Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Schools...... They are Changing...

Texas has sheltered the lions share of the Hurricane Katrina Evacuees, with Houston, Dallas and San Antonio picking up the majority.

The storms have moved on , the shelters are closing and back in New Orleans the 9th Ward is still uninhabitable. FEMA is giving out housing vouchers. Needless to say, apartments with 4 figure rents and 100% occupancy aren't interested so they are being dispersed into the poorer parts of city. From poverty to poverty.

Our attendance zone includes one such complex. And we're getting Katrina Evacuees at the rate of 3 & 4 a day. So far we have 20, and more are expected. It's playing havoc with our demographics.

We'd always heard the New Orleans public schools were in deplorable condition and that anyone who could opted out for private school. The children we're enrolling come from homes were there wasn't the drive, the initiative or the inner resources to accept anything but the mediocre education that was doled out. And mediocre it was. Every student has been at least 1 and often 2 or 3 years below grade level. Flunking appears to be only remedial intervention offered. We now have 5th graders (normally 10 going on 11) who are 12 going on 13. One showed up last week who just turned 13. We've a 2nd grader who is 9 going on 10. The first graders have been retained only once, but hey, it's early in their school career.

The children come with baggage that would be daunting without the complications of a major hurricane - poverty, 4 generation welfare mentality, emotional problems, fathers in jail, grandmothers serving as mothers, multiple step stair siblings with multiple fathers, prenatal drug exposure and every learning disability in the books.

And there in lies the real problem. These children need so many resource teachers, so many intervention specialists, so much diagnostic testing and so much counseling. And there isn't anyone to do it. Our resource and special ed teachers can barely keep up with their current students, our counselor hasn't enough hours in her day for her standard caseload and it takes weeks to get a child tested so he/she can receive services.

Our scenario is being played out in many schools throughout Texas. No funding appears to be forthcoming. Despite No Child Left Behind, many, many of these children are so behind that they can't even reach the starting line, much less finish the high stakes test race we call education.

When it comes to Iraq, No Cannons are being left behind but when it comes to education many children certainly are.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Refiguring My Life

I'm reconfiguring my life and it's left me feeling disoriented. For the past 5 months I'd been devoting much of my physical time and emotional energy toward helping my friend Pie. She's gone now and I'm very unfocused and at sea.

I'm filling in the holes in my day with the things I used to do. I've started going back to the driving range, and I played golf this weekend. It was just Par 3, we meet up with some friends, broke all the rules and had a most enjoyable time.

Had not one, but two Library Book Sales this weekend. Did well at both. I'm haunting the thrifts again and looking for books. Trying to write book descriptions. I've never liked doing those so my avoidance of that task is not at all out of the ordinary. Scouting for books is great fun, getting them listed is a tedious bore. But I can't call myself a bookseller if all I do it horde the printed word!

Now if I just master sleeping through the night I might be able to get back on track again. If it doesn't happen soon it will be time to explore better living through chemistry.

Monday, October 10, 2005

An Ordinary Day

I had an ordinary day today. My district gives us Columbus Day off - I do love holidays that most other people don't get! We had our first cool day since last winter, coupled with the first rain in weeks - a perfect day to stay home and putter. I balanced my checkbook, I packed some books, I read, I did laundry, I slept in, I sorted out coupons. I cut back my jungle of basil and made basil cubes (Basil, garlic, olive oil, puree to a paste in a food processor and freeze).
I ate what I pleased and didn't worry about the food pyramid.

It had been a very long time since I'd had a day without a single commitment.

I'm going to miss my friend Pie - during the day part of my mind would wonder : "How is she doing? "Should I go and check"? "What would be a good time to visit"? "Did her meds get delivered" ? Hope she's having a good day today".

Then I would remember, all her days from now on will be good ones. And I've a got a 2 hour hole in my day and bigger one in my heart.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Minnow Is in Port

My friend Pie's spirit has left her body around 5:30pm CST. She is now with all the others she has loved who have gone before her.

She always said that while she might be dying she was having to much fun to die. Up till Monday night she really was having to much fun to die, but after Tuesday it wasn't fun any more.

I will always remember her as she was last week, a wild woman with a wicked sense of humor and the kind of courage I'd never seen before. She is at peace and out of pain and with those she loved the most.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Gilligan's Island

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip.
That started from this tropic port, aboard this tiny ship.
The mate was a mighty sailin' man, the skipper brave and sure.
Five passengers set sail that day, for a three hour tour, a three hour tour;
The weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed.
If not for the courage of the fearless crew, the Minnow would be lost;
the Minnow would be lost.

