Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Another one bites the dust!

The weather down here continues to be quite strange. Can we say, rain, rain and more rain?

I do believe that every time things begin to start drying out that we get another storm. Perhaps the plan for this year is to see how much rain we can have before the rivers all overflow.

Today was no exception to our new weather pattern. We had two very massive storm cells pass through our little town during mid-day and from what I've heard they may have done some damage. We even actually had to carry out tornado procedures at the school where I teach.

Since the so called "drill" occurred during lunch time, the students were also aware to the fact that we were not actually performing a drill. I really wish they'd been honest with the students about this, because it made them more nervous when they didn't know whether or not it was drill, than they did once they were aware that it wasn't. Thankfully, nothing at the school was damaged.

Another bit of very exciting news today also occurred during school. The police investigator let me know, during second period, that they had a video of the criminal using my debit card. Thankfully, I had an inclusion teacher in my room with me when the police decided to notify me, of this fact, so I was able to go and view the video. After some searching of my memory banks, I did recognize the criminal in the video.

The front office was quite helpful in printing out photos of this particular person. Unfortunately, the individual in question was a former student of mine; however, I am very thankful that it is not a current student. Talk about a sticky situation, that definitely would be one.

So I'm not sure what happens next, except I assume that the criminal will be arrested and that I'll have an opportunity to press charges as will the bank for fraud and theft by taking. I have very little knowledge of where the process goes after that, but my dear husband and I do have our money back since we were not liable for this criminal's charges on my debit card.

Honestly, dealing with the theft was not as difficult as I thought it would be. Of course it helped that not only was the police officer a personal friend, but so was the individual that I dealt with at our bank. This is not an experience that I'd like to repeat, but I do feel much more armed with knowledge as to our rights concerning debit cards and credit cards should my husband or I ever have one stolen again.

Also, I now have a new location for my purse. When the card was stolen my purse had been spending its days in what was supposed to be a locked office inside a desk drawer. Now, I have a new secure location and procured a new key for this location just today. I'm excited to have this new level of security. So there should be no more thefts in our near future, or hopefully ever!

Lastly, totally changing subjects let me tell you about my new produce supplier: the library! Yes, you read correctly. And as many of you know when I lived in the country I could count on my ditch, in the front of my yard, to catch falling produce from the trucks that were transporting it by my house. I lived on a curve so many trucks would lose cabbages, squash and other vegetables as they drove by. The loss of this produce ditch is one of the many things I've missed about the country lifestyle.

So as luck would have it, yesterday afternoon as I wandered into the library to print out a student's progress report, I noticed there were two large cabbages sitting by a computer in a grocery bag. I inquired to the librarian to see if these were her cabbages or if she had any idea who they may belong to. Not only were they not hers, but she then insisted that I take them with me. She said they couldn't stay in the library over night and that she had no idea who they belonged to. So yes, my friends, the library has become my new produce market. I so wonder when our agriculture students pick their next harvest what delightful produce they will leave for me.

I have no doubt, whatever they leave will easily provide more than enough to share. So please join me in the library/produce mart. Won’t you?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Journey to Macon

A few days ago I noticed in the Macon Telegraph that one of my favorite events was coming up, the Friends of the Library book sale! Oh joy of joys! Going to this sale is like absolute paradise to me. There are two large buildings completely filled with books. Boxes are provided so that the friendly shoppers can carry around the bargains they've found. Best of all, not only are books divided by subject area, but the prices are more than reasonable. There are very few books found there that cost more than five dollars. In fact, most of the prices range from fifty cents to five dollars.

So I mentioned this exciting event to my dear husband and he agreed to accompany me on the journey to Macon for the sale. I'm not sure what he expected to see when we got to the book sale. Well, that's not true. Actually, I have a pretty good idea. He was picturing a small book store that was selling used books which is far from what the Macon Friends of the Library book sale is. So he was pleasantly surprised and has even commented that he plans to tell several friends down here about the booksale.

I suspect we will have a caravan of people traveling to Macon next year for this sale! Wow! Anyway...back to this years sale. Josh and I ended up with about 20-25 books from the sale and spent a little over $30. Yay! He commented last night that our purchases would have easily cost over two hundred dollars if we'd gotten them retail.

