Tuesday, April 17, 2018


I have been disabled all my life. Fortunately for me I had the opportunity to attend public school and be included in mainstream classes. This is no small fete considering that I am a child of the sixties when handicapped students were not allowed to attend public school. How could this happen?

I was born in Iowa. I have an older sister, a younger sister and a younger brother, Brad” that was also disabled. It was difficult for my brother and me to maneuver in the snow and the cold weather wasn’t great for anyone with Muscular Dystrophy. My parents took a big risk leaving family, friends and work behind to move to Arizona for my brother and I.

In the summer of 1962, my parents bought a John F. Long home on the Westside of Phoenix, Arizona a half of a block away from Holiday Park Elementary School in the Cartwright District. I was six years old and my mom decided to sign me up to attend school. In the sixties disabled children did NOT attend public school. My disability wasn’t obvious at such a young age. I could walk at the time but if I fell, one could easily see that I was disabled by the way I got up and the time it took me to get up. On the first day of school my mom looked me in the eye and said, “Watch your step! Don’t fall! And, Cathy, keep your mouth shut and don’t make waves!” (Even at the age of six, I was being warned to be quiet and don’t make waves. Those that know me will laugh at this and wonder why I didn’t follow that mantra all my life.) I happily attended Holiday Park Elementary School. My parents were part of the local Muscular Dystrophy Association and Brad and I were cute kids at that young age and were the “Arizona State Poster Children” for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. At many of the Muscular Dystrophy functions other parents were surprised that I attended public school and when my mother was asked how she got me in public school her answer was simple, “I went and registered her.”

The next year it was time for Brad to go to school. Brad was already in a wheelchair so there was no hiding the fact that he was disabled. My mom took my brother with her when she went to register him for school and this time she got a different reaction. She was directed to speak with the principal and he said he was sorry but Brad wouldn’t be able to attend school but he could give her a list of place where he could attend school. My mom said to the principal, “Why can’t he attend this school? His sister goes to this school and she has the same disability as Brad! Their problem is they can’t walk NOT that they can’t think!” The principal was dumbfounded and Brad attended Holiday Elementary School. At that moment in time, The principal, Robert Smith, my mom, Brad and I had set a precedent for the Cartwright School District – Disabled children were allowed to attend public school. Throughout my public school career I saw many disabled children attending school.

Why was this amazing? Public Law 94-142 was not passed until 1974, which was the year I graduated from high school. Public Law 94-142 gave ALL children the access to a public education. This was twelve years after I started attending public school.

I truly believe that if I hadn’t received a public education I would have never been able to attend or graduate from college. In the sixties, “education” for the disabled consisted of teaching life skills. Even in 1974 I had to fight to be allowed to become a teacher. The Arizona State University College of Education didn’t want me to waste my time and resources on a teaching degree that “the powers that be” felt would never be used because no one would hire disabled teachers. But I had spent years in the Cartwright District public school system influenced by so many amazing teachers and also by this time I had dropped the part of my mother’s daily mantra, “Cathy, keep your mouth shut and don’t make waves.” I was a tsunami and I fought to attend the College of Education, and besides The Arizona State University College of Education didn’t know I had an ace in the hole – the Cartwright School District.

Public Law 94-142 also stated that public buildings had to be handicapped accessible but there was a five-year time period that owners could take to make their buildings accessible. Many places started slow by painting a wheelchair on a parking space or taking the door off of a toilet stall to make it “accessible”. I spent most of my college years and part of my teaching career not drinking any liquids during the day and rushing home, at the end of the day, to go to the bathroom. In 1978, I graduated from Arizona State University with a teaching degree that many thought was useless.

In 1978 there was a push to “hire the handicapped” but at that time disabled teachers were not part of the “push”.  I went to the only place I knew that would accept me for who I was, the Cartwright School District. I figured if the Cartwright School District didn’t need a law to do what was right for children, then the district probably didn’t need a law to hire a disabled teacher.

