Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Quick Tropic Update

In Santiago, DR.
This will be a quick post just to tell you that we arrived in Bryce Canyon and Tropic, Utah with Clella yesterday. She/We had a wonderful day that I will post about as soon as I can and add pictures to boot.

We've been to the cemetery to see where her mom, dad, sister and baby brother are buried, visited with the people who live in the house where she was born and had a long and delightful visit with the people who own her grandfather's barn. She got a discount at Ruby's Inn for being "pretty close to local" and a free breakfast coupon for having a birthday on Friday and for being from Tropic. She had a hard time settling down to sleep because she'd had "such a wonderful day". Today, we will return to Tropic and try to connect with some of her childhood friends. We learned that several are still alive and still live in Tropic.

Bringing Clella to Tropic has been as much a gift to us to experience with her as it has been for her. It is always wonderful to experience someone else's joy.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Guidance Counselors

So yesterday on the CounselorTalk listserv I'm a member of, a high school counselor sends out a request (a plea, actually). She has a senior girl who wants to go to the prom. She is a plus size girl, wears a size 24, can't afford a dress and can't find one at the stores. I make some long distance phone calls to the nearby city she is in. I call Lane Bryant, a clothing store for plus size women. They don't sell prom dresses. I call JC Penny. They have plenty of prom dresses---in junior sizes. The largest they have is a 16. So I call two numbers for the specialty store David's Bridals. Both numbers are disconnected. It kills me to think this girl can't get a dress. Oh, and did I mention that the request came on Thursday and the prom is on Saturday? Yeah, well, I thought about that girl all night long.

Then I go to get my haircut. Midway through the cut and on a whim, I ask my hairdresser if she knows where I could find a dress. Unbelievably, her daughter has one hanging in her closet, just the right size. I can't believe it.

I do a little research. The girl's school is two hours from me. Okay, that's do-able. I talk with my friend, Ann who also happens to be my boss. She's game for a road trip after school. Unfortunately, the other counselor is leaving town after work and cannot meet us. We can only get to the girl if we leave during the day. Ann says, "Hey, we've got planning to do for Monday's in-service. We can work in the car." We hustle. I call the school to get directions. Yay, the girl is at school today. We get in the car and head out.

We are cutting it close on time, but we may just make it. We realize we haven't come to one of the exits after a period of time. We should be near the school by now. We see a sign that confuses us. Seventy-four miles to our destination. How can that be? I call the school. Ugh. When I looked up the school online last night, I SWEAR it said the school was in Marion. I swear. I cannot find those websites now for proof, of course. Last night when I googled, I could not find a website for the school, just some independent sites with generic information. Okay, I thought. It's a private Catholic school. Maybe they don't have their own website. So I call the school for better directions. The school is not in Marion, it's in Marion COUNTY!!! !@#$%^&*(

We will never make it. In talking to the counselor, we find out that the girl found one dress at a charity shop. She has to hem it, but it will work. Plans foiled, but we tried.

Well, Ann and I got a lot of planning done in the three hours we were in the car. We are all ready for that in-service on Monday. I got some other work done to boot. Oh, well. We also treated ourselves to a little milkshake at a Steak n' Shake in Wabash. Woo-hoo! They are half-price today. Just a little gift sent our way.

I hope that girl has a good time at the prom. I hope she feels absolutely beautiful. I hope she knows there are strangers who cared.

Off on another adventure tomorrow. Going with another teacher to hopefully get in the Guiness Book of World Records by participating in the largest group hug at the St. Joseph County fairgrounds. Got to bring some canned goods for the foodbank, too.

Gotta love adventure!

Sincerely yours,
A Directionally Challenged School Counselor

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sick of Being Sick and a Road Trip

Clella and Todd catch a little dance at a pit stop along the road to Los Patos, DR in 2007.

I am not complaining (much)! I've had the creeping cruds off and on for about four weeks now. It's time to be done. Yesterday, I thought I was on the mend. This afternoon the aches were back. I need to be better by Sunday because Jim and I are going on a road trip with Clella, our adopted grandma. If anyone read the entry last April, she and I went on a road trip to Maine when I went to take care of my dad for a few weeks.

