Category Archives: Challenges

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.


Busy week

Here are all of my excuses for not blogging this week:

1. Kempo. I had a lesson Tuesday night, and I was pretty wiped out when I got home.
2. School. I have 200 students. Need I say more?
3. Exhaustion. I went to bed immediately after dinner Wednesday night … and stayed there for 12 hours.
4. Tom Petty. He was at the BOk Center on Thursday night. I’ve never really been a big Tom Petty fan, but he puts on a pretty great show.
5. Exhaustion, part two. I thought about going to the ballgame Friday night, but instead, I went out for an after-school snack with several colleagues (something a few of the younger teachers started the first week of school to foster a much-needed sense of collegiality among the faculty) and then came home to take a nap at 6:30 p.m. I woke up 12 hours later.
6. Jogging. I went for a run with my friend Jackie on Saturday morning. We were planning to run eight miles, but one thing led to another, and we wound up going 10.
7. Baseball cards. After a quick shower and some carbo-loading at Waffle House, I headed out baseball-card shopping with Ron. I came home with 284 baseball cards (including 14 Rynos, two Hawks, a Lee Smith, a Big Z, and a complete set of 1992 Topps Kids cards), a Mark Grace candy dispenser for my little sister, a 1994 issue of Beckett’s Baseball Card Monthly with mah-boy on the cover, and a vicious migraine.
8. Exhaustion, part three. I could have done without the headache, but if there’s a silver lining, it’s the fact that I wound up going back to bed and staying there for 18 hours. For those of you playing along at home, yes, that does add up to 30 hours of sleep in a 36-hour span of time. The beauty of this is that I am pretty sure I have finally caught up the sleep deficit I’ve been running since 1992. I got up this morning and made a quiche, cleaned Hedwig’s cage, planned all of next week’s lessons, took a shower, ate breakfast, and still managed to make it to church with ten minutes to spare.

In the interest of finding out what Monday morning looks like to a person who isn’t exhausted, I think I’m going to go to bed now. Hope your weekend was good.


Newly refurbished

There are few ways I’d rather spend a weekend than up a ladder, a bucket lift, or a scaffold, paintbrush in hand, at some historic site on Route 66.

We rolled into Chandler at 7:30 this morning to begin a historic preservation project with the Oklahoma Route 66 Association at the beautiful and historic Lincoln Motel.

Here’s a “before” shot:

Our awesome friend Doug — who is a contractor and has a lot of experience with scaffolds — organized the assembly of our rented scaffold and helped keep me from going into full-on meltdown mode or falling off and killing myself when I had to get on and off of it.

I was the only member of our merry band with much experience handling neon, so once the scaffold was all set up, I reluctantly — and awkwardly — clambered to the top and stripped all the tubing off the front of the sign.

With the neon down, Route 66 artist Jerry McClanahan, who lives in Chandler, joined me atop the scaffold to scrape and paint the sign.

We made a rather intriguing discovery while we were scraping the lower part of the sign: Before it said “CABLE TV,” “MICROFRIDGES,” and “PHONES,” the bottom of the sign apparently said “REFRIGERATED AIR.” If you look closely, you can see the ghost image of the letters below:

The lettering style and the trapezoidal shape of the lower parts of the sign led us to suspect that it was designed by the same company that created the historic neon sign at the Rock Cafe in Stroud.

Here, we put the finishing touches on the top part of the sign.

Doug, Ron, McJerry, and our friend Brad were responsible for taking down the scaffold and moving it around to give us access to various parts of the sign.

I think the finished product looks pretty good. We’ll be back out there in the morning, giving the same treatment to the east side of the sign. If you’re out that direction, we’d love to have more volunteers. If you’re not comfortable with heights or paintbrushes, you can always stand on the ground and hand us tools and paint; take pictures; run errands; or just entertain us with wiseacre comments while we work.

Just be advised: Historic preservation is addictive. I’ve been at it since John and Lenore Weiss gave me my first hit at a Meramec Caverns barn in Hamel, Ill., in 2001, and I have no intention of quitting if I can help it.


Folk Thursday: Sharon Clark

Ron found this a couple of weeks ago and suggested I post it. More jazz than folk, but an amazing treatment of a song I’ve always loved. Karen Carpenter never had it so good.

On a completely unrelated note, I got an 87 on my calculus test today. Not as good as I would have liked, but much better than I was expecting based on the amount of trouble I had with the homework.

Calculus is so weird … I struggle and struggle and struggle through the homework, and then the day of the test, it all just sort of clicks. Weird.


Hippie nerd

So a reporter from Channel 6 called me last week to schedule an interview about the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcar.

As it turned out, the 45 minutes or so that I spent doing the interview was the only break I got from a calculus homework marathon that started at 8:30 this morning and ended about 15 minutes ago. “Ended” isn’t really the right word. I still have three problems left to work, and I have the feeling they’re going to be nasty. I spent five and a half hours in the math lab at TCC, and I’m guessing at least two hours of that was actual tutoring. (The rest was me frantically trying to get my homework done and desperately trying to figure out how to do things myself, which didn’t work all that well.)

I came home to find my inbox full of nice messages and Facebook friend requests from people who had seen the segment about my car on the 5 o’clock news this evening.

Fortunately, the segment is online, so I got to watch it a minute ago. I think it turned out pretty well. You can see it here. (I’m not sure whether that’s a permanent link or something that will disappear later, but the reporter, Rick Wells, told me the segments that appear on the Web site are all archived, so you should be able to find it later.)

I’m not sure what it says about me that I missed the segment on my hippiemobile because I am such a nerd that I spent the better end of 12 hours doing math today.

