Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Birthday to...BOO!

144 years ago, Nevada was "Battle Born" becoming the 36th state. Lincoln courted the territory because the Union needed the silver from the Silver State, and sent federal troops waaaay out here to guard the railroads and the mines. Apparently the Confederacy attempted to come out here and get that valuable resource, too. Anyway, the main reason for your history lesson today, boys and girls, is that because of this statehood commemoration, schools are closed and I get a day off.

Each year, I go to great lengths to remind my students that, no, really we don't get a day off to celebrate Halloween, honest. But because Nevada statehood day is October 31st, it always seems like we get Halloween off! It is a very serious holiday for many of my students. The trick-or-treat thing is very important. Very. I mean---FREE CANDY. You can go all over the city and get FREE CANDY.

We live on a main-drag type of street and so we get lots of attention tonight. I love Halloween, and so I put up my jack-o-lantern and ghost lights all around the door frame. I hang out my tole painted ghost trailing long white cotton streamers. I dig out the big bowl that looks like a pumpkin and fill it with candy. And through the night here, I fill it and fill it and refill and refill it. When I've gone through all my bags of candy, I unplug my lights, shut off the porch light and lock the door. But it is an hours long event on my street. Kids come from the area south of us, where I used to teach. It's not a prosperous part of town, just six miles away, and so they come up the hill to my part of town where the treating is more generous.

Last year, I opened the door and there stood a whole family. They greeted me with a surprised "Hi!" and they looked familiar, but I couldn't place them. Then, the boy in front pulled off his mask, looked me in the eye and shouted, "Hey! It's Mrs. Frome!" It was fantastic---it was a student I'd had in my previous school. But that wasn't why it was fantastic. This boy has autism, and for him to recognize me, and greet me so gregariously was the fantastic part. He usually was silent and reticent. We had a great mini-reunion. His mom was delighted at his reaction too. It was a really Happy Halloween.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Setting a Good Example---NOT

You learn a lot while holding aloft a stop sign, wearing the fluorescent vest of a crossing guard. One thing I've learned (well, re-learned) is that a lot of parents don't seem to realize that their kids are watching them.

We have this one mom who picks up her three boys and her nephew everyday. She parks across the street from the school. This requires that the boys must cross the (very) busy street in front of the school. There we are, my partner and I, stepping into that street every day at the end of school, stopping the cars, providing a safe path for anyone who comes to get their students. Many people utilize our services.

Except her.

She parks about 100 yards down from our corner. Then, she sits in the vehicle and gestures and hollers to the boys (one is very small) to come over right there, in the middle of the block, to get into the car. So, the boys poise on the edge of the road, looking at her, looking at the cars, hesitating, looking around to see if the little boy is with them, and hearing her shout at them to hurry up and come on over. All the cars are trying not to run over them, but the drivers are distracted as they also attempt to not be rear-ended by the other cars coming up the block whose drivers cannot see the little drama happening just over the rise in the road. It's like watching a little doggie running in and out of traffic. You just cringe, anticipating the worst.

Why not ask the boys to walk up the street and cross with us? Why not park just a little closer to the corner where we're stopping the cars? Why not teach your children to cross the street where it's safe and where it's obviously the designated place to cross?

Why not indeed.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Graduate Dithering

Eighteen months ago, I was accepted to the MLS degree on-line program at San Jose State University. I registered, got everything all set up to do my on-line courses, started one, and discovered two things.
1) I was really not computer savvy enough to do an on-line class effectively.
2) I didn't actually want to do what the degree was about after all: organizing data.

So, I withdrew (a nice word for "dropped out" w/o penalty.) I looked into several other "schools" that constantly send teachers information touting their convenient and quick master's degree programs. Basically, "Give us $20,000 and we give you a degree in 18 months." But none of them are an actual brick&mortar school. They exist largely in cyberspace to give master's degrees and apparently have agreements with a couple of western states to service their teachers. I didn't want one of those.

So, next I applied to UNLV, since I am a Nevada resident and I live here in Las Vegas and they have an education school. Most of their degree programs weren't that exciting to me, either, but I've maxed out salary-advancement-wise and I must get a master's degree to earn more money. Plus, at my age, and after teaching 14 years, I'm just about alone with only a bachelor's degree. Nearly everyone I know has a graduate degree but me. My resume is thin.

