Sunday, November 27, 2011

Do it because you can.

Yesterday, to get out of the hum drums of Thanksgiving, we all traveled to Pensacola, Florida for the day. It's not a bad drive - only 3 hours. Besides a person needs to go just because you can. We left early in the morning for an adventure of touring historical sights, playing in the sand, eating good seafood and touring a museum. Not bad plans for a last minute trip thrown together.
Our first stop was Fort Pickens at the end of Pensacola Beach. It's a civil war fort that almost feels like it is frozen in time. The kids had a lot of fun finding the different historical markers and reading about the sites. The adults did their best to work off that Thanksgiving meal with all of the stairs. Apparently, there weren't any elevators installed when this place was built in 1834.
We made a quick stop later to enjoy some time on the sand and watch the waves. There was a hazardous warning for strong tides and jellyfish. Kind of kills the mood to play. The strong cold wind didn't help matters either. The kids did get to gather various shells and the beautiful white sand. If you want to see a perfect beach, I would recommend Pensacola Beach just for the white sands and blue water.
Our travels continued to one of the best seafood places on the beach - Flounders. This place is consumed with atmosphere and the food ain't bad either. It's basically an open air (or slightly enclosed) dining area that opens to the Coastal Waterways side of the peninsula. My kids love playing in the sand while waiting on their meals. If you ever get a chance to go - definitely order the key lime pie.
Our journey continue to Pensacola Naval Base and the Naval Air Museum. We just visited there over Labor Day and there were more exhibits added since then. My brother-in-law had served in the Navy so I think he enjoyed taking his daughters around showing them exhibits he knew something about. Family connection makes things more interesting.
We managed to make it back home by 8:30 after all of that touring. We still had time to enjoy some beverages, watch Polka Party on RFTV and just share some laughs. All in all, I think it was a nice end to a great family time. My husband and I firmly believe you need to keep yourself open to all options everyday. You never know when something fun may step in front of you. Maybe that's our "seize the day" philosophy.

Friday, November 25, 2011

And so it begins.

We enjoyed our turkey yesterday with our family and friends. My husband grilled our turkey to perfection and I must say it was delicious - and I don't like turkey. There was plenty of food on my counter to share with all and we took the time to enjoy each other's company. It was a pretty standard Thanksgiving.
A few of us traveled out the various stores in the early evening just to get out. I found some new Christmas decor and enjoyed my time out. I didn't even bother looking at sale ads. However, many others did and the Christmas season officially began at midnight with many a shopper looking for that perfect deal. I stayed home in my nice warm bed.
We rose on Friday and waited for our breakfast casserole to bake. We casually looked at the ads but still made no big decision to go out and find our perfect gifts. I must admit that I did go out but I focused on the clearance racks and a quick trip through Publix. Other than that, it was a pretty low key day.
However, most of us wouldn't describe our holidays as low key. We all get caught up in saving as much money as we can, the thrill of the hunt for that unique gift and worry over what is the best food to make to share with friends. We all want our Christmas spirit to reflect in our decor and our music on the radio. We count down the days to the big date just so we are ready. We fret on who's house we go to for what party. We start preparing how to write 2012 on our new checks since that is quickly coming. The month from Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas dinner goes faster and faster each year. I sometimes picture the boat ride in the movie "Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" - you know the wild and chaotic one. That is pretty much the holiday - one big blur.
I think during the Christmas night long ago, Joseph and Mary were more focused on finding lodging and resting before she gave birth. I am pretty sure that I would. Mary wasn't making long lists of food and Joseph wasn't looking for that perfect tree. I know that all happened afterward - that's why it's Jesus's birthday.
I want to stay in the now. I want to focus on each day like it is precious. Christmas only comes one time each year and I want that to be my exact focus. I know that I too will be caught up in the all of the craziness and keep my own lists. However, I plan to take some time reflect on how special this celebration really is. If that includes gazing at my tree and it's lights in the dark, or writing that perfect Christmas thought in a card or baking the best cookie with my kids - that's perfect. The world will always continue. The sun will rise tomorrow but today I want to really appreciate the season.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

This is where the memories start.