Jim and I are flying to Arizona to pick up his mom's car and will drive it back. We decided we should take Clella with us. Clella grew up as a Mormon in Tropic, Utah. She joined our non-denominational Christian church about eleven years ago. Jim met Clella when he got called on an emergency pastoral visit to our local hospital. Clella and her husband had been brought into the hospital for carbon monoxide poisoning. Sadly, Clella's husband, Dale, did not survive. Clella did. Dale and she had just moved into their new house three weeks prior. They had three different companies inspect the house and chimney before they moved in (Dale was always a cautious and common sense man, according to Clella). All three companies missed the bird's nest that blocked the chimney. Very sad indeed. Anyway, Clella struggled for a long time with Dale's death. They'd had a long and happy marriage. Clella and her sister picked up two navy sailors who were hitchhiking way back when. Clella claims she and Dale fell in love on that car ride between Tiajuana and San Diego. They were married a short time later.

Anyway, Clella has repeatedly told us her stories about growing up Mormon and being from a large family. When she was twelve, her mother died shortly after giving birth to a baby boy. Because the older children were independent or unable, Clella gained the responsibility of raising four younger brothers and sisters. At the age of twelve, she was expected to have all the responsibilities for them. Clella says her father was too busy spreading his seed all over Tropic to be bothered with raising children. Later, he remarried and Clella gained the quintessential ugly stepmother.
We have decided to take Clella to Tropic on our way home. This may be her last trip to Tropic, as she'll be 83 on May 1. You never know, though, she's a tough old bird. We want her to show us all the places she's talked about. I think it will be a lovely walk down memory lane for her and a delightful gift for us. We fly out early Sunday.

When we fly out, there will be major demolition going on back our house. New bathrooms are goin' in. Excitement all around.

"Last Trip to Tropic". Won't that make a great title for a story?
With Arelis in Los Patos. She'll try anything. I think she was hoping for a little gin in her coconut juice.

A late evening at Camp David, outside Santiago. This restaurant is on a mountain top which has the most harrowing drive up a mountain I have ever experienced. I was so stressed by the ride up that I refused to drive down in our van. Had to switch vehicles. I'm telling you, we almost slid off the cliffs several times. It did me in. Clella just made the trip like Aunt Edna from National Lampoon's Vacation, except she wasn't dead and tied to the roof.

On a shopping trip in the city of Santiago, DR.
How can you not just love her?


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Nothing Like An Egg Hunt to Release the Inner Child

(Yes, it's been a long, dry month of no posts. Am home sick again today. I just can't seem to rid myself of a general malaise brought on by my second cold/flu bout in three weeks time. Must be the creeping cruds. Anyway, the post that follows is a year old. It comes from an event we held at school to lighten the climate during the drudge month of March '08. We have just held our 2nd annual teacher egg hunt for '09, but I've no energy to recap, so am giving you a recount of last year's just so I can post. Hope you are all well. I've also been busy dealing with our renovation which we have just expanded to include new bathrooms and a walk-in closet. I guess if we're going to renovate, we may as well get it all done at one time. I hope you all had a wonderful and blessed Easter.)

This is the original email which was sent to an unsuspecting staff in March '09:

Get Hoppin’…

Peter Cottontail and Betty Bunny were very busy Tuesday night. They hid 162 plastic eggs ALL OVAH the school.

In all your rooms, Peter Cottontail has hidden a plastic egg with your name on it.

The Challenge: Peter is challenging you to find your egg. Some will be easier to find than others (in fact, Peter thinks some won’t be found until retirement). Return the empty egg with your name sticker left on it to your grade level secretary by the Friday prior to spring break (April 4).

The grade level with the greatest percentage of returned eggs will be treated to lunch on the Monday we sluggishly return from our respite (April 7).

Peter hopes the eggs reproduce as rapidly as rabbits!!!!!

