02 September 2020

Welcome, Baby SY2021

In the land of school data, years are always denoted by when they end. So while most people are thinking of September to June as the "2020 - 2021" school year (SY), I will continually be living with SY2021. I'm okay with that.

It's been three months since I posted here. The end of SY2020. Time has been such an odd concept over the last several months. June feels like forever ago, and yet it has not been a "Time flies when you're having fun!" sort of situation. I have a hard time accounting for my summer. Work never really ended. I had 10 non-contract days off in July, but had been asked not to take any vacation days this summer because it was anticipated there would so much work to do to carve a path for this year. While that didn't turn out to be the case until the last few weeks, it's still meant a summer at home in front of a screen. And the start of a school year in front of one, too.

I haven't gone back to the office in nearly six months. I drop in for an hour here or there to print needed documents or sign paperwork or tend to other business that can't be handled another way. Most of the people in my office have been there for the entire closure, having claimed they are "essential." I can't say that I necessarily agree with their assessment...as their explanations have more to do with family issues or a lack of self-discipline to actually work while at home...but I do not object to that. They have made their choice, just as I have made mine. The biggest stumbling block to my return is that the people in my office are unsafe. They decided that they don't have to wear masks or socially distance because they don't want to. Our boss is fine with all of this. For the two of us who have been home for months, we are not allowed to have even four hours of protected time a week to go in. I've asked several times to no avail. And yet, I am quite happy at home and have stopped pushing this issue.

The outside world feels like a dumpster fire in so many ways. But in my little space, I am safe and things are happening. I love my new schedule. I haven't set my alarm clock since March. I wake up naturally and am still at work at 6, per usual. I love knowing there is a pot of coffee downstairs. I love the view from my window...all the rhythms of the day, from the nurse who comes home from her overnight shift at 6:30 am, to the various joggers, to the afternoons with families out walking, and so on. I've watched the leafless trees turn green as the Spring came, and no doubt I will see all those leaves fall in the next several weeks. I've loved the lengthening of the days and now I am enjoying turning on the chandelier over my desk because the days are growing shorter. I love going out to my car and finding it tangled in cobwebs under the carport. I love walking to the post office at lunch or picking up my once-a-week takeout (Tuna Melt Thursday!). I love taking a break and being able to start the dishwasher or take out the trash. I love being able to make pancakes on a work day, just because I want them and I don't have to wait for the weekend to treat myself. I love having flexibility to make all the parts of my life work in a more harmonious way.

And I am rediscovering things, too. I like bbq potato chips. Haven't had them in years, but picked up a bag recently and it was such a treat. I've tried all sorts of ice creams. I've been working my way through my stash of cocktail napkins and party plates. Why not? And, oh, all the chances to go through my virtual recipe box and retry all sorts of comfort foods my previous self had loved. And all those hair and beauty products have been put to use, too. Not that anyone can see me, but why save them for that? I'm worth it. I've organized storage spaces and, after finally realizing that there is no interest in accommodating what I need to be brought back to the district office, I finally indulged in a makeover for the home one. With this task, I've gotten some old favourites out of storage to view and enjoy. A little electric fireplace is on order to keep the space warm while I work in the colder days to come. I feel like this pandemic has forced me to excavate some pieces of myself while I finely chisel others. I like this adventure...and I refuse to feel guilty about that.

None of us are the same people we were in February. We've seen some shit. I am extraordinarily privileged with the life I have: I have a job, I have money in the bank, I (mostly) have my health, and I have a safe place to live. I feel like the original uncertainty that was with me about...everything...held me back from seeing all the opportunities to experience and re-experience. But I am embracing them now. I am sorry that the people in my office won't go on this same journey. In their attempt to pretend things are "normal," they are missing the opportunity of a lifetime. To be sure, there are things I miss...like getting to sit in a bar and have a beer, go to brunch with friends, see a movie in a theatre, or not continually worry about catching a deadly virus just because I went to buy groceries. It's not enough to make me wish it all back. And maybe that's the bottom line: This isn't an either/or situation...it's a both/and. It's completely all right to miss some things from the pre-pandemic world, but to assume the Now has nothing to offer seems disgraceful and cowardly.

School will be different this year. That's okay. We will figure it out. Some families will disengage from school or find their own paths forward. This, too, is okay. I do not ascribe to any claim that students will "fall behind." Behind what or whom? We will reach and teach them where they are and move forward from there. Nothing is the same, and there is cause to grieve and feel anxious. There is also the chance to slow down or stop doing things because we've always done them a certain way. We can feel sad and we can build at the same time. There's space for both.

And so, Baby New Year, I can't even guess what you might have in store. But I am excited for your arrival just the same. I will try to stay open to all the lessons you might have to teach me. I hope I am ready. And, SY2020, thank you for proverbial hindsight. The world outside might be falling apart, but you were the year that made me whole.

06 June 2020

C is for...Change...Cookie...

A rainy Saturday in June means that I am going to spend the evening making cookies (I think it will be these, without the Frosty look).

