Thursday, October 30, 2008

Weekly Update

I'm sitting here at parent/teacher conferences, and I actually have a little break. That's a total miracle. Tuesday I did not move my butt from my chair for 3 1/2 hours. That was a long night. For fall conferences at my school, all the teachers sit at tables in the commons, and parents move from table to table, visiting the teachers they need to see. I had a line waiting in front of my table for the whole night on Tuesday. It's been a steady stream tonight so far, but I've actually had some time to breathe in between conferences, so that's been refreshing.

This week has been completely crazy. Monday was our only normal day... well, as normal as you can get with middle school. It was an especially long day for me because I'd been up very late Sunday night finishing grades. I stayed at school until 1:30 a.m., and I don't mind doing that because it's quiet and I get a lot done, but it makes a very short night's sleep.

Tuesday was an early dismissal due to conferences. After school, I worked like mad getting ready for Wednesday staff development, which I was in charge of, along with my associate principal. I grabbed something to eat and quickly let the dog out before heading back to school for conferences. After conferences, I had rehearsal until 10:45, which would have been enough, right? Well... I had stuff to finish for the morning, so I went back to school after that. Another short night of sleep.

I was at school by 7 a.m. on Wednesday to prep for staff development (on a normal day, I'm not even up by that time), and even though I was tired, it was totally worth it. Kelly, my associate principal, and I had planned different learning stations for our colleagues to learn some new strategies for differentiating instruction for all learners. Our planning really paid off. Everything went so smoothly, and so many people came up to me afterward to say that they really got a lot out of the experience. Wednesday night I had choir, and then rehearsal after that until about 11.

Today, we had another early dismissal because of conferences. And now, here I am. I have rehearsal when I leave here, probably until 10:30 or 11. And then... drum roll please... I GET TO SLEEP LATE TOMORROW!!!! I can't tell you how I'm looking forward to that. Is it bad to look so forward to sleep??? Having Friday off is the best part of conference week.

Tomorrow I'm having a special rehearsal at 1:30, and then I'm meeting up with a friend of mine who is coming into town for the weekend. I hear about what Emily is up to through Facebook and through her mom who is in my Centering Prayer group, but I haven't actually seen her in a few years, so I'm looking forward to it.

Saturday is the big day at the Governor's mansion. Dad and Alice are going with me, and the other two teachers in my district who earned National Board Certification last year will be there with their families too. I don't really know what to expect, but I'm excited.

Choir sings on Sunday, but I don't have to teach Sunday school. That combined with turning the clocks back will hopefully catch me up on all the sleep I missed this week. I'm hoping!

Someone (Tracy maybe?) sent me a pretty funny website this week. If you're a Republican, don't bother, but it's so funny that I wish they'd actually do the same thing for all the candidates. Check it out at I'm actually really looking forward to Election Day. It's that A.P. Government nerd in me. Whenever I vote, I think of Mr. Tobias. His class was a highlight of my junior year. That was the 1988-1989 school year, with the George Bush/Michael Dukakis campaign. Mr. T worked it out for our class to be at the courthouse on Election night. We got to tally and run totals to the newspapers and TV stations. It was a total blast. It also instilled in me a passion for voting and the whole election process. Thanks, Mr. T. I'll be thinking of you on Tuesday.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I am Not a Techie; I am a Diva

I just spent the afternoon painting set for The Lion in Winter. And I will reiterate, I AM NOT A TECHIE; I AM A DIVA. I don't care how it's built, where the lights are hung, who sewed the costume, or who freaking painted the set... I just want to step out in the spotlight, look wonderful, and be adored. Is that too much to ask?

OK. I'm better. It's just that all of that was brewing inside for a few hours, and I had to let it out. I did my share with a smile on my face. None of them needed to know what was going on inside my head.

And pray for me this week, everyone. Parent/teacher conferences. Enough said.

Opie and Richie for Obama

Tracy sent me this ad this week.  I was entertained...

