Thursday, December 24, 2009

New Memories to Sustain Me Through the Year

I can never get enough of Christmas. It is a tonic, like a B 12 shot. The grandbabies are hysterical and brutally honest. They tell you if you are fat, if your hair looks bad, if your clothes look funny and then they top it off with how much they love and miss you.

You get to decorate the tree over and over and over again because Ellerie keeps taking off the bottom ornaments. I have watched Shrek the Halls every day and it kind of grows on you. Princess Fiona is starting to actually look pretty in her winter hat.

I love watching the girls brush Pap Pap’s hair and adorn his head with a princess headband. Ethan is going to have his own HBO comedy special one day. He is a riot. Today he announced in that he has a lot of energy and there is only one way to get rid of it. He has to “fart” to let out gas.

We started a new tradition this past summer. Grammy & Pap Pap taking the kids to a movie. Today’s adventure was Disney’s new Princess & the Frog. We loved all the New Orleans references and totally enjoyed the story. Fred said he was homesick for New Orleans. Personally, I think it is the “Biegnets” he is missing.

Annie seems to have a little of her mom in her. She had a craft party for Abbie and 9 eight-year-old friends. They made a huge glittery mess in basement and decorated a tree for a local senior center. Then Annie realized the tree was too big to take up stairs and out the door so we had to undecorate it and come up with a smaller tree to decorate for the center.

Paul was the chef tonight and made us some red hot chili from an internet recipe. It tasted wonderful and really cleared our sinuses. Only a few more days and my NJ adventure will begin with our grandson Luke. I can’t wait.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Past

Our first Christmas after we were only married two months, we had no ornaments. I improvised and used all of the white bows from our wedding, it was thrifty and pretty too.  Fred was so excited for me to open my huge gift. It was an orange garbage can with mushrooms that matched my canister set. (It was 70’s) No points there buddy.

Our second Christmas, he waited until Christmas Eve. He did not believe me when I told him our small town did not stay open. So that year I got no presents. No kidding.

Our third year was like can you top this. Fred bought a tree without me and it was a squatty bush. I tried everything to save it. I kept imagining that it would be like the Charlie Brown tree in the annual Christmas Special. Nope, it still sucked. I even bought red Christmas bulbs, our first real ornaments. Annie was 14 months old she was like most toddlers, inquisitive and lively. There were a few leftover red bulbs that I put in a big bowl on the table. Annie came in with the glass bulb in her hand. She thought it was an apple and took a big bite out of it. Yep you guessed it. She swallowed glass and I spent Christmas week at ER’s, doctors and sifting through poop diapers to see if she passed the pieces that showed up in her X-Rays.

Each year we have treasured mishaps or events that have become blessed memories. We made our own Martin Family traditions because we lived far away from family. We would have fondue on Christmas Eve, hide our stockings, and go to the beach on Christmas Day. When we first moved to Florida, I brought a little tree to the beach on Christmas, took the kids pictures in Santa hats and mailed the photo north when there was a blizzard just to rub it in. Ho Ho Ho.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tis the Season

The holidays are times that generate reflections of the past.  I have decided to write several posts and toast to childhood memories.

When I was twelve we had just moved into a new bigger house and it was our first Christmas there. My father was the decorator and he went all out with the holiday lights. We had spotlights, large candles and a perfectly shaped blue spruce. No fake trees in our house. Of course the fake trees in those days were white aluminum with a rotating colored strobe light shining. UGH. I remember feeling sorry for a few friends who had them. My mother bought dozens of large blue bulbs with white holiday scenes engraved on each. We marveled because we had never seen anything like them before.

Christmas morning arrived and we ripped opened our gifts. My dad would always light the fireplace and use the wrappings to help start the fire. I decided to do this on my own and put all the paper in the fireplace. I lit it but alas, I did not open the flue. The room and house filled with smoke. My mom ran around screaming like a bangee.

My first response was to run into the kitchen and get the broom.  I came back in and used the handle to open the flue and all was well. My dad affirmed me over and over because I had stayed calm. Even though I had made a mistake, I was happy with myself for saving the day. I was off the hook; mom was in the doghouse with dad because she lost it.

My pride was short lived (about ten minutes) because I stood too close to the tree for a photo and my bathrobe caught on an ornament. Unaware, when I started across the room that most carefully decorated tree followed me and fell and broke every NEW expensive ornament my mom had just bought for the new house.

OOPS…  “Tis the season to be Jolly”

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Basking in the Light

There are so many times when we are rushed and do not take time to bask in the light. I am lucky I live in Florida, the Sunshine State. There are days when I need to let the light in my life. You know the kind of day, flat tire, late to work, rushing through traffic to get home. But, I only have to walk outside and look to the sky and know God is with me, I can feel His warmth kissing my face and I am at peace.

I love decorating for Christmas. Each year I try to do something a little different. I recycle old ornaments and use them in my classroom or donate them to a new teacher who has no shiny ornaments or menorahs to display. My tree and home look so warm and inviting with holiday lights. At night, I do not want to go upstairs. I just want to bask in the light and I am at peace.

Our porch has a chimney where I can light a fire. Yes, it is Florida but our December feels a bit brisk at night a lot like fall up north. It is my favorite month of year down here. So I bask in the light of the fire and I am at peace.

This week, we have enjoyed the light of a full moon so bright you wake up and look outside and swear it is morning. It is an awesome light and I am at peace.

Sometimes, the light comes from people who you love like your husband, children, grand children and friends. It radiates from their eyes when they run to greet you. I see the light and I am at peace.

