Saturday, November 24, 2012

Meet You at the Burger King in Flagstaff

The other day my friend, Lauri, posted some old wedding pictures to commemorate her thirtieth wedding anniversary.  I wrote on her post, “I remember when . . . . .” Lauri’s mom, Mrs. Patrenos, was the nurse at the elementary school I attended and first worked at many years ago. I met Lauri when I transferred to Peralta Elementary. Lauri was a student teacher at the time for my soon to be best friend, Peggy Hillis. Part of Lauri’s student teaching duties was to occasionally make lunch runs to our favorite Mexican food restaurant, Popo’s.  That is the day I became Peggy Hillis’s best friend. Anyone that wouldl send a student teacher to Popo’s for the best cheese crisps and green chili was itching to be my best friend and so was any student teacher that made that run.

Lauri and Peggy were the part of the original “sistahhood”. We called ourselves The Nightriders. There were about eight of us. We were young new teachers that worked hard and played even harder. We drove the older established teachers crazy with our pranks and birthday parties for member of The Nightriders that took over the teachers’ lounge. We were even called out by administration for considering ourselves a “special” group. But as Peggy said to our principal whom we also considered our second dad, “Anyone can be a member they just have to fill out an application, go through initiation, and wear the official pin." (Aside to my new sistah, Illona, yes, we had an official pin which you were going to design for the “new sistahhood.)

This brings me to the “remember when” with Lauri and her husband Terry. As Nightriders we got together monthly, at first it was for happy hours then when husbands came along it was game nights and after children arrived it became family camping trips. One spring day Peggy decided we were going to go camping. Peggy loved to camp I on the other hand saw no reason to camp when it was just as easy to spend the evening around a fire pit roasting marshmallows and then spend the night in my own nice, comfortable bed. Why would anyone want to pack up husbands, kids, dogs, and friends to spend a frigid night sleeping on rocks and a day finding some place to pee in the woods and don’t even think about pooping? But I was outnumbered, so the families loaded up their vans and Lauri, Terry and I packed up my van and we were off.

We were going to camp at a serene out-of-the-way place called Locket Meadows outside of Flagstaff. When we left Peggy’s driveway she said, “If we lose touch on the road, (This was before mobile phones.) we will meet you at the Burger King in Flag. At the time, I was able to drive, Lauri rode shotgun and Terry was in the back with the boxes of food and supplies. I didn’t know Terry that well, but I learned a lot about him on that trip. Number 1, if a man wants to get into the snacks and munch on the trip up, let him, if not, he becomes an angry, hungry bear and throws canned cheese at you when you tell him to stop digging in the food.

It is important to know that driving was the one thing that I could do all by myself without assistance. It was my freedom and I had a tendency to drive like a bat out of hell. In all the years that I drove FAST, I was only stopped once but never received a ticket. Also, I did not stop to pee or eat. The destination was my goal and getting their first was my trophy.

We arrived at the Burger King in Flagstaff in record time and we had to wait in the parking lot. We waited and waited and waited. We even drove to the Taco Bell and got something to eat while we waited for at least an hour. Peggy and the rest of the caravan were nowhere to be seen. We couldn’t believe that our friends would leave without us and we didn’t really know how to get to Locket Meadows. We stopped at a Circle K to ask for directions. When Terry told the clerk that our friends left us the clerk said, “You don’t have very nice friends because Locket Meadows is a bitch to find.” Terry wrote down the sparse directions and he and Lauri traded seats and we were on our way to find our “friends” that had ditched us. The number 2 thing that I learned about Terry on that trip, he had the patience of a saint. It was dark by the time we found the narrow-edged-by-a-steep-cliff-lit-by-only-moonlight-rocky-dirt road to Locket Meadows. I drove white knuckled like a snail almost at a sixty-five degree angle on the side of the mountain that was away from the cliffed-edge-that-would-send-us-to-our-death, if I got anywhere close to it. And my co-pilot, Terry, patiently talked me over every rock and didn’t get angry when I drove too close or up on the wall away from the cliffed-edge-that-would-send-us-to-our-death.  Along the narrow-edged-by-a-steep-cliff-lit-by-only-moonlight-rocky-dirt road to Locket Meadows there were many turn off roads that led to nowhere. We know because we took them all with Terry walking in front of the van with a flashlight to be able to see the fallen trees that I couldn’t spot with my headlights. Yes, that’s how dark it was.

We finally found Locket Meadows and our serene out-of-the-way camping spot in the pitch dark, but what we didn’t find were our “so called friends that ditched us”. Meanwhile back at the Burger King a few minutes after we left on our quest the rest of the gang pulled in and they waited and waited and waited for us. They waited so long that they even went to the Highway Patrol office to ask if there had been any accidents with my van.  What we forgot is that they had dogs that had to get out and pee and kids that had to get out and snack and dads and moms that had to stretch their legs and rest their ears from the “Are we there, yet?” chanting. All I had in the van was a lead foot, a friend and her patient, kind, canned-cheese-throwing husband.

We finally found each other, blamed each other for the mix-up, and spent a great weekend camping in the serene out-of-the-way place known as Locket Meadows. And from that moment on whenever The Nightriders were going to meet up somewhere Peggy would shout before getting in her car, “Hey, Cathy and Lauri, we’ll meet you at the Burger King in Flagstaff!”

SO, Lauri, I remember when I would come over to your house to put up the Christmas tree and we would drink hot chocolate and make Terry crazy because we would make him place the tinsel on the tree one at a time. I remember when we would have game night and beat the cahonies off the boys. But most of all I remember when we took a road trip to Locket Meadows with that canned-cheese-throwing-patience-of-a-saint husband of yours. That is the weekend I knew you had snagged yourself a keeper!

