Saturday, October 30, 2010


This year is the fiftieth anniversary of the publishing of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Haper Lee won a Pulitzer Prize for her expertly written view of a sleepy southern town with hidden prejudices. I bought a copy of the book this summer to read. I am sure I read it in high school or college, but I wanted to read it through different eyes. As I began to read the book, I immediately knew why it is a classic and a Pulitzer prize winner. I also realized why Harper Lee never published another book because every other book she wrote would be compared to To Kill a Mockingbird. Here is an excerpt from the book where Lee is describing a hot sultry summer in Maycomb, Georgia: "Men's collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o'clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum." Oh, If only . . . . 

The title To Kill a Mockingbird comes from a quote that Atticus says, "Shoot at all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird." Because a mockingbird doesn't have its own song it is considered an innocent and is symbolic for the downtrodden in the book. I haven't finished reading To Kill a Mockingbird which is quite a surprise I usually read a book a day. I think I am savoring it like a decadent dessert that I shouldn't be eating. I read it secretly when nobody is home.

When a book is ordered on it recommends other books based on what has been bought. Since I ordered To Kill a "Mockingbird" a book came up on my recommended list entitled Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine and of course I ordered it because recommended it for me. It is written from, a fifth grader, Caitlyn's point of view. Caitlyn has Asperger's which is an autstic spectrum disorder. Catilyn's older brother Devon is killed in a school shooting. Because Devon was wise beyond his years To Kill a Mockingbird was his favorite movie. The book being written from Caitlyn's point of view assists the reader in understanding Caitlyn's disability and causes one to have empathy for her which is ironic because those afflicted with Asperger's Syndrome are unable to feel empathy.

When I talk to students about reading books I tell them they must read every single word on the book: the title, bookcover flaps, blurb on the back, acknowledgements, copyright notes, title page, dedication, table of contents, prologue, epilogue, chapter notes, author notes. There is a purpose for every single bit of text on a book. There have been times when the author's notes in a book have moved me to tears. Kathryn Erskine's dedication in Mockingbird explains the title, author's purpose, and book: In hopes that we may all understand each other better. 

Mockingbird caused me to reflect on my life. I really need to work on understanding people better. I am very patient with students, and work very hard to understand where they are coming from and try to relate to them keeping that background knowledge in the forefront. Sometimes, oy, most of the time I don't have that understanding with adults. I have to keep in mind positive intentions. I truly believe that those I work with don't wake up in the morning saying, "I wonder how I can make a child's life miserable today." I believe that teaching is a calling. Teachers are not teachers for the piles of money. Teachers are not teachers because it is an easy job. Teachers are teachers to make a difference in children's lives. Teachers do have positive intentions. 

I have decided that I am going to print a picture of a mockingbird and put it on my office door so I see it every time I leave my office to help a teacher, work with students, or talk to anyone on campus. That mockingbird will be my symbol to better understand others. 

No one is home right now, I think I will sneak a few bites of that decadent delight.

Paco's Perspective

Okay, okay, I don't really want to, but I will try to better understand  where Flip is coming from.

The Flip Side

Lizards come from their hidey-holes in the ground. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Words, Words, Words

 I am a logophile. I love words. I love big multisyllabic words. One of my favorite words is onomatopoeia. An onomatopoeia is a word that describes or makes a sound like in the Batman comic books: OOMPH, ZIP, BOOM. Onomatopoeia is such a big word for such an easy definition. Yep, I love words, but not all words. I hate internet verification words. 

My repugnance for verification words comes from my adulation for words. I have to figure out what every word I read means, even if it isn't a real word. The word verification words that exacerbate me the most are the words without vowels because when creating a word one needs a vowel sound. 

My need to read a word and surmise the definition has caused predicaments for me. When buying tickets for events on the internet one must be quick or one loses their place in line. I have lost many a good seat trying to read and define a verification word. 

Of course I have kept a list of verification words, yes, I know, I need to get a life. Below is my word verification dictionary:

bacoun  n. (ba cone)  French bacon
dourisar n. (dower sore)  a grumpy dinosaur
equallator n. (e quil la tor)  a button that a superhero pushes to create a fair fight
fatowd  n. (fat oid)  an overweight alien
jonbog  n. (jon bog)  the swamp we lost Jon in
kildudy n. (kil doo tee)  an easy duty that a teacher would kill to have
mimxram v. (mim ics ram) when men chestbutt
pring n. (pah wing) pronunciation of the word spring by someone with a speech impediment
puniati  n. (pun e ah tee)  an italian punster
sautio  n, (sow te o) an uncle pig in Mexico
vochozave n. (vo cho sav vee) a person that knows a lot about vochoes

The ancient teacher in me would like to have you use them in a sentence.

