Saturday, December 22, 2012


     Well, today is the 22nd. of December so I guess the world is not going to end. It probably will sometime but according to the scientists who decipher the Mayan calendar, there was a big mistake made in the calculations and the REAL end of the world is going to happen on September 3rd. 2015. So at least we have almost another three years left. I really didn't put too much thought into the event that was supposed to happen on the 21st, whatever IT was supposed to be, but you couldn't help hear the little voice in the back of your head asking the little question, "What if...?" I got a prescription filled, had enough food in the house for about a week, (worried that a lot of it was frozen; certainly the electricity would be the first to go) and checked the supply of toilet paper and toothpaste. I bought an additional two packages of toilet paper. It made me feel better. We went to sleep on the 20th with the thought that it would be nice if it all happened over night. Everybody wants to die in their sleep, if they have to go, don't they?
     So today I am left sitting at my computer, drinking my flavored coffee and eating biscotti. Yum. I think if the world ended, or at least went into some catastrophic whirlwind, and I was able to survive, I would miss those three things the most, assuming my family and cat survived right along with me. I know. I can hear the scoffs and grumbling from my family. "Really, mom? You'd miss the computer? We find that hard to believe."
     I have always had a love-hate relationship with technology. When my husband, Doug, insisted we take our tax returns one year and buy a computer, circa 1984, I replied, and I know the exact words because they come back to haunt me, "Sure, hon, if you want, but I don't think I'll ever use the thing." And, if you want to know the truth, for many years I didn't use it. Oh, there was one game I used to play, to wile away the hours, called Oilcaps. Even though I liked the game it frustrated the heck out of me and several times my husband was thankful he had not installed a wireless mouse because the wire on the end of the mouse was the only thing that kept it from violently going to another part of the room or out the window.
     But Doug got a ton of use from it. He did our taxes every year and slowly put our finances on the system. We were probably the first in our circle of friends to pay bills on line. And slowly he got to know the workings and language of the programs and the hardware specifications of all of its parts. With all of his reading and experimenting on the subject of computers, I'm sure it was instrumental in getting him his computer tech job in the early 90's.
     It was an oddity to my family and friends (mostly my family) when in 2002 I announced I was going back to school, to finish up my BA, on line through the University of Maryland University College. Here it comes again, "Really? You're going to take classes with the computer on line? Really?" Yes I really was. I was an intelligent person. "I can do this; sure I can. Why not? And if I have any trouble I always have your dad to help out."
     So I enrolled, took the tutorial and slowly learned out to use the discussion boards, how to attach papers, how to do e-mail, etc... Ta-da! in 2005 I graduated with my BA. So There! I did it. (yes, o.k. I must mention the frantic phone calls and the crying jags, my most asked question "Why isn't it doing what I told it to do?" and my most frequent statement, "Well, that's just stupid.") But TA-DA anyway.
     Now, since I have been teaching for 6 years, the computer has become indispensable to me. I track my grades and post them. I check my e-mails (yes plural), I create papers to Xerox and I search for new and different lesson plans. I have my students write papers, always on the computer, and do PowerPoint projects. I would have a difficult time teaching now if I did not have a computer. I love what it can do for me and I still hate the fact that I am so dependent on it. I would really miss not being able to contact someone or look up a new recipe, see what people are doing on Pinterest.
     And the other two things, coffee and biscotti. Missing those are self explanatory, don't you think? 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Just Crazy

     I have tried to post several blogs since the Nov. 20 one. Things have gotten in the way and they are sitting in my drafts. It's been just crazy around my classroom. It's because it's this time of year. Of the two semesters this one is shorter because the one in Spring has two weeks devoted to testing. So I always feel rushed in the fall. Then last week as I was beginning to post grades, electricians working on portables across the way from me, cut my Internet wire. Just mine. I without Internet for a whole week before I made a big fuss and they came up with a temporary solution. since I do most of my blogging before school, at school, I was physically down which took me mentally down also. Now I have wireless, which is slow, but at least it works and I will be able to post my final grades this week.
     Now you know where I have been. I can't promise I will be here much for the rest of the month. Once I get out of school for a holiday break, I have a tendency to forget about computers. But I have been writing in my head. Most people don't know that counts but it does. Getting it all down on paper is the middle step, not the beginning. the more I write in my head the more excited I am to be able to get it down and get working on publishing it all. Such a good story. I'd buy it if I read about it. I hope lots of other people will feel the same way.
     In the mean time, I need to do the lights, bake, get the tree and wrap presents. so I will keep this short today. Too much to do, so little time!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Christmas Trees

     Yesterday on my way to work I noticed a change in the corner lot where Hoppers set up their tree lot every year. The ground had been leveled and there was a white cargo trailer sitting on the back of the lot. Could it be? Are they coming already? And then I realized that this is the week of Thanksgiving and they always come before the holiday for those people who get their tree the day after Thanksgiving.
     This morning as I drove by there were two, and maybe more that I didn't see, workmen out in the back portion of the lot setting up the big tent where they have their cash register and a small store for tree stands, etc... They also display a small amount of flocked trees (beautiful but messy) and serve free hot popcorn and cold cider. They are nice people; a family from Oregon. They spend their Thanksgiving on the road so that we can have Christmas trees to buy. It's a sacrifice that goes above and beyond.
     Every year we go, around the middle of December and pick out our tree. They always have a good supply. I like Douglas Fir but have bought some other types of Firs over the years. I sometimes even splurge for a Noble Fir because I do like the stiff branches. They are usually a little more pricey than the rest of the selection but my ornaments look so nice on them. 
     I just can't believe they are here. There is a certain amount of comfort in their presence. I caught myself smiling all the way to work.

