I wasn't sure I wanted to know all they wanted to say. And it was a hard challenge for them...coming up with the three words. And one student even said, "I can't do it...I need three paragraphs."

Some wrote three words, some wrote three sentences. Many wrote a word and then followed up with a detail or example---the true mark of a writer. :)

Below are some of my favorites, with my personal comments added in parentheses. I'll be adding these notes to my YES! file soon (a file I keep of notes, letters, and cards from my students that I get out when I'm in one of those I-hate-teaching modes.)

1. Energetic (I have teacher ADHD.)
2. Outgoing (Never met a stranger...student or adult.)
3. Stern (We have procedures for things and you have manners...use them!)
4. Kind (I try.)
5. Trustworthy (Interesting. I had no idea some students saw me as this because no student ever tells me anything I need to keep secret.)
6. Laid back (Life is way too much fun to be serious all the time.)
7. Successful (I'm glad I am "just" a teacher and my students think I'm successful.)
8. Thinks outside the box (I don't know that I do this much, but I encourage students to get out of their comfort zones.)
9. Pushes the limits (Causes growth.)
10. Challenges the norm (Causes more growth.)
11. Creative (I love the spark of creativity!)
12. Imaginative (Just imagine all we can achieve!)
13. Stresses me out (That's my job!)
14. Cheerful (You have to be consistent when you read essays like I read today!)
15. Understanding--she knows we need to sit back and smell the roses once in a while. (Learned that from Ferris Bueller.)
16. Great writer...(WOW! I had about 10 of these....I love it when students compliment my work...I bet they love it when I compliment theirs...I need to do that more often rather than always being the critical eye.)
17. Actually helps when help is needed. (As opposed to saying "Go away you scathing, bubbling idiot, find your help elsewhere.")
18. Amazing (of course some students are going to say's the word of the decade like "Totally Cool" was my decade word.)
19. Works hard for student success (I do that. Seriously. I want my students to be and feel successful...I know the pleasure of that feeling.)
20. Likes to keep the class in a good mood with exciting projects. (Yes, I do that. No one wants a classroom of 18-year-olds in bad moods...they can be downright hateful.)
21. She's a good kid. (Really? I'll take it as a compliment, but they could be referring to me as a young goat.)
22. Witty. (I'm rarely at a loss of something to say. In fact, one student wrote an essay on my "comebacks" in class.
23. She allows our creative minds to flourish...and because of that, I value her as a teacher. (Ooohh....I've got idea AND detail all in one thought! I love teaching writing!)
24. Sets high expectations. (A must!)
25. Teaches with loads of energy. (Don't have a clue where this comes from, unless it's McDonald's coffee...I just love life so I'm energetic.)
26. Knowledgeable (I'm a human wiki...people constantly feed me information that I spew out when tapped into. Seriously though, if I don't know the answer, I'll make up a believable one...or I'll give you the resources to find the right answer.)
27. Ms. Daugherty can't be summed up in three words or less. She is as complex as the DGP she makes us understand. Her desire is not only for us to learn, but also for us to grow as individuals! (Yes...the truth comes out...tomorrow I think I'll make them diagram that sentence!) :)

Okay, so the comments were all positive. One student, who is ALWAYS negative said, "Ms. Daugherty, I'm really, really trying here."
"Trying what, Tony?"
"Trying to be negative...and I can't think of one single thing." A look of shock and disappointment crosses my face I'm sure. "Seriously....I can't think of anything."

if i stop stop reading...

Funny how that works.

I'm swamped and haven't spent the time I would like keeping my blog up to date. And a lot of things have happened since March 15, the last blog entry. Every day one or more of my students will make a comment like, "Oh, Ms. Daugherty...that's got to go in the blog!" One of the most humorous recent classroom happenings was when Joe, one of my favorite conversationalist, told me he was getting a new tattoo of Michelangelo playing the drums. So, to me, I envision an aging artist from the 1500's with a pointy gray beard wearing a regalia bonnet and Gothic velvet robes and hosiery from the Renaissance.

Knowing Joe, this all makes perfect sense. He's a drummer. He's an artist. I can see his eclectic tastes in tattoos leading him to make a choice to tattoo one of the most famous artists and sculptors of all time on his body playing his most favorite musical instrument.

