Friday, September 29, 2006

Another Week Flies By

Zzzzzziiiiippp. Blink and you miss it.

I am in Lincoln this weekend. : ) A couple weeks ago, I decided that once Mom and Dad returned from their Alaskan cruise, I'd come home for some of Mom's cooking, a bit of relaxation, and some quality time with the folks. So far, it's been marvelous. But I have stories from this week, so I'm going to back up a few days.


Thursday morning I woke up at 4:30 AM with butterflies in my stomach. I had a To Do list a mile long and Back To School Night to look forward to.

I gave up trying to catch a few more Zz's and got up at about 5:15. Because I was up so much earlier than my usual 5:45-6:00, I was ready to go by 7:00. I decided to leave early, get some caffiene, and go work in my classroom.

I pulled into Chevron near the school and went inside for a hot chocolate. As I served myself, I thought, "'s drafty in here!"

Turns out that actually, I had a six-inch rip along the side seam of my blouse! Good thing that I was only a couple of miles from home.

Back To School

Back To School Night, I must say, went very well. For those not familiar with the concept, Back To School Night usually happens about 3-4 weeks into the school year, and it is a chance for parents to come meet the teachers. Being the "newbie" in a high-profile department, I was nervous. I really wanted to make a good impression.

The evening was quite a success. Everyone offered their support in every area from fundraising to accompanying the choirs on piano. I mentioned that I want to start a choral booster program and faces lit up. These parents want to help; and one thing I have learned is to never turn down that offer.

So things are progressing nicely. I felt very good about how Back To School Night went for me.

What's The Point??

Yesterday was a minimum day. All classes were 20 minutes long. Just enough time to warm up before leaving class! I basically had all of my classes do a couple of simple ear training exercises. Show Choir danced. It was quick, easy, and the kids (and I!) were just ready to get out of there for the seemed a little bit pointless, having 20 minute classes, but Ed Code demands the students be in school a certain number of minutes and a certain number of days.

Happy Dance

Snoopy has his Supper Dance; I have my Paycheck Jig.

Yes, my friends, yesterday was my first payday. It would be impolite to tell how much my first check was for (and just how much the state and federal governments took out--YIKES!) but I will say it was the largest paycheck I have ever earned.


The other great thing is that I don't have to pay rent this month--I got six weeks free when I signed my lease, and chose all of October and half of December for my free time.

Not having to pay rent this month means...

Even More Stylin'

As soon as I pulled in to Mom and Dad's yesterday, Mom and I made a Target run. Almost $200 later, I have new pajamas, a bunch of toiletries I needed to stock up on, a boxed set of all four movies Bogie and Bacall made together, and a new blender.

Today Mom and I hit the massive Galleria mall in Roseville because I am in dire need of cute clothes for work.

Many hours later, I am the happy owner of several darling blouses, a new LBD (Little Black Dress, a staple in any woman's wardrobe), and some new bras. My feet hurt, but I am very, very pleased. Especially as the Border's at the mall had a book I've been looking for--Lauren Bacall's memoir (are you sensing any patterns at all?).


I mentioned above that I bought a blender. This is a Big Thing. You see, I love smoothies, and being without a blender these last couple of months has been hard. Now I can buy all the bananas I want! (I love bananas in stuff, but the texture of them makes it impossible for me to just eat them on their own.) And guavas, and mangoes and pineapple, and berries.

Who needs cereal for breakfast?

Let's Talk About Fuzz

Of course, one of the big draws in coming home to Mom and Dad's is the Terrible Torties. Last night I had a tub of fuzz (Duchess) glued to my side all night. At one point it got kind of cold so she crawled under the covers with me, curling up in the crook of my arm, purring madly.

She and Bella have grown into beautiful (if a bit bottom-heavy) adult cats. I can't believe that just a year ago, they were still itty bitty kitties. "Kindergato" is hardly an appropriate description anymore--they're fully grown!

Millie is a little bit disgruntled because she had to sit in her carrier for two hours yesterday, but she'll get over it.