So, I was accepted to the Curriculum and Instruction program. But when I discussed this with a trusted friend who works in the district office, she told me some things that made me reconsider this choice. I was supposed to register for classes and start in January. I went down there, met with a professor she recommended to me, and---changed my program----again. I'm beginning to feel dizzy.

But, at last, I believe I have a goal I can accomplish and be happy with: MS Educational Psychology. It's all about cognitive research in reading instruction. Okay. A program I can get behind, something based on data, something I can use if I ever leave the classroom for some vague district office position. Blah. blah. No, really, I do feel good about the degree. I need to take a class starting in January, then the degree starts officially in Fall, 2009. And, thanks to Meredith, I can afford it!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Last Word

One more blog about the game show:
  1. I realize that thousands of viewers were shouting at their t.v. screens in derision: "Van Halen---duh!!!" But I didn't have a television in 1984, and the music I listened to on the stereo was Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, ZZ Top, and Emily Lou Harris.

  2. I'm sure that at least 50 students hollered at me on Friday, "Mrs. [earthsignmama], you should have guessed!! You knew it!!" Well, yes, I've silently (and not so silently) berated my own self about that choice. However, I do not gamble. If I'd had maybe two minutes to think about it, I'd have talked myself into Davy Crockett. But, like Coolguy says: "If you want to feel bad about winning $50,000, then you go right ahead, but I don't want to hear about it anymore." The End.
  3. I really just wish I'd answered that Davy Crockett question mostly to find out what the NEXT question was. Maybe I'd have known the answer! I won the million dollars over and over playing on their website for practice. I know, I know....THE END.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Licking Her Way to the Finish Line

So, now I know why the make-up girl kept touching up my lipstick. Evidently my most prominent nervous tic is licking my lips over and over and over and over...Oh, well, I still get the money. YEAH!! In fact, I'm taking the fake check with me to school tomorrow to show the kids. They were very excited today over the outcome of yesterday. Tomorrow will be really a scream. (or a squeal, or shouting...)

The Millionaire people said they'd send the real $50,000 dollar check within thirty days after the program airs. I hope to see it by Thanksgiving. Then, of course, the bank is guaranteed to "hold" it for another unknown number of days before they allow me do anything with it. But, finally, I will get to enjoy all the zeros in my account for a little while until I begin paying off bills. My one indulgence planned is to remodel my bedroom closet with those neat shelves and racks and shoe holders. When we bought this older (fixed-up) house in an established neighborhood, an important feature was the bigger lot size. Our neighbor's house isn't so close we can slap it. But, I gave up walk-in closets for the big lot and the pool/spa. I'm going to fix that in a few months.

  • Yes, Meredith Vierra is really that nice in person. Everyone associated with the show is very kind.
  • Thank you again Jessie for narrowing down my choices as Phone-A-Friend.
  • Thank you Shelly and Brian for being willing to get The Call.
  • Thank you all of my children for having such wide and varied interests that caused your mom to read up on so many things that my knowledge pool was expanded continuously. Seriously, raising children is an entire graduate degree because they open up your world to all kinds of topics.
  • HEY! Emily Burdin out there in Maryland! I hope you're doing well in college!
  • After the $500 question, it was all profit because I'd flown out there on mileage from CoolGuy, and all I paid for was the train from Baltimore to NYC, and a very pricey hotel room on Eighth Avenue.
  • I was so nervous I mispronounced a French word--for shame--I took French in high school. It's tray-bu-shay not "tray-bu-shett." I'd still like to look up the group in Pennsylvania who build them for fun and chunk pumpkins every year.
  • My friend in the school where I worked for 10 years in Southern Maryland gathered a bunch of my buddies there in the art room and they watched me during their lunch break. Go Leopards!!
  • I'm glad it's finished. I'm exhausted.
  • My lips are chapped real bad, too.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

It's Gamma!

That was the reaction of my two year old grandson, said my daughter, as they watched me in the mid-afternoon win a little money on t.v. I watched tonight in my city (it comes on at different times everywhere) and I didn't look as nervous as I felt. That's good!

You see, when they revealed each question, I quickly had an idea what the choices might be, and when those choices didn't pop up in the answer slots, then my brain was very confused, and I couldn't think. It wasn't so confused it couldn't recognize that the timer was relentlessly ticking down to zero, however.

