Monday, August 29, 2005

Stormy Weather and I am: Teacher

No way to tell yet how many have perished in this hurricane's path, Biloxi and Gulfport caught the worst of it again. They got the hammer blow of Camille and now, Katrina. This is going to be a mess that will take a long time to clean up.

There are a lot of Louisiana folk stayin' here in the Houston area for the duration. They are welcome and I heard on a talk radio show I listen to that most people here are thinking already about ways to help our sister states recover. 'Pup and I will be contributing to the Red Cross.

On a more personal note, we're still down to only two teachers for this Intensive English job...and I got to fill in for the other teacher again today. The money will be welcomed and tomorrow, unless a new teacher is hired this evening, I'll be teaching all day tomorrow, and Wednesday morning. The good news is that my student will be attending a computer class on Thursday, so I KNOW I'll have that day

I've noticed that the good man is calling me "Teacher" rather than my name. I know he knows my name, but I think I'm being complimented in a very respectful and profound way. I know it makes me smile. He said that when someone asked him a question the other day, he heard ME say the word he needed to answer.... lol....

I have a feeling I'm gonna be in that man's head for a long time. It's a very humbling thought, and I'm going to do my best to live up to the responsibility. When he returns to Africa, I want everyone he comes in contact with to know that Americans aren't all like the "celebrities" in the tabloids.

Some of us are even stranger.

Sunday, August 28, 2005


My husband dear, aka 'Pup, is watching the weather channel almost constantly. He hates storms and gets almost as antzy as our dog does during a thunderstorm. Speaking of which, we had a LULU of a storm around 11pm last night. Hard rain, wind and lightning followed by claps and rumbles of thunder. The dog was 40 pounds of quivering, panting and slobbering puppy. I knew the storm was about to get worse when he tried to climb under the pillows at the head of the bed. The lights and power flickered on and off for about 10 minutes before going out completely. We'd already had the flashlights on hand, as 'Pup believes in keeping them close to hand, near the bed. Which, come to think of it is probably the best place to keep them. Of course, we also have them in the bathrooms, the other 2 bedrooms, a couple in the dining room and at least one in the living room.

Did I ever mention? 'Pup once woke me up in the middle of the night (as I was sleeping soundly) to tell me that we were experiencing a thunderstorm... and oh, by the way, don't worry, it's dark because the power's out. Y'all. I was asleep. As in, my eyes were closed and my consciousness far away. Now, I MIGHT have woken up if it had been hot, and no airconditioning and I was sweaty. DARKNESS would not have bothered me much. Sigh, I do love the man.

We need to get the final stuff together for our hurricane kit. We've all the things, but some of them aren't in the box we got to keep it all together. Like most folks I suppose, we tend to react to proximate events.

I hope all in Southern Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama will come through well and safely. At this point, all who could evacuate have and all who would not or could not evacuate now have no choice but to hunker down and pray hard. All those who were not able to leave because they had no resources, transportation or because they are the people who have to stay to protect those who stayed behind, YOU I pray for, and hope that God keeps you in the palm of his hand.

Anyone who COULD have evacuated and chose to "party"????? I have NO sympathy for you. I hope you survive, wiser and able to help yourselves and anyone else around you, but I will be shedding no tears for you.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

New Foods

Another old picture, from D.C., taken from the steps of the Capitol building on the 4th of July, 2002. If you look closely, you will see an ocean of people!

This has been my week for "eating Asian". So far I've had Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai, Japanese and today was Korean. My chopstick handling skills got a workout this

The tutoring center I work for on Tues/Thurs evenings and Saturday morning is owned by a Korean woman. Today, she invited all the tutors there for lunch. I'd had a hair appointment scheduled, but I NEVER say no to free food. (Duh! can you tell!)

Now I will admit that this was the first time I'd had Korean food, and lunch today was in a VERY Korean restaurant. When I opened the menu and saw most of the items listed in Korean, I just smiled and told the center director (hearafter known as the Tutoring Boss Lady or TBL), that I would like her to suggest some things for me to try. There were seven of us at the table in all, four Korean and three non Korean. One of the teachers was fasting today, getting ready for a religious retreat this weekend, but the rest of us shared Korean grilled meats with a bunch of side dishes. I know I will not remember all the Korean names, so anyone who is familiar with Korean food, forgive me.

