One of the perks

There are down sides to being a teacher in a public school, the three main ones being — to borrow a line from the late Warren Zevon — lawyers, guns, and money. If legal requirements aren’t tying your hands in one direction, security policies are tying your hands in another … and don’t even get me started on funding issues.

Throw in self-serving political maneuvering by people who have never set foot in a public-school classroom for anything more than a carefully scripted photo op; standardized test scores and all the attendant pressure and paranoia surrounding them; and the endless (and moronic) scapegoating of mythical “bad teachers” who are supposedly to blame for everything that’s wrong with public education, and … well, it’s almost enough to make a girl wonder why she ever let a certain smooth-talking little smartass coax her back into the profession in the first place.


And then the girl in question runs across a student project from last semester that reminds her of exactly why she let said smartass talk her into said profession:


Precocious teenagers can’t fix everything, but their off-kilter sense of humor definitely makes the down side of working in the public sector easier to stomach.


First hive inspection

We inspected our beehives Sunday afternoon for the first time this season. Most beekeepers evaluate their colonies based on visual evidence: Are the bees active? Is the queen laying a nice brood pattern? How much comb have the girls drawn out? How big does the colony appear to be?

Those things are all worth considering, but I can usually determine the relative health of a colony the instant I open the hive cover.

A weak colony has a pungent, acrid odor that overpowers the natural smell of beeswax and honey and worsens in the presence of opportunistic parasites such as wax moths.

A strong colony, on the other hand, is the most intoxicatingly fragrant thing on earth. It smells of honey and beeswax, of course, but stronger, and with headier scents — exotic flowers, freshly mown grass, and something subtle and indescribable — mixed in. If somebody could replicate the smell of a healthy colony of honeybees, that person would almost certainly put Yankee Candle right out of business.

I knew as soon as I opened the outer covers Sunday afternoon that we had three very healthy colonies. We went ahead and opened the inner hive covers and pulled a few frames, just to confirm my evaluation for Ron, whose sense of smell isn’t quite as sharp as mine. Our findings are below the fold.

Continue reading First hive inspection

Spring break on Route 66

I spent three days of my spring break on Route 66. Here are a few highlights from my trip:

1. The Motel Safari. (WARNING: Music on Web site starts automatically.) I usually stay at the Blue Swallow, but this time around, I paid a visit to our friends Richard and Gail at the Safari instead. If I weren’t so madly in love with the Swallow’s spectacular neon, the Safari might well supplant it as my favorite Route 66 motel; it’s just as clean, just as comfortable, and you know a girl who decorated her living room with Danish modern tables and a knockoff of an Eero Aarnio ball chair has to love a Googie building full of mid-century furniture. Very cool.

2. Tee Pee Curios. Poignant moment: Mike told me that when I pulled up in the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcar, Betty said, “Bob Waldmire‘s got nothing on Emily.” As regular readers of this blog already know, the Dreamcar is a tribute to Bob. It doesn’t look anything like Bob’s VW, but it’s meant to evoke the same artsy-hippie spirit, and to have one of his dearest friends recognize his influence was a kind of confirmation that I’d gotten it right.

Incidentally, Mike told me that most of Bob’s dashboard tchotchkes came from the Tee Pee. I added some new acquisitions to my own collection while I was there:

Guatemalan trouble dolls. As long as I don’t have more than 30 troubles at once, the Dreamcar should be a stress-free zone. 🙂

Mike gave me four metal Route 66 tags to decorate the car. Unfortunately, I ran out of superglue before I finished installing them.

3. Progress at the Bent Door in Adrian, Texas: The owners have put in old gas pumps and an old-fashioned mileage sign.

4. Big changes at the Vega Motel in Vega, Texas. The motel has been dormant since it closed several years ago. Last year, new owners bought the property and have begun a nice adaptive reuse project. The office is now an excellent drive-through coffeehouse; next door, in the old living quarters, a hair salon and boutique have set up shop, and another unit houses a barbershop.

Andrew, the coffeehouse owner, is very cool. We wound up putting together a geocache to draw a few travelers onto the property. He was amused to learn that I was responsible for the paint job on the sign, which has held up pretty nicely over the past seven and a half years, all things considered:

I bought a new purse and a cleverly designed car air freshener in a little tin from the boutique. If you happen to be out that direction, buy a cup of Andrew’s coffee and visit the girls at Crazy Horse. They’ve got all kinds of cute things for sale at reasonable prices. Here are a few samples:

5. On St. Patrick’s Day, I got to be in the most appropriate of all spots on Route 66: under the canopy at the U-Drop Inn in Shamrock, Texas.

Hope your week was full of fun and adventures, wherever you were.