This year, my family and I are trying a new experience for Thanksgiving. We are celebrating in Alabama with some close friends and one of my husband's sisters and her family. We have never been away from "home" before but I must admit that I am excited about the new adventure. I have always spent time with my brothers and their families along with my parents. We don't get together often but the Holidays seem more special. Since we have been married, we have always been with both of our families. I have missed one Thanksgiving with mine but my mom was touring India at the time and I did host one of my brothers. We have always traveled to my husband's family. We have caught up on the kids and spent good family time together.
This year things are a bit different. We didn't have enough vacation time to travel north and quite frankly, we are looking forward to a different way to celebrate Thanksgiving. My two girls have jumped in and helped me tremendously around the kitchen. My son has down a great job with tidying the house and vacuuming. It's my own special holiday since I don't have to track them down for assistance. Yeah!!
I have often reflected back to a time when I was younger and still living in my parents' home. I am the only daughter therefore, I have spent many a time helping prep the house for company and assisting my mom with various dishes. I think I learned a lot in the kitchen during those times. Special family recipes were pulled out. Previous celebrations were talked and laughed about. A sense of belonging permeated the entire house. This was Thanksgiving. A celebration with family now and celebration of family gone by.
My father passed away several years ago. I think of him often but I seem to have him in the front of my mind constantly during the holidays. I have wondered what his thoughts would be about me not coming "home" for Thanksgiving. He was very much a family man. He wanted to be around all of his family when he could. However, he understood the definition of family. It's who you are with and who you celebrate life with.
As we gathering around our table tomorrow and celebrate all that we give thanks for. I want to give thanks for new traditions and memories. May my children hold dear to their hearts all of their favorite memories and be open to make new one.s

Monday, November 21, 2011

You just don't know the impact

Every time that I have sat through a volunteer training, the same mantra is always said. Be careful for what you say and do because you don't know the impact you have on the people (kids) around you. We, as a family, have had that experience here - it's a good thing.
My middle child is very much the percussionist. She has a decent used drum set in her room and she practices everyday. She took private lessons in Indiana and even started her training on playing the tenor drums. She knows that bells is not her strong suit so she puts more time into area when she can. Her plan is to be in the Purdue All American Drum Line. Her ultimate dream would be to be in the BBD (Big Bass Drum) crew. She has been properly brainwashed by her father and me over the years. She has attended a few home football games and I am sure some of her first words were - Go Purdue. However, we moved to Alabama and I am not seeing the out of state tuition happening in this economy. She still has a chance but there had better be some scholarships involved. She wants to be a nuclear engineer so there is still hope on that front.
We left a not so strong high school band program to one that is massive. The directors at the Junior High are also assistant directors at the high school. Both directors have taken my daughter in and have encouraged her to become her best. In fact, Saturday one director invited us to attend a game at Auburn and experience their band program. It's not Purdue but it's the next best thing. She left encouraged and fired up to continue her studies. A simple jester of sharing made a positive impact on her. It's not Purdue but it is a great program.
My younger daughter has been frustrated with the lack of a true gifted program here in her new school. They don't have the money to properly support her needs. However, her teacher has continually encouraged her to push herself in many fields, especially writing. She pushed my daughter to write her best book review ever for a writing contest. We supported her in any way we could but the teacher was the one who brought the idea to fruition. Over 10,000 students entered this contest and I am very proud to say that my youngest is in the top 10 finalist. She gets to travel to Mobile next week and try another book review to improve the amount of her scholarship. She is guaranteed  at least a $500 scholarship - top prize is $10,000. We don't really care about the amount  - okay, maybe we do. However, this teacher gave my youngest a unique opportunity that she will remember her lifetime.
We don't know the impact that we have on someone and our words often times are much louder than our actions. 2 teachers in Prattville schools have connected with my 2 daughters and offered them something that means a lot - encouragement.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Lions, Tigers and....War Eagle?