Here's a basic idea of what we procured:

2 Books for my niece: A Nancy Drew Mystery & A Helen Keller Book

Then we also gathered up: Three cook books

Three teaching aids for essay prompts, writing direction, etc.

A Theatrical Direction book

A Statistics book

A Travel book on Paris

And 19 Fiction Books

So as you can tell we got quite a steal and had a wonderful time in the process. I can hardly wait for next year's sale. I so love unique events like this one.

After spending a little over 2 hours perusing books and procuring our purchases, we headed out to eat. We could have visited a truly Macon type restaurant, but instead we opted for Chili's, my favorite!! It was wonderful! I so wish Moultrie had one, but I'm also thankful they don't because then it wouldn't be as special to me.

After eating, we took the back roads to Sam's Warehouse, one of Josh's favorite stores. I have to admit the store helps out a lot, IF you buy the right things in bulk. We purchased 90 cap sules of dish detergent combined with dawn (the same type I usually get from Walmart in a smaller quantity for 12 dollars. The Dogs got more rawhides, and we picked up some compact laundry detergent. I only wish I'd had my grocery list. We could have gotten rice and a few other staples that we are running low on. After all buying those in bulk, just makes more sense.

Finally, we headed over to Best Buy, my husband's other favorite store. He picked up a few purchases there too. Then we headed home.

All in all, we had a wonderful day. I truly enjoyed the together time with him and we bot h got to visit places we don't normally get to see, i.e. Best Buy and Chili's as well as the booksale.
I'm currently toying with the idea of trying to engage him in driving up for the Cherry Blossom Festival, but I don't know about that yet...however, in the meantime...I know we'll both all the fun we have and we definitely have plenty of reading to keep us entertained for a quite a while...Join us next time, won't you?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Recalling Great Books

Sitting or standing in front of my students and trying not to say too much has never been my style.

Heck, usually when I'm preparing to teach a novel, or any work in literature, I spend hours pouring over the internet looking for activities. Then I spend several more hours finding the right questions for Chapter Questions just so that we can make sure they actually read the text that is assigned.

Then there's the necessary time that I spend getting ready to discuss the author's background.,reviewing literary terms, and time spent helping my students apply these terms to the text...or rather mimic MY interpretation of the text. Which is not what I'm wanting to do at all!

Next, being a literature teacher, essays topics are created to allow the students to expound upon the great work that they've read while explicating the text. Finally, there's the objective test .

So, of course, there are piles and piles and PILES and PILES of papers...everywhere there are papers. It's busy work mainly. Yes, it's randomly created bits of informat to take up time while ensuring that my students did their assigned work. Argh!

That description was true of my classroom until recently. Yes, I'm still teaching Literature and Composition. But, now I'm trying a novel approach on our novels. ha ha! Only this "novel" approach isn't so new.

Actually, I've found that the most engaged my students have become in a text, is when I don't lecture. It's when I don't tell them about the symbolism or give them my interpretion of the literary work.

So what do we do without the piles and piles and PILES and PILES of papers? We talk.

Just like the good old days when I was taking Great Books. The different now though, is that I'm not a student. I'm on the other side of this table. I'm trying to learn to facilitate the discussion without saying too much.

It's NOT easy! I so want to say, "YES!" When a student makes a point that I totally agree with. I want to jump in and expound upon the moment. Instead though, I find myself nodding my head and saying, "That's a really good point or turning to the class and redirecting the conversation back to them by asking what they think about the student's comment."

What does this do? It TEACHES! The students are going into a depth that my students have never reached with this novel. What novel? Huckleberry Finn

Huck Finn was one of my favorite novels from high school, but I'd not been able to get students engaged in it since I'd started teaching. Perhaps, it was the piles of papers or maybe it was the drudgery of answering "chapter questions." Whatever it was, the students weren't learning.

They were reciting. They were simply jumping through the hoops, getting their grades and complaining while they did so. The book was the too hard. The language was too difficult. They didn't like the text because it was so controversial.

And now...there's little to no complaining. The students are teaching each other. They are delving into depth in symbolism and theme and allusions like never before. The text has come alive! Or rather Great Books have come back to life!

How long will this last? I don't know, but I do know it worked for me for four years in college. And now I find it working in my own classrooms. If only I'd realized it was a technique I could use on my own.

