Twenty-Seventh Slice: Sad Staff Development

I went to a training today.  I got a few neat ideas and learned a few things but the training had more than a few problems.

The training was on a new package of technologies my school district is implementing.  The district only offered the training to technology teachers and librarians, and only the first few of us to respond to the email invitation were granted a place.  In other words, it was a group of early adopters.

The trainer had been informed about who was coming but she hadn’t really put it together that 1) we would already know at least the basics of the products , and 2) that we would catch on to how things worked pretty quickly.

At lunch time, I spoke to someone from the central office.  He asked me what I thought.

“I’m glad it has picked up a little–the first hour was…” I wasn’t sure what to say.

“You wanted to go outside and blow your brains out?”  Central Office Guy said.  

Um, yeah, pretty much.

The trainer just kept explaining everything in really heavy detail.  She would then tell us to do the task that she’d just explained, not realizing that we had had time to do it while she was talking about it.

Members of the group asked more than a few questions to which she didn’t know the answer.   They weren’t gotcha questions; they were legitimate things we need to know to perform our roles in the school.  When she didn’t know the answer to a question, either someone else would raise their hand and answer it, or people would start talking about the question and presenting possible solutions.  

I felt a little bad for the trainer.   Even though she claimed to have tweaked it some, the presentation was not appropriate for the group being trained, and the trainer did not have the skills to adjust it on the fly.  

Some of the people in he group started to talk amongst themselves.  Some of them were at least talking about the products, but some of them were not.  At one point someone got real excited about Mo Willems fabric.

On the other hand, I’m sure the trainer was being well compensated.  She should have been better prepared and better able to adapt.

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Twenty-Sixth Slice:  True Things About Today

1) I arrived at school at 7:20.  There was a student waiting to use the library.   I let her follow me in, ten minutes before the official opening time, and she seemed unduly surprised and pleased.

2) Two other students helped me set up a section of the library for the March Madness Mini Hoops Shooting Contest in the library at 8:15.

3) Throwing a ping pong ball through a small hoop is much harder than it looks.  The winner of the contest made ten baskets in thirty seconds.  Most contestants scored zero to two.

4) A student checked out a book I book talked.   The class only has a few students in it, and it is a class for students who need additional help with reading.  I am trying especially hard to get them to read nonfiction.  I’m always happy when one of them wants to check something out.  It was the memoir by Cleveland kidnapping survivor Michelle Knight.

5) I book talked a book on D-Day.  For yesterday’s classes I used an atlas but I forgot it for the class today and didn’t want to stop the class to run and get it so I modeled Europe with my hand.  No one wanted that book.

6) Yet again, we did not start the inventory.

7) The guidance department had a huge career fair.  The CIA was the most popular table.

8) I described myself as a word person to another teacher and he thought I was talking about Microsoft Word.  

9) I stopped at the new Aldi and found it to be like grocery shopping in another country.   I got a free reusable shopping bag and bought a lot of off-brand food for $35.

10) I am grateful for Naproxen.  The headache I had when I started this post is just about gone.

Twenty-Fifth Slice: Not That Young

Ed and I were married almost two years ago.  During his homily at out wedding the priest said, “You’re young, but you’re not that young.”

The line got a laugh, but it punctuated the point he was making about our maturity and the depth of our commitment to each other.  On our wedding day, we were just two months shy of the tenth anniversary of the day we met.

We met in July of 2003.  I had just finished library school in May, and had been in Spain and Portugal for over two months.

I didn’t go to graduation. I turned in my last assignment and then boarded a flight to Madrid later that same day.  Graduation was something like three weeks after that last assignment was due, and my sister and I hadn’t wanted to delay our trip that long.  She, I, and our father walked a medieval pilgrimage route from the French border to Santiago.  We went to visit my Aunt Mary outside Lisbon at the end of the trip.

One of my former roommates, Rosa, was from Spain, and we had kept in touch by email.  She said that I should come visit her after the hike was over, so I had bought a return ticket with a date a few weeks later than my father and sister.  But then I guess she changed her mind, or something happened in her life that she didn’t want to share, because as the trip drew nearer, she stopped responding to my email.