Tamale Pie and NASCAR

Tomorrow I'll watch my favorite driver, Dale Jr., start from 12th position at the Kansas race. Hopefully he'll do well, and gain some spots in the points.

Tonight I'm getting some of Mom's awesome tamale pie (it's cooking now and the smell is making my mouth water), and some much-needed relaxation after a busy week and a trek around a large mall.

Here's to weekends at Mom and Dad's!



Saturday, September 23, 2006


I have now seen three of the four movies that Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall made together, and let me just say that the chemistry between those two was enough to knock my socks off! More and more I agree with all of the polls that list Bogey as the best male actor ever. He really had a presence and charisma that the Brad Pitts and Tom Cruises of the world lack now.

Today I watched Key Largo and To Have And Have Not. Both were excellent, but I have to say that I liked To Have And Have Not best. Especially seeing as how they met making this movie, and the attraction and chemistry just screams from them in every scene.

Bacall was 19 years old, and Bogey 44. Despite the age difference and the fact that he was married when they met, they fell in love, and it was one of the romances of the century.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: these classic movies are brilliant. Most of today's movies have nothing on them, even with improved special effects. We've become so desensitized to nudity and sex scenes, it is a shock to the system to see how sexy one kiss between Bogey and Bacall can be--fully clothed, no [visable] tongue, and lasting no more than a few seconds.

And the dialogue! Who can top Bacall's Slim looking at Bogey's Steve through her eyelashes and saying, "You do know how to just put your lips together, and...blow."

The look on that man's face made my heart flutter in my chest.



This 'N' That

Just a few bits and pieces from my world this week.

Busy, Busy, Busy!

I swear, the days fly by! Even with classes being 100 minutes each, they absolutely fly by, and I find myself in constant motion from the time I get to school each morning (about 7:30) until the time I leave (usually about 4:00). Sometimes I find I need to visit several different offices. As the school is spread out over 60+ acres, and it's built on a big hill, with stairs everwhere, I do sometimes get my exercise!

I am getting more and more comfortable with my job and the kids. I still have some things to learn, and I am still building a trust and rapport with the kids--it all takes time. But I'm coming along, and I have to say, I've got some really great kids. There's a small group of juniors and seniors who like to hang out in my room after school playing the piano and singing. A couple of boys sometimes bring guitars, and they all sit around playing, singing, and even rapping (it's all clean). I really enjoy listening to them. The creativity is astounding.

Schedules and Stuff

For future reference, I want to lay out how the school works because I will sometimes make reference to block scheduling and other things.

First off, the school is huge. Not only is it on 60+ acres of land, it educates somewhere around 3,500 kids. This requires about 165 teachers, and I don't know how many aides, secretaries, maintenance, custodians, food service workers, etc. I've truly lost count!

Because the school is so huge, we have a principal, an associate principal, and four vice principals. The principal and AS are housed in the main administration building. The four VPs are each in charge of a house (think Hogwart's). Each house is a group of classrooms with it's own administration office. Each kid is assigned to a house, as is each teacher. For example, I'm in House 3. My mailbox is there, I use that staff lounge (though I am more than welcome to visit others), and that's where I go if I need disciplinary help.

Next is the schedule. There are seven class periods, with first period being an optional period for students who want an extra class (especially Advanced Placement classes and specialized classes). First period starts at 8:00; most teachers do not teach that period. This period also meets every day; it is the only class period that does.

The official school day begins at 9:00. On even days, periods 2, 4 and 6 meet. On odd days, we have 3, 5, and 7. The school day runs from 9:00-3:00. Each class is 100 minutes long, and we have 8-minute passing periods (long, yes, but when kids have 60+ acres to navigate, and crowds of 3,500 to navigate through...). Lunch is 30 minutes, but with two passing periods on either side of it, it ends up being more like 46 minutes.

I don't teach a first period, and my prep is 5th period. Therefore, on even days, I teach straight through from 9:00-3:00. On odd days, I get almost 2.5 hours of prep and lunch time.

This week we had 3 odd, 2 even days. As yesterday was an odd day, Monday will be even. It's confusing at first, but once the pattern is established, it's pretty easy to follow, for students and teachers.