I learned that I like seaweed, pickled fish, radish, beansprouts, a kind of jelled starch with a spicy sauce on it, the red spicy paste one eats with the beef, the beef, and even kimchee, tho it was hotter than I would enjoy in large quanities. Not bad when eaten with rice. I didn't really care for the pickled zuchini, but everything else was pretty good. Well, must have been more than pretty good, as I seem to have eaten myself into a partial stupor, and after this blog I'm laying down for a nap!

I hope TBL asks us out again.

I've never understood people who wouldn't try new foods. I've had friends, some teachers and some not, that would NEVER eat anything unfamiliar. Too bad for them. Heeeehhheehh.. more for ME!

Keep well all who might read this!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

I'm Ready for Some Time OFF!

This is a picture I took a few years ago in D.C. I've been a bit too busy to take any new pictures, so I thought I'd post an old one I was fond of. Not too bad for an amateur, hey?

I am tired. Pooped. Drug home'n put up wet. I want that other teacher to be better tomorrow so I don't have to work Friday afternoon. LOL

Good news too, the Humoungus Oil Company (HOC) is giving us another Intesive English student. I don't know where this one is from, or how long or how many hours, but I think I've got a job for a bit. It occured to me, if I'd not been available to cover the hours, would the language company have gotten/kept the contract with the HOC?

Oh, the little mischievous one? His trick is/was to push button on the lock to "closed" and then shut the door. The little darlin' IS smart enough not to trap himself in the bathroom, he just thinks it's funny to lock it so no one can get in there. His dad had to take the door handle/lock apart to get the door open, and then put it back together. He didn't have a tool box, as he'd not had a chance to get one. I think he has one now.

And while I'm talking about the subject, I found out his language count is actually 5. But the kicker? The man can PARALLEL PARK!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Work is Good

A while back, I mentioned I got a job teaching an Angolan engineer at a Humoungus Oil Company in downtown Houston. He is a delightful man, intelligent and a very good and challenging student. He's also a very good man, good to his family and never says anything bad about anyone. He speaks 3 other languages (Portuguese, Russian, and the African dialect he grew up with) English being his 4th........5th if you count the fact that he can get by in Spanish as well.

I like him and am glad I've had the priviledge of being his teacher. This week, I'm helping him enroll his 20 year old daughter in intensive English classes at HCC (Houston Community College). His wife is already taking English courses at another school, paid for by the Oil Company she works for in Angola (the two of them met at work... very romantic), his 14 year old has already started High School, and his 3 year old son is in day care. The apartment building they live in has very few children, all of them much older than the 3 year old, and he needed some play buddies, and mom needed time to study.

My student says his son Well, actually the first word he used was "devilish"... but I convinced him a better word might be "mischievous". Although, after a story he told me last week, the first word might have been more accurate.

Did you know that you could take a bathroom door lock apart with just a bread knife and a pair of scissors?

Money, Money Money

Until this week, we had 5 teachers sharing the hours (all day 5 days a week). As of today, due to one getting "let go" for arguing with the Engineer and treating him disrespectfully (!!), complaining about hours and pay and methods and conditions and hey.. the boss lady didn't really care for her all that much anyway... where was I?

Oh yah. Another teacher is a grad student at one of the local universities and so teaches 2 courses and is no longer available.

Another teacher is the coordinator of this little shindig here in Houston for the boss lady (out in CA) and he teaches at a private school, runs his own language teaching school and is filling in for 2 other teachers at the private school (one had a death in the family and had to go to Spain, and one is undergoing chemo) AND he teaches 4 courses of his own..

Let's see..that's 1,2,3........ah!

Number 4 is ill this week, in the hospital due to a bad medication.

