Monday, February 27, 2006

More musings

What makes some people's glass be half full while others are half empty? What kind of person would you rather work with? Gosh, much longer and I'm going to be plum worn out! I work with the most negative person on the face of the earth. I've never seen someone with so little happiness in her life. She starts watching the clock early in the day. She can't wait until 3:30 gets here. She often makes comments about how bad the day was if she got her foot hit by the wheelchair, or if a student is acting up and cussing, or if another student runs into her by accident. She hates getting her hands dirty (slime, play-doh, paint, modeling clay, etc.) It drives me nuts! For the record, when you work in a classroom w/ children with severe disabilities, you are going to get dirty. You are going to get hit. You are going to have to deal with gross things (buggers, bowel movements, snot, etc). If you feel that way, get another job! She is a teacher's aide, so doesn't make much. I'm sure there are other jobs that pay just as badly where she can go and be miserable, and then I wouldn't have to put up with her!

Last week, I hung some motivational posters around the room. My favorite says
"Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
It's on my door. I read it several times per day.

If one just feels positive a little bit, just a little, everything else wouldn't seem so bad! Shoot, I put all the crazy things we deal with on a daily basis in a positive light just by reminding myself that I'm not her!!!

OK, vent over. Have a nice day. :)

Saturday, February 25, 2006


Do you believe that people or circumstances fall into your life for a special reason? I do.

When I began thinking about moving back to OK, I posted a message on a sports message board I frequent, asking if people knew anyone in the school system where I hope to live once I move. Someone gave me the username of a person on another sports message board and said to send her a message. I did, and she sent my message to the special ed teacher at her school. This teacher then sent me an email with some useful information. The classroom she has sounds very much like the setting I'd like to work in (early childhood developmentally delayed).

Today, my dad was at Sam's Club in this city and saw a family with a son w/ special needs. He approached them to tell them about a camp they may be interested in for their son. THey then proceeded to converse about the boy, and dad mentioned me and that I'm planning on moving back there. This lady said her son's teacher was pregnant and not coming back next year and told dad to tell me to pursue this opening. So, guess which school this is at? The one that the previous mentioned teacher teaches at. I think the person I've corresponded with is her son's teacher. So now I'm sending this teacher another email and hoping to visit her classroom when I am in OK the week after this one. Small world, eh?

Things do happen for a reason. Is it coincidence that my dad ran into this family whose teacher I have previously made a connection with? Hmmmmmmm.

Positive Quote of the Day

You are not happy because you are well. You are well because you are
happy. You are not depressed because trouble has come to you, but
trouble has come to you because you are depressed. You can change
your thoughts and feelings, and then the outer things will come to
correspond, and indeed there is no other way of working.

-- Emmet Fox

I liked the above. I haven't had time to blog lately, but thought I'd pop in and share something worthwhile.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Comfort Food at its Best

Chicken and Dumplings. A childhood favorite. A simple indulgence as an adult that always takes me back to childhood. It's nothing fancy, and even has an ingredient that food snobs would scoff at. I'll get to that later.
Chicken and dumplings is one of the first things I remember making when I moved into an apartment by myself during college. Just like mom made. Back then, I'd use a whole chicken. Somewhere over time, I went through a phase where the whole chicken grossed me out so would use skin on chicken breasts. After a couple of years of being the family's chicken & dressing maker at the holidays, (and a tighter budget) I'm back to using the whole chicken.
A stockpot full of water, a whole chicken, celery, onion, and some salt and pepper. I let the chicken stew until it is falling off the bone. I then remove it from the stockpot, debone it, and add the edible parts back to the pot. Now it's time for the dumplings. I've made homemade dumplings before, the most memorable time when Lula's youngest sister and I teamed up. Hers were huge fluffy pillows; mine were more like miniature marshmallows. Teamwork certainly not at its best...we had a huge mess and overflowing stock and dumplings. Thankfully I had a 2nd stockpot because we needed it! No matter what I tried, nothing ever compared to mom's. So, how does mom do her dumplings? Simple. A can of biscuits! You just pinch teaspoon size pieces of the uncooked biscuits and drop them in the stock. Oh, how I remember when I got to help with this as a child. It was such a treat to see the pieces of dough fluff up into soft, flavorful dumplings. Comfort food. Reminders of a more worry free time. Reminders of home.