Paco's Perspective

I remember when I was just a pup and you took me everywhere with you and we went to a graduation party at Lauri and Terry's house and Terry held me in his lap most of the evening.

The Flip Side

I remember when . . . . .okay, I don't think I know these people but I bet Terry would go lizard hunting with me. He could knock 'em out with canned cheese. I love cheese. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Everything One Needs to Know About Teaching

The 2012-2013 school year is my thirty-fifth year of working in the teaching profession. I have taught second, fourth, fifth and sixth grade. I have taught self-contained learning disabilities, resource special education, basic English Language Learners and mainstream classes. I have even spent eight years of my career teaching teachers. Throughout my career I have come across things about teaching that will never change:

Nobody Believes Teaching is a Real Job

Unfortunately, many think that teachers go to work at 8:00 and leave at 3:00. Many also think we get too many holidays and summers off. Throughout my thirty-five years of teaching, I have learned not to try and change the minds of imbeciles.

I have never worked less than ten-hour days and that doesn’t include the work I do at home in the evenings and on the weekends. Imbeciles don’t understand that most teachers work through their breaks and their summers and generally don't get paid for it.

The imbeciles that don’t believe that teaching is a real profession couldn’t begin to write lesson plans, read and answer emails, teach intervention, stand recess duty, serve 35 students breakfast, get the recyclable breakfast items to the recycle bin in the back parking lot, collect homework, collect book order money, collect field trip money, collect library books, check agendas, check reading logs, take attendance, council a student through a poor choice, answer forty-five questions about forty-five different topics and help the substitute next door prepare for a day without lesson plans– all before 8:00 a.m.!

Kids Will Be Kids

I am always asked how much kids have changed over the years. My answer is always the same, they haven’t. Kids are kids. They need structure. They need discipline. They need love.

Kids need and want a routine. They want to know exactly what time math is going to happen. They want to know exactly what time lunch is going to happen. They will have a hissy fit, if one strays from that routine.

Kids want to know the rules and they want to follow them. They need consequences for their behavior good and bad. If they know the rules and know that one will give out the consequences equally and fairly every time, they will follow them. Kids are lost without discipline.

Just love them. Laugh at their silly redundant April Fools jokes. Take a deep breath when they act like kids. Let them know they are cared about. Remember loving them doesn’t mean giving them anything they want and letting them do anything they want.

7 Weeks

It takes 45 days to make a habit so it takes 7 weeks for kids to catch on to a new routine. I learned this from my friend, Colleen, that I team-taught with for many years. Each year when we started with a new group of kids, I would get so frustrated that they weren’t getting “it” (everything I wanted them to do in the classroom and at home that involved learning) in the first two weeks. Colleen would always be the calm one and say, “Cathy, you know it takes 7 weeks. It takes 7 weeks for them to know that you are serious about following rules, doing their homework, understanding classroom routines. 7 weeks!”

So, every year after that, we would look at each other on the first day of school and repeat our mantra, “7 weeks, 7 weeks, 7 weeks.”

After Colleen moved out of state and we would talk about are beginning of the year frustrations, we would both say at the same time, “7 weeks, 7 weeks, 7 weeks.”

Colleen recently moved back to sunny Arizona and is teaching at Tomahawk again, unfortunately, not at the same grade level as I. This year she has a tough class. One day she peaked in my room while I was teaching and she had a defeated look on her face and at the same time we both said, “7 weeks.”

Lice Will Find Their Way to Any Classroom

One might think this is a silly thing to know, but if one teaches one will meet these evil parasitic creatures. No matter where one teaches, no matter who one teaches one will come in contact with lice. Trust me when I say this.

This Too Shall Pass

When a new way to improve the educational system comes down the pike, I always laugh because I know this too shall pass. When the baby teachers whine about the “new” system, I just shrug my shoulders, go in my room, close the door and teach. Throughout my thirty-five years of teaching I have seen a lot of “new” curriculum that was going to save the teaching profession: TERC Math, Math Their Way, Everyday Math, Singapore Math, Excel Math, Math-U-See not to mention all the reading curriculum. I know that about every five years the math, reading, science and social studies curriculum will change. I have never seen one all encompassing program in any subject area. I have always just taken what I think will work with my students at the time and integrate it into what I already do.

Along with curriculum changing every five years so goes administration. I tried to think back and count all the different administrators I have had and I couldn’t remember them all. That might be because I am old or I have had many administrators. When fellow teachers complain about the school administration, I just shrug my shoulders, go in my room, close the door and teach. This too shall pass.

How Tight One’s Pants Are Will Affect One’s Mood for the Entire Day

Many wonder why teachers don’t dress professionally. “If teachers dressed more professionally, they would be taken more seriously.” First, teachers don’t have the bank account for high-end suits. If one can’t get it at Target, Wal-Mart or Ross, one isn’t wearing it. Secondly, it is strategically impossible to sit in a primary-sized chair or on the floor and get up with any dignity left in a pencil skirt, silk blouse and six-inch heels. Thirdly, dress pants are too tight. One cannot wear tight waistbands and work with children because how tight one’s pants are will affect one’s mood for the entire day. Someone could die.

A Teacher Will Never Be Rich

I have spent the last thirty-five years living from paycheck to paycheck. I am sure that it is my fault. When I signed my first teaching contract I signed for $8,900. That was not my monthly salary. That was my yearly salary. To top off the poor pay most of a teacher’s salary goes back into the classroom.

