Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Would You Like Fries With That?

It is Lent so I am trying to focus on that thing called discipline. I am not one of those who gives up Coke only to be the first in line at the soda machine after the Easter Vigil or one who gives up chocolate and then runs to the store on Easter morning to buy a bunch of chocolate rabbits 50% off. What's the point? I do, however, believe that Lent is a time to take on some discipline that you really intend to keep after all the jelly beans have been eaten and all the eggs, yes ALL, have been found. This includes the one that you forget where it was hidden until the aroma said, "Remember me? Here I am."

I am choosing to be truly aware of what I eat. I am not on a diet, I am simply trying to make healthy choices. We are seven days into Lent and I am doing OK.

Today was a hectic day. One that involved no real lunchtime. We decided to run through McDonald's while on the go. Despite the Supersize Me documentary, it is possible to make wise choices there. What gets most of us in trouble is french fries. My first thought was to order a HAPPY MEAL - a small hamburger, a few fries - that should make me happy. (It is a "happy" meal. Isn't it?) Second thought: Do I need those fries at all? We all know the answer was "not really". For a brief moment, I decided to skip the fries. Then BK suggested that we split an order. I remember thinking that I had just told myself that I did not need them but my mouth said, "Sure, sharing sounds good." We placed our order.

The window attendant handed us our sack. I waited to open it until we were safely cruising at 55-60 mph. I distributed sandwiches and then, the sack was empty. No fries. My conscience had relocated to the person filling orders at McDonald's. All that energy I expended debating myself about should I or should I not have fries with my cheeseburger was wasted. I had no control over the situation. What a relief!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Last Word

It is funny the paths that cross in this life. And, it is amazing the lessons that are learned at these intersections. Never underestimate the potential for every minute of every day.

Yesterday BK and I attended the memorial service for a friend who recently lost his battle with prostate cancer. It was an awesome service - probably because he was an amazing human being.

We met Ike at the cancer center while he was receiving chemo for his cancer and I was receiving IV iron to treat anemia cause by lupus. How did we become friends? He was a democrat and here in Texas, we democrats have to stick together! We began by sharing jokes and then more serious conversations about politics and religion ensued. Ike was a Presbyterian minister who served our local college campuses. I knew he was a pistol when he ordered in Chinese food to the chemo room. I wondered how that would go over with those who were dealing with nausea! Simply stated, Ike was a character. He is one of those people that words can not adequately describe - you just have to meet him. Sadly, the opportunity for that has passed.

I feel incredibly lucky and blessed to have had the chance to know him. Once he decided to stop treatment and I was going to the cancer center less frequently, our meetings relocated to Barnes and Noble. Everybody there knew and loved him. We shared many hours of engaging conversation and many cups of coffee. We certainly spent a great deal of time discussing the woes of society. I think much of this time was prayer at its best. And, while the majority of our recent conversation focused on dying, I learned from Ike what it really means to live and love life to its fullest.

He was always one to have the last word. Not in a triumphant sort of way but in a way where you were left thinking - thinking about what you could and should do. Looking back, this is the best kind of learning. I often tell my own students that if you leave my class thinking you know all the answers then I have failed as a teacher. It is questions that further learning. This method seems also to be one that Ike believed in.

Ike had the last word at his service as well. When I opened the service leaflet, there were no surprises. Ike had orchestrated every word that was said - down to telling the person who did the eulogy what topics he wanted covered. He loved music. In fact, he loved to rub in the fact that he had three Ipods. So, it was no surprise that he chose every note that was sung - including the Beatles "Let It Be". Every time I hear this tune from now on I will think of Ike. He chose or wrote all the prayers that were said. As the service concluded, his daughter's cell phone rang. Ike's wife Barbara jokingly said that it was Ike calling to check in. I would not be surprised . . .

I learned about life from Ike and I learned about death. He embraced both with joy and grace. I pray that I can do the same.

Rest in peace and rise in glory my dear brother.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Strangest Yarn I Have Ever Seen!

As the end of the week neared, I decided to go by Yarn and Stitches and buy three skeins of Noro Kureyon to make Blacksheep Bags Booga Bag. I taught until 1 and had several hours before picking up children from school at 4. Life changed in those three short hours!

On the way from school to the shop, Alissa called and said they had found a puppy. And you are telling me this because . . .? Of course, she needs a home. But I don't need another dog.

We got to the shop and saw this little tiny thing whining and crying because she had been out in the 20 degree weather. She was smaller than the wads of dog and cat hair that I sweep from my kitchen floor. Being the sucker that I am, I held her. She stopped crying. The consensus was that this was a sign that I should take her home. The rest is history.

My calm three hours turned into a trip to Petsmart to buy all that a new puppy needs. In this case, the shopping involved buying sweaters because this dog is so small she really needs one. Betty Kay allowed as that she could not get one done, even a pint-sized one made in the next few hours.

The girls were thrilled to see her when we picked them at school and the puppy was equally happy to have several people to keep her warm. The only questions now was how big brother, Adidas the 65 pound lab, would take to a baby sister.

Once Adidas realized that she was not a new squeaky toy, things pro ceded well. He is learning how to play with her, sharing his tennis ball, chewing small pieces of the rawhide bones (though she wants the big piece), and teaching her the ways of dog life at our house.

A trip to the vet yesterday to make sure she was OK having been out in the cold, shots, and maybe some insight as to what kind of dog she is went well except for the kind of dog part. The staff thought she might be a Carin terrier or schnauzer mix. There was no consensus. They best they could do was "damn cute puppy"!