I look forward to the peace and love of the holidays and basking in the light.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pet Peeves

Just in time for the season. What is your pet peeve? I have many and even thinking about them is like chalk grating on the blackboard.

I hate the service stations that run out of paper for your receipt. You wait in line, pump your own gas and of course your in a hurry and then it says receipt inside. Then you have to go inside and wait in another line to get a receipt. Lately, I just say the heck with it and leave. Thanks to online banking I can still keep track.

Shopping is always a little stressful this time of year and you wonder where they get the cashiers or who in the world trained them? God forbid if you hand a cashier a twenty and three cents for a total of $15.03 they cannot handle it. It used to upset me because they said Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas but now they don’t say anything they should just say Bah Humbug.

Eating out is such a joy and the ambiance is so ruined when you look across the room and the women at the next table are putting on make up. The works, pancake powder, a little blush and lipstick. It is so wrong.

Being a teacher is rewarding but often parents are the problems not the students. Parents who dress their boys in pull on pants with no zippers in the sixth grade and then wonder why kids are bullying their son. Hello???????????

Parents who drive to school because their kid forgot their lunch because their child would be too embarrassed to eat the peanut butter sandwich provided by cafeteria. Tell them to suck it up and eat peanut butter.

Lastly, I hate when I buy wrapping paper and ornament hooks and then open up my stored decorations to find I bought them half price after Christmas last year to save money this year. Oh well “tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la la…”

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thanksgivings Past

Because people are so busy next week, I decided to post my Thanksgiving blog early.

All of my favorite Thanksgivings as a child were when we visited Downingtown and my Italian relatives.

At Henry & Dixie’s we would get up and after breakfast go to the rival Downingtown vs. Coatesville football game. We would go back and sit down and eat for hours one course after another course and Henry would entertain us with stories of Snagolene.

There were a few memorable Thanksgivings where we went to dinner at the Clemente side of the family. It was an unbelievable cultural experience. They brought out lasagna and we ate our fill only to find out it was the first course. Then they brought out turkey with all the trimmings and a roast beef too. After dinner fruit, nuts, pastry. We went downstairs and watched TV for a few hours and our hosts brought down a snack…. homemade pizza.

When we were married, we spent Thanksgiving with our friends the Merritt’s. Once we spent the day in the emergency room when Annie climbed on a riding toy and split open her chin. I worried the whole time my turkey was burning and when we got home, my friend had gone to our home and finished cooking the whole dinner for us.

We spent several "Walton" Thanksgivings in Washington, Pa. early in our marriage at Grandma Martin’s. She sometimes had 40 plus people for her dinner. There were long tables set up in the basement and cousins running around everywhere. It was awesome. After Grandma and Grandpap couldn’t do it anymore, we had the holiday with Pap Pap and Deedle and her famous 8 hour turkey cooked in a paper grocery bag.

In Florida we were pretty much on our own. I would try to invite others if I knew they did not have a family. Once, I accidently picked up the brown vanilla bottle and doused it in my gravy and ruined the whole dinner. I thought it was the brown “Kitchen Bouquet” bottle. I will never live that one down.

This year my husband will be working and my kitchen will be torn apart for much needed renovations. I am thankful for the memories of Thanksgiving’s past. I pass the torch to our children and grandchildren to make new memories.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

It is Only A Matter of Time.

When I was younger I had so much patience. When I waited tables, all the old people sat in my section because I was nice to them. They would send their food back to the kitchen several times if it was not prepared exactly right. They were lousy tippers and they stole all of the Sweet ‘N Low.

When I worked in a retail store, seniors were always returning merchandise. Once there was an old lady who brought back a pair of pajamas that were three years old and complained they had holes in them.

Sometimes you might be behind these complainers in a cashier’s line and they are talking very very loud.

I finally figured old people out. They have had poor food service for 60 plus years. They have been ripped off with merchandise purchases for 60 plus years. They have had stupid cashiers for 60 plus years. They have had ignorant sales people for 60 plus years.

The best I can figure is it is only a matter of time and I will be sending back my food, returning merchandise after I wear it a few years and absconding with the Sweet & Low.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Maybe I Should Write a Book

I laughed one day watching Oprah. She had someone who had written a book because they had cut their budget around $30,000. When Fred quit his job to go back to school, we cut ours $55,000. I was a stay at home mom the first ten years of our marriage and I knew how to live on a tight budget. I was able to do it by pulling out our budget from 1996. We had the money for his tuition and books set aside in savings. I had just hit the top of the pay scale so we were going to have an increase in my pay. We sat down and came up with a plan.

Here it is maybe there is something you did not think of that you could cut out of your budget too.

Yearly savings

· Before we started we paid off our credit cards saving $6,000

· Cut out weekly pizzas $720

· No hair cuts or perms $ 300

· No donations to anyone $1000

· Cut cable $600

· Cut house phone service $1200

· No lawn service $650

· Cut out weekly dinner out or breakfast out $1000

· No more newspaper deliveries $360

· No magazine subscriptions $100

· Bought a junker to get rid of a car payment saving $4,800

· No new clothes $300

· Plane Fairs $ 1200

· No Christmas Cards $100

· No exchanging Christmas gifts extended family $1000

· No new converse $ 200

· Cut food budget in half

Used coupons, generic and made everything from scratch $4,800

· Deferred student loans $ 6,000

· No exchange of birthday gifts $ 200

· No exchange anniversary $ 100

· No vacation at the shore $ 4,000

· Car pooled every other week $ 600

Additional income

· My pay increase $ 5500

· Worked extra period per day $4000

· Stipends/A plus $ 3,000

· Fred side work $ 7,000

When he graduated and got a real job, the pizza came back first, then new car, and the house phone.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Lately, I am a self-help book junkie. I devour them and try to meditate and analyze why I do this or why I do that. Basically, I figured out the reason I like to have fun with my middle school students is that I am trying to have the childhood I missed. So I like to sit down and draw with them, color or build my marionettes. I was eleven when running our house fell to me. My sister got married so I slipped into the “first child” syndrome. It was a heavy burden for a little kid.