When I signed my contract, I knew I was never going to be rich, monetarily. I am rich in so many other ways. My students pay me in so many different ways. I drive to school everyday excited about my job. I hate days off. Throughout my thirty-five years of teaching I have had one bad year, only one! (That was the year I had the female Mafia in my room, but that’s another blog.) I love all my students even the one’s I want to strangle. I can’t imagine a life without wondering how much it is going to cost me to make sure every student is organized and ready to learn. I can’t imagine a life without the frustration of waiting for payday. I can’t imagine a life without being surrounded by students.

Paco’s Perspective

Everything You Need to Know About Being a Chihuahua

Twirl Only to the Left

Don’t try twirling the opposite direction. It doesn’t work.

Cute Counts

Sitting up and pawing will get a dog anything a dog wants. Remember to use the puppy-dog eyes.

The Flip Side

Everything You Need to Know About Lizard Chasing

They’re Tricky

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Give Me a Break

I have old, crippled bones, so my bones break easily. Sometimes I feel like if someone looked at me cross-eyed I could break a bone. When I was in a car accident many years ago and broke all my bones from the waist down the orthopedic surgeon said, ”That putting me back together was like trying to build a sandcastle without any water.” 

This summer in Montana it happened again I managed to break my leg. It was one of those moments that at the time it happened it wasn’t funny, but afterwards Caren and I were laughing until the tears rolled down our legs as we told the story to her husband, Darrell.

Caren and I were at Grandma’s (Darrell’s mom) house. Her house is the one of the few places in Bigfork where we can get on the Internet. Since I read a book or two a day due to lack of T.V. reception, I needed to download some books on my Kindle and Caren is Grandma’s “lawn boy”.

Grandma’s back yard is beautiful. Her yard is fenced in with chain link and all along the fence is a garden and in front of the garden is a sidewalk. It makes it easier to take care of the garden with the sidewalk. One can sit down on a rolling cart, scoot and weed, scoot and weed. Her garden is filled with strawberries, raspberries, veggies, etc. There is nothing like eating strawberries and raspberries directly off the vine.

As I was making my way to the back porch by the way of the sidewalk I came to the raspberry bushes and a branch was sticking out in front of my face. Raspberry bushes are very stickery. I tried to go around the bush by driving my wheelchair partially off the sidewalk. I was in a precarious position but I made it around the bush and I made a mental note not to do that again because I almost fell.

Caren had finished the lawn and she was gathering up my Kindle, her Galaxy, our laptops. I was working my way back to the car by way of the sidewalk and came upon the evil raspberry bush. Mental note: don’t do what I did previously. I decided to back off the sidewalk into the lawn, go around the bush, and get back on the sidewalk. Much safer, right? Wrong! As I backed off the sidewalk, the little “safety wheels” on the back of my chair that keep me from tipping over backwards got stuck on something and as I was trying to my chair back on the sidewalk my front wheel fell into a hole and chair started tipping to the right.

I was hanging over the edge of my chair shouting, “Caren, I’m falling! Help, I’m falling!” Caren is trying to run to help with her hands full of expensive technical equipment. She is trying to keep from dropping and breaking things and save me at the same time. Apparently, she wasn’t wearing her Superwoman cape because she just missed getting to me before I fell out of my chair. When I fell my face was in the lawn, my legs were on the sidewalk and my feet were in the raspberry bushes.

Caren made it to me one second too late and she said, “What the heck were you doing?”

“I was trying to get around the raspberry bush without getting my face scratched,” I replied.

“Why didn’t you just ask me to trim the bush?”

Caren can’t get me in and out of my chair without the portable Hoyer lift we have which happen to be at the her house a couple miles away. “I’m going to go get the lift,” she told me.

“But I can’t lay her all twisted up. What if I roll over on my face and can’t breathe?” I whined.

“Okay, okay, let me think.” Caren ran into the house and got a bunch of couch cushions and came back and tried to straighten me up and make me more comfortable.

Here comes TMI: I go commando. When one spends their life sitting in a chair the less thing to sit on to cause sores the better. Most wound care specialists will tell those who sit in wheelchairs all day should go commando.
So there I am lying on a bunch of cushions with my ass exposed to the neighbors and Caren says, “Okay I got to go and get the lift.”

“But you’re not going to be able to get me in the chair by yourself!”

“It is either that or I stop at the volunteer fire department to get help but then everyone in town will know this story.”

“Okay, never mind, go get the lift but before you go there is just one problem. Something is crawling on my legs.”

“Oh, shit!”

What is it? What is it? What’s crawling on me?” Ihate things crawling on me because I can’t reach to brush bugs off.

“It’s ants and they are going right for your scooter pie!”

“Not the scooter pie!” Again with the TMI: commando! This is a big problem.

Caren runs back to the house, grabs a blanket and uses it to block the ants’ path to the scooter pie. “This is the best I can do. I’ve got to go or I can go get help at the fire . . . .”

“No, firemen!”

So there I lie, on a bunch of couch cushions propped around me with a blanket between my legs to stall the ants from reaching their prime destination, (I guess that’s why it’s called the sweet spot.) baking in the sun on the one hot day in Bigfork, Montana with my ass exposed to the neighborhood.

Oh, did I tell you all the dogs were there. Paco and Flip, my dogs, Caren’s dog Osa and Grandma’s dog Paige. Paco feels that he has to be my protector and for him the only way to do that is to sit on my boobs and snarl. I have Paco trying to get on my boobs, Paige and Osa are taking turns licking me in the face and Flip who cares about no one but himself dug a hole under the raspberry bushes to get cool and to point the ants in the right direction.

Caren did return and after a long boring ordeal and help from the neighbor lady, nothing funny, I made back into my chair. On the ride back home I told Caren that I think I broke my leg. Coming from our suck-it-up-put-some-ice-on-it-and-walk-it-off family Caren said, “Nah! It’s not in a weird position or a weird color. We’ll go home, get you in bed, put it up and put some ice on it and you will be fine in no time.”