In August of 1978 I started my forty-year teaching career. In the early 80s I was one of three teachers that implemented an inclusion plan where all special education students stayed in the mainstream class for the entire day. The Cartwright School District was doing inclusion long before the word was invented. The Cartwright District has always been open to research-based ideas that improve student achievement and has been the forerunner of doing what is the best for students without expecting any acknowledgement.

I am always amazed at the cycles in the education system. The Arizona State Department is cycling back to FULL INCLUSION. There are grants that teach and support schools on full inclusion. The school that I am teaching at now, Borman, is in the second year of the grant. I have always pushed to have my students with special needs stay in my class as much as possible. I believe they have a right to be exposed to the grade level curriculum. Many ask, “But what about the students that can’t handle the regular classroom?” The other day as I was walking across campus I ran into a student from another school I had taught in the past. When I first met him the word “autistic” was NOT part of our daily educational vocabulary as it is today.  I know this young man will never understand the middle school curriculum nor will he pass the state required tests. But being a part of the mainstream class is teaching him and his classmates life lessons. He is learning how to function in crowds. He is also learning how to avoid unkind individuals, unfortunately. I hope his classmates are learning to be more accepting of others. My head is not completely in the clouds. I know that there are students with special needs that will need a self-contained classroom and even one-on-one aids. But I also know that if one doesn’t set one’s goals beyond their reach then one will never reach the stars.

I am one of the lucky ones. If not for my full-inclusive public education, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I thank God for leading my parents to the right place, with the right open-minded leader at the wrong time in educational history. I guess I am again a “poster child” but this time for full inclusion. As I get ready to retire, no really I am, I’m not kidding this time, I realize how lucky I was to have a mother that wouldn’t take no for an answer and to have been a product of the Cartwright School District. 

Paco's Perspective
I like school. When will there be full-inclusion for dogs? I know there are a lot of faces to lick and hearts to melt.

The Flip Side
Do they have lizards at school? You know how much I love chasing lizards, oh, and bunnies and gophers and squirrels? Did some say squirrel? Is there a class in chasing animals?

Osa's Opinion
I'm thinking school is not the place for us! What is school? 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Meltdown in the Fast Food Drive-Thru

We are generally not fast food people and my sister, Caren, wants nothing to do with fast food. She would rather find something at home to make or go without. She and I have a difficult time on the way to Montana deciding what we want to eat because there isn’t much fast food we have tried.

The other day Darrell texted Caren to tell us we had to stop and get food to bring home because the guy started working on the kitchen cabinets and we couldn’t get into the kitchen to even get plates or silverware. There are no fast food places near our home so we had to quickly pick a place before we got too close to home.

“Caren, there is a Kentucky Fried Chicken right here on the corner,” I suggested.

“I hate KFC,” she replied.

“Well . . . . there is a Jack-in-the-Box by the Fry’s,” I tried again.

“Jack-in-the-Box! Are you kidding me? Yuck!”

“You like chicken,” me trying one more time.

“Not fried chicken!”

“They have grilled.”

“Okay, I guess but they better have something I like.” We proceeded to pull into the KFC drive-thru. Caren started reading the menu.

“Look at that!” she shouted. “One breast of chicken is seven dollars!”

“There are sides that come with it,” me trying to alleviate her angst.

“But who pays seven dollars for ONE chicken breast? That’s crazy,” Caren lamented. “I’m just going to get a bucket of chicken.”

“But we only eat the breasts and usually there is only one breast in a bucket of chicken,” I was starting to whine.

“Darrell will eat the rest of the bucket,” she informed me.

“Darrell isn’t going to eat eight pieces of chicken. Caren, we gotta go there are people behind us,” I informed her.

“But I don’t know what I want,” she said with trepidation.

“There is another menu by the speaker. But we gotta move.”

When we get to the speaker where one shouts what they want Caren begins another rant about the seven-dollar chicken breast. “I am not paying seven dollars for one chicken breast. Do you know that I just bought a pack of chicken breasts at Fry’s for ten dollars. And they had a sale. It was buy one, get two free. SO I got three packs of chicken breast for ten dollars and these jokers want me to spend seven dollars for ONE, I REPEAT ONE CHICKEN BREAST!”