So what do we do, if there are no chapter questions, quizzes, and objective tests over the novel? Each night as the students read they write down two higher order thinking questions for the discussion in class the following day. If they can answer the question on their paper they do. If not, that's okay too. Then at the beginning of class the students get out their questions. I go around the room and look at the questions. Those students without questions and those who have not completed the assignment are placed in the hall until their work is done. They may not participate in the discussion.

Those who are ready to work on the text stay in the room and discuss it. As those in the hall finish their questions or their reading (both must be done to return) they may re-enter the classroom and join the discussion. Each student has a Popsicle stick. When the student participates in the discussion in a meaningful and relevant way I take the Popsicle stick and they have credit for the day. They don't have to make but one relevant comment, but most get so involved in the discussion they continue.

What's changed? Why are they so much more engaged? I think so much has, but I conjecture that the biggest change is that they are enjoying the learning. It's going where they want it to go and the peer pressure has changed from pushing students to say, "This is so hard and I don't get it," to "I want to participate in a discussion with my peers."

Let me leave my ramblings on re-visiting Great Books with this. I literally heard a student turn to the student behind him today and begin to beg her to join in the discussion, not only so he could hear her opinion, but also so she could have her Popsicle stick taken up. Will wonders never cease?

And I think that when the discussion has closed, and the essays begin that the work I'll receive will be much higher in quality as a result of this Great Books learning opportunity.

So good bye novels, quizzes and teacher created questions. So long novel lectures. Au revoir, piles and piles and PILES of papers. I may have to hold on to some worksheets and lectures for grammar and such, but as for the rest if literature. I know my students and I are looking forward to a much brighter tomorrow. After all it's another Great Books day!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Schizophrenic weather and swimming at the park

This past weekend my Momma came down to visit with my dear husband and me. It was wonderful! We lounged around the house. We explored the boutiques downtown, visited with my husband's parents, and dined out at amazing restaurants. In short, everyone agreed that it was a much needed visit and that we all had a wonderful time, the furry babies (Rachel, Shayne and Abby) included.

However, toward the end of my Momma's visit the nice spring like warm weather decided it was time for a major set of storms. And so, when the wind began to pick up on Sunday afternoon at our local Sunday dinner diner my in-laws, husband, Momma and I decided it was time to head for higher grounds (so to speak) and check the weather channel.

Upon examining the weather channel, we discovered that a major storm front was headed our way. Therefore, we all agreed that it was time for Momma to pack up and head home, pronto unless she planned to batten down the hatches with us until the following day.

After some discussion, she decided that the best thing for her to do was to leave immediately. This was her only way to attempt to beat the approaching storm through Atlanta so that she could safely return home without weather delays.

Yet, as well all know, even the best laid plans of mice and men do sometimes go astray especially when Mother Nature is intervening...and a few short hours after my Momma departed from my house I found myself on the phone with her instructing her to NOT go into Atlanta until the storm had passed.

Thankfully, this worked out well and a little over an hour later she was on the road toward home again...minus the danger of tornadoes passing through Atlanta and it's surrounding locations.

However, by the time that she made it into Atlanta, the storm had begun here. And what a STORM it was!! My dear husband even commented to me that if school had been scheduled for night time rather than the morning, I would have had to swim to school.

And honestly, living where we do (that is beside a LARGE drainage ditch) I often wonder if we shouldn't have a ark or at least a canoe on hand for special flooding moments like last night. I truly wondered if we'd be able to drive to our proper work locations this morning because the rain was literally coming down that quickly.

Thankfully, though, the storm did pass on over leaving only ten tornado warnings for our part of the state. And even with these tornadoes there was little to no damage in our town or in the towns where we work. Even more impressively after such a torrential storm skies were clear by mid-day and the weather remained nice and warm.

So upon arriving home this afternoon, I decided it was time to take the dear puppies to the park! When we got to the park we began our usual game. I was throwing the ball for Shayne. Rachel was bouncing around own her own and checking out all of the glorious sights and smells. Yes, we were having a wonderful time.

And then it got better! After Shayne and I had played ball for a few minutes I indicated to my furry children that it was time to walk around the park a bit...so we began. When we approached the far side of the park I discovered that a particularly deep hole was now filled with water. In fact, the hole was so full that it truly became its own little mini pond.