Today I had the opportunity to visit Auburn University and watch a football game. This was my first visit to a SEC game. I am a Big Ten girl at heart but my Boilers are too far away to enjoy a live game and reality says I need to be open to a possible fill in - not replacement.
I marched 4 years with the Purdue All American Marching Band. I have tailgated with my friends even as recently as last year. Heck, I even marched in the Alumni Band twice. Today, it was a brand new experience.
Purdue has a proud history of tailgating but Auburn has a wider spread of tailgating. Purdue alums hang out behind Ross Ade stadium in their fancy rigs or under simple pop ups. You can walk the campus and meet rowdy fans and feel the spirit build before the game. Slayter Hill has always been a popular pregame stop for many fans - allowing them to fire up with the band and get their game faces on - sometimes literally. Homecoming is always full of reunions of friends and pure Boilermaker spirit. There is nothing like going home.
Today was Auburn's homecoming. It's mid November and they are just celebrating homecoming. Most students have already left for their homes for the holiday. The rowdy crowd was nowhere to be found. The alumni band marched but they just marched on with the student band and played. There wasn't a buzz of school spirit in the air. However, Auburn band broke down into 4ths and each part took a street and met at the intersection in front of the stadium. That was cool. The fans do love their band.
However, everyone tailgated everywhere. Where there was lawn, even in front of classroom buildings, there were tailgaters. First come first serve. There were steel boxes to dispose of your hot charcoal. There were pop-up awnings everywhere. The RVs were in their own field up the road with their own shuttle service. Corporations bought hospitality tents just outside the stadium. They were hosting various people and offered satellite TV to watch the game. But they weren't the only ones. Many families had their TVs set up to watch the game. Several never even make it to the game.
Football is a family affair here. Families tailgate even at a high school level. Our local team, Lions, will be playing in the state championship next weekend. The game will be played at Alabama since the Tide will be in Auburn for their big match up. I will guarantee that life will stop around here for that game. Many will go but all will be listening in on that game.
Auburn plays Alabama next Saturday, the Iron Bowl. This rivalry is as strong as our Old Oaken Bucket game. Fans from both sides will converge on Auburn campus and tailgate everywhere - parking lots, grassy areas - anywhere flat. My family has been invited to come out for the game. Don't have to worry about tickets. Just pull up a chair and watch with other fans.
Funny thing about the entire day - instead of Go Tigers it was War Eagle. They has a legend about an eagle soaring through the stadium and it gave the team encouragement to win a horrific game. Today they celebrate that legend by releasing a trained eagle in the stadium. They only cheer - War Eagle.
I only have one answer to that - Boiler up and Hammer down. Go Boilers!!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Please don't assume that I am stupid.

When I moved to Alabama, I was proud to bring with me a great list of trainings that I had received and even taught in the Scouting world. I spent a week last summer working with some of the boys from my Boy Scout troop reviewing knots, compass work and fire building. Needless to say, I felt prepared.
I have been a Girl Scout leader for around 20 years and a Girl Scout since 1973. As a girl, I took as much training as I could. As an adult, I was a day camp director for 9 years over 200 girls. I taught my adults good leadership skills, camping skills and ensured that everyone was safe and having a great time. I learned new skills in my Boy Scout troop. I honed my own outdoor skills and absorbed anything new to learn.
I move to my new council and find that everything I learned never really happened. I was told that there aren't really any adults who move in from out of state that have any good outdoor skills. The person likened it to a trip that they took to Jamboree and how dangerous some of the adults were. How the boys didn't have a clue what was going on. How women seemed to slip through the cracks at most councils. However, this person never really asked what I knew - just assumed I was clueless.
I drove 3 hours one way just to participate in a council training just a few weeks ago. I decided during my drive that I would maintain a good attitude and try to learn something from this trainer. Her first remark - you must have camped before because you know how to appropriately dress. Score one for me. We learned knots. I quietly tied my knot then leaned over and assisted those around me. We learned how to start fires without matches. I started mine several times her way then I started it my way  - still no matches. I asked if she had seen a fire by friction set. Not sure if it works - they only produce smoke was her answer. You see, I am a Firecrafter and a proud one too. I have witness young men building their sets then starting their fires. It's a skill of persistence.
We learned to cook in a dutch oven, however she was short a tool to lift the lid - just use a pot holder. A pair of vise grips work too if not welding gloves. We talked about knife safety. Well, we talked that young people shouldn't touch a knife - wow. We learned to set up a tent and that walking on it while laying on the ground is just fine.
Somehow I managed to smile throughout my training. I often thought what the Boys Scouts back in Indiana would say if they saw me learning the skills that I helped some of them with. It turned into my own inside joke. The trainer asked me after our session if I would help her train. Sure, why not. However, I have a suggestion. Instead of assuming a person knows nothing of what you teach, why don't you include their knowledge in your training.
Everyone has skills that they bring to the table. We all have something that we do well and are willing to share. It is an insult to toss aside what the next person knows instead of learning what they know and possibly honing it into what works best for your group or situation.
I must admit that I have struggled trying to fit my round Scout self into the square Scout hole here. I have often thought of walking away and not caring. However, I can't do that. I can't do that to my Scouts. I value the girls in my troop and hopefully I will finally settle into a great relationship with my boys. Youth can teach us all so much but I can't teach them that it's easy to give up and walk away. They have too many role models teaching that now.