That leaves me. Which would be no problem, as I'd happily pick up all the hours, but uhhhmmmm... I'd found another job to supplement the hours I'd HAD... and now I've got two jobs. One the adult engineer, and the other a 3 hour an evening job at a tutoring service. The two jobs are about 20 miles apart, and neither is exactly close to home.

This is my schedule for the rest of this week: Wed. 8 am to 3 pm (downtown) 4 pm to 7 pm (tutoring) Thursday, 8 am to 5:30 pm (unless the other teacher recovers, then it's just 12 pm to 5:30 pm). Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm (again, unless the other teacher's recovered)

For the next 2 to 4 weeks... depending on whether or not another teacher is hired: Mon/Wed/Fri 12-5:30 (downtown), Tues/Thurs 8 to 12 or 1(downtown), and 4 to 7 (tutoring), Saturday 9 to 12 (tutoring).

I'm glad I invested in a calendar I can carry in my purse.

I'm thankful for the hours to work, as the money will be welcome. I'm just going to be a little tired.

Oh... almost forgot. Sometime during September, I'll be starting a prekinder tutoring program for the tutoring service. That'll be from 2 to 4 pm Tues and Thurs.

How many hours is that going to be?? Just a sec, I'll count it. This week: somewhere between 36 and 45 hours.

The four weeks after that: before the prekinder opens about 35 hours after prekinder opens about 39 hours.

October should be a lot easier. I may be down to only one job, the tutoring...and that'll be only 22 hours a week. Unless I get to continue with the engineer, who'll be allowed 4 hours a week continuing English lessons.

I like being busy, but I hope it rains hard sometime soon. My garden needs watering and I won't be home to water it until Sunday.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Memories and New Beginnings


The picture to the left isn't from my yard, nor was it taken in Texas. A couple of years ago, 'Pup and I went to Washington DC. We drove. Yah, I know, but flying wasn't an option. Long story, longer DRIVE. This beauty of a butterfly was at a rest stop in North Carolina. It just rested on the ground for several minutes while I took a bunch of pictures. I'd just gotten my digital camera, and I was still learning all of it's tricks. I was very glad the butterfly was patient enough to allow me to try a few of them.

The rest stop was also the place I took one of my favorite pictures. I think I took a pretty good compostion. What do you think?

I got to start my new tutoring job today. It was very nice to actually teach children, and not have to deal with behavioral issues. The kids were great, in fact, they were charming and smart and very motivated. I'm still learning the "proceedures"... there are some homework checking, notebook fixing and daily report forms to fill out, but the paperwork is nothing compared to a classroom.

'Pup (aka the Hubby) met me at a nearby grocery store, Sandy's, for lunch after the tutoring gig. Yah, a grocery store, but not your average chain grocer. This one has been open for years, 'Pup says it used to have an onsite bakery that sold lots of bread. The bakery is gone, but they must have an offsite kitchen, or a nice kitchen in the back as they still sell some specialty breads, pastries and such. They also have some very nice produce. Never a lot of variety, but what's there is seasonal, fresh, wonderful quality and very reasonably priced. They also sell a lot of organic flours, nuts, cereals and about a fourth of the store is vitamins and supplements. They also have a HUGE selection of fresh and dried herbs, spices, teas and coffees.

The really unique part of the store is the fact that, scattered amoung the melons and 'taters and 'maters are tables with chairs. In one corner of the store there are two buffet lines set up. The store serves lunch, and has serves a "Tea" in the afternoons. The food is always freshly prepared from produce they sell, leans a bit to the vegetarian/vegan/healthy side, but is tasty. They even have a hot tea cart that travels between the tables and you can sample your choice of herbal, black or green teas.

It was a nice lunch and I hope we do it again. I may become addicted to the teas.

I saw one of the weirdest things on the way home the other day. I was waiting at the light, and through the intersection came a car. Under it's front bumper was wedged a box. The car went through the intersection and drove into a gas station. The driver got out, unwedged the box from under his car and started to lift it. From the way he lifted, it looked to be rather heavy. About then, a big o'l pickup truck (y'all, this is Texas, the HOME of big trucks and this one was BIG) drove up to the car. The driver of the truck hopped out and a discussion between the two drivers began. The car's driver seemed a little reluctant to give up the box he'd so carefully pushed (for who know's how long!), but the big ol' truck came equipped with a big ol' driver, so it seemed the reluctance was overcome very quickly. The big ol' driver picked up the box, put it into the bed of his big ol' truck and off he went.

