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How full you ask? Let me tell you ...

I have an observation coming up next week - nothing too out of the ordinary, newbie teacher after all. Nevermind that despite 8 years of teaching, I still get giddy - yes, giddy - about observations, because at my last Place of Employment I was observed ... well ... not a lot.

At all.

I guess that's just what happens when you're the sole go-to-gal in your field at a school. No one else is quite sure what to do with you.

At any rate, I am to be observed, in a relatively non-traditional setting. But still, I'm excited. This is, after all, my new school. I'm still feeling good about it. The crazy days here still remind me of Every Day there. So, I'm digging it.

I do firmly believe that observations are a good thing. Ideally, they foster your strengths and help you identify and ultimately eliminate your weaknesses. I won't go into the situations where observations are used for non-kosher purposes, that's not the point of this post.

(Also, I'm still making the userpic for that kind of post, lest we forget this blog is still in transitioning mode.)

I am to be observed and so I spent a good chunk of my weekend polishing my game. Not only that, I had a submission due. A new chapter for my dear writing group. So Saturday was spent reformatting my lesson plan for the type of lesson I'm teaching (because I can) and adding paragraphs to my chapter.

Every once in awhile I'd click the "check mail" button to see if anyone else from the writing group had submitted yet.

They had not.

And I was wondering how *I* was so on the ball that my next submission might even withstand an initial round of polishing before I sent it to be critiqued. And not a single submission from ANYone. HaHa!

I had *even* busted my minimum page requirement. I would've settled for 8 pages, but I was now well on my way to 12.

And then it happened. I looked at the clock. And because that's how my mind works, I started counting back the hours when I'd have to start the turkey a-brining. Each time I tripped over Wednesday.

Thusly, it hit me.

No, dear. No writing group this week.

Because, dear, it's Thanksgiving week.

So I stopped writing then and there, and went to watch giant, amphibian xeno-cephalopods ransack Central America on television.

Happy Thanksgiving week at school, dear Teachers! I know I'll be thankful for the short week!

Cheers and Good Night!


Coming up . . .
  • Thoughts on WIDA - just when you thought you'd memorized the MELA-O . . .
  • Wikispaces
  • Prezi
  • Teacher Workgroups
. . . not necessarily in that order . . .

State of the Bean

So here we are, oodles of weeks later, a year older, none the wiser.

I have been thinking about my dear blogs lately.

It has occurred to me: focus? It's a good thing. For me, at any rate, I'm not entirely certain what it will do for you, dear readers.

Truth is, I love to write, opine, and blather. But this lack of focus thing has been a bit of a hindrance.

And I'm not just talking about my blog.

But that's a story for another time. Possibly for another blog.

At any rate.

The time, as the walrus said, has come and the point is this:

I am many things. For the sake of this blog, I am a writer and a teacher. In this blog you will find those two professions more intertwined than before. I will speak more of school issues, I will recommend books with a keener focus towards the classroom. The links I share will be directly connected to classroom needs.

I will continue to post about My Life as Writer and my day job and how one affects the other.

That, then, is that. Tell your friends. Tell your writer friends. Tell your teacher friends. Tell your writing teacher friends. Even tell your teaching writer friends. Just tell your friends. Here's another resource. Another kindred spirit.


Your ARC shows up on ebay:

For posterity's sake, I have taken a screen shot of it. To wit:

Kirsty"s ARC, as it appeared August 6, 2011

I am Exceptionally Excited about this book as Kirsty is one of the fabulous Gripers I regularly meet with to write and workshop stories. I read this story when it was still in its infancy, all marked up with line-edits and comments, through numerous plot-changes and different endings and I have to tell you, I was at the edge of my seat with every reading.

Kirsty has a special knack with her narratives - no doubt informed by her experience writing plays for children's theater back when she was in the UK - by setting a pace that is as relentless as the undead mob in her story. Regardless of time restrictions or any responsibilities I may have needed to be well-rested and alert for the next day, once I started reading her story - EVERY SINGLE TIME - I got sucked into it and could not put it down.