“It comes with fries,” trying to console her.

“May I take your order?” asks the speaker box.

“First, I don’t eat fries! Second there are not enough fries in the world that could be put in that ‘Chicken Breast Box’ that could make up for paying seven dollars for one breast of chicken. Oh my God! That car has pulled up behind me and now the driver is flinging his hands in the air. I gotta decide! I can’t decide! I can’t pay seven dollars for one chicken breast,” Caren whines starting to definitely meltdown.

“May I take your order?” asks the speaker box but slightly louder.

I quickly scan the menu board looking for something that is less than seven dollars. “Look, they have baskets for $5.99!”

“Where? I don’t see that?” she asks.
Right there, where it says baskets. Three chicken tender come in a basket with slaw and a biscuit.”

“Only three chicken tenders! Do you know how small chicken tenders are? NOBODY EATS CHICKEN TENDERS. Darrell is not going to want chicken tenders!” she replies in full meltdown.

“Um . . .may . . .I . . .take . . .your order?” asks the speaker box hesitantly.

“Oh . . .my . . .God! The person behind me is flinging their hands harder and higher. I can’t do this!” Shouting at the speaker box, “I am sorry but I can’t do .. oo . . .oo . . . th . .  I . . .i . . .i . . .is! No one in their right mind should pay seven dollars for one chicken breast!’

“it come with fries and a side,” comforts the speaker box.

“But then I have to choose a side?” Caren cries. “The man behind me is flinging, my heart is pounding, and my head is whirling . . .”

“We have chicken tender baskets . . . ,” replies the speaker box tentatively.

“Really? CHICKEN TENDERS? Darling, nobody wants chicken tenders! I just have to drive thru, and go home with no food. I should have just gone to McDonald’s.”

“Have a nice day,” says the speaker box cheerily.

After stopping at the Burrito Barn food truck, we made it home with something to eat. When we got in the house Caren glares at Darrell and says, “Tomorrow, if we can’t get into the cabinets, you are cooking chicken on the grill and I don’t care if we have to use flat rocks for plates and eat with our fingers. I am NOT going through a fast food drive-thru!”

I smiled, “Um . . .Darrell, we, as in she, kind of had a fast food meltdown in the drive-thru of the KFC,” I informed him.

Darrell replies, “Kentucky Fried Chicken? I LOVE Kentucky Fried Chicken. It’s ‘finger-lickin’ good! My favorite is the chicken tenders. I just love chicken tenders!”

Paco's Perspective
Chicken tenders? Did someone say chicken tenders?

The Flip Side
I would have helped Uncle Darrell eat the other eight pieces of chicken. P.S. everybody loves chicken tenders. They are tender and juicy and just the right size. MMMMMMMM!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

It's a Cacaphony

I live outside of the city in an acreage community where one can own any kind of animal except pigs. Most homes are on two acres, so it’s like a little ranch community.  When we have visitors the first thing that is said is, “Wow! It’s so quiet out here!”

My reply, “Mmmmmmmmm, not really.  It’s a cacophony out here.  Did you know that the mockingbird sings until it finds its mate?  It doesn’t stop singing when it gets dark either.  It sings all night long!”

One might ask, “What’s wrong with birds singing? I love to hear birds singing.”

“ A mockingbird lives up to its name.  It imitates other birds’ songs and the most distinctive part of the song.  Just what I’ve always wanted the bird version of Jimmy Fallon outside my window at two o’clock in the morning.  Then there are the coyotes. When you think of coyotes I bet you picture a coyote howling at the moon.  Coyotes don’t howl.  They also don’t bark.  They yip and whine.  When they catch their prey they yip and whine even louder. Have you ever heard a bunny scream?”

