Thursday, November 30, 2006

13 Things About Starbucks

Thirteen Things about Starbucks

I know some folks call it the "Evil Empire" but I'm rather fond of the place!

Fresh, hot coffee, always strong, always good, never bitter (or lattes – my weakness) with many options

Real 1/2&1/2- not powdered creamer (an oxymoron if there ever was one)

Clean, spacious bathrooms

Friendly, cordial employees who seem happy to wait on you

Easy on/ off access at most freeways

You can bring your own cup (granted you had to buy it from them first) – they will even rinse it out for you so the back seat doesn’t get piled ankle deep in Styrofoam.

Good Sandwiches

Semi nutritious breakfast – the yogurt and granola parfaits. Yes, there are plenty of diet busters too but at least there is another option

Comfy Chairs

Open early and late. And on Thanksgiving. And Christmas

Unlike most stores they did not begin to play Christmas music in mid October. In fact, the one I frequent has yet to make me endure upteen versions of “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas”.

You can spend a little time or a while away a couple of hours.

Fascinating people watching

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Things for Thanksgiving

Oh course it's a cliche but what else could one write about for a Thanksgiving Thursday Thirteen but Thirteen to be thankful for........

  1. My Beloved. We're about to celebrate 10 years together. I can't imagine what life would be life without her. It might be a bit more predictable but it wouldn't be nearly as interesting. And fun.
  2. My 2 Daughters. Bright, successful, finished with college and doing well on their respective coasts. And having no desire to join the army and become cannon fodder in Iraq.
  3. My Job. While I do hate it when the alarm goes off and resent the fact that I can't go to Friday estate sales I'm still very lucky to get to spend my day surrounded by books and computers and kids. The day never drags and it's never mundane or boring. Teachers aren't paid nearly what they are worth but I can't imagine doing anything else for a living (other than selling books).
  4. My Mother. Decided (along with my Father) to downsize, sell the house, leave Miami and moved to North Carolina, close to where my brother lives. She made it so easy for us, unlike many of my generation we aren't going to struggle with "what to do with Mom".
  5. My Other Job. Over the past 6 years I've been building up an Internet Book Selling business. It's growing nicely and will dovetail nicely with retirement plans. It fits perfectly with My Beloved's golfing passion. Where there are golf courses there are thrift shops - or given the average age of most golfers - estate sales.
  6. The Internet. It's changed my life. It's given me My Beloved, my book selling, a column for Bookthink and host of friends to book scout with.
  7. The Kitties. Always warm, fuzzy and full of purrs.
  8. My Principal. When you work in an elementary school the Principal can make your job a joy or hell on earth. They can support you in everything you do or thwart you whenever possible. I am so grateful my principal is of the former and not of the latter persuasion.
  9. Our House. 8 years ago we gambled and bought a lot in the last undeveloped section of the Houston Heights. We rolled snake eyes and the neighborhood is booming. And we love the house.
  10. My Health. Yes my knees creak, there's an extra 20 lbs I can't seem to shake and my eyes aren't what they used to be. Considering health issues friends are facing those are all small potatoes.
  11. Houston. Yes, it's big, sprawling, the traffic is horrid and the weather worse. But it is also vibrant, diverse and full of opportunity.
  12. Living in America. And not in Iraq, Iran, The Sudan, China, Darfur or Afghanistan or any of the sad and violence plagued places on this earth.
  13. Being Alive 2006. And not in the Middle Ages, where I'd be dead in childbirth before the age of 25. Or in Tudor times where freedom of religion was not an option. Or in the US in the last century when being Gay was a crime.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Things Found in Books

Booksellers are always finding things in books – usually bookmarks and sales slips. I’ve heard tales of booksellers stumbling across $100 bills in old books but I’ve never been so lucky.

Last Sunday my friend Lou and I went to the mother of all book estate sales and encountered an extravaganza of items stuffed into books. The former owner didn’t own a home, he owned a library. Every room of the 4 bed room tract house was wall to wall to wall bookshelves, ditto the hall and the closets.

They weren’t all old Readers Digest Condensed Books, Book of the Month Club books and ancient textbooks either. The bulk of the collection was like new non-fiction hardbacks of the scholarly persuasion. The man was Renaissance Man with interests ranging from evolution to geology to art to archaeology with an intense specialty in military history.

Not only did he buy books, he noted when he’d acquired each volume and he rated them on style and content. The end papers had such comments as “inadequate maps”, “inaccurate information p. 232” or “style 1 star”. He also collected ephemera about the subject of each book and tucked them into the books. Every piece was carefully clipped and dated. The findings ranged from newspaper clippings to articles to maps. A biography of Wendell Wilkie yielded a Wendell Wilkie postage stamp.