Monday, November 14, 2011

It's the Art of the Brew

My husband brewed beer yesterday. He is a proud member of that quickly growing group of homebrewers. It is not a cheap way to make some booze but more like an art form. I liken it to a pastry chef making the best desserts or a chef creating a masterpiece. Let's put it this way, too much time and effort goes into making that perfect beer to be wasted on calling it cheap booze.
He brewed from grains which is more complicated than from any of his malt extract kits. He set up his kitchen just outside our garage and cooked all day. He had to bring his grain to a boil and cook for so long. Even the water is prepared in a caring way. Then he transferred it to another pot and had more cooking to do. Hops were added and the chemical balance of his beer was constantly checked. A couple of more hours passed before his beer was ready to put in his carboy to start its first stages of fermenting. Truly a chef working on his masterpiece.
Can you tell that he has done this quite often? He has been doing this for many years now. Actually, the last few years he basically moth balled his equipment claiming he had no time to brew. With all that was going on with his job at the time, I suspect there was no heart to put into either.
I am an avid sewer. I can get lost in my sewing room creating something special out of a couple pieces of fabric. I have made toys, clothing, costumes and a few quilts. I lose complete track of time when I step into my sewing room. I guess it's like that with my husband and his brewing. Watching that satisfaction the he has as he brews. The constant checking of his latest masterpiece as it ferments. The schedules that he follows to make the perfect brew. His life's wish is to open a bed and breakfast somewhere South and serve his fine beers. I hope we can attain that for him.
However, this time he handed me the spent grains to make something more out of it. I perused several dog biscuit recipes and found the perfect one. Now my dog is begging constantly to get his treats. But he has to fight my kids for them too. Yes, my kids. See, the treats are made with spent grains, flour, egg and peanut butter. This bakes into a wonderful treat that apparently my kids kind of like too. I can't wait to get a phone call from school asking why I am feeding my kids dog treats. I guess I had better check their snacks tomorrow.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Buy Those Cookies!!

Because of my bad handling of paperwork, our troop camping trip was canceled - that is going to the actual GS camp. We voted and decided that camping in my back yard was a good alternative - not great but it worked. I had a couple of girls who never camped out in cold weather before and all my girls were still new to each other. We cooked, built fires, worked on knots and learned about camping in the cold. Because of our change in venue, we decided to walk my neighborhood and participate in Scouting for Food. They gathered a wagon load of food.
As the day wore on, I was able to sit back and observe how the girls interacted and handled new situations. Lord Baden Powell, founder of Boy Scouts, stated that camping gives everyone an even playing field. No one reflects their wealth, age, education or anything - we are all the same. This weekend, I couldn't agree more. I loaned out heavier sleeping bags and fleece bags to those who didn't have them but overall they were mentally prepared. I firmly believe that camping levels it out in Girl Scouts too.
I watched an only child realize that she lost that status in her troop family of 7 members. The same girl was very excited to roast a marshmallow and  make her first s'more. I watched another girl with special needs realize that she can do more if she believed in herself. Her troop was also not cutting her any slack. However, without any prompting, several offered aid with any task that might be too difficult or unsafe for her. That is sisterhood.
I listened to the Cadettes tromp off to their own tent and giggle part of the night away. I watched 2 Juniors set up their tent and decide that best location for it. In the morning, I watched 3 Cadettes act as if they knew each other for years instead of months. That is what Girl Scouting is all about.
I grew up in Scouting and continued on as an adult. I am a Gold Award Scout, equal to Eagle - but don't ask a Boy Scout that. I have honed my leadership skills and have learned how to be more flexible in my decisions. I try to picture what I would be if I didn't have that training throughout my life. I am not sure but I don't think I would have the confidence that I have now. I have learned courage to try new things and work outside of my comfort range. Both of these things create character. That is the current ad campaign for Girl Scouts - Courage, Confidence and Character to make the world a better place.
I was able to witness that in our overnight. These girls were out of their comfort zone but now know that they can do what they need to do. They tried various ways of starting fires - never using a match. This is just one part of the program but a very strong part. Ask you kid if they can do that.
January, cookie sales begin around the country. When asked by a young girl if you would like to buy some cookies - put yourself in their place. Would you have been able to ask a stranger that passed your cookie booth to buy cookies? Could you have looked a person in the eye and said "Thanks for your support or Thank you anyway"? Yes, it is a great money maker but it is more than that. Each year I watch my girls become more confident about themselves as they grow up and talk to more people. Show your support and buy a box or two. That money goes a long way to helping a girl become a better person.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thank you is not enough