But I suspect from this tweet from this day (full list here), that it is not the first time I've had a craving for mood-boosting treats:

There are 10 more days of "school" this year. They will be long and hard, and not in the more pleasant ways those particular adjectives can be used. I haven't talked to anyone who isn't exhausted...who isn't done with school (including families)...who is looking forward to summer. It's an odd combination. We all don't like what's happening now, but we also can't picture what's next and so there's no sense of anticipation that something good might be coming.

For now, cookies are going to have to fill the gap.

05 June 2020

Ashes to Ashes

My grandmother (Mayre) passed away at the end of May five years ago. She did so in the house that she and my grandfather built themselves, room by room, after WWII, on a piece of property that was two doors down from the house she grew up in (and her mother). My dad grew up in that house and it was the place I woke up every Christmas morning when I was growing up.

The last couple of years of her life, she had declined physically and mentally. At one point, one of her sisters (Betty) decided to move in to "help." Betty brought along her boyfriend who had oft been in prison, and a rotating collection of characters she picked up here and there. When my mother or I called, Mayre would sometimes tell us that she didn't know who was in the house, and more importantly, she didn't want them there. My mother had seen Mayre at Christmas, and the night she spent in the house was not a good one, with strange people hiding out of sight in the second story of the house and Betty trying to keep a lid on Mayre.

I had gone to visit in January of 2015. I went with the intention of trying to get Betty out of the house. You have to understand that Betty had established quite a pattern. After her second husband died, she refused to allow any of his children to have any of what he left behind...not the house, not the money, nothing. And when her older sister moved in after her very wealthy husband died, Betty also did her best to keep that man's sons from getting any of the estate (I don't think they were very successful). Betty also took the house of her second husband's mother. And mortgaged and lost her home that she had owned with her first husband. We don't know what she did with all the money she had, both in cash and what she got from selling the properties, but she was broke. And now she was after my grandmother. At one point, Betty had said to my mother, "I thought Mayre would have more money!" Nope. Just the house and my grandfather's tiny pension and some social security. And Betty would bring home all these stray people to stay in the house. Sigh.

So, I went to try and figure out how to get my grandmother to a safe place. And, dear reader, if there are any of you still reading this blog, I have to tell you that I failed. I hired an attorney. I took pictures. I got my grandmother to sign a release for her medical records and the doctor's office still refused to turn them over, saying my grandmother was just sad that her husband and son had died and there was nothing wrong with her (yes, she was sad...but there was still a lot wrong with her physical and mental health, too). We filed what paperwork we could, but to no avail. A few months later, Mayre was gone.

My mother and I went back to Kansas City a few days later, hence the Mustang in the picture from the tweet from this day (full list here). We went to try and retrieve some things from the house that we'd been promised by Mayre. But Betty had one more trick up her sleeve. When we walked in, she produced a document that she'd had Mayre sign (and someone notarize) that the house and all of its contents were hers. This was not Betty's first rodeo, remember? She'd taken a lot of property from a lot of people, and unfortunately, we were next. Betty did decide to let us have some small things...and some junk she'd pulled out of the attic. While my mother distracted her, I grabbed a variety of things and hid them out in the car. I ended up with a couple of piano player rolls, a book, some art glass, and some fabulous jewelry that we made Betty hand over.

I wish I could tell you it's the end of the story. It's not.

Just before Christmas 2018, I got a message through Facebook asking if I was Mayre's granddaughter. The person contacting me was a woman my age who, as a girl, had played with me when I would visit my grandmother. Her family had lived next door to my grandmother for years, and now her son lived in the house. She wanted me to know that my grandmother's house had burned a couple of months prior to that and was about to be razed. Betty had been living there with her collection of people, one of whom got mad at her one night and started a fire upstairs.

Betty had told the neighbor family that my mother and I were dead...that we had been killed in a car accident several years ago. She told other lies, too. There just seemed to be no bottom to it all. I reached out to my dad's cousin, the daughter of the another sister to Betty, who said that last she heard, Betty was homeless and living in some sort of shelter...but still trying to scam her last remaining sibling out of home and money.

My mother visited the address that Christmas. The house was in bad shape and unsafe to go into. She took a few photos. This past Christmas, it was just an empty lot. You'd never know there was a magical home there for decades and three very happy people who built every part of it and lived in it.

The whole thing has been awful.

I do, however, wear my grandmother's jewelry quite often. I had all of her crystal restrung and rebuilt into new pieces. I see those few items I was able to save from the house and smile. The big tree trunk you can see in the "after" photo above is the spot where all of the ashes from my grandfather, grandmother, and father are scattered. It's a black walnut tree, and yes, I have a walnut from it. So, it's not a total loss. Some things will live on. And I am not sad to think that Betty will not be one of them.

04 June 2020

Missed It By *That* Much

This tweet (full list from this date) turned out to be a lie.

Mind you, it wasn't at the time I posted it. It was the first time I had some exciting news at work in nearly a year. On June 30, 2013, the state legislature forgot to put the line in the budget that funded my job, as they were in too big of a hurry to end the session. The oversight pushed me into another job at the agency that kept a roof over my head (which I was grateful for), but was mostly soul-sucking. I looked for a way out all year.

