I Am From …

I am from creamed tuna on toast, from Red Ball Footwear, and church on Sunday. I am from the little white house by the gully, unadorned, unimpressive, filled with love.

I am from the piney woods, Syringa bush, sunlight on water, the Locust tree; wild, red roses, and mica stones.

I am from homemade noodles and perseverance; from Gram, and Lois, and Charlie; from Jean, Jackie, Caryl and Harold. I am from Aunts and Uncles and cousins and laughter.

I am from forgiveness and acceptance. I am from “try again”, and “don’t give up.” From “don’t swim for at least an hour after eating” and “wet matches won’t strike”.

I am from the little brick, First Christian Church on the corner of Fourth Street and Garden Avenue. From Lake Coeur d’Alene, silver mines and logging camps. I am from fishing streams, crisp clean air, and moose in the front yard. I am from meatloaf on Wednesday, and A&W Sunday; from The Grownups Wanted Us Dead, the school on the edge of the cliff, the farms on Mica Flats, and the strongest, most resilient women God ever forged.

I am from picture frames adorning white walls, albums, closets, trunks, and moldering boxes in my Aunt’s basement. I am from a two-inch thick genealogy manuscript depicting heroes and heels from England, to America and sea to shining sea.

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This meme was inspired by Gawpo and my niece, Brooke. If you wish to create your own, the template is here.

Tuesday Update

As I mentioned last Tuesday, I am taking the Curves Weight Loss Challenge class. Following their diet I went from losing 3-5 pounds a week, to losing just one. With that thought in mind I dropped the diet — though I stayed in the class — and went back to eating my way. This week I lost another three pounds. My way works for me.

I eat whatever I please. I just eat it in moderation. For instance, I took three days to eat a bag of M&M’s, instead of eating three bags of M&M’s in one day. The other day my friend and I went to Arby’s for lunch. I ordered the turkey club, but tossed most of the bread as I ate. I also ordered curly fries. There is no way I am going to Arby’s without having curly fries dipped in Horsey Sauce — so, when they handed me my tray, I grabbed a huge handful of those fries and dumped them in the garbage on the way past. No way I can eat what isn’t on my plate.

Ignore all that guilt your mom piled on you about having to clean your plate. All that food you’re wasting could feed a third world nation! First off, no, it couldn’t, because the abundance is in my country, and there is no way for them to access it.  Secondly, how is my being fat going to prevent someone else from starving? Think about it.

Next week we weight and measure. Stay tuned.

A Two Hat Day in My Life …

5:30 a.m. — the alarm rang. I whacked it. It was too dark outside to be time to get up.

5:40 a.m. — I gave in to the the cat’s harassment and got up. Showered, brushed, combed, deodorized, dressed, etc.

5:55 a.m. — stumbled across the living room. I’d left an empty shoe box on the coffee table. A furry beastie moved it into my path on the floor — the lid, too, just a few feet away, for a double play.

6:00 a.m. — checked email — note from OC.

6:05 a.m. — placed phone call to OC.

6:23 a.m. — hung up phone, read and commented on “morning” blogs.

6:50 a.m. — left home for work

7:00 a.m. — walked into Mr. K’s classroom at work and reviewed the daily agenda.

7:15 a.m. — went to my classroom and prepared for my sub.

7:35 a.m. — went to the teacher’s lounge to make photocopies for inservice. Three of five machines were working, and in use. I waited. Pretending patience. Finally, my turn, but only 10 minutes remained before the bell. No time to make all the copies (different standards for each grade level), only time to make the Kindergarten handouts.

8:00 a.m. — joined the entire school body on the playground for the flag salute and morning announcements.

8:05 — in classroom with students, made grade level daily announcements, reminded the students this is my, “Two Hat” day, and gave them a morning warm up lesson.

8:35 a.m. — called the office in search of my sub, who was already 5 minutes late. The office manager was out sick and nobody knew who was supposed to be where. They sent the Assistant Principal to teach my class. By the time he arrived my reading students were busy working and I was ten minutes late for my meeting. The AP came in nervous. He isn’t well versed in teaching our reading program. He whispered to me, “What do I have to do?” I said, “It’s testing day. Sit down, be quiet and watch them.” He said, “Oh, thank you! I can do that!”

8:40 a.m. — as I was leaving the room, having called Kinder and explained I’d be late, one of my students, Rose, came from her reading class. She was crying. Rose doesn’t speak English and she didn’t understand why her reading teacher wouldn’t let her in the classroom. Fourth grade is taking the big nasty standardized test this week, and non 4th grade students who usually go to 4th grade reading were to attend alternate classes. Rosa didn’t understand her new directions. I helped her find where she should be.

