Problem Solving Methods

I admit it.  I like to people watch.  It never fails to be entertaining.  But the other morning I wasn’t thinking people watching.  It was more, “Danger, Will Robinson!”  You see, I like getting to work between 6:45 and 7:00 am.  It is a twelve to fifteen minute drive so no matter how you see it, most of the year, I leave the house in the dark.  Add clouds or fog, it can be really dark.

And, as a creature of habit, I just assume I will be the only loony-toon up that time of day, except for two dog walkers and one dude who exercises.  But they aren’t near my front door.  They are out on the road.  So, I left the house and hear voices.  Raised voices.  Mini-panic!  What should I do?  Go hide inside?  Well, I don’t see anyone, I will be brave and make the five step walk to my car, where I totally fail, because the darn thing has key-less entry.  But I am old school.  I lock the door by flipping the lock not hitting the remote.  So, to get in the car, I first must unlock it.  But the car doesn’t think it is locked, so it “locks” itself before it will unlock.  And the lights flash, and it beeps.  I’m sure you know, you have one yourself.  Anyway, nice going kid – try to draw more attention to yourself if you have just startled some major crime spree in progress.

Whew!  Safely in the car with the doors locked.  I don’t really see anything.  Car on, backing out.  Oh, I can hear a woman yelling.  And as I leave the driveway, there is a big, and I mean big, pick up truck barreling by me.  Rapid heart beat.  I am trapped.  As he opens the door of the truck, he whistles and the little fluffy dust mop of a dog turns around and jumps in the truck cab with him.  As he pulls a U-turn and drives home, I see his wife (girl friend, significant other?) stop running after the dog.  Not quite as intimidating as my imagination pictured her from the voice.  It is hard to be intimidating in flannel jammies and slippers.

So on the way to work, I was left to ponder the two ways these two strangers tried to solve the problem of the run away doggy.  The woman ran after him, running farther from home than she probably dreamed of going without being fully dressed.  But I am sure she was focused on catching the little guy before he got lost or hurt.  On the other hand, they guy knew the dog could run, and it had a head start but what dog would turn down a ride in the truck?  Problem solved.

And if that is the most excitement I face before 7:00 am, I am fine with that.

New Year’s Resolutions

So, have you made your resolutions yet?  Common wisdom says that sharing them make you more accountable therefore more likely to keep them.  I don’t know if this is true or not.  The only New Year’s resolution that ever really stuck I didn’t tell anyone about, until now, and I think that worked more by peer pressure.

My 2015 Resolutions

1.  Write at least one blog post a week.

2.  Keep a reading log – I have created a page.  I really would like to keep track of what I read.  I might even keep a craft log but I’m mot committing to that today.

Sometime, must have been in the late 1980’s in college, I made a resolution to brush my teeth twice a day, instead of only once a day and you will be relived to know that I have kept that resolution.  I have always had strong teeth so even when they threatened that my teeth would all rot away while I had braces, they didn’t; I was almost 30 before I had my first cavity.  But I was faking brushing my teeth before bed for my college roommate when I decided I could just go ahead and brush my teeth twice a day.  TMI?  Sorry.

I guess I better post this.  One down, 51 to go!

Password

Your password will expire in 14 days.  Your password must contain a letter, a number, a special character and be at least eight characters long.  Your password must be updated.  You may not use any of the last ten passwords.

Have you been plagued by any of these messages lately?  I have a confession to make.  Even after all the news reports of websites being hacked, I have basically been using the same password for nearly the last 25 years.  It was given to me by my advisor during the summer between my freshman and sophomore  year.  Oh, wait, that makes it 28 years old.  No wonder I can type it so well.  But I digress.  I was doing some work for the chemistry department and needed to access a shared account.  Sadly they changed the password soon after the next semester started.  But still I use some twist of that same password.

But then I saw a story, probably on the Today show or the nightly news.  In case you missed it, How a password changed my life.  The publicized part was that he changed his password to Forgive@h3r and it helped him forgive his ex-wife.

