Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Brighter Perspective

After watching the Obama/Clinton debate held in California tonight I have a brighter perspective on the Democratic party's ability to come together. It was a much
warmer Clinton we saw tonight and it was admirable the way neither candidate bristled even when the CNN facilitators tried to bait them. The idea of a 'dream ticket' is on the minds of many people it seems.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Midwinter Fire

I took one little walk around my gardens to break the tedium of filling out financial aid forms for my daughter on Sunday. Isn't this dogwood lovely? It is called Midwinter Fire and I bought it at an Northwest Perennial Plant Sale about ten years ago. At this time of year it beautifully displays the reason for it's name.

Tied to the Computer

On Sunday at 9:30 in the morning I sat down at the computer, found a classical music station online and thought to myself, "If I really stick with it I will have this CSS Profile filled out by noon." Was I ever kidding myself! I worked 'till 1:30 fixed lunch for Chris and I and took a break. Then back to the keyboard of the computer until dinner when I went back upstairs to the kitchen to cook again of course. We ate, watched a little of Obama's speech after winning the primary in South Carolina. (That was exciting but Ted Kennedy's speech of endorsement today was even more invigorating.)
It was so hard to get back to the CSS, the tax forms, the files and pay stubs. By, 9:30 at night I was just about done, only 2 or 3 lines where I thought it prudent to check my figures in the morning. And now, tonight I submitted the dang thing. With FAFSA and CSS behind me I only have the taxes and the U of Chicago's financial aid forms to complete and those will wait till later in February. I really sweat these forms out; I appreciate honesty and accuracy, but I want 'a deal' too. I win on the honesty part, hope I am accurate, and the deal is never quite what I think we can live with; but somehow we do.
Right now the rain is falling steadily and I am doubtful that it will turn to the snow
they predicted. At least it is a four day week!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Two and a Half Day Weekend

Whoopee! Monday is the day between semesters and while I DO have a Math workshop to attend at 12:45, having the morning off will be blissful. From last Sunday through yesterday we had beautiful blue skies and frosty weather. I took a few pretty photos in Lincoln Park just as the sun was about to break through. Right now it is raining a cold rain that every once and a while switches to snow, just to tease us. Talked to my dad in Green Bay this morning and he tells me that they are experiencing an old fashioned winter like I remember from my youth; a foot of snow or more on the ground and below zero temperatures. Last night I read lots of the blogs I frequent. While most people have a blogroll listing their daily reads I opt for suggesting you click on the icon if you want to explore the sites that I read.
As I read the news today I am nervous that the Democratic party is shooting itself in the foot. The nasty exchange of words, and in particular, the role Bill Clinton is playing in fueling the fire, has me quite despondent. People are surprised that issues of race/gender are in the picture. Oh, come now. They DO make a difference, especially when considering that in 2004's presidential election there was an increase in the African American in vote S.Carolina from 22% to 30%. And they both want those votes; but bashing one another is only going to reflect poorly on them in upcoming states. I know that more than one of us has entertained the "Wouldn't it be nice?" idea of having both Obama and H. Clinton on the same ticket. Today that seems more of a pipe dream than it did in the early days of this campaign.
* In speaking of race I try to keep in mind the perspective of Paul Kivel:"The only way to treat people with dignity and justice is to recognize that racism has a profound negative effect on upon our lives. Noticing color helps to counteract that effect. Instead of being color neutral we need to notice much more acutely and insightfully exactly the difference that color makes in the way people are treated." taken from: Uprooting Racism; How White People Can Work For Racial Justice

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

'Let's Go Fly A Kite'

Here's a new twist on flying a kite. I guess you could say the kite is flying the skiers. When I was cross country skiing on Saturday I saw this most unusual sight on the edges of the lake below the trail. These two guys are on skis and being towed by yellow kites. They were stopping everyone in their tracks. They really zipped. I don't know how they managed to miss all the tree stumps in the dry lake bed that are poking up through the snow. I have taken very few videos with my camera, so please forgive the inferior quality. Have any of you seen this type of skiing in your part of the world?