8:55 a.m. — 15 minutes late — I show up for the kinder meeting. I love the kinder meetings. They have their program down pat and never need my assistance. I passed out the hand-out listing all the skills their students should have mastered by the end of the year. They were thrilled to learn they’re ahead of the curve. Then we just chatted about their students’ writing (pictures with a descriptive word or two) and shared a couple of lesson ideas. Then we caught up on each other’s lives.

9:20 a.m. — I left the kinder meeting and headed for the teacher’s lounge to finish making copies. I saw two firemen and the janitor walking down the hall. They stepped into Ms. P.’s room and said, “There’s a fire in your waste basket.” Ms. P. snapped, “Line up!” to her students and pulled the fire alarm. I walked right past the teacher’s lounge and any hope of getting my photcopies made. As the AP and my students exited my classroom, I took over so Mr. AP could go be the AP. My students and I marched to the baseball field and waited for the all clear.

9:40 a.m. — back in the classroom. The kids resumed testing. I sat down to fill out reading progress reports. I hoped the sub would come early so I could get my copies made for my 2nd grade inservice.

10:10 a.m. — I dismissed my reading class and went to the phone to call the office. My sub was late, again. They assured me that Ms. Starla, our permanent sub on staff, was on her way. I asked for a volunteer from the second grade staff to make my photocopies for me. Ms. T. — wonderful Ms. T. (a regular reader of this blog!) — volunteered. I owe her a major favor.

10:15 a.m. — Ms. Starla arrived and wanted to know why I needed a sub. I reminded her that it was my regular inservice day, and we’d be taking turns teaching my class as usual. She acted like this was a new concept, rather then like we’d done it approximately every ten school days all year.

10:18 a.m. — I ran for the bathroom, having last visited it at 7:00 a.m., which was two cups of coffee earlier. Then I joined Ms. T. making copies. She let me take the copies that she’d finished and go start my meeting — late.

10:22 a.m. — Second grade meeting started. We passed out and discussed the handouts. I especially like working with 2nd grade because they are serious about teaching their kids to write. They ask good questions and request resources which will help them do their jobs well.

10:35 a.m. — I returned to my class and finished teaching the math lesson Ms. Starla started. Ms. Starla left.

11:20 a.m. — the World Language teacher came in to take over my class. I finished preparing my reading progress reports.

Noon –officially lunch time — I went to the teacher’s lounge and finished making my photocopies for my final inservice.

12:20 p.m. — I returned to my classroom and munched a small green pepper stuffed with tuna salad. I popped some gum in my mouth so I’d have peppermint fish breath.

12:35 p.m. — I went to the 1st grade inservice, hoping Ms. Starla would show up at 12:45 to pick my students up after lunch. The first grade teachers filtered in slowly, talking the whole while. Conducting their inservice is a struggle because there are always two or three people talking and not bothering to listen, then later they complain, “Nobody told me.” Pft. Today they were interested in what I had to offer, so were relatively well-behaved. Still, their inservice took longer then all the others because I had to wait for them to listen — and repeat myself when they didn’t.

1:10 p.m. — I went to the bathroom, then returned to my class. The kids were sitting at their desks with blank papers in front of them. Ms. Starla was yelling at them. “The lesson plan says this is review! You do know how to do it! Somebody come up and do the first problem on the board.” I realized by the tense silence in the room that nobody remembered how to do the problems, review or not. Ms. Stella announced that the students were being obstinate. I realized that she had no idea how to find common denominators, either. I told her I was back and she was free to go. She grabbed her stuff and ran. As she bolted out the door, the AP walked in. He was carrying his clipboard and stayed to review my teaching as I presented the lesson. He also stayed and helped a slower group complete the assignment, while I walked around from table to table answering questions from the other kids.

1:35 p.m. — the AP left the room. I taught another lesson on finding common factors and prime factorization. It is all review. We did the problems in small groups and on the board.

