We All Gotta Go Sometime

Writing is my passion, it always has been. Some days the creative juices have left me more parched than the Sahara Desert, other days they’ve made Niagara Falls look like a babbling brook. But always the desire to write is with me. I always knew I would get published, someday.

Someday is NOW!

At this year’s Southeastern Writers Association (SWA) conference at Epworth By the Sea on St. Simmons Island in Georgia, I was fated to meet a lovely lady named Pam.

Pam was a newbie to SWA. The great thing about our very small conference, is that at each meal you can dine with everyone, faculty, board members, new members and veterans.  And even though we are few in number, there are plenty enough in attendance that one rarely sits by the same person at any two meals running.

Chit-chat with newbies invariably revolve around writing, the genres, the process, and your stage within that process. “What do you write?” is the most common greeting when getting to know writers for the first time.

One breakfast time I was fortunate enough to sit with Pam and the conversation began as expected. Over a plate of grits and bacon I recounted the story of my new found fetish, toilets. I explained how this fascination began on a school trip to the UK and flourished from there. I had taken so many photos I had to put them somewhere, so I created a toilet pictures album. (See the tab above marked Toilet Pictures)

Pam very politely listened, hanging on every word of this very odd tale and at the end  her face lit up. “You’re going to publish that, right?” She asked, smiling almost as wide as a donkey eating briars.

I dropped dead silent. The thought of making an actual book out of these pictures never once dawned on me. I thought surely one of my novels would be more worthy of publication than a bunch a pictures taken by a questionably sane person in public restrooms.

“It would make the perfect bathroom reader,” she continued. “If you published it, I would buy it for my bathroom.”

I paused a moment, trying to discern her sincerity. Still scratching my head I walked into the bookstore, a small room set aside in our main lecture hall for published authors to sell their books to other accomplished or aspiring authors. There I found Lee, a fixture of the SWA conference and a seasoned publisher in his own right.

“You are not going to believe what just happened,” I laughed as I began my tale, still not sure it was real.

“That’s a great idea!” Lee’s eyes lit up at the idea of a full color paper back. “If you want to do this, I’ll publish you.”

For the second time that morning I was rendered speechless. Not an altogether easy feat given my gob. Was this really happening? Was my dream of publication really coming true? Was I really going to become The Toilet Book Author?

Nothing lasts forever, and least of all any time in paradise, which is what my time on the island is, my writing paradise. The next month I was off to Ireland with my newly graduated son and then back to work, the start of the school year followed. What happened then? Life. Oh, I did try to devote time to compiling all the pictures and the little bit of text to go with it. Lesson plans and grading  and parent contact took center stage, for the whole first quarter of school.

Finally, six months, dozens upon dozens of photos pulled from my phone, and over 3,000 words written later, I had a book ready for publication. And here it is, “We All Gotta Go Sometime: One Woman’s Obsession with Public Restrooms”.

My first publication is due to the printers by Friday this week.

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When people don’t know…

It bothers me when people rally against something without getting all the facts first. I get it from the general public when I tell them my profession. I get it from stuck-in-the-past veteran teachers opposed to change. I’ve even gotten it from my own family. 

I don’t normally write about my work on this blog, but I had to this time. A voice of reason must be heard. 

Please view this video then continue reading. 

The People’s Voice video
What the woman is demonstrating is a strategy, one of many that students are exposed to, for solving a subtraction problem. It is a strategy, not a common core standard. The standards tell us what knowledge the students are to gain at a specific grade level, not how the student is to learn it. They do not specify a specific strategy to use either, except in the case of the standard algorithm. There are specific grade levels where the algorithm for each operation is appropriate and where it’s not. In most standards where strategies are mentioned it will say “…using various strategies such as a tape diagram, a number line, etc.” This gives students options. 

Furthermore, this strategy is taken out of context. It is a scaffolded higher level strategy. Students began concretely with place value blocks or place value disks on a place value chart, then moved conceptually to a number line. The strategy in this video is the abstract level that was built on the solid foundation of the other two, and is just one more scaffold up toward standard algorithm. 

Place value blocks show a solid grouping of ten ones in the tens rod and a solid grouping of ten groups of ten in the hundreds flats.

  

A drawing representation of the place valure blocks.

  

Each disk represents one unit within each place value block on the chart.

  
  

Number line ‘jumps’ are in increments of 1s, 5s, 10s, 100s, etc. to utilize mental math, a strategy not requiring paper and pencil to solve (10+50=60 a known equation based on place value knowledge).

  

The stand algorithm.

