“You Look Absolutely Exhausted!”

Really? You think so? Guess what? I’m not! You basically just told me, “you look like crap.”

Do people really think that this is something you should say to someone? Apparently they do. Because someone said it to me last night.

I am a very low-key person. I don’t get excited easily. I’m pretty sure the word “perky” doesn’t come to mind when people think of me. I’m quiet, thoughtful, level-headed, and a whole bunch of other nice adjectives. But all of those words don’t translate into looking exhausted. And even if I was exhausted, do you think I want someone to point it out to me?

We all know someone who has asked a heavier woman, “When are you due?” only to find out that she’s not pregnant. I never ask someone when they’re due unless I know without at doubt that they are, indeed, pregnant. Same goes for this. It’s not a compliment. So keep it to yourself. If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all. Isn’t this one of those rules you learn in kindergarten?

So just a word of advice… Think before you comment on someone’s appearance. You might think it means one thing, but when it comes out of your mouth it can be interpreted as another.

End of rant…

Craft Beer Craze

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If you’ve read much of this blog, you know I’m more of a wine person than a beer person. But in the fall and winter, I do like to test out some seasonal beers. Friday I went out with some friends and they had Sweet Yamma Jamma on tap. Yes, you read that right. Sweet Potatoes! I like the pumpkin flavor stuff at this time of year and my friend, Margaret, had picked out this yummy delight by the time I got to the bar. I sampled a pumpkin beer and this one and decided on the Sweet Yamma Jamma. So far my favorite pumpkin beer is Southern Tier Pumpking. Sweet Yamma Jamma is by Indeed which is brewed in Minneapolis.

On a side note, today happens to be Darkness Day. Two years ago, I had my first Surly Darkness. I don’t necessarily want to buy the big bottles of it, since I don’t drink beer very regularly at home. But I would like to find it on tap in the next month or so. This is the time of the year when I enjoy the seasonal beers. Each area of the country probably has its own craft beer craze happening. It’s worth checking out! You might be surprised!

How many email addresses should one have?

I’m in the position where I have to retire my long-standing email address. I’ve had this provider for probably, 14 years. I’ve been with them since I got an internet connection with a dial-up modem. I then switched to DSL. Eventually I needed wi-fi when I got the laptop. I’ve been wanting to increase my internet speed but didn’t want to leave my provider. Well, about a month ago I got the notice that they were discontinuing their home service. I was bummed.

My month of warning is up and now I’ve made the switch. I just did the easy thing and went through my phone company. I was already getting part of the service through them and had the router/modem thingy of theirs. The changeover was supposed to be a “flip of a switch” according to the guy I talked to about a week ago. Well, the switch was flipped yesterday. Guess what? No internet.

This morning I spent 45 minutes on the phone, trouble-shooting with Geno. There were a few things that needed to be changed, therefore not quite as simple as the first dude, Rob, implied.  As many of you have experienced, getting tech support over the phone consists of some dead space, possibly some uncomfortable silence while you wait for the machines to do their thing. So, I asked Geno where he was. The Philippines. He was a full 13 hours ahead of me.  He was super helpful and very patient and did have to do a fair amount of problem solving. Now, the change in my internet speed feels like I when I went from dial-up to dsl. Whee!

After each call, they mentioned that the company will send a survey about the customer service I received. Of the two experiences, I’d say Rob, in Salt Lake City had mediocre service. As a teacher, I want things explained and had to ask several questions. I was tempted to ask him how old he was. And at the end of the call, he flat-out asks me to rate him well on his customer service. Geno, in the Philippines, however, had fantastic customer service and never asked me to rate him as such. There’s something wacky when the customer service rep has to ask you to rate them well…

But onto my original question… How many email addresses should one have? I have my work email. I had set up a Gmail account awhile ago to keep stuff like Facebook separate from my primary email. I still have to switch over many of the promotional emails that I get to a new address. I can have one through the phone company providing my internet. Do I use that for personal/sensitive stuff? I don’t know? Do you have an opinion about keeping separate email addresses? The work/personal email separation is an easy line to draw. But what about all of the other stuff that we do online?

Cokie and Steve

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The opening day of the NCTR conference we had Cokie and Steve Roberts as our keynote speakers. They are quite an interesting team. They have been married for 47 years and both have 40+ years working for news organizations specializing in politics. While our conference took place during the government shutdown, that was a topic that was at the forefront of their talk. At first I was just going to listen, but then I wanted to remember what I heard and started taking notes. I don’t know how well I’ll put my thoughts together, but I think my notes are worthwhile.

When addressing the current problems in Washington I found one of their responses quite interesting. Personal relationships are now out of the equation. Many politicians don’t move their families to Washington and therefore don’t interact at school, church and in the community. They don’t have kids that are friends with each other. They don’t share a cab with their political adversary. They’re not even friends.

As a teacher, I know that the way to get more out of my students is to forge personal relationships with them. I go to a game, I lend them a book, I find out about their families. I do the things that it takes to get to know them as individuals. Whether or not I like them doesn’t enter the equation. Once you get to know someone, you care for their well-being. Politicians aren’t doing this anymore. They used to be able to disagree in Congress and still respect each other and the work that they were doing. You used to see politicians from both sides of the aisle respect each other and their beliefs. This is definitely eroding.

The re-drawing of district lines is another thing that has contributed to the great divide. It is not done by an independent group. It is done by a party that is in power. We tend to live in areas of like-minded people. So when drawing the lines, they are drawn, keeping in mind the electorate and where there can be political strongholds. Democrats tend to live in urban areas and states that touch oceans. Also, traditional lines drawn tend to limit minority representation. When the districts aren’t drawn for competition, there is no reason for either party to work together if they don’t have to worry about getting re-elected. I can easily see how this is represented in my own state. There is no other explanation as to why Michele Bachmann has been re-elected so many times. The district that I live in is a virtual lock for our Democratic Congresswoman.

