Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday Afternoon with the Blum Boys

Today as Brian is working the weekend, my brother, daddy, and nephew (the Blum Boys) invited me to the deer lease to have a look around.  I was flattered...the sacred hunting ground offered to me for the day!  How could I pass up this invitation?

The lease is just outside Graham, and they have a large piece of land for the two of them.  (Zachary isn't quite ready to hunt...but it won't be long, I'm sure.)  We rode out there together in my dad's truck..Zach and I sat in the backseat and he went through my purse until he found something he could play with.  We drew pictures together on my old grocery list. 

When we arrived there were many stern warnings for Zachary and me to stay close and not wander off.  There are snakes (which I have enough sense to avoid if I see them) and wild hogs (which I have no desire to see up close as they can be rather nasty customers.)  We were also to be quiet.  Not a problem for me.  It's a gorgeous early autumn afternoon and I am enjoying the breeze in my face that whispers hopefully it won't be long until I can fling open the windows in the house all day. 

Zachary being quiet on the other hand...well, that is another matter. 

There is no permanent structure on the lease...unless you count the two deer stands, one of which the boys moved to a more stragetic location.  So when I started the tinkle dance thanks to my coffee and water I had on the way out there, I didn't have a lot of options.  Of course I didn't take the opportunity in Jacksboro, half and hour before. 

Finally, I wasn't sure I could wait any longer.  I grabbed a couple of Kleenex from the truck and started off into the trees.  Zachary yelled from the truck, "Where's Toad goin'?"  Crazy, I muttered under my breath.  I took a good look around my selected...uh, area.  Here goes nothing.  I did my thing with my lily white hiney stuck out for the wildlife to be blinded by, the whole time praying that a snake or hog didn't sneak up behind me and take a bite. 

While one never wants to have to make this choice, I have to admit, I felt much better afterwards.  And I had successfully completed the mission without getting dirty.  I have a new talent, it seems. 

We finished up with the deer feeders and cameras and headed into Graham for lunch at Subway.  We were heavily scrutinized by the locals already enjoying their sandwiches.  I guess we just smelled of city folks.  Hope that's not why the deer don't seem to be coming around the feeders.  None of Dad's pictures showed any.  Just wily raccoons and the hogs.

Zachary wasn't interested in a nap on the way home; he was too busy being the Tickle Monster.  Never knew I was ticklish under my chin and on my throat...we dropped off David and Z-man at their house and headed home.

It was a rich, full day and though simple, was a day I will remember.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Crayons in the Box

I rarely write about teaching.  This has been my escape from all reality, but I just have to tell you about today and this lesson.

We are having a Socratic Seminar on Diversity after reading an article about the soccer team in Georgia called The Fugees.  They are refugee boys who play together like brothers with a tough but caring woman coach. 

Each class has its own distinct personality every day.  They are like an enormous box of many colors, so many quirks.

My first class is gifted and talented and heavy on the boys.  My 3rd period is 12 pre-AP girls.  My 5th period is my largest, and they frequently test my patience with their chattiness.  The ones who usually have the most to say in an off task way are suddenly unable or unwilling to speak until they find just the right question to respond to. 

And today they have opened my eyes and each others' in ways that ordinarily don't come up in regular conversation. 

They all have had mature insights about what it's like to live in a very diverse neighborhood.  They have shared personal experiences that I might never otherwise hear about.  And whenever I have tried Socratic Seminar, they are the most respectful of each other than any other time.  They are at an age where being heard by their peers and adults is more valuable than anything else and I think that makes an enormous difference.  They realize they all have something valuable to contribute.  That is priceless learning.  And I am honored to have been a part of it. 

I have this warm, fuzzy feeling that I can't really describe.  I feel in awe of my students today.  And grateful that I have the kind of job that allows me to glimpse the people they really will eventually grow into, and I will go back to this moment tomorrow when they are testing my patience again. 

I hope you all are blessed with a job as cool as mine.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Aussie Eats

In Sydney, eating and drinking is expensive, but it's a popular social activity.

There aren't many fast food places, not that we were there to sample them anyway.  There are cafes every 200 feet it seems...mostly little mom and pop places...some Aussie chains.  Outside, every cafe posts it's menu to tempt you to enter. 

Once you recover from the sticker was rare to find a meal for under $15, even at lunch, you choose what you are in the mood for.  There are lots of Lebanese, Italian and Greek places.  Cokes cost $4 at a restaurant, only $2 by the can at the convenience store.  There are no free refills.  Beers and glasses of wine are a minimum of $7 a piece.  And, brace yourself--if you want a cocktail, the cheapest I saw was $13.50.  The most expensive was $17. 

We went to two family "barbies" while we were there.  Probably the best meals we had.  The Aussie barbie is not unlike our own.  However, sausages figure prominently on the menu and steak.  We didn't have any prawns, but I think that was more family preference than anything.  One family we visited has Italian heritage, so we even had homemade ravioli at the dinner.

Chocolate is offered after dessert...little Cadbury minis.  Cadbury is the Aussie Hershey chocolate and they have similar varieties.  They even have a unique flavor of M& chocolate, though it is elusive.  I found them in only shop I visited...and I looked in many. 

Coffee is very important to the Aussies.  It's standard fare after lunch and dinner.  Instant coffee is served in the homes I visited, and it is surprisingly tasty.  In cafes, cappuncino is known as a flat white and is one of the popular choices.  I did see a Starbucks while I was there, but most coffee is found in these little cafes.  I was in coffee lover's heaven once I learned how to order what I wanted.  Our first hotel room even had a French press to make coffee.