 
This standard (MAFS.2.NBT.2.5 for Florida Standards users, MA.2.NBT.B.5 for Common Core users. The wording is the same, only the label was changed.) requires students to “fluently add and subtract within 100 using strategies based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction.” It, like so many math standards, does not specify which strategy the student absolutely must use.
I agree that ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ But what happens when it is an insurmountable wall. If traffic is backed up for miles and miles due to lane closures on your usual route, are you going to just stay stuck in it or are you going to look for other roads that will still lead you to your final destination? If you only know the one route, you’re pretty much stuck. But knowledge of the roads in the area gives you alternate route options. 

There really are some GOOD strategies being taught in mathematics these days. And the reason they seem strange to some of us is because we were taught ‘rules’. “Do the math this way because I said so.” But rules expire. 
Rule: use the “butterfly method” (cross multiplying) to compare two fractions. 

Expiration: there are more than two fractions to compare. 

In math instruction the right answer is still the objective, however we are now showing students more than one path toward that end, allowing them to use what works best for them and their learning modality. The strategies being taught are to help students develop a deep understanding of mathematics, giving them a broader road map as it were, rather than giving them a single path by having them memorize rules that can and will expire as they progress through math. Not every strategy is going to make sense or be useful to every student, but that doesn’t make it wrong, unless it yields the wrong answer. 

I was a terrible math student in school, all the way up through college math. I was locked in my thinking by the rules. But when I began teaching elementary math, I developed that deep understanding of the mathematical process and the integral relationship between operations right alongside my students. I’ve had far more ah-ha moments since I started teaching math than I ever did as a student. Math for me now is an incredible journey, not the foreboding obstacle it once was. 

That doesn’t mean I don’t use ‘short cuts’ like the standard algorithm. It means I use the most efficient strategy I am comfortable with to the given situation. Sometimes I don’t have paper and pencil to work it out ‘the old fashioned way’ so I need a fall back strategy. 

That is what today’s math instruction is all about. Giving students options. Helping them to be successful in finding the right answer by various means rather than locking them into only one method that might not always work for them or their situation. 

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 720 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 12 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Flat Packs and Cat Tales

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Humans are very entertaining. The other day my human brought home a large flat box. She ripped open the end and nearly stepped on my tail doing those silly jumping jacks to coax the contents out.

My human actually sat on the floor, eyes glued to the paper that lay on top of the stack. She must not have realized she wasn’t in a chair. I pawed at the paper held in her hand, then moved in closer. See, it’s easier to read the directions with your teeth.

On all fours after categorically refusing my help, she started moving pieces from the box around on the floor. I jumped from board to board like Frogger chasing a high score award. My job was to check each board for structural integrity by having it hold my mass evenly, with proper grace and style. Summarily slid from my summit onto the floor is so not dignified.

So many tiny pieces piled on top of the last board. I had to inspect each and every one, of course. My human dropped a small shiny thing to the floor. Let me get that for you. What? Honestly, I wasn’t going to swallow it! When her fingers wrenched my mouth open, I gave it back to her. That was so helpful. I think I’ll do it again!

I don’t know why she kept putting these tiny wooden pieces into holes on a board that clearly don’t want them. When the third one fell to the floor, I tried to help her pick it up. Oh, what a yummy smell! Think I’ll have just a little…

“Max!” my human screamed.

It was just one. I wasn’t really gonna eat it. I was just measuring it, with my mouth.

“No, blah, blah, blah, Max.”

Her tone sounded harsh. She was obviously upset with herself and her impossible project. I did try to help.

The large white boards first formed a box of some sort. Not very sturdy I’d say. The structure swayed back and forth like the walls of a Japanese toilet room in the middle of an earthquake. Aren’t those smaller boards supposed to go in there somewhere?

While she played her game of dominoes with the middle pieces of the thing, a large metal claw-like thing laying nearby on the floor warranted my further investigation. It moved a little my first try. I wanted to see how far I could slide it, but my human picked it up before I had a good a swing at it. After indiscernible shouts and a quicker than my tail flick reflex when it landed on her thumb, I was glad I decided it really wasn’t worth that much bother. My beauty sleep is more important.

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Three naps later, my human had constructed me a new perch from which to spy on passersby, exactly what I wanted. I think I’ll keep her.

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10 Ways You’re Making Your Life Harder Than It Has To Be

This is very good advice and so timely for me. Enjoy! 🙂

The Kiss that Nearly Killed Me–Why Peanut Allergies are DEAD Serious

This is VERY serious business and my hat’s off to Kristen for taking the time to tell us her experience. 🙂

Please read Kristen’s story. The scariest thing of all is this kind of allergy (peanuts, antibiotics, shellfish, gluten or lactose intolerance, etc.) can rear it’s ugly head at any time of life to any one of us, regardless of how often we are exposed to it previously.