See more Ron Howard videos at Funny or Die

Friday, October 24, 2008

It's Why I Love My Job

My 8th grade GOAL students are just finishing up their unit on the Holocaust. I'd say I was disappointed overall in what they got from the unit. They read several different Holocaust novels in literature circles, we read the play of The Diary of Ann Frank," and we watched a movie with historical footage and survivor accounts. The discussions just didn't get very deep, and they just didn't seem to be moved at all by the stories we studied. I've learned over the years of teaching middle school students to not take this personally. Some adolescents are just more ready than others to think deeply. Plus, you can never really know how much they're internalizing as they sit and shrug their shoulders in class. Today was a perfect example of that.

It was their last day in class to work on their project, basically a reflection of what they've learned during the unit about the characters in their books, how the Holocaust affected the world, and what lessons there are to learn today from studying the Holocaust. The classroom was quiet, and they were working hard because the deadline is looming. One of my students (I tell her she tests me... she's just one of those kids who needs to know why we're doing everything we're doing... it's good for me, but she tests me) raised her hand and quietly said, "I just don't get why there is war." 8 sets of eyes looked in my direction for answers. This led to the most meaningful discussion I've had with them so far this year.

We talked about reasons for war, and as with most good discussions, every question led to 10 more. I played Devil's Advocate, and they debated and discussed and questioned. Oil dependency. Vietnam. Islam. Holocaust survivors. The Crusades. Freedom. I teared up. I'm not kidding. I told them that if they left my class in May thinking about these kinds of questions, not just eating up what other people feed them about important issues, that I will have considered my time with them a success.

These kids are the leaders of tomorrow, and hopefully, they're going to grow up into adults with consciences who think about how their actions affect others and how they can solve the problems we've handed them on a silver platter. We didn't come up with a single answer today. I'm sure they left my room with 100 more questions than when they walked in. But they're thinking, and they're thinking deep. This is why I love my job.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Four Days of Ups and Downs, Part 2

Blogger was being a bit of a pain, and I wasn't feeling up to the battle last night, so I'll finish posting about the weekend now.  Saturday night was the big event, and I was looking forward to wearing 8.91 again (That's another story all of its own, but that's the name of my formal gown).  The online invitation said that formal wear like tuxes and gowns was welcomed and encouraged.  Well, I was overdressed for the rest of the clientele, but I FOLLOW DIRECTIONS, DARNIT!  And, I looked really good, so who cares what everyone else was wearing, right?  Now, I had convinced my friend Tom (my "+ guest" for the evening) to wear his tux.  I could tell he was a little uncomfortable since no one else had the guts to follow the directions, but he and I looked great together, so again... who cares?  Plus, since Jeff was part of the wedding party, he was all spiffed up in his tux, so I just stayed close to him after Tom left (I released him from his duties after dinner and 1 dance... I just did NOT want to sit by myself during the wedding or at dinner).  Here are some pictures of Duane, Jeff, and me before the wedding.
The wedding was in the Stephen Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts, and it was beautiful.  I'd never seen a wedding on stage before, and it was quite a production, with a whole "set" done in reds and blacks.  The reception was in the convention side of the Fairfield Arts and Convention Center, and it was stunning.  This picture is a little blurry, but you can get the idea.  
There were so many candles!  We had a delicious meal, and then the dancing started under the red lanterns and lights hung from this 11 foot high creation built by the bride's father just for the occasion.  It was a great night.  Jeff sounded awesome with our friend Emily who had flown in from her school in Idaho just for the wedding.  It was a beautiful night.

Before we left, we went on stage and had our pictures taken on the "set."  I'm so glad Jeff and Duane came down.  It was an awesome weekend, and it was even worth being sick for in the end.  I know I should have rested Saturday, but I wouldn't have missed time with Jeff and Duane for anything.
For Jeff's take on the weekend (his is much more detailed, but I don't feel good, people... take what you can get) and for different pictures (including a pretty funny one involving my cleavage), see his snarky librarian blog.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Four Days of Ups and Downs

The downs first... I have been completely knocked on my butt by bronchitis and sinus infection.  I have missed two days of school.  I've had a fever until this afternoon.  I've been coughing my guts out.  My head feels like it's going to explode.  And let's not even talk about the stuff I'm blowing out... I'll just drop it there.  I really can't remember the last time I was this sick.  I finally broke down and went to the doctor yesterday, and he gave me a powerful antibiotic.  It had BETTER be powerful, considering my copay price was $100, and there are only 5 pills in the bottle!!!!  He also refilled my cough medicine which was the main reason I went.  I cannot sleep without it these days.  I had been working on this illness at the end of last week, but I just refused to be sick while Jeff and Duane were here for Mandie's wedding.