“By the way did I tell you about the neighbor’s cow. She moos all the time.  She moos when she is lonely, she moos when she is hungry and she moos when she escapes and ends up right near my bedroom window. The last time the neighbor came to fetch his cow I heard him say to her, ‘Brandy, if you break out one more time, you’re going to end up on the dinner table.’  Brandy must have escaped again because I haven’t heard her mooing in a long time.” 

“When the coyotes have gone to their den, the cow has settled done, the dogs have stopped barking, the mockingbird has become hoarse, the roosters start to crow”

One might think, “Hey, roosters only crow when the sun comes up.”

“One has thought wrong.  Roosters crow when someone turns on a light.  Roosters crow at a full moon.  Roosters crow when the sun goes down, roosters crow when the sun comes up, and they start crowing two hours before the sun comes up.”

“When the rooster starts crowing about 3:30 a.m. that wakes up the peacock.  The peacock is the finale of the crescendo outside my window. Then the screams of the peacock wakes up the mockingbird and the cacophony starts again.”

Don’t take this wrong, readers, I love my cacophony! I am an old lady. I don’t need much sleep. Besides, I could never move back to the “city” it’s way too noisy! 

Paco's Perspective
You said caca! You said caca! You said caca!

The Flip Side
Hey, Knucklehead, she didn't say caca! She said caca funny, like, you stepped in my caca! Funny!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Singing for a Girl That’s Never Coming to the Dance

Recently someone in my neighborhood has acquired a peacock. Peacocks are beautiful birds when they strut their stuff but they also can be a pain in the arse (as a kilted Scot would say).
The peacock is the national bird of India. The peafowl is prominent in the mythology and folklore of the Indian people. The Hindus consider the bird to be sacred because the god, Kartikeya, rides on its back. Also legends hold that the peafowl can charm snakes and make their eggs become rotten.
Apparently, there are benefits to owning peafowl. I read in a blog (yes, people actually blog about peafowl), “a good peafowl can have all the loyalty of a dog, all the self-reliance of a cat, and all the ease of maintenance of a goldfish--though when a full-grown peafowl dies, it can be a lot harder to flush down the toilet.” Peafowl also eat lizards, roaches, spiders, snakes and scorpions. They are also very territorial and will let one know when someone or something nearing one’s yard.
The main disadvantage of peafowl, besides they are birds and they poop, is they are noisy. Peafowl supposedly have seven distinct calls including a distress call, a get out of my yard call, a look how cool I am call and a hey, chicky baby, come this way call. During mating season peacocks call to their mates in the early morning and when the sun goes down.
The peacock that has been hanging around my house starts calling for his lady around 3:15 a.m. I know it’s 3:15 because I have been waking up to his “hey, chicky baby, come this way” call for about a week. Unfortunately for Mr. Peacock, most people own peacocks and not peahens. One because they don’t want little peacocks, and also because peahens aren’t as beautiful as the peacock. So every day Mr. Peacock starts singing for a girl that’s never coming to the dance. Believe me it doesn’t sound like singing. The mating call of a peacock sounds like an off-key cat caught by a rocking chair. I can’t imagine what the “get out of my yard” call sounds like, if the mating call is suppose to be the most attractive call.
Peafowl have a tendency to wander, if one doesn’t acclimate them to their home before letting them out. No offense to Mr. Peacock and the people of India but I hope he wanders back to India. If he wants, I’ll by him a ticket to his homeland.

Paco’s Perspective
Singing for the girl that’s never coming to the dance. That’s a great title for a country western song. I can hear Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood singing the chorus”
As he steps on the stage, he prays
She’ll give one more chance
But he’s singing for a girl that’s never
Coming to the dance

The Flip Side
Peacocks eat lizards? No wonder, there aren’t as many lizards to chase. I’ll pitch in for Mr. Peacock's trip home.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Gift Exchange

I am not a lover of the gift exchange. I hate having to follow the money limits, but I also feel bad for those who do follow the money limit and their gift doesn’t compare to the money-limit cheaters.