Cheers!

Kristen Lamb's Blog

I am reticent to write this blog, namely because a lot of the content I’ve shared lately has involved a string of injuries. I am a 40 year old woman who practices Brazilian Jui-Jitsu and it’s a contact sport. Stuff happens. I’m also the mother of a 4 year-old. Trips and falls over the hidden Matchbox car or lurking Legos happen. If fact, I’m not particularly worried about burglars. If they can make it through my living room in one piece?

Feel free to have the ten-year-old television. You earned it.

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But, despite this being embarrassing, I felt it was a vital topic to address. Recently, I blogged about empowering my little one to do things on his own. A big step? Making his OWN PBJ sandwich. Since I already know I have a zillion food allergies and intolerances, I’ve avoided eating peanuts, because I know that people with current…

View original post 1,721 more words

3 Ways Kittens Are Like Human Babies

3 Ways Kittens Are Like Human Babies

In a previous life I was a cat. I’m quite certain that is where my strong affinity with this most regal species–even the largest, wildest variety–stems. Though with my giving and loving nature I must have been a male cat. Perhaps someone’s indoor pet, and probably neutered. I’d rather not like to think I could have been the neighborhood tom.

FancyWe had a cat for several years. She was a beautiful calico, her coat a seamless swirl of all the colors, not blotchy patches as some are. With white fur to her elbows and ankles and six toes on each of her front paws, she clearly was Fancy. My little girl cat passed away a few years ago which left a gaping hole in my heart. A hole I felt but hadn’t realized the caused nor how to fill it until the fateful day I met Maximilian’s foster mom’s husband at the auto mechanics shop. How fortunate for me that he had to leave his car to be worked on and she had to come pick him up, bringing along Max and another kitten she needed to take back to the shelter to be put up for adoption.

Since Max’s arrival, I have found myself once again in a mommy role, a role I thought I was much too old to ever play again. This morning as I barked orders of care for the wee kitten to my older son while dashing to grab a quick shower the ah-ha moment struck. The analogy made, I lowered my head and accepted my moniker.

How Kittens Are Like Babies, the top 3:

3. Photos. Let’s face it, new parents are the single most reason camera film companies stayed in business before digital media. How many of you have far more baby pictures of your children than any other time in their lives? Raising hand–guilty! And how many of you have shared those baby pictures with anyone and everyone who has a functioning set of eyes? It’s an obsessive need to share the joy of your bundle of cuteness with the world. Maximilian was brought into our family this past Wednesday and I can already fill an album with pictures. But I didn’t stop there, oh no! Thanks to digital media I had my “baby pictures” on my phone ready to flash under any nose, willing or not. The Twitterverse and my Facebook friends also had to endure looking at picture after picture as I tweeted and posted every five minutes. But who could blame me, I mean this is certainly a face that more than just his mother could love, right?

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2. Eating. Kittens eat A LOT. When compared to their body mass, the amount they consume is enormous, though not all in one sitting, or even just two or three. They eat nearly ’round the clock. During the day we keep his food down in the library where he spends most of his time, his safe haven as he slowly gets to know the dogs, or rather they get used to him being in their house. With double hung accordion doors on the library and a behemoth Boston terrier 389C558B-F8D8-4D2E-AACF-E7EB9F3F2D63 who answers to the whims of the diminutive by comparison pug IMG_0178 and is capable of opening said doors, we decided the safest place for Max at night would be in our room. That first night I slept, but not well as my subconscious stayed alert listening for the sounds of his minuscule mews and the bell on his collar. Neither sound gave an indication of distress so I slept on.

By the second night he learned to get up onto our bed. I was awoken at 5:00 A.M. by sweet, wet nose kisses on my cheek and a purring snuggle under my chin. This was not affection on his part to be sure. This was kitten speak for “Woman wake up and feed me, now!” Uttered in the sweetest way I’m sure. It was my normal weekday time to get up at least. Besides, giggling is a much better sound to wake to than a blaring alarm any day, even if it is your own. The next night the euphoria of such a pleasant arousal crashed down around my ears when the same kitten tactics woke me at 2:30 am. The purring snuggle under my chin became a headbutt to the jaw line until I got up to go get his food. The gentle rub against my leg as I sat the bowl on the floor was not affection but rather a Clydesdale style shoving past me to get to his food.

Last night we were smart and made sure his food was also in our room. I can be taught, and was granted permission to sleep in until 6:30 this morning, when his food ran out.