No. I couldn't have been further from the truth. Joe is 18. Michelangelo to Joe is a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, and his hero from his Saturday morning childhood.

Knowing Joe, that all makes perfect sense.

I saw the drawing. And I used my own processing skills to put it all together. It was obvious. On Joe's sketch book was a beautiful, intricately drawn Michelangelo...complete with a jumpsuit, turtle shell and mask, playing a set of drums like a patriotic Civil War drummer boy.

I couldn't believe it. The sad thing, no one in the room thought of Michelangelo the artist. With the recent release of the new TMNT movie (that's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for all of you who aren't in the know), and Joe's obsession with the four pre-historic pop culture heroes, everyone automatically thought about the surfer-loving turtle who claims pizza as his favorite food.

Although it was funny, I am sad. I've seen St. Peter's Basilica. I stared at the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel. I stood mesmerized in front of the statue of David. I've walked all over Florence and Rome seeing bits and pieces of Michelangelo's work and never once thought about a green turtle.

This story also relates to a piece of literature I teach in my English classes. Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales is a collection of narrative poems about a group of pilgrims on their way to Canterbury, England to pay homage to a saint. The narrator challenges the group members to each tell a story on the journey, and a winner will be chosen at the end. The Nun's Priest recites a fable about a rooster names Chanticleer and his lovely lady Pertelote.
"Chanticleer!?" My students always quote with disbelief. "Like in RockaDoodle?"
"What's RockaDoodle?" I ask.

And then my students freak out on me and my incomplete life.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

no roll sugar cookies...

Thank goodness the women of the Gainesville Homemaker's Extension Club in 1980 decided to put together a cookbook of Favorite Hometown Recipes. And thank goodness, on page 21, my mother's No Roll Sugar Cookie recipe appears. And one more thank goodness goes out to Mrs. Pettit, my Home Ec teacher, who loved this recipe and gave me the opportunity to bake these cookies every semester I took one of her courses, even the sewing classes (which is possibly why I am so bad at sewing.) She always bragged that this was "Casey's mom's" recipe. I liked the bragging...everyone else liked the cookies.

Here it is as it appears in Favorite Hometown Recipes.

No Roll Sugar Cookies
Carolyn Daugherty

2 eggs
2/3 c. Wesson Oil
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. grated lemon
3/4 c. sugar
2 c. sifted flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Beat eggs until well blended, stir in the oil, vanilla, and lemon rind. Blend in sugar until mixture thickens; sift flour, baking powder and salt, stir into the oil mixture. Drop by teaspoons about 3 in. apart onto the ungreased sugar cookie sheet. Gently press each cookie flat with bottom of a glass that has been dipped into oil and then sugar, continue dipping into sugar for extra crunchiness, pat several times, bake 8-10 minutes. Remove immediately from cookie sheet. Makes 3 doz. 3 inch cookies.

yikes...i just realized...

It's the Ides of March.

But I'm on top of things. I changed my clocks today.

All this getting organized deserves a Toga Run through Circus Maximus, around the Fontana di Trevi, and down the Spanish Steps.

Ohhh...Italy in the spring does sound nice (with or without a Toga). ;)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

an autobiography in five chapters...

Chapter I
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.I am lost…I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter II
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in - again.
I can’t believe I am in this same place. But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter III
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there. I fall in… It’s a habit…but, my eyes are open.
I know where I am. It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter IV
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter V
I walk down a different street.


I'm actually still in Chapter III. I don't get out immediately. I sit at the bottom and pound my head against the wall and say...geez...I did this AGAIN!? I'm skipping right to Chapter V 'cause if I see that hole again, I more than likely will fall. I think Proverbs says a fool who returns to her foolishness is like a dog who returns to its vomit.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

what are you doing for the next 36 hours?...

"My passport's in my pocket and my bag is packed--where're we goin!?!?" I replied when my sister called with the title question. Sad to say, no where exotic, but any trip with Caron is always memorable, and if I can rearrange my schedule, we'll be at Mizzou tomorrow and dine with the jazz band at Murray's tomorrow night. Lunch at Shakespeare's sounds scrumptious, or a burger from Boochies. Yum! I can't wait to make the trip (it's all about the food, you know. :) It will be a great start to an expected great week.

It's spring break. A much needed and much deserved spring break I might add. This is the first break in a long time I haven't "gone" somewhere. My students were floored when I told them I'd be staying home. (It seems they all like to live vicariously through my travels.)