In case you are wondering, the calculus textbook will be coming with me when I go to Illinois this weekend. Maybe Daddy can help me with my homework.

I’m giving serious thought to cutting my losses and going to bed now. The left side of my brain is now ticked off at me for making it work overtime, and the right side of my brain isn’t speaking to me because I’ve been ignoring it all day.

Meanwhile, the entire rest of my body is grumbling about the fact that I’ve been forcing it to survive on a can of Slim-Fast, a small bowl of ice cream, and half a piece of garlic bread.

Maybe a dinner break will mollify everybody….



Thanks to my little sister, I have a new hobby this week: geocaching. In the past three days, I have hunted for 13 geocaches and found nine, which I think is a fairly decent batting average.

In case you aren’t familiar with it, geocaching is a game in which you use a GPS device to hunt for hidden “treasure.” The treasure consists of a (hopefully) watertight container in which you will find, at a minimum, a piece of paper for logging your visit. More elaborate caches contain a logbook, a pen or pencil, and a collection of small objects for trading purposes.

Cache locations are posted online at, where you can search by ZIP code to find caches in your area, along with GPS coordinates and clues to help you find them.

When someone posts a new cache on the site, it’s considered kind of a big deal if you are the first to find it. I figured it would take a long time for me to score an “FTF,” but someone posted a new cache in my area the other day, so after calculus this afternoon, I fought my way through trees and brambles and spiderwebs and barbed wire and copious amounts of poison ivy to find it.

Being new to geocaching, I’m not entirely sure what to expect from each terrain rating, but I figured something rated four out of five stars for difficulty would take a little effort. As it turns out, I could have approached the cache location from the opposite direction and had a much easier time getting to it (I think my route took me through some five-star terrain), but that’s OK. The woods were pretty, I was well-equipped with sturdy boots and a cap, and my efforts were rewarded with an FTF and a cute little green plastic dinosaur — not to mention a chance to burn off about 400 calories without really thinking about it — so I really can’t complain.

Hope you had fun today, wherever you were.



Sorry I haven’t posted lately. I picked Ron up after work Friday, and we drove to Illinois to spend the long weekend with his parents. We got back into town last night, and tonight was graduation, so I haven’t been home much lately.

Tomorrow is the last day of school for my kids. I have to go back Thursday and Friday to pack up my classroom and start making preliminary plans for next year.

Next week’s goals: calculus (eight hours), kempo (two hours), jogging (15 miles), dog training (seven hours), horseback riding (two hours), housecleaning, and a trip to the car wash.

I am giving vague consideration to the possibility of relaxing all weekend in between, but we’ll see….


Another cause

I really hate my hair when it’s short, but at the moment, I think the planet needs it a whole lot worse than I do.

Tomorrow afternoon, I’m going to Supercuts in Glenpool to have my stylist, Jon, take off a few inches to send to the folks at Matter of Trust, who will stuff my split ends into somebody’s old pantyhose to make a hair boom.

Songdog doesn’t know this yet, but he and Walter will also be contributing to the cause. I take the equivalent of a Pomeranian off of Song every time I get out the shedding blade, and Walter’s big, fluffy tail is basically a giant dustbunny farm. I’ve always thought a resource that abundant must be good for something. As it turns out, it is: When you’re mopping up an oil spill, animal hair is as good as human hair.

If you’re thinking of having your hair trimmed or your pet groomed, please make sure the clippings find their way to the Gulf. Many salons are already collecting hair for this purpose; if your favorite doesn’t, please ask your stylist to save your clippings so you can ship them to Matter of Trust yourself. You have to register online — which is free and takes only a few minutes — and then you’ll be placed on a mailing list to receive updates about where to send your hair. (The organization relies on donated warehouse space, so locations change frequently.)

While you’re at it, head over to the Sierra Club and strike a blow for the good guys by participating in the Best Fundraiser Ever. I sweetened the deal by using my Nature Conservancy credit card to make the donation, thereby helping TWO environmental organizations.

I’d like to see a lot more of this type of fundraiser. Positive action is the best antidote to ignorance and hatred.



We have a financial emergency here in Tulsa. Within a matter of hours, the Oklahoma Legislature will decide the future of education in this state. If our legislators vote to cut the education budget, up to 286 of my colleagues could lose their jobs, and my kids will lose some of their favorite teachers. Please read the following action alert and take a few minutes to write a quick e-mail of support for Oklahoma students.


The Oklahoma Legislature is preparing to vote on possible budget cuts to school districts within the state. If these cuts are imposed, Tulsa Public Schools could lose up to 286 teachers. Oklahoma already ranks 46th in the nation for per-pupil spending and 48th for teacher salaries.

Budget cuts during the past year have already forced TPS to make millions of dollars in cuts. If these cuts continue and expand, your favorite teacher’s job could be next.

The Legislature could vote on this issue in a matter of hours, so all of us who care about Oklahoma’s children need to take IMMEDIATE action to let our legislators know where we stand on this issue.

Take a few moments to write a polite e-mail to all Tulsa-area legislators, letting them know where you stand on this issue. Your e-mail should include the following talking points:

* Oklahoma cannot compete with the rest of the nation if our students do not have an adequate education.

* Mention a teacher who has made a significant difference in your life.

* Remind your legislators that they would not be where they are without the efforts of their own teachers.


Send your message to all of the following e-mail addresses:;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

(You can do this by copying and pasting this list of addresses into the “To” line of your e-mail.)

Please forward this message to everyone who might be willing to help. Again: Time is of the essence. Write your e-mail IMMEDIATELY. It does not need to be perfect. It just needs to be clear and polite.