Today we celebrate Veteran's Day in our country. Many of us will stop for a moment and offer thanks then go on with our days. Some will attend services or participate in parades. I must admit that I am one that will stop in thought then go on with my day. I have this photo in my living room of my father in his dress blues from the Navy. I gaze at it and think about that young man in that photo and what he did and saw all those years ago.
You see, I am blessed to have a father who served in WWII. He served on a Destroyer Escort, the USS Snyder. He did what many young men did at that time, he stopped what he was doing as a civilian and took his position as a navy man - working in the engine room as a mechanic - motor mach as he called it. He saw quite a few things while on his tour. He was stationed just off of Japan after the big bombs were dropped. He never made it to land but I am sure of its impact. He didn't continue any career in the Navy after the war. He did just what many other Veterans did and came home and picked up where he left off. He married my mom and they began their lives together.
My father passed away June 4, 2002 after a long battle with COPD. I think it started on that ship all those years ago. He came home to work in the train yards in a small town called Beech Grove, Indiana. He was a gifted wood worker and didn't know about today's precautions for chemicals from paints and strippers. He worked several jobs as the head of household but he always able to provide for a family of 5 children.
After he passed away, I started seriously working on my family genealogy. I hunted for dates and photos to feed my curiosity. I couldn't find much of my father's Navy life in my mother's hope chest. She had cut down some parts of his old navy to use for my oldest brother for clothing. I am sure other parts were just worn out. My parents grew up in the depression and learned to use all that they had wisely.
My father really never shared any war stories with his family. During the late part of his life, he did open up more but we never heard anything that he held deep in his soul. I know that a torpedo narrowly missed the bow of his ship during a battle. I know that he hated rice. While being stationed off of Japan that was most of the rations on the ship. I still remember him being very angry towards Japan even during the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics held in Japan over 10 years ago. Again, so much I will never know but I do understand. I think he saw some things too horrific to even speak. Like many WWII veterans, those stories and experiences are lost to all of us. According to my mother, he never really had any post war issues when he came home but he was a private man so I will never really know much.
There is one thing that I will always be in complete respect of. After my father's funeral, we were reading the registry book. One of his shipmates came to pay their last respects after all of these years My oldest brother had the opportunity to speak with him, however, the rest of us missed it - including my mother. That spoke so much more than my father ever said. They went through quit a lot out there in the world oceans. Over 50 years later, that bond still continued even though they probably never spoke after they walked off that ship.
I am grateful to all of my family that has served. I have uncles who served in WWII. I have a father-in-law that served in peace time. I have a brother, brother-in-law and cousins that have also all stepped up and served during peace. I know that peace time serving it not what is says. They are protecting our peace. I am grateful for them stepping away from their families and doing what they did.
Most of all, I am grateful for my father. You have taught me more than any person could, especially my values. Only a man with your background could do that. I am a strong person because of you. Thanks for stepping up all those years ago and protecting your little girl. For that, thanks will never be enough.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

They are only young for so long.

Today, I was able to enjoy lunch with my youngest for Grandparents and Special Person Day at her school. I am not her grandparent but obviously I fit in the special person category. My kids enjoyed this day in Indiana while in elementary school. Their grandparents also thought it was important enough that they attended. However, when you move so many hours/miles away, I get to fill in for that role.
I had a lot of fun having lunch with my youngest. She made me a nice card about what we have in common. Being her mom, I will say it's the best one made in her class. We sat with a couple of her friends, one that is in my Girl Scout troop and another who wants to join. The latter girl had no one with her. She said she told her parents about the lunch but forgot to remind them so they didn't make it. It broke my heart.
There were several other kids that had no one with them for lunch. Having lunch together is not that big of a deal but being the one without a lunch date is kind of sad. I understand that there are circumstances that keep you from participating but somethings can be worked out.
Our kids are only little for a while. We have all been told that many times, especially by our parents. My son turns 16 this winter. I often reflect back when he was an toddler. My husband and I often tease our kids about things they did when they were little. Watching the old videos reminds me of days past but it's just not the same.
I am trying my best to remember to be there for my kids whenever I can. I am active in their Scout troops and get to know their friends when I can. I am not the cool mom, just the observant mom.  Whenever I am driving them to their various activities, I remind myself that one day I will be driving them to college. Time does fly when you are having fun.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Looking for that White Christmas.