Nope, this spring break I'm going to relax and enjoy Missouri spring weather. I'm going to clean out my closets, mop my floors, wash my windows, grade papers, visit my dad, have dinner with friends, enjoy my coffee, play with my animals, listen to a band, watch a movie, do laundry, go for a run, sweep the garage, clean out my classroom, attend a wedding reception, write a letter, prepare for 4th quarter, take my granny shopping, write a blog or two, update my I-pod, visit my grandparents, go dancing, read a book, road trip to St. Louis, sleep late, and bask in some sunlight like a turtle on the North Fork. I hope I can get it all in.

I'll check back in next Sunday.

useless blog (now not so useless and titled "the face of an American teenager...")

I'm blogging because I need to write, but I have nothing to write about...or maybe, just nothing I want to say at the moment. I feel like my students who look at me with blank stares and glazed eyes.

I've perused through several other blogs already this afternoon, some to get ideas, some because they are my friends and I want to know about their lives.

Mark in London wrote about his near death, but hilarious, experience in The Ox and the Lamb Pub a few nights ago. Cool Cat Teacher quoted another blog about an ICT conference for kids, where kids teach the teachers what they have been doing in their classrooms with technology, and what lessons were important for them. Kids will be the keynote speakers and participants throughout the conference. Of course, this is in theory mode right now, but I think it's a novel idea.

Probably the most disturbing blog to me this morning was when I linked from Janet Morrison's Community Dialogue to Larry James' Urban Daily to read about Monica. This heart-wrenching story about an illegal immigrant teenager who, with no prior records, spent the weekend at an immigration center and then in jail because she did not have proper identification on her. About to graduate from high school, Monica is an honor student with good grades and no discipline record...and although her country (she's been here over a decade) will deny her any rights, her school teachers don't. To them, she's a typical American teenager about to graduate high school. She doesn't look out of place because she buys her clothes at the mall, or finds trendy bargains at local thrift markets. She uses local cell phone service and pays for things she needs from local stores. She carries her school work in a back pack or a fashionable bag. She has conversations about music and movies. She listens to an Mp3 and has a MySpace. She studies. She listens in class. She gets her homework done on time. She's thinking about her dreams of a family, her college applications, and her aspirations about a career. Inside, there's excitement about the new chapter in her life that's about to begin, and a little nauseous anxiety, even though, like most 18 year-old's, she would never admit it.

Now, her new chapter is scarred for a decision her parents made when she was five to bring her to a new country so she could get a better education, a better job, and a better life. She was offered a place to live, a loving family and neighborhood, and an education. She offers the 21st century American society money, work ethic, intelligence, and a voice to vote.

I don't know Monica personally, but I know her. She's a daughter and a best friend. She might be a sister and an aunt. She might even be a teacher's pet. The point is, she's someone. She's not an illegal immigrant. Monica is the face of an American teenager.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

the dark side of the moon...the senior project experience

Hanna showed me her novel today. In the month of November she wrote nearly 40,000 words and has consistently worked on it since. This morning we printed 89 pages of it to bind for her Senior Project. We changed margins, numbered pages, and titled the book in the header, which is The Dark Side of the Mirror; however, as you can tell from my title, I CONSISTENTLY wrote Pink Floyd's album title "The Dark Side of The Moon." It became a joke we couldn't seem to get over, and a waste of my time that I couldn't seem to cure. Hanna's face beamed when she shared the plot and bound a special copy just for me to read.

Last night, Ryan showed me the engine he's restored for his 1966 Ford Galaxie bought last summer for $1100. "We finally got it painted Ford Blue, just like the original...and the best finally starts!" The car is sweet (and has a sweet name in my opinion, especially in the days of the Explorer, The Pathfinder, the Highlander...who wouldn't want a car named the Galaxie during America's Space Race?) Ryan has gutted it and plans to restore the interior to its original. Right now, everything is missing. The the seats, the dash accessories, the door handles, the paint, the hood...but the Ford Blue engine stands out like a knight in shining armor. And who knew bands like Blind Melon and Reverend Horton Heat wrote tributes to their own Ford Galaxie getaway cars?