I had figured I would just stay with my Aunt Mary until it was time to go home.  My Aunt Mary–God rest her soul–was not an easy person to get along with.  I took her on a trip to the north of Portugal.   We had to change trains in Porto.  The train was scheduled to leave from a platform on the lower level of the station.  She did not like the platform from which our train would leave and decided to go back upstairs.  When I refused to leave, she took off without me.

“We’re going to miss our train!” I said, chasing her up the escalator.

She ignored me.  I continued to argue as she walked down the platform.

“I’ll ask these nice men”, she said signaling to two uniformed train employees.  She spoke to them in Portuguese.  I held out our tickets.

One of them answered her, and she turned to me, and said in English, “He says we can wait up here.”

“No!” said the second employee in English.  “You have to go back downstairs.”

They escorted us back downstairs and we managed to board the train.  I could fill pages about my Aunt Mary–I could fill pages about the things that happened on the trip.  Heck, I could fill pages about the things that she did that day–but I won’t.

I could not stay with Mary until it was time to go home.  My father had cagily told her that my ticket home from Madrid was earlier than it was–he said, “Trust me, you can always tell her that you changed it to stay longer.  But I don’t think you will.”

Aunt Mary had moved to Lisbon when I was five.  Before I stayed with her for those few weeks, I did not know her very well.  The day before the date my father had told her I was to fly back to the U.S., I went to Madrid.

My sister had bought my ticket with frequent flyer miles and had given it to me as a graduation gift.  There was no way I could change the ticket.  I had ten days to kill in Madrid.

Not such a bad fate, but I was about out of money.  I camped out in a youth hostel.  At not quite 28, I was by far the oldest person in the facility.  I was also still keeping the peregrino schedule–up before dawn, in bed before dark.  Not only was I the only person in the hostel keeping those hours, I may have been the only person doing so in the happening nightlife capital of  Madrid.

Mary was a night owl and a late sleeper, and getting up super early had allowed me a few hours peace every day.  I knew in Madrid I should try to stay up later and get up later, but my body just wasn’t willing to make the switch.

I took walks.  I went back to the Prado.  I found a used bookstore that had a few English books and I sat in parks and cafes and read.   It was pleasant in many ways, but I was broke, lonely and ready to go home.

When we planned the trip, I had expected that I would have a job lined up before we left. That didn’t happen.  I had been offered a position, but didn’t take it right away, and then someone transferred into it.   I spent more time on the walk than I would have liked hunting for internet access and phones so I could let principals know that even though I might be in a rural part of Spain without access to email or a transatlantic phone for a few days, I was still very interested in coming to their schools.  I did a preliminary phone interview with one school from my Aunt Mary’s house in Lisbon, and another from a phone booth in a small town in the north of Portugal while she and I were traveling together.

Unexpectedly, before I left Portugal, I was offered the job for which I interviewed in the phone booth.  It was in the school district in the town where I had gone to library school.  The lease on the apartment I had lived in before the trip had a lease that expired at the end of the month. My roommates had other plans.  I called the leasing office to see if I could extend the lease, and they said it already been rented.

Finding a place to live for the upcoming academic year can be difficult in a college town in the spring.   In July, panic sets in.   Because of my financial situation, I needed a place that came with housemates.  The first place I called, a man answered the phone.  He had such a creepy vibe that I didn’t want to go see the room, much less move in with him.

The young woman who answered the phone at the second place seemed friendly enough, but when I went to look at the place, I discovered she and her housemates to be serious marijuana proponents.    To move in, I’d have to be cool.  I wasn’t.

Next I looked at room in a subdivided house in a great neighborhood.  For $450, I’d have one bedroom with a lock on the door, and I’d share a bathroom with strangers I would not have the opportunity to meet before signing the lease.  No kitchen access.

$450 may not seem like much to you, but I thought it was outrageous.  I had paid $304 for my room in the previous apartment, and there I was allowed to use the kitchen.  But I was running out of options.