So, even though, watching at home, you are sitting there calmly munching chips, saying "Oh, it's______[fill in the blank]", the contestant is panicking and thinking "WHAAAAT??? What were they asking??? These aren't what I expected!!! ARRRGGHHH!!!" ...for a millisecond, and then you suck in some air and say, "Oh, C--final answer" with a big smile. And everyone cheers and Meredith smiles and you think, "Whew--still alive" and hope the butterflies in your stomach don't suddenly all come flying out, accompanied by your lunch.

Tomorrow: watch the grand finale, as she urges the butterflies to continue hovering, quietly, down there.

Monday, October 20, 2008


I saw me on TV tonight...during the local news the hour before the Millionaire show came on, I am on the promo for the show. (!!) They show a number of the teachers, but I get to talk, too. It's just a clip of the show, but I looked a lot better than I did in the little blurb they showed last week, in which we were treated to my eight double chins---looking down at the monitor through my bifocals caused my old lady neck to be all scrunched up.

We didn't get to watch one another at the taping so I'm seeing the other contestants' performances for the first time as it is broadcast. I watched the first guy tonight, another Las Vegas teacher, who also has appeared on Jeopardy (so you know he is smart...) and he won less than me. He was just stumped by a question that was extremely obscure. I felt bad for him. So, I'm feeling better and better about the amount I won. This is going to very nerve-wracking to watch myself!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

New, new, new, Change, change, change

I'll bet you thought this blog was going to be political, huh?? No, it's about church. We were invited to a meeting today at our stake center--my ward and the adjoining ward. Everyone knew that there were going to be some boundary changes, and so it wasn't a surprise. We held only Sacrament meeting, but it lasted 90 minutes so all the people who were formerly in the two bishoprics could speak.

The first step was that everyone in both wards was released from their callings, including the bishoprics. Then, they announced that the two previously constituted wards were also being entirely disbanded. They no longer exist: there is no more Christy Meadows and Viewpoint wards. In its place is a ward called Chapel Heights. It has been formed out of the center of the two previous wards. Some people in the edges of the two former wards were then moved to adjoining, pre-existing wards as the boundary changes were read, and illustrated on a power-point slide show that accompanied the stake president's explanation. Whew.

So, now, at this moment, I do not have a job at church. I have been instructed to take my keys and my handbooks to the bishop's home, and then...I guess all this week the bishop and new counselors will spend their time calling new people to all the jobs. Whew, again. Next Sunday is the ward conference for the new Chapel Heights ward. It was previously scheduled to be the Christy Meadows ward conference, so I guess we'll spend the time announcing all the new callings.

The new ward is made up of about half and half from each of the disbanded wards. Most of us will have been in duplicate callings in our previous wards. It's possible that both RS presidents and both Primary presidents are now in the same ward. Or that the YW presidents were both moved to different wards. Just as an example.

I don't have any idea who most of the new people are because they attended a different building. This new ward means a building switch for all us from the Christy Meadows ward. All of our Relief Society closet things from our old building will need to be moved to the new one, since that old ward doesn't exist anymore. This is going to be long process of change.

New! New! New! I saw many tears being shed...I secretly cheered that a couple of people who have been irksome to me in one way or another are no longer going to be in a ward with me...(I'm going to hell for this, I'm sure.) Change! Change! Change!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

In The Wind

Someone asked me if I wear a helmet when motorcycling. Yes, I do. Because I would get a ticket if I didn't. If I lived in a state without a law requiring helmet use, I would not wear the helmet.

The first 15 years of my riding career happened in California before they passed the mandatory helmet use law. So, my standard, my norm, is hair in the wind. I always braided it and wore a bandana headband to keep the loose ends from flying about. Coolguy owned a helmet, because it was required to get onto the Navy base. But we did not wear helmets off-base. My friend was taken aback that I would not wear the helmet if riding in a state without a helmet law.

I know why she was shocked: I always wear my seatbelt, I always used babyseats in my car, I brush my teeth and floss every day, I'm totally a rule keeper normally. It seems completely out of character to her that I would thumb my nose at "common sense" in this area. It is seemingly irrational.

But if you ever rode out in the wind without that sweaty, annoying helmet with the pinching strap, you'd know why and it would seem completely sensible and ought to be the norm. There's an old motto from 20-30 years ago: Let Those Who Ride, Decide. Yeah.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Crazy Times A'Comin'

Today I had at least twenty former students (now from 5th grade) stop me and ask if it was true that I am going to be on T.V. When I replied in the affirmative, they squealed---each one of them, each time. Whew. Think what is going to happen next Friday when they've actually seen it! And found out how much I won! Whew. But, just to slow down the questions, I made a little sign for the fifth grade hall to announce which days, what channel, and what time I'd be on.