The ship took ground on the shore of this uncharted desert isle,
with Gilligan, the Skipper too, the Millionaire, and his Wife, the Movie Star, the Professor and Mary Ann, here on Gilligan's Isle.
So this is the tale of our castaways, they're here for a long, long time.
They'll have to make the best of things, it's an uphill climb.

My friend Pie and I were casual library book sale acquaintances. We ran into each other at book sales & the post office. We'd chat about books , E-Bay and this and that, the sort of things semi strangers talk about when they find themselves waiting in line.

At the last of the Spring sales she mentioned that her shoulder hurt and she was going to have to go to the doctor. I sent her a "how are you doing" e-mail, she fired back that she'd broken it and the doctors suspected bone cancer was the cause. She mentioned she couldn't pack her books so I offered to help out. And I did.

By July she'd broken her leg also, the bone cancer was advancing at a rapid pace and it was apparent that her house was unliveable due to the piles and piles of books heaped in and on every available space. So I started packing. And packing. And packing. 150+ boxes of books later you could see the floor.

And as the books staggered out the door our friendship deepened. She got sicker, I learned more about emergency rooms, home nursing , ambulances, hospice, caregivers than I ever thought I needed to know.

I also learned about humor, courage and that it's possible to face the unspeakable with a smile, a laugh and a joke. And that while one could be dying, one could also being having way to much fun to die. I learned that people who knew each other only through the internet could come together and become a family. And that pink plastic flamingos are as important as pain meds.

I told her that sometimes I felt like one of the passengers on the Good Ship Minnow. I signed up to pack a few books and here, 5 months later I was still on the island.

But now The Minnow is heading toward her final port. Pie is at the hospice in patient care hospital, sedated to almost unconscious because the pain is unbearable.

God Speed my friend, blue skies and fair winds on your final voyage and thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking me along on the ride.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Texas Trophy Wife

My Beloved won a weekend at La Cantera Golf Resort in San Antonio and since it's our 9th anniversary it seemed like a perfect time to take advantage of it. The golf here is primo and that is where she's spent the day. Me, I went thrifting and came back to hang out at the pools and the lobby and observe the march of the trophy wives.

Men who can afford trophy wives are usually avid golfers (both golf and trophy wives being an expensive habit) so resorts like this are prime places to observe the species in action.

La Cantera has multiple pools, including one that is blessedly adults only and that caused schism of the trophy wives. Those with children were relegated to the kid friendly area, those who hadn't bred yet were soaking up sun in the over 21 section.

However , despite the divide they all still had the "look". Tanned, very thin, high cheekbones (compliments of the best plastic surgeon in town), blond streaked hair pulled into a pony tail, well done boob job and very large diamond engagement ring. Since they were around water they left the tennis bracelet in the room. Designer bag, designer swim suit, designer manicure and pedicure completed the picture.

Many trophy wives feel need to cement their position (or ensure generous child support should they be displaced by a younger model) by quickly producing several slim blond children within a very short time period. Men take up trophy wives to feel "young again" and I guess having children the same age as your grandchildren by wife #1 are yet another way to recapture one's lost youth. The wives were all trailed by an au pair who obviously does the scut work. Trophy Wives never have that frazzled look that so many full time Moms acquire, nor do ever appear in public in anything but the most perfectly coordinated of outfits and full makeup. Full time, hands on Moms also tend to sport comfortable shoes, baggy clothes and hair in need of trim and are doing well to put on lipstick.

The childless ones were stretched out on the chaise loungers acquiring a future case of skin cancer - they never go in the water since it would ruin their hair. They sipped tall, frozen drinks adorned with little parasols and flipped through fashion magazines.

Later they retired to the lobby where they sunk into the overstuffed furniture and drank Cosmopoltians and other chi-chi drinks in the wide mouthed glasses with slender stems. The attire of choice was capri pants in tropical prints, matching shirts, dangleing earrings, a floating diamond necklace and high heeled sandals. Hair was released from the pony tail and worn shoulder length in an expensive tousle.

I've always wondered just how one becomes a trophy wife? Is this a career goal, something one is groomed to do by one's mother or is this a job one just falls into? In these days of feminism and career woman it's always a bit disconcerting to see women totally tieing their identity and their economic security to that of a man.

And just what happens to a trophy wife when she becomes slightly tranished and is put away in the cabinet in favor of newer, shinier version ?