I looked at one more place.  The guy who had answered the phone seemed nice, and the house was in a great location.  It was in serious disrepair I realized as Christopher gave me the tour, but it had great bones.  I could live there for a year.  My room would be $330, and that included use of the kitchen.

We went into the kitchen and he pulled a pie out of the oven.   I said I was interested.  He told me the deposit was $300.

Another housemate burst into the back door, sweating profusely from a long run.  Christopher introduced him as Ed.  Ed nodded and got some water.

In my head, I realized I had two problems with laying down that deposit right then and there.  One, I had left my checkbook at my parents’ house.  Two, I only had $290 in the bank.

I mentioned the first issue only.  I said I would mail him a check within a day, and would they hold the place for me?

Christopher started to agree, but Ed cut him off.

“Absolutely not!” he said, slamming down his water bottle.

“Can I give you cash?” I asked.

“Sure,” they said in unison.

I could only withdraw $275 dollars from the ATM.  I had to borrow the other $25 from my about-to-be-former roommate.

Ed and Christopher will acknowledge that they didn’t have many potential candidates coming to look at the room, but Ed maintains, and Christopher now agrees with him, that making me pony up the cash was the right thing to do.

Almost ten years later, Ed and I would be married in that same town where I had left my checkbook.  Christopher would be the best man.

I gave Ed’s parents a picture frame engraved with a sentimental saying.  Ed’s mother said, “That is so sweet.”  She paused and looked at me hard.  “You do know what you are getting into, don’t you?”

I may not have known what I was getting into when Ed burst through that door, but I had a pretty good idea when I walked down the aisle.  When we met, we were young.  When we married, we were not that young.

Twenty-Fourth Slice: Loitering

After I left school today, I drove to the public library to drop off some library card applications.  The public library is working with us to get cards for the students.  There were two librarians from the public library at the school last week, speaking to ELL classes.  It is nice to see that the students are completing their applications and are eager to get library cards.

The public library is next to minuscule park.  The sign in front of the park reads, “Park closed at dark.  No alcohol or drugs.  No loitering.”

That last scentence confuses me every time I see it.  I think the park was designed as a place to linger outside.

I have considered that the sign might mean, “No loitering in the park after it closes at dark.”  But that’s not what the sign says.  It says, “Park closed at dark.  No alcohol or drugs.  No loitering.”  I am certain that alcohol and drugs are not allowed in the park whether it is day or night.  I have no reason to believe that the loitering prohibition is only in effect after the park closes.

Pretty much anything I could think of to do in that park could be considered loitering.  Sit on the bench a read the paper?  Loitering.  Stroll around the perimeter and talk to my friend?  Conspiracy to commit loitering.  Lie in the grass and enjoy the sun?  Loitering in extremis.

I understand that posting “No loitering” may give the Parks Department or the police or whomever more authority to sweep away likely drug dealers or pedophiles, but it also gives them the authority to sweep away anyone at all.  What are people supposed to do in such a small park–the shuttle run?

Twenty-Third Slice: Ed’s Birthday

Today was a frustrating day in a lot of ways. The things that happened are not exactly things I can blog about. The best part of today was that it was my wonderful husband’s birthday.

After school got out, I went to school administration and made a nice poster for a book display, slam dunk reads. Then, I went to a restaurant very near school administration and found Ed waiting for me.

I got fettuccine Alfredo with vegetables, and Ed had the crabcakes. For dessert, we shared a slice of Bailey’s Irish Cream cheese cake.  Ed’s favorite dessert is cheesecake, and I love Bailey’s so it was kind of the perfect dessert for us to share.

I went a little nuts buying gifts for Ed this year. Some of them were practical like wicking socks and an umbrella, and some of them were extravagant, like shaving soap and high-end headphones.  He seemed to like them all.

The best part of a tough day at work is having someone you love to come home to.

Twenty-Second Post: Appalachian Trail 

My in-laws left this morning.  Yesterday Ed and I took them to Harper’s Ferry.  My father -in-law said it was more interesting than he expected.