Friday, November 16, 2012


     Today is  Friday. I am so glad today is Friday. The weeks seem to be going quickly but not quick enough. The weekend are going too quickly. I have way too much to get it done in two days. I am working on several projects right now. One is a quilted bedspread for my neighbor. She has wanted one for awhile now and I finally found some fabric that speaks her name. So I am cutting squares now and am anxious to get it into blocks and get it together for her. She is so sweet. The doctors have told her that she has stage 4 COPD, so, not to be morbid, I feel I must rush and get it done as soon as possible so that she can enjoy it as long as possible.
    I am working on a back for another large quilt and 2 backs for baby quilts. Then I thought I would do a small fused project for a friend for Christmas. But that is proving to be harder than I thought it was going to be. But I will persevere because it will be really pretty if I can get it to look right. And I would like to get this all done this weekend. Saturday I pretty much have to myself and I am hoping on Sunday to go and sew with my Friendship Group. One of the members is very good at art quilts so I may ask her advice on the fusing project. It is so good to have the talent of others to fall back on.
     Wish me luck!

Thursday, November 15, 2012


     O.K. Here it is. I am getting rather ticked off by the way people drive. Is it just me or has anyone else out there noticed that people are not using their turn indicators? I don't understand this. When I was taught to drive, while in high school, I was told two very important things: #1 the car was not going to do anything you did not tell it to do and #2 if you plan on moving the car from its present position you MUST use your turn indicator to let people know what you are doing! Other drivers cannot read your mind so it is common courtesy to use your blinkers. Done. Period.
     In the past couple of days I have had people change lanes, almost into the side of my car, without signaling, make left turns in front of me without signaling and make me wait at a stop sign to cross a street while they merrily come down the road and at the last minute I realize they are talking a right hand turn which means I have wasted 2-3 minutes out of my life I will never get back. This is just inconsiderate and also downright dangerous.
     In talking to some others about this topic I have also heard that the librarian in our school has been told that she shouldn't quiet the students that come in for tutoring, as the noise they make is a "productive noise." I hardly think that screaming and making so much noise that she goes home with a headache almost every single day, is not productive. It is just inconsiderate and rude. It's a library for heaven's sake! When did the rules for being quiet in a library change?
     While I'm ranting here I should also mention that most of the students on my campus have no manners. They don't excuse themselves when they walk into you, no less when they cross your line of vision or conversation. They throw their food containers on the ground, not in the trash can which are conveniently located around the lunch area, when they are finished eating and opening doors for anyone other than themselves is a pipe dream. Oh, they also spit on campus, anywhere they like: sidewalk, playing field, ramps to class rooms etc... I suppose I should be grateful they don't spit indoors...yet. Our sidewalks on campus are littered with old dried up wads of gum that can only be removed with a special concrete buffing machine; too expensive to rent.
     Where is the civility we are supposed to extend to other human beings? Are we so caught up in technology that the human factor, along with the manners of polite society, is being lost? These children we teach are the voice of tomorrow and we are letting an entire new generation grow up without the manners to conduct themselves properly in society at large. It is too large of an issue to just be a random act of poor up bringing. We are not, at least some of us, setting good examples.
     Use your turn indicators. Throw your trash in a waste can. Say "excuse me" when needed. Come on, people. Step up and do the right thing so that our children can live in the polite society we all grew up in. Don't make all our parent's efforts be in vain.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thrift Stores