I had a bad gift exchange experience in middle. The name I drew for the gift exchange was Brian Nelson, Desert Sands Junior High’s Fonzie. He was the boy that every middle school girl was in love with and the kind of guy every middle school boy wanted to be. The gift exchange limit was one dollar. (This was in the late 60s before the invention of the dollar store.) My mother was a gift exchange rule follower, if the limit was a dollar, that was all she was going to spend.

THE Christmas Exchange Gift was the Lifesaver book, twelve rolls of assorted Lifesaver flavor. This was the perfect generic gift. No one made fun, rolled their eyes at or pooh-poohed the Christmas Lifesaver Book. I asked my mom to get it for Middle-School Fonzie, but at $1.50 it was over the limit, and she wasn’t about to budge.

The day before the gift exchange my mom came home from the store with a pair of Christmas socks! I was going to have to hand Brian Nelson, the cool guy of the school a pair of .89 cent Christmas socks. Oh Boy!  Christmas socks, mom, really. I tried to play sick the next day but it didn’t work. I went to school dreading the gift exchange that was going to take place at the end of the day.

The time came and everyone was opening their gift of Christmas Lifesaver book, but not Middle-School Fonzie. Nope, he was opening a pair of Christmas socks much to my chagrin. He sauntered over to me, the girl with the face as red as a holly berry, and cordially thanked me and said it was a great gift. I shyly smiled and proceeded to go home with my Christmas Lifesaver book.
A couple years later, I ran into Brian Wilson, High-School Fonzie, after a sporting event he had participated in and won. As I rolled by, I smiled and said, “Congratulations on your win.”
He replied, “Thanks. It’s because I was wearing my lucky socks.” He raised his sweatpants and he was wearing my thread-bare-Middle-School-Christmas-Gift-Exchange socks. He looked at me, gave me that cool-guy chin lift, winked and walked away.  

Paco's Perspective
I wonder if there is a Lifesaver Book for dogs! I wonder what I am going to get in my stocking this year. Hey, do I have a stocking. I should get something for wearing that silly Santa suit.

The Flip Side
We cool guys are nicer and more sentimental than you think. And, Paco, quit your whining, the gingerbread cookie outfit was the worst. 

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Ask For and Expect

 Many of you already know that back in ’98 I was in a severe car accident and I broke all my bones from the waist down. I broke both hips, both femurs, both tib-fibs and my left ankle. (I’m saving the right one to break sky diving someday.) During my recovery I was in severe pain, of course I went to work too early, and when anyone would accidentally bump or even nudge me the pain would start at the tip of my toes and radiate up to my head and down my spine.

I would leave work right after the students left and go home to bed to recover for the next teaching day. One evening when I was laying in bed everything hurt. I closed my eyes and prayed, “Please, God, just make this pain go away for a few seconds!” And at that moment, a sense of relief permeated throughout my body. I felt no pain, but it only lasted a few seconds. I thought, Darn, I should have asked for the miracle! I blew my chance!

Eighteen years have passed and just the other day I was going to be observed for my yearly evaluation and I was sick. I was coughing and choking and hacking. Every time I started to talk I would start coughing but of course I didn’t want to cancel my observation. I know the administrator observing me would have been very accommodating but I just wanted to get it done. The observation was at one. My students were reading silently while we waited for the administrator to show. I was in the back of the room trying to breathe without choking and I closed my eyes for a minute and prayed, “Please, God, just give me forty-five minutes without coughing or choking. That’s all I need just forty-five minutes.”

My administrator walked in at 12:57 and at 1:42 when I was wrapping things up my voice quick. I had to whisper my last sentence. And I started coughing and choking! I thought, Darn, I blew it again!

The moral of the story is ASK FOR AND EXPECT THE MIRACLE!  I know there are many of you reading this that don’t pray. But I am not just talking about prayer I am talking about life. At work at ask for and expect the miracle. When teaching your students, ask for and expect the miracle. Especially, when it comes to what you expect from your self, ask for and expect the miracle. What’s the worst that could happen? Getting something close to a miracle? 

Paco's Pespective

It's been a long time, sistah! Where you been? P.S. I want to be a German Shepard and chase bad guys.