Monday, January 21, 2008


There are few words that can describe how I felt watching yesterday's game. The Packers loss to the Giants in overtime, 23-20, was painful. Mike Vandermause, Green Bay Press Gazette columnist does a decent job of covering this dismal end to the Packers season. I was really expecting more of a running game and I missed watching Ryan Grant gobbling up the yardage. Next season? Without Farve (those interceptions by this revered quarterback get harder and harder to tolerate)? I am curious to talk to my family members for their perspective, but I better wait a few days till they 'cool down'. I had a brother in a company box at the game and a niece in the stands; brr.
As for today, it will be bright, sunny, and a cold 37 here in Seattle, which of course is nothing near the -3 in Green Bay. I will treat myself to long run once the sun is up and then I must find the discipline necessary to plow through completing the FAFSA, which next to taxes is one of the most onerous winter tasks to do. Wish me luck!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

In The Lines

It was so peaceful with gray skies and light snow. My skis made a "roof, roof, roof" noise as they slid over the fresh, powdery snow. Sometimes I could hear the low rumble of a truck on I90, but mostly the air held the quiet that comes with a blanket of snow. In these two photos I like the lines I see created by the man made and the natural; phone pole and the lake's shore, groomed ski trail and snow laden branches.

How Much?

So just how much snow is there at Snoqualmie this year? Quite a bit, as you can see, and more kept drifting down for nearly all of the three hours I was there. I 90 was not bare and dry the whole way; it was wet and slushy just past North Bend and a bit foggy.
Still, a very easy drive.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Off I Go!

Road conditions say bare and dry in the passes, snow in the forecast. I'm headed out the door to cross country ski. Hopefully I will have some good snow pictures to post tomorrow.

Friday, January 18, 2008


Some would say, "How clever to have your Dr. appointments on the Friday before a three day weekend." But it actually is just what worked out. I would much rather not miss a day. Making lessons plans for a sub is lengthy torture for me. And today was no 'walk in the park' either. I got my nose reamed by the otolaryngologist, and my boobs squeezed in the mammogram machine. The first appointment was 50 minutes behind schedule. Thank goodness I didn't put both appointments back to back. It did mean that I didn't get to eat lunch; not my idea of a post holiday diet plan. So you say just how DOES an otolaryngologist check your vocal cords? Well, first they numb your nostril (or nostrils) with a cold spray, then they just slip this skinny tube with a camera up your nose and down into your throat. Just like that! HA, NOT! The scope goes in a few inches, "breathe" the Dr. says, down an inch more "breathe and swallow" (yeah, right), down a few inches more, I put my hand on her arm to signal "STOP". My back is arched in the chair and I am so tense I think I'm going to pop a vertebrate. I get a trace of composure back and she says "Breathe again, through your nose." I'm actually surprised breathing through my nose is easier than through my mouth. I feel the camera inside my throat hitting the sides, teasing my gag reflex through the numbness. Now she says "Hum" and I comply "Hum a little higher" I hum higher knowing this exploration will soon be done, thank goodness! Zip, out slides the tube, we're done. Drum roll please! We look at the video of my vibrating cords from November and compare them with today's. I am continuing to improve, the little cyst is not really cyst anymore, just a tiny round dot. Although people can't hear it in my voice I still do feel it there and the Dr. says that is not too surprising but the fact that it is getting smaller means surgery is not necessary and best of all, I don't need to go back to her unless I still think it is there in three months. For now, I can sing; but only a little and no yelling allowed EVER. How in the world am I going to keep my yap shut during the Packer game this weekend?