As I was lying in bed with my leg up and an ice pack on my leg, Darrell came home from a road trip. As we giggled through the story, Darrell said, “You girls, it’s all fun and games . . .”

“Until someone breaks a leg,” we giggled.

“Tomorrow, Cathy is going to urgent care and having an x-ray.”

“Okay, but it isn’t broken,” Caren replied.

Eight weeks later I got the cast off and I am hoping to get a break from the breaks. 

Paco's Perspective
Remember who protected you! Where was Sir Flip when you needed him?

The Flip Side
I was in the bushes looking for killer lizards to slay, Sir Barks Alot! 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Loses an Eye

My, little sistah, Caren is an amazing women. She is one of those people that everybody loves. She gets along jolly well with men. She is competitive. Caren can beat the crap out of just about any man at golf and she is not shy about letting one know about it. She is a looker, so all the guys like being around her, but she’ll dance with the nerdy guy and make him feel like a king. Caren is the kind of woman that women would love to hate but can’t because she is so genuinely kind and caring.

I believe Caren learned many of her qualities from my brother, Brad. Caren and Brad were best buds throughout his short life. Brad was also handicapped, hence her understanding of the needs of others and her caretaking abilities. Even though Brad was handicapped and was unable to hold a pool cue, Brad taught Caren how to play pool, hence Caren’s ability to pick up any sport through oral directions. Brad also taught Caren how to hustle and drink, hence her ability to talk anyone into anything and then be able to drink one under the table at the celebratory party.

My brother, Brad, had an uncanny power over Caren. I think it’s that “Big Brother” thing. Little sisters believe anything their big brother tells them, even when deep in their heart one knows that one can’t fly off the roof like Winnie the Pooh with an umbrella. One has a tendency to believe it and try it, if “Big Brother” says it’s possible.

I generally don’t have this power that Brad had over Caren, so when I say, “Hey, let’s do . . . . . . “ She’ll reply, “NO, are you crazy? That’s dumb.” So this summer when I suggested Caren and I (well, not really “I” because I am crippled and I can’t do shit) do something kid of dumb I was totally shocked when she said, “Okay, let’s go!”

First, I would like to mention that Caren and I had been in Montana for almost thirty days and twenty-seven of them had included rain, hail, snow, thunder, lightening and anything else stormy one could imagine. There was a day with a pause in the storms that the sun had actually appeared and we were outside. I am not a drinker, but I think I finished off a couple of Caren’s Corona’s she handed me to hold. Out of the blue or my ass I suggested that Caren and I go next door to the absentee neighbor’s and she climb on the statues and “plank” and I would take her pictures and she could put them on facebook. And out of the blue or her ass she agreed.

The neighbor had not arrived at his summer home, next door to us, which was surprising because he had a summer business in Big Fork, also. His business is selling statues. In Montana everybody has to have statues of animals and they gotta be big. The statues look like they are made of metal, but it isn’t really metal, which later on becomes a big “aha” moment for Caren and I. On his property next to us he has some of his statues: a bear, some Indians in a teepee he has erected and a moose. I need to go back and explain “planking”. I am not sure myself what it is or why people would do it, but I am old and apparently sometimes shtupid because I suggested Caren try it. It’s not dangerous. It appeared to me it was just getting on objects, positioning one’s body as if one looks like a plank and then taking one’s picture. For Caren (and I because I live vicariously through her) it wasn’t the planking that was difficult it was the mounting of the object. Everything went fine with the bear and then we proceeded to the moose!

“Caren, don’t you want me to come over there so you can stand on my wheelchair to get up on the moose.”

“NO, no stay there and get ready to take my picture getting up on this moose.”

“I know, but he is awful tall. How are you going to get up there?”

“I am going to grab his antler and throw my leg over him just like I did when I went bareback riding on my horse.”

“Yea, but Caren you haven’t done any bareback riding for thirty years.”

“A cowgirl never forgets. And besides it’s a statue of a moose. It’s not a real moose. Although, his antlers are incredibly life like and pointy.”

As I was about twenty feet away ready to snap photos of the mounting and planking, (Remember it had been raining for twenty-seven days and the moose wasn’t really made of metal it just looked like metal.) Caren grabbed the antler with her left hand and proceeded to throw her right leg over the moose and slowly almost like slow motion on a football replay the moose fell on top of Caren with the incredibly life like and pointy antlers just microcasms from her eye. And I laughed. I felt bad because I was laughing and there was a possibility that she had lost an eye but I couldn’t stop laughing. And Caren wasn’t moving, so I made an attempt to pull my laughing-self together and go over and check on my one-eyed little sistah thinking losing an eye might really mess up her golf game.

“Carrrr . . . . eeeeee . . . . ennnnnn.. . . . . are . . . . . .you . . . . . okay?” I asked replacing dots with uncontrollable laughter.

“No,” she replied giggling, “I peed!”

“That’s nothing new. You always pee when you laugh. So tears of laughter are running down your leg, what’s new?”

“No, I didn’t just pee, I puddle-peed!”

“Are you hurt?”

“I don’t know. All I know is I puddle-peed.”

“How’s your eye?”

“What do you mean, how’s my eye? Oh, my God, do see how close that incredibly life like pointy antler has come to my eye?”

Caren carefully maneuvered her way out from under the moose. She had a skinned knee and wet pants. (Shhhhhhhh, don’t laugh, Cathy.) Caren made an attempt to right the moose.

“I can’t lift him. He’s too heavy. Let’s just leave him.”

“No, that would be vandalism. We can’t leave a tipped moose in the neighbor’s yard.”