I was already involved through the previous job with the statewide data coaching initiative and managed to keep a pulse on it through the long 2013 - 2014 school year. There was some funding that was going to be repurposed and it looked like there was a way to use it to build a new role for me. It was super-exciting.

And then...

A man in the agency decided he wanted the money for a personal agenda. And as the leadership was very much a boys club in which he already had entrance, he easily convinced the people who had promised me the work to forget all about it. Poof. It was not the first...or last...time I have been crushed by an entitled white dude.

If I'm being honest, I'm still angry about this particular instance. I still think there is a place for the work.

Both the man and I are gone from the agency. So is most of the old boys club that was there, although the new leadership is worse in many ways from what I see and hear. The biggest outcome for me, however, was that it pushed me into a job search that landed me where I am now. For the most part, that has been a really awesome thing. I don't have any regrets. It was the right move, all things considered. I still have a vision for my next one, just not the opportunity at the moment. I'm hoping that it will be available in another year. But then, I think we all hope many things look far different by this time next year.

03 June 2020

It's "Ms." Not "Miss"

Looking back on the experience that generated this tweet (full list from this date), I have a lot of treasured memories. At the time, not so much.

This happened when I was in Cincinnati to supervise the scoring of the Washington state science assessment. I know that sounds a little strange, but the scoring contractor had a base in Ohio. There was a building there with rooms and rooms of computer labs and both part-time and full-time staff that were trained to score items. They did the work for several states. Anyhoo, I had the "night shift," which went from 5:30 - 9:30 and was when all the high school items were scored. As the scoring supervisor, I had the final word on any decisions about scoring an individual student response. I would wander through all the rooms over the four hours and hang out with scorers, answer questions, review data, and so on.

It was actually a lot of fun. Part of this was being in the Eastern time zone with a Pacific time zone body clock. I would do some remote work in the morning, then leave my hotel room around 10 (local time) to do some sightseeing and have lunch before going to the scoring center. And after my shift was done, I'd go get ice cream and sit outside in the sticky summer night. My co-worker, who worked with the elementary and middle school items, had the day shift and was never able to get out and do anything during the day. For me, it was a bit of a busman's holiday...even though it really sucked to be away from home for two weeks.

Another bonus was the people there. One of the lead scorers and I became friends and stayed in touch over the years. She recently passed away from early onset Alzheimer's. But the scorers were fun. They had all kinds of questions about why students chose to write so many Chuck Norris jokes in the response boxes (they even gave me a Chuck Norris t-shirt as a going away gift), as well as why Washington students drew more penises on the tests than students in other states.

I don't miss the travel associated with my old job, even though it afforded some really unusual opportunities. I am quite content to have passed the Miss Washington crown onto someone else.

02 June 2020

June Is Busting Out All Over


This is the month when all the cray-cray comes out in a school district. People are tired and they have no more time or patience for this shit. And that's even without COVID or any stress brought on by the recent police violence and protests across the country.

It's only Tuesday, and I've already had to listen to a parent explain to me that her academically talented child deserves some smaller classes because the child will be able to contribute to society after graduation, "unlike those students with IEPs." There are registrars gone wild. And because I seem to be the only one who actively and loudly advocates for an equity lens, I have been assigned the task of putting together resources for people to learn more about engaging in anti-racist work. I don't mind the opportunity to elevate other voices, mind you, but it gets old that it always seems to be an afterthought for others. To be sure, I have no claim to leadership in this area. I am continually trying to do my own work on myself and to build a more just world, but I am not an expert. I will do my best, however, to help pull others along. I'm bracing myself for whatever Wednesday plans to bring.

In the meantime, I try to remind myself that I don't have to respond immediately to every email or phone call or text. It's okay to let things sit for an hour or overnight. Even if others think there's an emergency, the reality is that it's just school. We can fix things, if we don't get them quite right the first time. Right now, other things are more important, anyway. I am trying to fix myself. I am trying to do things to fix the system. None of it may happen as quickly as we would like, but we can strike back at these weeks that try to strike first.

This year, I am selecting a tweet from this date as a prompt to get back into blogging. You can see my full list of tweets posted on this day.

01 June 2020

And, We're Back. For Now.

After four months of blogging...and then a month off, guess what showed up in my feed this morning?

Woot-woot! The world is a literal dumpster fire right now, but at least one small thing is moving in the right direction. I will take what I can get. Just a reminder that my goal this year was to select a tweet from each day and write about it. So, okay, I've had to adjust my goal because Twitter was being a jerk for a month, but we'll keep poking along.

A quick recap of May: I passed the two-month mark of working from home, I watched 37 new-to-me movies, I spent time with various individual friends while distantly socializing, I deep-cleaned most of my house and had the windows professionally cleaned (on the outside), I planted a garden, I took a lot of walks in the sun, I made some new recipes, I supported local charities and causes, and I lost a lot of sleep over the continuing oppression and horrifying abuse (and murder) of Black people by police while redoubling my commitment to becoming more actively anti-racist.