In the morning my routine was get up, iron my uniform and brother’s dress shirts, make breakfast and off to the bus. After school, babysitting, chores and cooking dinner. My parents both worked so by the time I did dishes I was exhausted and off to escape in my room.

My opinion of myself was that I was a poor student. I never studied or developed good habits. It was a wonder I got “B” honor role each report. During one of my in depth looks at myself the light bulb went off. There was the realization that I really wasn’t stupid if I got B’s with no effort.

Anyway, the point is sometimes we do things, or wear things or enjoy things more than others because of our memory tracks.

One way to break out of negative memory triggers is to do self-affirmations. You look in the mirror like that guy on Saturday Night Live and say you are a good person, or I love my life or I am skinny. But the best affirmation I found in a book is "I am a money magnet. I am a money magnet. I am a money magnet…"

Do you know a money magnet? Someone who is like Midas…

Money should not be part of our value system but if this works, I will be with my babies for Christmas and renting a home at the seashore in the summer. "I am a money magnet. I am a money magnet."

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Why Kids Can't Spell?

CAB memo

PLC are to meet to discuss the target groups ELL (formerly ESOL) or ESE students who did not meet the AYP on the FCAT spring test. The PGP goals must correlate with the SSS and the IFC to comply with the SIT and the SIP Plan. These requirements are to meet the mandates of the NCLB Act.

SS Lessons must follow said IFC using BEEP and the JAT resources. It is important for the children to use said resources in order to transition in later grades to TAJ resources.

SGA/PC /HS /FFEA/SADD and MICRO society are all having community service projects and collections this week.

SAC and SAF are meeting to discuss the BEF grants that can be used to fund SEAS field trips and the ETS at our school. BRACE and BRITE will also contribute to these funds.

BEACON and BVU have arranged to have workshops on FCAT explorer and VC and PMP here on workday and PTSA will sponsor lunch to celebrate NE week.

BTU will meet in the afternoon to discuss FAQ about the EASE and some of the problems that come up logging into ESS and they will also contact HRD and ERP.

SIU will investigate the cell phone and I phone thefts using the video monitor system.

Also 40% of the kids on 601, have H1N1 and will miss the BAT next week or is the BATTY?

To be honest fellow BCPS educators, I have about twenty more but I am exhausted.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pride & Joy

The fall has always been a kick off time for family and reflection. This is probably because of the many celebrations for the Martin’s at this time of the year. This week I thought of the many milestones and extreme feelings of pride I have experienced throughout the years.

The girls were involved in music programs, academics and there were many evenings where as parents we felt like we would burst.

When Jaime graduated college it was very emotional. Jaime was the child who had to work very hard for her honor roll report cards. She was the kid crying at the dinner table in elementary school struggling with the subjects that she found not to her liking. When she graduated high school, she got a job immediately in a law office and was doing very well. We were surprised when a year later she quit and said she was ready for college. We all had an investment in her education not just financially but emotionally so her graduation was a blubbering event. James topped it off by secretly showing us the engagement ring he would give her later.

I was most proud of Annie when as a young woman she faced great adversity and trial and rose to the top. When you think of survivor and the words “suck it up” and go on, that is Annie. When she found Paul and they were married there wasn’t a dry eye in the place including the groom. It was as if she climbed a mountain and made it to the summit and survived. Needless to say, even the tornado that came through and canceled the outdoor event could not burst anyone’s bubble.

But the single most significant event in my entire married life even over the birth of our children was when my husband Fred waited for me to greet him on the stage when he received his nursing graduation pin. He reached for my hand and we walked across the stage together. It was equal to the day I walked down the aisle and saw his smiling face. We had set a goal and together we had achieved what we deemed the impossible.

Each day I am reminded when Fred comes home animated and telling me about his day at the hospital of the joy I felt on his graduation day.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

All things Equal

If you are a product of the sixties, you can relate to this motherhood syndrome. It is where you try like hell to make things equal. It starts all the way back to the day you bring them home from the hospital. You make decisions based on is it fair and you fail miserably. I remember I brought Jaime home from the hospital in the exact same outfit, had her Christened in the same dress and so on and so on. Now years later, I am stuck with boxes of stuff because how do you pick who to pass it on to???

In grade school you sign up to be room mother at a time when you are overworked and stressed because after all you were Annie’s room mother and it would not be fair. At Christmas, you carefully try to juggle the amount of money you spend and have the same amount of boxes under the tree for them to open.

When they were teenagers I hated to hear the words “It is Not Fair. She gets to do this, she gets to ride in the front seat, she can stay up later. I threatened to put the words on their tombstone one day. Consequently, I tried to instill the point that sometimes life is not fair. These words come back to haunt me because they remind me often when I am droning on and on about my current life problems.

You might wonder what prompted today’s blog. It is guilt. I wished Annie Happy Birthday on my blog. Looking back to September I realized I could have done the same thing with Jaime on her birthday. The only excuse I can come up with is I was a neophyte blogger and learning how I could come up with topics to express myself and have a voice.