Jeff got into town on Thursday, and then Duane arrived on Friday, so we all had some fun quality time together outside of the wedding.  Saturday was especially nice.  We started with coffee at Revelations and then did some strolling around the square.  I had to buy incense for Sunday School (don't ask), so that warranted a lovely stop at Thymely Solutions.  We also enjoyed the At Home Store and The Chocolate Cafe, as always.  We went back to Revelations for wood fired pizzas for lunch, and I discovered that The Florentine may be my new favorite, nudging out my tried and true shrimp/pesto/sundried tomato.  After that, we picked up Avery and had a beautiful walk at Jefferson County Park.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Bite Me

OK, this cracked me up... thanks for sending this one, Gay!  

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Colin Powell Interview

Tracy brought this clip to my attention on her blog.  I watched it, and I actually teared up (I know I'm tired and sick with a rotten cold on top of generally being an emotional person, but anyway, it really got to me).  Colin Powell eloquently voices so many of my personal feelings.  Wow.  It made me wonder... is it too late for him to run for President?  I know he has no ambition to do so, but I greatly admire him.  He is truly a great man.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Cool, Not Cool

Yesterday I received an invitation from Iowa Governor Chet Culver.  In two weeks, all the teachers who earned National Board Certification in the last year are going to be honored at a celebration/reception thingie.  Cool!

I can invite 3 guests.  I'm sure they're thinking husband, kids, etc.  sigh.  Not cool.  I asked my dad if he and my stepmom wanted to go with me.  He's going to get back to me. 

I want my mom.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


I was tagged by Kat at Life Earth Sky.

Rules for tagging:

1. Link to your tagger and list these rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blog.
4. Let them know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

7 facts about me:
1. Musical theatre is my medium. Some people are connected to creation in watercolors or clay. I'm connected in Broadway.

2. I can tie a maraschino cherry stem in a knot with my tongue. It's a hereditary talent. My mom could do it too.

3. I can almost make myself cry every time I think about the time I was teasing my brother, and I was dangling his little stuffed dog by the open window of my dad's speeding truck. Matt loved that thing, and his preschool teacher had taped a piece of masking tape across its chest that said, "Snoopy." I lost hold of it. I honestly didn't mean to. We both burst into tears, and my dad wouldn't go back for it, no matter how much I begged. I don't think I've ever felt so bad in my whole life. The picture of that little dog with the tape across his chest is burned in my brain. I mean it... I'm tearing up right now, just thinking of it. I still feel terrible about it.

4. I got a henna tattoo this summer, and now I'm kind of obsessed with the idea of getting a real one. I don't know if I'll ever have the guts.

5. I've been in love 4 times.

6. Christmas is my favorite holiday.

7. My favorite childhood books were The Monster at the End of this Book and Baby Dear, both Little Golden Books.

I'm tagging:

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Beginning of the End

I have worn this bracelet since my trip to Martha's Vineyard with my cousins in June.  It was a present from their beloved (everyone's beloved) Connie.  I found it on my pillow one day during the trip, waiting for me as a little surprise.  The beads have long since faded from pink to white, but no matter.  I have treasured it because it constantly reminded me of my trip.  Yesterday, to my HORROR, I found one of the shells askew and two of the little strings frayed.  It won't be long now.  The poor thing is on its last leg... er, string.  Rest in piece... er, peace.  I'll try not to come unraveled when you go...  God, I need sleep.  I'm delirious... this is what constant end-of-quarter editing of adolescent writing will do to a person.  Be afraid... be very afrayed...

My Daily Website Routine

Growing up, mornings started with breakfast and the Des Moines Register.  I started by just wanting the comics, and then as I got older, Mom and I would swap all the sections as we had a bite to start the day.  Now, I don't subscribe to the paper, but I do start each morning with news of some sort.  I have a list of websites bookmarked that get me going each morning.