Are you confused yet?!

Lazy Weekend

I rented a couple of Bogey and Bacall movies to watch this weekend, and Sister Act 2 (you know, Whoopi Goldberg as a music teacher nun?). Sister Act 2 is the theme my show choir and I finally settled on, so I need to see how the story line goes, etc. Plus get ideas for costumes.

That's all I plan to do--watch movies and NASCAR. Maybe go to the bookstore. I'm having a teensy bit of vocal fatigue and want to rest and relax. Maybe make some tea.

Next weekend I'm making the drive up to Lincoln. Thursday night is Back to School Night, so they're giving us a minimum day on Friday. This means I can get on the road and miss rush hour on I-5 and I-80. Woohoo! It will also be payday (double woohoo!!) and, due to an incentive I received when I signed my lease, I don't have to pay rent in October (triple woohoo!!). So...quadruple woohoo...Mom and I are going shopping. : )

...And that's all, really. Nothing too exciting to report!



Monday, September 18, 2006

Lazy Girl Lasagna

So yesterday I made one of my favorite meals, a pasta bake. Every once in a while, I throw one together (pasta, zuchini, mushrooms, green pepper, onion, pasta sauce, ricotta cheese) and it makes a good, hearty, mostly healthy meal that lasts for days.

I took some to school today and a colleague commented that it looked really good. I was telling her how I make it and she said, "It's sort of a last-minute lasagna."

"Yeah, for lazy girls. Yeah! Lazy Girl Lasagna."

My colleague laughed at that, and I thereby decided that I'll no longer call this particular dish "pasta bake."

Well, Now I'm Crying

Just finished the last two episodes of "Band of Brothers," which always leaves me a bit weepy. I can't describe just how moving and well-done this miniseries is.

And that's it for today!



Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Jury's Still Out

I've never really decided whether I love or loathe "The Gherkin," but I do admit it has some sentimental value. Located almost right next door to Liverpool Street Station in London's East End, it was always right there to greet me when I took the train in from Burnham.

Anyway, it's for sale, interestingly enough.

Friday, September 15, 2006

I'm Not Dutch

Nope, definitely no Dutch in me.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Nothin' Much to Blog About

Well, I've known my kids for a week now, and so far, it's going well enough. There are always bumps in the road when a new teacher takes over for someone who was much loved by the students. I know in time the program will become more of my own, and until then, I just roll with it.

Any frustration I'm feeling today is more due to the fact that I'm getting a cold, and I walked into my classroom this morning to find the heater on. The band teacher put a thermometer on my piano and it climbed to 92 degrees...and this was at 8:30 this morning! The A/C is completely broken in our wing, but the district has guys working on it.

At least it's not 100 degrees out there. : ) And as one colleague said, "Hey, things could be worse. We could be in Afghanistan!"

So yeah, I'm a bit stuffy and sneezy today, and my throat has been threatening an all-out mutiny for a couple of nights. That, of course, could be overuse--teachers talk a lot, and choir teachers talk, sing and make funny noises a lot!

The good news is that I'm eating pretty well and even managing to swim a bit some afternoons when I get home. A typical day consists of Raisin Bran for breakfast, a big salad for lunch, and any two of soup, sandwich or salad for dinner.

I am meeting some nice people and even have a social engagement on Friday night (going to listen to a colleague play guitar at a coffee shop, and meeting up with some other teachers, probably). I'm still loving my little apartment--it is truly my haven, and I enjoy my quiet evenings here. I try to get out of school by 4:00, and once I'm home I've imposed a "no work after 7:00!!" rule for most evenings (concerts and special functions excepted, of course). The computer gets turned off and I am either reading or watching a movie. I learned the hard way in England that my "me" time is vital.

So how are things, really? I've been busy, amused, crazy, frustrated, relaxed, challenged, homesick, and feeling like I can do it all--all at the same time. But that's teaching for you. I'm doing just fine. : )

Monday, September 11, 2006

It Still Stings

Have you ever had a splinter or a papercut, that, even after you've doctored it a bit, still stings? Or a bruise that lingers on and on, ever-so-slightly sore and noticable, long after you got it.