I'll bet you've been busy, too.

In fact, when I searched through the list of tweets from this date, it's often been a day for busy-ness. I had a hard time selecting just one. But here's the winner:

Can I just say that I really miss kindergartners?

I have often thought of this particular kiddo and story over the last four years. What he said made so much sense. It explains 99% of the bad decisions I've made in my entire lifetime, and he already understood all of that by the age of five.

What I remember about the day this happened was that I was filling in for an elementary principal for an afternoon. And it was the craziest afternoon I have ever had while subbing as an administrator, including a fight between two parents after school. I think it took me a full hour after school was out to make all of the necessary phone calls and leave enough notes for the principal to decipher the next day.

All for a $5 gift card for coffee. I was so glad I set aside all of my work for the afternoon to cover for the principal. Anyway, at least I got a good story and a life lesson out of the deal.

04 May 2020

Please Stand By

So, after I bragged about posting every day for four straight months, I didn't post for a couple of days. But it's because I'm not getting a list of tweets anymore!

I did try to build my own search strings...to no avail. I am wondering if Twitter has done something behind the scenes that is affecting things. Anyhoo, based on the tweet above, it looks like the owner of the bot account is going to try and have things up and running again soon.

In the meantime...

(PS Raise your hand if you can hear the tone in your mind's ear that goes along with this picture.)

01 May 2020

Sure, I'm Decent

When I started this project on January 1, I was naive enough to believe that 2020 would be a relatively normal year. Got yer leap day, Summer Olympics, and US presidential election. There's some work, some play, some celebrations.

But by March 1, it was clear that this year was not going to follow the script.

And my May 1? I have to say that 2020 is like a suspense novel that I just can't put down so I can rest. (As if anyone is sleeping well at this point.) And I am continuing to soldier on with my efforts to select a tweet from a previous year for the current date (full list for today). So let's begin our fifth month and 122nd post, shall we?

Gilda is one of my all-time favourite films. Gotta be in the Top 5, at least. It stars Rita Hayworth as the titular character...and Glenn Ford (It's his birthday, today!) as the man who hates to love her. Although the two stars made several films together (and had an on-again, off-again relationship in real life), their chemistry never burns hotter than it does here.

It is not a film noir, but has elements of one. And the dialogue crackles. Here are a few of my favourite lines:

Gilda: They said that being married to Johnny Farrell was very like driving a car with no brakes.

Johnny: Statistics show that there are more women in the world than anything else. Except insects.

Gilda: If I'd been a ranch, they'd have named me The Bar None.

Johnny: Doesn't it bother you at all that you're married?
Gilda: What I want to know is, does it bother you?

Gilda: I always say there's something about Latin men. For one thing, they can dance. For another thing - what's your telephone? number?

It's sexy, even by 1946 standards, without being raunchy. Hayworth is smokin' hot in it. I've long said that if reincarnation is real, then I want to come back as Rita Hayworth. I was on a flight a few years ago and a pilot who was deadheading on it stopped to tell me that my hair looked like Rita Hayworth's. I think that is as close as I am ever going to get. But a girl can dream, can't she?

If you haven't seen this film, seek it out on your favourite streaming platform. You like to watch, don't you? :)

30 April 2020

Easier Said Than Done


I don't know what I asked or heard 11 years ago. I suspect it had something to do with an upcoming decision that I would have to make about the job I'd started the previous August. If you remember 2008 - 2009, there was a recession. I could tell that funding for my brand new shiny job was going to go away. I had some options within the agency I could take, but I also knew that my experience there over the previous nine months hadn't been a bed of roses. Maybe I wanted to look for a job in a school again. Or maybe something else.

I'm listening a lot this spring, too. I am not looking for a job or a major change, mind you. I think that what's happening out in the great wide world is enough to prompt reflection and a reminder that opportunity is always out there. I do have a dream deferred with my Data Lab idea...but I am still pondering how to breathe life into this, but in a different way. I think that if I just hold on for a year, there will be a lot of opportunities. I think the unfortunate economic consequences of the current pandemic will mean that there is a space for me down the road. I just need to be quiet and still and make an effort to listen closely.

This year, I am selecting a tweet from a list provided each day by On This Day as a prompt to get back into blogging.  You can see my full list of tweets posted on this day, or start seeing your own by following that account.

29 April 2020

Magnificent Obsession

Not a lot to share from today's date (full list of tweets). Maybe it's quarantine malaise or just the time of year. In previous years, this was always a low point because it's such a long stretch between spring break (first week of April) and Memorial Day. The days are longer and weather is more promising. There is a longer list of things I'd rather be doing outside the (home) office than inside of it.

And yet...here we are.


I've written plenty about Hemo in this space before. I may have stopped teaching, but I have not stopped loving it and what it represents. This would have been about the time of year that I would have shown it in my classes. I suspect that many teachers are grieving for all the things they won't get to share with students this year while they are instead forced to share this experience of a pandemic.

Hang in there.

