Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Blast from the past

My girls gave me the first 2 seasons of Dallas on DVD for my birthday. I was one of many who was hooked on the series back in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Folks used to plan their social life around it. One friend even scheduled her C-section so she wouldn't miss an episode. Of course, this was prior to the days of VCRs and Tivo.

It hasn't aged well at all. Camp to the extreme. The clothes! The acting! The dialogue! Especially the dialogue. Watched 2 seasons - the disco scene was the best (worst), and Lucy was certainly an evil little sex kitten in those early episodes. And, oh how has technology changed. J.R.'s Secretary (secretary, not Administrative Assistant) is typing on clunkly IBM Selectric. All the phones (in tasteful pastel colors) have cords, there is not a computer to be seen and nary a cell phone in evidence. The TVs all have dials, nobody wears a seat belt and everybody smokes.

My eldest is has discovered the media of the 1970s and I think she'll find Dallas fascinating. Right now she is reading her way through the novels of Jacqueline Susann. "I didn't know people wrote about stuff like that back then" she told me in utter amazement. She's happily recreating the 1970s and I'm feeling old. My life is now history and nostalgia. It doesn't seem all that long ago to me, but to her it's ancient history.

Monday, August 30, 2004

There Ought to be a Law....

....about having birthdays fall on a Monday. Mondays are bad enough as it is. Friday is a good day - you can celebrate all weekend, Thursdays is tolerable - the week is about over - but Monday! There is never anything good about Monday. My beloved did send me a dozen roses which were duly admired by all and sundry. They are lovely- yellow with peach tips. They are on display in the library and some of the kids asked if they were real. I can't have them at the house since Leia the high maintance cat has been known to dine on them.

It was a slow Monday- we have few scheduled classes because nobody wants Monday as their library day. In fact nobody wants Monday period. Due to holidays and inservices anyone with a Monday library day ends up missing it at least once a month. At my school, nobody wants to miss library time. Which is I guess, a compliment.

So we did thises and thats and odds and ends. Cataloged, lesson plans and such. We are piloting a Gifted and Talented Program with first and second graders. We were promised a curriculum which of course did not materialize so we are creating our own. We is myself and another teacher - we are co-teaching since we have 14 students. She's bi-lingual, which is a nice plus since 6 of the children are too.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Blogger Ate my Post

Wrote a spritely entry on Thursday night and then Blogger had some server problems since it timed out. Tried to recreate it but just couldn't. I can always edit a post but can never recreate on from scratch when it is eaten by a computer glitch. Somehow the second post always sounds forced and has no flow.

Finally some rain - and oh, do we need it. It held off till the afternoon so I did make it to the Salvation Army for box/book/table day only they didn't have many books out. They had restocked the cookbooks so I made off with a new stack of Junior League cookbooks. Spent the afternoon listing all the Landmark Books I picked up at a booksale last weekend. They always appeal to homeschools. The books are accurate historically, but it's a very 1950s viewpoint, where all the American heroes are 10 feet tall and feet of marble, never of clay.

Coaxed My Beloved off the couch and away from the Olympics for dinner at Barnabys - craved one of their burgers and needed time away from the computer.

Odd things of note - the Blogger spell check does not recognize the word "blogger". It wants to change the word to "blocker". Another odd thing...why are Cadallic and Lincoln making SUVs? Why would a little old blue haired lady want a Lincoln SUV? Is she planning to drive over hill and over dale ? And why do they drive them so slowly? Not to mention parking them. It's a puzzlement.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

My Glasses Keep Steaming Up...

Come August I always reconsider lasik surgery. It's steamy in Houston, I get out of the car, my glasses fog up and I can't see. Most anoying. August is the time of year when one wonders why anyone ever wanted to settle in Houston in the first place (real estate hucksters - some things never change). The afternoon rains don't cool things off, they just add to the sauna effect. Fall will arrive - all 3 days of it, if we can only live so long.