Well, I don’t have an ex to forgive but I have been meaning to getting around to someday maybe memorizing some Bible verses.  I never bothered to put any effort toward memorizing any verses during Sunday school as a child.    Since then I have just sort of told myself that that isn’t one of my gifts.  Well, it was time to stop making excuses.  So I found a verse, turned it into an acronym and tried it.  It works.  I am on my second one.  So, I will only learn one verse every sixty days, or however often they make us change are password at work, but it is a start.  And it entertains me, looking for a verse with a positive message that I need to hear in my brain several times a day when I type it.  Try it.  It works.

Back to School – Teacher Edition

Summer has come to an end.  As I science teacher I know that summer extends well into September, but trust me, summer has come to an end.  Tomorrow I officially go back to work for four days of highly structured and time managed days of pre-planning.  While all the students in the county enjoy their last taste of freedom, all the teachers will scramble to get everything ready.

1.  I cheated

This year I gave up and went in a day early.  I had always said on principle I would not start early, but today I went and checked out my keys and opened my room, looked at rosters, found the stapler and basically wasted 3 hours before taking a 2 hour lunch with a fellow teacher.  My former union steward self, and as the  daughter of a Teamster union steward, I am ashamed.  But lets face it,  every year I spend a half day in my room on Saturday before school.  Is this really any different?

2.  I could never teach elementary school

They “all” have their classrooms set up.  Their bulletin boards and learning centers organized around the theme for the year.  I have seen your FB posts and Pintrest boards.  My lab tables are coated with some oily cleaning product that I ignored and decided would eventually wear away on its own.  Note to those of you attending the pre-planning meeting in my room.  Wear old clothes!

3.  I am writing this during an awesome thunderstorm

So I may lose everything any second, including this computer.  I really know better, but I haven’t posted forever and I really wanted to write something.

4.  Butterflies

I was nervous driving to school this morning.  I had butterflies.  Partly because the lane toward school was blocked by an ambulance and two fire trucks and I had to cut through Walmart even to get there.  Yes, I did consider buying something at Walmart because I am that much of a rule follower.  I know it is a violation to cut through a parking lot.

But the point is, I had butterflies.  This is the tenth year in the same school and the third year with basically the same assignment.  Old hat, right?  Never.  In sixth grade I vomited on the first day and was sent home, like many other previous years.  At least back to second grade, I think.  I thought that was normal.  But I missed so much in sixth grade social studies the first day, that I vowed never to give in to the butterflies again.  So, they still come, I just don’t give in.

5.  Subject Area Meetings

Speaking of butterflies.  Wednesday all the teachers will gather for subject specific meetings.  I get to present for an hour to all the other chemistry teachers in the county.  I am truly blessed that I get to present in my own classroom.  I did this last year too.  It is still terrifying.  Much worse than the 148 students I will meet next Monday!  And yes, I counted.  As of today, I have 148 students this year.

6.  Teachers are optimists

Every year we do pretty much the same things.  We edit and revise but honestly, the periodic table doesn’t change that much and neither does what I teach.  But every year we expect the students to be more eager and more interested than any group of students has ever been before.  So we plan and construct lessons and try to remember all those good ideas gleaned from the hours spent at summer workshops.  We have the highest hopes for our students.  We are truly optimists.

7.  Summer amnesia

Thankfully, all teachers seem to also suffer from amnesia during the summer.  I can’t wait to get started.  Vaguely I remember the stacks of papers to grade, the hassle of writing tests and getting them copied, the quirky, demanding students who have even quirkier, more demanding parents but right now it doesn’t seem so bad.  Maybe that means I am doing what I am supposed to be doing, but please, don’t tell anyone!  I need to whine and complain about how short summer was when we all meet at 7:30 tomorrow morning and officially start back.

Have a Great School Year!

Smoking

I can’t believe it.  They are smoking.  Grumble.  Stomp.  Hello – fake smile.

All of this because my neighbors had stepped out into the coolish evening air to have a cigarette while I was trying to finish a little yard work.  My,  but things have changed.

I grew up with two smoking parents, who smoked in the house, in the car, and if we went out we sat in the smoking section of the restaurant so they could, you guessed it, smoke.   I often had the job of digging the pack of cigarettes out of Mom’s purse while she drove (pre-seatbelts), removing a cigarette and handing it to her.  I recall being scandalized when I was in fifth or sixth grade and she suggested I light it for her.  She was either testing me or more likely trying to loosen me up a little.  I was required to make mudpies  probably only  the previous year when she found I hadn’t ever done that.

