Mississippi Moments

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Of Roaches and Lonely Trees...
Today was roach day, dead or alive, at the gym at the school. But it was also the best day for soccer yet...we are actually playing and after how many years now, I am actually teaching some rules and positions and team strategy! Roaches keep everyone from sitting down whenever they get tired. More running that way, but not less screaming. We had to have a special lesson today before we played on Anger Management. It helped. Rorica wanted me to be sure to tell Colleen that she was really trying not to get angry today and she wasn't being a ball hog. It was also a good day for basketball and we "played" tennis outside for another hour after soccer and b-ball. We had to go get many, many balls that were hit over the fence and over the roof of the senior housing next door, but oh well. Some of the girls actually tried to volley and use the backboards. It is a little irritating how every time we go over there, young men from the community who hang in the park try and take our balls that go over the fence. Today, I forgot myself and went after them...they gave the balls back and gave me some very direct looks when I told them I didn't like how they were calling each other "Boy". It then dawned on me what I had done and I remembered that I wasn't on recess duty in Magnolia. Love those guardian angels...mine.
Yesterday on the bus back from the River Park, Mih Lady told me that when I see the "lonely trees" in the middle of the fields-literally, one big old tree will just be in the center of acres and acres of growing cotton, she said that there will always be the ruins of an old house that had belonged to a dirt farmer or older in slavery days. Many of the old cabins and homes were torn down after mechanization kicked in so there would be more land to farm. But that struck me about the lonely trees and what they remind me of.
Another "almost peed my pants moment today"....remember when I first wrote about saying "Dribble" and they all obediently picked up the ball and began to bounce it b-ball style. Today in soccer scrimmage, I yelled"MOVE" (we are working on finding open space)--three of the girls began to shimmy-shake and groove while they moved into open space----I forgot it was the same language that the dance instructor uses!~They were totally unawares...until I mentioned it and they burst out laughing.:)
I am going to Natchez tomorrow and I have made arrangements to stay in what was a very luxurious billiards building for the Stanton Hall plantation. It is now a bed and breakfast. It is antebellum old in the family that has had it for several generations. I am looking forward to this experience...and I amsorry I was a complaining little grouch yesterday. It will be an adventure and a dream come true.
Now if I can only get my dreams under control...all this week I have been running around in my dreams naked, with red cowboy boots, a bathrobe tied to my back like a cape and yelling and kicking kabootie on anything that has been "unfair" or unjust" in my past or recent present...last night I made myself wake up at 3 am to read. I was running around in this state stopping logging trucks on the Olympic Peninsula and giving the truck drivers the what for....sigh! I need to talk to my therapist!:) Hee-Hee! Take care. Tomorrow we "Swim".