“We could say, it must have been last night’s incredible wind storm.”

“No every time we drive out the driveway and see the tipped moose we’ll know it was us that tipped the moose.”

“Well, I can’t lift him by myself and you certainly can’t help me, so what are we going to do?”

“I am going to call Darrell and have him come over and help us lift the moose.”

Darrell is Caren’s husband. Darrell is very, um, sensible. He has a tendency to get upset with us when we laugh about things that happen to us where one could get hurt. “Alright, but you know what is going to happen?”

Sensible Darrell came over and scolded us as he was helping Caren pick up the not-really-made-of-metal-that-isn’t-as-heavy-as-it-looks-but-is-heavier-than-what-one-person-can-lift-moose statue. He also helped Caren get up on the moose sensibly and safely because even though he is sensible and we drive him crazy he understands and loves us and we took pictures of her “planking”.

As we were makng our way back to our side of the neighbor’s driveway, Darrell continued to scold us about how someone could have been hurt. We were walking behind Darrell, holding in our giggles and I looked over at Caren and in unison we both whisper-giggled, “It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye!”

"So, Darrell, does this mean we shouldn't try planking on the Indian statue with the incredibly life like pointy arrow?"

 Paco's Perspective
I wasn't there so I will not take responsibility for their actions.

The Flip Side
I was there and a picture is worth one thousand words:

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Live, Love, Laugh

This week Nora Ephron died at the young age of 71. She was a witty, insightful writer that always made me laugh. As I was finishing up reading the last book of hers and regretting that I won’t be able to read anymore of her books, I got a phone message about the passing of a great friend. A colleague at Tomahawk, Roberta, passed away suddenly this week.

Roberta found out earlier this week that she had a brain tumor. She was at school this week making arrangements for a substitute to start off the year because she would be recovering from brain surgery. She had a seizure and passed away Thursday evening. She left behind her husband of thirty-eight years, two daughters, and three grandchildren and many friends and colleagues.

Roberta was a wonderful lady and teacher. She always arrived early, did her job, and left late. Roberta was a “let’s git her done” kind of gal. She was always ready to do the work that needed to be done and did it without whining. She was never grumpy. She was never unkind. And the students of Tomahawk were always at the forefront with here. She always kept in mind, “Is this the best for our students?” Roberta was loved and she will be greatly missed by many.

The question in everyone’s mind is why? I can’t answer that question and it is not my job to do so. All I can do is think about what I learned from these two fantastic women. I have one of those embroidered pillows that a dear friend gave to me that says, “Live, Love, Laugh”. As I contemplate the saying on that pillow, I realize this is what I have learned.

Don’t wait until tomorrow what you could have and should have done today. If you have the means and the ability to do it, do it! I don’t want one to take out a loan, and put oneself into debt for a trip around the world, but if you have been thinking about doing something and are putting it off, don’t. As Roberta would say, “Let’s just get it done.” Don’t let “woulda, shoulda, coulda” be your mantra.

When growing up my family was never demonstrative about our love, although it was there, we just never said it. Then my brother and father died unexpectedly within six months of each other and I regretted never telling them how much I loved them. I have a friend that has two sons that were big, popular, high school football stars and I was always amazed that when they left the house they would kiss and hug both their mother and their father goodbye and say, “I love you.” I was always surprised with that showing of affection. When people die too soon it makes one think about not putting off saying what one needs to say to someone.

I spend a lot of time raising money for a program, Accelerated Reader, at our school. Last year, Roberta helped out by selling pop after school from her classroom. Every once in awhile she would stop by my office and hand me some money for the AR account and say it was from pop sales. I would ask if she took out her costs from the money and she would just smile and say, “Nah, that is my donation to the program.” Recently, I found a couple of foundations to pay for the program for two years and one of the people I wanted to call and tell about it was Roberta. I didn’t have her phone number and I didn’t take the time to find it. And I never shared that information with Roberta. Woulda, shoulda, coulda. Don’t wait to tell someone something. Make that call today.

Use the words I love you more often. Janet’s daughter Bree and I kind of play a goodbye game every time she leaves. When she leaves she always says,
“Goodbye, I love you.”
“Yea, okay,” I respond.
“Goodbye, I love you,” she repeats.
“Be safe, be careful, don’t drive and text,” I reply never saying I love you and she gets frustrated. I love you Bree! Tell someone you love I love you, tell everyone you love I love you. Don’t wait until it is too late.

Nora Ephron always made me laugh. I loved reading her books, watching her movies and watching her interviews. Roberta was always smiling and laughing. I never had a conversation with her that I didn’t end up smiling or laughing. Laughter is the best medicine. Laugh and then laugh some more.

On my live, love, laugh pillow I have wanted to add, “and stop your whining!” I. Am. A. Big. Whiner. Not about work but about life. Roberta wasn’t a whiner; she was a doer. And she was a doer with a smile. Even when Roberta found out about her tumor she was planning for the next school year and thinking about her colleagues and students before herself. If the reader doesn’t like where one is or what one is doing, find somewhere one wants to be and get there or find something one wants to do and do it.

Live, love, laugh and stop whining. This week two astonishing women left this world too soon; one that was known around the world and one that was known among a small community, but just as great. They will be missed and remembered.

I love you, Roberta, thanks for all that you taught me.

Paco’s Perspective

Deep sadness. You might not remember what they said but you will always remember how they made you feel.