1. Everything goes in the mouth.
You know that tiny screw that flew from the back of the remote and disappeared into the carpet? Max found it. And that tiny piece of popcorn that lingered just out of sight on the floor at the edge of the couch…Max found that too. In fact in his investigative roams into more and more areas of the house Max is doing his level best to smear my good house cleaning reputation. I have done more lunges and squats in the last few days than I have in my adult lifetime. He’s soon going to think his name is Max-what-are-you-eating.

Kittens are addictive, a friend of mine said recently, and I just love mine to bits!

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You had to know I would do a toilet pic!

You had to know I would do a toilet pic!

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Something Old, Something New

Something Borrowed, Something Blue.

Recently (there’s that relative term again) I decided to weed through my mass collection of earrings spanning far too many years. Ninety percent of those earrings are ones that I have made myself though. In fact, I haven’t bought a pair of earrings in nearly five years.

While separating my collection into piles of keep, break apart, or just replace the hook and clasp, I came upon a set that I really loved but had fallen out of favor with because it had tarnished so badly.

20140317-073343.jpgBlue, in case you hadn’t noticed, is by far my favorite color, green coming in a very close second. It was the blue beads that first drew me to this set hanging on the costume jewelry rack all those years ago. But not just that, the delicate chain between the smaller beads was so shiny. You know how Southerners are about shiny things. This pair became my go to pair with my blue outfits for many years. They stood out nicely against my naturally dark brown curls.

As my collection grew from my creative spurts, more and more newer, shinier sets crowded this pair out making them virtually invisible to me each morning as I selected my adornment. While sorting through all my sets I rather cavalierly chucked this once much loved pair into the break apart pile along with all the other tarnished beyond reason sets. How cold and callus the decision was and it took less than two second to make.

Like any time consuming project, by the time I was finished sorting and reorganizing the surviving pairs of earrings, I was ready to call it a day. So there all the discarded earrings sat on my dresser in handmade wooden bowls (remember I am a MakerGoddess) for what seemed an eternity. Finally, the day arrived that I had the time to deal with all the mess.

First I replaced the hooks and clasps on the ones set aside for that easy repair. Back into the collection they went. Next, the task of breaking apart all those earrings whose metal parts had fallen into such a state of disrepair that the only redeeming quality left to then were the beads. But wait, couldn’t they be saved, I hear you asking. I did think of that. A couple of runs through a sonic jewelry cleaner though revealed the hopelessness of the valiant effort. So back into the bowl they went as they waited their fateful meeting with the cutters.

Pair after pair snapped apart, the beads IMG_1680 set aside for reintegration into my vast stock, 20140317-075645.jpg the metal works cast into the bin like fish guts. With each successive pair any and all sentimentality faded more rapidly than a blink. Until I came to this pair. I paused, holding it in one hand, the cutters still poised in the other. The next few seconds, that seemed to last an eternity, were filled with reasons to keep the set. The chain and hooks can replaced! Or can they?

I was down to my very last pair of silver hooks, recouped from a pair I had previously repaired, when the hope of rejuvenating the beloved earrings began to waver. Then a search of my lengths chain presented another road block. While I had some pretty delicate links in my stores, none were as delicate as the original. Was this it, the end really come for my favored pair? No!

There is no way you can ever mend anything back to its completely original state. Even car enthusiasts can spot a restored classic from one that’s never had work done. The smallest chain in my supply may have been bigger than the original, but it would still work, wouldn’t it? Yes!

Painstakingly counting and recounting and recounting and recounting (yes, multiple times) each link set between beads in the original to assure comparable length in the new, I set about the delicate surgery on my old friends. I didn’t have to be so precise, but wanting to remake the pair as close to the original design spurred my tenacity to the task. It soon paid off!

20140317-080638.jpgEmboldened by the success of the first repair I set my lithesome hands in motion at a faster pace, counting but not recounting as many times the links of the original and replacement chains.

Sheer ecstasy filled my heart when I saw the pair, completely rejuvenated.20140317-081430.jpg

I could have relooped the beads, but I felt for nostalgia’s sake, keeping a bit of the old was important. It is this blending of the new and old that now gives this pair its old fashioned charm. And they still stand out nicely against my naturally dark brown (thanks to Miss Clairol) curls. See?

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Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. Very sentimental and so relevant to this project. Old, check. New, check. Even blue, check. But where did the borrowed come from I hear you asking. Well, it wasn’t my design to begin with now was it?

When Is It Too Much?