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Tofu is pigs'toes, right? It AIN'T?!? What iz it then? Soy, what's dat? You mean, it's growin' right here in Jonestown and you eat that stuff?!? Uh-unh!
That was the end of yesterday's Girls to Women lesson in nutrition. They still don't know what protein is. Someone said a Slushie and Chips. I said No. unless it was a lentil slushie. Then one of the quieter girls said, "pork"? I said yes. Then someone said turkey, beef, chicken, and someone else said cheetos. I said no. How about cereal. Again, no, not really. They have cooking and nutrition classes here in the spring and winter for the Girls to Women. They have a local nutrition expert come in to work with the girls. It is a good thing. We also had a conversation that went like this. (And picture in your mind that the girls don't really treat me as "white". In fact, I don't really know if they think of me in those terms some of the time). K- out of the blue said rather offendedly-"Miz Ern-this white woman at our school-in P.E. -she tried to tell us that of all the kids in the U.S., we were the fattest in the country, right here in Coahoma county in Jonestown.Whatchuthinkodat? All are staring at what I will say about that white woman who would say such a thing. I said (after a pause)"Well, she was right." Mild pandemonium. "Whutchyoumean!?!Mih Ern! I said that some people had done some counting and observing of the kids all over the country and the kids who were in the most need of moving and eating better lived here in MS, spicifically Jonestown. And then I said and look at what you are doing everyday-playing sports, running, dancing, working out, drinking lots of water, learning to cook better...they still didn't believe it. It was kind of telling on the second day this week when one of the newer girls to the program was huffing and kind of the wrong color. Turns out she was wearing a girdle under her sweats......I haven't seen one of those since I was 7.
We took the children up to the Tunica River Museum today. The ranger who was leading the convoy kept getting lost on the way because he is not from around here, so what was a 45 minute ride up was closer to an hour and a half. We had a snak, a short walk along the Eco-walk looking for snakes, spider webs, gators, and mockingbirds. Saw plenty of spiderwebs. The museum was a hit for the children, especially the aquariums filled with turtles, fish, snakes, catfish, etc. We made a scavenger hunt up for them based on the official one that the Museum puts out. I think it was a hit. Then the Levee Board treated us to Subway lunch. Then we all had a long nap on the way back and set up for Girls to Women. Played some more basketball today and watched the girls rehearse their dance number. I received word today that I was accepted into my doctoral program and that begins this September. We'll see what comes with that. I am a little down today. Looking around here, it is easy to get discouraged by the general lack of care in the area where children play and it has been that way whenever I come. I get mad when we go into the tennis courts and there are broken bottles in there. The park is loaded with broken glass, sharp objects, drug paraphenalia...and kids are supposed to play there? The Youth Group from Assumption St. BRidget is there this week putting in a play structure. It is attracting a lot of local attention. They are also helping to put in bathrooms at another community center that has been without plumbing and running water for three years. The TV people came back this week and did a follow-up on the poor state of things out in 'the projects". It was a drama number and a way to get their "Problem SOlver" looking good. IT was all the talk on the bus today and it made some of the kids in from the projects mad. And I quote" Just because we poor, doesn't mean we stupid and dirty. My mamma keeps us clean. We have respect. We good kids." One good thing this whole thing did was bring the Mississippi Dept. of Housing into the picture and they are coming out in three weeks for a code inspection and the management company of the projects has been put on official notice. I am heading down to historic Natchez and Port Gibson for the weekend. Alone. Any takers?
IT will be fun anyhow. Turns out we can rent a car in Clarkesdale only 12 miles away. All for now!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Roll Mississippi, Roll Mississippi, Roll Mississippi,
wherever do you roll...
Everyday, I try to begin my blog with one of the songs the children are learning as part of our river studies. It is amazing to hear them singing all day, just about. Someday I will learn to record them and you can listen while you read this. The tradition and practice of singing and singing loud and well down here is as strong as the tradition of getting espresso in Seattle. Or sitting in traffic.
So today's blog will begin with my observations of the children. It always takes me a few days to adjust from the learners in Magnolia to the learners in MS. By the end of the year in Magnolia, the darlings are toast. Ready for summer. Done. Poke me with a stick. Tuned out. Funny. Here in Jonestown, they have been out of school for a month almost and they are still eager to learn. But they are whiny in a southern kind of way until you figure out what they really want. Which brings me to my first point--I have been immersed enough in this foreign language and land and today I only required ONE translation from a native! Yay, me! The children were working to label, texturize, and paint their 3-D map diagrams of the MS river, delta, levees, floodplains, etc. It was extrememly obvious that they are not given many opportunities for creative arts because there were constant questions-"Iz dis how you wohn-it, Mih Ern?" Like dis? How 'bout like dis Miz Ern? And I just kept explaining that no, this was their creative work and time for them to make their own choices. The big kids had trouble. The Montessori kids-no trouble at all. In between, they settled down when they figured out I wasn't going to help them or stop them or give them guidance. My second observation-how the children respond to my manner of guidance and management. Except for the Montessori children, the kids here are used to corporal punishment and detention in a windowless room at the school. Some children are sent to the principal's office for a whupping. Oh, it's time to bring them into the 21st century. It is a different cultural value and mentality to whup children and to use those kinds of management "tools"."Tools", *snort*! A child is considered extrememly disrepectful if they answer you without saying Ma'am or Sir. My last observation is the one that keeps me coming back. I work harder here almost and sometimes harder than I work at home at my "real job". It tires me out. And the kids soak it up. The enthusiasm they have to learn never stops. It peeters sometimes but never goes away.
Rorica is now reading over my shoulder. She wants to tell Colleen and Brigid that Mih Ern is learning to play basketball. She learnin'. She says I am a 2 on the 4 point rubric-1 being out to lunch 4-being Michael Jordan. Rorica can play with enthusiasm and drive. She is a ball hog from time to time. BUT SHE IS LEARNING! SHe says I should get rid of that last part but I say no. She IS working on that skill. Jamika is also here right now. She can play some amazing soccer when she doesn't have food posoning from Taco Bell. She likes to laugh all the time. She plays basketball really well. She is also going to be a pediatrician when she grows up. She is going to Jackson State University with Rorica. They are planning to be roommates. They are both 12 right now.
Much love to you all. Oh, and I learned that they deep fry pickles here in MS and they actually eat them. They also still smoke in the taverns. I forgot about that last night when we went to eat in Batesville. Kalunda is here now, too. SHe helped do the dishes today. That girl can dance!!!

Monday, June 25, 2007

"Wade in the water, wade in the water, my children,
wade in the water, and I will bring you Home."
We're learning lots of songs about the Mississippi River.
And summer has definitely come to the Delta. My fade-o-meter is usually on overload, well, right about now, and I've only been outside for about ten minutes for recess today. I wanted to show the little kids at the Learning Center how to use the soccer balls and other equipment that Sara and Rowan sent. I took pictures. I had more than a few takers. I learned a new rule in two-square today as well----suicide. Not sure exactly what it means but I will share when I do find out.
We did quite a bit of clay work this morning. We are building 3-D representations of the channel, delta, sea, and levees to match the diagrams in their notebooks.
We are heading up to the Tunica River Museum on Wednesday. We will be well-prepared.
So it was and wasn't a busy weekend. We took Ms. Joyce to the airport on Saturday morning and then Sr. T and I went to a funky, Elvis-centric restaurant on the Graceland strip called Marlowe's. Had big bucket o'salad. Then to the River Mususm. It was interesting, interactive, and pleasant. I learned some more about the terrible floods of 1927. Many African-American families in the Delta were forced to live ON THE LEVEES for months and months because that was the only dry land for 50+ miles. The people were forced to work to repair the levees, all ages, and some were paid and some were not paid. Even the federal government was in on the armed patrols to keep the "workers" here. And you can see the absolute misery and despondency in the photos...and there are not any white people hauling those huge sacks of earth and sand. I also finished a book called "Minds Stayed on Freedom". This book came out of a summer research and writing project for some kids a couple of counties over-Holmes County. They interviewed many of the local dirt farmers, a teacher, a preacher, some "houseladies" (ladies who were working for a white family), plantation workers to find out how they were involved in the grassroots movement of the Civil Rights. This whole process, the Movement, was different from the media version and big-name marches/speeches/hoopla side that is mostly presented. This is from teh perspective of the people who just everyday said NO to injustice and prejudice. They were not nonviolent and docile. They armed themselves. They were persistant. They talked back and shot back and stood up for their families, their farms and homes, and their rights. They integrated local schools on their own and what this means is that literally ALL of the white kids left to go to private academies. This is what happened in Jonestown and is still the case. There was one little child, of Chinese heritage, who tried to attend Jonestown Elementary last year. Apparently the abuse was so bad on this child from the local children that the child's parents pulled their kid and put her in the local private academy in Clarkesdale. They had no other choice. Sr. T says that if she had children, they would not be allowed to attend Jonestown Elementary. Sad reality.
There is another interesting phenomenon around here. There are crops of soy, cotton, corn, and sunflowers. The spraying from the air is in progress. I am not looking forward to next week in that we will be doing our sports outside. Also, when one crop is finished, they routinely burn the fields and replant. All along the local bayou, Swan Lake just down the road, the trees are now dead, red, and awful-looking. They just burnt the trees along with the field. They are also burning garbage here. I also find it very difficult not to recycle or compost. Sr. T says I have to quit comparing here with my there. Okay. We went to church on Saturday night at the "white" church in Clarkesdale. It was boring, the music. Not gospel, blues, and praise. Very "white". The presider was a visiting priest who works with the poorest of the poor in Haiti. He was on fire with passion for his work and wanted us to get involved, too.
That's another thing that annoys me. At home in the Northwest, how often do I think of what color my skin is...uh, never. Here, it is all the time, every day. And it's how people think. The kids, too. I have never been in the local grocery by myself because I am afraid to. I have never been to the cemetery on the other side of town because I am afraid to walk there by myself and everyone I ask to walk with me looks at me like I am crazy. I might just get up and go anyway, It is in a rough part of town called "The Park". It was featured in that news show that got everyone upset and they still are. It was FOx Memphis station. They had a big meeting. The town council has started a petition and a letter to invite the tv people back but to see things from a more broad, realistic, and POSITIVE perspective. The woman who was featured in the tv spot was a sister of one of the teachers at the Learning Center who just received her R.N. degree and pin.! Her parents won their own businesses and are college-educated. This sister is the one member of the family who believes that she is "entitled" to things. She keeps getting beaten up by other women in town now because of what she did on t.v. Anyhow, all I know is that it might bring the community together but it probably won't. Now I must change my clothes and go practice free throws with Rorica before the other girls-to-women get here. Rorica is an awesome young lady. She always tries her best! She works hard and she learns from her mistakes. She is going to go to college to become a pediatrician and she is looking over my shoulder as I write this! She also has a super smile and she doesn't know how beautiful she is. Love to you all!+-
I found a self-assessment soccer checklist that I am going to give to the girls today