Paco's Perspective

This chicka-chicka-wow-wow would like you to sprinkle a little bacoun on my food or I might turn into a dourisar.

The Flip Side

Oh, great logophile, what is a lounge lizard and do they hide in the bushes with the other lizards?

Sunday, October 17, 2010


I hate bugs! I hate spiders! I hate flies! I hate anything that is creepy-crawly! Actually, it's the crawly that really bothers me. Being handicapped, I am unable to reach and flick bugs off of me. I can't raise my hand above my chest, so when flies land on me I can't shoo them away. I truly believe that the flies know this, and they conspire together to bully me. I am so obsessed about bugs crawling on me that I have a tendency to panic at the wrong times. A loose string can be touching my leg and I will get manic that it might be a bug. The bug man comes to our house once-a-month, just to ease my mind, and I insist he spray heavily by the outside door that opens to my space. 

Our home is impeccable, as much as I am obsessed with not having bugs around, Janet is obsessed about having a clean home which is not a bad thing in my eyes. Many people have said that our home looks like a model home. So very seldom does a bug have the opportunity to get close to me, but every once in a while one sneaks past the bastioned barrier, and gets into my bed.  It is usually one of those little, black, hard-shelled, water bugs. Everyone needs to know those little bastards bite, and when they do it stings. The first time I was assaulted by one I was sure it was a scorpion. When Janet came in to rescue me she had to turn her head to keep from laughing when she spotted that itty, bitty bug. 

It happened again last night. One of those little buggers got by the guard. I was in one of those "dead to the world" deep sleeps and I felt a sting on the bottom of my right foot. Of course, it is down by my foot where I can't reach. I am convinced the flies have told the beetles about my inability to reach and that is why they go for my feet.  Now I have to decide if the sting is from a beetle or a scorpion. When I feel another sting between my toes I figure it is a beetle, but I am still panicked. Is this a call-for-help-in-the-middle-of-the-night-emergency or is this a cowboy-up-stop-your-whining-get-over-it-it's-just-a-little bug annoyance that will go away? After about the seventh bite from one of those little buggers, it's sting seems to lose its oomph. After twenty minutes of panic the little demon disembarked from my foot. 

Now, I was fully awake so I decided to watch a movie. About an hour into the movie, it happened, again, but on my left foot. No sting, same oomphless bug! I tried to crush it between my toes but like Ironman (the movie I happened to be watching) the armor-clad bugger was impenetrable:

I'm being eaten by a little black bug!

Oh! No! He's biting my toe!

Oh! Gee! He's up to my knee!

Oh! My! He's under my thigh!

Oh! Ootchie! He's up to my . . . . . . . . .

Paco's Perspective

Are you going buggy?

The Flip Side

Wouldn't it be cool, if was a lizard instead of a bug?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Rules of the Road

I travel often with my "sistah", Caren. She is the one that will fly into town and then drive me somewhere else: our older "sistah"'s home in Texas, our aunt and uncle's in Palm Springs, and Montana just to name a few. When in Montana we do a large amount of driving visiting friends and sight-seeing. But when driving somewhere with Caren there are certain rules of the road.

1. Sight-seeing only on specified sight-seeing trips. When traveling with Caren the destination is the most important thing. If the final destination is San Antonio, Texas there will be no sight-seeing on the way to San Antonio. Sight-seeing trips are only one day trips and are done with specific times in mind. At times it is like riding a whirlwind.

2. You can only eat according to the time zone you are in. If you leave Arizona early in the morning, and you arrive in Texas around noon, Arizona time, you may not eat because it is not lunchtime in Texas. It is two o'clock in Texas and it is too late to eat lunch and you have to wait for dinner.

3. Peeing and getting gas must be at the same time. Don't think the driver will stop at a rest stop so peeing is possible. Absolutely not! Cross your legs, stop your liquid intake, and wait until it is time to get gas. You better pray that the car is not fuel efficient. If she stops for gas, and you don't have to go, do it anyway. This may be your only chance.