Harper’s Ferry, in addition to being the site of John Brown’s raid, is where the headquarters of the Appalachian Trail Conference is located.  I don’t know about the Appalachian Trail.  I’ve done some decent size hikes, but my longest one is only 550 miles, and that hike was substantially better supported than the AT–it was mostly hike from town to town, take a shower and sleep in a bed kind of hiking.  Mostly.  

Still, I played a game with myself, trying to see if I could tell who were the thru-hikers taking a day’s rest in Harper’s Ferry and who were the people just out for a short jaunt in and around the town.

I think there are facilities for showering and washing clothes for hikers in Harper’s Ferry, so I couldn’t identify them by their grime.   Everyone looked like  they’d showered recently and everyone had clean pants.  

The hikers would be wearing boots and not sneakers.  That disqualified a number of contestants easily.  They would also be wearing hiking pants and not jeans.   Probably a quarter of the people in and around the park were wearing jeans with hiking boots.  Jeans are ill suited for serious hiking: they chafe, are heavy and take forever to dry.  I think even Bill Bryson knew that.

Finally, the thru-hikers would have walked over a thousand miles by the time they reached Harper’s Ferry.  They would be nimble and trim.

Of the hundreds of people I saw in Harper’s Ferry, I believe six of them could have been thru-hikers.   As much as I would like to be nimble and trim, as much as I enjoyed my past hikes, I know the Appalachian Trial is no place for the likes of me.

Twenty-First Slice: Chalk

Yesterday was another snow day.   My in-laws are in town, and my husband, Ed, had taken the day off work to spend time with them.

He was having a little trouble getting motivated to do anything. I don’t know what he had planned to do with his parents, but the snow, which had turned to rain by mid-morning, seemed to have ruined both his plans and his mood.

Ed lay in bed looking at his phone.  His parents were in the living room.  His father showed me videos of Ed’s little nieces on his iPad and his mother did Sudoku.  She told me that the book she was using came from Taiwan.  Her brother lives there, and you can get much harder Sudoku books in Taiwan than you can in the United States.  She has her brother send her his books after he is finished with them, and then she erases his answers.

After the topics of the grandchildren and Soduku were pretty much exhausted, I went back in the bedroom to see if I could rouse Ed.

“We could walk around the mall,” I suggested.  It was cold and rainy, but that would give us some exercise.

“Nah,” he said.

“What about a movie?”

This he was willing to consider, but he checked the listings of the theater closest to our apartment and found nothing he was willing to see.

“We could go to a different theater.”

“Nah.”

Around two o’clock, I decided I’d go to the grocery store.  With four people in the apartment, we were running low on a lot of things, and I needed to buy some things to fix dinner.  We’d had Italian food at the mall the night they arrived, and Ed had picked up Chinese food the night after that.  I figured I should cook for them at least once while they are in town.

I asked if anyone wanted anything from the store.  Ed’s mother asked if I could buy some more fruit.  His father wanted some Diet Coke.  I asked if Coke Zero was okay, and he said it didn’t matter.

Ed said he didn’t want anything, and then as I was making the list, he said, “Oh!  Could you buy me some chalk?”

“Chalk?”

“Yeah,” he said.  “I spilled olive oil on one of my shirts.  I read on Slate that if you put chalk on the stain, it will absorb the oil.”

At Wegmans, I picked up the fish and some squash for dinner.  I selected apples, clementines and bananas.  I put Coke Zero in the cart.

I went to the stationery aisle to look for the chalk.  It took me a minute to find it and it was in my hand before I realized that it was colored chalk.  I opened the box and peeked inside.  Not a single stick of white.

I hung the box back on the rack and scanned the area for white chalk.  None.

“Well,”  I thought.  “I can just nip into Target on the way home.”

I paid for the groceries, loaded up the car, and drove across the street to Target.  Really, I could have walked to Target, but I was worried about the groceries, particularly the fish.  The sun was out and I’d had to leave the groceries in the passenger compartment because my husband had forgotten a bag of garbage in the trunk.

The Target by Wegmans is not my usual Target.  I was on a mission, but I didn’t know where I was going.  Finally, I found the stationery aisle, and the place where the white chalk should have been, but they were out of white chalk.