Cigarette smoke really bothers me now whenever I am around it.  I don’t know if it is psychosomatic or a real reaction now that I am no longer exposed to smoke on a daily basis.  After Dad was diagnosed with lung cancer and died I seem to be much more sensitive to smoke.  Beside just being annoyed at the smell, my chest seems to tighten if I breath even a little smoke.  But this really isn’t an issue.  Even NASCAR races are smoke free and it is easier to find the spot to curb your service dog at a theme park than a place to smoke.

I have to confess.  I have never smoked a single cigarette.  The yearly anti-smoking campaign in elementary school worked for me.  The black lungs we passed around, which by the way look nothing like what I saw on Dr. Oz today, you don’t think they were just a model do you?  And the cost analysis.  Did you have to calculate the cost of smoking each year?  We did.  I know this because I took the number to my mother with the toy catalog and showed her what she could buy me if she just stopped smoking.  And this was in the early 1970’s.  She was not impressed.  But as much as both of my parents smoked, and as much as I liked the smell of that freshly opened pack of cigarettes, I knew if I just smoked one I would be hooked.  One bullet dodged!

I will admit that I learned a lot hanging out in the smoking teachers’ lounge when I student taught and later when I subbed.  There was a camaraderie that didn’t exist in the non-smoking teaching lounge.   Plus the Pepsi machine was in there.  Now teachers have to drive off campus and smoke a cigarette during lunch to carry them through the day and the rest of us pretend not to know why they are zooming out of the parking lot.

This year I listened to a talk that mentioned third hand smoke, the harmful residue left behind when someone smokes and they made the statement that research has found that one is not safe from smoking residue in a hotel if any rooms are designated smoking rooms.   It makes you think.

But smoking was on my mind today I guess.   First Whoopie Goldberg on Dr. Oz having finally kicked the habit, then the neighbors, although I really wish they wouldn’t throw the butts on the ground but that is a different rant entirely and finally Final Jeopardy.  So, now you know where I stand, in the middle of the non-smoking section!

Joy

Shout for joy, you heavens;

Rejoice, you earth;

Burst into song, you mountains!

For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.

Isaiah 49:13

Have you ever returned from a concert, a worship service, an important event and just felt joy? I wish that feeling would last longer. It may have been a while since you felt an over abundance of joy. It may have been within the last day. But whether we feel the joy or not, Isaiah 49:13 reminds us that the Lord comforts his people. Thank you Lord. No matter what the circumstances I can come to you to be comforted.

But on those days when you have joy overflowing, do you take the time to share it? Do you tell others or do you keep it as your private secret? Some events we share with everyone. The birth of your new grandchild, the adoption of a kitten or puppy, a wonderful reunion of friends who haven’t seen each other in years. But do we share other experiences? Those days we clearly hear God’s calling for us, or feel that His hand is upon us. Do we talk about Him to those who may not know him? I confess that often I hold back. I don’t want to do that anymore. Will you join me in being bold for our Lord? Will you join me in sharing my joy, especially when the source is so clearly from our Heavenly Father?

The Princess

Meet Princess.  I inherited her from my dad.  Sadly she only was able to retire to Florida for a short time before cancer took her life.  I hope she saw her time in Florida as her retirement.  I have a feeling she thought I kidnapped her.

My dad called and said he wanted me to go visit him for his birthday.  That was in the middle of October.  There are no school breaks in October.  Uh, no.  That won’t work.  A few days later I see Sidney on my caller ID.  Oh no.  Sidney was my dad’s neighbor and friend.  If Sidney called it wasn’t good news.  We had been through Dad’s ambulance ride to the ER when he had a heart attack, transfer to another hospital, quadruple bypass and subsequent infection.  With dread, I answered.  Dad had lung cancer.  Well, he smoked for his entire life.  A lot.  In fact, after his heart attack the cardiologist said he would not treat him if he didn’t quit smoking.  So Dad quit going to the cardiologist.  I think that is how it got so bad without being caught.  I took off work and made the 12 hour drive.

“Have you been to the house yet?”  asked Dad.

“No, your house is passed the hospital. ”

“There is Pepsi in the fridge.  I had Sidney buy it last week.  I knew you were coming. ”

Never was one to miss an opportunity to say, I told you so.   At some point in that visit, he asked me to take his cat when he died.  Of course I said yes.  And I was really relieved.  Dad also had three outside dogs.  I could not imagine even one of the dogs in my condo.  Okay, I can add a cat into my family.