Wasted an afternoon in the most useless of in-services. Why are teacher in-services yet another example of "do as I say, not as I do". The instructor was poorly prepared, rambled, got off topic and never did articulate just what information she wanted to convey. I figured out what we were supposed to learn in about 15 minutes and spent the rest of the time wishing I was elsewhere. Couldn't leave because I needed the almighty certificate to prove I'd been there. All teacher inservices are paced at the level of the slowest learner - and that speed can be very slow indeed. There wasn't even any good thrifting on the way home. A new bookstore advertising that it had books at "80%" off turned out to be a remainder bookstore - Half Price Books at lower prices. The high point of the afternoon was releasing a book for Bookcrossing at Starbucks. And getting to the Post Office in time to mail my books.

To quote Scarlett...Tomorrow is a another day...and it better be a better one...

Monday, August 23, 2004

Monday Monday

Seem to be getting into the swing at work - actually left on time. Not that I should off, but I would like a life back. We are caught up with new kids and new cards and it's a trickle instead of a deludge. Actually finished up a book order and an Accelerated Reader order.

Lessons are easy this week - just explaining this year's AR Celebrations. Next week comes "picking a just right book" - my ever constant and sometimes all so futile attempt to convince a poor reader that Harry Potter is a bit much and encouraging a 5th grader that it's time to move onward and upward from Junie B. Jones. Blocks on the AR tests help a bit, but our kids are such reluctant risk takers. They want the old and familiar and the tried and true - something that spills over into all aspects of their daily lives. I swear it's one of the reasons so few of them go on to college - fear of the unknown. Better the devil they know, than the devil they don't, even though the devil they know is dead end jobs at minimum wage. It's very frustrating.

The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming..

Yesterday my E-Bay buddy and I made a first time foray to the Jewish Community Center Booksale. It was a tad pricey - all hardbacks $2 and all paperbacks $1. On the plus side it was well organized, well laid out and not well publicized so we didn't have to contend with some of the usual suspects. I didn't tell Mr. Wireless about - after all, all is fair in love and war and if he chooses not to read the paper carefully. One delightful plus was that it was held on Sunday morning, which suited me, your basic heathen just fine. The Homeschool Moms with their dowdy jumpers , their misbehaving children (clad in matching baggy jumpers) & monster strollers were busy with their Sunday church activities.

I came away with 50 some odd books - a big stack of Landmark books which often have a ready market among said homeschoolers. Oddly, we both found some books with Russian title pages and English text. There were also a number of Russian textbooks and books - donated by someone from the Houston Russian Jewish Expatriate community. Houston is such a melting pot, we have a little of everything.

However, one does wonder what journey a book printed in Russian, with English text and an English gift inscription that indicates it was bought in Moscow in 1956 took to land at a used booksale in 2004.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Sports Overload

Houston is a sports mad town. This goes without saying and mostly those of us who are not just learn to live with it. But, every now and then, something pops up that screams "priorities" and "excuse me, is this really so all fire important?". For example - last night, the "teasers" for the local evening news "Houston Little League Team exposed to contagious disease". The mind starts to wonder ..hum...STDs (after all some of those kids are older than their "birth certificates")? Hepatitis from unclean needles due to steroid abuse? Nope, turns out they are at the Little League World Series and one of members of a team they are sharing a bathroom with has the chicken pox. The future of Houston's Little Glory is in danger because one of the players just might come down with chicken pox. Never mind there is a now a vaccine for it and all children have to proof thereof before they can enroll in public school. Nope, germs are going to shoot down another chance at sports glory.

This on a night when we are in the midst of a Presidential Election, a serious war in Iraq and the Olympics. I do love our local news, I've never seen an organization do a better job of dispelling the notion that Houston is the nation's 4th largest city.

Blessed Be Friday. Left school ON TIME. Got the books packed and in the mail and was asleep by 10. Despite a wonderful thunderstorm I slept till nine. Woke up in time to make it to the Salvation Army for their Saturday Book Sale. I found a big stack of community cook books which always do well for me. The usual suspects were in attendance, including a man who looks up every ISBN on his wireless internet phone and was amazed that I operate strictly on prior knowledge and intuition. Most of what I work with hasn't an ISBN so I have no other choice.

Folks used to migrate toward bookselling because they LOVED books and would rather read than eat. Now, with the rise of E-bay and the Blackberry there is a new breed who know from nothing when it comes to books and sell because they can. For them it's all about the money. They do well enough at it, perhaps better than me but they never look like they are having fun. I adore the thrill of the hunt and matching up a book with a customer who has been looking for it. Yes, it is a a business, but it's also nourishes my soul.