     This past Saturday I went to Thousand Oaks to meet my sister and participate in our 2nd Annual Thrift Store Tour. We hit upon this idea last year about this time in looking for something, not to strenuous, to fill a day when we could visit and talk and eat and just spend the day together. She mapped out the thrift stores she could find in Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, Moorpark and Westlake. I loaded the addresses into my Garmin and off we went. Last year was such a success that we decided to repeat the day this year. She had kept and updated the grid of stores with notations about hours, etc... We found some nice little places to eat (where the locals go) and some deals in our shopping.
     I love this activity (really any shopping, buying or just window shopping or better yet going shopping with someone and helping them spend all their money!) But it always leaves me to wonder on the long drive home at the variety and items in all these thrift stores. You have to remember that most of the items in a thrift store were purchased new by someone at a previous time. Much falls under the category of "What were they thinking?" And I firmly believe that many of the items were bought as gifts for another person whose tastes and preferences were not known. Some of the items are so old that they are certainly from an estate where the last of the older generation died and possessions were cleared out. Maybe a yard sale was had, maybe not. Whatever the reason, the balance of the kitchen, bathrooms, bedrooms, utility rooms and storage sheds were given away in hopes they would fill a need for another person. And probably, in many cases, the items do find new homes and serve another life purpose.
     As we search through the goodies we come upon, I have to wonder about the amount of "things" we fill our lives with. What will happen to all my beloved "things" when I pass on?
     Several years ago I was invited by my cousin to come up to the Bay Area and go through my Aunt's house after she passed. She was fairly well off and had some lovely items in her house. I was able to collect all her silk clothing for a quilt I plan to make some day. And I took some other items that struck my fancy at the time. A wooden pencil box with an attached green ribbon, a Japanese parasol, her old sewing machine (which I have since donated to a young person who needed a sewing machine). There was a household full of items, "things" to look at and decide if I wanted them. But after a time, it all became just "stuff." She was not my mother so I didn't hold a lot of sentiment for any of her things. but I spent the day looking and visiting with my cousins, which was a nice way to occupy a day.
     During the summers I like to go to Estate Sales when I can find them in the neighborhoods. Estate sales are better than yard sales because at yard sales you only get the choice of what the seller want you to buy but at Estate sales, everything is up for grabs if you get there early enough. I found one in a small town next to us two summers ago. I had not gotten there as early as I had wanted to but I was early enough to get a look at what was left, which was still quite a bit. I happened into a back bedroom. At first glance I noticed it was filled with dolls. The previous owner of the house obviously had had a doll collection. Since I am not "into" dolls I almost passed that room up but I caught sight of a decorated lidded box sitting on a love seat. I had to see what it held. Inside were pictures. Wedding pictures, baby pictures, family pictures from generations of this family. You could tel by their looks they were all related. I stood there awhile, flipping through them and admiring the poses and dresses of the older photos. And as I went though the photos, I wondered why they were there. Where was the family in the pictures? Didn't they want these for themselves? Why were they for sale? How could a family sell its memories like this? I found it all to be very sad. I softly closed the box and left it sitting on the couch.
     Did the doll collector think about what would happen to her things after she passed? I think she did, but either didn't have a say or was so sick it  may not have mattered at that point.
     With all this in mind, I began, 2 years ago to go through my "stuff" and have yard sales or give it to the Goodwill. Oh, don't get me wrong. I still have plenty of "stuff" that will have to be dealt with when I die, but I hope what is left at the end will be well received and not become a burden to my family. And, unlike that box of photos, my things will mean something to my family and be passed on.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


     Wow, I haven't blogged in a whole week. Time just flies, especially around grade posting time! I refuse to take it home to post so I am stuck spending every spare minute doing grades. But it is my choice so...
     Well, the elections have come and gone. In a way I am thankful that we don't have to listen to or watch the political ads any longer. Every commercial, really? It was reported that between the Presidential and Congressional campaigns, 6.5 billion dollars were spent in advertising. Couldn't and shouldn't that money be better spent? I can think of a ton of things to spend that much money on. And the sad part is that we really don't have anything to show for it. Our current president was reelected. Other than the title and 4 more years of work, what does he have to show for all the money he spent? Why would someone spend 2+ billion dollars to get a job that pays so little a year. I'd have to look up exactly what he makes but it isn't any where NEAR  even 1/2 billion dollars a year. Seems like such a waste.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


     Today is Halloween. For the second year in a row I have decided to dress in a costume for the day. Most of the teachers on campus don't dress but I have seen some nice outfits on the ones that did.
     There was a witch of course, actually a couple of them. One of the English teachers wore his kilt. One teachers wears a grim reaper every year. It is seriously creepy. One of the science teachers wore a doctor's outfit.
     Last year I donned a 50's outfit complete with poodle skirt in red with a black poodle, a little black sweater, red scarf, saddle shoes with white socks and even a class ring worn around my neck. It was very fetching but the black net crinoline was difficult to sit in all day. This year I decided to dress as a house painter. I found, after two attempts, a company that sold white overalls on the web. I found a little white cap, and dug out my old white sneakers. I already had a white t-shirt that had paint on it from a summer project so that was all ready. I took acrylic paints and splashed different colors on the overalls and hat and shoes. But it's all in the details. I stuck a big paint brush in my side leg pocket, a pair of rubber gloves in my bib pocket, a purple bandanna in my back pocket and hung a roll of painters' tape (the old blue brand) where the straps connect to the bib. Pretty cute, I think. and the best part about this costume is that it is comfy to wear all day!
     This is the first year I have not visited the pumpkin patch at Avila. I was planning on going but it was so hot last weekend that I just was not looking forward to the heat and crowds. The weekend before Halloween is the worst time to go and I had had other things to do the previous weekends. So last Friday night on the way home I stopped at Von's to get a couple of things. They had beautiful, large pumpkins for $6.99 a piece. So I bought 3. I also bought a white pumpkin for $7 (I think I'm going to do something different for my mantel this year), 3 small speckled ones for $1.49 each (not the tiny ones about the size of an apple but ones 7-8" across) with nice curly stems. And I picked up a couple of pounds of apples, all different kinds, also for my fall mantel; I have a wooden compote that Doug's grandfather made that I think they will look very fallish in. And I got all of this for under $35. I usually don't get out of Avila for under twice that amount. and I didn't have to battle the crowds or the heat.
     My pumpkin will be cut today after school and will be ready for trick-or-treaters tonight. And this weekend I will take down the Halloween mantel decorations and put out the Thanksgiving ones. And they will look just fine, even though I broke the long standing tradition of pumpkin patching and saved myself a bunch of money in the process.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Rally Schedule