28 April 2020

Socializing Distantly

A few days ago, I posted about about our local Arts Walk. It takes place on a Friday night and all day Saturday the last week in April and first week in October. This tweet (full list from today's date) references one of these events:


And while I'm still sad about not getting to display my work at Arts Walk this year, this tweet is also a reminder of something very good. This was the evening I reconnected with a former co-worker...and we've been friends ever since. In the Before, we'd meet for brunch a couple of times a month and it was good to have someone to share things with. He is the most "me" like person I've ever met. We're lifelong (for the most part) singletons...in our 50s...very independent...and tend to approach problems and issues similarly. It's fun to visit with him. In the Now, we've been getting together every weekend to take long walks and chat. We are the only people we see in person (apart from the occasional errand) and that connection feels really important. The very first week of the lockdown, we finished our walk and he asked, "Do you think we should risk a hug?" I thought it was okay...so we did...and he immediately exclaimed "Suicide pact!" So, yes, he's got a great sense of humor, too. Nothing romantic to report. It really is just walks and coffee and brunch. But it's lots of fun and I am grateful for every moment of it. And to think it all started with this tweet.

27 April 2020

It's All in the Feet

I know plenty of people who have discovered that if you give a toddler a camera that you end up with a lot of pictures of butts. Those are at eye level, after all. And once you remember that different view of the world, other things start to make more sense.


Shoes are very important to primary age students. I can't tell you the number of times I've gone to help with kindergarten lunch or a first grade class and kids look at my feet before they look at my face. And because this is often the sequence of things, you immediately see on their young faces that they have formed an opinion of you that may not be favourable. There's disappointment when they see boring footwear. (I suspect that fun socks would also be acceptable...but I don't wear them.)

I remember one of my education professors telling a story from when she had been a kindergarten teacher. She said she'd come to class one day and a student had noticed that she'd gotten her hair cut and looked different. She asked the kid, "How did you know it was still me?" He said, "Your shoes. They're the same boring brown ones." Shoes are as good as a name tag...at least when you're five. As we grow older, and more importantly, taller, our perspectives and what we notice and value change.

Since the lockdown, I've bought two new pairs of shoes (one is shown below). I have nowhere to wear them yet. But I will. There will be more kindergartners and I will do my best to make them all smile and know that I cared enough to bring my best feet for them to admire.

This year, I am selecting a tweet from a list provided each day by On This Day as a prompt to get back into blogging.  You can see my full list of tweets posted on this day, or start seeing your own by following that account.

26 April 2020

Death, Taxes, and Weeds


On one hand, I like to think of weeds as flowers that no one has learned to love yet...and, on the other, they are very hard to love. Their relentless invasion in my flower beds and now, in my garden, is a most unwelcome intrusion. I spent at least 90 minutes yesterday just tending to the raised garden beds in my back yard, as I intend to plant herbs and veggies this week...and there's plenty more in the front where the poppies and lavender are trying to pretty up the place.

In 2008, when I posted this tweet (full list from today's date here), I had more things I would rather have done with my time than pull weeds. This year, in the middle of the pandemic, there is something therapeutic about being in one's own space and tidying up. I am running out of deep cleaning chores for the inside of the house. I've reorganized the kitchen, pantry, and Costco cabinets. I've been through the closet and dresser. I've scrubbed the grout in the bathroom. (Yes, really.) Now that the days are growing longer and temps are warming up, it's time to plant myself, no pun intended, by different areas in the yard and see what I can do to tidy up a little more than usual. What are you taking on this spring to give yourself a break from all the screen time and clear out the brain fog?

25 April 2020

Into the Breach

I don't know where this was, exactly.


Nine years ago, I hadn't moved down to the capital city. So, I suspect I was either hanging out in the mint green kitchen that was always filled with light or napping with a pile of cats on my red velvet sofa. It might have meant I was reading a really good book or watching a favourite movie for the umpteenth time. Maybe I went to the local brewery for a late lunch of a salmon sandwich and the Bock beer they only made in the spring (it was always their best offering). I suppose I could have gone to the nursery and wandered through the warm greenhouses or by the pools of koi. It's possible I spent time with a friend, just catching up. All of these are good candidates. Many of them are the things I would identify now as options, but I have updated the list over the years, too. Now, with the pandemic, I'm still figuring out what my new Saturday routine and happy spots are. But today, I am grateful for time in the sun, morning coffee and breakfast tacos, and a clean kitchen.

This year, I am selecting a tweet from a list provided each day by On This Day as a prompt to get back into blogging.  You can see my full list of tweets posted on this day, or start seeing your own by following that account.

24 April 2020

You Snooze, You Lose

I used to take walks in the morning before work. The route around the lake is about 1.5 miles, which at my pace takes 30 minutes. I liked the peacefulness of the early morning walks. It was also nice to do something for myself before launching into the work day.

But this time of year, as the sun peeks above the horizon earlier and earlier, also gives the bonus of some amazing sunrises. I am quite fond of sunsets, mind you, but sunrises are a different kind of special. Maybe because so few people are up at that hour to enjoy them. They demand attention by appointment.