Rachel and Shayne were beside themselves with excitement upon discovering this new pond. Rachel began jumping up and down literally and body slamming herself into Shayne all in an attempt to get him to play with her in the water. It was wonderful! Shayne bounced and pranced as well. And yes, he bound into the water as well. Before I knew it, I had two bouncing and swimming puppies playing in their own private pond.

They had a blast. We actually ended up staying at the park longer than usual. It was more than worth the extended stay simply to watch my totally soaked little ones having the time of their lives. And you know...even though there's not a cloud in the sky tonight...and even though the temperature has fallen more than 30 degrees since our afternoon outing...I still find myself looking forward to the next torrential downpour that we have.

Why? It's simple. I can't imagine an afternoon filled with more love or fun than to watch my little ones laugh and play in their own private naturally made lake.

Mardi Gras (a bit late)

I am so sorry that I've not blogged like I have wanted to lately. I have so much to tell all of you, as is obvious by my three new posts tonight, but nonetheless...it's nice to have the time to sit down and share.

A few Tuesdays ago, on February 5th (Mardi gras) began one of my favorite seasons of the liturgical year or church year, namely Lent. I'm not sure when I began to look forward to this particular portion of the year.

Now don't get me wrong. I don't simply look forward to Mardi gras, a.k.a. Fat Tuesday, or Shrove Tuesday. Yes, I do enjoy that particular day. I love the creativity and the freedom that Mardi gras brings. I savor creating new and different pancakes, such as blueberry, or chocolate chip. And it's the one time of the year that I actually find myself longing for pancakes, at night. Any other day of the year, I don't particularly find breakfast food terribly appealing except at breakfast time.

But I think my savoring of this particular season does begin with Mardi gras (so just before Lent begins. I think of it as a day of preparation for a season of preparation. :) Obviously Mardi gras is followed my Ash Wednesday, the day that we are all reminded from whence we came and to where we shall return. And as odd as it sounds, I find that not so subtle reminder of our mortality (through prayers, scripture and ash traced crosses upon countless foreheads) ever refreshing of the circle of life. God created us from simple dust, and when we die we shall return to it. And before you begin to suspect, that it's simply Ash Wednesday that appeals to me about Lent. Please let me state clearly that it's not! I do enjoy Ash Wednesday, but it's only a small piece of the puzzle. To state it more clearly, borrowing and paraphrasing words from Dr. Seuss it's the whole Lenten season that appeals to me.

I do know that many people believe this season is dark drudgery, but it's not for me. I think of it as internal spring cleaning. I enjoy the reflective nature of Lent. I find it liberating to search the recesses of my soul and to loosen any bonds of sin that I've shoved into a corner and tried to ignore. This is the time of year that all of that gets re-examined and the less desirable parts are discarded. It's also when I find myself pondering our obligation to hold no grudge against anyone, and all those that I hold I try my best to release. Finally, in this introspective time, I find myself embracing new habits in an effort to walk more closely to God. Sometimes this occurs through self-denial, others years it occurs through a daily discipline of taking on something more. But during no time of year do I feel more closely renewed and connected to Christ than I do from Mardi gras through the 50 days of Easter.

As I deny myself a luxury or take on a new discipline I annually discover that not only do I grow exponentially as a person, but that my faith does as well. And it is in this spirit of faith that I find my spirit growing more excited each year as we approach the anniversary of the miraculous occurrence, our Savior's resurrection.
So now, during these 40 days of soulful reflection I hope that those around me and I will continue to meditate on the miracle in our lives. And in so doing, I pray we will continue to recognize that this should not be season of sorrow. It is one of denial, it is one of prayer and discipline, but it is a season of miracles too. For it is during this transformational season that Jesus transcends space and time, through this crucifixion, resurrection and glorious appearing. And it is also during this time that our eyes continue to be opened to the miracles occurring every moment within our souls and throughout the world around us.

If it were not for this season, I wonder, could the miracle appearing inside and around us receive the attention they deserve. Would we even attempt to continue to deny ourselves to draw closer to God? My thought is that we'd continue to be caught up in the hustle and bustle of life overlooking the small, quiet miracles taking place all around us.

So thank God today and every day for this purportedly harsh and dark season of spiritual reflection and cleaning. Thank God for Lent!