2:00 p.m. — teacher oral read — I opened the novel, Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen and started to read chapter 14. Every kid in the class is into this book. They were quiet, straining to hear what was going to happen next. I stopped periodically and asked comprehension questions or prediction questions. After one such pause, Izzy turned to Jasmine and started talking about some camping trip the scene reminded him of. Jasmine turned her back on him. Izzy didn’t get the hint. He talked louder. I stopped reading and stared at him. The rest of the class stared, too, except Jasmine, who looked at me. Izzy kept talking. I reached for my bookmark. Half the class moaned aloud. Joe stood and hissed across the room, “Izzy, shut up!” Izzy looked startled. He turned to me, saw the bookmark in my hand and said, “Oh!” Followed by, “Uh-oh,” as he glanced at his angry classmates. I raised my eyebrows at him. He clamped his mouth shut and folded his hands. I finished reading chapter 14 and part of 15, then we stopped to discuss what we’d heard, and what might happen next.  Oh!  And share Izzy’s story, now that it was the appropriate time.

2:40 p.m. — the student’s prepared the room to go home (stack chairs, pick up garbage, clean white board, put supplies away). Then we had a bathroom break and they went to music. I went to my last meeting of the day — 5th grade’s test prep meeting for the big ugly test we take next week.

3:25 p.m. — I picked my students up from music and took them back to the classroom, where they picked up their backpacks. We all walked to the school gate together. The bell rang and I waved good-bye and good riddance. I also told them — like I do every day, “Don’t come back!” They always do.

3:35 p.m. — I headed for the gym. Time to get some exercise.

Shoulda Stayed Home

The Nascar race was in town this weekend. I live just a few miles from the track, on the main road there. It is good I left earlier than usual to go to church this morning, because I thought I was never going to get onto Las Vegas Boulevard. There was no way I was going to be able to cross the North bound lanes and turn South, so I just went North to the corner and circled the block.

Coming home from church took me 35 minutes. Normally it is a ten minute drive. There were police officers at the intersections directing traffic. Finally I made it home intending to stay here, but my priorities changed.

This afternoon, I decided I needed to go to the Post Office tonight, and not trust myself to leave early enough to do it in the morning. I wanted something to go out as soon as possible, and wasn’t taking a chance on having to wait until after work Monday to mail it. Las Vegas Boulevard South bound was bumper to bumper traffic because the Nascar race had just ended. I decided to take Nellis Avenue South instead. It was just as congested. It took me 35 minutes to make the 10 minute drive.

As long as I was out, I decided to pop into Kmart and pickup a gift for a friend. The traffic between the post office and Kmart was no better. It took me 15 minutes to travel two blocks. The fellow behind me was riding my bumper, construction narrowed the road to two lanes, and the street light in front of me turned red. I stopped. The fellow behind me honked his horn, flipped me off, shot around me — cutting off the guy in the other lane — and ran the red light, missing a collision by millimeters. I said a prayer for everyone between him and wherever he was going.
I did my shopping, went to the cash register and discovered that I’d forgotten my debit card and left my check book on my desk when I’d stuffed the envelope for mailing. I had some cash. I sorted through my purchases and took only what I really needed. The people behind me in line shifted restlessly and made huffing noises.

I left Kmart and headed for Sonic. I decided a deserved a small ice cream. It’s Sunday. I always have a splurge on Sunday. Traffic was thinning out. The half-block trip to Sonic took only moments — unfortunately, everyone else decided to beat the heat (77F) there, and it was crowded. I ordered my ice cream and waited for the car hop.

While I was waiting I pulled out my Kmart receipt, suddenly wondering why I’d spent a fifty dollar bill on $30.00 worth of stuff. The kid who waited on me took everything out of the bag that I’d told him to, but he hadn’t taken all of it off my receipt. I called Kmart. They told me to come back and they’d give me my money back.

The carhop arrived at my window with my order. She said, “That’ll be $8.57, ma’am.”

“What!?” I gasped. “For a small milkshake?” She looked into the bag in her hands, said, “Excuse me,” and roller-skated away. A few moments later she returned with my small milkshake and requested $2.52, which was much better.

I couldn’t get out of Sonic and into the North bound lane. The center median forced me to continue South. At Stewart Ave. I turned right. At Lamb Boulevard I turned right — and the road was free and clear. I drove all the way home before I remembered I was supposed to stop at Kmart.

I finished my milkshake, went to the bathroom, and returned to Kmart, via the post office where I mailed yet another letter. Traffic had thinned out quite a bit and I made it to Kmart in less then 20 minutes, despite stopping at the post office. The store was packed. I stood in line at customer service for longer then the $12.00 refund was worth. Not only that, the lady was snotty to me and wanted to know why I hadn’t checked my receipt more carefully before paying.

Excuse me? I wasn’t given the receipt until after I paid, and by then I was so embarrassed I just wanted out of the store. I was snotty back to the lady and said, “Unfortunately, I trusted your employee. That’s a mistake I won’t make again.” Then she apologized to me — about six times.