Mr. Wireless only deals in new self help and non fiction so we get along just fine. I didn't bother to point out to him the gems he was over looking - I just grabbed them for myself!

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Got Sucked In ..Despite My Better Intensions..

Well, once again the women's gymnastics have sucked me in. I will be staying up way to late tonight and be oh so sleepy in the morning.

Swimming has to much of the "hunk" mystique and women's beach volleyball is more cheesecake than sport. I am certain the woman are true athletes but why are they dressed in its, bitsy, teeny weenie bikinis? Yes, it developed on the beaches of California , but the men get to wear baggy shorts. When it comes to the ladies, I've seen more clothes on a Hooters Waitress. I would think it would be difficult to keep ones mind on the game if you have to worry about having plumbers butt.

The gymnastics is fun, though the ladies look oh so serious. Not much joive de viere among this years crop. The smiles look so forced and automatic. And they are wobbling and bobbling all over the balance beam - poor things.

Where are all the people? The stands are empty - even at the gymnastics finals. Fear of terrioritsts? The state of the US economy? The low dollar as compared to the Euro? Greece is to close to the Middle East? I wonder if the Olympics are becoming a dinosaur?

No matter what, books are not getting packed tonight. Will have to rush home from school tomorrow, pitch them into envelopes and fly to the Post Office before they close the doors.

Of course, should of packed last night, but I worked till 7 at school. So many new students this year - we picked up a new tract, to relieve overcrowding at a nearby school. All needing new library cards, AR entries and a strong grounding in library routines. We had a big stack and I wanted them OVER with before left for the night. Thanks to an over long faculty meeting I didn't get them done after the bell rang.

Very long faculty meeting -staff shufflings, due to shifting enrollments. To many kids in some grades, not enough in others. It's hard on the children, who are just feeling comfortable - and the ones who are shifted always feel slighted - as one child put it one year "I was given away". And what's even harder are when teachers are shifted from one grade to another on 3 days notice. We're getting a new 4th grade teacher who is "excess" at another school and Jerona doesn't even know the sex of the person. The 4th grade team, which works well together and doesn't cotton to newcomers they haven't approved is most disgruntled. This new teacher will have a hard row to hoe, his/ her only saving grace is that the other bi-lingual teacher is new to our school also. When it comes to teaching, misery and uncertainity does love company.

These days, the district has a budget shortfall so it's all about the money, and keeping the classes as full as the law allows. Jerona tries to project the enrollment but she has no control over the apartment complexs and their propensity for offering $17 move in specials.

It's going to be an intensive year, especially since the state of Texas has raised the bar on the dreaded and all important TEKS test and along with our shifting demographics have come some kids who are really low.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Where Did the Weekend Go?

First weekend after working all week, and as always it was WAY TO SHORT. To many things to cram into it, and they wouldn't all fit.

The Summer Olympics have started but I can't whip up any enthusiasm about the process. It's not an amateur competion in any sense of the world - what with NBA and WNBA players on "Team USA", athletes who train full time on someone's nickel and doping scandals. I hate things that pretend one thing are actually something else - like college football. I like Pro Football, because they make no bones about the fact it's all about the money and the winning. College Football and the Olympics are all about the money and winning too, but they pretend otherwise and try to disguise it using phrases like "glory", "sportsmanship", "national pride" and "goodwill". It aint't about goodwill, it's about who will get featured on the Wheaties Box.

My Beloved is becoming more and more involved with the Executive Women's Golf Association as her interest in playing golf grows. I do like the women in the club, most are about our age, busy with careers, happy in relationships (none of this change partners and dance bit) and happily stable. We are starting to socialize with a group who share a T-Time with My Beloved.