This story is about teenagers, zombies and the remote, wintry highlands of Scotland. If you are a zombie fan, you probably have a pretty good idea of what happens. I mean c'mon. It's a zombie story, right?

srsly. Just look at the cover!

But as you begin to read the story of a re-displaced Bobby (back in the UK after too much time in the US with her weird-science parents), good-for-trouble Smitty, class queen-of-mean Alice and nerd-boy Pete you see that you're not just stuck with a bunch of stock-characters and horror-tropes. Kirsty sets the stage with them, sure, but as the story unfolds, so do the characters and this, I believe, is part of the secret of her fast-paced plotting success. The setting takes shape. The characters grow on you. They become real and you worry for them at every icy hairpin turn on the road. Your hopes for their rescue will be in turns crushed and rekindled and you will continue to plod along with Bobby, because behind you They are coming and you just have to find out if a fortified bunker with food for years and zombie-seeking, automatic guillotines is lurking behind the next page. Because you just need to hold out long enough. Help is coming. Right?

So grab a copy of UNDEAD - available in the UK September 2011 through Chicken House and through Scholastic here in the US - and check out Kirsty. You can find her on facebook and twitter and her website is here with all sorts of ringing endorsements from people with Big Names.

CHECK IT OUT! Undead is a fabulous YA zombie romp, but I'm quite certain the zombie-reading adults out there will enjoy this as well.

Mischief to be managed ...

For the evening's entertainment ...

  • A classic Chinese Mah Jongg set shall be purchased (to assist in the internet-less week at Moosehead Lake, Annda Flynn, I'm looking at you!)

  • Southwestern egg rolls for appetizers followed by popcorn as an entree (there's veggies and other nutritious-looking stuff in the eggrolls, don't look at me in that tone of voice)

  • And finally, for the grand finale: Harry Potter 7.2 in 3D at the IMAX cinema in Reading. Jordan's we love you and your obsession in delivering the best possible theater experience imaginable.

And now with more of the aufgekätchen

Which - according to Bill - is German for "catch up."

Do not believe even for an instant that his clever use of German prefixes and suffixes will provide you with any semblance of actual German. Though it is quite possible that a German will point and laugh at you, say, "Ja, ja! Nicht schlecht!" and then proceed to speak to you in their infinitely superior English.

Another post about the trip to Virginia. I have a food gush or two that I've been meaning to catch up on, but I'm going to put them all here. Because, well, things to see, stuff to do, etc. etc. etc.

I'd made a rule for this trip. One that we - foodies all - really had no problems with, namely: no national chains, preferably no regional chains, no familiar places, and they had to be in D.C. Of course that last factor had to be modified, for reasons I'd mentioned before . . .

The first mention is more for sentimental reasons - Sunday night Bill, J and I descended on dear Suze who - with an utterly demolished ankle and in the midst of a move of all things - was in want of good food and good company.

Aside the 1st: A long, long time ago, back when I was an undergrad at GMU, the girls and I would frequent The Connaught Place in Fairfax. It was the hallowed grounds of my first experience with Indian food. They knew us well. So well that when some of us came in, they'd ask about the rest of us. So much, that they always brought out extra papadam without us even needing to ask. Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. Where they bring you mango lassis. And papadam.

Aside the 2nd: A couple of years after I moved north, The Connaught Place closed. Not just closed, but demolished. It was a sad day.

Suze sent us off to Rangoli for take-out, a trendy Indian restaurant just around the corner from where she used to live, because she knows that in our house the top ranking foods - in no particular order - are breakfast, Indian and Thanksgiving. And she was down with that.

Dude. They totally saw me coming. :'-)
also, that is papadam, fyi

And so yeah. Because of that terrible Tuesday, we didn't get to have a single meal in D.C. Not one. Well, that's not entirely true. We did have lunch with my brother and the fam at the National Zoo. Which does actually hit every one of the criteria, though it wasn't necessarily what we had in mind. However, since we have a massive list of touron reasons to come back down *anyway* nevermind visits with everyone who is still in the area, I'm not overly hung up on that.