In the basement of Daniel's house, his homemade electric guitar blew my mind. It's not finished, but he's routed (not sure if that's the right woodworking terminology) and sanded and perfected the body. And now it's time to set the coil pick-ups, lay out the scratch guard, wire the interior, glue on the neck...and so many, many other terms I can't even remember now and don't even know about musical instruments. He showed me his current electric guitar, which was "made for Rock 'n Roll," an old Fender Strat "made for bluesy type stuff," and an acoustic, "made for anything." Daniel's guitar isn't quite finished, but the final product is in the works and looks great.

And who knew Mountain View had so many Hip Hop Dancers? Six-year-olds with attitude strutting their stuff at Reach Dance and Fine Arts Studio with Leah, owner and instructor, leading the way. A few minutes later, a change of music for Crystal and Jamie's solos, then onto Middle Eastern Belly Dancing, which they invited me to join..."not with this belly," I replied, and giggles were served around the room. From the office space to the 'parent's lounge', to the guitar lesson/coffee room, Leah's Senior Project has gone above and beyond the expectations of many.

But Leah isn't the only one. It seems the senior class of 2007 has set high expectations for themselves, and this week, while I've traveled over 70 miles around Willow Springs, I've witnessed their hard work and proud moments. I can't wait to see the final products on the big day in April.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

happy birthday tyler!

Here's to birthday cake at Skateport, inchworm cycles at Grandma's, and Happy Meals in Mr. Crocodile's Booth at McDonald's on Battlefield.


Have a great day.

It snowed here--in honor of your birthday I'm sure. When I started my run at 7:00 a.m. it was 43 degrees. Within minutes it was near white out conditions and by the time I had finished a mile it was down to 29 degrees. Snowflakes stuck to my cheeks and eyelashes and I felt like Rocky working out with the frigid air and dark skies, but the Rocky theme just wasn't working for me. I was singing Julie Andrews "These Are A Few of My Favorite Things," even over my ipod tunes.

Two hours later....deceiving sun.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

it's twister season...

Jagged clouds, a still humidity, a drenching rain, low pressure, cooling air. All the ingredients for a tornadic event. And an event we did have today in the Midwest. When my students got to school, the early morning tornadoes were all the talk. And when we learned by late afternoon teachers and students were killed in a high school in Alabama, my students realized the danger of a storm and value of the new storm shelter the school is building.

There was no doubt tornadoes touched down. As we read online news articles spotlighting Caulfield and West Plains, we began to see some trends through the news writing. It seems now we have to be politically correct, even when dealing with the weather. On MSNBC, the staff writers consistently used the term "apparent" tornadoes. Is this like an "alleged" crime? I understand there's a difference between high winds, thunderstorms, microbursts, and tornadoes, but please, are we just looking for words to use to clutter our articles and make them sound as if we know what we are talking about? Or has the staff writer simply never seen the results of a tornado?

I have my own experiences with tornadoes. When I was 13, the back screen door of our house was ripped off its hinges at 9:00 p.m. when dad was stepping out to his patrol car. He turned and yelled for us--me, my friend Kathy, and my granny--to get to the bathroom. Petrified, we did as we were told and rode out the storm that did minor damage to our place, but tore off the roof of our neighbors. When I was 16, Tina and I watched a tornado crawl across the sky in front of her house one afternoon when school was released. And in college in Nebraska, I spent an entire night in the basement of the student union when tornadoes plagued the prairies.

I can't remember a spring of my life that I haven't used the word tornado, but I have never used the words "apparent" and "tornado" together. I just find that amusing.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

get married in vegas...end of story!!

Okay. Yes. I'm changing my tune...somewhat. I'm still getting married at the court house, but when the horse and carriage came around the corner, behind the gazebo and in front of the audience at Caron's wedding, everyone was stunned, making a Vegas wedding purely worth it. I even knew it was happening and was still stunned. (Well done keeping the secret don't you think?) So when she stepped out of the carriage and Kory walked down the aisle to assist his o wow...a unity sweet sigh escaped the lips of all the guests. (Oh dang it! I vowed not to use the word "UNITY" through this whole thing...all I can hear is Dave Chapelle squealing "Unity" in what became the unity slogan of the weekend. :)

From the cake (which I completely forgot about once I dove into the delectable chocolate dripping from the three tiered fountain) to the flowers to the pictures to the buffet to the DJ, The Secret Garden staff at the Las Vegas Racquet Club are experts at weddings.