Today is a perfect day for something to warm up the bones, as we've had a temperature swing of about 50+ degrees over the past 48 hours. It's cold!

Tonight, I began working on decluttering my dining table, which is filled with scrapbook stuff. To do this, I had to go through a pile of stuff in my guest room that has pictures of Dakota. I found many sympathy cards sent to me during the weeks after his death. What to do with these? To throw them away seems to be comparable to forgetting about all the people whose lives he touched, whether they knew him personally or through me. To keep them means to periodically be brought to tears those times when I stop to look through and read the kind words of friends. I'm choosing the latter. I can't bear to part with any memories of him, whether direct or indirect.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Still here

I haven't burned the house down or anything. I'm still trucking along, just very very tired. I'll be back soon. This seems to be a recurring theme. It'll change soon.

Another picture from my parents' place.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Monday, February 06, 2006


Dinner tonight was simple: Banana and nutella sandwiches on toast. Yum. After that, I had a sweet tooth (something that I've had all too often lately). I made bananas flambe. Too bad the picture doesn't completely show the flambe'. It was a sight--and my first time! I used Jack Daniels, as it was the best thing I had for the job. So, butter+bananas+brown sugar+JD==yum! I was just missing some good vanilla ice cream. Maybe next time!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

My Recent Kitchen Adventures

OK, though I haven't done much posting, I have done cooking this past week! Here are some of my creations. The breads I made for our team meeting Tuesday--it was my turn to host for someone's birthday. They were all really good.

First to go were the Chocolate Chip Scones. A touch of lemon zest in the batter really took these up a notch. The recipe called for cutting them into 8 pieces; I got 12 out of it. Mine look speckled because I had giant choco chips that I chopped in the blender, along with a chocolate owl from a local chocolate place.

Additionally, Imade Mom's Cranberry Bread and Vermont Pear Bread. Both breads were very moist. The pear bread was made from a batter with 9 T. of butter (!!!), so it was a heavier, denser, richer bread. I omitted nuts from both recipes due to the birthday girl's preference, but would include them any other time.

Late last week, I made these meringue cookies. THey didn't turn out quite like they were supposed to, but were still oh-so-good. I used some left over Andes mint chips. WIth just an egg white, sugar, cocoa powder, and the mint chips for flavor, these cookies packed a huge flavor burst. Crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside, they were quickly disposed of. I made another batch but made them smaller, hence they were crispier and they were also very good. Chocolate+mint has to be one of my favorite combinations.

For this week's lunch bunch, I made this recipe, adapted from Mark Bittman's The Minimalist Cooks Dinner. Thanks to Adventures in Food and Wine for turning me on to this recipe! Coconut Chicken Curry has just the right balance of spice from the chili sauce and sweetness from the coconut milk. Rich and filling, this will definitely be a recipe I make again.

Finally, tonight I made Mediterranean Spaghetti from CL. This was tasty, but perhaps not up to my expectations. I did sub chicken for the ground beef, but I think this would be much better with the beef. I think my taste buds are dead, as though this recipe calls for 3/4 t. cinnamon, and I added 2x that much, I couldn't taste it. Ditto for the nutmeg. My cinnamon is fresh as well. Still, this is a recipe I will maybe play with again and see if some tweaking makes it more to my liking. I took a picture, but it is very ugly. Go on over and check out the picture at Culinary in the Desert if you want to see what this looks like!

That's all my recent cooking. This week will be a busy one, so I don't know what's on the menu. Tomorrow I am having bratwursts as a friend's house, so I won't be cooking. Until next time.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Life (More food later)

So, I've eluded to big changes a coming in my future, and I guess I'm ready to spill all. Those who know me know I've never embraced living in Dallas. It's too big. I wasn't thrilled with the idea of it when I got here in 1999, but the job offer was too good to turn down. My joke initially when people asked what I did for fun was to answer "Leave." And I did that plenty. Lula's oldest DS thought I was part of the family, as I hung out over there enough to probably wear out my welcome--he was 1 when I moved here. I still remember him saying his family unit as: Mommy, daddy, C., and JJ. (I'm JJ). It was cute. I tried to find my own way--I joined the Texas Mountaineers and went rock climbing with a bunch of strangers one weekend, tried to find a church, began volunteering, etc. but never really found my niche. I got used to life here and bought a house. I joined a supper club. I still left town alot. In retrospect, I believe that I was here to be closer to home-Oklahoma-so I could be a bigger part of my nephew Dakota's life. Had I stayed in FL or taken one of the other job offers I had, I wouldn't have had the chance to know him and have my life touched by him in quite the same way. I will forever cherish that.