Since the shutdown, I've taken to walking different places at different times. When I need a Zoom break, I'll walk a few blocks in my neighbourhood or down to the post office. Sometimes I wait until the end of the day to wander through downtown and window gaze. But I will have to make a point to go in the early morning again to catch the colours and reflections and a bit of peace before the day launches. I don't know about you these days, but I could certainly do with a bit more of that.

This year, I am selecting a tweet from a list provided each day by On This Day as a prompt to get back into blogging.  You can see my full list of tweets posted on this day, or start seeing your own by following that account.

23 April 2020

Just Visiting

I've talked before about how I used to go out to our smallest districts. Most of these places didn't have much in way of services. We often stayed in motels that were 30 miles away...and that was the closest option. In these little towns, there was always a bar and a post office (and occasionally more). One of our favourite activities was to go to the bar for a little while. It gave us something to do, was often the only option for meals (such as they were), and it was helpful to get a sense of the local population. While we were not ever greeted with a standard line of "You're not from around here, are you?" There were always discreet inquiries that we politely answered. Sometimes, a conversation would start up after they learned we worked in education. Here is a sample of one of those from seven years ago:

Via list from this day

I clearly remember this guy and his backstory. The backstories were always important, because people chose to live in these very rural areas for a reason. Some were afraid of the government. Some had a past they were hoping to run away from. Some had been there for generations. But it was always good to hear what they shared. In these little places, the community is a much bigger part of school life than in larger areas. Part of this is simply because the school is the largest employer and has the most resources. But beyond that, the community never sees test scores (n size is too small) or other comparison measures. It wants what it wants and that always comes first. Some of the people we ran across in the bar had some...intriguing...opinions (see above), but mostly they taught us about the values and history of the place. I hope they are all weathering well in this current situation. Maybe our paths will cross again. I'd like to hear a few more stories.

22 April 2020

This Little Light of Mine

Not much to share from this date (full list of today's tweets), so I will share a picture from my most favourite annual event...which will not be happening this year:


I will write more about Arts Walk in another post, but it happens twice a year in our area. In the spring, there is a big parade where people dress up as their favourite living things. It's called the Procession of the Species (you can see last year's version online). But the first evening of the event, there is a lumnaria parade when the stores close down for the night. It's wholesome and beautiful and I am very much looking forward to seeing it next year.

21 April 2020


When I worked for the state, I telecommuted one or two days a week. It was a lovely way to break up the week and I got pretty good at arranging my time. I always had a list going of things I wanted to work on during work from home (WFH) days—projects that I could do sustained thinking with, because I knew there would be no phones ringing or other interruptions. And, it was easy enough to block out email, as needed. These were golden days.


There is no telecommuting in a school district. At least until now. I know that my more extroverted friends are struggling with being home all the time. I know that we miss some of our colleagues and students and routines. But the current shutdown has been really good for me. It's true, I have never previously had a WFH that lasted more than a day or two. I wasn't sure what it would be like full time. And it's true...it's impossible to keep a completely clear separation between work life and home life when your "office" is 20 paces from your bed. I admit that I've folded a load of laundry and cooked meals while watching online presentations, which is something I never do when I watch webinars at work. I haven't set my alarm clock in more than a month. And there are more days when I haven't worn a bra than when I have. However, the work is getting done. I do miss a few people and some of the conveniences of being in the office, but for the most part, I'd be happy to be stuck at home another six weeks.

This year, I am selecting a tweet from a list provided each day by On This Day as a prompt to get back into blogging.  You can see my full list of tweets posted on this day, or start seeing your own by following that account.

20 April 2020

The Invisible Woman

This is my sixth year in my current role, and this year marked the third time I sat across the table from two men in our top two leadership positions. I realized at some point during that conversation that this might well not be the last time. Meet the new patriarchy. (It's the same as the old patriarchy.)


At the beginning of my career, I didn't care so much about whether I was invisible. I grew up in west Texas, and while my parents might have raised me with more of a feminist mindset, the prevailing culture did not. I could tell tales of my first years on the job—the custodian who showed up drunk on my doorstep one night trying to force his way into the house, the counselor who kissed me in the middle of a conversation in his office, the assistant principal who liked to remind me that I was "all right...for a girl." Being invisible was safer.

Times have changed and I see and hear less about these sorts of behaviours. But it doesn't meant we've really become more inclusive and equitable. I think all of these attitudes are just simmering under the surface of what is viewed as being professional now. I also think I have become more attuned to when I am required by others to be mute and invisible. And it happens quite often. Not just as referenced in this tweet from three years ago (full list here), but within the last week. I am trying to be better about pointing these things out (sometimes, I'm even nice about it), not just for myself, but for others. I can tell you that these comments are very rarely welcome, but I don't care so much about that anymore. I can make an effort to create a better space for everyone...or I can be invisible.

19 April 2020

Happily Ever After


When I wrote this tweet 12 years ago (full list from this date here), I was at a critical transition point in my career and life. And while I didn't figure out the answer to those questions until a few months later, they are questions that return every once in awhile. The responses are always temporary because life is ever-changing, but it is nice to feel like I have it figured out at times.