Every clipping but one I found matched the books. The one exception was a wedding announcement, which I found in a 1948 Geology textbook. The clipping details the marriage of
Marjorie Cortelyou to Mr. Charles David Allen. My bookman is named Albert who married Margaret Allen so the lady in question isn’t his wife. However, Albert attended MIT and Marjorie hailed from Princeton so it’s possible they knew each other. In addition, Margeret's maiden name was Allen so perhaps they were sisters or cousins.

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A bit of Goggling produced obituaries for Albert, Margret and Marjorie (who went by Martha in her later years).Marjorie is wearing a full wedding dress and veil and judging from her hair style she married in the late 1940s. Unlike most brides she’s not looking directly at the photographer and her face isn’t aglow with happiness. She’s looking to the side and her face is pensive and thoughtful. Who or what was she thinking of and why did Albert keep the clipping till the day he died?

Paper: Houston ChronicleDate: Thu 09/21/2006Section: BPage: Edition: 3 Star
passed away peacefully at his home in Houston on September Saturday September 16, 2006 surrounded by his loving family. Al was born on December 27, 1923 in Portsmouth, Ohio to Albert Elwood Singleton and May Sharp Singleton. Al attended college at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston until he joined the army. He served in the Second World War with the 75th division and received disabling wounds. After his honorable discharge from the Armed Services, Al resumed his college studies at Virginia Polytechnical Institute in Blacksburg, Virginia, where he received his Baccalaureate in Mining Engineering and went on to an advanced degree in Geology from Colombia University, New York. There he met, fell in love with and married his beloved Missy, (Margaret Laura Allen) to whom he was wed for over 50 years until her death in 2002. Al spent a productive career with Chevron Oil. The happiest times of his career were spent as a field geologist in the oil camps drilling wells all over Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah. Houston was next, where he headed the geophysical processing center. His last posting was in London where he negotiated drilling rights on behalf of Chevron in the North Sea. After Al retired he indulged his lifelong love affair with reading. books and knowledge. He is survived by his children, Matthew A. Singleton of Grapevine, TX; David M. Singleton of Galveston, TX; Nicholas D. Singleton of Houston, TX; and Anne E. Singleton of Houston, TX; as well as his daughters-in-law, Jenny Singleton, Mary Jo Singleton, Peggy Sweeney and son-in-law, Jack Douglas. His grandchildren are Amy E. Singleton of Houston, TX; Will Singleton and Katie Singleton of Grapevine, TX; Trent Singleton and Thomas Singleton of Galveston, TX; Gwen Singleton and Timothy Singleton of Houston, TX; and Jackson Douglas of Houston, TX, and dog, Chespah. We will remember and miss him for his intellect, sharp wit and insight and love. He will live forever in our hearts. Al requested that he be cremated with no formal service but that a "Celebration of Life" be hosted in his honor. Details to follow. In lieu of flowers the family has requested that a donation be made to your favorite charity or foundation.

Paper: Houston ChronicleDate: Thursday 02/07/2002Section: APage: Edition: 3
Our beautiful, beloved wife, mother, sister, friend departed peacefully on February 4, 2002. Born March 2, 1928 in Huntington, West Virginia, she is survived by: husband of 50 years Albert E.; three sons Matthew, David and Nicholas; daughter Anne; eight grandchildren and brother Thomas. She attended Connecticut College and graduated from College of Wooster with a BA in Education and later received her Masters Degree in Education from Banks Street School. She was a world traveler, bird-watcher and consummate lover of life! Our hearts are breaking that she is gone yet joyful that we have known her. A celebration of her life will be announced at a later date. The family suggests in lieu of flowers a memorial to her favorite volunteer activity, The Houston Audubon Society.440 Wilchester Blvd., Houston, Texas 77079-7199.

Martha C. Allen
Martha Cortelyou ("Marnie") Allen,
81, of Charlottesville, Va., formerly of Princeton, died April 9 at home after a lengthy illness.
The daughter of Rose P. and Raymond V. Cortelyou, she was born in Princeton.
She attended Princeton High School and earned a bachelor of arts in English from Oberlin College.
She lived for much of her life in Princeton and Rocky Hill before moving to Puerto Rico in 1977. While in Rocky Hill, she directed a pre-school program and was active in community affairs, helping to found a Meals-On-Wheels program in Princeton. She was instrumental in founding the Rocky Hill Library.
During the 1980s, she served as director of library outreach programs throughout New Jersey for the New Jersey Committee for the Humanities, a state-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
She was predeceased by her first husband, Charles David Allen, in 1979. In 1993 she married Joseph Blotner, biographer of William Faulkner and Robert Penn Warren. She moved to Charlottesville in 1995 following Prof. Blotner's retirement from the English Department at the University of Michigan.
She is survived by three sons, Peter Jackson, Christopher Talbot, and Stephen Noyes Allen; a sister, Priscilla Cortelyou Little of Washington, D.C.; a brother, the Rev. James Upton Cortelyou of Lake Luzerne, N.Y.; two step-daughters, Tracy Willoughby of Ann Arbor, Mich. and Pamela Blotner of Berkeley, Calif.; and six grandchildren.
A celebration of her life for her friends and family will be held at Stonebridge at Montgomery at 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 17.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Princeton Hospice.