Eat, drink, and be merry...and we'll take care of little details seems to be the philosophy of the employees. When Caron and I arrived at the Bridal Lounge to change and prepare for the ceremony, our dresses were hung out, the champagne was chilled, and hors d'oeuvres graced the table.

Without a rehearsal, the wedding went smoothly (but seriously, who doesn't know how a wedding should go anyway?) Kevin and I were perfect. All the family was perfect. Pablo Neruda was perfect (not a single tear for those of you who knew my dilemma). Grandma and Shaun said perfect prayers. I think it was all simply perfect. Are there any other words? The only thing missing was a Spanish singing guitar player (which I bet we could have found on the cheap in Vegas!)

As for those CD's I wrote about earlier...they went like hot cakes at a benefit breakfast on a Saturday morning (say that with a twang and follow up with banjo pickin'.)

Bravo Caron and Kory! xoxoxo

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

diet coke and red hots

Erin dated Bobby through our four years of college together. Spring semester of our junior year and thick into field observations and lesson planning, Valentine's Day peeked around the corner. Being youthful (and typical) college girls, we began to speculate days in advance what Erin would get for Valentine's Day.

We set our hopes and expectations high. Forget CD's, or movies, or even the glass bowl and goldfish I once received...we were checking out diamonds and sneaking in conversations about proposal options. In our minds, it was perfect timing. After nearly three years, and college graduation just around the corner, wouldn't a proposal be in order? Of course it would: Yes, Erin...I agree! I'm sure you'll get a ring for Valentine's Day.

Chatting through the entire day and practicing shocked surprise looks in the bathroom mirror, we waited for Bobby to arrive to take Erin on the generic Valentine's date: dinner and a movie.

In her classic Jon Bon Jovi girlfriend look, Erin dolled up and headed out with anticipation of what the night might bring.

At 1:30 a.m., their car returned. Sans Bobby, Erin storms through the front door throwing down her Valentine's gift and exclaiming..."Red hots and Diet Coke?! I got red hots and Diet Coke for Valentine's Day? What am I going to do with that boy?!"

I busted. (And helped myself to both items.) And then tried to console lost dreams and shattered expectations.

But what's a poor college student to do on Valentine's Day but buy his heart's desire her favorite munchie candy and afternoon cola? A thoughtful gift indeed.

I must add the big surprise came two months later during a time when none of us expected it...and it was everything a college girl dreamed it would be...and today...their marriage, going on 13 years, is still everything a college girl dreams it will be.

That's my favorite Valentine's love story because I love both of them and their girls. :)

Hugs and kisses to all on Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 12, 2007

happy birthday granny and jerry...

Oh enlightened ones....hugs and kisses all around for the finest of birthdays. No candles okay.

(Stay tuned...A story about my beloved granny will come soon.)

dirty santa rakes in blog readers

I just have to let everyone know this because it's dang funny.

Maybe you've read my dirty, Dirty, DIRTY Santa blog about my family's Christmas game. Maybe you haven't, but this story is still great, so read on and go ahead and giggle when you feel it coming.

On my bravenet counter, I can see how people access my blog (you can too if you click on it at the bottom of the page.)

Let's say you forgot my address and went to Google and typed in Journey2Learn. It would show up on Bravenet as you accessed my blog through Google Search. Of course I can't see who it is...just what you search for.

So...the biggest hits on my blog from various search engines come from the keywords dirty santa. No lie.

YES!! People actually search for "dirty santa" and, fortunately, my blog is the second hit that comes up...seems there aren't too many "dirty santa" stories out there. What a massive let down for those searchers to read about gift exchanges and hot cocoa over the naughty details about Santa's day off or how Santa Does Seattle.

Seriously though, WHO SEARCHES FOR DIRTY SANTA????!!!!!! Maybe I need to have more "provocative" titles to get more tits...i mean hits. :)

End of story...hope you found it just as amusing as I did. I would tag my sister to comment...and Melanie...and I bet my dad would like to as well...but it seems the blogging world freaks them out when it comes to leaving anonymous comments. :)

Final thought....please, please snow tonight...enough for a snow day.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

get married at the court house...end of story!