The Flip Side
I bet both would have happily gone lizard hunting with me.
I should have asked. 
We could have had a great time.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Playing With the Wolves

In Montana one can’t mention the word wolf without getting into a heated political debate. In 1995 the Fish and Game folks introduced some wolves back into the wild in the Yellowstone National Park. The wolves were supposed to live happily in the park and not increase in number over 100. The wolf population is now at about 600 and those silly wolves aren’t staying in Yellowstone. They have that “grass is always greener on the other side” issue and have started harassing livestock. Upcoming is the controversial wolf hunt. Those darn wolves, if they had just stayed in their own backyard.

Wolves run in packs. They hunt the weak and injured and if one of their own is injured or can’t keep up, the pack will leave that one behind with no remorse. Middle Schoolers remind me of wolves. They are so much braver when they are running in a pack. If they get into trouble, they will instantly leave the weak ones behind.

The other day Colleen and I had an experience with a pack of “wolves” (middle schoolers). First, I must explain where one happens to be is an indicator of the intensity of the “wolves”. The is a difference between West Phoenix “wolves” and Surprise, AZ “wolves”. They walk differently. They talk differently. They dress differently. Personally, I would not even think about messing with Westide “wolves” but those Surprise “wolves” are easy targets.

Colleen and I had just left the Surprise movie theater and were getting in my van. My door automatically opens and a ramp comes down and a “wolf” pack came by as the ramp was lowering and one funny “wolf”, at least he thought he was funny, said, “Oh, look my ride is here.” He proceeded to walk to the ramp but turned away instantly because “wolves” are only brave when in a pack. Colleen and I got in the van and Colleen was preparing to push the button to lift the ramp and close the door when two “wolves” jumped inside the van and sat in the back seat. I am sure this was the part where they thought we were going to get upset but we didn’t. Colleen just looked at them and asked, “You want to go with us?” Then she pushed the button for the ramp to fold. Those itty-bitty “pups” got scared and jumped out of the van and ran. When they jumped out they stepped on the partially folded ramp and I thought they broke it but they didn’t.

I looked at Colleen and said, “Let’s follow them.”

“Cathy, that makes us just as bad as them,” she chastised.

“Come on, Colleen, don’t you want to play with the wolves?” I cajoled.

As we were leaving the parking lot I noticed that some of the “wolves” had crossed the busy highway in fear of being hunted and they had left the female “wolves” behind. The females were trying to cross at the light (yep, Surprise middle schoolers). We followed them. They congregated together at the shopping center across from the movie theater. Colleen pulled up the van near the pack and then I pretended I was talking to the police on the phone. I over exaggerated mouthing the words, “Yes, officer there is about 13 of them. They are on the corner of Waddell and Dysart. One of the “wolves” said to the rest of the pack, “Run, she’s calling the police!” and then it happened, typical wolf pack behavior. One of the “wolves” was on crutches and all the other “wolves” ran and left him behind. They went running and there he is crutching, crutching, crutching behind.

I wanted to move in for the kill. I wanted to get out of the van and catch up with the crutching “wolf” (which I could have done easily) and say, “Don’t you just hate when your “wolf” friends decide to do something stupid and then they leave you behind to pay the consequences?”, but I didn’t. I wanted to follow them all home and speak to their parents about the danger of jumping into strangers’ cars, but we didn’t.

Colleen said we couldn’t play with the wolves anymore. As we drove by the scattered pack with crutcher way behind, we honked, smiled and waved. No, we did not flip them off because we have more class than that. I think they flipped us off. Yep, typical “wolf” pack behavior.

Paco’s Perspective

There are wolves in Montana? What are we doing in Montana? I would be an itty-bitty appetizer for a pack of wolves. On the other hand, hey, Flip . . . . . . .

The Flip Side

Squirrel! Squirrel! Chipmunk! Deer! Deer! Deer! Turkey? So many things to chase, so little time.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Small Town Crime

I am spending the summer in Bigfork, Montana and the more I am here the more I love small-town life. Life in Bigfork is slow slower than a snail with sore feet and it is as lazy as a forty-pound tom cat. One of my favorite things to do is read the local paper, The Flathead Beacon. I especially enjoy reading the Police Blotter section. Small-town crime is hilarious. Below are some examples taken directly from The Beacon (bolded words are my thoughts):

A Kalispell resident asked about the extent one would need to go to legally neglect a pet. He was also curious about fines and how much such things might cost a person.

Someone found an abandoned crate containing one undesirable cat.
The Kalispell resident must have chosen abandonment over neglect.

A Bigfork man described a suspicious substance falling from the sky. A deputy discovered it was pollen.
         No really, one can’t make this stuff up.

A Kalispell resident reported that multiple men were undressing and dressing in a front yard on Eighth Avenue West.
         Can’t a team practice for the annual Fourth of July Undressing and Dressing Competition without someone calling the police?

A senile cocker spaniel has lost its way home.
In Montana, a senile cocker spaniel that has lost its way home is called bear snack.

A resident on Yeoman Hall Drive captured a spaniel-type dog.
         Yea, maybe the senile cocker spaniel isn’t a bear snack.

A Kalispell woman called in to asking to speak to a specific deputy but refused to say which.
         NO COMMENT!

A young man broke down and refused to function after his parents took his Xbox away.
The parents commented, “He is twenty-seven and it is time he found a job.”

A man used curse and swear words to describe three loose dogs. He warned that if the law enforcement didn’t take care of the animals, he would do it himself.
         Curse and swear words are two different things?

A pack of loose dogs consisting of a “lap dog”, Great Dane, and black Lab have been risking their lives, according to one resident, with their ramblings.
Apparently, they escaped the clutches of Mr. Curse and Swear Words.

Wayfaring dogs have been conducting their evening gatherings at the Silver Shadow Estates.
I bet it’s that “lap dog”, Great Dane, and black Lab hanging out by the lamppost, smoking, and laughing about their life-risking ramblings. 