Over the years after Dakota's death, I became unhappy in my job--something that sounded great when I was 20 wasn't really, my performance suffered, and I was trying to find out exactly what I wanted to do when I grow up. I had thought I would maybe one day teach math, since that is was my undergrad is in and is related to my MS (Statistics). One day, someone asked me about this and I said I was thinking of teaching Special Ed. Wow--I don't know where that came from, but once I spoke it, it sounded good to me! I've done some volunteer work w/ children with exceptional needs and am really drawn to them. This all started with Dakota, who had some special needs himself. I researched, called old friends, observed some classes, and off I went. I began a M. Ed program in June, 2004. I quit my corporate job 3 weeks later. I found a job 5 weeks later, and a week later I was teaching! What a whirlwind!

Wow, I didn't intend to make this a long story, but I guess I did. Sorry to anyone who is still reading; I guess I am just thinking to myself.

I love my job. I love my kids. Recent family events, specifically this one really hit me hard. I spent a lot of the fall/early winter going to OK as often as I could. I asked myself one day why do I live here, where I haven't really ever been crazy about it? It's too big, ugly, I hate traffic, and the thought of growing old here would depress me. So, the seed was planted that maybe I have come full circle and maybe it was time to move back to Oklahoma. That seed sprouted, rooted, and really took hold. It's grown into my future reality. I'm ready to leave this place. I'll finish out the school year, possibly teach summer school, and then head north up I-35 to my home. Teachers in Oklahoma make one of the lowest teacher salaries nationally. I can handle that; I took the big pay cut already. What's another 25%? :) I have faith that it will all work out. My parents are thrilled, and I am alternately terrified and excited. A few trusted people I work with know. I also told my coordinator earlier this week and started crying. She was instrumental in bringing this one particular student to our campus. I'm going to need Zoloft when I tell this student's mom, but I'll cross that bridge in another 6 weeks or so. I'll really cry the last day of school, but I know I'll stay in touch w/ this student's family. I've invested too much in his growth to just walk away. My coordinator asked me if I'd come back to consult for the district, which is something I'd like to do. I also have a set of twins who are moving on to the HS. I told their mom and she hugged me and I got teary eyed. I'll stay in touch with them as well, as they go to a camp for children with special needs in OK that I intend to volunteer with (and they go on scholarship from the monies raised by folks from my home county, including my parents and their deceased friends referenced above).

The next weeks are going to be crazy. I have lots to do, including finding a job and selling a house and hopefully buying a house. I want to live in Norman, home of the University of Oklahoma. This is about 1/2 hour from where my parents and nephew live. I have other relative in the area, and have starting trying to reconnect w/ some college friends. The first I'm not too worried about. The market is good and there aren't alot of people who want to work w/ the population I am interested in working with. I've had a call from a Special Education Director at one of the 2 districts I'm most interested in working in. I'm also applying to teach adjunct at the place where I got my B.S. degree. Consulting is also interesting to me--I may try and explore that avenue in a couple years. Oh, and I think I want to get my PhD in this program, focusing on assistive technology and students with pervasive developmental disorders (i.e. autism and related diagnoses). Again, that's something that won't come for a few years, if then, but the thought of it is something I find really exciting!

Oklahoma is a great place. People care there. It's suffered through it's share of tragedies (I was a college student living in OKC the day of the bombing). The district I have a feeling I'll work in received the brunt of the damage from the tornado that came through in 1999. My parents have experienced the outpouring of support in recent years after family tragedies. There isn't any (or as much) of that pretentiousness that defines Dallas and the Metroplex. Finally, it's home. It's where I belong.