That's sort of how today is for me. It still causes pain to think about what happened to our country on September 11, 2001. I can recall with perfect clarity where I was and what I was doing when I heard those dreadful words, "A plane has hit the World Trade Center. We think it must be a terrorist act." That fist-in-the-gut feeling of fear and sadness, and so many questions: Who would do this? Why would they? How can someone hate us so much--just for being American? Is my family safe? Will they come to California, too?

Most of those questions are still unanswered, five years later, especially the "why." It's so much more than the American agenda in the Middle East. It goes deeper, beyond political and military acts, deep down into the impossible-to-understand mindset of religious fanaticism.

I can't imagine how it is for all of the many thousands of people who lost a loved one on 9/11. I can't imagine the grief and pain they go through on this anniversary. All I know is my own pain--so small in comparison, but still there, nonetheless.

Today, five years later, I can still feel that bruise on my heart, nagging me. I still feel anger towards the people who thought that killing innocent people--here, in Spain, in London--the world over--would bring them to a reward in heaven. Not in my heaven! Murder is murder, no matter how you spin it--September 11th was cold, calculated, and designed to show no mercy. The hurt and the anger might make me wish terrible harm on the men who delight in the death of innocent Westerners. But for one thing:


I have hope. Such a simple thing, really, but so profound in its possibilities. I have hope that the terror will subside, and knowing that it will never die out completely, I have hope that We The People will stay united in our desire to keep terror out of our home. Hope that we will pursue peaceful solutions to violent problems, before we pursue retaliatory violence.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Great Story

A friend of mine brought this to my attention (thanks, Shae!) a few minutes ago, and it was so uplifting, I had to share.

Ray Ray McElrathbey is a 19-year-old Clemson football player who has taken custody of his 11-year-old brother. The article goes into detail about this young man's awesome outlook and attitude. His little brother his lucky to have him.

Anyway, it made me smile.

First Day Report

Well, I made it!

Thanks for all of the good luck wishes by internet and phone, by the way. : )

I arrived at school at 7:30 this morning to find the band teacher getting out of his car. I walked over to say good morning. He smiled and said, "Are you ready?"

"I have some serious butterflies, here."

And I did--which is good. I think teachers should be prepared for anything to happen. The good news is, by the end of 4th period, my butterflies were gone.

The first day was hectic, of course, but it went quite well. The kids were respectful and quiet (though the after-lunch classes were a bit more "excited" because they'd just eaten, but that's normal). The kids seem to be really excited, especially in the top-level groups that are made up of kids who love to sing and have worked hard to make it into these audition-only groups.

In the end, my only complaint is that my feet are killing me. : P I wore "professional" heels and spent much of the day on my feet. I had to go to the grocery store on the way home and must have made a sight, leaning on the shopping cart with a weary expression on my face, moaning ever-so-slightly each time I put a foot down.

Tomorrow we start the block schedule, in which we see three classes a day, for 100 minutes each. With the administrative stuff (Policies, grading, rules, etc.) behind us, tomorrow, we'll sing. I have a few pieces picked out to start off, and I'm ordering more as I can. The big thing for tomorrow is to find out what I've got to work with. So far, it looks like I've got a lot of talent. Very exciting!

Right--I've got some planning to do and then, it's to bed with a book for a bit. I'm exhausted! It's a good exhausted, though. I think I'm going to enjoy teaching high school.



Sunday, September 03, 2006

How To Clean a Piano

I am willing to bet none of you had so much fun this week. : P

Step One: Open Lid and Find Massive Dust and Debris

As you can see, there was a lot of debris under the strings, and dust everywhere.

Step Two: Remove Keyboard

I had to have help doing this, as I've never taken a baby grand apart before, and it's not reccomended when you don't know what you're doing. Hammers can break and all that.

So the band teacher came to my room and took the keyboard out, setting it aside so we could clean the box.

Step 3: Rev Up the Shop Vac

Here's the box without the keyboard--kind of funny to see it empty.