Jaime, I will even things out soon, I know I owe you a blog tribute.


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Annie Bananie

There are no words that can describe how you feel about the first child you placed at your breast. After 24 hours of labor, Annie and I got a rough start. She was due on October 8th and born on October 31st. That should have been my clue she would grow up to be independent, strong willed and sometimes scary.

She follows “first child” descriptions pretty close. She is an over achiever, analytical and likes to compete. Whatever she does she does very well.

Some of my favorite memories are times when Annie surprised us. We refer to them as meltdowns now. Some children have a melt down daily, but Annie was selective. Her first was not with me. I had a night class at college and it was exam week when Annie had to do a speaking part at school. She was only in kindergarten and they wanted her to do an introduction at an evening event. Fred described it to me later. It was just like the Brady Bunch episode when Cindy got stage fright. The guilt I felt was gut wrenching because I was not there to console her.

Later, when she was in the fifth grade, it was the spelling bee competition. She forgot to capitalize Junior. (I could be wrong on this one) She ran off to the ladies room where I tried in vain to make her roll it off.

She got over her fear of microphones and audiences because she often emceed shows in middle school and high school. One time we went to a chorus concert and to our surprise she sang several solos and wowed the audience. We almost fell off the chair.

But the single surprise that caught us totally off guard was when she was home a weekend from college and wanted to get highlights in her hair. I had a hairdresser come to the house and when he was finished she looked a bit like Madonna. Her highlights were white frosting… a lot of frosting. She cried hysterically for 24 hours. I am not even sure it is something we laugh about yet. This was a bad hair event like no other.

Annie survived her childhood and adolescence. She has grown into a strong adult woman, loving wife, devoted mom who values love, relationship and friendship. Annie is the “gentle listener” like her father. She lets things roll off her back now and says no big deal. We are proud of all she has accomplished and especially the way she tackles all of the challenges of being a stay at home mom. Happy Birthday Annie, I did not forget this year.

Friday, October 30, 2009

My Love and My Life

The early sit com of the 50’s and 60’s often portrayed, what I would call a “picket fence” marriage. The father went off nine to five, came home and mom was in her housedress and apron and the kids were manicured sitting around a dinner table. What a bunch of crap…

Anyway, when I visualized what my romantic life might be like, I got some things right. Fred did come in like a white knight and rescue me from Bridgeton. We made life choices that required that we were the sole support for one another like living away from home. This was the cement that kept our marriage strong year after year. Any mistakes we made we could not blame anyone else.

Fred was steadfast when I nursed our babies when it was not the norm. He diapered, bathed them and was the guy with a baby on his back at theme parks. Fred was the go to guy when the girls had colic as infants. We had the “family bed” before they had psych books written about it and our girls turned out just fine, thank you very much.

Fred never flinched in our early years of marriage when I sold our bedroom furniture because we needed money for tires on the car and he came home to an empty bedroom. He did get a little mad when I called the radio station and gave away his brother’s dog though. He is a quiet man, a thinker. There were so many times he could have exploded like “Ricky Ricardo” but he did not. He was the perfect role model to teach our children to make “Decisions to Love”.

His love has always been unconditional. He loved me through my own “Lucy” moments. He has come home to holes in the floor where the toilet was, walls knocked down, and spontaneous visitors. He is used to my rearranging furniture at a blink of the eye. When our food bills tripled when Annie and Jaime were in high school, not a problem, he seemed to enjoy the extra boyfriends at the table.

Fred stopped the car in front of a college and pushed me out and said go in and sign up, “You can do it”. His encouragement and devotion helped me achieve my goal to be a teacher.

He is the rock in our family. Today is our 38th wedding anniversary and I could go on and on about his love and devotion. I adore you Fred. You are my love and my life. Happy Anniversary and Happy Birthday (one way to make sure they never forget your anniversary, marry them on their birthday)

How can you not love a man who sits down ten minutes every day and writes you a love letter?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Maybe it is because I am a non-conformist, or maybe it is because the nuns stifled my creativity in catholic school for so many years, but some mandates make me want to SCREAM. It is the little things I am sure that send us over the edge.

For the most part I embrace change, I learned how to use technology in the classroom. I learned how to do my plans on the computer and email them to the administration. I learned how to document on the computer, do referrals, use my text – book etc at mandated workshops. These were all positive things and this old dog was proud of herself when I mastered some programs like I photo, Inspiration, Comic Life and I know my students reap the rewards.

However, at present it is not enough we wear the same shirts, must follow the same lessons, same scope, same focus calendar but now we are suppose to use the exact vocabulary on the board.

For twenty-five years I have put a Reason to Read or RR on the board. I train the children what it means. Now, I must call it an ESSENTIAL QUESTION

My in-class plan is now called the AGENDA

My section formerly called class work now says OBJECTIVE

My Quiet time is now WARM UP

Thank goodness something stayed the same homework is still freakin’ homework.

Today, I PAINTED these words on the white board. I refuse to use their cards.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Dog's New Age

This week I was listening to the morning news show when they had one of their human-interest stories. It seems the way we calculated our dog’s age in the past is now out and there is a new dog age calculator. You remember, multiply the human years by seven. Cappy would be 42.
For those of you who are math challenged, you can just “Google” dog age calculator and it will pop up. You just plug in the age of your pet and ta da….