I hate it when I only see part of the story! I want answers. I want to know how the box got under the car, what was in the box, and how long was it under the bumper! And there's very little chance I'll ever be able to find out...........ahhh well. I did say I liked mystery. Okay... but I like ANSWERS best.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

A Possible Suspect...Perhaps

Remember this little guy? Well, all the research I've done suggests that he is a black swallowtail. The other caterpillars that I saw ALSO look like larva identified as from the black swallowtail. Problem is, they don't really match. Sigh.

Of course, the websites also say that these butterflies will overwinter before emerging. Yet, the earlier larva have already emerged, all but one. I think I may collect the one remaining chrysalis and try to collect this little guy and just see what and when everything comes out.

The larva I saw earlier were lighter green, and more definitely green, with lighter dark bands. But they looked enough like this picture that they'd pass.

Ahh mystery... I love you!

Monday, August 15, 2005

Captured this little critter on my fennel plants. Not a problem, as I'd left them in the ground hoping I'd get some butterflies. So far, I count 2 chrysalis' that I can FIND.. and 5 empty ones, so I'd say I've done my part to promote biodiversity. If this little feller hatched out of the egg I saw a butterfly laying, he'll turn out to be a large, dark winged butterfly (black I think) with wings edged in white dots on the bottom and graced with a large deep blue spot in the middle of the lower quadrants of it's wings. I've tried to look it up, but haven't found what I saw on the plant yet. Happy, happy! Posted by Picasa

Saturday, August 13, 2005


Today is my husband's 54th birthday, and the 6th anniversary of first time we had dinner together, meeting for the first time face to face. You see, we "met" on the internet. GASP.. yes... WE are one of those strange couples who found, not danger, but TRUE LOVE on the computer.

Happy Birthday dear. Oh, this picture was taken a little over 5 years ago, when I was 40, and he was 49.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Garden Update

The front yard is growing. This is lemon grass. I stuck this here not having a CLUE how large it was going to get. It's pretty, and some day, I'm going to use some of it for SOMETHING.

A close up of the bush the hummingbirds like a lot. I almost got a picture of one, but it flew away and didn't want to come back. And, as it was hotter'n Hades, I wasn't going to wait it out. I was afraid for a time that this bush had died in the "great snow" of 2004... (we got less than an inch, par for Sahara Flats, but everyone south of us got up to 8 inches of fluffy white stuff)

A close up of the rose bush. This bush sure does produce some pretty flowers. I cut this bush back hard about 2 weeks plus ago and have been rewarded well.

A wider view of the bush.

Portulaca, volunteering in the summer heat. Since this picture was taken, even more have started to bloom in different colors.

Back yard. This ivy had been left behind in my classroom after Christmas. The teachers who'd promised to water it did.....sometimes. It's made a wonderful comeback.

My miniature rose is doing well. A lot better than I'd expect, as I've been ignoring it. I fed it earlier this summer with a slow release fertilizer and it seems to have been working.

The hibiscus is still blooming nicely. I'm going to have to cut it back hard this fall though, as it's getting very leggy.

I finally got the miniature water lilly to bloom. I think it's done so about three times, but the bloom seems to last only a day, and I've missed it.

The morning glory vines are threatening to take over the side yard. Sr. Medina will have to be very firm with them. Update: he was. Unfortunately, he or one of his sons broke one of the irrigation heads on my system. I have a couple spares, but I'm going to have to figure out a way to unscrew the broken part.

These vines are literally 4o feet long. And growing. Fast.

This is one of the seed heads of the clematis. They're very slow to mature, but I'm going to sow the seeds and hope the vines grow even more. I've ammended the box they're now planted in with a LOT of half composted mulch. Next spring will be a very flowery one I hope.

