Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Kidlets

So, middle school is an interesting crowd. I hadn't forgotten that, believe me. They are not an easy group--but so far, I think I'm doing well.

Today was the third day of school (day four of the new job) and I'm starting to get to know my new charges a bit better. And I can say, with all honesty, that my "cautious optimism" gets less cautious and more optimistic each day.

I am so excited about this job, folks.

I'm also waking up in the mornings fairly easily. I still have that "just push snooze" mentality for about 15-20 minutes after the alarm clock initially goes off, but that is nowhere near the lethargy and disinterest I felt in Antioch. There, I could hardly force myself out of bed after an hour of hitting snooze. Here, I can.

I like my apartment. It's taken some getting used to, and some creative storage, but I'm settling in to the place and feeling more at home every day. The second bedroom needs a little more work, which I'll get to this weekend. When everything is as I want it, and I've had a chance to do a good cleaning, I'll put some pictures up.

There's been a lot of excitement for me this week--and, of course, a lot of nerves. Starting a new job is always a little bit scary. The good news is, I'm handling it well and feeling positive and focused--not at all like I felt in Antioch, when I just wanted out.

The school is organized, and the two administrators run a tight ship. There are playground and lunchtime procedures for lining up, who eats when, where each class sits, and everything you can think of. It keeps things super-organized, and it is harder for kids to misbehave.

Of course, we have our gangster wannabes (this is, after all, Stockton). There are 7th and 8th grade students who are probably at least peripherally involved with gangs. We do our best with them. Most of the kids seem to be pretty good--but it's hard to overcome that gang influence.

I find that living on the opposite side of town from where I work is a very good thing. It's about eight or nine miles, and takes 10-15 minutes to drive, depending on how many cars are on I-5. I work in a rougher part of town, but I chose very well for where I live. A friend of Dad's knows the area and told Dad that I am in a good place. I have a Safeway and a Trader Joe's within 3 miles, so I'm happy!

So week one is almost finished, and I'm feeling pretty good. I know this job will not be without its challenges, but I finally feel like I can stand up to the challenges. After two years at DV, my confidence was it's good to feel competent again.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Really Pushing Thirty

My birthday is two weeks from tomorrow!

Just in case you didn't know (that's sarcasm), I'm turning the big three-oh. And I'm excited about it.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Stood Up By the Geek Squad


What kind of nerd does one have to be to be stood up by the Geek Squad??

As you all know, I moved last Sunday (a week ago today). The move went very smoothly (cute movers!!) and I've had a very busy week settling in and going to an inservice for the district Arts Resource teachers.

I did most of this without Internet access, which drove me bonkers.

On Wednesday, my phone and DSL connection were finally hooked up...only I had no dial tone. AT&T told me this was the apartment complex's fault. The apartment complex blamed AT&T. I just wanted it fixed. I've been wearing my new cell phone out, and [insert whiny tone of voice here] I want Internet!!!

Fortunately, the guy came out to fix it in a timely manner. Yay! A dial tone. As soon as he left, I got down to business getting my Internet set up.

Here's the thing. When I moved in, I realized there is no phone jack in the 2nd bedroom or the living room--both the only places I might put my computer. I figured, "What the heck, I'll go wireless." So I bought a wireless router and an adapter at Best Buy (home of the Geek Squad) and heeded their stern advice to follow each step to a T. No problem!

The box said, "Get up and running in minutes," and, "No technical jargon used or technical expertise required." Great! Let's get started.

Big problem.

I followed each and every instruction but I kept hitting wierd error messages and a general unwillingness, on the part of my computer, to cooperate.

I tried everything I had in my limited knowledge of the inner workings of a Dell. I got nowhere. So I called AT&T. A very nice young man walked me step-by-step through the deep, mysterious underground passages of my computer and the World Wide Web. He had me doing stuff I never would have figured out on my own. After thirty minutes, I had Internet access--it wasn't wireless, but I was able to read the 50+ new messages in my inbox.

"I can get it from here," I confidentely told this nice young man. He even believed me. We hung up, and I rolled up my sleeves and got down to the business of making my Internet connection wireless.

Within 20 minutes, I was on the phone again, this time to Linksys, the company that made the router and adapter.

Look, I have nothing against accents. I really don't. But I couldn't understand half of what this lady was telling me over the phone. My cell phone kept slipping down my ear as I typed and I couldn't understand her rapid-fire speaking. I must have sounded like a complete moron. "Huh? What? Could you repeat that?" It was frustrating, but finally, FINALLY, she told me to unhook a little cable and voila! I was wireless.


So I confidently set about unhooking and rehooking and...