And finally, here's the band teacher wielding the Shop Vac, blowing all of the debris out from under the strings. The dust flew, I sneezed like mad, we both squinted our eyes against the onslaught. Then we switched the Shop Vac to the "suck" mode and cleaned up all that flying dust.

Anyway, there's the pictures. It was definitely an adventure!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Oh, Jiminy Cricket!!

Six-legged Creatures and Other Stories for a Saturday Afternoon

So my first full week of work is finished, and I'm exhausted! And ready. And not ready. Excited, terrified...mostly excited. I have a busy, crazy, fun year ahead of me, one that's going to challenge me as a teacher, as a musician, and that will show what I'm made of. But first, I've got stories. When do I not have stories? This is, after all, the Wild and Absolutely True Adventures of Meg.

I Hope You're Happy, Pinnochio

A little while ago I peeled the cover off of my duvet and hauled it into the laundry room to wash. As I peered into the washing machine, horror of horrors, I saw something moving. My first thought was, "Cockroach! Oh, I'm gonna barf!!" Fortunately, it was only a cricket.

Actually, it was a trapped cricket, and one that didn't seem to be able to jump, even though I could see that it had all of it's legs. "Great," I muttered to myself. "I'll just grab a glass and a piece of that junk mail and catch this critter."

Yeah. Not so easy, that.

You see, I don't touch bugs. It's just not my thing. I also don't like to kill them unless they're ants or those horrid little "earwig" bugs with the pinchers. Not to mention it's supposedly bad luck to kill crickets (...and I don't want cricket body parts all over my bedding). This is why I found myself, fifteen minutes later, cursing one terrified little cricket as I chased it around the drum of my washing machine with a wooden spoon and a drinking glass. I just couldn't get the little guy into the glass, so I took a piece of junk mail (nice and sturdy) to scoop him up and drop him into the glass. Then I smacked the letter down over the top and hustled Jiminy out to a planter outside of my front door.

Crisis solved.

Well, How About That!!

Monday was a day for all new teachers at my site to meet with the principal and some teachers who have been there for a while. We did a quick introduction, going around the room, and the new video tech guy mentioned living "across from *store name here*."

Hey, I live across from *store name here*!

Later I had a chance to chat with him one-on-one, because his classroom is in the same quad area as mine--no more than 50-60 yards from my room. I asked him if he lives in my complex. "Yeah, that's the place."

"I live there too." I mentioned which building and he got a funny smile on his face.

"You live...yeah. I live in 261."

"No way!"

Yes, my friends. He is my upstairs neighbor. How funny is that? He and his girlfriend live right above my head. I can hear their footfalls, they, no doubt, will be subjected to my loud singing. It's all good!


I talked to Mom and Dad on the phone this afternoon--they're coming to see me tomorrow, and Dad mentioned that I had a piece of mail from Chimacum (the school in WA). "It looks like a check."

"Nah...come on, you're just teasing me."

"No I'm not."

"Yes you are! I don't believe you."

"I'm not kidding. It looks like a check."

"Well, go ahead and open it, then."

Sure enough, it was a check, for nearly $500. Woohoo! This was going to be a lean month, because I don't get my first paycheck from the new job until September 30. An extra $500 is a big treat.

What Did YOU Do This Week?

I attacked a baby grand with a Shop Vac.

Yes, in the interest of instrument maintanence, the band teacher and I cleaned out the piano in my classroom. The school bought it 10 years ago, with a heavy discount, for $15,000. It's valuable. And it was in dire need of a good cleaning. Larry knows how to take the keyboard aparatus out, so he did that while I sneezed. A lot. Next we took the Shop Vac, put it on "blow," and went at the inside of the piano with a vengeance, blowing dust bunnies the size of, well, real bunnies, out of the box, along with paper clips, a hair clip and bits of paper. We had to blow everything out because there's no way to fish it out between the strings.

Finally we switched the Shop Vac back to "suck" and got all remaining dust out. I took a damp rag to the metal parts and wiped it clean. Now that piano is absolutely gleaming, inside and out.

I'm Off

I've spent a good chunk of my day on the Internet, researching choir music and getting ideas. I'm ready to relax with a movie or a good book.