I went out and got into my car. Once again the road divider forced me to go South. I debated with myself about stopping at Sonic for a chocolate coke (I love chocolate cokes), but I’d already had my treat for the day, so I drove by, turned right on Stewart Avenue, turned right on Lamb Boulevard — and suddenly found construction cones everywhere. They weren’t there just a few minutes earlier when I’d traveled that same path. The road was restricted to one North bound lane. It took me 25 more minutes to get home.

I’m staying. Sure wish I had that chocolate coke.

Alfonse Goes Ghetto

Describing Jim’s first day in my class reminded me of a new student who came to my room last year. Class had barely begun and there was a knock on my door. I opened it. There stood a young man all spit shined and polished. He was wearing dress shoes, a three piece navy blue suit, a navy blue tie with a conservative red stripe, and a white dress shirt. His hair was cut short, combed and smooth — he looked like a standard issue business man, size small.

He held out his hand, clasped mine in a firm shake and said, “How do you do Ms. A? My name is Alfonse M. and I come to you from Cambridge.”

All I could think, looking down at this perfect young gentleman was, “Oh my, God. The kids will kill him before the day is out.” I invited him into the room and introduced him to the class.

The kids in our school wear uniforms. Black, navy or khaki pants, and white, khaki or navy shirts. They do not wear suits. Not only that, our school is in a high-risk (gang infested) neighborhood and is 100% free lunch. My rag tag crew stared at Mr. Spit-n-Polish. He stared back. I suspected recess was going to be very lively.

As soon as he was in his seat, Alfonse immediately shed his jacket, vest and tie, stuffing them into his backpack. He mussed his hair. The slicked down look was gone, and he’d rolled up his shirt sleeves. It really didn’t help him blend in. He was too clean, too pressed, too straight and too new.

I said a silent prayer and began class. The class I had last year was pretty rough around the edges, so I wasn’t surprised when the murmurings started. I looked up and saw two of my roughest and toughest head to head muttering in Spanish. The biggest of the pair hooked his thumb toward Alfonse.

I didn’t know what they were saying, but I know enough Spanish to understand I was hearing a threat. I started to open my mouth and tell my wannbe thugs to can it. I never got the chance. Alfonse whipped around in his sit and said, “You can f-fen try.” Then he added something crude in Spanish.

My class gasped. Everybody whipped back around to look at me. Was I going to allow that?

Yep. I was. I redirected everyone’s attention to their math assignment. When they were working quietly I whispered to Alfonse that I understood the need for his response, but in the future, that launguage wasn’t allowed in my classroom. Then I whispered to the wannabe thugs, “I think Alfonse can take you, but remember, even if he can’t, I can.”

New Student

I got a new student today.  He came in bold as brass.  No shyness at all.  Asked to sit with the worst behaved kids.  I sat him right square in front of the class.

I overheard him talking to Joe.  “We could do anything at my old school.  They’d send us to the office, call our parents.  Big deal.  My parents don’t care.”

Joe’s eyes were huge.  “They’ll care about our principal.  If Ms. A. doesn’t kill you first.  She’s nice, but just don’t try that stuff here, okay?”

“New Kid: “Why?  What’s she gonna do to me?”

Joe: “I don’t know, but I don’t want to watch!”

New Kid, quiet.  Staring at me.

Assorted Sillies

The Eyes Have It

We stood at assembly, waiting for the pledge to begin. Somebody mentioned the Sunday time change. The class discussed the repercussions of losing an hours sleep. I said, “You’ll have a cranky teacher Monday morning.”

Joe smirked at me and rolled his eyes.

“Excuse me,” I said, feigning shock. “Are you implying that I am always cranky?”

He crossed his arms, turned slightly away, looked at his buddy, and started to whistle.

“Now I think I am cranky, ” I said. “Remind me to beat you when we get it into classroom.”

“Yes, Miss,” he said. Then he rolled his eyes again.

Gender Density

Jose, who is the board eraser this month, couldn’t seem to get the white board clean. There is too much residue on it. I saw him struggling and said, “Jose, wash the white board.”

Jake joined him. They both rubbed at it with towels.

I repeated, “Jose, wash the white board.”

“I’m scrubbing it, Miss!”

“Yes, and it’s not coming clean. Wash the white board.”

“I am!” He responded, clearly frustrated.

“Jose,” I said with exaggerated patience, “Wash means, use water.”

Two horrified boys swung to look at me and wailed, “Water!”

