* Jessie Black, I want you back

Jessie Black is the star character of Larry A. Winters‘ three book legal thriller series.  A five-star three book series and I was hoping to find book number four!  The first is Burnout, in which a convicted serial killer merits a new trial because his lawyer went psychotic.  Jessie fights nepotism to remain the prosecutor, in part because of her close relationship with a surviving victim of the last attack.  Jessie also has a budding relationship with that whacky attorney and a previous fling with a cop, Mark Leary, who is investigating the case.  Just when you think the dust has settled and everyone is safe, bedlam and murders ensue- repeatedly.  It’s a fascinating book, which led me to the next one in the series.

Informant is even better (can we make it six stars?) as the author adds dimension to both Jessie and Mark’s characters and relationship.  Again, the plot is remarkably clever and convoluted.  There’s plenty of humor as well, delivered by a cocky informant and con man.  However, you could end up feeling paranoid after this one; I think I will avoid courtrooms in the near future.  If you have a fear of heights, Informant will leave you with sweaty palms and closed eyes.  Winters successfully led me through this thriller without the need to suspend disbelief.  At the very end, I thought, “Oh, I should have seen that!”  The author also manages to challenge our stereotypes of perps and victims.  Nicely done indeed, so I raced to the next book.


Finally, Deadly Evidence is the best of the three.  The case hits close to home for us in America, in this age of mass shootings.  Jessie and Mark prove once again that they will fight fiercely for justice, no matter the cost.  Spoiler alert: They are part of a strong team but after reading the previous books, I wasn’t sure who would survive!  Again, Winters leads us through a complicated plot with well-developed characters.  I was not close to identifying the villains, which was actually satisfying.  The author certainly knows his way around police investigations and the courtroom.  This thriller also challenges our stereotyping, which I enjoyed as well.

I might start a petition to get Larry Winters at work on Jessie Black #4.


* It’s all About Me

Welcome to the new and improved me!  Thanks to Suzi for her inspiration!  This is my big FAT statement on what you can expect to find on my blog.  OK, since no one wants to read a 1,000 word post, here’s the short version.


Love my dearest teaching widower!


Love to worship Jesus!










Love to teach!


Love to play!


old yeller

Love dogs and love to take photos!









Love to read, HATE racism, love technology, and love exclamation points!!!   Did I say I HATE racism?




* Another rubric for recess

In a previous post, I shared a recess rubric for students on the autism spectrum.  Here is one that may be helpful for students with a learning disability, especially twice exceptional (2e) kiddos.  These kids are often desperate to get out of the classroom, away from tremendous stress (and boredom, in the case of 2e kids).  Why would LD kids benefit from a recess rubric?   Again, stress.  They often feel stupid and invalidated in a classroom, no matter how smart they may be, no matter how supportive their teachers are.  When they hit the playground, these students are often over-eager to show off athletic skills.  They may vent their frustration on peers or withdraw from the group altogether.  Social skills intervention is helpful when LD students find themselves in constant conflict at recess.  Remember that you cannot toss a rubric at a student and expect it to “work.”  Kids need to rehearse needed skills and rubrics should be modified to match individual needs.  A rubric can be used to measure progress over time, which is very important for kids who face an uphill battle with academics.


How to Create a Successful About Page

When I read Suzi’s blogging and organizational tips, it feels like January 1 again, with an opportunity to start afresh. I am still pondering her suggestions for my “About Me” page. After one year of folks reading About Me, I discovered a dreadful typo. It’s past time for an update (feels a bit like December 31). Hope you enjoy her tips! And her About page is marvelous.

Suzie Speaks

About page

When I discover a blog for the first time, it’s rare that I will look at the posts on the home page. Instead, I will usually click straight onto the About page, as this will hopefully tell me about the author and the general theme of the blog itself. If I’m pressed for time, I’ll often make a quick decision based upon what I see there as to whether I wish to delve further. They are also a place where I will go if I want to ask a blogger a question that isn’t related to any of their posts.

Today I noticed that a number of people had clicked on my About page and came to the realisation that it is in need of some serious updating, particularly as the rest of my blog has undergone a huge transformation recently, and I have gained a number of new followers.

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* Christopher and me: another tool for replacement behavior


A stair stepper donated to me by a family who also used this as a calming tool.  You can find these at thrift shops or on Craigslist for reasonable prices.

This post is another in a series about my work with Christopher, A Seriously Sweet Dude on the autism spectrum.  At eleven years old, he is a poster child for “practice makes permanent.”  It is only in the last year that he has had limits placed on his video obsession, been encouraged to eat vegetables, and experienced effective intervention in social and academic skills.

Although his rate of tantruming has been markedly reduced, Christopher still “entertains” the neighborhood with manic episodes of frustration and agitation.  What to do with all that wild energy?  A stair stepper is a useful tool for replacing random running and pacing.  It must be part of a system for calming, with rehearsal in its use before Christopher reaches the point of no return.  That calming system, best presented through social stories, is more effective for him with some payoff for making a better choice.  He also responds well to a cost-reward system where he might lose some perks for tantruming.  Eventually, self-control will replace the wild-child habits.

Researchers (and many parents) are concerned that extrinsic rewards undermine motivation and effort.  In my experience, students like Christopher have not yet experienced the intrinsic joys of self-control and peaceful negotiations with adults and sibs.  He has not normalized his behavior independently; peer role models and parent/teacher directions been ineffective.  Christopher is a rule follower and eager to please, but operates according to an idiosyncratic set of goals and a rigid definition of fairness which are not shared by his family or classroom teachers.  As Christopher is rewarded for doing what we hope will become internalized behavior, social stories and graphs will assist him in charting his emotional growth.  We are capturing his attention, so to speak, by providing incentives to overcome habitually inappropriate behaviors.  The potential payoff is great.

* Christopher and me: tools for replacement behaviors

If you’re new to this series, Christopher is my nephew with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder, aka A Sweet Dude).  We work on academic and social skills, along with shaping his behavior towards more mature responses to frustration.

Here’s the big idea:  You cannot “modify” all maladaptive behavior out of existence.   And not all “maladaptive” behavior is actually maladaptive.  One example is finger sucking.

Finger sucking:  Christopher has been sucking his fingers since he was an infant.  It provides him a sense of comfort, and as he approaches his 11th birthday, is quite an ingrained habit.  His teeth protrude somewhat as a result of this habit and his saliva now covers most surfaces in our house.

Replacement behavior:  No matter what we do right now, Christopher is going to put something in his mouth.  A more age-appropriate replacement is sucking on the end of his pencil.  After purchasing pencil toppers from Therapy Shoppe and watching him chew them vigorously at times, it’s obvious that finger sucking provides needed sensory feedback.  His guardian adapted one of them to fit on a necklace since Christopher would run around with a pencil sticking out of his mouth.  The necklace is not quite as subtle, but significantly safer and readily accessible.


The next challenge is supporting Christopher in his regular classroom.  He’s a sweetheart in a one-to-one setting but can drive teachers nuts in a large group.  Does he deliberately sabotage classroom environments?  Not at all.  He’s a rule-follower who does his best to please, while working towards his idea of school goals (primarily, survival).  His “disobedience” is a signal that he needs some modifications to his schedule and workload.  More to come!

* 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.