     Today we are on a Rally Schedule at our school. It is Home Coming tonight and the student population gets the opportunity, during this rally to see the candidates, after all their campaigning, and decide who will be the Home Coming King and Queen. In all things we, as educators, try to bring our students into the current times, stressing technology at every turn. But this is an old fashioned comfort I am glad they have not done away with. It harkens back to the high school days of long ago for me. Yes, my high school days were very long ago, almost 40 years to be exact, for I was a graduate of the class of 1973. Wow, does that make me sound old! Anywhooooo... I think it is nice that some traditions still exist. And sad that some have gone by the wayside.
     In our school, for reasons not quite clear to me, school spirit figures into very few occasions. Not many kids come out for the games (of any sport), yearbook sales are so low they are always in danger of being discontinued all together. School dances get cancelled due to low ticket sales. One can blame the  economy but I don't think attendance at these functions would be high even if the students got in free. Which is really a shame.
     So, today, on rally day, all the students will go and participate. See the funny sketches put on by each of the four classes. (Seniors usually win.) Get a look at the candidates for King and Queen, do some cheers with the cheerleaders, listen to the band do the "Boomba! Hey!" one of the few traditions dating back to the 50's. One class yells Boomba! A different class yells Hey! And so it goes as they try to out-yell each other. It will be a fun time mixed into the middle of our day. But I really think the kids would rather just go home early. Such a shame. Where did school spirit go?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

6 Word Stories

     It all began: Ernest Hemingway was challenged to write an entire story in 6 words. What he wrote: "For Sale: baby shoes. never worn."
     I teach 6 word stories as part of my "outside-the-box" unit, after poetry and Ttranscendentalism, to my American Literature classes who are juniors. We discuss the ideas and images that Hemingway creates with those simple 6 words. And then I have them create a 6 word story of their own. I give them 15-20 minutes to do this and most of my students not only write one but several 6 words stories. In these stories I get a very realistic view into their life. These 6 words give me more information than the introduction essay I have them write at the beginning of every semester.
     Some of the stories from years past:
          Everything would be better without me.
          Holly, sit, sit, good job mamas!
          Wishing, running, flying. No more restrictions.
          Like stealing, I get it free.
          Marco Polo, where are you now?
          I will continue school at college.
          God called me so I went.
          Music. It changed me, It's life.
          More school, more knowledge, more pay.
          Hot sauce, like salsa, makes dance.
          Happy family. Next thing, it's broken.
          I did it! Proud of me!
          I need to go to sleep.
          Heroes like family: there for me.
          First blur, then view, finally lust.
          We were going to grow together.
          My greatest burden is my gift.
     These and many more are put up on a wall in my class room. I add their initials to them as a tribute, and am careful not to put them up until the students have graduated, because I encourage them to write from the heart, and they do, but they may not want the people in their class to know who said what.
     I have a whole new batch waiting to be put up next year from last year's students and another batch from this year that I will wait for two years to post. But all my students are fascinated by these stories, these glimpses into their peer's lives.
     6 Word Stories. 6 words. So simple, yet so powerful.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


     I am currently reading a book called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. It is a book about how she decided to extend her resolutions throughout the entire year, splitting them into monthly concentrations. For instance: January was Boost Energy where she decided to go to bed earlier, exercise better, toss, restore and organize among a couple of other things. February's part of the project was Remember Love where she tried to nag less, fight right and give small gifts of love. And so, on she goes through the year focusing on a new topic each month. Some of the chapters are informative but laborious to read. A lot of what she says comes from her extensive research into the particular topics. And there have been a few moments when I have really connected to what she says. but not for the most part.
     She started to write this, as she explains, to see if she could improve the amount of "happiness" in her life. I mostly consider my life a happy life. I firmly believe that no one has a perfect life but those things that are not perfect within our lives make us who we are. We need those imperfections and the resulting difficulties. So, as I have been reading along, it seems to me that this woman is not really making herself happier. She is changing herself and consequently her life and the lives of her husband and children. But we are now through the middle of the year and she is still trying to fight against the tide that is her life. Just because she won a battle in May doesn't mean the whole war is won, if you know what I mean.
     So, now, we come to August. The author speaks of contemplating the heavens. August is the month where she will delve into religion or religious thoughts to see if they make her more happy. Along with all the reading she has planned for the month, she has also decided to keep a gratitude journal. Hmmmm. Finally something here I can relate to.
     Last year, before I knew I had cancer I was struggling with the fact that I had gone through gastric surgery to "cure" my diabetes and in almost a year's time it had not gotten better but had gotten worse. I had already had one laser surgery to control diabetic retinapothy, and I was afraid I would continue to lose my eyesight. While I had lost 70+ pounds from the surgery, and started walking a mile and a quarter each school day, my blood sugars had become increasingly higher throughout the year. I was mad. No, not just mad; furious! At everything and everyone. I was giving up beloved food and drink and not getting rewarded in return. To make matters worse I have always turned to food in moments of crisis (o.k. so in most other moments, too) and because of my gastric surgery I couldn't do that. Also because of the surgery, I couldn't go back to using some of the diabetic medicines I had used (without good results) in the past. My avenues to solve this issue were becoming increasingly narrow.
     I decided I need to talk to a therapist about all this. I needed some closure but there was no way to put this issue to rest. No one to blame, since they could find nothing wrong with the surgery and no one knew why my diabetes was out of control.
     While I went for 8 weeks to see this therapist, and she offered several options to assuage my anger, the one thing she had me do was create a gratitude list. I thought that would be short and easy. She encouraged me to write it on paper but I quickly discovered that that wasn't going to work. One night as I lay awake in the middle of the night I started my gratitude list in my head. I went on for over a half hour before I fell asleep. Simple sentences like: I am grateful that I have a loving and supportive family. I am grateful that I live on the Central Coast. I am grateful that I have a job I love. You get the idea.
     You achieve a different mindset when you examine a gratitude list. I found the path to letting my anger go. I had too many other positive things to focus on in life. Gretchen had to write a book to figure out how to make herself realize happiness. She even gives you a template to follow if you wish to walk in her steps. I'm thinking that when, and if, I need to feel happier, I will just start my gratitude list in my head.
     Oh, by the way...once I was diagnosed with cancer and had the tumor removed my diabetes has all but disappeared. Seems that cancer tumors eat insulin and that was causing my blood sugars to rise all that year. Who knew?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Paper or Plastic?