Friday, June 22, 2007

The mud is flying around the town today!
Don't know if any of you saw Fox 13 last night or check out FOx 13.com to see about "Poverty and Despair in the Delta". A tv crew came into town earlier this week (I saw them out filming rubble from a burned out old apartment building when I was driving the bus and the girls home after soccer) and they focused only on the bad parts of town and they only interviewed some of the fringe folks, if you get my drift. It really was pathetic as if nothing positive is happening around here. There are at least 4 church sponsored camps and learning sessions for kids going on right now in addition to the Learning Center and Durocher House. They didn't talk to any of the current mayor, police chief or other community leaders. The town is up in arms. There is a meeting scheduled for today in about an hour as to what will happen to set the rest of the world right about Jonestown.
We had a great time swimming this morning. I was giving lessons in the "big pool" with about 6 of our kids and several from another kids' club. Floating was the achievable target, by yourself for 5 seconds. We also worked on "you can't call it swimming if you are still holding on to the pool wall"!
We had a "soul food" picnic to say thank you to Ms. Joyce this afternoon. Tasted my first banana pudding. I am looking forward to our field trip next week to the Tunica River Museum. The Levee Board is hosting us as their guests for private tours, etc. We will have a ranger on the bus with us going up to provide us with information and points of interest as we follow the river, literally, up to Tunica. More later.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Yes, we will gather at the river,
the beautiful, beautiful river...
It's really brown, sluggish with barges and tugboats, egrets in the sidechannels, fishermen in motorboats lazily floating along, bugs, bugs everywhere, and even garbage stealing raccoons in broad daylight. This was on the Arkansas side.
We took the children on a field trip to the Mississippi River over at the Helena River Park in Arkansas. Signs everywhere not to swim. Gravel factory busy across the river loading up barges. A casino in the distance. Mockingbirds, black-capped chickadees, and small orange butterflies flitting about, the air full of fluff and stuff from the surrounding trees, fields, and bushes. We went down to the river and identified key features (levee, shore, river, bank, mud) and then we sang some songs, some traditional (Let Us Gather at the River) and some not (The Great Mississippi by the Singing Ranger). That was fun. We had an audience of the gravel workers from across the river who got quiet to hear us.
I learned today that the fields around Jonestown are mostly soy and corn and the fields farther out are cotton. It has been drought-like in Mississippi this spring, so the rains and storms are needed and welcomed.
Today is the Solstice-a golden long day to bring your Dreams and Hopes into the Light and give them warmth, love, and promise. My dreams spoke to this last night.
I slept very well after all the running, coaching, and working out yesterday. I also made it down to the softball field last evening and had the good fortune to meet the Seattle HNA volunteers for the first time. One of the chaperones remembered me from St. Anne's when I taught 2nd grade. She was in the 8th grade at that time.There are 12 volunteers from HNA New York and Seattle this summer at St. Kay's Durocher House. They are teaching things like Spanish, Creative Writing, Math, Biology, Technology Skills, General Science, GED prep, and anything else that comes into focus that is needed. The word around here is that this is the BEST, most cohesive group with last year's group thrown in also. What a blessing to have the example of these fine women
here doing such powerful good. I want my daughter to go to HNA when it is time...and I know that she will choose for herself.
Today we have coaching, dance, and then workout. I am in the process of creating a skills check-off list for soccer that goes with this grant for the summer program. Tomorrow we give "swimming lessons.
p.s. We also stopped at the MS Welcome Station on the way back. The delightful women there were ready to give the children cold cokes. The other thing that was cracking me up was that our little ones had never seen nor used automatic water washers or auto-hand driers. They would have been in there for an hour squealing and playing if I hadn't done the Sheltie on them. It was also enlightening to explain to a couple of 5th graders that what they were touching was an actual bale of cotton....they had never seen one before even though the stuff grows all around them.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Cookies not chicken!
Jaderrious wanted cookies and I thought he wanted chicken and we weren't even having chicken for lunch! We were having tuna salad Jonestown-style which means made with something called sandwich spread, hard-boiled eggs, onion, cheese, and relish all mixed together...on crackers. With cookies, more cheese, apples, and milk. And once again, I had to pull over one of the regular staff to translate. This is happening a LOT this week and I was prepared for it. But it is annoying and wastes time.
The Learning Center is providing a morning snack and lunch each day for the children and stafff. I'm still living on my daily peanut butter and pickle sandwiches which I love down here.
Today was a challenge with the children, esp. the little ones. They were snipping at each other. I was able to observe Miz Lady hold a Jonestwon Therapy session 101 with the little ones. It was hilarious. And she went around the table asking each child if he or she had a problem and if they were in denial, she said "Oh No...you gots a problem an' I'm here to hep you git yoursef a suhluSHUN. And that there solution is my hand-this empty one, and if you keeps having this problem, you come to find Mama Lady and my hand or we will come and find you. But if you decide to jump in the Mississippi River because you too busy yelling at someone or calling them names (we're are going to the River tomorrow over in Helena, Arkansas to show them the levees and wildlife there), then you can just float on down that river and send me a postcard from the Gulf of Mexico. Cause I am keeping my hand wi'me." End of therapy. Only one problem had no solution. Someone said she wanted to go back to sleep. Nothing to say about that.
I'm learning how to play two-square Jonestown style. They play by their own rules and they call them out before each game. Today, there were no less that 8 rules when I was playing with the 6-year old crowd-piggybacks, dirty 1, dirty 2, clean, lowball, cherry bombs, holdsies, pittypat, lineball. They were laughing that I was making my list to study during dance today. They said they would help me learn so that I wouldn't be losing all the time. They're all about giving me more chances 'cause "she be new around here and she don't know how to play".
A couple of other observations--saw attitude for the first time from the Girls to WOmen. Soccer was challenging and long. We just kept at it and I had made careful notes of the things Julie had told me last year when I wanted to quit because of the "tude"...it still works. Will go that route again.
The children here have not been exposed to teachers who use overheads much. Sr. T scared one up for me and I have been using it for the diagrams and vocabulary work we've been doing each day..the kids are more fascinated by the machine than by what we are learning...so I don't use it as much as I would like. They are also so used to doing worksheets and paper/pencil drills that you can tell when they have had enough of the multisensory stuff. It is like too much dessert. We go back to plain catfish and grits instruction with our math sheets and copies of manuscript letters, and they settle right down.
We have soccer, basketball, dance, and aerobics tonight. I'm almost finished with this book on Medgar Evers. I will pick out another book on the South, of the South, and hopefully from the African American perspective for my next one.
We also received a lovely shipment of basketballs and beanbags today. The children were elated and I now have the "magi syndrome"--bringer of great gifts. I assure everyone that it is not me, but the many generous folks from the Northwest who love and care for the children and folks of Jonestown!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