I tried to do some Christmas shopping yesterday. Tried is the word since I just couldn't get into the mood to really look for anything special. I have been shopping most of the year and that was the easy part. However, when November comes around I like the crisp snap in the air, the threat of possible snow flurries and the yearning for some spiced tea. Yesterday it was almost 80 degrees around here.  A little warm for the area but not by much.

I found myself looking at the large Christmas card collection trying to find that perfect card. I don't usually send out cards but since we moved I thought this would be a good year to do so. Still need to let some friends and family know that we have moved and that we are all doing fine. Maybe they should read my blog.....
Most of the cards reflected wintery scenes and seemed to really define Christmas - if I still lived in my log home in Indiana. Nothing seemed to reflect what that feeling is here - not really sure what that is anyhow.
I even priced artificial trees. We have always had a live tree to fill our log home up with the smell of pine. And quite frankly, fresh is best in that type of home. I have been told by my neighbors here  that I should expect double the prices for fresh trees down here. Why would that be? Well, the trees come from Michigan and Wisconsin. Pine trees here are a bit scraggly. It seemed that the only artificial trees that I liked look real and had a really big price tag. I guess I will have to wait for a big sale. They even sell fake snow to sprinkle on your tree. Looked nice but I considered the constant vacuuming of the house and thought differently.
We have prepared for Christmas as a family when it was very cold out. I remember going to Lowes and selecting any tree that fit our wish list - green and decent. It was too cold  to care. We have had years that we have been out in light jackets searching for hours for that perfect tree. Probably will repeat that here.
I guess when it comes down to it. It's not the snow on the ground, the woods around my log home, the brisk feeling that arrives that time of year. My kids will still be excited about decorating the tree. They have already started asking about making cookies and candies. They have even started teasing me about listening to my Christmas music  - which I do for a solid month. As much as I miss the White Christmas feel from the Midwest, I need to remember just a simple thing. My family hasn't changed and it is still a great Christmas where ever we are. We are together and having a blast.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Got to get that word - Sucker - off my forehead.

After moving to my new home, I started signing up on various websites to receive coupons and information about my surrounding area. They all claimed that they were safe and would not sell my information. When you admit that during your promo info - look out honey, here it comes!!!
Con people around the world are getting more and more creative. Now I am receiving "official email from a US Embassy". UPS supposedly has money for me. I have an uncle who just died and left me money. All but one of my uncles is dead and he has no money - sorry. The list is endless and gets more hilarious everyday. Get your unclaimed money today. Trust me, I have claimed all of mine that is out there. I even had a job offer for Homeland Security if I sent them postage and handling money. Trust me, I am not the girl for your job.
I know that this bunch of emails should be turned in but it's like fighting a red ant hill with a pencil. Ain't gonna stop coming so get out of the way. These emails rank up there with the "Credit Card Services" calls. One even called my kids' cell phone. They don't have a credit card - not even credit to begin with. If you play along and stay on the phone to speak to a representative - the people at the other end are quite nasty. I have learned things about the human anatomy and what to do with it that I think are physically impossible.
I keep going to these various websites and removing my email but then it goes to another. It's the perpetual harassing chain email. They won't stop. But on the other hand, I am guaranteed mail everyday in my inbox. I guess if I remove the word "Sucker" from my forehead and emails - then I might get a little lonely. I guess I will just keep hitting the delete button.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Don't Say 13!!