     Beginning October 1st. San Luis Obispo County instituted a ban on all plastic bags from retail establishments. One can get paper bags to carry your items, but they cost ten cents a piece. I don't do a ton of small scale shopping much anymore, not like when my children were little and I went to the store every week for groceries. I mostly buy from Costco, who only occasionally had bags of any kind; mostly boxes to lug your purchases home. I know, it is just my husband and I and the cat now. One would think it would have been better to frequent Costco when we had kids, which we did but Costco wasn't around when they were little. So, back to bags... I knew this ban was coming. Many counties in other parts of the state had already begun the process. I went to a quilt store in San Jose this past summer and didn't get a bag. and was informed that if I wanted one it would be .25, which seemed kind of high to me. Anyway, like I said, I knew this was coming and I really did not plan for it at all.
     Last week was the first time I went to Walmart in over a month. I had a long shopping list. I have to have a list compiled when I go because otherwise I just don't go and fight the crowd. As I walked into Walmart I noticed that people were coming out with shopping carts full of items not in bags. I looked around and noticed most of the other people walking into Walmart had some kind of reusable shopping bag with them. Great. Now what? Oh, well, I thought, if I have to buy a bag I will. It is amazing how quickly my shopping list got cut down! I left the store with half the items on my list deeming them not necessary after all. And what I did buy I managed to fit into my purse and a container I bought. I felt pretty clever and vowed to put bags in my car when I got home. It's not that I don't have bags; they just weren't necessary until now.
     That was Tuesday afternoon. You think that would have been a lesson learned. No. Wednesday I went to the grocery store. Same scenario, deja vu all over again. But I couldn't cut down this list; I needed certain things. I ended up going through the self checkout and when the machine voice asked me how many paper bags I needed, I honestly punched the number 1. I only used one bag but I am wondering what would have happened had I punched zero and then taken one? Would the Von's bag police come swooping down on me? Was anyone really watching? I doubt it. So it leads me to ask the question: How serious was this ban?
     Thursday I stopped at CVS on my way home. Dang! No bags in the car, again! This is really starting to irritate me. The funny thing is that 2 years ago, as a New Year's Resolution, I began leaving all kinds of stores with my purchases in my hand or purse, telling them I was cutting down on bag use. Ironic? Probably. It just goes to show how hard it is to change a habit, and how much we take advantage of everyday things. Now we are hording plastic bags! We use them for trash under our sink, so it is not like we are just thowing them away when we empty them. But our supply is going to dwindle quickly. The other day I saw my husband taking the kitchen trash to a larger can in the utility room, emptying it out, and using the bag under the sink for a third time. We are faced with having to re-think our entire trash disposal system. I wonder if the voters who passed this ban realized the impact it would have on their every day life?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


     If I didn't know better, I would think the campus is being taken over by ants! We, on the south side of the campus have been inundated with ants in the past month. They are everywhere, but not in places where you would expect them to be. Just killed 3 on my books. I have a bottle recycling bin in my classroom. The kids put all their energy drink cans and juice and soda and water bottles in it on a daily basis. The ants aren't bothering that. 2 down on my pencil cup. I have Tootsie Roll pops in my desk drawer; they are bothering those. They aren't in the trash cans where the students throw away their food wrappers. They are on the walls, the bookcases and my desk; I have killed 7 on my keyboard since I began this blog 4 minutes ago. I am not alone in this siege. The class rooms up and down the row of portables are also having issues. Maybe something sinister (2 more on my in-basket) was unearthed when they put in the pool a couple of hundred feet away? Hmmmm. Hey! got 4 more: two on the phone and 2 more on my desk by my file folders.
     My weapon of choice for ants has always been Windex. Non-lethal, always on hand, it seems to kill the scent trail they are establishing. Even though it works temporarily, the ants seem to just move to another spot and resume their attacks. This is getting creepy. 3 more dead on the keyboard, 2 on my mouse pad. The school gets bug sprayed periodically so the issue will eventually go away but in the mean time we struggle with the ants and try to win the battles if not the war itself.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Handicapped Parking

     Every day I park in the teacher's parking lot behind a row of portables where my class room is located. I don't have an "A" block, which starts at 7:30, so I am never the first one here, arriving at approx. 7:50. I park my car and walk the 200 feet or so to the gate at the end of the parking lot that is locked so students don't come through our parking lot. It gives a small amount of security for us but the drive way gate is open so it is not completely locked up. Anyway...beside the point; I ramble.
     As I walk to the gate I walk across the Handicapped parking spaces (2 of them) that are nearest the gate. We used to have a teacher that would park there every day. Her name was Trishawna. Trishawna and I were hired into this school district on the same day. I was sent to Righetti High School and she was sent here, to Santa Maria High School. I didn't get to know her well until my second year teaching when I was also moved to Santa Maria High School. She was also an English teacher and her room was close enough to mine that I would see her at breaks in line for the bathroom and we struck up a friendship. We had dinner a couple of times and I visited her when she would be out of school. Trishawna had Sickle Cell Anemia, and was often out for a day or two to get blood transfusions. Last September she passed away in childbirth; leaving her husband of 8 years and a son: Dorian.
     She drove a brown sedan; I can't remember the make or model now but on the back window she had a sticker that read "Got Grace?"
     . Even though we weren't best friends and not long term friends I still miss Trishawna. A nice person, a strong woman; she would have been a loving and wonderful mother. Everyday I walk across that empty parking space and think of her. It's funny how some of the silliest things make such a big impression. A piece of asphalt marked in blue and memories of a friend.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Here Lives a Very Fine Cat, Indeed