4. Driver's choice. It is driver's choice for everything. The driver chooses the route. The driver chooses the music. The driver chooses stops. The driver chooses where eating will take place, if eating does take place. The driver chooses what games will be played and when they will be played. The driver chooses the time of departure. The driver chooses the time to stop for the evening and where to stop.

5. When passing a car on a two lane country road everyone must lean forward. This is my favorite rule. Apparently, leaning forward when passing makes the car go faster. I always wonder what the people we pass are thinking when they see us drive by and everyone in the car is leaning forward and giggling.

The funny thing is when I was the driver there were the same rules but they were the passenger's rules. So I think the rules are Caren's Rules of the Road. I can't wait for our next road trip!

Paco's Perspective

Auntie Caren's owner, Osa, is perfect for her because she doesn't eat, drink, or pee during travel time.

The Flip Side

I do not like traveling. I like the destinations. I just don't like the getting there.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Blah, Blah, Blah

My official job title is Achievement Specialist. I used to be called a Curriculum Specialist but for some unknown reason the title was changed. The job is the same just the name is different. There are a couple of bad things about it: 1) The students don't get it and in there eyes, if you are not called a teacher, then you are a principal which I definitely am not and 2) the field of education loves abbreviations, so I am the AS, yep, the ass! 

Our PTO works very hard to plan activities for our students that are free or extremely cheap. PTO stands for parent-teacher organization which is ironic because it is run by all teachers because no parents want to volunteer to do the job. The Tomahawk PTO put on a Fall Festival. For $1 the students could do crafts, go trick-or-treating, watch The Great Pumpkin, and go through a Haunted Hallway. There was also a costume contest. There was at least 150 students in the contest. When you calculate that each student has anywhere from 3 to 5 family members with them that is at least 500 people. It was wild, but the students had a great time!

At the end of the evening, a young lady that I kind of recognized (she was wearing a costume) came up to me with her father. I knew he was going to complain about something because in my 32 years of teaching I have not seen a parent on campus walk up to a teacher in such a crowded room and thank them for all they have done. I smiled at the little girl and said what I say to every student that comes up to me, "Hi, it's good to see you!" 

The father said, "My daughter says that you are the principal. Are you the principal?"

"No, sir, I am not the principal," I replied.

"I didn't think you could be a principal," he said with a tone of belittlement. "What are you?" he continued.

"I am the Achievement Specialist, how may I help you?" I asked.

"Oh, the Achievement Specialist," he sneered with a la-de-dah lilt to his voice.

And that is where he lost me. I was having a conversation with him in my head, but it wasn't about what he was complaining about.

"And why couldn't I be a principal? Crippled kids can't be principals?"

"Blah, blah, blah, kids cutting in line, blah blah."

"I am sure you expect me to be sitting in a home with a blanket over my legs and drool dripping from my chin."

"Blah, blah, it's not fair, blah, blah ,blah!"

"Oh, look at your poor daughter. She is embarrassed that you are continuing to complain about such a silly thing. She is trying to pull you away."

"Blah, blah,blah, blah, cutting in line, blah, blah, blah, it's not fair, blah, blah, blah.

"I get it! I get it! Kids were cutting in line. That's what kids do. Are you finished? 

"I am sorry, sir, that someone cut in line in front of your daughter. We didn't anticipate the crowd being this large. We will be sure to take that into consideration when planning for next year."

"Please be sure to tell someone that is in charge what I suggested. You know someone important," he smirked. "Blah, blah, blah, blah cutting in line, blah, blah,blah, blah, fair, blah, blah, blah, blah!"

"I will be happy to do that for you sir. As soon as I wipe the drool from my chin. I know I am not important. I am only the AS_.  Have great evening." Looking at his daughter, "Bye, darling, it was really good to see you. I am so glad you came this evening."

Paco's Perspective

I do that same thing when you are ragging on me.

The Flip Side

What did you say? I'm not listening! Do you know what I am thinking about?