"I've got peace like a river, I've got peace like a river, I've got peace like a river in my soul" and it's raining so hard the street and the church yard across the way are already flooding and the boomers are booming and the lightning is flashing and I may not have much time left to blog for the day.
Soccer Day 1 went extremely well. There are no older girls in the Girls to Women this year because they are not being allowed to participate. It is unbelievable what happens to the younger girls when the odler ones are not around. The positive attitudes, the sense of playfulness, the get-go, the stuff we can accomplish. Yesterday, we did soccer for an hour and a half straight with no A/C in the gym and then they did another hour of dance.n I ran laps with any offenders who piked up the ball with their hands. We had the same-ole-same-ole..you say "Dribble" and a couple always pick it up with their hands and start bouncing away! Then we run some more. I have today's drills and games mapped out. LAst night we went to aerobics class after soccer and dance and go to sweat and work out some more. I like this part. Good work. Good workouts. Small town and lots of open space. Nice, friendly people to learn about and from. Today's session with the JLC kids went well. They are learning all about the landforms of the Mississippi River and what happens when the river floods. They get some of the concepts. The claywork was less messy and we managed to cover the floor in plastic before the claywork began.
I am not comfortable with the way some of the adults talk to the children here. Sometimes, they will jokingly call them names like "ADHD" and ADD-Girl, etc. I got in trouble at school this year calling a child "Gooney bird" during a religion class and the principal was observing me. I didn't think twice about it. I acn think of some much worse names.
I am using some of the differentiated instruction skills and materials that I acquired this year. I am also causing a little stirring with all the multisensory and "Waldorf" kind of stuff. Some of the other staff want the kids to be doing just "basic skills" and are helping by bringing me dittos of handwriting pages, etc. They don't understand what it is I am doing and why it will help the handwriting and the counting, fine motor, and basic literacy skills, and that's okay. Sister T wants to call a staff meeting to discuss it. I don't want to waste the time and effort. It will be easier to just incorporate what is being offered and use it to strengthen what I am already doing. I am only here for three weeks. They live here.
Off to soccer and then the health club. My knees are giving me some trouble. I know how to fix that. I don't want to but I must. I like to snack. Squishy is fine. He sent an email with pictures of his new girlfriend. He likes her.

Monday, June 18, 2007

"I thank God for the health and energy that enable me to pursue an active ministry of work and service."--Edna Mary Gagnon, SNJM

Remarks and Remarkables from this weekend and from this day up till now...
I fell asleep before we even took off and I woke up 20 minutes as we were descending into Memphis. Best plane ride I have ever had.