Paco’s Perspective

Hey, Flip, you are an adventurer. What about joining that pack? I think you would enjoy yourself.

The Flip Side


Saturday, May 5, 2012

I Am, Sir Flip, the Lizard Slayer

It’s that time of the year and Cathy is too busy to write. She asked if Paco and I would like a turn at writing. OCD Paco can’t stop twirling and licking the grout long enough to write, so it is up to I, Sir Flip, to write this week.

I want to tell you the story of my first Lizard slaying, but first I must tell you how I found M’lady, Cathy.  Many say t’was by accident but I believe t’was fate. I had been held captive by a wicked, cat-loving queen since birth. She kept me in the backyard, gave me food on occasion, and I was made to sleep outside on the bare ground. Her cats glared at me from the inside and laughed at my situation. I had become a straggly, forlorn substitute of my true knightly self. My fur was matted, my bones were very visible, and my heart was broken.

I decided, no not I, fate decided t’was time for me to move on. I waited for my opportunity, a forgotten open gate, and left. I spent many days on the road. At times I wondered, if fate had dealt me a worse hand. Unfortunately, I had found myself traveling on a road with many cars. I had not had enough knightly practice at dodging cars and I had many near disasters. Then a car stopped and another knight, who I later learned was named Sir Dave, stepped out of the vehicle and said, “Come here, Sweetie!” SWEETIE? Apparently, my rough exterior had shadowed my manly prowess, but I didn’t care because I was tired and hungry. Anything was better than wondering the streets in search of food and shelter. I ran and jumped into Sir Dave’s arms.

We drove a short distance and Sir Dave tossed me in a room with a fellow four-legged knight known as Paco (lousy name for a knight). This knight was unable to make any kind of conversation with me due to his inability to stand still. I took advantage of the abundant water and food and free access to a soft bed. As I slumbered, that knight Paco barked at every little noise. This four-legged knight had the wrong name; I went to him and tried to stare him in the eye and said, “I dub thee, Sir Barks Alot!” As the day continued, I wondered had fate led me to another prison, but just inside.

Many two-legged creatures came to the room and spoke to us through the prison gate. I later learned their names to be Sir Ben, Princess Breeze Louise, and Princess Alyssa. As I was cuddled, loved and petted by each, I knew I had found happiness but t'was not the true happiness my heart was in search of.

Then it happened! Two more two-legged creatures approached. One, I could tell was the alpha and to my surprise was a female. I had never met a female knight with the heart of a lion, Lady Janet. When Lady Janet speaks all four-legged creatures listen with intent and awe. She has a gentle way with creatures. And then fate came through the door in a wheelchair. Ahhhhhhh, a permanent lap, my heart’s desire I knew t'was she I had been looking for. T'was she I would slay dragons for. T'was she, M'lady Cathy. I jumped into her lap, settled myself into the crook of her arm, and I knew I was home.

I have resided with M’lady Cathy for almost three years. I have kept her from harm’s way. I have chased the squawking blackbird from the castle garden. I have soothed her broken heart with my kisses. (I, true knight that I am, must be honest; M’ lady doesn’t really like my kisses, yet, but I have soothed her broken heart!) I have chased the dreaded lizards away.

I have never had the opportunity to catch a lizard until the other day. M’lady was talking with a gentleman about renovating the castle walls. Apparently, M’lady doesn’t like the appearance of the exterior castle walls. She had left her chamber door to the garden open. I have tried to tell her many a time to not leave the chamber door open (that’s how the snake entered), but she doesn’t listen like a dog sometimes. I was luxuriating in the recliner and all of a sudden I heard M’lady shout, “Janet, lizard! Flip lizard! Help, lizard!” I descended from the recliner; I dodged Sir Barks Alot, and there t’was. Generally, the lizard is far too quick for myself, but this one had panicked himself into a corner. I had him in my clutches and Lady Janet appeared, “Flip, drop it!” I do what Lady Janet says; I dropped it. “No, no not in here,” commanded Lady Janet, “get him.” I captured the evil creature again. “Take him outside,” commanded Lady Janet. I obeyed. I dashed through the four-legged escape hatch. I heard Lady Janet scream, “Now drop it.” I obeyed. She grabbed and brought me inside. She put me down and I ran for the escape hatch because it is my duty to slay the evil lizard. Lady Janet grabbed me again just before I got the evil lizard in my clutches one more time, “Sorry, Sir Flip, there shall be no slaying of the lizard in this castle.”

Alas, I was so forlorn, t’was my chance to prove my strength and Lady Janet said no. I sadly jumped in M’lady Cathy’s arms. I covered her with kisses and she still didn’t like them. But, M’lady scratched me behind the ear and whispered, “I appreciate your valor and the valiant effort to protect this castle and those whom reside inside from danger, Sir Flip.” I crawled into the crook of her arm and went to sleep and dreamed of slaying lizards.

Paco’s Perspective

First, excuse me, Don Quixote, what’s with the knighthood crap? Second, I am NOT OCD, I am NOT OCD, I am NOT OCD! Finally, “t’was I, Sir Barks Alot,” that chased the itty, bitty lizard into the corner. You got some imagination, kid!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

You Know You're Old When . . .


MOM WARNING: If you are offended by the use of the “f word”, Mom, DO NOT READ!