     A little plaque, made out of terra cotta clay and engraved by hand, hangs outside my front door. It is about 5" square. On it reads "Here lives a very fine cat indeed". It has a picture of a cat sculpted from the clay and other imbellishments also carved into the clay before firing. I believe it was handmade by someone who took great pride in their cat or at least loved him/her very much. I found it at an estate sale; no cats were around, and paid $2 for it.
     I thought it was a fitting sentiment to put on the outside of my front door to let the world know that yes, we do have a very fine cat, indeed. His name is Jerome. We didn't get Jerome as a kitten. He came to us 5 or 6 years ago relocating himself from the young woman who lived in the condos behind us. He had issues with her and her boyfriend and made it known that he wanted to be the alpha male in her life, which did not sit well with her. She always told us he was "stand-offish." to make a long story short, he eventually came to live with us.
     We could never understand why his old owner thought him so unfriendly. He has liked and paid attention to everybody, save one salesperson we were trying to get an estimate on a sun room from (we didn't use him because of it). And usually one can't get him off their lap or bed or quilt. Arms have gone numb, legs have gotten cramps but he is so loving that no one wants to disturb him. Hardly stand-offish. He's also handy for making sure fabric is laid upon and papers don't fly around. Boxes are to be sat upon so they don't roam and if empty must be slept in at least for a time.
     He does "cat" well. Better than any cat we have had in the past (and we've had more than our share but that's for another blog some day when I have much more time.) He works hard at being the cat in the household. And his naps. At any given time you can find him napping making up for all the time he spends taking care of us and the house. A very fine cat, indeed.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

ACK! Computers

     I tried blogging today and very quickly realized that something was wrong with my screen. I got to my blog but there was no place to sign in. I just signed in and blogged yesterday and now today it wasn't working. I dislike it when things change overnight for seemingly no reason. I didn't do anything different and now my computer at school is not letting me sign on to post. the same computer changed my e-mail screen four days ago. Now, when I log in to read my e-mail I can do anything I want except exit out of the site. I have to do a control-alt-delete and log off and relog on. This makes no sense to me. Part of the problem is that I don't understand how the computer works, but really, this is ridiculous! So now I am trying to blog on a tiny laptop and it is taking forever. I'll try again tomorrow. I think I need a nap.

Monday, October 8, 2012


     Essays are a necessary evil in my job. They are an integral part of any high school English class. I hate assigning them. I spend approximately 6 weeks teaching my 11th grade students how to write and format an essay. You ask why I spend so much time teaching an essay. they have been writing essays since they were in 5th grade. I know this because I subbed in a 5th grade class when I was getting my credential. I had a friend who taught 5th grade. She taught essays and it was standard curriculum for 5th grade.
     So, one would thing that by the time they get to me they should know how to construct a 5 paragraph essay. I begin by teaching them brainstorming. They get that. I follow that by teaching them how to outline. We start by doing one together on the board. I teach them the rules: the roman numerals, if you have a one you must have a two and so on. I have them choose an author from their literature book and have them outline the one page biographies. Then I have them outline a newspaper article. Then we go to the computer lab and type them according to the rules. Once they type their own they practice by typing 3 more, just to get the format in their head. they haven't even been told at this point that they are going to do an essay.
     After the outlines I teach them all about the MLA Works Cited Page. I have a practice exercise that involves finding the correct information they need for thirteen pieces of information they might cite: a song from a CD, a book with two authors, a map from an atlas, an article from a magazine, a letter to the editor, an advertisement, a cartoon or comic strip and six others. There is a handout that gives them exactly what information they need to compile for each item. then we take all this information to the computer lab, again, and learn how to type it up in MLA format. I model it for them, I give them examples of what it should end up looking like and we discuss the rules regarding formatting. I also introduce them to Easybib which is a free website that allows you to put all the information into boxes under the categories and it will format the citation for you. A miracle.
     We go step by step into choosing the topics (a persuasive essay), getting backup, parenthetical citations, formatting the paper on a whole, how a 5 paragraph essay is constructed and what goes into each paragraph. then they write a rough draft. We read them out loud to each other. We do peer editing. then they type it up and have a tutor edit the first final draft. then they put it all together, make corrections, and type up a final paper with citations and Works Cited page. Comes out to be 4 pages, tops. Easy Peasy! Right? One would think so.
     But every year, even though I do get a couple of A papers, and not always from the best students, just the ones who cared enough to try and learn how to do a good job, most of the papers never get a grade above an F. And I think about giving up. Just giving up on these kids because it is part and parcel of their make-up not to care too much. They can't see how important this all is. They will need this stuff when they get to college. Sadly, many of them will remember my class and regret not learning more. But it won't be because I didn't try. I hope they remember that. 