Dismissal Time

3:05 is dismissal time - for kids. The teachers can leave a half hour later, in theory.
Monday, an Equity Team* meeting 'till 4:30 then I still had to pick up some of the flotsam 28 students leave in their wake and organized materials for the next morning. I think I left by 5:30.
Tuesday, spent time looking through our field trip folders, trying to decide on a field trip that might fit in with our Science unit, Animals 2x2, had an unplanned 20 minute discussion with a parent, put up pictures for the science unit. I think I left at 5:30 again.
Wednesday, no staff meeting but we had to look at math data and select one skill/concept which we will intentionally focus upon and we had to determine a tool to use for pre and post assessment. Then we tightened up our field trip plans (Top Secret),organized our plans for the morning and at 6:15 we headed out to the pitch black parking lot. (Burnt out lights. It costs $400.00 for the 'cherry picker' truck to hoist a worker in a bucket to the top of the light pole, so that is not happening anytime soon.)
Thursday, held a planned and totally worthwhile conference with a parent; but we had said 15 minutes and it was 45. The fish arrived today, in boxes insulated by Styrofoam and with a activated heat pack nestled inside. No dead fishies! Getting them situated in their tubs of dechlorinated water and figuring out what to move where so the fish can be at viewing level for the kids took roughly a half hour. Then two more hours of preparing plans for the substitute on Friday and I left at 7:10, the last car in the parking lot.
Friday, After a day of Dr. appointments. I head back to school at 4:30 to see what fallout the sub has left behind and prepare my lessons for Tuesday (Yippee, a three day weekend!) the sub was a reliable regular and everything was in pretty good order even down to a note with a note that said, "We got everything done but gee, this is a chatty bunch!" Tell me about it, I thought with a grin.

*I previewed (skim read) Uprooting Racism; How White People Can Work for Racial Justice by Paul Kivel The main point the author makes is that while no one is responsible for the color of their skin, it makes a crucial difference to be white and we ARE responsible for how we respond to racism. The chapter on Voting certainly got me thinking, perhaps more so because this is an election year. I was shocked at all the voting discrimination that was present as recent as the 2000 election; African Americans and Haitians being harassed by police at polling places, their names being removed from the rolls, being asked for extra id, and having the polls close early on them. The vote of people of color is also weakened because of the way electoral votes are unequally distributed in our country. There is lots of room for reform as we celebrate the 22nd holiday of Dr. M.L. King Jr.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Harbinger of Spring

A little bud of white, a snowdrop, popped through the mulch and tree detritus, a promise of the spring to come.

Winter Blue

This is one of those situations where I should not have tried to perfect what I originally had in the photos. I was just trying to sharpen the white of the jet's stream but somehow ended up with two shade of blue sky. The weather today was glorious, it felt great to work outside without a raincoat or boots.

The Right Tool

Originally uploaded by mtnester.

To thin bamboo and to do most pruning jobs this is my favorite tool. It is a Barnel Sabre Toothed Saw. The handle was made by my husband. This is a gem of a saw because the teeth of the blade cut on both the push and the pull stroke. For bamboo you get a cleaner cut with a loppers but with a loppers, it is challenging to get to the bottom of stalks in a thick clump. You can fit this little saw into really tight squeeze spots.

After the Thinning

Originally uploaded by mtnester.

If you look at the photo that is currently the header of my blog you can see that there were tall stalks of bamboo shooting above the clump and into the Japanese maple, a truly lovely tree in our neighbor's yard. Well, now it is a much tidier bamboo; but it never takes long for it to be unruly once again.

Garden Stakes Anyone?

Originally uploaded by mtnester.

I thinned the bamboo today. This pile on the ground completely filled one and a half yard waste containers. We do this thinning at least twice a year.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Go Pack Go!

Yipee! They WON! It is hard to explain why after 31 years living in Seattle I still am a Cheesehead. The indoctrination starts really young, is all I can say! I don't know where this third grade is; someplace in WI, that's pretty certain. I'm sure their hero Brett Farve would appreciate this musical number.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Back in the Groove