Dad was always a dog person.  The fact that this blue-eyed, mouthy cat won him over amazed everyone who knew him.  On one of our weekly phone calls Dad mentioned his friend Mike wanted him to take this cat.  Her family, parents and two little girls, had moved away and left the cat.  Another week passed, and Mike was still trying to talk him into the cat.  Eventually he picked the cat up, put her in his car and brought her home without any thought of actually taking care of the cat.  He opened the car door and let her out in the yard.  Problem solved.

I was talking to Dad on the phone and he is making all sorts of distress noises.  Hold on,  Princess wants out.  Princess?  Dad was married six times, never to take anything for granted, I needed more information.  When Princess, the cat, wanted outside she jumped on the arm of his recliner, then batted his face or bit his ears.  She also did this every day at 4am to go outside.  Isn’t that cute.

Who was I talking to?  Cute?  And when she wanted back in she sat at one of the two sliding glass doors and glared until you let her in.  And at 4am he would wait for her to come back for breakfast.  Nuts!

I first met Princess after Dad’s heart attack.  Sidney had called and I made the trip.  A word about my dad’s house.  It was a one bedroom on stilts in a flood plain.  I often said you drove to the middle of no where and kept going for another half an hour.   The first time I visited he insisted I take the bedroom.  The bed was the most uncomfortable thing ever and in the morning he mentioned the squirrel that was chewing holes in the ceiling.  The chewing sounds had worked their way into my nightmares.  There was a hole in the bathroom floor near the toilet and you could see daylight through it.  This was dad’s house.

Flash back a couple of years.  My dad wakes up while having a heart attack, calls 911, walks out back and turns the gas off to the house and sits on the steps and has a cigarette while waiting for the ambulance.  We found this out two days after I was there and he was with it enough to explain why the heat and the stove didn’t work in a very chilly November.  Thankfully Princess was not adverse to being a blanket at night and she and I sat 3 feet away from the space heater (I read the safety warnings) the rest of the time.  And of course I fed her so Princess and I were friends.

The hospital stabilized dad and were trying to find him a rehab facility.  There was never any discussion of treating the cancer, just ways to manage the pain.  I went home.

Less than two weeks after that first phone call, as I left school I got a message from the hospital.  They had been trying to call all day.  There was no way I could make it before he died but I could try.  I drove home, threw stuff in the car and made the 12 hour drive in 10 hours.  It was just after 1 am and I sent Sidney home.  He had managed to get this very lapsed Catholic last rights.  He never woke up but I think he knew I was there.  He passed away around 6am.  After making the funeral arrangements and starting the nightmare of settling the estate, I put Princess in a carrier and brought her back to Florida.   More on the Princess later, I am sure.

 

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Kitty Lovers Only

You have been warned.  If you don’t live with and rearrange your life around a cat, read no further.  You just won’t understand.

My cats like to follow me around.  They often hide from strangers, or at least try.  Recently Miss Belle tried to hide under my chair, but her entire bottom half and fluffy tail were sticking out.    Heidi is rarely even seen by houseguests.  Belle is the black and white kitty sitting atop Heidi, my polydactyl tiger.  Of course they are both helping me with the computer.  Belle thinks she should be an only kitty but apparently this attempt to crush Heidi didn’t work.

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I am a permissive cat parent.  They don’t have manners and Belle especially begs for food.  She will also steal food if given half a chance. One night she was begging for food, trying to jump and take it.  I may still qualify as a child.  I eat in front of the TV and  I often leave my vegetables until the end to eat.  The only thing left on my plate was steamed asparagus with a little bit of butter on it.  In order to get rid of the begging, annoying fur ball I figured I would give her a piece of asparagus and she would look at me in disgust and walk away.  I couldn’t wait to finish my meal in peace.