Kaput. No wireless connection.

Exhausted and Internetless, I called the Geek Squad. "We can be there tomorrow!"

"Great! I really, really, need you!"

They didn't show. I called and we rescheduled for this morning, between 8:00 and 12:00. Sucks to have to get up before 8:00 on a Sunday, but I'm willing to sacrifice for Internet.

In the mean time, you might be wondering how I'm able to update the LPB. Well, it's simple. My old modem is sitting on the living room floor, with a long cord connecting it to the phone jack in the kitchen. The modem, in turn is hooked to the wireless router, sitting by my feet, and that in turn, is plugged into the hard drive. I have cords everywhere, stretched from one wall to the wall opposite. It's unsightly and a tripping hazard...but I have Internet!

Next step? Cable TV.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

As Ever, Wild and Absolutely True

Really, did you think I would give you anything less?

I got a job!!

Yes, indeed, my friends, I am employed once again. This is, of course, a huge relief, and a boost to my flagging confidence after two years of teaching hell in Antioch.

Oh, you want details? Sure...the job is for Stockton Unified School District. My job title is VAPA teacher (that's Visual and Performing Arts), but basically, I'll be teaching music, with maybe a little bit of art thrown in. At this point, it looks like I'll be teaching at one K-8 school site, which is right up my alley. I even have a classroom! Some music/art teachers get shopping carts.

The title of this post does not refer to my getting a job, but actually how it is all transpiring. Here's the timeline:

Tuesday, July 8 I drove to Stockton in my rented Toyota Camry to interview. I was told it would probably be early the next week that I'd hear something.

Monday, July 14 I had a message on my (new! Cute, sassy red) cell phone from a lady in HR, asking me to call back. By the time I got the message, it was too late to call her back, so I called her first thing in the morning on

Tuesday, July 15 at which point she offered me a position. I accepted. Then she said, "We start school on the 29th...of July."

Eeek!! That's two weeks!!!

Wednesday, July 16 I drove to Stockton and did the following:

1. 10:00-10:30 Signed a contract

2. 10:30-11:00 Got lost looking for the office where my supervisor, the director of VAPA, resides.

3. 11:00-11:45 Got the tour of the VAPA office, where there is a good collection of sheet music, instruments and other resources. Also found out which school I'd be working at.

4. 11:45-12:00 Got lost trying to find my school.

5. 12:00-12:45 Met my principal and got a tour of the campus. She told me, "It's a big school--about 880 kids." I smiled serenely and replied, "I just taught at D*** V***** High School for 2 years." She had heard of DV, but I still followed this up with, "We had 3,300 kids."

6. 12:45-1:00 Got kinda/sorta lost finding the school district's police office (I was learning my away around by now).

7. 1:00-1:10 Filled out a long ole form, then got fingerprinted by a very nice lady.

8. 1:00 Set off towards I-5 (that's Interstate 5, a major freeway, for those who don't know) to look for an apartment in a better part of town. Stockton sorta has a reputaion, but I was assured by my new principal that the parts she'd given me directions to were nicer. And indeed they are.

9. 1:00-1:30 Drove around.

10. 1:30-2:00 Lunch at Applebee's and a much-needed visit to the loo.

11. Shortly after lunch, I drove to the next exit off of 5, and immediately found an apartment complex that is within easy walking distance of 24 Hour Fitness, my gym. I drove in, got a tour, and decided I wanted the apartment, all within 30 minutes.

By 4:00, I'd filled out a rental application, and written a $500 deposit check. Then I set off for Mom and Dad's, feeling...



...and maybe just a little bit topsy-turvy.

In the space of 48 hours, I went from unemployed and living with Mom and Dad to employed with a place to live. This is good, yes, but it all happened so fast, is it any wonder I was feeling a little stressed?

But it's all falling into place. I was approved for the apartment, so today I signed the lease and took a carload of stuff down. A local mover had time to move me, even with such a last-minute request, so tomorrow we'll be getting all of my stuff moved in.

So I'll have a week to get somewhat settled before school starts. In this week I have a two-and-a-half day inservice for VAPA teachers, where I'll get some lesson plan ideas.

I've been busy buying stuff for my new place. Yesterday I made a trip to IKEA for a TV stand, and today I bought some cute bar stools at Target, and a storage unit for the bathroom.

My apartment (click here to see a 3-D floorplan...very cool!) is smaller in square footage than my last one, but it has two bedrooms, which means I have an office/craft room. My rent is $300 cheaper, which guessed it...

I'm soooooo going to England within the next year!!!

