* To stop or not to stop….

The signage was a bit confusing.  NO STOPPING ANY TIME?  Or is it STOP?  No wonder we left our hearts in San Francisco!

Stop in SF.JPG


For Cee’s Which Way Photo challenge.





* Gas pains

Not the digestive sort!  The back-to-the -70’s part where people become frenzied monsters at gas stations.  My dearest teaching widower and I have been unable to find an open gas station in our town for the past few days.

gas pumps.JPG

As much of an inconvenience as that is, imagine the folks in Alabama with 252,000+ gallons of refined gasoline seeping through the ground.  I don’t know what caused the pipeline to break (a major artery of gas to the south and mid-Atlantic US), but I hope we find out.  It’s not like a plumbing leak, folks.   We’re talking poison in the ground.

I gave away my bike after my last concussion and our bus service is pitiful (but free!).  Unless I want to walk to school, which would take me hours and require sprints across bypasses, I sure hope we start getting some gasoline soon.


* Another drunken lawyer?


I just finished “The Broken Lawyer: A Legal Thriller” by Donald L’Abbate.  I nearly put it down after the first couple of pages because I’m a pitiful, wannabe editor.  The book is advertised as a “new re-edited version,” so heaven help those who tried to read it the first time around.  It’s written in first person, a stream of consciousness style with run-on sentences, rarely used commas and periods, and oddly placed words.  Here is one sample:  “I called Gracie told her I like to take her to lunch and for a look at my new office.”

So why did I read it?  I couldn’t put it down!  You’d think the Charley Sloan series would have provided sufficient reading material about alcoholic lawyers, but “The Broken Lawyer” is something special.  There’s no way it could have been written by anyone who hasn’t been through the AA program.  The main character, who remains unnamed throughout, is brutally honest about his struggles.  His path to sobriety is authentic, courageous, and humorous.  He’s a wisecracking lawyer who’s fallen from grace and gradually, unsteadily, gets to his feet.

The plot twists and turns through complicated and realistic criminal cases, always keeping me one or two steps behind.  It’s hard to believe the author was a civil litigator.  The characters are believable, real enough to touch.

I don’t know the name of this broken lawyer, but he tells a funny and complex tale.  If you can figure out what happened with the Huangs before that lawyer tells us, let me know and I’ll give you a prize.

This is a book worth reading.  And I almost started smiling at his run-on sentences.

* Sharing my world, one sniff at a time

Thank you, Cee, for the weekly Share Your World challenge!  Here goes!

List of Favorite Smells: What smells do you love? Whether it’s vanilla scented candles or the smell of coffee in the morning or the smell of a fresh spring rain…make a list of all the things you love for a little aromatherapy.

  • My favorite smell is that of my dearest teaching widower.  His smell hasn’t changed a bit since we first met in 1968!  It’s the best smell on earth.
  • I also love the smell of coffee, although I can’t stand its taste.

Are you a hugger or a non-hugger?   My abusive background meant I grew up to be a non-hugger.  Occasionally (as a kid), I’d get a hug from an old aunt but I usually steered clear of striking distance.  I am still a bit stiff when hugging but I force myself to move closer when it’s a special person.  I typically never hug kids.  I remember the shock of BEING hugged by kids when I was confined to a wheelchair for over two years and somewhat horrified they could actually reach me!

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What is your least favorite candy?  Any kind of hard candy.  I nearly died by choking on one when I was four.  A strong neighbor picked me up by the ankles and smacked my back as I dangled upside down, almost passed out.  That candy shot out of my mouth!  Whew!  I loved that lady, by the way.  I used to go upstairs and wash her dishes and talk and talk.  She was kind and safe.

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “fun”?  FUN is one of my favorite words!  That’s one of my prime learning objectives in any lesson plan.  The kids and I MUST have fun along the way.  I love playing around and being silly.  I laugh a lot and that’s fun!



* Tools for Christopher: graphic organizers

Christopher, my ASD (Adorable Sweet Dude) nephew, continues to improve his writing skills.  When we started the writing process, I did all the work, despite our use of topics relating to his narrow range of interests.  Christopher did not know how to start, how to keep going, and how to finish.  He didn’t have a clue and became agitated unless I intervened.  No surprises there.  Here are some strategies which have helped him become a much more proficient and independent writer.

  • Graphic organizers are a powerful support for kids with writing struggles. I’ve created them using Google docs, primarily for its talk-to-text feature but also the ease of sharing with parents and other teachers.  Why are they so helpful?  They provide the organization, the skeleton, of the writing process.  With enough practice on each type of organizer, kids assimilate this way of thinking.  Christopher has not yet started to branch off from this “formulaic” writing, but I have no doubt that he will.
  • Talk-to-text (under Tools) requires consistent practice for developing proficiency.  Kids tend to speak too loudly, quickly, and without normal intonation.  Christopher and I do enjoy the odd phrases which pop up as he dictates his work, such as ‘Sea butterflies power’ for ‘These activities are….”  A side benefit of practicing with this tool is that Christopher has learned to articulate more clearly and monitor his volume.  (To use this effectively at school, he can’t sit there screaming at the computer!)  This tool also provides practice in rehearsing a complete sentence before writing, which has led my nephew to edit his ideas.  Cool.  He has also learned to speak (and read) in different “gears,” so that he doesn’t fly through texts with no understanding.  Third gear is TOO fast!  A side note: He has learned such control that he can tease me with  word-by-word phrasing, an impossibility when we first started.
  • Keyboarding is vital for students in today’s world.  To please me, Christopher now places both hands across the keys as he continues to type with one finger.  He needs to learn keyboarding, but with all his other deficits, I admit this is low on the list right now.  We can’t address everything  at once, or he’d be overwhelmed.