Friday, October 5, 2012


     I am currently holding my last job. I hope. I have been working since I was 15 and if you do the math, ACK, that is over 41 years now! I'm tired. I did take a couple of years off before I started teaching to finish my degree and get my credential. But that maybe was the hardest work of all. Brain work at an age when most people are settled into a daily routine, working at a job, having kids in high school, and would never consider going back to school. I am an over achiever I guess, or maybe just plain dumb to struggle so much so late in life. Hard to say. But I know at the time that I did not want to do what I was doing for the rest of my working career. so I thought I would take this opportunity to see if I could list all the jobs I have had, paying jobs that is, besides being a mom and wife, officer of my quilt guild, etc...
     Here goes: (Note: some of these I had overlapping as in 2 or more part time jobs) 1. Salesclerk: The Broadway Dept. Store, 2. Bookkeeping Clerk: Santa Barbara Savings, 3. Temp Office: Manpower, Inc. 4. Payroll Asst.: Manpower, Inc., 5. Delivery: Brundage Flower Shop, 6. Asst. Manager: House of Fabrics, 7. Delivery: Santa Maria Valley Garden Center & Florist, 8. Designer: Santa Maria Valley Garden Center & Florist, 9. Designer: San Luis Floral, 10. Designer/ Floral Shop Manager: Dairy's Madonna Gardens, 11. Secretary: Waterway Irrigation & Pipe Supply, 12. Salesclerk: TG&Y. 13. Manager/Fabric Dept.: TG&Y, 14. Bookkeeper/Payroll: TG&Y, 15. Designer/Manager: Cramer's Flower Shop, 16. Owner: Diet Center, 17. Salesclerk: Gottschalks Dept. Store, 18. Janitor: Central Coast Janitorial, 19. ATM Servicer: Diebold, 20. Ad Inserter: Five Cities Times Press Recorder, 21. Route Person: Five Cities Times Press Recorder, 22. Morning Weekend Grill Cook: Jack in the Box, 23. Teller: HomeFed Bank, 24. Vault Teller: HomeFed Bank, 25. Operations Supervisor: HomeFed Bank, 26. Salesclerk: Welcome Home Retail Store, 27. Teller: SESLOC Federal Credit Union, 28. Salesclerk: Betty's Fabric Store, 29. Vacation Rental Manager: Dolphin Property Management, 30. Vacation Rental Manager: Sea Wave Property Management, 31. Data Processor/office help: Pismo Coast Management & Realty, 32. Substitute Teacher: Lucia Mar Unified School District, 33. Substitute Teacher: Santa Maria Joint Union High School District, 34. English Teacher: Santa Maria Joint Union High School District.
     THAT was an interesting excercise. I think I got them all. I'm tired. When can I retire?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Fog, dark:30 & Scarecrows

     Woke up this morning to fog at last. That means the days of severe heat are gone! Yea! Please! It's October already! I am not a hot weather person. I would rather have it cold everyday than hot. I love our weather here on the coast. It ranges between 65* and 75* most of the year. Perfect. But the downside of this is that we forfeit the seasons. Without notification in the news or on a calendar we would rarely know when Autumn or Spring start. It always comes as a shock to me when the nursery puts out their selection of bulbs that need to be planted in the fall for the next spring. I have to plant some ranuculus this weekend if I have time.
     And it doesn't matter what time of year it is; I get up at 5:30 most of the year and it is dark. Dark:30. That's what I call it. I don't know where I first heard that expression but it is certainly fitting. I have never liked this. I feel like I am being robbed of sleep. If left to my own devices I usually wake up naturally about 7:30ish. and it doesn't seem to matter what time of the year it is, at 7:30ish it is light outside.
     Looking forward to this weekend. We are going to Cambria to look at Scarecrows. All of the businesses and many of the private citizens make and display scarecrows for the entire month of October. I heard about this several years ago but have never actually gone to see them. It should be a nice drive. Doug and I can stat a new book. We just finished one of Clive Cussler's and I think we are going to start Water for Elephants.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Hot, Hot, Hot!

   We are in the middle of the yearly heat wave! It was 100+ degrees yesterday in Santa Maria, where I work. And 98* in Grover Beach, where I live. I was not prepared for the heat. I wore jeans and a black 3/4 sleeve tee with my saddle shoes. Boy, bad choice. What was I thinking? Well, we got up yesterday and our t.v. cable system was out. They had power outages and wind damage in Nipomo and all over so I suppose we were the victim of weather. So, Doug and I pulled up Sunday Morning off our DVR and listened to that while we ate breakfast. I never thought to check the temps for the day, although we have two computers and a smart phone and an iTouch within reach. It had been 73* on Friday at school and even though they said it was going to get warmer I had no idea it was going to jump 30*. My only redeeming grace is that I am in a portable classroom with air conditioning. Many parts of this school are so old (first graduating class was in 1893; there were 3 seniors!) that they were, of course, built before air conditioning and the district has not taken the time or money to update those buildings. And usually it is o.k. as we pretty much stay in the high 60's or low 70's all year round. Except for a fluke like this week. 100* yesterday and supposed to be 97* today but it doesn't feel like it will get that hot. There is a nice morning breeze happening. and just week we will be wearing our winter coats and scarves! Autumn is supposed to be cold not hot. I want my season change and I want it now!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Late Start Monday