I enjoyed people watching at the Memphis Airport while I waited to be picked up. I am back in the land of sculpted, carefully coiffed and colored hair, toenails, and faces. Also plenty of quality but understated accessories. Notice that this is Memphis and not Dallas. Very little big hair and blue eye shadow here.

We visited historic Memphis on Saturday. The Memphis Cotton Exhange Museum and then we took the tram over to Mud Isle River Museum. They offer a great deal for teachers to do a previsit. It was full of the history and significant influences, people, etc. of the lowere MS River valley. I learned a lot of new words. We are doing a unit on the MS River this year at the Learning Center.
We walked near historic Beale Street where the Juneteenth Festical of Freedom was in full swing with blues bands, vendors, barbeque everywhere, people. Of course, we went into the historic Peabody Hotel to see the ducks swimming in the fountain in the lobby, but they had already been escorted upstairs to their private suite until the next day. At dinner, we were agreeing to the importance of families to gather not just at times of loss, crisis, or sadness but at joyful, relaxed, and surprise times. It was something to think about.

I found a really good book on Medgar Evers and a cup of tea for my first night in Jonestown. It is pleasantly warm here, in the mid 80's and very humid, more so today than yesterday. We had some summer thunderboomers yesterday and some "sheet rain"...not the worst I've seen. It cleaned everything and made the earth smell sweet. We went to church at Immaculate Conception in Clarkesdale. Not much has changed except the choir has beautiful choir robes now and the new pastor is from Vicksburg, MS. Sr. Teresa describes him as perfectly amiable and a "Bubba-type". I will need to find out what this means. We worked all afternoon at the JLC preparing materials and lessons for this week. I have hte blessing to work with a teacher from Atlanta. Her name is Miz Joyce and she is exquisite, funny, energetic, and deeply caring. She is also a quilter and showed me this unique, beautiful quilt she brought to work on here in Jonestown. Sr. Teresa's kitty is fat and happy...and ornery. He likes shoes which is not good for mine. Sr. T and Joyce are hooked on a British serial called the "House of Eliot" and were disappointed last night when the thunderstorm interfered with tv reception. They got it back online. I thought we were going to have serious challenges if it hadn;t been corrected posthaste.
I also got to tour the J Fitness and Health Club. There are new machines, ceiling fans, plastic yellow tableclots hanging from the ceiling that give it a much different look than the last time. I will go to aerobics after soccer, basketball, dance, and cheer this afternoon. Get this body and mind back in shape.
Our first lessons withe children went well. We worked on transportation vocabulary, spacial geometry with clay, and landforms of the MS River. They love the rhythmic exercises with beanbags and we can't wait.:) My coffee cup with the caribeener (sp?) fascinates the heck out of the kids but I will not go without coffee. I learned some of the rules down here for twosquare and will look forward to actually being able to understand it tomorrow. Off to Girls to Women....I love feeling like I am doing meaningful work. Things are just so down to earth here. And I am very thankful for Jungle Juice.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Off to the land of fried green tomatoes, the Delta blues, "settin" on the front stoop, delayed justice and really bad vegetarian options at any of the restaurants in Clarkesdale. Not a problem. I checked my journal and my blog from last year and made careful notes about what NOT to order this time round.
It's a nonstop flight from Seattle to Memphis--my kind of trip. A little snoozing, a little reading, a little writing, a little daydreaming, some more reading and we're there!
I put the classroom "to bed" for the summer today. It was methodical, sequential work...just what I needed today. Today was one year since Fiona passed. I am relieved not to be numb with grief and shock and my Heart and Prayers are with those dear ones who have recently put their dear, loving animal family members down. There are no words for comfort. Quiet support is the only thing I can offer and do.

Squishy got off to his first night at Camp Alice with a bang. Lydia has already sent a few photos and a reassuring phone call. He is busy in the play pools bobbing for sausage pieces. He and DAve tried to take Alice's coon toy. There is a photo that gives you a sense of her reaction to that nonsense. He will be fine, have a roadtrip or two, get to be an honorary airedale and then it will be time for me to come home and love on him a bit.
For those of you who are new to this blog, a couple of things. Sometimes I don't edit because I like it that way or I don't care. Sometimes the language is, shall we say, rather expressive...I like it when folks comment if they are touched by something I am sharing. Time to go to bed. 4 am comes quickly. And I can't remember where we put that skinny little ipod thing...it's like a Paris Hilton purse dog...easy to lose and entirely too sleek for the likes of me.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Finally finished the end of the year reading and writing assessments. I don't know why I dread those. They take a few hours and they're not fun, but they are not hard to do, just tedious.
Magical Strings just clicked on in the background.
For those of my special readers who don't get me or my writing sometimes, here are a couple of things to consider if you care to:
1. I'm a 4. This means we live in our heads and our hearts...alot. It gets all mixed up and it's all about us anyway.
2. I fancy myself a' Writer" ...so that means I will not even be aware of the stream of consciousness (or diarrhea of the thoughts-but then, hey, what's a blog for anyway?!) or I will be aware of it and that's the way I like it.:)
3. Right now--I'm fine, mostly. I dread this time of June because this is when I have experienced my most painful losses or uprootings. These are hard to not dread or expect or relive. The best is that I am learning not to dread, expect or relive...and it's working. I get irritated when life doesn't go the way I have planned and sometimes delighted when it doesn't. I hate my job right now a lot. I don't have the balls to quit. I'm not sure what to do about this so I am not going to do anything about it and that's just going to have to be okay because I don't want to be poor. I want to be happy in my work and excited. That's what Mississippi is for. I called down there last night. The first day of the summer program was off to a bang. The kids could find Ole Man River on a big map and the state of Ohio. Sister was very excited. I have almost completely cleared my classroom...two more carloads should do it. I won't need to go there over the summer unless I want to. I will sort the stuff and toss most of it this summer. I am enjoying that prospect. I seem to be doing the same with what's in my heart.
Something was very "wrong" at the gathering on SUnday---I can't peg it. Energetically, synthesis-wise-I can't put words to it. It just war'n't right. OH well. Nothing to do about it. It makes me sad when I interact with some of my family of origin members and we are strangers. No meaningful interaction and it's not for lack of trying on my part. That's when I am uber grateful for my sistahs and for my family of choice.
And you know what else pisses me off---technology changes so damn fast that as soon as I learn anything on any machine, it ups and changes. I don't know how I am going to manage it. The costs, the brain cells required. I just don't know and I have this I-pod that I want to bring because it's about the size of my keys and I don't even know how to turn the damn thing on and I just want to have some GOOD music and a couple of books on tape/cd/whatever you call it to listen to....HELP!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Windy day. Working day. Enjoying Life day.
Already had a long, long walk and look-see up on Phinney Ridge with Sideways Ears Boy and good coffee. All before 7.
Filled out a financial aid form and ordered transcripts.
Checked out summer job opportunities to see if there was anything I was interested in when I come back from me travels.
Doing dishes. Finishing math and writing assessments.
Going to David Clayton's celebration...made a special trip to get rubber chicken key chains. I believe this is an essential part of every grad's future life. Don't have a clue why. It jsut needs to be.
Therapy yesterday-good. hard. took all day to be with what that unleashed. ok, then.
Will also do some unloading from the classroom to home today.
And more play and walk and hang out time with Little Man.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