The Flip Side

I want all the lizards, bunnies and gopher in the area to come on my side of the fence.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

I Give Up! I Am Not a Miracle Worker

 The Cartwright School District is very short on teachers this school year. My teaching partners, Sue and Julie, and I were given the choice of have extra kids in our class or having a permanent sub. We were told we were at the “bottom of the barrel” for subs as frightening memories of bad subs flashed through my brain I convinced my partners that we couldn’t do that to our students. I gave them a pep talk and assured them that with all our capabilities that we could jump this hurdle together. RAH! RAH! SIS-BOOM-BAH! After three and a half weeks of forty-seven 7th graders crammed into a room larger enough for twenty-five, my RAH! RAH! SIS-BOOM-BAH! has turned into OMG! WHAT-WAS-I-THINKING!

This group of students is the best. I had half of them in fifth grade and they went on to have wonderful sixth grade teachers, and the other half had two amazing teachers that looped with them in the fifth and sixth grade. They are well trained and well behaved (well . . . most of them). I think that is why we didn’t want someone that was there just because. I wanted our fourth partner to be as dedicated as Sue, Julie and myself. I wanted our fourth member of our team to love these kids as much as we do. I felt we were doing these students a great service by making sure that they didn’t have to spend any part of 7th grade with a substitute teacher that was just “phoning it in”.

I thought we could do it, and I was sure I could do it. I thought wrong! I am not a miracle worker. Forty-seven students in one room is tough. First, there is not enough room for everyone and my wheelchair. I’m thinking of building a second story. Then students can’t work in groups because it just gets too loud. When I get observed my Kagan structures score is going to be zero. Also, all day long it’s crowd-control. It’s hard for 7th graders to self-monitor when they’re almost sitting in someone else’s lap. Finally, we are stacking them deep and teaching them very cheap because nothing ever works in our rooms. I try to show a video for social studies and the sound quits working, or the Smart Board dies ONE MORE TIME or the internet is too slow and we’re streaming and streaming and streaming. There goes my score on my observation for multi-media use. I give up! I can’t do it!

You know you’ve made a huge mistake when:
  • You can top anybody’s bad day at happy hour.
  • You spend eight hours on the weekend grading one set of writing papers.
  • You practically French kiss the tech guy for fixing your Smart Board one more time.
  • A student sadly tells you this is their last and you cheer quietly in your head while trying to keep a sad face.
  •  You don’t vigilantly pursue an absentee student because you are thankful you have a chair for the kid that has to wait and see where there is a seat available.
  • You giggle when teachers complain that they had to split a class due to no sub and now they have 34 students in their class FOR ONE DAY!
  • You are actually pondering about asking your administrator to hire “that” sub that makes you shudder whenever you see “that” sub lumbering down the hallway toward your grade level.
  •  Three grown women are quietly sobbing together while trying to write lesson plans, restructure a schedule (one more time), and dig up artifacts for a district meeting that they have to be at in twenty minutes because they feel like nobody cares.

I think the hardest part is that feeling that nobody cares. Last year I wrote a blog, No One Has Come, about the lack of district support with our 7th grade students and their lack of teachers. I know there are no teachers available. I hope the district is doing everything possible to solve the problem, but I feel like if Sue, Julie and I continue to trudge along and stay silent that the district will think that It’s okay to leave forty-seven students in a classroom, and that the district will continue to allow big numbers in classrooms in the future. It would be nice to know that the Human Resources department is doing everything they possible can. It would be nice to know that they are using ALL AVAILABLE personnel to fill all the open teaching positions across the district.  It would be nice to know that the ‘big wigs’ care. Actually, it would be nice to know that anybody cares.

Labor Day is coming! After Labor Day there is always an influx of new students. I guess I better go to Home Depot for lumber and get started on that loft for my classroom.

Paco’s Perspective

Suck it up, Cathy. You can do this. I have faith in Sue, Julie and you.


The Flip Side

Wow! You have more kids in your class than we have bunnies in the yard. Hey, there goes another one now! Gotta go!