They also talked about the internet. Steve referred to it as the most extreme medium. “Anonymous comments breed incivility.” I’d have to agree. I purposely don’t read comments if I read an online article. A lot of the people commenting don’t have a sense of the bigger picture and really do have comments that aren’t civil. I can’t remember the statistic, but Steve quoted something about a large percentage of the public liked the idea of requiring the people commenting to have to use their name. Steve asked, “How do we get back to civil conversation?” Good question.

In the question and answer portion, someone asked Cokie about how things have changed since more women are in Congress. She said that women in the House and Senate tend to work and play better together in politics. They cross lines and work better especially on issues that affect women, families and children. They apparently have a monthly bipartisan dinner that is only women. Sounds like it’s needed!

The only other note that I have is that they mentioned when people feel un-welcome, it makes a difference. They were specifically talking about immigrants and young voters. This makes total sense. Think about when you didn’t feel welcome. How did it make you feel? Crappy, huh?

In this great country of ours it seems like we still have a lot of work to do. The bottom line, I think, is that we’re so consumed with ourselves and what is happening in our own lives, we forget about our neighbors and even our friends. We think that we are making connections because we know what is happening in our friends’ lives because we read it on Facebook. But really, how many close, personal relationships do you have? What are you doing to cultivate them? Do those people know that you care? We all need people in our lives that care about us. It’s those individual relationships that truly matter. I wonder if the politicians realize this?

Closed?

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Closed seemed to be a relative term in Washington, DC this week. We had some time Tuesday afternoon where we were supposed to go to the Capitol and visit our senators and representatives. Getting an appointment during the shutdown wasn’t exactly happening. There were some skeleton crews for various politicians. We couldn’t meet with ours, so I decided to go to the mall area and wander around and see what I could see amidst the shutdown.

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I’ve got a few pictures where you can see how the fences blocking off some of the monuments had been moved and lots of people went in anyway. You can see that the fence has been moved by the reflecting pool at the Washington Monument in the photo above. The top photo is from the MLK monument. Once again, the fence was moved aside. Park rangers weren’t in sight, so we went in.

This was the case at the World War 2 Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Korean War Memorial also. Some of the memorials there were enough people there so you didn’t feel like a total rule breaker. For example, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in the picture below.

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I thought the Korean War Memorial was really cool. And once again, the gate is pretty well pushed open with a fair amount of people already inside.

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The thing that I didn’t realize about being there during the shutdown is that there were significantly fewer people wandering around these monuments than normal. Think about it. When are you able to get a photo of just you in front of a memorial?

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I took advantage of this at the MLK memorial.

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It’s possible that we got lucky with the lack of park rangers and police because of a protest about immigration that was further down the mall. Whatever the case was, I was glad that I was able to see as much as I did. We probably did about 2 hours worth of power walking to see what we did. It’s a bummer that we couldn’t go to any of the museums. There were a few non-governmental ones that were open, but we just didn’t  have enough time. I guess I’ll have to go back!

My Morning Coffee

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I’ve been at a conference for the last few days. I must say, that being where the news is happening is rather interesting. I haven’t been to Washington DC since I was 9 years old. And even though I was there during the government shutdown and lots of things were closed, I definitely want to go back. My conference was for the National Council on Teacher Retirement (NCTR). My days have been filled with talk of defined benefit plans versus defined contribution plans, how politics is getting in the way of providing a stable and secure retirement for public workers and a variety of other things. Over the next week or so, I’ll try to get my thoughts together and write a little bit about it. I’ll also show you that “closed” is a relative term…

Parent/Teacher Conferences – Always Something Interesting

We had the first round of Parent/Teacher Conferences this week. I had more parents come than I’ve had in a long time. I was busy the entire time. Many times, I’m catching up with colleagues and watching the clock. I spoke to parents of kids with As and parents of kids with Ns. At this point in my career, many of the parents are around my age. It does feel a bit different from when I first started. But there’s always something interesting that happens.

I was speaking with a mother of one of my 9th grade boys. We talked over how he was doing and various aspects of school. As our conversation about her son wound down, she says to me, “My husband wanted me to ask you a question. Are you related to the math teacher who used to teach here that almost cut off his toes with a chain saw?” I had to laugh. “Yes, that’s my dad.” She went on to say that her husband really liked my dad’s class and thought he was a great teacher.

I probably need to clarify the story because I’m sure you’re curious now. Back in about 1984 my dad was cutting wood in the back yard. The chain saw hit a knot in the wood and “jumped” and landed on his foot. It of course, cut through his shoe and most of the way through his big toe. In the shock of it all, he walked up to the house. He must have been clear-headed enough to make sure he walked around to the front to make sure he didn’t track blood in the house. He came through the garage and opened the door to the kitchen where he said, “I think I need to go to the hospital.” My dad ended up with his toe reattached. They used some kind of pin and a Black n Decker drill. I remember there being a little hook on the top of the pin sticking out of his toe. Because of the chain saw accident, my dad missed my brother’s confirmation and we still give him grief for his many mishaps that have occurred where he’s missed a particular milestone.

Since my dad retired in 1997, it has been awhile since I’ve had someone ask about him during conferences. It’s very nice to have someone fondly remember a teacher. Most of the time the teacher never hears about how they influenced a child and how that child grew up and still remembers them. I’m lucky that I get to hear about the impact my dad made on his students. And it’s even nicer that I can pass it on to him.