Here’s a sample graphic organizer that Christopher just used.  He completed it with about 20% support from me.

As he wrote his story from this organizer, Christopher enjoyed checking off the boxes.  By now, he is also about 80% independent at the writing stage.  Most of my intervention is keeping him on task and pointing out the descriptive words in his organizer.  I showed him how boring it is to start every sentence the same way, so it is now an internalized “rule” for him to consider alternate styles. He has become quite adept at varying sentence structure because he “hates to write boring sentences.”   What a terrific, hard-working kiddo!



* A love story

I’ve devoured the Charley Sloan lawyer series by William Coughlin and continue to read his other novels.  I noticed that the copyright reads “William  J Coughlin has asserted HER rights… to be identified as the author of this work.”  I thought that was a weird typo , so I ended up searching out details of his life.  As I posted earlier, William Coughlin passed away in 1992.  He wrote with such life and vigor (and no anachronistic references) that I couldn’t imagine I was reading the works of a dead author.


Coughlin’s wife and former editor, Ruth, wrote “Grieving: A Love Story” in 1993.  I was fascinated by their relationship and perhaps morbidly curious about William (known as Bill to his family and friends).  He couldn’t be dead, right?  I just finished “Grieving,” which is a tough read.  And yes, William is dead.  Maybe if Ruth weren’t such a terrific writer, the book would be easier to take.  Written in chapters which juxtapose William’s fight for life with Ruth’s desperate loneliness after his death, the book is startling in its honest depiction of the agonies of fighting end-stage cancer.   One source of Ruth’s anguish was how others responded to her grief; she found comfort in the kind words that thousands sent to her.


Read Ruth’s obituary at Publisher’s Weekly

Ruth was offended by the content of many “survivor” books.  Would she be surprised that her book is still of consolation to others?  My copy of “Grieving” is second-hand and after I finished reading, I noticed this inscription in the cover:

September, 1995

Jen   ——

I know this is a tough time of year for you.   Maybe reading this book will help.  Let me know when we can get together for bingo, bridge, lunch or dinner.


Wow.  Ruth, who passed away in 2015, would have been pleased.




* We Will Always Remember — Two Are Better Than One

I wanted to write something about September 11, but Michelle has captured what that day was like for many of us.

I don’t want to cry today, but I’m sure I will before the end of this post. Our lives are different today as change is inevitable, but you know that’s not what I mean. You remember — just like I do, what changed the way we live in the land of the free and the […]

via We Will Always Remember — Two Are Better Than One

* 15 Things That Don’t Require Qualifications or Talent


The testing systems in the US and UK share some unfavorable effects. Suzi recalls the fear and dread they can evoke but focuses primarily on 15 life skills that seem more predictive of success in the Real World. They are in the realm of EQ, social skills, and character traits. It’s a list worth reading!


Suzie Speaks

imageWith the impending GCSE results due out tomorrow, the topic was already trending in the early hours of this morning on Twitter with thousands of teenagers anxiously waiting to see how they had fared, many of them already dismayed at the fact that grade boundaries for certain subjects had been raised… again.

At school, I was a high achiever who enjoyed the process of learning. I worked hard with the belief that qualifications were the be all and end all to everything that would make my life successful and happy in the future, and even after doing my A levels and a degree, my GCSE exams still remain as one of the scariest and most stressful experiences I’ve ever had.

And yet, eighteen years of life after leaving school (and spending ten years working as a teacher) has made me realise that, while qualifications on paper are important, there is…

View original post 716 more words

* Ten things of thankful

Thanks, Lizzi-across-the-pond, for your inspiration to search out the silver linings in the cloudy parts of life.


My health has been cloudy with a chance of meatballs for a couple of months.   Since I have already whined posted about my summer (Miss Fun), it’s time to find some positives.  First, the antibiotics I took were effective.  Considering that I’m down to one broad spectrum antibiotic, that is SUPER good news.   Otherwise, I’d be looking at kidney failure instead of a computer.  I saw my dearest widower more than usual during the day (#2), had a airfare-and-baggage-free vacation on the couch (#3), and loaded myself with delicious cups of antioxidant tea (#4).   Having felt so wretched meant that when our nephew and fiancee visited us, I was ready to try a new diet (#5).  I just finished a week of the Zone Diet and learned that I like kale and collard greens.  Who knew?  I’ve eaten more vegetables in the past week than in my entire life.   I’m hoping that eating several pounds of vegetables a day will be a life-changing experience in some way (#6).  Yeah, #6 is almost silver….

I am loving teaching more than ever.  I have the BEST students and families, hands down (#7).  I’m in awe of how hard these kiddos work, no matter how they feel, the effort required, or the long haul in front of them.  Is it selfish to say that teaching is pure joy?  I was made to teach, which gives me incredible satisfaction.

I’m swimming again, after months away from the pool (#8).  I was also made to swim.  How wonderful is that?   If I can keep my competitive eyes off other swimmers, I love to pray as I swim.  My first thoughts are “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” as I flow through the water.  Slowly.  Looking for someone to race.

My dearest teaching widower and I just hosted our first small group of the semester.  Dinner and movies with funny and lovable folks (#9).   First we had to clean the house, though.  What do other people do with paper clutter?  I stuffed ours in a bag on the washer, if you need a tip.   We also have trip wires for anyone who ventures upstairs, which is where everything else gets tossed before the guests arrive.  Another free tip, folks.

I love the plans that God has made for me, knowing I am never alone in any storm (#10).  I am loved!  Woohoo!