     Every other week at school we have these late start days. they are used to get together as a staff and/or department to discuss, visit, work on projects, etc... The kids come in late on those days; for most of them the day starts at 9:55. You would think that because they come in later that they would be more rested and ready to work. But no. They know they don't have to get up as early so they tend to stay up later than normal (although I continually amazed at just how late teenagers stay up on school nights), and consequently they come in dragging. Most of the time our staff meetings run a little shorter than the prescribed time which is nice as it gives us the opportunities to get things done in our rooms.
     I had a very productive weekend. Doug and I went to Costco and did some major shopping, although I guess any trip to Costco is considered major shopping. Sometimes you see people who just pop into Costco for a bottle of wine or a box of cereal. Here they stand - in lines 6-7 people and baskets deep to get one item. Is it really that much cheaper? People don't value their time! We then took a turn around Home Depot picking up a couple of item we needed. On the way home we got sidetracked by an estate sale. Got some lamps for Doug's shop, a very nice plant hanger that stands independently and hold four plants, and of all thing we got a flamingo ceramic plate for a friend that collects flamingos. Normally I try not to encourage other's collecting but this plate was a large serving plate and very nice. For $2 how could I go wrong?
     I finished Nancy and Jerry's quilt blocks. Now they are nice and neatly piled in rows on my sewing table covered with a piece of fabric because I know Jerome will find them. and I started to put Smitty's quilt (guild President) on my design wall. Looks good. Can't wait to get it finished so I can move on to something else. I really need to work on my neighbor's bedspread. She's been sick the last 2 weeks. Every time she gets ill and lands in the hospital I feel a need to get it done for her. I am so afraid I will not get it done in time. She has been able to get well each time but they have told her it will not get better (she has COPD) and I do want her to enjoy her quilt, the longer the better.
     Bells, bells, bells. Students. Gotta run! The day has finally begun.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Navy

     We have a Navy recruiter in our classes today. The kids are really responding to him. I hope many of them will consider the military. It is a good life for a lot of kids because so many of these kids don't or can't think about a four year college. I always encourage them to think about the military.
     Of course, I grew up in the military. My dad spent 22 years in the Navy. Some of it was difficult but now, looking back on my early life, I have been really glad I had that experience. I have seen parts of the county that many have not ever seen. That comes from traveling back and forth across the United States, by car, getting from one base of duty to another. And because my dad got paid vacations, we were able to travel every summer and during the holidays. Road trips!
     This is the last day of a career unit I added this year for my juniors. We had speakers from the Navy and the Art Institutes and we spent 3 days in the computer lab looking at career s and then seeing what type of education those careers need. We also got onto college web sites and looked around at tuition, dorms, athletics and clubs on campus. I think it was a valid lesson for 3 days extending with the speakers to a whole week. This campus doesn't have a required career unit like Righetti HS which is another school in our district. But that is changing. We have purchased a career computer program but we really need the teachers to get behind it and use it. this week has been a success and I am glad I decided to do it. And it has given the students time to finish an essay I assign during "The Crucible."
     Next week ~ Edgar Allen Poe, Poetry and Thinking-Outside-the-Box.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


     So, I've started to create a Pinterest page. I wanted to pin some of my own quilts onto one of my boards conveniently called my quilts. But Jen said I have to get them published on the web before I can pin them so here goes...

"Run, Chicken, Run!"

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Kinda Lika a Resolution

     Well, here it is the second day of this daily posting stuff. I actually have small snippets of time within my day so I should be able to use those to post. I am feeling less overwhelmed than I was last week. It was a crazy week but after a discussion with my husband I realized that I was wasting a ton of time everyday just chill-axing after school. I really need to be more proactive and utilize that time better. Yesterday I had several phone conversations for my quilting guild business and I actually got in my sewing room - my cat was happy- and sewed some on the ginormous quilt I am making for my best friend. I really need to get that done and even though I only spent about 40 minutes working on it I felt accomplished. I also think that part of the reason I am not sleeping well at night is because I take that little nap after school. You know ~ the one where you sit for a minute with a snack and cup of tea, say you're going to read just a chapter in your book and before you know the cat is on your lap fast asleep and you justify another 45 minutes to just close your eyes, which of course ends up in a 90 minutes nap and you don't get anything done. I got in the habit of that in the afternoons while I recovering from cancer surgery but now there is really no reason for it. Bad habits die hard. So I am making a committment, kinda like a resolution, to not waste those hours after school. We'll see how it goes. I'll let you know!

Monday, September 24, 2012

I'm back

     It's been over a year since I started this blog and almost a year has elasped since I wrote. Good grief! So much has happened in that year; way too much to go into now but suffice it to say, I was busy! So, now I would like to start again to get more into blogging. I attended a writer's conference this last weekend and one of the tips they gave was to start a blog to get your name out there. Well, I already have one but it is sitting decaying for lack of use.
     I am hoping this time to be better at this blogging excercise. They told us that we should also have a Facebook account and a Twitter account. Will have to get to that later. Right now I am full of energy about writing so I hope to not only keep all of you up to date on the progress here on this blog but also spend some serious time writing.
     Baby steps: I have bought myself some journals. One to write in at home and a small one to keep in my purse to record accidental words of wisdom I hear while I am out and about. People say the funniest things! I also am purchasing a writing desk for home. Will it inspire me when I have a place of my own to write? I hope so, because I really want to be serious about this. Wow! I used the word serious twice in this blog!
     Wish me luck!