I subbed again today. It was a social studies class for sophomores and one class for juniors. They were all still reliving the big game from Saturday and still yelling "Roll Tide". This Alabama phenomena is a bit foreign to me still. Last year Auburn won the National Title for football but that college has been quickly kicked to the curb. This year is all Tide. Kids constantly find a way to say "13" in honor of the number of national championships that Bama has won. All day long you hear "13 - Roll Tide" and somehow learn how to avoid saying that magical number.
I taught 6 classes today and was ready to duct tape them all to their chairs but 4th period. The is low funds in the Alabama school accounts therefore, there aren't enough books for the students each to have one. Therefore, all studying has to be done in class - including assignments. If you don't complete it, you don't get a penalty. Poor child doesn't have a book to use at home. Students have figured this out and it quickly becomes a circus when the sub is teaching. Yeah, me!!! Just short of out of control would be the best description of the day. The assistant principal's office is just down the hall but you can't call them - no phone in the classroom. I don't have the school number handy so therefore, I get my whip and chair and hold out for the day.
One class my best defense was to say "13" alot. It got the kids to focus on me for at a least 2 seconds. Things were getting better there. However, it quickly degraded in to the usual chaos. I am not saying that kids were bad - just normal. Busy work from their teacher is not the best option. Especially if it is not being graded.
Despite the craziness of the day, I did realize that these kids are proud. 20 football seniors have scholarships next year for colleges. 17 of them are to Division 1 schools. That is amazing to a community where they are short cash for education. There are no pro teams to speak of here- it's just all college. And if it takes college school pride to get these kids motivated, then I may have to say 13 for a few more classes. Maybe next year it will be "Go Tigers".

Friday, November 4, 2011

It's hard but what can I do

My son came home from school today just short of hysterics. He got off the bus very emotional and was quite adamant about moving back to Indiana. He tells me he has been angry about our move for some time and has kept it bottled up. Now it is all coming to a head - right in my kitchen.
My husband took a new job in Alabama because he needed to go in a new direction - same road, new lane. He had been unhappy with his previous job for quite a while and this new job seems to really fit him perfectly. As a family, we looked at the pros and cons and decided that Alabama was the way to go.
Has it been hard? Heck yes. Have I wanted to go back home? Weekly but it's getting better. I think I am down to monthly.  Do I think we made a mistake? No - change is hard.
When I get frustrated and down I reflect on my new friends that I have made here that are military. They move every 3 years without much thought. It's part of the job. Yes, they have seen the world but it still is hard to have continuity in your life when you have to pull up stakes and move often. I also reflect on my friends who have had to move far and what they have done. We opted to do that college idea about moving away from home - staying away until the first break. For us, that is Christmas. It seems to have worked for the most part. My kids have been too busy on the weekends to fret too much.
We miss our friends and all of our activities with our friends. All of my kids were active in Scouts and other activities and now we must all start over. Rules of engagement are different here but we are adjusting.  We had to start over and that is hard on anyone. Especially a 15 year-old boy who has autism and struggles making friends. He has been on the top of our list of concerns since day one but I firmly believe that he is doing well. Yes, he is struggling but so aren't we all. He has friends and he is active and even found a Boy Scout troop here.
I completely understand why he is upset. My husband has received a few phone calls and texts from me stating that I had it and I was moving North. Did I? No, and I might add that he didn't deserve those calls or texts. I figured out how to cope and adjust to all of my changes and hopefully my son will soon also. We are all growing every day - even if it's painful.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The basics of education

My family has moved to a small town in Alabama. We chose our location after reading reviews on Great Schools and actually touring and interview prospective schools. The school system that we chose does not have much money but they have great results. In the Junior High, 96-97% of the students passed the state exams. That is quite impressive considering they don't have enough books in some of the classes for the kids to take home each night.
We moved from a great school system in Indiana that seemed to have enough money to do whatever they wanted. In fact, they voted a tax raise just to make sure that the schools were up to standards of the community. That school system was well equipped for whatever they needed. I am not saying that it was lavish, just well equipped with computers and other equipment. I do miss some of the opportunities that were provided there.
I subbed today again in one of our schools in Alabama. The teachers just took a 2% pay cut and still don't have the same equipment that I have seen up North. The buildings are old and tired. The classrooms have repair issues but nothing that puts a child in harms way. They are doing fundraisers for computers, software and smart boards. The athletic teams are not at all subsidized by the schools and neither are any other activities. Basically, this school system has no money to spare. However, the kids keep doing their thing and finding success in whatever they do.
Our fundraisers are quite successful. Families are doing what they can to help out. I remember at the back to school night, families were walking around with cases of printer paper, big bottles of hand sanitizer and rolls of paper towels. They were handing them out to any teacher who needed them. That is definitely team spirit.
The big city just south of me in now selling their unused school buildings to raise funds for their kids. Talk about using your resources wisely.
I guess I am getting my own education here. I am not bashing my old school system by any means. If fact, I wish my new school could enjoy such rewards, but they won't. Income is lower here and the economy has had a big impact here. All we can do here is go back to our basics in education, reading, writing and arithmetic. So far it seems to be working. 97% is a nice number to be proud of.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Life is priorities - you just need to know the right order

