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Is this illegal?

20 Jun

I had a list of errands a mile long. That’s why I was sitting in my car, in front of the library, waiting for it to open. I was running a bit ahead of schedule, but, as this was only stop number two of eight, I wasn’t cocky over over-confident. I knew this was temporary.

I had a few minutes to kill, so, as I sat listening to The Underground Railroad, I decided to look through my wallet to see what Items I should remove before my upcoming trip to Chicago. I usually only like to carry the cards I need, and an emergency credit card. As I riffled through the items tucked into pockets, my eyes caught sight of my car insurance card, and they bugged out of my head. The expiration date was two weeks ago.

I calmed myself down, closed my eyes and tried to remember if the new cards had come in the mail. I couldn’t see them in my mind’s eye, but remembered receiving the list of   E-Z Pay dates and amounts that would be deducted from my account. Okay,  I thought, calming a little, they haven’t closed my account, so I’m still good.

I tried to remember receiving the big envelope that arrives annually, but couldn’t. That didn’t mean it hadn’t come. Knowing they were planning to deduct the payments, I was sure it had to be at home. I was nervous, but planned to look for the cards as soon as I got home. If they were there, they’d be in one of two places.

The library opened and I got my holds. Driving to complete the next six errands, I was nervous, worrying that, with an expired insurance card in my car, this would be the time something happened. Nothing did.

When I got home I looked in the first of the two places…and there was that lovely large envelope that I;d never opened. I tore it open and there were the cards. I carefully tore along the perforations and put one card in my wallet and another in an enveloped labelled  INSURANCE 2017-18, to be placed in the glove compartment later. Then, I sat, and finally relaxed.

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A conversation overheard, then understood

6 Jun

The buzz of conversation filled my classroom as the 5-minute break began. Sixth graders clustered in groups and their energy was palpable. Well, there are only three weeks of school left, I thought as I bustled about the room getting things ready for the second half of our 2-hour block.

I scanned the room, looking for trouble (there was non) and paid vague attention to their conversations, until I heard one that piqued my interest.

“Oh gosh!” exclaimed a popular girl. “I have learned SO much this year.More than I learned in all my years of elementary school.”

WOW!  I thought. These kids really recognize and appreciate how hard their teachers work. I felt really proud of myself and my team. We had taken this group of highly gifted young people and given them the educational challenge they needed. Yeah us!

And then I overheard the rest of the conversation.

“I am the most corrupt person in my family,” she went on, bragging, and I realized that she was not talking about the formal education we’d been providing for the last 8 months. She was talking about the informal learning she’d picked up from her peers about life and how it all works. My heart dropped.

And then I laughed at myself.

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A tough weekend – #SOL17

30 May

I live in Portland, Oregon.

It was a tough weekend.

Bad news Friday night about racist comments and death on the Max.

Sunday, I woke up to the neighborhood next to me cordoned off because of police activity. Residents were to shelter in place and had to be escorted to and from their homes most of the day.

Monday dawned grey and gloomy, but, by late afternoon, the clouds had burned off and the sun was shining giving us perfect Memorial Day weather.

It is as though we hit bottom and were on the way up again.

Over the last few weeks, my team and I have had a series of meeting with a couple of families. One kid in particular had me very worried. He hit bottom about two weeks ago. Fortunately, school and family noticed and we have put some things in place to help him and he has seemed happier.

We’ve been having some troubles at school too, and each grade has had a presentation about empathy. As a follow-up, instead of doing what I’m supposed to do in my Enrichment class, I am teaching lessons from  The Educator Collaborative’s Global Kind Project.

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I will be honest and say that Enrichment is not my favorite part of my week. I teach it every other day and it is a mix of 6th graders from all halls and teams. And yet, doing the activities and reflective practices the project talks about has made it so that I am enjoying this class far more than I have over the last two years. I am now planning how I will use these activities to start Enrichment next year.

 

Both the student and my city have some work to do, but I think we are up to the challenge.

 

 

Jane Kurtz’s Planet Jupiter Blog Tour

13 May

The sign on the Music Millennium store near my house says it all:

Music_Millennium_store_and_-Keep_Portland_Weird-_sign_(2015)

Jane Kurtz’s new book, Planet Jupiter,  celebrates Portland’s weirdness while telling a beautiful middle grade story of family and belonging.

Planet Jupiter revised cover B

Author’s Summary: Jupiter and her family have spent their lives on the road, moving from town to town in a trusty old van, making do, and earning their living busking for tourists. But when their van breaks down, Jupiter’s mother rents an actual house in Portland for the summer so that Jupiter’s annoying cousin Edom, recently adopted from Ethiopia, can stay with them. Luckily, Edom doesn’t want to be in Portland any more than Jupiter wants her there, and the two hatch a plan to send Edom back to her mother. In the process, Jupiter learns that community — and family — aren’t always what you expect them to be.

Clearly, Kurtz’s depiction of Portland is one of the things I love. She captures the farmer’s market culture and all of the quirkiness of this city I call home. But there are other things that make this an excellent middle grade read.

The fact that Jupiter and her brother, Orion, are named after celestial bodies might seem contrived, but it is very Portland – I have neighbors who named their children after various species of trees! But Kurtz uses the names effectively and weaves celestial metaphors throughout her writing. This is the sort of thing I love pointing out to my students!