"Sweet Baby Girl and a Hole in the Wall"
Guess what happens as soon as I make definitive plans to go for the doctorate and travel to Iona? Things start moving again,as perceptibly as can be...so official inclusion on another must list came yesterday("Official Waiting Family") I'll get my number soon...but what does the Universe care about numbers? I don't (most of the time).

So, Maude has one. I have one now. Not puppies. Holes in the wall. Cedar made one yesterday morning when I was off on my morning workout. AFTER he had had a long walk, a couple of rounds of Sheltie ball, and a frozen kong. All this with the cone of stupidity on. Which he was able to get off by the time Lydia arrived yesterday. He has not enjoyed coneness because it has meant that he can't run as much, play with his friends, and have his life. He made that real clear. And I discovered that there is a cable outlet in that room. Not bad. I called Lydia yesterday to see if she could come down yesterday. She did. He was so "wired" (her words) that she ended up taking him on her other dog rounds and then home to Camp Alice where it was cone off, RUN, DIG, PLAY, GET IT OUT OF YOUR SYSTEM....and 8 hours later, when I arrived, I had my dog back...and the chance for cable tv ( I destroyed the other ones when I moved in here 10 years ago so the temptation would remove itself).

I also believe that there is no such thing as a "normal" child. There are typical things kids do, say, are, and believe, but normal is a complete and total myth. Thank Heaven! I am convinced of more of the power of nurture and parental parameters than ever, esp. after watching all the dads yesterday in action at our Field Day. Kids and then a ton of just BIGGER kids who look us in the eye when we say "No" and then at each other and do it anyway
...and we wonder why we get such shit at school sometimes...well, no, we don't wonder actually....and I know I teach in a Mayberry microcasm...

And I love pandora.com. Thanks, Coli! All the time, music that I love, no commercials, a mix that I didn't pick so there are surprises, and mood matchers....
I'm tired. very tired. This end of the year has been sucking it. from me. Better days at school for the most part. Still trying not to gird up for what won't be coming but it is very hard. To not tighten up, not turn in, not tense for the heart tearing that comes at this time of year...