For the rest of you, it is really simple. The first year of life is 15 human years. The second year is 9 human years. Every year after this equal 4 human years. Of course, I quickly calculated Cappy’s human age and found out he is really 40. Wow, just like that with the new calculator he lost two years. When he is 13, he will not be 91 but 68.

Wish we had a new age calculator.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"Hi Grammy"

How do I feel when I here a little voice say “Hi Grammy, Hi Grammy”? It is better than any tonic or vitamin. Ellerie is our youngest granddaughter. She will be two on Halloween and recently has started to say Grammy. She says it better than any of the other kids when they were little.

With Ab, I was Gammy for a long while. My grandsons Ethan and Luke took their good ole time until they could say Grammy and called me a variety of things in the meantime. The “R” sound is really hard for the little ones.

Ellerie seemed as excited as I am when she says it. Last night, she said Hi Grammy no less than a dozen times before she finally relinquished the phone to Annie. It was fun to visualize my daughter trying to catch her as she ran around with the phone.

El called again tonight and I heard her little voice say "Hi Grammy". The main reason this is such a huge deal is for the past nine years whenever any grandchild had anything to say to me on the phone it was one thing and one thing only….

"Where’s Pap Pap?"

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Each year the fall is a time when I look back at fond memories. This first installment of People Who Make a Difference can only be dedicated to my father who passed away in 1976.

Daddy was a gentle man who made a difference in many people’s lives. He was a consummate teacher. He invented teachable moments. He would have been proud of me. My very last conversation with him the day he died was daddy telling me to go back to college. That conversation kept me going when I struggled years later while I juggled college full time, two young children and two night jobs bartending and working as a waitress (or as they politically say now, server).

Because my father had a business that took him away many nights, he made sure every moment counted. Monday nights were the best. From the time I was twelve until I married Fred the family went out to dinner at a favorite restaurant, the Centerton Inn. What you said mattered and he listened and mom would be on her best behavior, no yelling where people could see you so we looked forward to these family connections.

On the days when we were off school, we went to work with him. I would sit on the bar stool behind the bar and listen and laugh. The atmosphere was very “Cheers” like because the diehard regulars were there when the place opened at 7:00 am. It was where I learned to be a master storyteller.

When the afternoon help came in to work, dad would take me on adventures. We would go to “Cowtown” on Tuesdays (the ORIGINAL flea market in the United States) other days we went to used furniture and junking. We were way before our time, this was the 60’s and the furniture style was very “Brady Bunch” and shag carpets (ugh). Dad loved the down home country style. He would pick up antiques that he would hang up in the bar. I cannot go into a Cracker Barrel without thinking of our bar.

Later, when I got married and bought a big old Victorian money pit, Daddy would come to breakfast several times a week and do fix it jobs. When we had Annie his visits were daily. He adored her.

In the fall we would track deer in the deer hunting woods. Another favorite excursion was the “Indian Grave Yard” where we looked for arrowheads and the history on the grave markers. All the while, daddy gave you his undivided attention. Ironically, he had his heart attack chasing hunters off his property where he had been tracking a deer. Just two days before the attack, he and I were in the woods tracking. He died two weeks later.

Dad smoked a pipe with Half and Half tobacco, I long for that smell now. I visualize him in heaven puffing looking down at me. When I am having a bad day, somehow something comes up that tells me he is with me and he is proud of me and he is encouraging me to keep dreaming no matter what obstacles I face.
I love and miss you daddy.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Just Another Glitch

Each year I pride myself on some of the in-class projects I do with my students. Some parents love me and some hate me. No one can work on a project at home. It must be done in class in front of me. This year I actually got applause when I told the parents at open house.

Many years ago, I taught at risk children and came to the conclusion that so many had no one at home to help them, it would be better to do most work in school. To my surprise, behavior problems decreased. I came to the conclusion, when I have the art station to hold over their head the work gets done. I took this to another level and said no one could take class work home to finish. If they do this, they lose twenty points.

I still use this plan and stand by my plan because it works. Each Friday the children who are on target with work can work on the unit art project. It is usually made with minimal supplies. The up side is Friday is a day when children who work at a slower pace can catch up. It is the day the kids make up missed work if they are absent too. The best part is the slackers have to sit in the room and do the work while the other children paint, Mummify Barbie dolls, make Greek vases or Roman Mosaics, marionettes. If I have a reward that goes with the contract like a Twilight Zone critical thinking lesson or a video, they have to leave the room, and do the work they did not do in the first place. I actually add back the points to improve their score. Eventually they get the message I may as well do it the first go round because I will have to do it anyway.

Since I developed the system twenty-three years ago, for the first time I am having major glitches. The first is class size. My mandated class of 22 is around 30 children. I do have two smaller gifted classes but since our school does class size by averages my other three are larger. This means I have not one inch of space. I have five more trap tables than previous years, so there is not an art station. Tools like hammers, nails, saws are too dangerous to have in a large class so no more building marionettes. I remember saying when the vote for a smaller class size was on a ballot they would give us smaller classrooms (square footage) and they did. They built our box without one closet or bookshelf for teacher’s stuff. It is a shame because the children lose out and feel slighted when I do the bigger projects with gifted only.

Next glitch, the swine flu, I have baskets of crayons, markers, colored pencils in back and access to scissors, stapler etc. With so many children out sick it is easy to see the problem is compounded with my projects. Our mornings start off with a wipe down of all tables, scissors, markers, stapler and other items shared by children. Today, I had to stop and tell the children it was time to bring in their own crayons, pencils and such. We had the talk about not lending pencils and pens. Next week is Red Ribbon Week and we may as well skip the lesson on Hugs not Drugs. This flu is scary.