General news: New York Times
Broadway news: Playbill
Council Bluffs news:  The Daily Nonpareil
My Rosie O'Donnell fix:
My daily Set puzzle: The Set Daily Puzzle

I also check my account to see if Mr. Wonderful appeared during the night.  And, of course, I go through my blog roll to see if anyone's posted anything new.  I check my two e-mail accounts, and if I have time, I check my Facebook.  

Not the Des Moines Register, but it serves the purpose.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Mankato Weekend

I thought I'd write about this weekend a bit, now that my conference is done and I've had some time to reflect on the fun. On Friday after school, I dropped Avery off at the vet for boarding, and then I headed out with the Kurths toward Jefferson, where Jason grew up. We stopped in Des Moines for supper and then went the rest of the way. Thanks to the hospitality of Jason's mom (Granny Pat to all of us), we had the perfect place to stay, and we didn't have to get a hotel room for two nights.

Emma and I slept in the back bedroom. I'd wanted to crochet Pat a couple of dishcloths as a thank-you, and of course, I'd put it off way too long. I was finishing up that night, and Emma was snuggled in beside me. She was tired because she broke her collarbone earlier in the week (fell of the jungle gym at recess... teachers, including mom Mrs. Kurth got her an ice pack and sent her back to class... no one believed the poor little Diva that something was seriously wrong... the trials of being a drama queen), and she was still on tylenol with codeine at night. I wasn't complaining... I was hoping she'd sleep hard enough to not kick me in the night. ;) She was very interested in the crocheting, and she was very excited about the surprise for Granny Pat. I told her the story about how my grandma had taught me to crochet on Christmas Eve when I was in 6th grade. That's one of the most special presents I ever received. She fell asleep before I finished the last dishcloth, and in the morning she helped me tie the ribbon and deliver the present.

After a restful night, we left for Mankato. The kids were excited about time with Granny Pat and Grandpa Terry. Emma was very exuberant about waving goodbye, and as we were pulling out, she tripped and fell over a step, right on her bum shoulder. Ugh. Traumatic exit for us, but she got settled and was fine.

Jason lived in Mankato for several years, so Suzanne and I got to hear all his fun college stories, and we got to see his old favorite hangouts. Pagliai's Pizza was the first stop. It's kind of a little hole in the wall, but the pizza is a local favorite. We had the buffalo chicken pizza, and it was great... spicy, deep dish... delicious!

We toured campus a bit. A lot had changed since Jason had gone to school there. We stopped at the bookstore, and I got a Minnesota State University hoodie. Then we called Stephen. He came over and met us at the Union. I was so glad to see him. He's really become like a little brother to me, and I was anxious to see how he was doing. We shopped at the mall for a bit, and then we checked into our hotel. We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn, and it was really nice. Excellent pillows. We ate supper at a place called Grizzly's, and then we dropped Stephen off at the theatre.

Miss Saigon was amazing. Stephen and two other of the summer interns from the Sondheim Center were in the show. They had their own little cheering section that Saturday night because three more of our Sondheim crew had gone up to see the show too. I just love the show anyway. It and Les Miserables are my favorites. I just love love love the music. This clip from YouTube is from the Tony Awards and shows two of my very favorite singers on earth... Lea Salonga and Liz Callaway. sigh.

I've seen Miss Saigon twice, and the Minnesota State production surprised the heck out of me. I was moved in places this time that surprised me. I got most emotional during the Fall of Saigon scene with the helicopter. I don't remember ever being that upset in that particular spot in the show before. The way they did it was so intense and emotional. I was a wreck. Their Kim was Equity from New York, and she was amazing. She lifted the caliber of performance from the entire cast. Everything was so well done. The lighting was especially interesting and beautiful. If every production at MNSU is like this, I'm definitely going back for more!

Our crew all met at a cafe after the show for some social time, and after dropping Stephen off at the dorm, we headed for the hotel. We were wiped, but in a good way.

Stephen joined us for breakfast the next morning. It was nice chatting, just the four of us. These pics are from breakfast.