Today is 10/10/10. Astrologists go batty over days like today. Today is a great day for weddings because it is suppose to be a lucky day. Today has three ones in the date which makes it even more special. Apparently, three ones signifies ambition. The astrologist on the Today show said everyone should write down three ambitions and be sure to reach high. I am a rule follower, so here are my three ambitions:

1. I want to buy a house. I know that doesn't sound like an ambition that is difficult to reach, but it is a huge ambition. Since August 1st, I have "thrown out fleece" on three homes. (Throwing out fleece is putting bids on many homes and waiting for one to materialize.) I have thrown out enough fleece that I could dress a pack of big bad wolves in sheep's clothing. I have been told, "The bank will make a decision next week," more times than I can count. My ambition is that at the end of this month I will be packing my bags. Notice I didn't say next week because that would be reaching too high.

2. I want to be okay financially. I don't want to be a millionaire. I don't want tons of toys. I want a house. I want transportation that I don't have to spend hundreds of dollars on repairs monthly. I want to be able continue to work. I want to take the boys for a walk everyday. I just want to be okay. YIKES, that doesn't sound too ambitious!

3. I want every child at Tomahawk School to read on grade level and develop a solid love for reading. Okay, this one many people would think is very ambitious. Call me crazy but I don't think this is too ambitious. I have such faith in the staff and students at Tomahawk that I truly believe that this is possible. The first step to achieving is believing. Teachers must believe that ALL their students can achieve and they must expect ALL of them to achieve. We, teachers, must instill a sense of self-belief in every student we come in contact with not just the students in our individual classrooms. Believers are achievers! 

So, that's it, there they are - my three not so ambitious ambitions. But believers are achievers, so I will be packing my bags by the end of the month and I will be okay and ALL the students at Tomahawk Elementary will be readers. Quick, go write down your ambitions before extraordinary 10/10/10 becomes just plain, old, ordinary 10/11/10, or you could wait until 11/11/11 now there are some ones for you!

Paco's Perspective

1. I want to beat Flip at a race.
2. I want to eat all the treats I want and not get more stocky.
3. I want to be everyone's "one and only".
Too ambitious?

The Flip Side

1. I want to catch a lizard.
2. I want to catch a lizard.
3. I want to catch a lizard.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Hidden Potential

I try very hard to be positive and find the hidden potential in anything. I, especially, am able to do this at work. I see the potential in every child and I believe that any child can be successful. As a teacher I have to figure out how to seek out the hidden potential. But I am not very good at this when it comes to my life.

I have spent the last two months house hunting. This is supposedly a great time to buy a house because everything is so cheap. In the past two months I have seen every possible home there is to buy that falls into the parameters of my wish list. I know the town of Buckeye's housing market better than every little blemish on my old tired body. I know every flood plain, dirt road, paved road and natural wash in Buckeye, Goodyear and Litchfield , Arizona. I  have cringed as my van has scraaaaaaaped bottom on every over-sized speed bump in the streets of Waddell, Arizona.  I know the price of every home available. I know when every price drops. I know which homes are vacant and I have watched Janet accidentally peek inside one we thought was vacant but it wasn't.

Everyone needs to know that short sales are NOT short in the area of time. In the beginning of August I put a bid on a house. I have actually put a bid on two short sale homes and which one comes through first that is the house where we will live. Janet and I secretly have a desire for one house over the other (known as the Dunlap house). We have visited this house so many times since my bid, the neighbors are starting to wave and call us by name. When I made a bid on the house it had been on the market for 185 days. The people living in it had somewhat trashed it, but I could still see the hidden potential in the house with Janet's exuberant positive attitude. It has been sixty days since my bid. For the past two weeks I have hounded my poor realtor about this house daily because the bank negotiator has said that a decision would be made. I found out yesterday that it was being put up for a trustee sale and I have to wait another three weeks, if not more, for the house to come back on the market and bid on it again. So, I decided I was going to look for something else.

The other day, a new house, as in one we haven't seen, came on the market and it wasn't a short sale. I missed out on making a bid on a home that was custom built for someone in a wheelchair by two hours, so when I find a house I no longer wait until the weekend to check it out. I called my realtor and made arrangements to see it immediately. As Janet and I were driving down the road to meet with her husband and the realtor we were saying, "Oh, that is a nice house. Oh, that one is pretty. This is an okay neighborhood. Oh look at that one!" And then we came upon the house we were going to look at, "Oh, ewwwwww!"