But! We did go to a fabulous little place in Olde Towne Alexandria. I was determined to have crab cakes and fried green tomatoes and sweet tea until it came out my ears or until I was rushed to the hospital with a sudden onset of diabetes. As Meatloaf swears, two outta three ain't bad and man, The Majestic Cafe knows how to do some fried green tomatoes! Apparently they change their FGT recipe with the season, so clearly we're going to have to go back.

Herbed goat cheese, beets, ramps and a mushroom-red wine reduction.

Additionally they served up a totally posh Steak Tartar (which - to my taste - had a bit too much Tartar and not enough steak in it) but it was properly garnished with cornichons and bitty slices of house-made pumpernickel, and a really good ... fish. I don't remember what it was. It was white, it was Mediterranean and THEY SERVED IT WHOLE FTW!!! The waiter was sweet and kept asking me if they should take the head and tail out for me back in the kitchen.

Aside the 3rd: I can totally clean up a fish.

Aside the 4th: They brought out a FISH KNIFE. I did a little dance. Bill looked at me quizzically and asked why they'd brought me a butter knife. I snobbed at him and informed him that though it may look like a butter knife on steroids, it was in fact a fish knife.

It is totally possible that this place scored major sweet points with me based solely on accouterments. Because their mint juleps?


ChLA or weed?

Hm. That didn't come out quite right.

The question is whether I should take the time to post (at long last!!!) about the conference, or to go out and weed the front flower bed. It has *just* rained, you see, and it is not forecast to rain for a while, so this might be ideal for pulling out stubborn stuff. Although, it might be altogether too squishy right now.

guess what won out?

It's still too squishy.

Alas, ChLA it is.

The trip to the conference was a long one and it almost didn"t happen.Collapse )

The trip down contained more stops at Waffle House than I can count including a small stop in Scranton, Pennsylvania for 30,000 pounds of bananas. I don't have the words, so I'll let Harry do the honors.

Also, it now is a foursquare check-in.

And the conference? It was a great success. This year's ChLA included a creative strand involving panels of writers who spoke on all manner of writerly topics. The writers ranged from prolifically published to pre-published and our particular panel was titled "Teachers as Writers." Not only did we have a decent turn-out, we had animated discussion and engaged questioning. Bill was there, with specific instructions to surreptitiously fire off a professional-looking picture of yours truly, however at any of the opportunities that presented themselves, he was fully engrossed with his kindle and George R.R. Martin. And so the only photograph of my panel that I can give you is this one here:

There is a beetle in my bird feeder.

It's one of those plastic deals with suction cups that you mount on your window so your cats can run into the glass and scare the birds away.

This beetle is one of the rare New England bird-eating beetles. It has cleverly disguised itself as bird-food under heaps of millet, corn, sunflower and other crunchy bits after having thoroughly scouted the perimeter of the plexi-glass feeder and crawled around the seeds before having settled on the corner that works most in his favor as camouflage.

This must be so because certainly this beetle wouldn't be scrabbling frantically about the slick, see-through container in an attempt to climb out to freedom, or burrow its way down through the seeds in a vain attempt to tunnel its way out.

Because really, if it is trying to find a way out, I'm a little hesitant to poke a stick in and fish the little guy out. But I'm thinking that maybe it doesn't deserve my help. If it *is* truly trying to escape by climbing and digging, I think it deserves to suffer for its stupidity, as it has apparently completely and tee-totally forgotten that it has WINGS and it can FLY its way out.

So, bug? You need to hurry. The bird buffet has been hanging for over a day now and those robins and starlings have been eying this new installation to their yard with great interest. And you, my dear dim-witted insect, would only serve to up the popularity of the neighborhood's latest aviary dining establishment. Which, btw, does not increase my incentive to pluck you out of your plastic prison. Just so you know.
Tuesday had The Terribles.

It was Day 5 of the Virginia trip - Day 3 since we met up with J - and just about everything that could go wrong, went wrong.

A quick check via the wonders of internet banking showed a mess of red numbers where there ought to have been nothing but black. A follow-up phone-call confirmed this. Every single charge we'd made to the account this weekend had hit not once, but twice. It was a mess, our new friend the banker confirmed, but it was a mess that was being looked into, and that should be resolved soon.