The pandemic is creating a whole new game, however. Right here and now, I'm keeping the homefront going and I'm doing as much regular work as I can. I say "regular" because I would normally be knee-deep in state testing at this point. Instead, my attention has shifted into some other areas where we need support.

But I am also thinking about the future while the ground is shifting. Here and now, I need to focus on surviving. There is also opportunity for more, and I am starting to have more conversations about that. I like thinking about what's possible...maybe not right now...but in the After. 

18 April 2020

Existential Crisis #527

Everyone is making adjustments these days. Individuals, families, organizations, communities, all the way up. Some of these changes represent more immediate needs, while others are only showing their faces after a period of time. There are plenty of "How are we going to..." and "I didn't think about..." sentence starters at the moment. I suspect that addressing these, like some existential version of whack-a-mole, will happen for a long time to come.

Our district is not unlike many others which are wrestling with grading and reporting. What if students can't connect with us, due to lack of Internet or barriers? What if students won't connect with us, even though they could, because family obligations or just basic self-care are more important at the moment? What if we offer a Pass/Fail option for our high school kids—We know the NCAA doesn't like this...are we going to be hurting the futures of our students by putting Ps on transcripts? How are we going to use narrative comments at K - 5 to communicate with future teachers—Since families are doing a lot of instruction, do we add their feedback?

And on and on. When I saw my tweet from this date (full list here), it brought back to center what's important...and what's missing from our current conversations:


At some point, we are going to have a conversation about how we've done a shitty job of teaching most kids to love learning. I say this because the biggest arguments we seem to currently be having are centered around using grades as motivators. The questions I have been getting from other administrators are around students taking advantage of the system (in their opinion). What if a high school kid has a "D" in the course and chooses to take a Pass for the semester...they can pretty much be done with the class right now? Yup...and so what? It's possible that what is happening in a student's personal and home life needs to be the focus right now. It's also possible that there wasn't a love for learning in that area that was established or nurtured...and now, it's too late. If we didn't engage and develop a relationship with a kid before COVID, we aren't going to do that now.

It's the "So what?" that I keep turning over in my mind. Every high school, college, and university has students whose transcripts are going to be a big asterisk in terms of the spring of 2020 (and possibly beyond). We don't have the only high schools that will be sending students out into the world with fuzzy grades. It's all going to be okay. The world cares far more about whether you have a diploma than the actual grades reported. A high school transcript only matters until the next step, then your experience or college/university transcript takes precedence. These are not hills we need to die on now.

But I do think that as we think about the After that we're going to have to face this failure of ours to create a love of learning. Maybe everyone might not love Calculus, or PE, or Orchestra. That's okay. That's not the point. But if we see the student as an integral partner in shaping their path...when school becomes we do with them instead of to them...then distance will not be our enemy anymore.

17 April 2020

Future Work

I used to work in a cube farm. I'm not quite sure why it's called that. Oh, I understand the basic reference. I've lived it. But the term is a little bit like "children's museum," which implies that I should be able to see dioramas of children...rather than a museum designed for children. A cube farm does not produce cubes for sale, either.

But, I digress.

So, I was working in this cube farm. I did my best to make my space as comfortable as possible. I brought in a comfy chair and my favourite desk lamp. And lots of little knickknacks. There was a little window on one side with a view into the next cube, and I was able to put a little curtain across so I didn't have to look at the person in that one. But there are more senses than just vision. In the cube farm, you can't block out the smells and noises. You hear every single conversation, every phone ring, and every bit of music that isn't run through headphones. This can be amusing at times.


Now, I have a corner office with two windows that open to the outside and a door that closes. It is heavenly.

I do wonder what will happen with all of the open offices and cube farms in a post-COVID world. I can't imagine that as things start to restart, even in limited ways, that these open plans will be welcome. People might be six feet apart, but I can imagine that every cough and sneeze will be received far differently. Will employers be willing to risk lawsuits if workers become ill in these environments? Will workers be willing to sacrifice themselves for the company's bottom line? No doubt, some will...and many will have no choice. But I suspect we will see a transition in work environments. I don't think anyone will be sad to see the cube farms fade away.

This year, I am selecting a tweet from a list provided each day by On This Day as a prompt to get back into blogging.  You can see my full list of tweets posted on this day, or start seeing your own by following that account.

16 April 2020

Red in Tooth and Claw

It's one of those days where there's a dearth of interesting (or even semi-interesting) tweets from this date (full list here). So this one will have to suffice:


My friend has chickens. Her husband calls them his ladies. And they are much more like pets than anything. They come and knock at the door for treats and run after him to get into the coop each night. But yesterday, a bald eagle was hungry and nearly made off with one of their little flock. The ladies were quite traumatized, as you can imagine.

Not so different than the hawk who used to dive onto my patio to grab a little sparrow or finch now and then. It always made me feel terrible...like I had set the bait on purpose. Tennyson may have noted long ago that Nature is red in tooth and claw, but that doesn't make it any easier to see it in action. I've been squeamish about this since going to see Bambi when I was a small child.