The other question they ask is: Are you on "Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?" I'm on the show apparently watched mostly by old ladies. But, I tell them, I'm probably NOT smarter than a fifth grader, so I didn't go on that show.

So, if you want to see if I'm at least sort of smart (mostly lucky) you can watch on:

Wednesday, Oct. 22
Thursday, Oct. 23

"Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" With Meredith Vierra

It is a syndicated show, so it comes on different networks and different times of day in every city. You'll have to look it up where you live.
And, no, I don't have the money yet. They promise it within 30 days of the air date. And, yes, I'm nervous to watch myself. Actually, it was all a blur at the time, so it'll seem like I've never seen it, either. I don't remember which parts of our conversation were on-air and which parts were off-air, because Ms. Vierra was very chatty and pleasant during all the time we were sitting there, even during commerical stops, and technical difficulties. She had a long day--we started taping at about 11:30 and I left at 5:00 and they still had a show and a half to finish taping. We'd arrived at the studio at 7:30 that morning.
But, I'm not whining---I got a pretty good hourly rate that day in compensation...

Monday, October 13, 2008

And This Is Why...

If you've ever wondered how CoolGuy got his's one reason:

A couple of days ago, I asked if he would take my car and get it washed. It's better to wash it early in the day, because, last week, Las Vegas temperatures were still reaching the upper 90's by 3:00 P.M. A cool blast of car-wash water could crack a windshield that had been parked in the hot sun all day. Sure, he'd be happy to, and the plan was to exchange vehicles with me when he finished. So I took his truck to school.

Around 11:00 A.M. I received an e-mail that I should just run my after-school errands in the truck, because he wasn't finished with the car. Hmm...puzzling.

I got home at 5:30 to find him scooting around under the car on his mechanic's cart, with my front wheels lying in a corner. I was getting new brakes! And I also had a new power steering hose! He'd come out to get in the car and found a drip under the front. I hadn't noticed it. But he did, and he was hoping it wasn't the oil drip he'd repaired a couple of weeks ago coming back to haunt him. Nope, a different worn out part.

Now, if I had just kept driving my car that week, I'd probably have never noticed the leak, driven around until the hose completely ruptured, been stranded somewhere with no steering, or burned out the power steering pump trying to muscle it around without the power steering. My car didn't make it to the car wash, but it did get new front brakes and a new hose.

I'll get to the car wash this weekend. And I'll get there safely with power steering and front brakes. This is the coolness...

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Funerals R Us

In the past six months, our RS presidency has had six funerals to do. Some of the departed were dear old friends who'd live long lives and passed on to their reward. One was a tragic accident, one was a tragic illness, taking loved ones whose families have been left distraught and bereft with sorrow that won't soon be soothed. But, our ward sisters are ready for a break from all this compassionate casseroling. Whew--it's time for folks to stop dying left and right, and let everyone catch a breath. (That sounds flippant...sorry.)

At the latest service, there was a poem on the back of the program that I want to share. It is a little long, and the rhymes are a bit cheesy. I think it may have been written by a relative of the woman we honored. But it has an excellent message and so I include it:

How Do You Live Your Dash?
I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
From beginning to end.
He noted first the date of birth
And spoke the final date with tears.
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years
For the dash represents all the time
That she spent alive on earth
And now only those who loved her
Know what that short line is worth.
It matters not how much we own
The cars, the house, the cash;
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.
So think about this long and hard
Are there things you'd like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
That can still be rearranged.
If we could just slow down enough
To consider what's true and real,
And always try to understand
The way other people feel
And be less quick to anger,
And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives
Like we've never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect,
And more often wear a smile...
Remember that this special dash
Might last only a little while.
So, when your eulogy's being read
With your life's actions to rehash...
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent your dash?
I can affirm that the person we remembered at the funeral where this poem was read spent her "dash" in a such a way that the people who knew her throughout her long life will sorely miss her. I knew her only a short time, and I was deeply impressed at her positive nature, her determination to live every single minute to capacity, and her service to others. She was tiny, but powerful. I found out from a mutual acquaintence some of the really tragic circumstances of her life---things that you'd never imagine and that she just overcame and marched onward to happier days. She could have been bitter and hard, but she was relentlessly cheerful and kind. Wow. I hope when they're printing up my funeral program, someone will be inspired to put something as positive as this in it. I hope my "dash" represents that to them.