I had many other titles for this blog in mind, but they involved using the “f word”. This becomes a problem for a few reasons: 1) I am not a big user of the “f word”. It sounds ridiculous coming out of my mouth, but there are times when nothing else will suffice. 2) I have a lot of ex-students that read my blog, although, many of them are high school age or older and I am sure they have used the “f word” many more times than I and some, perhaps, daily; I still don’t think they would want to know that their fifth grade teacher that they loved and revered (yep, I have an ego) actually uses the “f word”. Many students think their teachers sleep at school and never go to the bathroom, let alone use the “f word.” 3) My mother hates the “f word”! I once got slapped for using the word ‘frigging’, as in, I can’t get this frigging thing open. When asked why I was slapped I was told for using a bad word and I replied ‘frigging’ isn’t a bad word and then my mother explained to me that that wasn’t what I was thinking! She said I was thinking the “f word”. (I hate it when my mother is always right.) I remember, one day, I explained to my mother that in order for her to get over her deep-seeded hatred of the “f word” that we needed to spend the entire day placing the “f word” in front of just about every word we spoke. We never “effing” laughed so “effing” hard in our “effing” lives using the “effing f word” for the entire “effing” day. We “effing laughed until the “effing” pee was running down our “effing” legs. Thus, was born the “effing” mantra of the “effing” Sistahhood, “Stop, or I am going to “effing” pee!” OOPS! I digress! If I write about the other titles I had chosen for this blog and I use $%&# instead of the actual “f word”, my mother will be mad at me for what I was thinking. So, no matter what, I am $%&#ing screwed.

What the $%&#! Original title number 1: Where the $%&# Did I Put That and How Could I Possibly Forget My $%&#ing Social Security Number? How many pairs of reading glasses can one have strewn throughout the house? And when will I find the pair I am looking for? I use my Social Security Number daily! I need to know the last four digits of that number for EVERYTHING. A year or so ago 9I don't remeber the exact date.) I forgot my $%&#ing Social Security Number. I am still feeling the trauma of that memory loss to this day. I needed the last four digits to get into a site at work. I had to call Human Resources and ask for help, but they wouldn’t give me the four digits over the phone. I felt like a complete ass. I am sure the reader is asking, “Don’t you have your Social Security card in your wallet?” No, I don’t because if someone stole my wallet, they would have my all-important $%&#ing Social Security Number. I panicked and I was sure that was the beginning of $%&#ing alzheimers.

I called Janet in tears, “Janet, I forgot my $%&#ing Social Security Number. What am I going to do?”

“Don’t you have your Social Security card in your wallet?” she asked. (Janet happens to have her original Social Security card from the age of two.)

“No, I don’t because if someone stole my wallet, they would have my all-important $%&#ing Social Security Number,” I replied with a continued sense of panic.

“First, calm down. Then breath and think, da, da, da – da, da – da, da, da, da,” she said calmly.

“Okay, da, da, da – da, da – da, da, da, da. I got it! DA, DA, DA – DA, DA – DA, DA, DA, DA! Janet, am I going to have to be put in a home?”

“No, I promised I would never do that and I keep my promises!”

Every day when I wake up, I recite my $%&#ing Social Security Number, but I still can’t find my $%&#ing glasses.

Original title number 2: When Did Going to Bed Become More $%&#ing Important Than Drinking and Dancing? I remember when (yep, that is what all old people start their stories with) I could stay up all night drinking and dancing and not just on the weekends. I could stay up until the bars closed, run home, sleep for a couple of hours, get ready for work, and teach school with no problem. Then one day the words, “I can’t it’s a school night,” came rolling out of my mouth. I don’t remember when it happened because I am too $%&#ing old and I can’t remember a $%&#ing thing. And now if given the choice, I will choose going to bed over drinking, dancing, or eating. Yes, I said EATING!

Notice I said I would rather go to bed than anything else instead of I’d rather go to SLEEP over anything else which leads to original title number 3: Why the $%&# Can’t I go to Sleep? Oh, I go to bed because I am old and I would rather do that over anything, yes, I mean ANYTHING! But when I go to bed I don’t sleep unless I am watching something really important that I don’t want to miss on T.V. I will fall asleep immediately and sleep for the duration of that program and then I am wide awake for the rest of the night. Although, I have found that my best ideas come to me at 2:21 a.m., yep, not 2:30, not 2:15, but 2:21 a.m. At 2:21 a.m. I get great ideas for lessons or smart-ass comebacks. They are the greatest ideas ever. The only problem is I can’t $%&#ing remember them in the morning.

Original title number 4) At Exactly What $%&#ing Moment Did I Get So $%&#ing Old? (A Girl Needs to Know!) I need to know exactly when I got those lines around my lips that make me look like I have been smoking since I was two years old. I need to know exactly when having a bowel movement and making sure not peeing one’s pants when laughing became a top priority. I need to know exactly when my baby soft skin became dried fruit leather. I need to know exactly when I decided it would be easier to go to Costco and buy the eighteen pack of reading glasses and spread them strategically around the house instead of spending hours looking for the cute, fashionable pair in the adorable carrying-case. (Hell, I need to know exactly when I bought the cute, fashionable pair in the adorable carrying-case.)  And I need to know the exact, precise moment that my ample, voluptuous, well-placed, forward-facing breasts became two flat team pennants that I need to use a roller shade device to gently roll them up and place them in my always-pointing-to-my-toes-stretched-out-straps bra. A girl just needs to $%&#ing know!

I apologize, if I have offended anyone young or old. No, I don’t! You young thangs just better stop laughing because this shit is going to happen to you. To the old people I have offended, don’t worry you won’t remember reading this in a couple hours. Let’s face it, sometimes in certain situations certain words are necessary. I am having a problem facing the fact that I am fucking old. OOPS, sorry, Mom! (Slap me Wednesday when I come for dinner.)

Paco’s Perspective

Sometimes one must stoop to the level of a chicken and say, “Cluck you!”

The Flip Side

Hey, Flip is an “f word”. I flipping hate it when those flipping lizards go into their flipping hidey-holes. 
This is flipping fun!