Soon for us and the who-knows-how-many-other customers suffering the same fate?

What in the world are we to do with soon, when we don't have nearly enough cash for a proper breakfast? Nevermind all the sight seeing and museum hopping we had intended on doing that day. Granted, it being D.C. we could museum hop to our hearts' content, the Smithsonian museums are free after all.

But what if this bank issue isn't resolved? What if it carries on into the next day? What if it affects the paychecks that are supposed to hit the next day?

Well, we still have some small funds in the various accounts and lo! - we discover a Starbucks card that has enough for breakfast for all of us, and so off we go to feast on coffee and sweet tea and morning breads and pastries at Starbucks. And also to take care of that last niggling chore that had the worst timing in the world. The bit that would be the icing on the cake.

A prescription, see? It needed filling. However, the refill window was thus that when we left the Boston area it was too soon for it to be filled and, well, Tuesday was to be the day when we lackadaisically drove about and saw things and surely there'd be a CVS where we could have the thing filled. Right? Well. "Or something."

The same shopping center that contained the Starbucks where we broke fast also had a CVS. "How convenient!" we thought collectively, and one of us probably made the mistake in thinking that the day had *some* good in it after all or that *all* things weren't so bad. Do you see where this is going?

We walked up to the counter and the pharmacist was quite helpful, "of course we can have it transferred, certainly we'll let your home-CVS know, there will be no problem with your insurance ... hmmm ..."


Guess what?

Apparently the insurance company was under cosmic assault as well. Hordes and hordes of members were unable to get any scrips filled, at all. But it should all be resolved soon.

It seems we'd heard that before. No?

Well, said the pharmacist, they said 4PM, but I don't see that happening. At 5PM, she said, I'll try again and then call you.

Worst case scenario, we'd buy a couple of doses until we could make it home.

But now our tin-foil caps are clanging in full gear - is there a virtual hack-attack going on? Are terrorists accessing our medical records to traumatize us into submission by drawing mustachios on our bloated organs and tweeting them for all the world to see? Is Wall Street being devoured by a real-life Godzilla, spawned from the shallow waters off Japan's coast as a result of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster? AhhhHa! Just a silly old monster movie, eh? Could never happen, hmm?

And so our day of wandering about D.C. and trying out fabulous restaurants and sending my foursquare points spiraling through the roof turned into a long day of lounging by the pool, reading in the sunny courtyard and napping contentedly.

Oh, I know right? How horrible.

Sprawled in the lovely sun, catching up on my George R. R. Martin, just before I turned into a lobster, I got up off my sun chair (I had just properly thawed from the Massachusetts cold) and found Bill waiting by the door to the pool, as if he'd noticed I was about to turn into a lobster. He cocked his head at me and pointed at my shoulder. There was a white speck of something. It might have been congealed sunblock.

But no.

Nothing as innocent as that.

Rather, it was a blessing from the skies.

In a manner of speaking.

A bird had crapped on my shoulder.

It had stealth-pooed.

I had not notice it drop at all.

However: it may well have been what saved the day!

In brief succession thereafter: Bill checked our bank accounts and all was once again well, CVS called and informed us the scrip was ready and we found a parking spot just around the corner from the restaurant we'd made reservations for and didn't get caught in the rain. And oh, did it look ominous!

And the food? The food, it was so good. Let me tell you about the food. But that is a post for another time.

Good night all, and it was good to see those I saw, and I am sad I did not see all you others.

It was a good trip.


The short post: We are home

We bee-lined it home.

In the sense that bees don't travel in straight lines - which is to say, we stopped frequently for food and other important stops.

But we are finally home.

Over the next couple days I intend to post about the following, not necessarily in the order given, or even in the combination listed:

  • ChLA

  • good people and good places

  • a food gush or two

  • how a little bird saved the day. though I'm not entirely certain said bird was little.

On our return trip, we compiled a list of things to do and places to eat that are about five Virginia/DC/Maryland/WV worth of things to do.