We ate and drank well while were in the Land of Oz.  Just be sure your bank account can handle it when you go!

10 Years Later

Ten years ago I was a second year sixth grade English teacher.  It was an ordinary morning.  When the teacher next door came in to say what was happening in New York, I admit, I was a little flippant.  "Flying into the World Trade Center?  A little hard to miss it, isn't it?"  It wasn't until a little bit later that I realized it wasn't a terrible pilot error.  It was purposefully done.  And that seemed even more impossible than an accident.

I turned back to a classroom full of 11 year old faces...some fearful, some indignant, most confused and all afraid.  Our classroom was outside the building, so the first move by the principal was to get us inside.  I taught in the cafeteria the rest of that day.  One by one my students left with their parents.  So much was unknown and families wanted to be together.

My best friend and roommate called me, scared to death.  Her bosses were closing her office midday and she was headed home and she didn't want to be alone. I completely understood.  I wanted to be at home, with her, with my boyfriend, Brian.  But school went on, as normally as possible. I  remember I assigned a spelling lesson that day because it was low maintenance, but it was a chance for the kids and me to focus on something.

I called Brian who worked nights at the time with the Fort Worth Gang Unit.  I woke him with the news.  Very shortly after my call, his unit was called in to go to the airport to guard grounded planes.  For the next three days no planes flew and Brian patrolled the empty airport.  It was truly the first time that I was afraid and instead of being able to hold him tight and be less afraid, I had to stand on my own, to be strong so that he only had to worry about his job.  I hated that.

In the days after, the eeriest thing I think I believe I have witnessed is a sky with no airplanes.  In the years that followed, flying on those planes became more restrictive...liquids banned, no more greeting passengers at the gates.  Ten years later, I still can't watch the recaps and the interviews without getting teary.  I avoid it if at possible.

That terrible day should never be forgotten and I don't think there is a danger of that.  I just can't relive it over and over.  Brian watches the footage unemotionally.  I suppose it's partly his training.  He's never really said how he felt that day...just how he reacted, just the facts. 

We have all been forever changed; fortunately we have emerged better for it as a nation, as people.  God bless all of us.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Seeing a Few Sights in Sydney

On our second day (Saturday), we went off to the Featherdale Wildlife Park.  Darren said the Taronga Zoo is nice, but here at Featherdale we could actually pet the animals...including....KOALAS!  You can't hold them, but you can pet them and we even got to feed one a bit of eucalyptus.  They are more precious than I can tell you. They sleep most of a 24 hour period and the way they position themselves in the trees is comical and adorable.  There were also wallabys and kangaroos available to feed and pet as well.

Yesterday, we got up early and had a light breakfast at a Starbucks like place called Gloria Jean's.  Then it was off with the boys to the Harbor Patrol for a ride around the harbor.  That in itself is not unique.  Later this week we will take a ferry to the beaches and we will see the same sights.  The special part is that it was just for us and on a police boat.  No one gets to do that...not even most NSW police.  It was an absolutely perfect day--about 70 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. 

To look at these internationally recognizable landmarks like the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge and know that it was no longer a postcard or a screensaver was overwhelming.  You can't believe you are actually there.  The tour was a little shorter than the boys intended...the Patrol had to run go get the Commissioner of Police for a ride around...but it didn't matter.  It was just perfect.

Yesterday was Father's Day so all the boys had to spend time with family, and Brian and I were on our own.  We had reservations at a nice restaurant around the corner from the hotel, but we fell asleep and missed the reservation!!  Whoops!  So I'm definitely ready for some breakfast this morning. 

Later this morning we are headed to the Blue Mountains.  Looking forward to yet a new view of this beautiful land!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Journey Down Under

Greetings from my hotel room in Parramatta, NSW Australia!

We are here celebrating Brian's remission in style! 

Last night my parents dropped us off at the airport after a frenzied last minute did-we-take-care-of-everything rush.  Dogs at the parents, neighbors will water and bring in the mail, passports....check!

We boarded our flight to Brisbane...let me just say that if you are looking to eat well and often on a plane, Qantas is the way to go!  Dinner, snacks, and breakfast on that flight and on the short jaunt from Brisbane to Sydney, another breakfast!  Yum! So, I'm well fed thus far.

The seats were not spacious but the in flight entertainment was nice...lots of choices.  I watched The Wizard of Oz, Brian watched Dirty Harry.  I tried watching Bridesmaids but couldn't get into it. 

All that almost made up for the obnoxious woman in front of me.  And yes, my darling bestie, Elizabeth, if you are reading this, I did get up and walk around periodically.  Fortunately I had quite a walk to the ladies' room.  My knees were killing me and my ankles are swollen, so despite feeling my age for 15 hours, I am unscathed. 

We were picked up in Sydney after a short stop at customs by Brian's Aussie police friends.  They brought the work ride, so we were taken to our hotel in style...light bar and all.  Well, they had other places to be and there is some traffic in this city, y'all!!

Our hotel is lovely and the room is fantastic.  Already had my shower and trying to stay awake as I am 16 hours behind.  Ugh!  It's not quite lunch time here. 

Tonight is our first big dinner with friends.  Looking forward to it.  Talk to y'all later!