Consequently, I see a difference in my students. So many are not completing work and this means they learn less and do poorly on tests. The third glitch, the fast pace of the focus calendar and the additional required worksheets they want us to cover. The poor kids have three times the homework. Every innovative course I have ever taken says worksheets are killers yet it is part of a mandate with frequent administrative visits with a check off list. I love my kids, I love to sit and color with them, I love to watch their wheels turn when they build or draw blueprints for a stage or research an historical figure and make the puppet. Those Freaky Fridays are my mental health days. I have a few ideas of how to “play the game” yet beat the system. Stay tune for next installment of the way we were to get an update.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Put Me in the Home when....

…. I carry a straw purse bigger than me and it becomes a bottomless pit.
…. I blast EWTN at three o’clock in the morning.
…. I put BBQ sauce on my pancakes.
…. I never smile at anything.
…. I have no favorite song.
…. I am not ticklish.
…. I think I am going to hell for doing work on Sunday.
…. I have no less than twenty religious statues and plaques.
…. I wear a large scapular because if I die wearing it, I will go straight to heaven.
…. I put three scoops of Benefiber in my coffee and wonder why I have diarrhea.
…. I become obsessed with whether I have a bowel movement DAILY.
…. I put dirty dishes away in the cupboard.
…. I break my dentures and refuse to go out in public.
…. I put dirty clothes in the dryer.
…. I iron the same piece of clothing for twenty minutes and wonder why it scorched.
…. I leave the water on in bathroom for entire afternoon.
…. I swing open the car door and slam into the adjacent parked car’s door.
…. I try to take something from the dog’s mouth and wonder why he bit me.

You Gotta Laugh

Monday, October 12, 2009

Life is About Choices

I learned this the hard way when I left NJ. I made the choice to have a different life. Fred and I wanted to venture out on our own and make our own mistakes. When the opportunity came to move somewhere where I could go back to school and Fred could make a better living we left and did not look back.

But we did have to live with our choice. For the next 30 years our family vacations consisted of three days in NJ (my family) three days in Pennsylvania (Fred’s family) with a mini three-day vacation in between to places like N.Y. Williamsburg or a shore area. This would set off a mini rivalry between the families. Fred’s mom said we would leave and would go to NJ and my mom had the grandkids longer. My mom complained and said we put her last and did not care about her. We tried to rent a few times in N.J. hoping to combine visits and vacation but that did not always work out because we were in conflict with other people’s plans.

The saddest part of our choice is that only one side of our family stayed connected. We were able to continue to build relationship with Fred’s side. His family had wonderful yearly reunions that really did build new memories for everyone. They also visited us when we lived in Ohio and also here in Florida. Our children grew up knowing aunts, uncles and their Martin cousins. The Martin’s are more than wedding and funeral relatives and now Facebook helps keep them connected.

It was such a short time, I was twenty when I was married. I did live in Bridgeton a few years but my brothers were in college by then. So consequently, we have no new memories. My kids do not know my side of the family, their aunt, uncles, cousins etc. My immediate family thinks they know me but they do not. They know a teenage girl who worked, ran a house and babysat 24/7. She abandoned them to go off to college. They don’t know ME now, how I think, what I teach, my politics, my dreams and hopes or what I want to be when I grow up. They do not know how I feel. I will continue to try to build relationship across the miles but know that each year it will become harder until what I want is not reachable. But I have to live with the inevitable choice to let some people and things go. However, I hope it is not too late for some connections and today’s modern technology is helping somewhat.

But the wonderful thing is that there are people who are close to me, they do know all about me. They laugh at my jokes and lift me up when I am down. I saw a sign once that I keep in my heart. “Friends are chosen family”. These are the people who have been a part of my Cleveland and Florida family for many years and I thank God for all of them. They are the beloved “aunts and uncles” to our children who were at band events, plays, or award programs. They are co-workers who have become surrogate sisters, nieces, even daughters.

I cannot forget another special chosen family. Although, I did not chose them our daughters did. I also thank God for both of my son in laws. They KNOW me well. I treasure them.

Life is about choices. I don’t regret our first choice. Fred and I have one of the strongest vital relationships I know. We have this because we were forced to make our own mistakes, live with them and then go on. Our chosen family are like the rocks that lead you across the rapids, they help us navigate through the troubled waters and they represent some of our best choices. I pray that Annie and Jaime find their own “chosen families”.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

It was like a first drink....

I am not sure when it happened, maybe it was when our girls went off to college, some of you can relate to an empty nest syndrome but anyhow it happened. I became addicted. The first few times it was weekends, while I ironed. Later, it became an all day Saturday thing, and then I became hooked and needed a daily fix.

Fred used to blame Christopher Lowell but me I know that my problem started long before with the show “This Old House”. That simple show was shoved aside for the likes of “Trading Spaces”, “Design on a Dime”, “Decorating Cents” or “Room by Room”. Then came a long string of copycats. You only have to watch BBC and see almost every hit design show on our side of the ocean was just a renamed and revamped idea from the Brits. It is no wonder they have an air of superiority around Americans.

The summer is the worst because there is time to actually put the ideas I see into place. With my out of the box mentality it is often lethal to Fred. I am slowing pulling him to my side. He has come to the point where he just does what I ask. There are telltale signs still that he wanes, like a rolling of his eyeballs when I explain what I want. My favorite thing is when he sees something in a magazine a year or two later and says “Wow! You were way ahead of your time”.