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Marjorie (Martha) later in her life

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Out of the Mouth of Babes

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Albert’s Thanksgiving is one of my favorite Thanksgiving books. Albert is a hapless goose who works an elementary school and is at the beck and call of Patsy Pig, a strong minded PTA President with a penchant for delegating. The book is written as a series of notes from Patsy to Albert.

Our 4th graders take the state writing test in February. They hate to write and I love to – though given how sparse my blog entries have been that statement might be debatable. One of my many assorted jobs is to help generate some enthusiasm among 9 year olds for putting pencil to paper.

The story ends with a twist, which we turned into a sequel. We entitled our opus Albert’s Plant a Flower Day. Plant a Flower Day is one of our fund raisers. Parents and students buy a flowering annual for $1 and plant them in the flower beds. The parents can also stay for lunch and the kids love it. The beds look really pretty, unless you are Martha Stewart and insist on perfection.

We haven’t much of a PTA (a common lament of Title I Schools) so our Principal played the part of Patsy Pig and the school custodian made her debut as Albert.

The results were delightful.

Ms. Smith’s Class
Miss. Juanita was outside clearing the weeds and dead plants. She looked up and saw Juan Carlos and he had a note in his hand.

Dear Miss. Juanita,
Tomorrow is Plant a Flower Day. I have to go to a meeting. Will you please go to Home Depot and buy the flowers for the children to plant tomorrow?
Sincerely yours,
Miss. Jones

Miss. Juanita bought the flowers and went back to the beds to clear the weeds. Janet ran up with another note.

Dear Miss. Juanita,
The shovels are all dirty from our last Plant a Flower Day. I have to go to the Administration building to pick up the 4th grade writing tests. Will you please wash the shovels?
Sincerely yours,
Miss. Jones

Miss. Maria cleaned all the dried mud off the shovels and went back outside. Grecia skipped up with a note in her hand.

Dear Miss. Juanita,
The tables need to be set up. I’m so busy writing notes on all the student’s report cards. Would you please arrange the tables for tomorrow?
Sincerely yours,
Miss. Jones

Miss. Juanita went storage closet and brought out all the tables.

Dear Miss. Jones,
The flowers are all set up on the tables and the shovels are all clean. I have done everything you asked me to do but the garden beds aren’t ready!
Sincerely yours
Miss. Juanita

Miss. Jones, the students and their parents volunteered and the beds were ready in no time at all.

Dear Miss. Juanita,
Thank you for all your hard work. Plant A Flower Day
was wonderful. Christmas is coming and I have an idea for the decorations.
Miss. Jones

Miss. Gonzales’s Class
Miss. Juanita was outside Housman Elementary school digging holes for Plant a Flower Day. Helen walked along the sidewalk and in her hand was a note for Miss. Juanita.

Dear Miss. Juanita,
Have you finished digging the holes yet? Can you please set up the tables? I can’t do it because I have to go to a meeting.
Sincerely yours,
Miss. Jones.

Miss. Juanita set up all the tables and began to dig holes again. Soon, Julia scooted out the door and brought Miss. Juanita another note.

Dear Miss. Juanita,
Would place the chairs in the hallway by the cafeteria for the parents? I have 3 naughty children in my office and I can’t leave them alone.
Sincerely yours,
Miss Jones

Miss. Juanita arranged all the chairs and went back outside. Susie rapidly drove her wheelchair over Miss. Maria’s foot. In her hand was another note.

Dear Miss Juanita,
We don’t have any flowers! Please go to Lowe’s and purchase some. I’m having a conference with the parents of the 3 naughty children who were wrestling during recess.
Sincerely yours,
Miss. Jones

Miss. Juanita jumped into her car and drove to Lowe’s to get the flowers.

Dear Miss. Jones,
I have set up the tables, arranged the chairs and purchased the flowers. Who is going to dig the holes for the flowers?
Sincerely yours,
Miss. Juanita

Miss. Jones sent the 3 naughty children out to help Miss. Juanita dig the holes. Plant a flower day was a success.