But she ate the asparagus.  And you are wondering why this is so amazing.  I didn’t really think much of it until a little later.  Remember, the cats follow me everywhere.  So if I go to the bathroom, there is often a cat with me, or two, or…you get the picture.  And they like going potty with company.  I must have praised them too much for using a litter pan when they were little.  So Belle uses the litter pan.  According to WebMD I must be one of the “lucky” 25% of the people who can smell the sulfides in urine produced during the digestion of asparagus.  So take smelly urine, don’t be fooled by that perfume quote, this stuff smells in humans, and then add it on top of the bad odor of cat urine.  Add them together and you get the title of my book, should I ever write one.  Never Feed a Cat Asparagus!  Don’t steal it, it is mine!

Oh, and is anyone else truly concerned that WebMD refers to it as pee and not urine?  That bothers me.  Are we really that dumb?  Wait, please don’t answer that.  And, don’t feed asparagus to your cat either.  Really, it is a bad idea.

 

You Are Not the General Manager of the Universe!

When I moved into my condo eight years ago the first thing I did was paint the kitchen yellow.  The second thing was to paint most of one wall in the computer/spare room with chalkboard paint.  And at some point while painting I decided I really needed the water turned on, but I digress, as usual.

For future reference, if you have textured walls like I do throughout the condo everywhere except the bathrooms, I wouldn’t recommend chalkboard paint.  The paint is fine, it is the writing and making it look good that leaves a little something to be desired.  So, my wall of quotes is permanent, not subject to change due to the annoyance of trying to write on the textured surface.  This makes the fact that it is chalkboard paint irrelevant.  I could have just gotten a giant bulletin board and posted things I like.

I was reminded of one of these quotes as I read Proverbs 10:8.

“The wise do what they are told,

but a talkative fool will be ruined.”  (NCV)

The quote is, “You are not the general manager of the Universe!” I don’t like doing what I am told.  My first response is usually, but why can’t we do such and such or it would be better to do this or that.  I am happy to be reminded that the wise do what they are told.  I am not the general manager of the Universe.  I am responsible for me.  That is it.  I am not recommending becoming a blind sheep but I do believe in the chain of command.  God put, or allowed certain people to be in positions over mine at church, school and throughout the community.  They each have an area of expertise.  I cannot play my role effectively if I am trying to do everyone else’s job.  Thank you for the reminder!

Wisdom from Dad I

It would be easy to fall into the blame game and tear down my dad.  Okay, he was human.  But he also had some good advice, in those rare moments I actually asked for help or bothered to listen to him.  He also knew a lot about cars.

While in college I was complaining about some core requirement I had to take.  His comment was that in every class, “You can always learn something.”  We might have been wandering campus on parents weekend.  Our favorite activity was to skip every scheduled activity and walk through the parking lots and look at the cars that the parents drove.  Attending a private school attended by many affluent students made for interesting cars to drool over.  We would get to the football game about half-time and decide we were having too good of a time to attend.

“You can always learn something.”  You might learn some math theory.  You might learn never to show a movie on a rainy afternoon.  You might learn you really do hate history, but you can always learn something.  I grumbled and felt misunderstood, I am sure, but the core idea, “You can always learn something,” has gotten me through a lot of really bad meetings and workshops.

I don’t want to say that I have lowered my expectations, but with teaching workshops if you can walk away with one good idea that you can use, it was worth attending the meeting.  Anything after that is a bonus.  The meeting where you count the times the speaker says, “Umm,” will make you more aware, maybe even paranoid, when you walk back in your classroom.  My Calculus II professor who got so excited about math that he jumped on furniture while teaching still reminds me to enjoy what you do.  He would get so excited solving integrals that he would jump on a slant-topped desk-top lectern that no one used and was thrown in the corner.  This made his neck the same height as the loop in the cord attached to the screen so if he tipped we all thought he would hang himself.  He certainly kept my attention.

I have learned not to tell people I won’t read the PowerPoint to them, if I plan on doing that.  I have learned that it is okay to have a lab be a task completion or a contest and that not everything needs to have a formal write up.  I have felt my students’ pain when trying to follow lab directions for the first time and getting totally lost and frustrated. It may be the fiftieth time today I have been asked that question, but it is the first time this student asked and she deserves a response without frustration and attitude.  And I obviously need to rewrite the directions!

This is especially pertinent this summer.  As I watch my Facebook friends post from Paris, Spain, Glacier National Park, and Iceland just to name a few spots, when asked about my summer plans I say that I am staying in Florida and that I am attending too many workshops.  I need remember, “You can always learn something.”

Maybe I will learn to save money for a vacation next summer!