Of course my ideas give way to stories that come back to haunt me. These are the kind of tales that someday friends and family will be talking about when I am gone. Like when I painted a wall Kelly green in our master bedroom (we moved our master across hall after that one) or when I took apart the toilet and had it sitting in the hall when Fred came home (our toilet was like a rocking chair until the day we moved) and then there was the infamous time I took out an entire wall while Fred was at work. Fred was in shock for a week. All of the above happened before that first sweet taste of a home improvement program when I was ahead of my time.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

What if........

I swear my kids might put this on my grave stone one day. I have always been a what if person. In many cases, sadly s_________ happens.

What if I gain 50 pounds when I am old?
What if I can’t pay my bills?
What if my kids move away?
Annie/Ohio Jaime/NJ
What if I have to get glasses?
Happened at 45
What if I wreck the car?
August 2009
What if I get another boss?
About every three years
What if the dog gets fleas?
First long trip
What if I go gray?
Hello… I am 58
What if I lose my keys?
What if someone steals our identity?
What if the air conditioner breaks?
Current drama
What if I lose my phone and someone runs up our bill?
What if a hurricane hits?
About 8 in last 20 years
What if I go north and a blizzard hits.
Three times
What if I lose a kid on a field trip?
What if I lose my grades?
What if they cut my hair too short?
You look like Petunia Pig
What if the paint color is wrong?
Time to repaint
What if they order the wrong floor?
Happened twice
What if they charge me twice?
What if I get high cholesterol?
Topped out at 591
What if the bus breaks down?
At least 5 times in 25 years of teaching
What if the students throw up on bus?
Try chain reaction throw up, my favorite
What if I get lost at the Park?
Too many times to mention
What if the dog chokes on a bone?
$3000 vet bill
What if my bike gets stolen?
Happened three times
What if my car gets stolen?
Happened while we were on our honeymoon?
What if I my mom needs to live with us?
You Gotta Laugh

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Thank God for AAA

Even though the cost of this service has gone up considerably over the years, I find I have always gotten my money’s worth. When we first left our hometown to venture into unknown territory and the blizzard weather conditions of Cleveland AAA saved us many times with towing and battery charge ups. When you live without family near to help you out, these kinds of services are a must.

When we would travel we would call ahead for trip tickets and the books and maps of places we would visit. I remember the long lines around the holiday times to get the directions and tips for our getaways. The most amazing thing to me was the little eye dropper they would use on the maps to erase the magic marker if they made a mistake. As a teacher, I wondered many times just what was in that little dropper. I could have used it over the years. ( it is not nail polish remover, tried that) I digress.

Today, after a month of no car, I was excited because I had planned a special outing with my mom. I was going to bring her to attend an all Latin Mass complete with communion kneelers and tall gold candles. I went out in the driveway and alas, my car would not turn over. I thought maybe it was gas but after putting in a few gallons (Floridians always have this on hand) no luck.

AAA came to my rescue. My battery was dead. This makes sense to me after my car sat in the dealership for one month with the engine removed. We didn’t make the Latin Mass, maybe we can make it to the Vietnamese?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Mom, It’s Just a Dog

When we were a young married couple we had a cat before we had children. He was the king. I adored him but after a year I found out I was pregnant and when the baby came… our beloved “Shokey” was somehow transformed into “just the cat”.

We continued to have cats throughout the next 30 years of marriage and though I loved them all, they were just cats. But about seven years ago, our last cat died and because of Fred’s asthma we did not replace the cat this time. We decided to get a dog.

I found my little Shih Tzu’s mug shot on the Internet. He looked sad and forlorn and was just an hour’s drive south. We hopped in the car and the rest is history. We named him Cappy after my deceased father in law. Cappy much to the chagrin of my two daughters, is not just a dog. He is one of the few things that make me happy in Florida. When I come home after a stressful day of work, he is there greeting me with his unconditional love.

At night he cuddles with me and rests his head on my chest. When I am upset or sick he senses it somehow and makes me feel better. He has a great personality and I have never once minded walking him, staying up with him when he is sick, or even the money and added expense of vet bills. I just love him.

He travels well and I like to have him with me when I drive north alone. He has several carriers, one is purse like, but the one that I like and just irk the girls is my front carrier. Someone recently gave me a stroller but I know I better not go there.

I am sure there is some psychological transference explanation. I miss my children and my grandbabies so Cappy fills the void when I am alone here in Florida. He just had a birthday, I hate thinking he will get old and I will lose him. I try to visualize me with my grey hair, a cane and Cappy in his front carrier, blind and like my daughter Annie says with a “Popeye” look. He is not just a dog, he is my baby.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Just Who are They????

OK, so "THEY" were suppose to come into our classrooms and check out if we are all following the "calendar", are we all on same page, doing the same thing!!!! "They" were across the hall so I was not surprised when a young man came into my class observed for a whole period... I thought my lesson sucked, my desk was cluttered with papers and he was looking at my sub folder not my plan book. I was a wreck. I showed the "MAN" my AYP info and he said I don't know what an AYP is ???? I thought it was a trick. Then it clicked, he was not one of "them" he was a student teacher doing an observation that I forgot was coming in to my classroom. I can't take this.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Good to the Last Drop Depends on the Day

Coffee is a mystery to me. How do you get so many different tastes from the same regular pound can… oops I mean 13 ounce can? Different days mean different tastes. You have the Monday – Friday early morning wake up coffee. It is the kick you need to get you moving, without it you are dragging and just cannot seem to get started. I often wake up to the coffee pot gurgle telling me the coffee is ready before the alarm goes off. There have been times I sleep through the alarm but never the coffee ding even though the pot is down stairs.