Dear Miss. Juanita,
Thank you for all your help. Don’t forget the Christmas show is coming up and I’ll need your help!
Sincerely yours,
Miss. Jones

Mrs. Johnson’s Class
Friday is Plant a Flower Day at Kingsdale Elementary. Miss. Juanita was busy pulling the weeds and cleaning the leaves in the flowerbeds. Up ran Keanu with a note in his hand.

Dear Miss. Juanita,
Will you please go and buy the flowers for Plant A Flower Day. I would go but my e-mail box is full and I must respond.
Sincerely yours,
Miss. Jones

Miss. Juanita drove to Wal-Mart and bought the flowers. She then went back to the flowerbed. Nancy came skipping up with another note.

Dear Miss. Juanita,
Would you make the signs for Plant a Flower Day? I must attend a PTA meeting so I’m not able to make them.
Sincerely yours,
Miss. Jones

The Art room was full of paper and markers. Miss. Juanita borrowed some of the supplies and made the signs. Just as she finished Christina walked up with yet another note.

Dear Miss. Juanita,
We need as many holes as we have plants. I forgot my blue jeans and don’t want my new suit to get dirty because I have a Principal’s Meeting with the Superintendent.
Sincerely yours,
Miss. Juanita

Miss. Juanita found the tools and dug the holes.

Dear Miss. Jones,
I bought the flowers, made the signs and dug the holes. However the beds are still full of weeds.
Sincerely yours,
Miss. Juanita

Miss. Jones called the Assistant Principal and he sent the detention kids outside to pull the weeds. Plant a Flower Day was a success.

Dear Miss. Juanita,
Thank you for all your help with Plant a Flower Day. Remember that Open House is right around the corner!
Sincerely yours,
Miss. ones

And Plant a Flower Day was a success! I e-mailed the “sequels” to our Principal who had a good laugh (which she really needed).

I think that lesson’s a keeper!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Different Perspectives

Me to child: "How was your weekend?"

Child: “Boring, we had to drive my Dad around all weekend. But I did have lots of time to read”

Me: "Oh, why did you have to drive your Dad around?"

Child: “He lost his license”

Me: " So you had to take him to DPS to get a new one?"

Child: "No. the judge took it away from him for 6 months."

Me: “Oh”.

Encouter #2

Another Child: "I’m going to go see my Dad at Thanksgiving”.

Me: "How wonderful , I bet you are really excited!"

Child: " I’ve only meet him once in my life, he’s been in jail. But now he has a stable job so I’m going to go see him”.

Me: “Oh”

I seem to be saying “Oh” a great deal of the time!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Not many books nor Fine & Gross Motor Skills

Middle class and upper middle class children are enrolled in classes such as Tumble Bears, gymnastics, Kinder Music, swimming, Gymboree, art, dance, cheerleading and similar eke from the time they can toddle. They go to the park, to the playground (each piece specifically designed to encourage certain skills), and the nature center. They have so many puzzles, Legos and art supplies that an entire new industry has evolved to store it all. If they do not have their own computer, their parents ensure they have ample computer time on the family computer – or computers. These days countless families own more than one. By the time my girls were in high school, we owned 4 – one for each of us, complete with DSL access for multiple users.

Not so with many of the children whom I work with. It is not uncommon for us to have 4 year olds who don’t know how to use a crayon. This week I introduced the first graders to, which has a puzzles and games component. Most of the children were unfamiliar with puzzle basics such as do the corners first, then the edges and work inward. More than a few could not recognize an end piece from a center piece. Some didn’t have the fine finger motions necessary to right and left click the computer mouse.

They may have a computer in their home, but it is shared by all 10+ people living in the home and they are very low on the computer totem pole. It’s also hard to have internet access when your family doesn’t have a land line. Our families tend to use pre-paid cell phone plans and change them so frequently that often the children do not know their phone number.

The apartments haven’t any playgrounds and their parents, who work at least 1 if not 2 minimum wage jobs haven’t the time for leisurely excursions to the nature center. The local drug dealers and other undesirables frequent the local park so it is not an option.

If the apartment has a pool it is frequently an unappetizing & unsafe shade of green. The parents have migrated from desolate and dry areas of Mexico, so they do not know how to swim and don’t ensure that their children learn. Swimming lessons or any other kind of lessons are not only a cultural anomaly, they are also a financial impossibility. Skipping, marching in line and Patty Cake Patty Cake Baker’s Man are all foreign concepts

One of the first grade teachers has a scissors center so the children can practice cutting. At Family Library Night the children gravitate to the puzzles and blocks I’ve picked up at garage sales. All of them, even the 5th graders love to play with the puppets I’ve collected at the local thrift stores.

So, Mr. President Shrub just how are schools expected to ensure that these children aren’t “Left Behind” when by first grade they are already 5 years behind the starting line?