We are home, the house is still standing, the kitties have neither maimed nor killed each other and the garden needs only a smidgen of attention more than it did before we left for points south.

All is well.
Of course. With a post, though perhaps not so much a post as a listing, of sorts.

Things I am procrastinating from:

Figuring out how much I have to pack up at work.
Packing for our Flying Trip to Virginia.
Outlining talking points for the ChLA panel -> note to self: bring business cards!
Putting package(s!) and papers to send off in an unforgetful spot.

Then there are the other things I need to do:

Feed, water and et ceterae the cat.
Water plants.
Not forget to meet with Gripers tomorrow.
Call brother and aunts to plan visits for Flying Trip to Virginia.

What I am procrastinating with (aside from this post):

The garden in front is a massive work in progress. Though perhaps not so massive, as just, ongoing. Since last year I'd been in more of a "wait and see what comes up" mode than a "dig and plant mode" - with the one exception of the spring bulbs - the front has become quite overrun with all sorts of unpleasant grasses and other kinds of weeds.

In an effort to make the front look a bit more like our neighbor Bob's garden (minus the flowing, tiered bird fountain) and a bit less like an urban jungle, I've been sectioning off bits of yard from which I yanked the tall weeds and hoed up the short ones. Granted the sections aren't nearly as neat and angular as anything dear Suze might dig out of a French Silk Pie or an archaeological dig, but at the end of the day there were flowers planted in lieu of weeds. Yes, there's a story there, though one for another time.

My mother's comment? "I think you need me."

This weekend Bill and I set up a raised garden bed. We bought two kits so we could stack them, and a lot of dirt. A LOT of dirt. Peat, poo and potting soil. The three Ps of Planting, as we don't currently have worms. Not a one. After an afternoon's worth of digging and leveling and dumping of dirt, Bill set up the trellises in the back of the bed and stepped aside for me to plant the tomatoes that were waiting a touch impatiently in their peat pots on the front porch. Together with three tomato plants I also planted basil - but no cow, it wouldn't hold still - and some parsley. When Bill returned and viewed the finished product he was pleased. Until he noticed the number of tomato plants in the bed. And recalled the many tomato plants still on the porch. Annnd of course all the work he just put into moving a ton of dirt. For three tomato plants. And the parsley? Well, the parsley was just insult to injury at that point. And there was no explaining that one was a high yield plant and well, tomatoes need room to grow.

new home to three tomato plants

Bill has also helped me set up our rain barrels. They are the height of style. Everyone who comes by while on their evening stroll - and there are surprisingly many - ask about them. Only one person stopped to ask what the "FSM" symbol on the back of our car that looked like a Darwin fish was. These rain barrels are not your average rain barrel made of old trashcans or other such recycled materials (well, they may be, but they don't look like it), rather they are made to look like massive terracotta pots. There's even a bitty indent on the top of it where you can plant flowers. Behind the indent is the filtered opening where rainwater from the downspout pours into.

Easier to grow, as apparently generations upon generations of New Englanders have demonstrated, as evidenced by what was left behind, are rocks. Because the front has a bit of an incline, I'm adding a bitty retaining wall. A row of decorative bricks is slowly extending in my not-wholly-conquered garden. If I would stop buying flowers for a moment, I might have an evening where I could continue the wall-let, but for now I want to get stuff in the ground to make it look colorful and pretty and to distract from the mess around it.

But who's to say procrastination never taught you anything?

Things I have learned:

How to properly deadhead marigolds
Gardening is good exercise.
African Violets do not like direct sun
African Violets have an international discussion group.
Pothos plants are surprisingly hardy. Shockingly even.
I hate poison ivy more than I hate mosquito bites. Ask me how much I hate mosquito bites.
More about worms than I ever thought was possible. (I have been forbidden from establishing a worm farm. before I ever even asked!)


That is it. No great epiphanies to share. No pithy observations. Just a run down/catch up post of recent events. And really, that's not even half of it. But that's a story for another time.

Alas, have a great summer and do please attempt to stay in one piece.

Cheers all,



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