A FB friend on mine is celebrating her 4 year cancerversary (a name she coined I must add) and I am very excited for her. We have never met but we have become friends on that great social network world because we are both sisters in the CML world. I few years ago I had no clue what Chronic Myloid Leukemia was let alone have a clue that it can be managed. Her symptoms started with a common ailment but grew into something much bigger. She has said that is put a new spin on the common ailment. I must agree.
I thought I had a very bad case of the flu. Spent my family vacation in Florida feeling bad and fighting a temperature. I returned home and had some tests done. Even asked the doctor why one side of my abdomen was protruding - a little more than just by chubbiness. Apparently, a person shouldn't have a 10 pound spleen.
Through the use of modern medicine, I am proud to say that I am in 100% remission. I am also a breast cancer survivor too. Not in my family history, except my mother was diagnosed several years after me. That cancer apparently is in full remission too.
However, I must admit that I get very nervous every time my oncologists take blood or order a simple mammogram. Simple - my first one every I was still nursing my 6-month old child. I still chuckle when the technician tells me not to move.
According to my mother's life span, I am only at the most half way through this lifetime. I still get caught up in my day to day dramas. I still freak out over silly things. However, God has found ways to put my life into perspective. Yesterday, I worked my sub teaching job. Today, I feel tired. My daily chemo pill still has a big hold on me. I am blessed to have a husband that supports me to stay home and care for myself and my family. Knowing today's economy and several friends' marriages, our 20 years of wedded bliss has been tested with my health. Still, he supports me in what I do and makes sure I don't do anything really stupid.
I lost a classmate a few weeks ago to cancer. I talked with her a few times of FB but really couldn't bring myself to go see her. There were many times to visit but I just couldn't do it. I definitely couldn't go to her funeral. It was way to close to me - it was personal. Sometimes I feel bad that I have been successful in my two battles with cancer and some others have not. However, there is a voice that rings through that says that I just need to accept and move on. I am not the Great Planner here - God is.
I am still sharing what I can with the world. I am still very active working with young people in Scouts and look forward to more years. I can't say that I am here to save the world - but I am enjoying the ride. I am glad that I have had an interesting experience so far and I really look forward to what's ahead.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

It only takes a whip and a chair

I subbed for the first time at my local school today. I have always referred to substitute teaching as only needing a whip and a chair to deal with student behavior. I know that sounds a bit harsh but some parents should witness their child's behavior before they even begin to complain. Today was no exception.
Overall, my students were very good. I covered for a biology teacher and she had busy work for them to do. I allowed students to work in small groups as long as they kept the noise down. Each period, however, there was always one student who had to show themselves. One period, I had to keep waking a student up. Her complaint to me was that I was disturbing her slumber. Another student told me he was too stupid to do the work. Another way of saying he was too lazy to even try. Finally, and the best occurrence, a mom called her student on her cell phone during class. The girl was having quite a lengthy conversation. It was how the student was supposed to get home today. Mind you, this was before lunch. I asked her to tell mom goodbye and to call her during lunch. I don't get some parents today.
I did have 2 students who opted to miss their lunch period and hang with me instead. Given, I still had my class there but they had all of their work completed. I guess I should take that as a compliment. Several students even gave me candy. Again, I will take that as a positive too.
In general, I enjoy substitute teaching. I enjoy working with kids in many capacities. I have found that if you treat them with respect, you will receive that in turn. However, if you step over my line, I tend to get a little nasty. One poor student found that out today too. When I ask you to take your seats, don't try to be funny and don't run your mouth. Simple rules to follow.
Hopefully I can get more sub jobs this week. I have to admit that there is no routine or dullness to my day. Each day is different kids and each period is different too. If a kid it driving you crazy, wait a while. That bell will eventually ring.