Surfacing for a moment

Sorry for the extended silence. Here are my excuses:

Monday: Baseball game, followed by a meeting at church.
Tuesday: Kempo and lesson plan revision.
Wednesday: School. I spent most of the evening writing a math test.
Thursday: School, part deux. I spent most of the evening holed up at Kaffe Bona, grading papers and recording them.
Friday: Baseball game, followed by my annual descent into the pits of hell, a.k.a. laying out the Trip Guide. This round actually wasn’t as bad as I expected. I pulled an all-nighter and got the first draft done in 9.5 hours, which I think shaved about three hours off my old record.
Saturday: Breakfast, feed store run, brief visit to the Blue Whale to make my excuses (the Fins were holding a workday out there, but we all decided it was not in anyone’s best interest for me to be handling heavy objects or wielding power tools in my present condition), and an extremely surreal trip to the craft store. Somewhere around the 38-hour mark, my lack of sleep started to catch up to me, and the bizarre internal monologue that runs more or less constantly in my head when I am in a building full of shiny objects suddenly became a rapid-fire external monologue, which Ron assures me was hilarious. I finally crashed sometime around 5 p.m.
Sunday: Church, nap, Trip Guide edits, taqueria run to ward off the icky dampness of a cold, rainy evening.
Today: Kempo, lunch at Evelyn’s, laundry, Trip Guide edits, and a batch of whoopie pies to celebrate Pi Day.

I’m heading out to Tucumcari tomorrow for a much-needed vacation.

On a completely unrelated note, I found a hilarious Ryne Sandberg card in a multipack of old baseball cards I bought tonight at Target. It’s a 1988 Topps card featuring Ryno with an extremely unfortunate mustache of the sort you probably should not attempt unless it is 1978 and your name is either Ron Jeremy or Freddie Mercury. (I am sorry to report that the card I got this evening was NOT the one featuring Sandberg posing with a rhinoceros and an Indiana Jones hat. It’s the one to the right of it. But if I can find a Ryno-with-rhino card between now and June, you know it will certainly be going with me to Lehigh Valley for the pregame autograph session.)



“Sorrow has its reward. It never leaves us where it found us.”
Mary Baker Eddy

Three years ago today, my journalism career unceremoniously ended with the announcement that my section of the newspaper had been eliminated, taking my job with it.

Earlier this week, history repeated itself, with the same company doing the same thing to a different group of journalists.

I am going to be fragile today, I thought as I dragged myself out of bed this morning.

But I wasn’t. March 4 had been my own personal Day the Music Died for three years, and as I stumbled toward the shower, the Father whispered into my thought:

Reclaim this day.

That pink slip three years ago wasn’t the first March morning I’d seen explode into heartbreak with the loss of a job.

On March 13, 1998, my then-principal informed me that my contract was not being renewed. Her words and tone led me to believe I wasn’t worthy to stand at the front of a classroom, so I left the profession, vowing never to return.

Longtime readers of this blog know how my layoff from the paper set in motion a series of events that led me back into a sophomore English classroom.

That process also put me in touch with a former colleague I hadn’t seen in years. I contacted her for a reference when I applied for my current job, and we quickly renewed our friendship.

I came home this afternoon to find a Facebook message from her.

My friend’s daughter is a teacher, and a callous administrator had just chosen this, of all days, to tell her that her contract wasn’t being renewed. Could I give her a pep talk?

Twice in one week — just as I was settling in for a good pout and some righteous indignation over a pair of outdated grudges — history has repeated itself, and I can either whine about the unfairness of it all, or I can get off my duff and use my experiences to help victims turn into survivors.

March 4 has officially been reclaimed.


A matter of perception

Conversation today in class:

KID: Ms. Priddy, I don’t mean to be mean, but you’ve got gray hair!
ME: I know, Sweetie. I’ve had it for a while. I just flipped my part to the other side to show it off a little better.
KID: Really? Why?
ME: I like my gray.
KID: (Incredulous) You do?
ME: (Laughing) Yes! I’ve wanted white hair since I was your age.

Sometimes I forget how odd I truly am. My kids can’t figure me out … which is fine with me. It’s good to keep them guessing. My math students are convinced I’m totally subversive because I teach half my lessons at the center table, with toys spread out all over and a dry-erase marker in my hand to write notes on the top of the table when I need to clarify something. I have no idea why it delights them so much to see me scrawl notes across the formica. Maybe I should give all the kids dry-erase markers so they can write on their desks.

As I think about it, that may be the best idea I’ve had in a while. My English students could close out every lesson by writing a one-sentence summary of the lesson on top of their desks. I can just imagine the looks on the consultants’ faces if we took their much-vaunted “exit ticket” idea and kicked it up a notch.

Too bad dry-erase markers are so bloody expensive….