This ivy is rooted in the ground. It's made it about 4 feet up the fence, and this is how large the leaves are getting.

The canna in the corner are blooming again. I've been feeding them with fish emulsion. It smells like a dock at low tide sometimes, but it's been good for the grass too. These are in a half barrel.

Mexican Doves, aka White Wing Doves at the feeder.

Female finch. I think of a purple finch. There is a male that visits too, but he's harder to catch with the camera.

MALES. They're so ..........flighty.


Some prayers are answered sooner than others. I got a part time job today, and part of the job involves helping the director of the tutoring center buy the furniture and STUFF needed for a

This is good.

Monday, August 08, 2005

School Starts This Week

This is the first time in 20 years (literally) that I've not been involved with setting up a classroom. That fact is making me feel........odd. I go to Wal**art and see all the school supplies and stuff and for the first time, I'm not buying large amounts of supplies to augment the supplies that the children would bring....eventually. And the supplies were never enough for the whole year. SO, I usually ended up buying and stashing extra glue, scissors, crayons, folders (OH lots of folders), construction paper, and usually ended up buying watercolors, paintbrushes, playdough, and anything that looked as if it might be interesting to use for projects, art centers, things to enhance book reports or science projects, material to decorate the room with, scissors with interesting blades, stencils, wipe off books, and dry erase markers, markers to color with, pencils---ohhhh LOTS of pencils, pencil sharpeners (both electric for me and manual for the kids) erasers, pencil tops, stickers, interesting looking paper, pads, and pointers... Five years ago, it came as quite a shock to my new husband to learn just how much of all the stuff in a teachers classroom comes out of her own pocket. I told him before hand. I really did. Though, to be honest I may have under represented slightly, so as not to scare him unduly. 'Cause I liked him, and didn't want him to run screaming away, clutching his wallet. Luckily, I underestimated him, even more than he'd underestimated the amount of money I was going to be pumping into my classroom.

Let's see........... ahh..... boxes and baskets to organize tasks for learning stations, books and tapes for the listening station, books for the reading station, boxes to organize my other supplies, baskets and boxes for the children to keep supplies organized (well, every year, I tried, I really TRIED), tags for their tables/desks to identify where they sat, and how to spell their whole name ( I taught very young kids sometimes).... Ah.. chalkboards and chalk (small individual ones and large sidewalk chalk. Bubbles, for rewards, and I haunted the dollar stores during the summer and fall and all during the school year for cheap, but desirable rewards for good behavior. Oh, you think I should not have had to reward good behavior routinely. Think again. Sometimes, it felt as if I had to reward some children for not hitting, cheating, stealing or forgetting to do their homework. So I made SURE I rewarded the children who did not hit, cheat, steal or forget their homework as a routine as well. It got expensive.

In past years, when I taught Pre-kindergarten, I also shopped during the summer for children's clothing, in a range of sizes that I could expect to find in my classes. I always pounced on old backpacks, jackets, sweaters and even shoes. You qualified for Pre-K in the district I taught in because of low income or speaking a language other than English.

A couple/few years back, teachers started getting a $250.00 tax break on their income tax. I usually spent about $350.00 in August. But every little bit helped.

I hope to go back to teaching again. I loved working with the children and there is NOTHING, and I do mean NOTHING that can give a person a "rush" like looking into a child's eyes and watching "the light come on". When that child makes the connection you tried to build for him, and makes it his and then extends it...well...there is no alcohol, drug or extreme sport that could possibly make you feel more elation than that.

The pictures posted here are of last year's classroom. I have more, that show the whole room, but they have children in them, and it is against the law (and quite rightly so) for me to post their pictures on the internet without their parent's permission.

I am fervently praying that it won't be the last classroom I'm allowed to put together. I just have to convince a school district next year that having a teacher on campus who walks with a cane and who doesn't walk very fast at all even with the cane, is a good thing. We're encouraged to promote diversity, right? long as that "diversity " can pick up 45 pounds. At least, that was the stand the last school district I worked for took.