I had passed the toy section earlier.  I decided to look there.  I found packages of sidewalk chalk–I found tie-die chalk and glitter chalk, but no white chalk.  I rummaged through the rack found a package of three fat sticks of white–but no!  It was glow-in-the-dark chalk.  It had a vaguely greenish tint.  I was sorely tempted to buy it, but I was afraid it would stain the shirt.

I found a Target associate and asked him where I would find needles and thread.

“C36,” he said almost immediately.  “Go up to those pillows and turn left.”

I was impressed.  As I sped past the pillows, I wondered if he had just made that up to get rid of me, but no, aisle C36 had a small sewing section.  The small sewing section offered sewing machine oil, but no sewing chalk.

I decided to go back to the stationery section and take a quick look through the clearance section.  I didn’t find any chalk but I did find two nice binders marked down from $5.00 to $1.48.

“You are on a chalk mission, ” I said to myself sternly.

“Yes,” I thought back.  “But we just ran out of binders in the library and students have been asking for them a lot lately.”

“Send them to guidance.” I told myself.

I was on my way out of the store when a package in the party section caught my eye.  It was an egg decorating kit, with black paint and four pieces of chalk.  One of them was white.

“Ah-ha!” I may have said out loud.

I picked up the kit.  It was three dollars.  Perhaps Mimi, my mother-in-law, and I could decorate some eggs.  But I loathe hard boiled eggs.  If we used hollowed out ones, we could paint them with the black paint, but surely they would break if we tried to draw on them with chalk.

I decided to look around the party section a little more, and lo-and-behold!  There was an entire section devoted to chalkboard party decorations.  I stepped over to it.  I found the white chalk.  I picked up a package.

Three dollars.

Three dollars for six pieces of white chalk.

Clearly Target assumes that people who decorate for parties with chalkboard are idiots.

It is safe to say that I had forgotten all about the groceries, the fifteen dollars of fresh fish, in the car.  I was just tired of looking at chalk.

If you buy this, you can go home,” I said to myself.

Just a few aisles over the listed price for a box of sixteen pieces of chalk was $1.72.

“That chalk is sold out,” I reminded myself.

I hesitated, and then decided to look one more place–the seasonal section.  You could put chalk in an Easter basket.

With the three-dollar chalk still  in my hand, I walked back there and looked around for a few minutes. Chalk!

It was the same assortment of tie-die, glitter and glow-in-the-dark chalk I had seen in the toy section.  But wait!  There was some Crayola chalk as well.  Darn!  It was the same box of colored chalk they had had at Wegmans.

I carefully looked through the Crayola chalk to make sure I had not overlooked a box of white.  On the bottom aisle, I found a box of sixteen fat pieces of sidewalk chalk.  One of them was white. I didn’t know what I would do with the additional fifteen pieces but I didn’t care.

“Wait,” I said to myself.  “This could be more than three dollars.”

I found a price check scanner.  Two teenage girls with a shopping cart slipped in front of me.  One of them picked up a teddy bear, fumbled around to find the barcode on the tag and scanned the it.  She considered the bear for a few seconds and put it back in the cart.  Her friend picked up another item, looked for the barcode, and scanned it.  She said something to her friend, who was rummaging through the cart for yet another item.

I looked around saw another scanner down the aisle.  I started walking towards it.

“Sorry!”  called the second girl.

“It’s okay.” I said as I walked away.  “Take your time.”  I hadn’t intended to sound nasty but I heard the irritation in my voice.

I scanned the chalk.  Normally $2.49.  On sale for $1.99.

I walked back up to the party section and replaced the three-dollar chalk.  I swung into the school supply section and picked up those binders for my students.   I felt guilty about being curt with the girls.

I went to the checkout.  My bill came to $5.25.  I had a five-dollar promotional gift card and dug a quarter out from the bottom of my purse.  Perfect.

I drove home and carried the chalk and the groceries up the steps to the apartment.  My asthma unexpectedly kicked in a little as I climbed the last few steps.   I put away the groceries and set the chalk on the counter.

Ed came over to the kitchen.

“Why’d you buy all this chalk?”