Valentine's day

This Valentine's day was the first Valentine's day that my dear husband and I were able to celebrate together as husband and wife. I do believe it will be one that we will remember for the rest of our lives. Honestly, it was the first Valentine's day that we've celebrated together. Last year my dear husband was busy with work on the spring musical for the local high school. However, I couldn't have been more proud of him if I'd tried. The lights for that particular show were the equivalent of something that you would have seen at the Fox Theater in Atlanta or even on Broadway.

But this year, neither of us had obligations on Valentine's day. The musical at the local high school was completed. And so I decided to try to pamper my dear husband. I fixed beer cheese fondue along with aparagus, green beans and marinated portabellas. For dessert, I fixed chocolate covered strawberries. Finally, Rachel, Shayne, Abby and I had gotten Josh a little something special too. He absolutely loves caramel apples so we found a gourmet one for him for this special day.

Needless to say that my dear husband was pleased. So pleased, in fact, that he decided to open the bottle of champagne that we'd been saving for a special occasion. And he definitely spoiled me too. When I arrived home, there were a dozen white roses waiting for me. Followed by some love songs on a CD that he'd purchased for me. And as if that wasn't enough, he gave me a complete season of Charmed. :)

Honestly, I do believe this was the best Valentine's day ever. And I'm looking so forward to many more Valentine's days like this in our future. After all, I can't imagine a bad one now that my wonderful husband is in my life. He's my best friend and makes me a better person every day that I spend by his side.

Here's to hoping that your Valentine's day was even slightly as wonderful as ours.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Doggie Bankers

What an interesting week it has been. I’ve gone back to work/school as of Tuesday and am steadily feeling more into the normal beat of life. I experienced a very, very powerful healing service last night at my church that I’ll tell you about another day (today is my dogs' day).

But I do believe that one of the most exciting moments occurred for Rachel, Shayne, and me as we headed out to the bank.

Well, let me back up. After school on Fridays, a friend and I often sit and visit...which we did. So I was rather late leaving work this afternoon. Once I did leave and had managed to plant myself in my car ,I decided to check my voice mail on my cell phone only to discover my wonderful husband had left two checks in my car to be deposited in the bank. Before 6 PM!!!! Our bank is closed on Saturdays. :(

He'd then called and informed me so that I would notice them....which I promptly did, right AFTER I heard his message.

So it was off to the races for me. I had a lot to accomplish and not much time. I needed to check in with my husband to let him know I'd discovered the checks. I wanted to call my Momma and check on the flowers I'd sent to a very special person today, who needed a pick-me-up.

I looked at my gas-o-meter and realized that I had to get gas before heading to the bank. I thought about the deposits and realized I had to run home first and get my old checkbook so that I could deposit my pay check into our joint account as well AND I needed to call back some friends about our dinner plans for tomorrow night. Finally, I still had my date at the park scheduled with my puppies. Whew!

So heading into my hectic afternoon, I rushed on home from school and began the mad dash. Upon arriving home, I decided for time's sake I would simply load the puppies into the car. They would visit the bank with me, and then we'd head for the park.

Little did I know...that I would have doggie bankers in the car with me!! When we reached the drive through window the nice lady inside inquired about the dogs. She began to gush over the wonderfulness of dogs. I agreed whole heartedly and then she asked, "Can I give them treats??"

What?!?!? At first, honestly I expected candy suckers to be enclosed in my deposit envelope for the puppies, but what the heck? So I agreed. Little did I know that our bank stocks doggie treats!!!!!

The teller,then began to tell me that they are no longer allowed to pass out candy to children, but they can give dogs treats if their "Mom's and Dad's" let the bank do so. WOW! And sure enough when the bank deposit confirmation slip came through the tube, inside the envelope were two doggie treats!

Needless to say both Rachel and Shayne have decided that they want to be bankers when they grow up! And who could blame them? Doggie treats at your disposal all day long!!!!

However, it wasn't terribly difficult to tear them away from the bank so that we could go on to the park, but they did inform me that they want to go on ALL the bank outings from here on out. And of course, they will.

So the next time you visit your bank, you just may want to see if your own dog would like to make a deposit. Because, you never know, there just may be doggie bankers in your town too.