Getting back into the school groove after the holiday break is rough and this year was no exception. I feel like I get so close to getting caught up on projects at home and then I must set them aside again to go back into the classroom. I was soon in the midst of the animated exuberance of 28 kindergartners who hadn't seen each other in 15 days. That will wake a person up in a hurry. Five had lost teeth, a couple had hair cuts, some had on new clothes and they all looked like they had grown an inch at least. Although everyone was happy, there were many sleepy eyes and at least two uncombed heads of hair. At least 10 students received pink tickets for tardiness over the course of the week so I know I am not the only one who struggles to regain the routine. It goes without saying that I spent most of Monday and Tuesday on management, management, management! Raising hands, sharing math materials, taking turns, walking not running in the room; it seems they had forgotten all of that. Wednesday was an improvement and I actually had fun with them on Thursday and Friday. It was school spirit day today and everyone was to bring a 'stuffy friend' to school.
Snakes, birds, giraffes, and the usual assortment of stuffed bears, dogs, and cats could be found in every classroom. They read with their stuffy friends, ate with them, played in Centers with them and in the picture above we did sorting of the stuffy friends at math time. As if time in the classroom was not busy enough I had a meeting with other union members and some of the union officers for a dialog to express our Hopes, Challenges and Barriers in our families, community and schools. Quite frankly we didn't know why they bothered with anything other than Schools. Among the top barriers; workload, class size, health care, compensation. No surprises there! Then on Wednesday we had a two hour Sexual Misconduct Training at our staff meeting which really was quite good. You could tell the information was as much for our professional safety as it was for the children we teach. Somehow I also managed to have at least five impromptu conferences with parents regarding concerns we have with their children. Now it is the awaited weekend and for what reason; the Seahawk/ Packer game of course! While it provoked a few sneers, I wore my Packer sweatshirt to a staff gathering tonight. Make no mistake, I'm a Green Bay gal to the end!

Friday, January 04, 2008

List of Faves

When I was younger I would make New Year's resolutions, not so anymore. That is too much pressure. Since most resolutions deal with self improvement of one sort or another, why give yourself pressure? Anxiety inhibits performance you know. For an interesting twist on resolutions check out Jen's "I will never..." list at
A Snowball's Chance in ... Or reflect on the words of elder blogger and poet, Troy at A Creative Journey But since a New Year calls for a list of some sort I will share an incomplete list of my faves for 2007:
1. Movies/dvds (all new to me in 2007):
Once; The music is great and I appreciated the message of persisting to reach a goal or dream. For a free download of Falling Slowly go here.
Paris je t'aime; for excellent portrayal of the many expressions of the emotion we know as love.
Into the Wild; all about a very principled person living out his ideals to a disastrous end (SO sad, but worth viewing)
2. Books: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini Yes, I have read more but nothing as memorable as Kite Runner.
3. T.V.: Greys Anatomy; still love it. But of course the writers' strike has taken a the joy out of that. This week though we really enjoyed the Iowa caucus coverage. GO OBAMA! In fact if anything good has come out of the writers' strike it might be that more viewers are looking at coverage of the presidential delegates.
4. Green Thumb Endeavor: I got an orchid as a gift in June and it is doing fabulous things; new stems, leaves and buds!
5. Vacation: Walla Walla, Washington
6. Wine: A white I really like (best in summer); Burgans Albarino, from Spain
As for reds, that is harder, there are many I like, but in my rack right now, it is Northstar Stella Maris 2003 red wine; Bordeaux blend, that makes me salivate.
So there you have it.
And as for 2008, I think this quote from Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a fitting one to ponder: "..he allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves."

She's Chicago Bound

Here's HG(on right) all smiley with her BFF from grade school. At least twice a year we try to get together as families to enjoy great food and non-stop conversation with these two loquacious young women with sights held high and ambition to match. I am proud of my daughter's choices of friends, there's nary a one I dislike. But BFF is special, maybe because I have known her since she was seven. I like the relaxed way I see her draped over our couch, I like the fact that she is comfortable enough to open the cupboard and find what she needs, and I like the cheery sound of her voice when she calls on the phone. Yes, she calls on the land line and she takes a little time to talk to me before she talks to HG! That alone doubles her 'brownie points' in my opinion! Equally important, even though they are twenty, I would not feel stupid if I called her parents and asked things like, "Are you sure they should be driving into the mountains on New Year's Eve?" NOT that I did that, but having the option is nice.
So, at 5:30 this morning I dropped HG off at SeaTac with what felt like twice her weight in luggage. We had so much fun these past four weeks it was hard to say good bye and harder still to come home to a quiet house. When I looked on her desk she had left a to do list for yesterday: 1. Cook Dinner (the tartiflette was heavenly) 2. Vacuum my room (hmmm...I didn't hear the vacuum, the dust bunnies will be enormous by June!) 3. Thank yous (I saw a few cards sitting next to the list, my guess is she mailed some) 4. Put music on parent's computer (Yup, done. Can't wait to listen.)