A once popular British TV comedy show featured a pair of characters who seem to be the best of friends. One is in a wheel chair and seems not only physically, but also mentally disabled. The friend is ever so obligingly taking care of him in each skit. The disabled character would make a choice about something (a trip, a book, a holiday destination, whether or not to go to the bathroom at a more convenient time). The friend would then proceed to gently attempt to persuade the man away from the undesired choice and guide him back toward a more reasonable choice. Always the one in the wheelchair stuck to his guns on the inappropriate choice so his friend eventually gave in. Yet every time the decision was carried out you’d see the one in the wheelchair saying he didn’t really want his choice but rather what the friend suggested. And of course the friend always fixed it. Well nearly always. He couldn’t quite change the holiday destination once the airplane was already taking off.

While this makes for great comedy, I wonder, what if this were a real relationship? Would the friend continue to do things with/for the disabled person? Would the friend ever decide to stop arguing with him and just let him lie in the bed he made, accepting his own consequences? When would the friend finally say, “I’ve had enough.” and just walk away.

I recently met a very nice young lady in the beginning years of her career. (Remember recently is always going to be a relative term with me.) She liked her profession but wasn’t very happy in her job and wondered if it would be worth it to make a change, to another location or a different position. She had come under new management at the beginning of the year and thought she might give it a bit longer, just to see if the fresh new blood made her work environment and the job any better. I commend her for wanting to see how the land lies for now, but how long will she wait?

I was there too. Giving just one more reason to stay, and did so for about three years. Finally, I took the plunge and began applying for other positions within my field.

That was scary, I won’t lie about that. I had been in the same position at the same location for eight years! The idea of being anywhere else, doing anything different, actually having to commute, was never entertained. Yes it was a dream come true to have just a one mile commute! But as the years wore on, and my work environment deteriorated, so sank my acceptance level. Being just a song away from my job became the only good thing I could say about it.

My problem was that I was stuck in a rut of my own making. As a friend of mine once pointed out, I clung to the security of the familiar. Sure that place, that job, stunk to no end, but it was a known odor. If I moved, if I made any waves at all, would I find the same stink or one more foul? Mr. Murphy and I have a complicated relationship. He doesn’t mind and I don’t seem to matter. So his law of things going wrong applies to me categorically. I was just too afraid to take that risk.

Risk nothing gain nothing, though.

I had to leave the security of my familiar when making not one but two changes in my career this school year as it turns out. That was terrifying! But the rewards far outweighed the momentary discomfort I felt in making the change. The best part was that the second decision to make a change was actually easier for this old scaredy cat. And I made it relatively quickly.

I am now doing a job in a much more conducive environment. So what if my commute is over 20 miles now. At least now as I advance forward in my career I am encouraged that taking such risks are going to not only become easier and easier but also I will be a much happier, more productive individual in the end.

My favorite teacher Ms. Frizzle always says, “Take chances. Make mistakes. Get messy.” Fabulous advice if you ask me. Well, except the messy bit, unless you are very near a shower.

Growing Old UNgracefully

I recently wrote a blog post titled ‘Expectations‘. It was a very enlightening piece that in some ways shows my growing maturity. However, the other day as I scrolled through my posted blog titles I discovered that I have another blog post by the same title, this one written in February 2012. How could I have given the same title to two very different posts? There’s old age showing, I think. No it’s not! Ssshhhh

At a recent outdoor concert I saw a man in his 50s wearing a T-shirt with this post’s title in big bold print. Where was my camera!?

That’s so me! I’ve said since I turned 40 that I refuse to grow old gracefully. I’m going kicking and screaming the whole way.

I refuse to listen to my lower back as it creaks and pops first thing in the morning. Don’t tell me I can’t dance the Cha-Cha Slide and Macarena three times in a row each with my 2nd graders on play day. My knees just unnecessarily complain for three days afterward that’s all. That’s not growing old.

I’ve never, even in my twenties, been able to stay up way late at night then get up ridiculously early the next morning and be able to function with any amount of coherence. So my early to bed early to rise lifestyle is not a sign of aging. It doesn’t matter that I’m leaving the club scene at ten o’clock because I have an eleven o’clock date with my pillow. That’s not age creeping in.

I don’t remove my glasses in order to be able to see close up, they just simply get in the way sometimes. Who needs bifocals? It’s simply unnatural to read a book at anything less than arm’s length. This trombone maneuver is exercise, not an indication of an aging woman’s failing eyesight.

Give up eating raw tomatoes because they now give me heartburn? Perish the thought! Heartburn is a condition of the aged or overly stressed. Do I look stressed? No, I’m simply not in the mood for tomatoes. Ever. Too much trouble to wash them and slice them and generally include them in any meal. You ordered my salad with NO TOMATOES, right? Sigh.

There’s a saying in our family: If mom says it is so then it is so even if it ain’t so. Well I’m Mom and I say if I’m growing old, which I’m not saying I am mind you, then I’m doing so very

UNgracefully.

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