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Crane's bill geranium and 8 miles per hour...
There's that song--"It's that time of year when the world falls in love..." it's a Christmas song. It's an irritating song.
But I have another version that is running through my world right now...It's that time of year when the world falls apart or you have to move again or ..."The pattern runs deep and long. As a wisewoman put it to me--You've buried your two dogs in the past two years. You've had other loss and change along with that. No wonder"...this brings me to the flower and the insanely slow driving speed. I am poised all of the time, unless I remember to breathe, to fight or flight. It's a state of tension, restlessness, tipsy-turvy balance on a too thin fence. It's constant. It's exhausting. It is a powerful survival skill that I've needed. Needed. past tense. Don't need now. But everything in me doesn't know or believe that yet...except when I am in the dirt, literally, pulling the grass that comes up with the poppies and voila! There are the crane's bill geraniums (a.k.a "sweet williams from Pop's Lake) nestled in the side garden. When you rub them between your fingers they smell smoky and tart. Those dear little pink flowers take me right back to the morning sunshine off the backporch at the cabin or better yet, into the warm grass on the road walking the curve away from the lake and into the shadows of the trees, the air full of birdsong and the promise of a perfect day of swimming, reading, napping, visiting, snacking, sharing life...that's what Maude gave me when she planted those on the side of my little cottage and that is what is Healing me out of this habit. That and digging holes for compost and clearing out weeds and tough, stomped on earth in the back garden. Squishy loves it. I have dirt under my fingernails this morning and I am still in my yardwork clothes. They smell of earth.They smell right. It's the most REAL reminder of "This is NOW. This is NOW. This is not then. There will be no orders from a bureaucrat in D.C. telling me I have to uproot two days before the end of school. There will be no standing at the "Goodbye Door" the last day of school for my dog this year. There will be no lies from a Beloved unless I'm the One doing it to myself. Old patterns die hard or they don't and they take energy from the Life of Now. Which brings me to 8 m.p.h. You can imagine what the tension might be doing to my driving habits. It's not pretty. SO the Universe had intervened and I kid you not, every single day, north on 8th Ave NW or 3rd NW going north, there have been the same Ballard Norwegian drivers, old men, both of them, driving vintage 1972 or 1973 Pontiac somethings in front of me, at 8 frickin' m.p.h, carefully stopping at each and every crossing, street, seagull and moving along toward their destination of choice. And me behind them, usually ranting. It keeps happening. I'm sure they have kept me from having accidents or worse. And it's the same guys. same cars. same angels unawares...maybe. I'm sure they'll be out there today, too. Until I get my Breath back. And can put Dougie back into the music machine.
Update on yesterday at school:
* We had a wee class meeting. It was a N.A.B.F.H.D.B.W.N.T.C.A.F.T.U. I love putting stuff like that on the board. It keeps them as occupied as when I give Squishy a Kong, long enough for me to take attendance and deal with any parents at the door and then we can get on with our day (=not a big fat hairy deal but we need to catch a few things up). I was honest with them about what things are looking like on my "end of the year" checklist. I bluntly stated where I expected their help, cooperation, and support. I thanked them for their energy and firm commitment to already behaving as if it were summer. I asked them for permission to plug into that river of power to help me with the end of the year. They seriously said it was okay. Then I took lunch order.
*We had our party yesterday. It was fun for them. When I stepped out from being such a sucker-head, they settled in. You want to know what blew me away. I brought in several games from home that a friend had donated. They had the most fun with Chutes and Ladders, Disney Monopoly, Jenga, Uno, Candyland, and they got out the pattern blocks and wooden cubes and started building stuff. This with the Beatles on in the background, alternating with th soundtrack from the Movie "Winn Dixie" and Curious George. They had a ball. They also brought in their own favorite sodas or drinks and were happy. They still think the Beatles are disco, but I let that go and I was able to complete a series of assessments that needed to be tied up. I went up on the "coool" scale because I know all the words to "Yellow Submarine' by heart. We had round two later in the day. It involved parents bringing in a simple but perfect Ben and Jerry's ice cream treat and I put on the first 18 minutes of National Geog. "Secret of the Titanic". They were enthralled-most of them-and those that weren't curled up with a good book. And I was able to work on some more assessing.
*We even snuck into the chaos that was formerly known as the computer lab and most students were able to publish a title cover page for their narratives. Which are still in progress.
*All of the model ships are up and most of the corresponding descriptive essays. The heading says, "Ships of Dreams"-Where will you sail with your imagination? The models turned out well except I can't stand the use of scotch tape to keep the sails on. Real woodworkers do not use scotch tape.
*Meltdown student got kicked out of his math class right off the bat yesterday and sent where--you guessed it! right back home to my math class. We dealt. He filed. filed some more. Ope! and more filing. ANd then he got to do his math during the first part of our party. Hate it when that happens. No more meltdowns. He was kept close to "home" the rest of the day. These meltdowns don't seem to happen off my watch...and it's not me. Energetically, way inside, I'm feeling like he's feeling. He's an intuitive, an empath. But I have learned how to shield kids from sensing that in me...mostly...until I learn that I can actually BE THAT PEACE in the world, in my day, in my car, in my home, in my bed, in my head, in my breath...time to go smell those "sweet williams' and take Squishy for his morning walk.

Monday, June 04, 2007

One more thing...the dreams are back. All the same jist--like this one.
I'm on a motorbike, like a small silver BMW with those side things for all your stuff. I've got the right gear and I've ahd lessons in how to ride.
I'm getting off on down the road and just as I do...something happens and I fall off the bike.
I'm not hurt. not scared. nor in danger. just fell off. And I intend to get back on and know I will and know I will learn how to ride the bike and get off on down the road. I just wake up before I get back on the bike.
A storm is coming...and anybody and their mother can write, so what makes me think I can?...just some of the thoughts that sat on the edge of the tub as I was stewing this evening in a bit of a...well, stew. Report cards are finished after a 4 day push with a bit of dancing thrown in, a graduation fly-by, recital support, and keeping a VERY bored Squishy somewhat contained and not catching himself up in his cone-idity. The dawn walks have been the Thing.

Which brings me to another thing---there was a guy on Jeopardy tonight (I "tuned in" for about 10 minutes) and this one guy, a construction worker, with hair down to here and a straightforward manner, said he wanted to go back to school. Alex: What school? Worker: Virginina Tech...Go---something unintelligible. I want to study math there. They have a great math dept. Alex: What do you want to do with your math degree when you are finished? Worker: pause...What ever people with math do. I just love math.
I liked that." I just love math." I just love teaching, the art of teaching, the science of teaching, the math of teaching, the dance of teaching, the stand-up comedy act of teaching, the therapy of teaching, the stretch of teaching, the flow of teaching, the sludge of teaching, the magic of teaching, the silence of teaching, the color of teaching, the grace of teaching, the crap of teaching, the battle of teaching...I just love teaching.