Oh the joys of planning a wedding. The last 24 hours my sister and I have been up making 55 CD's on three different computers using seven (a, b, c, d, e, f, and g) playlists from itunes. And when things would go smoothly for a couple of hours, invariably a computer would freeze, a kitty would walk across the keyboard, or the cd-rom would go nuts. What a mess! For the love of life...why are computers so complicated?! And all this for wedding guests at the upcoming nuptials in Vegas. Hardly worth it! (But I have uploaded some great songs through the project.)

Sister's done all the research. She had songs in mind and spent the better part of last night placing them in just the right order. From Dean Martin to Eartha Kitt, from Frank Sinatra to Ella Fitzgerald, from Louis Armstrong to Rosie Thomas, from Hank Williams to the delightful little Norah Jones, we put 28 of some of the greatest 'i-love-my-honey" songs ever recorded. (Insert moment to vomit.) Johnny Walks the Line and then sings along with June to Jackson and 'Cause I Love You (which, for a love song, is one of the best ever in my book....seriously, what man would bring me honey from the beech tree in the meadow? Great lyrics, Johnny!) Tammy Wynette belts out Stand by Your Man (never would I put this on my own CD), and Nancy Wilson reminds us that You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To (and I don't think she was talking about her house pets.) Hank fiddles out Baby, We're Really in! Hank Williams with a real love song! And, of course, Ms. Etta James closes the CD with At Last...and I'm sure Caron and Kory's life will definitely "be like a song." But I'm thinking it might be more like Loretta Lynn's Fist City.... :)

So...after hours behind the computer (I did manage to sneak off for a workout at the Y), and listening to phone conversations with the new mother-in-law, I'm 100% sure I will never plan a wedding again. (And hopefully not because I won't ever find that perfect companion, but because we will find ourselves in Vegas, or at the beach, or in Europe and just say, What the heck, let's get married....and in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout, we'll head to Jackson. Undoubtedly, this will make my family nuts, but it will keep my own insanity in check.

Disclosure: I'm all for my future mate planning, organizing, and paying for his dream wedding...I"ll just invite friends and show up for the nuptials if that's the way he wants it. :)

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

5 jag dollars and a gingerbread house

I had to be gone from work today. But don't think I didn't work. A teacher is never off the clock, although my sister did try to convince me of that today while we were enjoying a relaxing afternoon at Mojo Pie (where Kristen is the creme-de-la-creme of hair stylists.)

So away from work, all I could think about was work. What are the kids doing now? Are they working? Did I leave enough for the sub? Who's getting out of class and wandering the halls? Are they telling lies? Telling secrets? Are they putting frogs in my desks and snakes in my cabinets? My mind goes in a thousand directions.

There's one class I'm particularly worried about...and that's my film literacy class. Simply put, they are a bunch of goofballs. They love movies, politics, religion, music, and food. More importantly, they love talking about movies, politics, religion, music, and food. The last class period I was there they talked about Viva Tortilla, a new Mexican place, (..."with sonic-like qualities" Joe adds), waking up early, snow days, Hillary Clinton, tattoos, and fortunately, the film Rocky (which we just happened to be viewing for a theme study on the value of taking a chance.)

And then an odd thing happens. Throughout all of this conversation, Billy pulls a box from his duffel bag. With its child-like bubble letters and brightly colored exterior, I thought it was the game Candyland, like i used to play at the babysitters house. But no, it was a gingerbread house cake kit, complete with gum drops, peppermints, candy buttons, gingerbread cake walls, floor, and roof, and a rather large 'bag o' frosting.'

Colin, eyeing the gum drops, opens the bag and offers them around the room. Soon, the entire class has their own slice of the something from the gingerbread house kit, and finally, curiosity getting the best of me, I ask Billy, "Where did you get this?"

"I bought it," he responds matter-of-factly, "for five JAG dollars."

The class erupts.

JAG (Jobs for America's Graduates) is a national non-profit program within our school to offer alternative education. Our JAG instructor does all sorts of neat things with her students, and offering them opportunities throughout the semester to earn "JAG dollars" and spend them in the JAG store is one of them.

I had no idea one could buy a Gingerbread House Kit in the JAG store. In fact, I'm not sure I even know where to buy a Gingerbread House Kit in any store. But Billy, saving his JAG money, decided this would be the best investment for him on Tuesday, and I think my Film Literacy class certainly agreed.

Who knows what they brought today. I just hope the sub could handle it.