This is the recap which I sent to Andrea Corona Jenkins at Hula Seventy ...who had a wonderful post about Little Paper Fortunes entitled "Friday Afternoon" which began the whole inspiration for the egg hunt (you MUST read her post. It is wonderful. You'll need to scroll down to Oct 15, 2007 entry). Here's my recap from last year:
December is a tough month in education, as is March! Prior to Christmas Break the kids and the teachers were stretched to just put one foot in front of another as they waited for a little time off. Only about five teachers decided to do the project this year, but they did enjoy it. They couldn't take the kids off school property to "plant" the fortunes as I'd hoped. Anyway, they did do the best they could at the time. Each class group placed all the fortunes in chinese food containers decorated with holiday themes they got from Hobby Lobby. The teachers then brought the boxes to a few coffee houses and some mom-and-pop type stores where they set them up by the cash registers. People were encouraged to take a fortune when they made a purchase.

BUT two weeks ago, the principal and I revisited the little paper fortunes idea in an attempt to lighten the droll, cabin-fever climate hanging like a cloud over the building. I took blank fortune strips to the media center (our library) and explained what I wanted to the students who so (un-)cheerfully had to spend two hours with an assistant principal after school for a little, um, extended day. I told them I needed volunteers to write generic, cheerful notes to our staff. It was totally voluntary on their part, yet about 20 kids took the bait. After a time, I told them if they really wanted to, they could write fortunes to specific teachers. These kids have a tendency to only show their tough exteriors, but during this activity they really allowed their sweet insides to emerge.

As an aside, there are 162 teachers, aides, custodians, cafeteria workers, secretaries, counselors, principals, School Resource Officer, bookkeepers, media center specialists, and other staff in our building. We also have 1500 sixth, seventh and eighth graders. It's a wonderful, crazy place.

So anyway, the principal and I stuffed 162 plastic eggs with treats and paper fortunes and labeled each egg with a staff member's name. (I so enjoyed being able to stuff some very tender fortunes in specific teachers' eggs. I knew they'd love them.) We then hid an egg all over the building in areas specific to the individual--i.e., in that teacher's classroom, in the school kitchen, in the boiler room, etc. It took several hours to hide the eggs and we almost got caught by one teacher who was working too, too late. The principal unlocked the classroom door and walked into what she thought was an empty room only to find the teacher sitting at his desk under a dimly lit lamp. "Oh!, she said, "I'm in the wrong room!" and then quickly backed out before the teacher could respond. It was so dumb, we laughed all night about it.

The next morning, I sent out an email with the announcement that we had hidden the eggs and that there was a challenge to each teacher to find their egg. Oh-my-GOSH! What a delightful impact this whole endeavor had! You would have thought these teachers were all little children again. Some teachers let their students help in the hunt, while others threatened to fail (in jest) any student who found their egg before they had a chance to look for it. There were emails flying back and forth with comments and silliness and "found-mine-in-the-4H-geraniums-by-the-way-you-can-buy-one-for $1.25-each!" advertisements and "my OCD is kicking in and I can't get any teaching done until I find my egg!" and much more. It was so wonderful to experience pure joy and silliness in people who were so tired and just praying for spring to arrive.

We asked teachers to return their empty eggs to their grade level secretary (for next year, of course!). The grade level with the greatest percentage of returns would have lunch provided the Monday we get back from spring break. We're actually going to provide lunch for everyone, but it was fun to put forth the challenge.

Anyway, everywhere I walk in the building, I see those little paper fortunes put in places of honor. I walked by our technology guy's office and saw his taped to his window. It says, "Thank u for makin this a grate plase to be." I guess we need to work on that spelling some more. I taped mine above my desk. They say, "You are loved" and "You are lookin gooood!"

It is two weeks later and I'm still getting comments from teachers about how much they enjoyed it all. So, Andrea, you need to take some of the credit. The impetus for all this was your inspiring blog entry about having your wee-ones make little paper fortunes to leave around your city for no other purpose but to bring a moment of joy or tenderness to what might have been an otherwise difficult day.