How do I describe this house? First, there was a note taped to garage from the county with a list of violations.  At one time I think it was a one bedroom home that the owners somehow added a basement and many other additions. There were so many add-ons it looked like an over-accessorized Saturday night hooker. There were bedroom doors leaning on the walls. Every room had a different kind of flooring depending on what was popular at the time of the addition. The carpet was 20 years old and filthy dirty. Also, each addition was either a quarter inch higher or lower than the room addition before it. The was a narrow stairway to the basement that scared the bejeebers out of me. I always feel like stairways to the basement with no door is a place where the crippled kid could "accidentally" fall down the stairs. The yard was an overgrown mess. 

The house next door had seventeen cars and a six foot mound of empty beer cans in the front yard. This can only signify three three things: 1. rednecks, 2. There are 17 driving adults that live in the house (rednecks) or 3. They ran out of room in the backyard and started putting everything they own in the front yard. (REDNECKS) That was just the property to the south. I won't even discuss the property to the north. The backyard butted up to Dunne's Arena which is where Janet and Breeze go riding quite often. I considered this the only plus and could easily list 50,000 reason not to even go into the house.

But, I had Pollyanna (Janet) with me and she insisted on playing the Glad Game. She kept running around the house pointing out the cool stuff which I could not begin to see through the four inches of animal hair. She tried to get me to go into a bedroom I couldn't get my chair into. It was small and had a small round stained-glass window. 

"Cathy, this would be a great room for you. Look it has a bathroom."

"Pollyanna . .  I mean, Janet, I can't get my chair in there."

"We could knock down this wall for you."

"I am sure all you have to do is lean on it and it will fall down"

"Come on, look on the bright side," Pollyanna cajoled.
"Pollyanna, I don't want live in that room with the stained-glass window. I will feel like a cloistered nun."

As Pollyanna continued to play the Glad Game throughout the house, my realtor turned to me and asked, "What's wrong with Janet? She isn't for real is she?"

I replied, "I think or I hope she is just trying to be positive."

"Cathy," Pollyanna shouts from the basement, "there are seven rooms down here with a little kitchen. This could be a rental. Except for the rabbit turds and pee, it's not too bad down here."

"Do you guys want to check out the backyard with me?" Pollyanna asks with a glazed look in her eyes.

"Ummmmmm, no! I don't think I can climb through the oleanders, over that car and under those carcasses, but you go ahead. Knock yourself out!"

"Okay, Cathy, really she is just joking, now, isn't she?" my realtor begged.

"I am starting to get worried I am going to have to go shopping for a habit and  a Catholic version of the Bible."

At that moment, Dave, Janet's husband, comes running around the corner of the house and says, "Oh, oh, she actually has a twinkle in her eye."

"That entire backyard is covered with woodchips. Those could be tilled under and it would be the best percolation for grass that would grow to Heaven!" Pollyanna exclaimed.

"Pollyanna, the only way I would buy this lovely piece of real estate would be if you got a big pillow, found a way for the body to keep, and learned to forge my name." 

As we drove through the dilapidated neighborhood that housed rednecks and serial killers, Pollyanna whined, "I can't believe you couldn't see the hidden potential in that house. If you rented out that basement you could have made up for the $50,000 renovation work in about 20 years." And then we started giggling and then we couldn't stop. 

"Stop, I'm gonna pee!" I shouted the Cunningham "Sistahs" mantra.

As tears were rolling down our faces Pollyanna began to fade, "Well, there was one bad thing about that house."

"Really, just one? What would that be?" I giggled.

"The backyard butted up to Dunne's Arena. The lights from the Arena would be shining through the windows at all hours of the night."

"Oh, no! I was considering that the only good thing," I squealed.

"Okay, there was one thing I didn't tell you about in basement that might be considered a bad thing," as Pollyanna started to completely disappear.

"Besides the water damage, poor structure, and rabbit shit?"

"In the window wells there were many dead animals that must have fallen through the grating from up above and got stuck and died."

"A lot of dead animals?"

"Yep, gophers, mice, rabbits and even a little kitten," she replied disgustedly.

"I think that could be added to the 'reasons NOT to buy the house' list." I guffawed.

We continued to drive home in silence. A giggle escaped every once in awhile. And then somehow Pollyanna the Visionary returned, "I just don't know why you couldn't see the HIDDEN POTENTIAL in that house."

Paco's Perspective

I am still trying to find the "hidden potential" in Flip.

The Flip Side

I bet there were lizards in those oleanders, around that car, and under those carcasses.