Problem Math Problem

The lesson directions called for the kids to use calculators to do a dozen or so math problems. Over half of the class, one at a time, waved a hand in the air for help with problem #4. The easiest one of the lot.

5 1/2 x 60 = _____

Their query, every one of them? “Where do I find 1/2 on the calculator?”

My response? “I don’t know, Hon. Why don’t you just try .5?”

Each kid in turn looked startled and exclaimed, “Oh, yeah,” sheepishly.

Dave and I shared the same exchange, but his reaction was somewhat different. He stared at me dead pan for a moment and then said, “Excuse me, I have to get my brain from the freezer.”

Desert Kids

Desert kids are strange. It sputtered rain yesterday. Three drops here. Four drops there. The kids danced around in circles outside with their arms raised to the gray skies, chanting, “It’s raining! It’s raining!”

Health Lessons

Rick came in the room whimpering.  His knee was scraped.  A bit of blood was oozing out.  I directed him toward the first aid kit and said, “It’s only a knee.  Knees grow back.”  The kids argued with me.

Later, Jake came in with a skinned elbow.  I directed him to the first aid kit and said, “It’s only an elbow.  Elbows grow back.”  The kids argued with me.

Throughout the course of the year I have assured them that elbows, knees, fingers, feet, arms, legs, ears, noses and heads grow back.  Always they argue with me.  Often one of them asks, “What kind of teacher are you?”  Jasmine frequently says, “We aren’t starfish, Ms. A!”

Today I repeated the phrase, “It’ll grow back,” at least a half dozen times.  People kept banging, poking and thumping themselves.  Luckily no real injuries occurred. As I was reading aloud to the kids after recess, Jasmine picked up a pair of scissors and started snipping the ends of her hair.  I yelled –“Stop!” — loud, startled, and dramatically.

Jasmine froze, scissors poised, mouth in an O, eyes wide.  “Don’t cut that,” I cried.  “It won’t grow back!”

Jasmine yelled, “You scared me!”

Cindi said in disgust, “Honestly, Ms. A., how can you expect us to believe anything you say?”

That’s just it.  I don’t want them to believe.  I want them to think!

Some People Never Learn

I’ve gone on many diets in my life.  Mostly what I’ve lost — on each and every one — is money.  So, why did I decide to try another?

This latest — and hopefully last — diet, has taught me quite a bit about myself and my healthy eating needs, so it has by no means been a waste.  And the book they gave me is quite good.  I am enjoying the class and talking to the other people.  Basically, I am not even having a problem with the diet — except:

I spent a part of my life homeless.  There were periods where I would go three to five days without adequate food.  Most days there were frozen apples still hanging off a tree down the road.  One had to eat them at just the right moment — still frozen enough to chew, but thawed enough not to break teeth.

During my homeless time pretty much all I thought about was food.  I was constantly hungry and I worried 24/7 about my next meal.  Even after I was no longer homeless or hungry, that obsession stayed with me.  I didn’t even recognize it until a few years ago.  At that point I started reprogramming my food thinking.

I do not have to clean my plate. I know where my next meal is coming from.  I do not have to over-eat.  I know where my next meal is coming from.  I do not have to worry about getting my fair share of everything.   I know where my next meal is coming from.  Just because there is food in front of me, I am not obliged to eat — especially if I’m not hungry.  I know where my next meal is coming from.

Last August it all finally clicked.  My eating patterns changed.  My food stress left.  Poof — gone.  I thanked God for the miracle and watched the scales roll back.  The weight was coming off at two to three pounds per week without effort. I found myself wondering what would happen if I applied myself — so I joined Curves.   The weight started coming off at three to five pounds per week.

So I decided to take the Curves Weightloss challenge.  They didn’t advertise it as a diet.  They said it was a class on healthy eating habits — which it is, but it comes with a 6 week prescribed diet.  Suddenly I am back to thinking of food 24/7.  I am weighing, measuring, recording — eating certain foods in certain amounts at certain times …

And even though there is plenty of food and I am not going hungry, I am constantly hungry — because I can’t set the thought of food aside and go on with my day.  I am headed once again for obsession mode — worse, doing things their way, I lost only 1 pound this week.  Losing one pound is better then gaining one, but it is not the kind of progress I was making pre-diet.

I will keep and use their book.  I will attend their class.  I will exercise — but I am going back to eating what I want, when I want, in reasonable portions.  I am no longer going to record every bite that goes into my mouth, or plan for my meals days in advance.  I will listen to my body and feed it when it needs fed — what seems tasty and right at the time.

Check back this time next week to see if my way puts me back where I should be.