Saturday, October 27, 2007

No one loves you like your dog...

It's true. In the world of unconditional love, the dog wins every time. I've had a great dog for almost 17 years now. His name is PudgeDog - all one word. I got him in Jan 1991 from the animal shelter in Greenwood, SC. I was a sophomore in college.

He was the cutest, most stubborn puppy known to man. He lived on the farm where he romped through the woods, wallowed in the creek, chased various woodland creatures, and drug home the occasional dear carcass. (Only after rolling in the putrid thing first.)

Over the last 16 years, I have moved 4 times. PudegeDog has gone from a 200 acre farm to a tiny back yard, and now a only slightly larger back yard. (Half an acre isn't much if you are used to 200!) He went from running freely and riding in the back of a pickup through fields to having to learn he is supposed to stay INSIDE the fence.

He has been hit by a car once, happily he recovered after some hip surgery. He has jumped the fence at least five times, and came home on his own three of those times. Once he was caught by a neighbor who called us and once he got so far away from home he ended up in the next county in the animal shelter there! We got him back that time, too. Once he even got lost when we were in SC on vacation. Two weeks went by and an old farmer about 5 miles from the farm we were on called and said he was in his barn. Once again, recovered.

In each one of the instances, PudgeDog has been cold, or hungry, or more recently with out his old dog meds for days. And in every case he has been thrilled to see us when we went to get him. Never questioning - why did you leave me? Why did you let me get so hungry? Or why am I in pain? Instead - he always greets us with open, unabashed, unconditional love.

PudgeDog is getting pretty old. His hearing is not so great now. He can't see at night. His hip is really bothering him and he is a little wobbly on his feet at times. And he stands at the gate every morning and every night looking for the people he loves to come home or go to work. Sometimes he is so wanting to give you love you have to leave his line of sight so he will eat.

Nobody loves you like your dog. And I can't think I can love him back enough to do him justice.

Why exactly do I need to spend time doing this??

Why exactly do I need to spend time trying to explain to students and parents why Child X has done a horrid job in my class? Because I work in a school where students are allowed to be lazy and blame the teacher because their parents pay tuition. It sounds cynical, I know, but in all my years of teaching, which is in the double digits, this is the only place I have had to spend almost as much time getting ready for what happens AFTER a test as I do before it.

If the students had it their way, we would do ONE chapter all year, they would all get As and feel some sense of superiority to their local public school counter parts. It gets worse every year. We cover less and less, the grades get lower and lower, and the parents get more and more abusive towards the teacher (that would be me) when their child does poorly. If I hear "my child has never made a C before" again I might just drop dead. And it isn't even true 85% of the time! Or "I heard no one did well on that test." Again, I can honestly say this is NEVER true. There are ALWAYS kids that do well, in fact, I don't have a Bell Curve, I have a "U curve". Those that do - do well. Those that don't - well, don't. There is rarely much in between.

I spend hours and hours planning for my classes. I am always prepared. I try and have an activity or lab or demo every week to keep it interesting. I work very hard to make everything accesible and fair. I give hours and hours of my time to help students outside of class, which I don't have to do. I have a web page I update every single day with what we did in class, what the HW is, and self help tuorials and online acitvities, links to handouts, and even links to the videos we watch in class. In return I ask that students do their HW - which is limited to less than 22 minutes a night by school policy, study a bit - which is counted in the 22 minutes a night limit, and take responsibilty for themselves. Is this unreasonable? Is it something that is simply out of the question?

I have made it past the typical 3 year burn out. I made it past the 10 year mark, which is pretty darn amazing. I don't see 20 in my future. I might not even see next year. I don't know what else I would do, but I think I am clearly not doing much where I am. Other than taking crap from kids, parents, and adminstrators - all with a smile and never making the 'customer' upset. I could work a consumer complaint line. I would still take abuse, but I wouldn't be spending 10+ hours a week at home working on top of the 40+ I work on campus doing my job.

I think it is time to start looking for Plan B.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Diets may be evil, but tight pants are just plain unattractive.

Sadly, it has come to my attention, via my closet, that I partook of too many frosty summer beverages (and maybe cheese fries) and now none of my clothes for the fall appear to fit quite the way they did this time last year.

I am unpacking my boxes of fall and winter clothes (yes, unpacking - I live in an old house with no closet space) and remembering that, while I love summer, I like fall clothes. Sweaters, turtlenecks, boots, wool jackets (not unlike my wool shoes, and we know how I feel about them!), and even an occasional scarf. It's all good stuff. favorite after work bum around the house plaid skirts....happy times! In my excitement, I decide now would be a good time to decide what to wear tomorrow! Not something I would normally do, but the clothes look so inviting, so friendly, so very comfy! So I pick out a pair of slacks and a nice long sleeve shirt to give a turn. This is where it gets ugly. The pants don't fit right. They're too tight! Not good, not good! Abort the fall pants - it's still warm enough for the late summer pants - go for the shirt. It's a good transition piece. Oh no! It doesn't fit either!

This is not the pleasant experience I thought it would be. Distraught, I fish around under the bed and locate the scale...and step on...and eventually get the courage to open my eyes. The closet does not lie. My clothes were not somehow magically shrunk, it appears (quite literally) that my ass has not so magically expanded!

So the four letter word DIET has reemerged in my vocabulary. The little white kitchen scale is back on the counter. Meals are carefully planned, weighed, and crafted. And I am hungry.

I am a reasonable person, I won't let it go too far (after all, cheese fries are in season), but I must face the fact until I lose about 13 pounds, I will not fit properly into my clothes. And while diets may be evil, tights pants are just plain unattractive.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Crock Pot Lima Bean Soup

My mom had a gift for making really good food out of almost nothing.  This was one of her soup "recipes" that got made pretty often in our house growing up.  I have since adapted it to make it more suited to my needs, but it is the same basic recipe.

Over night soak: one bag of baby lima beans (I like the little ones, but big ones work, too)

The next morning, drain and rinse the beans and dump them in a crock pot.  Set the crock to LOW if you have an 8+ hour work day.  Addto the crock pot:

1-2 diced onions
1-2 diced carrots
1-2 diced potatoes
1 left over ham bone (or a packet of ham from the meat section along with a packet of smoked ham flavoring) or a couple meaty smoked ham hocks
salt and pepper
a healthy squeeze of catsup (I know, it's weird)

cover with water and cook until beans are tender

That's it!  When the beans are tender, pull out the hocks or ham bone if that is what you used.  Pull/pink/dice the meat and toss it back it in.  Adjust salt/pepper if needed.

I like to serve this with chunky cornbread.