Jupiter’s fear of change and her desire to help Edom leave are like a snapshot of how Americans feel about refugees and immigrants generally. Fear of the other, fear of change are overcome when we have the opportunity to get to know people.

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Jane Kurtz is celebrating the release of her new book, Planet Jupiter, with an event May 16, 2017, at 7pm at Annie Bloom’s Books in Portland. Honoring the theme of music and busking in the book, she will be joined by special musical guests Colette and Madelaine Parry.

I hope to see you there!

 

Life’s little ironies

9 May

I placed my groceries on the conveyor belt and sighed. After a long day at work, I was almost home.

The cashier finished checking the people in front of me, but, as I pushed forward she said, “Give me a minute. I have a mess to clean.”

I looked to where she went, under the end of the conveyor, where you stashes the basket you carry by hand. The basket that had been stowed there was oozing eggs. The cashier made three trips to and fro, getting more paper towels and spray cleaner. She grumbled a little about people who don’t mention problems and leave messes for other people to clean and I commiserated.

I didn’t have many items, and I was checked out quickly, with two paper bags in the shopping cart. Portland is plastic bag free. I parked the cart and carried my bags to my car, looking back to make sure I hadn’t left anything behind. Nope. I was good to go.

When I got home, I quickly tossed the frozen berries into the freezer and the yogurt into the fridge, then took Lucy for our afternoon constitutional. I would unpack the rest of the groceries when we got home.

I fed Lucy when we got home, then started unpacking the rest. It went a little faster that I expected, then poured myself a glass of mineral water. It had reached 72ºF in Portland!

I don;t know what caused the niggle in my brain. But something called me back to the fridge. Hey, where were my lemons?  I pulled out my receipt and sure enough they were on there, but they weren’t in my fridge. Weird. I looked over the receipt once more. Holy cow!  Two other items on the receipt were missing: celery and carrots.

The grand total was just over five dollars worth of veggies, but the pain in my life was huge. I was in no mood to run back to the store (though I did check the car, just in case.) So, I took the only action I could – I sent an email using the comments form on the store’s website. A feeble effort, but I let them know that it wasn’t the value of the items, it was the value of my time that was the bigger loss.

In the aftermath, I thought about the fact that, driving home, I’d been thinking over the fact that I didn’t really have a good Slice of Life story.  Ha! I thought, too, about the cashier, who had complained about people not doing the right thing. Ha! Ha! Life sure is full of irony, isn’t it.

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The Greening of Portland

28 Mar

We’ve had a lot of rain this Winter & Spring.

A local TV station posts daily rainfall updates and I like to see how much above “normal” we are. Today’s stats are as follows:

MARCH RAIN to Date: 7.01″ Departure from Normal: +3.75″

Rainfall since October 1st (water year): 41.25″ Departure from Normal: +15.33″

As I drive home over the Marquam Bridge, I look at one of the  Portland’s many other bridges, the Hawthorne Bridge. It has numbered markings on its tower foundations and I use these to help me monitor the height of the Willamette River. The markings are now under water.

One of the really funny aspects of the wet Pacific NW climate is how non-living things turn green with moss.

The asphalt in parking lots has taken on a greenish hue,

as have the back steps of my home.

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These rocks in my garden are positively fuzzy.

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But the best bit of out of place greenery is growing on my neighbor’s car.

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Friday afternoon traffic

18 Mar

I could have left school during my end of the day plan period, instead I stayed and got ready for Monday. I knew I had to get home quick, walk Lucy, then head out again for Rocket’s vet visit and transfer to his new owners. Yes, it was a rainy Friday afternoon, , but how bad could the traffic be?

Really bad, I thought as I merged onto Highway 26 after navigating the suburban roads that got me there. I quickly began to rethink my master plan. If we kept crawling along at less than 10 miles an hour I’d never be able to make it. I could just go straight to the vet, though that would probably get me there too early. 

I kept driving in my lane and noticed that today, the other two lanes were moving faster. Although the lane I was in would take me my preferred route, I might have to take an alternate, I thought.  I could change lanes and drive through downtown. As we continued to crawl along, I started checking my driver’s side mirror. Suddenly a space appeared and I moved into the lane to my left.  Just one more lane to go.  Another space, much larger,  and I was driving the speed limit again.

I manoeuvred through the Pearl District, crossed the Broadway Bridge and then… flashing lights in front of me. A fire truck was sideways, blocking access. A big accident? I couldn’t see as I turned and took the detour.

I got home a little later than I’d hoped, but not as late as I feared I’d be. Poor Lucy, got a “hello”, a poop walk, and dinner. then I was out the door.

As I started driving towards the vet, another journey that required highway driving, I worried about the slow traffic I’d encountered on the way home. Fortunately, it was smooth sailing South on I-5. For drivers, going North, it was a different story. They were at a stand still. I filed that info for the trip home.

Everything went well at the vet. The new family was super excited. The daughter of the owner, who had been keeping Rocket was weepy.

I took an alternate way home to avoid the I-5 traffic jam. It looped me back to Highway 26, which, two hours earlier had been slow. By the time I returned to it, it was clear sailing home.

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