So, meet HARLEY

Some number of weeks old (we will know better when teeth start falling out) and some kind of dog. She weighs 4 pounds.

I did buy the Noro that I went for, but have not begun knitting. Maybe I should knit a dog sweater from one of those cool new books of knits for dogs. Or, if I go ahead and knit the bag I inyended to make, she will probably fit in it - at least for a little while!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Oh D#/*! to Valentine's Day

It seems like Christmas has barely passed and here comes Saint Valentine's Day. It has sneaked up on me. I don't know why that it. It is not like Valentine's Day is a movable feast like Easter (which occurs on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox). Do you know where your Easter Bunny is?

Valentine's Day is one of those "holidays" that really does not need to happen. How many people really want to celebrate this day? Most of us are running around saying "Oh D#/*! I have not gotten the obligatory card and gift." Secretly everyone is wondering how much trouble they will be in if they ignore the day completely or maybe just wait until tomorrow when everything is 50% off. The sad truth is that most of us can't really get away with that.

I am not really sexist, but Valentine's Day shopping is so much simpler for men. The stores put those big cellophane-wrapped, heart-shaped boxes of candy at the front of the store so you can get in and out relatively painlessly (unless you wait to shop on your way home from work). The grocery stores erect those big flower tents in the parking lot. It is almost drive-thru service. "I'd like a dozen roses and a cafe mocha with an extra shot, please." Those with a little more guts may venture into the mall to the closest jewelry counter. For those who choose NONE OF THE ABOVE. There is, "I thought I would take you out for a nice dinner." Okay girls, which option would you prefer?

Chocolate is always nice but face it, how many nasty pieces come in those heart boxes? And, once you have eaten it and the caramel nougat is resting comfortably on your hips, what is he going to say?

Then there are the flowers. "I brought you flowers as a token of my undying love." Let's see . . .even if I remember to water them, they will be dead in a week or so. Is that how long love lasts?

Jewelry is okay if you dress up alot. I am not sure what kind of jewelry accessorizes jeans and T-shirts. I guess the nice lady at the counter will help him choose a piece that I am sure she will love.

If we opt for the dinner out, surely he made reservations. No? "I must tell you, sir, the wait will be 3 hours and 45 minutes."

"Oh. Can you recommend some place else that may have a shorter wait?"

"I hear that Burger King around the corner has no waiting - and you get a free crown."

The question of what to give a guy still remains. Where are all those marketing gimmicks when we need them? Do men want chocolate, flowers or jewelry?

The crown. That's it!

In all seriousness. How should we show someone that we love them? Nice music, a cup of good coffee, a little peace and quiet. Maybe the best gift is to tell them that you don't need a gift at all . . .and mean it.

Happy Valentine's Day to all.

And by the way, Easter is April 8th.

Monday, February 12, 2007

This Is Only A Test

The first test of a semester is always an eye-opener - for the students and me! Today was the day. The test covered basic form in music - phrase, binary, ternary , and incipient ternary. We have spent nearly a month looking at examples. The test was open note and, well, I thought relatively easy. My perception was rocked when a student said, "Do you actually take the test before you give it to us?" I think that translates to "Do you even know the answers to these questions? My response to that is, "Sometimes."

Society has done a great disservice to the process of education. I believe we have lost sight of what going to school is really for. If asked the question, "Why do we go to school?", most would reply, "To learn, of course." To learn, of course. But the next question is, "to learn what?" Standardized testing has demanded that the answer to the latter question be basic facts, basic facts, and more basic facts. The real respone should be that we, as educators, should be teaching students how to learn and how to think. Useful skills - what a concept!

Back to today's test . . .I do always have AN answer to the questions I pose on tests; but I do not always have THE answer. When I tell students that I am not looking for one particular answer to a question, they have no idea how to respond.
"Tell me what YOU think."
"But what if that is not right!"
"Tell me why you think what you think."
"But what if that is not right?"

Learning is about process. It is about looking at the world and making observations and connections. We do not all see the same things. That is how we learn. All those math teachers that said to me over the years, "Show your work.", thank you! I realize that what I am asking my students to do is show me your work; make me see what you see. Give me evidence from the music. I may disagree with your conclusions but at least you went through a process - a learning process. So, all of you who took the test today, RELAX.

Another hindrance to the learning process is grades. Students are more concerned with the numbers on the page than the information in their heads. Yes, grades are necessary but I don't think they deserve as much importance as they are given. What would the classroom be like if the ultimate goal was not a grade?

Unfortunately, this is not the case at most schools. As my students looked over their test today, someone remarked that there was no bonus question. That was true.

"Can we have a bonus question?"
"Sure." I turned to the board and wrote.

BONUS (5 points) Who won the most Grammy's last night?

This was met with, "I couldn't watch TV last night. I was studying for this test! Can you give a question that doesn't require watching TV?"
"Okay", I said. I turned to the board and wrote,

Who announced a candidacy for president this weekend?

Another student remarked, "Wow. I don't know anything about pop culture or current events!" Maybe that was the best lesson learned today.

"Can't you ask us something we will know? Maybe something about Anna Nicole Smith?"
"Hmm." I thought for a moment.

Who is the father of her baby?"

With this one, the class decided that the test questions that required delving into the gray areas of music theory were not so bad after all!