Most of the time. Which brings me to my next Thing. Something shifted and was lost last Friday afternoon. The insolence barrier was cracked around 1:15 pm last Friday, just as the dense air was pressing on our pea brains and frazzled bones to get the weekend started...4th graders have a right. a developmental right to be shits at certain points of their existences...this was one of their moments. And they took it. And I caught it full-on, face-on and got pissed. And we were done. To your seats. Take out something good to read. I am finished teaching here. And I was. And so it went. And that feeling is still in the classroom. And we can't get" it "back.(it=synchronicity, magic, Camelot-R-Us, whatevuh..) Maybe we don't want it back. Maybe I don't want it back. I'm too tired to bust my ass to do something "special". Maybe this is how it's supposed to naturally peeter out with 4th graders...too bad, because it's not this way with 3rd graders at all. Tomorrow is our "end of the year" party. They have decided to "hang out" and listen to music and play games because it will likely be raining so we can't go to the field to play kickball. And then it would probably just be an argue-fest anyway and I AIN'T INTERESTED.
They weren't interested in a movie because we can only watch "G". And we only have 30 minutes for our party. I was a party pooper. But wait, there's more! The kids have been working on these stupid narrative stories for a month, most of May. Even with the parent volunteers coming in for the past three weeks, there are only ten typed and there are 18 more to go. The other classrooms are already done publishing, binding, and are having their Publishing Parties with pizza and inviting the parents! We aren't having a publishing party because I don't know how the f8@#* we are even supposed to get these published and bound because I'm already working hard and long enough and haven't had time to read each draft and get it ready for the parents. Even with the careful check-off lists and hours we have spent in class, the drafts do not follow what I asked the kids to do and they are a mess and it takes one parent about 2 hours to do just one student 's work. And we still don't have author pages and I have never learned to bind-publish. And I don't want to learn right now. And in the tub, I was wondering what I could do to bring the Breath back into myself and into the classroom and into our community of learners..and the answer came--NOTHING. There is nothing I can do. It is not for me to do. It is for Abba to do. For Spirit to do. So I'm gonna let it. And the kids are going to have the option of a National Geographic something to watch if they want. Sans popcorn but with ice cream. The narratives will become homework which can be typed by someone at home that they are willing to bribe or guilt trip into it. Due Friday. Don't know what to do about the binding but I do know how to use an old-fashioned stapler. We have broken three of them this year. I plan to hate teachers who dump stuff like this on my kid.

Which brings me to my next Thing. The kid who keeps having meltdowns. Angry, awful meltdowns-three of them today alone and "everyone's picking on him"...blah-blah-blah. And the Admi---who shall remain nameless who keeps bringing him back down to our classroom and dropping him off for me to deal with when all of this is happening off of my watch and now this is what I get to deal with for the next two weeks because he can't handle transitions because he is a "victim" and ..blah-blah-blah. I found what works. Smile. Bring him into the classroom. Door always open. Filing. Lots and lots of filing. It is amazing how something ordering and simple like washing dishes, pulling weeds, chopping wood, carrying water, or filing can have a calming, centering effect. That lasts. That heals. That soothes. I have a shitload of filing that will take---hmmm, let me see--oh, about two weeks, including all recesses.

Which brings me to my next Thing. I don't like being pushed around. I don't like being misunderstood. And I don't like being underestimated. I am not just a "number", a quota, a check in someone's godawful box. In fact, I am not even in the box. The admissions counselor from the school I want to start at in the fall is buggin me. He wants paperwork now. Yes, I know I started on this thing a little late, but I guess I wasn't aware of the Universe's boot in my ass until last week. Ok, and with all the schooling I've had, it takes awhile to track down transcripts. Fine. He thinks he's getting ONE PAGE. There are about TWENTY-TWO. We will keep your little fax humming tomorrow Mr. Mr. And that's not counting what I've taken at SPU this year alone. Be careful what you ask for. It's my own fault for believing that I can have my Dreams right at the same time that life and my job interfere. And when people ask me what I want to do with what I will learn. I have a vague idea, but the best I can do right now is, I just love teaching.

I could go on with the Things all night. Annie LaMott was particularly poignant in her last chapters of Traveling Mercies. If you want to read something that will caress your soul and rake your mind, read that. She has a way. She is so broken and so healed. And real. And unapologetic. And apologetic. I get some of what she writes. I appreciate most of it. Some of it gives me a stomach ache. But I finished it and get to bring it back to the library tomorrow. That means I have no late or lost books. YAY ME!

One last Thing. Those of you with husbands or boyfriends will appreciate this...even though it is crass in a funny way. I am waking up laughing in the middle of the night from being "nudged"....by a cone...in the dark...on my back. And thinking in my sleepy fog that it was something else....and it makes me laugh! I love having a boy in my bed!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

ME-more than a few wags now and one long snuggly nap on a cushy bed with a sweet summer-tainted breeze and a happier puppy. The meds are working and so is the "safe room" where he/we can hang out without banging into anything. Nice thing about that is now it will be easier to pull the rug up once I have the time to redo the floor. Good on ya'.
There is a little article that came out in the paper today that explains a little bit about what is going on in the international adoption scene....Living: Slowdowns in International Adoption Leave Some Waiting for Baby
Colleen-3 tail wags, Me-still ZERO.
We had a rough night. Not much sleep for either of us. His surgery went fine and he is coming back into his goofy, Squishy self. But today is looking brighter and we have had a nice little walk over to the vet to pick up the meds they forgot to give Squishy. And coffee for me...this is good. It's a beautiful morning. I am staring at a bucketload of report card and assessment work to do this weekend and I really want to work in the flower garden....I shall manage both somehow. Last night's Book group was full of insight, contrasts, and surprises-as usual-and then I had some sister time and a wee glass of a deep pinot grig with strawberries to round out the evening. Getting ready for drugs for me--my headache won't go away and it the kind of headache that portents an "explosion" (aka migraine) because what is happening inside is not in alignment with what is happening outside....love this body...keeps me on the truth straight and narrow..guess that is the sweet price for ignoring and stuffing what the EMR Inside Me wanted and needed and didn't get acknowledged and now that "We' are clear and there, we have a built in radar system...which was there all the time but ignored.....so anywhoooo, what this comes down to is that I was given first grade for next year. Which is what my practical, holding pattern for right now and what the mortgage wants, but it is not what my Spirit, Heart, and Bigger Self wants and NEEDS. And it's all asking--how long do we have to wait for this thing now...again....and I am making the decisions that will work for all of this...and this body-rebellion thing can just deal with it. It's like learning and growing the boundary skills--one step at a time and a few fall-downs inbetween.
So, Cedar and I will have a quiet weekend with work and rest and a recital. Time to go outside into the sunshine and see if he will finally pee...His appetite isn't hurting at all. The "scan" shows his energy isn't all there and his spirit is depressed. Feeling the guilt over that....