We made our way back to Jefferson to pick up the kids, stopping in Ames for lunch at the Pizza Pit. We helped return Granny Pat's back to normal. This pic is Jack "helping" put the toys away. ha

I had rehearsal when I got home on Sunday, and then I went to school to prep for my sub, since I was going to miss two days this week. Needless to say, I was so completely exhausted when I finally went to bed on Sunday, but the weekend was totally worth it. This is the first little trip that I've taken with Jason & Suzanne, and I had a great time. I hope we can do it again!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I Love My Job

There is absolutely no way for this not to sound corny. But, I LOVE MY JOB! I was so excited to see the kids this morning, I could hardly stand it. They were also excited to see me, which was nice, and not always the case. ;)

My head is still spinning with thoughts and ideas from my conference. I have so much to share. I feel like it's going to explode out of me. The best thing is that even though I knew before my conference that I need to do professional development with my staff about differentiating instruction for high ability learners, now I feel like I have a whole plethora of real, exciting, easy, useful strategies to use during that professional development. It's making me excited about the very thing I was dreading.

On a separate note, I had rehearsal last night with Steve, and we read through all our scenes with Henry and Eleanor. I'm seeing a lot of similarities between Eleanor and myself. My realization last night was that the love between the two of them stems from the fact that they are the only people who truly understand each other... personalities, situations, duties, obligations, dilemmas... I think that's why they were drawn to each other in the first place. It's very appealing to meet someone who understands you. More revelations to come...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I'm Home

I'm home from my conference, and my brain is full... in a good way.  There were many good sessions at the Iowa Talented and Gifted Conference, but by far, the best was anything done by Bertie Kingore.  She's a gifted education guru, and I basically felt honored to just be in her presence.  She was inspiring, engaging, and informative.  I feel like I have a ton of differentiation strategies to take back to my classroom and to all the staff in my building.  That's what a conference should be.  I think I could be this woman's groupie if I didn't have to make a living.  It's a wonderful thing to leave a conference knowing that you've found your spot in the world and that your job is truly a passion.  

Plus, I got to take a side trip to Prairie Lights.  That was the cherry on the sundae of my trip!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Today's Blessings

* Sunny, 65 degrees, October.  Who can ask for more?

* I had a meeting in Burlington all day, and on the way back, I had an hour in the back of a Suburban to enjoy the colors.  One of my favorite colors in the whole world happens in a field of soybeans around this time of year.  There's a tiny bit of green left from the summer, and the start of the rusty brown that late fall brings.  But most of all, it's gold... gold with this greeny, rusty richness.  Splendor in the beans.

* Well, I'm still feeling mighty blessed over the whole Eleanor of Aquitaine thing, but I'll try not to dwell on it.  ;)

* While sitting in my class today, I heard the distant buzzing of my phone in my backpack.  I fished it out, and it was a text from my cousin Cameron... just wanting to see if I'd text in the middle of the school day.  It cracked me up.  I texted back... he had no way of knowing I wasn't in school.  However, I think he WAS... naughty, naughty!  I hope he evaded detention.  ;)  Anyway, it made me smile the rest of the day.  Who has better cousins than I do?  NO ONE!  

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Eleanor of Aquitaine

I have been blessed with an amazing gift today.  I have been cast as Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter.  She is a fantastic, acerbic, witty, complex character.  Katharine Hepburn won an Academy Award for playing her.  The play is phenomenal, the movie is incomparable, but even more than that, Eleanor of Aquitaine was an extraordinary woman who went off to fight in a crusade, married two different kings of two different countries, and was the mother of Richard the Lionheart as well as King John.  She was a woman ahead of her time, and I can't wait to play her.  I'm going to have to play older than I ever have, except for high school when there's no one older to play those roles anyway.  Eleanor is supposed to be 60 at the time of the play.  That's going to be a challenge in itself.  I've never worked with this company or this director, so I can't wait to learn from him.  He's also playing Henry, so we'll have a lot to establish together.  The show is scheduled to go up the last weekend of November.

I'm going to try to stay away from the Katharine Hepburn version to try and find my own Eleanor, but here she is for you all to enjoy...   
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