However, I am glad to see the birds return at this time of year. I haven't stopped using a bird feeder or making sure the bird bath is full of fresh water. I might not be able to keep away the hawks, but I can do things to keep life moving forward.

15 April 2020

Insert Godzilla Noise Here

This year, there is no more state testing. I have to add the word "more" in there because we did quite a bit already. Not all of it is federally required, but there is usually some sort of window open and population of students that we're working with.

But this spring? My life will not look like this:


This tweet was from the very first year in my current job, and also the first year of Smarter Balanced testing. It was a big transition for everyone and I was swamped with new learning at all hours. It did get better, of course. And by now, things tend to run fairly smoothly. We'll see how we do next year after a two-year gap.

I suppose that there are some who are happy to see that state testing is set aside for the year. I am not one of those. I am not one who thinks the tests are good or bad, but I do think their results get abused. It's interesting to me how much of our system depends on these scores for various things, and their absence is starting to be noted as we make plans for the coming year.

Some people are worried about having students complete our district benchmarks at home. What if parents/siblings/Google helps kids? What if they don't try? What if the data aren't valid? Sure. All those things can and will happen. But school will be out for a long time, I think...and we are going to have to find ways to get over our trust issues. We can't learn about this if we don't try. I also think that this may well be the push we need to think about developing and using truly engaging and authentic assessments...something that should have happened long ago. If we provide students with work worth doing and that aligns with what they and we value, then that would be the best possible outcome.

But for now, Godzilla is slumbering and I will have to await his return. 

This year, I am selecting a tweet from a list provided each day by On This Day as a prompt to get back into blogging.  You can see my full list of tweets posted on this day, or start seeing your own by following that account.

14 April 2020

The Future Is Calling

I got my first cell phone in 1996, a couple of months after I moved to Washington. I had ended up getting a job about an hour from where I was living and the combination of the commute and being new to the entire area seemed like a good reason to test the waters.


This tweet would have marked the last time I didn't have a smart'ish phone. As I recall, this phone has been my very favourite out of all the ones I've had. I miss it, actually.

I have, since this tweet, learned to text message. (Full list of tweets from this date here.) Like Twitter, texting took me awhile to figure out a purpose for. I know that sounds odd in 2020 when we are so dependent on text messages for all sorts of reasons. But at the time, it didn't feel natural. 

I have to assume that if I'm still around in another 25 years that technology will have evolved even further. These days, I worry more about data privacy and surveillance than convenience or simple connection. There are times, recently, when I am a bit wistful for that 2008 phone and its lack of features. I suspect I will feel even more nostalgic for it in the coming weeks.

13 April 2020

Cookies? Whoopie!


I think cookies may well be my favourite treat. Cake is a close second and may occasionally hold the number one spot. I have never been a big fan of pies, cobblers, and their ilk.

The best time to make cookies is in the evening. There's something that makes them a little more fun when it's dark outside and something magical is happening in the oven. A warm cookie before bed makes for a sweet transition to dreamland.

It's a challenge to find some staples these days. I had to make three grocery shopping attempts just to find a bag of flour. I'm fortunate to have a co-worker who has lots of hens and I can pick up a dozen eggs nearly any day. Sugar and butter are also commodities in limited supply. But last week, I just needed the comfort of a cookie and "spent" some of these precious resources to get my fix.

Need to try something new? Here are a couple of recommendations. I love the peanut butter cookie recipe from the Magnolia Bakery, although instead of peanut butter chips, I throw in a mix of mini chocolate chips and mini peanut butter cups. Sometimes, I like to make a batch of sugar cookies to stash in the freezer. Bakerella may be famous for her cake pops, but I adore these soft sugar cookies. This is the recipe I made on Friday (and then shared with friends in Easter baskets I left on their doorsteps). And finally, one of the new recipes in my rotation is this one for salty sweet butter pecan cookies.

This year, I am selecting a tweet from a list provided each day by On This Day as a prompt to get back into blogging.  You can see my full list of tweets posted on this day, or start seeing your own by following that account.

12 April 2020

The Dirty Dozen

As of today, I've been on Twitter for 12 years. Here is last year's reminder (full list of today's tweets here):


Here was my very first tweet:


Assuming the numbers at the end of the URL refer to the chronological order, then at the time I started on this service, there were just over 3/4 of a billion tweets. And while that is a large number, the one from last year is 10 orders of magnitude larger. That's a lotta tweets floating around.

When I joined Twitter, I wasn't entirely sure what it was. At the time, it was most commonly referred to as a "microblogging" platform, but I haven't heard that term in a long time. I quickly fell in love with Twitter...whatever it may be. I enjoy the stream of consciousness that it becomes. I like the mix of people and organizations I follow. I like its whimsy, as well as its speed and sense of connection. I have met people there who have become friends in the real world...and I have friends from the real world who have joined Twitter and connected with me there, too. I am not one of those people who believes there is a right and wrong way to use it. I know some people are quite selective about only using it for "professional" connections, for example, but I can't keep the lines from blurring. My Twitter stream, my blog, my life is just all mixed together. I like it that way.