Fred lovingly sets up our pot the night before to go off at 5:30 am. Of course there are times, I come down stairs and find he forgot to put water in or push setting button. But all is forgiven after first taste because he makes a great cup.

Saturday coffee is the worst. I come down stairs some time a little later, so it has that post lunch restaurant taste. You know the kind that sits on the burner too long. If I get coffee in a restaurant any time after a lunch I wait for a new pot to be brewed. When I do get down stairs early enough for a fresh cup, I get side tracked with chores and it quickly becomes lukewarm. Saturday coffee always tastes lukewarm or the flip side, scalding. I just cannot find the happy reheat on our microwave. It is the coffee I lose in linen closets, refrigerators, top of file boxes and pantry shelves. Eventually when I find it a few days later, I say to myself… “That is where that cup went”.

Sunday, ahh… Sunday coffee is the perfect cup and taste. I think it has something to do with the fact we have a bigger breakfast with the sweet taste of a croissant, donut, pancake or whatever lingering in our mouth so when we take a sip it is like a happy marriage. The real reason Sunday coffee is probably the best is the leisure and luxury of watching the weekend news, or reading a paper or surfing on the computer with the person you love across from the table.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Not Just a Grill Man Anymore

Six years ago my husband Fred was in nursing school pursuing a new career. I was the “bread winner” and held down the fort. I would often come home late from work dragging.

We made changes in our lives and especially in our budget. Fred took over shopping and learned how to cook. Prior to this time he only was a grill man.

A few years later, after he graduated and we started our new life and I thought why take back the shopping? I never liked it. Fred has come a long way. The first time he shopped he came home with a dozen boxes of pudding and he forgot to buy meat.

Now he clips coupons, watches sales and plans menus. The man cannot pass up a buy one get one free no matter what the product is.

He also is much more than a “grill man”. Last week I came home and he had cooked a turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, vegetables and homemade cole slaw. I was very impressed. However, Fred was mad because the store did not have pumpkin. He was going to attempt to make pies. That is something I know I will remember at Thanksgiving.

It is so nice to have more than a “grill man”. Fred mastered my Italian sauce and makes a tasty pot roast but my favorite will always be his omelets. They are to die for.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Way We Were

Each year teaching gets harder. We are inundated with mandates, paperwork, meetings and conferences. When you have been around as long as some of us you cannot help but remember the way we were.

My first year of teaching, I remember the excitement when they gave me my KEY to the school, not the classroom the school.

Each day there would be a student waiting to come inside and help me ready up the room. That doesn’t happen at today’s school because there are training meetings every morning and also, having children in a room alone with you is discouraged.

We decided to be teachers for the relationship time with the children. Those early morning sessions went a long way. The most treasured job in my class was “Mr. Coffee” this student set up my coffee pot for me. I always picked the most active child for this responsibility. The A.M. chats were so revealing and nurturing for my at risk students. (Think Maslow)

Coffee pots, microwaves, little refrigerators are all fire hazards and definitely not allowed. In my many years of teaching, my room has been sited by fire department no less than a dozen times. My infractions…. posters on walls, mobiles hanging closer than 18 inches from ceiling, boxes on top of my cabinets, paints opened, extention cords, my favorite was I had a small wooden crate to hold library books and was told it might bring termites.

If a child had a birthday mom would send in cupcakes. This is a big NO NO now because everything must be store bought. So sadly, there are no more cultural cover dish experiences either.

We used to have spontaneous reward picnic lunches at the outside tables. New rule, the children cannot take their lunch tray out of the cafeteria and if you want to take your children out for a picnic, fill out project activity forms two weeks prior.

The student's classes start at 9:30 and their day ends at 4:00. By the time they arrive home it is dinner. Then they have baseball, karate, and a religion class, dance and the list goes on and on.

Parents response: "How dare we give required homework reading? They have no time to be children." Well, long ago there were 57 minutes per period (currently 45 minutes), we could teach at the pace best for the children and we did not lose 5 weeks of learning for pre testing and testing and still have to finish an entire text book.

On a positive note, I like whiteboards instead of chalk dust, copy machines instead of the ditto machine with the smell and purple ink. (It destroyed many a wardrobe). Gone are the 8mm film loops, tangled reels, and filmstrips. They gave way to television, CD’s, DVD’s and computers… all wonderful. Most of all, Google is now my very best friend.

Lastly, there are some guidelines I refuse to follow. I will hug my kids when they need a hug, or for that matter, wipe a tear (even without a plastic glove).

Thursday, September 17, 2009

What's in a name?

Well, finally I am a real blogger. It took me months to go through my list of sayings and quips to come up with a name. Then I had to remember the original google account password to set up this page. That was monumental. I kept thinking my eight year old grand-daughter has a blog how hard can it be? But alas, it was hard just because I kept changing my mind about the message I wanted to have in my blog's title.
I tried, " When Life Gives you Lemons", " Killing Two Birds", "Methods to Madness" all denied. Tonight it just came to me. "Love Endures All things" It is the final sentences to a biblical passage dear to many people. ( Corinthians 13 )

At this time of my life and career it fits. It is sweeter than saying "Been there done that" which is exactly how most of the people my age feel when reflecting on things the younger generation find a challenge.
Each year in September, memories come floating back about college dating days, our fall wedding and the beginning of my marriage. Fred and I have been together 39 years this week and married 38 years in October. Trust me with my family, our love has endured it all.