That's where that extra money is going. It's been three years since I left, and I don't want to reach four without getting a visit in.

So yes, this week has been Wild and Absolutely True. A whirlwind. I'm excited, relieved, and scared witless, all at the same time. I find that mentally decorating my new apartment helps. So does the prospect of having a designated scrapbook table that I never have to put away (as I did in the last apartment), and having that extra money to save towards returning to my beloved, always-missed England. I've been researching prices, and if I go during my Spring Break next year, I could go for as low as $895. It's not a direct flight, but hey, I don't mind!

Stay tuned, my friends. I have a good feeling about all of this.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Rosie's Home!!

Thirty-seven hundred dollars later, my little Rosie Pro is finally home where she belongs. She looks amazing--the body shop did a great job fixing the door and obliterating the scratches. I am so pleased.

I've been driving a rented Toyota Camry all week. It's a very nice car, but I am glad to have my familiar little Mazda back. Rosie is just my size--the Camry isn't that much bigger, but it felt like a tank in comparison. It had all kinds of cool little features that my car doesn't have--I could control the radio from the steering wheel, a button on the key that opens the trunk, and stuff like that--but it also took a lot more gas than I am used to paying for in one fill-up! I am loving my simple, unglamorous car more than ever.

In other cool news...I got a new cell phone! I finally bit the bullet and bought a "cooler" phone than the freebie one I've been using since 2005. My new one is red (ooh la la!) and has a camera in it--cool for taking sign pics and whatnot when I don't have my digital camera with me. I've only just started to figure it out. That's half the fun.

New phone, and a car that's looking much, much better. The evidence of that vicious vandalism is gone, and I can move on with things.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Independence Day!

***Note*** A couple of pics got double-posted--oops!--and I'm too lazy to figure out which codes belong to which pics and correct it. Also, I just learned that if you click on the pic, a larger version will open so you can see more detail. Cool!

I love the Fourth of July. After that long post-Christmas/New Year's letdown, it's great to have a big holiday to celebrate.

This year, I checked out the City of Linconln's home page to see what was going on. I'm going to a barbecue tonight with Mom and Dad (their friends graciously extended the invite to include me), but what to do in the daytime?

Turns out Lincoln has an annual parade. It sounded like it might be fun, so I set the alarm for 6:00, and drove to historic downtown Lincoln early to get a good spot.

And fun it was!

I love small-town Americana. There is something comforting about a community that takes great pride in showing off it's own people. Everyone got excited to see the local fire crews and Little League teams. Flags were everywhere. People were decked out in red, white, and blue...and so were their kids...and their dogs.

A parade always starts, of course, with a police escort:

...followed, of course, by Old Glory, escorted by the local VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars):

Even the camera girl is showing her colors:

The grand marshal this year is a lifelong resident of Lincoln, and a much-loved science teacher at Lincoln High School. Cool! A teacher...

Next on the parade route was a group of Mexican-American riders, accompanied by their families and a small but proud marching/mariachi band:

The local kids had a chance to shine, too. The first group to pass by was the Lincoln All Stars, a softball league for local girls:

It's not the greatest picture, but at least I got them--the driver of this Cadillac Escalade was 4, and her brother is 2. They were so cute, waving and clapping their hands:

No parade would be complete without the local Cub Scouts:

...or old farts in golf carts. Ha! A lot of people in Mom and Dad's community, Sun City, drive electric golf carts around the area to run their errands. They had their own place in the parade, and, as you can see, they were decked out in their best colors:

More gorgeous horses:

Uncle Sam almost rode out of my picture:

All-American Dacshaund:

Cowboys in training:


And, of course, what's a parade without the pageant winners?

More beautiful, decked-out horses:

And the emcee even gave a shout-out to the pooper scoopers:

Cute little Lady Liberty:

And the Democratic Club of Lincoln (supporting Obama for president, and Charlie Brown--no, not that one--for Congress):

What is more all-American than Baseball?

Mendes Ranch, on the outskirts of Lincoln, has passed this old truck down through the family. The ladies in the cab both learned how to drive in this truck as teenagers. It's recently been restored. They were followed by the most gorgeous horse:

Another great old car:

Not to be outdone by the Dems, the local Republicans had a spot in the parade, too, endorsing Tom McClintock:

This was cute:

Bringing up the rear, of course, were the fine men and women of the Lincoln Fire Department and the Placer County Fire Department (accompanied by Smokey Bear):

I'm so glad I made the effort to get up early and go to this parade. It's not fancy or flashy, it's just a small-town effort to celebrate our nation's birthday--but it was great fun, and full of great photo ops. I'll happily go again next year.