From weeks of no social life, this weekend was a social whirl, in that we also had dinner with My Beloved's mother and her husband. Dinner was great fun and they gave us the most delightful scrapbook. They'd printed out my blog, added pictures and clippings and mounted them in a scrapbook. We're going to add pictures to it and it will be the perfect memory book.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

School Day I

First day back with kids and we all survived. Actually, it was one of the smoother openings, not to many crying children or clingy mothers. Got roped into helping with registration and one mother, who seemed to take forever going through the process had 3 toddlers with her, one of whom was strapped into a stroller and shrieked, yipped, howled, yowled and roared the entire time. Of course, she was the one with the most problems, missing paperwork, shot records and so on. By the time she was finally done all the adults had a headache. The mother on the other hand was oblivious to the entire adventure and didn't seem to mind that her 4 year old was pushing the howler all over the cafeteria, careening into corners and doing wheelies. One mother was told that an eviction notice was not acceptable proof of residency. And speaking of , it looks like one of our most troublesome and dysfunctional families might not be back. Rumors of evictions abound.

The weather cooperated by not raining and a welcome cold front produced semi cooler temperatures - high 80s, instead of our typical blast furnace 90s, heat index of 105.

I much as I didn't want to go back to work, there is still a feeling of excitement when the kids show up, all excited about a new year and a new beginning. Most of our kids like school, they like the routine and predictability.

The library looks good, lots of new books and new stuffed animal and puppet displays which look friendly and welcoming.

If only I wasn't so tired and had more hours in the day. I would love to job share but financially that isn't an option. 1 more year of college for the girls, plus credit card debts to pay. Plus, for the first time I don't have an escape valve. I'm 8 years from being able to retire and have to stay put. School teachers don't' have a 401k they can roll over! I've got to finish out my time so I can get a pension, being that My Beloved and I won't have access to each others retirement benefits, unless there are some drastic changes in our country. Something I don't anticipate seeing in my lifetime.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Nose Worn Off by Grindstone

Whew...Work is back and there aren't enough hours in the day! In-service presentation went well, though we didn't have enough time to do the Library Resources Page justice. I should of gone back to work once we were done, but it was 3:30 and thrift stores were calling my name. So I heeded their call, found some promising books and headed home to deal with e-mail at home. The rest of the week was pretty much taken up with still more in-services. Boring as always, I sat in the back and read and marked professional journals. Not exactly polite but not nearly as rude as the aside conversations that everyone else indulged in. Nor as loud.

So Saturday work was in order...Got the first week lesson plans, the story section and the seasonal decorations up so come hell or high water I can deal with kids when they troop in on Thursday. Did still more work at home, trying to feel caught up.

The high point was a good garage sale sponsored by a usually overpriced society charity thrift and a pool party and dinner at the home of some new golfing buddies. And now the weekend is almost over and all I have to show for it is a very tired feeling and a stiff neck from being hunched over my computer.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Nose to the Grindstone

The alarm shrills at 6am and I am dragging by 8pm. First day back I got roped into helping with new teacher inservice which did wonders for PR but nothing for my to do list. The tech coach & tech spec weren't on campus so I galloped from one computer to another trying to solve e-mail & computer woes or come up with alternative solutions. The only things that got checked off my own list were changing out the flags, finishing the unpacking and cleaning up a batch of Marc records. I am feeling most UNREADY for the first day and fear I'll be putting in some Saturday hours. My to-do list is growing instead of shrinking. This is not a good thing. Most discouraging.

The few hours I was home was spent packing up the E-Bay and Amazon books. The Memory Books from our trip went into the mail and I hope everyone likes them. I'm beginning to think I need something in my life other than books!

Day two was spent at the Library In-Service, which as always was chock full of information, much of which is rocking and rolling around my brain in a most unprocessed state. This is the year I'm going to have to go the 3 hole punch, note book route since we are re-doing how we are designing lessons and many trees are giving up their lives for the cause. The best part is always seeing all my colleagues and exchanging tips and tricks. Sometimes I think the breaks are the most informative times!

Did treat myself to a trip to Blue Willow books - one of the last independent bookstores in Houston. It's not on any of my usual routes so I rarely make it there. Such a fun place - bought two new "first day" books to start out the year. The owner loves literature and it shows. No junky TV tie in books in her displays - she goes for the good quality literature with seasonal tie ins. So much having something other than books in my life!

Tomorrow is present the Library Resources Page day to the new teachers. Those poor folks have already endured 2 days of in-services and are most likely on some serious brain overload. There is so much on the page that they can use to make life easier for themselves but I don't know if they will be able to remember much of what we say. Hopefully we can impress upon them that their librarian is their best friend.

Note to self - get a double venti latte to ensure "perky".