Saturday, May 30, 2009

Schmooze with Suz!!

My dear friend, Susie of Arabia, is coming to Arizona this summer! I know many of you have become "blogger friends" with Susie through my blog. She has also made some other blogger friends who happen to live in the valley, plus some old friends from Douglas. So I am having a party for everyone who would like to meet and visit with her. Please mark your calendars for Friday, June 26, at 6:30. Please send me an email ( if you are planning to be here and I will give you more information.

Susie has become a world-wide celebrity because of her blog. She moved to Saudi Arabia about two years ago because her husband is originally from there. Susie is from my home town, Douglas, and I have known her for many years. Her blog has won awards and is amazing!!! Right now, it is banned in Saudi Arabia!!!

So if you haven't read her blog, there is a link to it on mine. Get to know her and join us on June 26!! I will be doing another post when the time gets closer!!

I am so excited to host this event at my house and to see and visit with Susie!!!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Awards and Memories

The last week of school is always emotional for many reasons. I have always felt this way. As a teacher, it was hard to say good-by to the students that I worked so hard with all year. As a principal, it is a culmination of another year watching children growing academically, socially, and emotionally. It is always bittersweet to say good-bye to our sixth graders. Many of them have been with us since kindergarten. On the last morning of school, our sixth graders do what we call "The Sixth Grade Walk." The student council members lead with our school banner and we play the school song over and over on the intercom. The sixth graders walk by every classroom and say their good-byes. All of the other students bring out chairs to wave good-bye. I got so many hugs from the students as they walked by!! I truly believe that the sense of community that is built is the reason that this happens.

Each year I always hate to say good-bye to families that I have known for many years as their children have gone through our school and the last child finishes sixth grade.

On Tuesday we held our 5th and 6th Grade Awards Assembly. Awards are given out for most outstanding sixth grader, sportsmanship, community service, most improved, and the student who showed the most courage. All of these awards are named after either a former student, teacher, or volunteer who has died. It is always very touching when these awards are given out.

For fifth graders, we give out an award to a boy and girl who show kindness. This award is named after my dear friend, Ellen Widmer, who taught with me when I was a teacher and then came to Gilbert El to teach after I became principal. Ellen was one the kindest people I have ever known. We named this award after her just before she died five years ago. She was so thrilled and touched to have this named after her.

A few years ago I decided to also give an award to a fifth grade student in my mother's name. It is called the Margaret Shannon Citizenship/Leadership Award. I ask for students to be nominated who show citizenship and leadership characteristics and then chose one. For the past few years, either Teresa or Kerri have been at the assembly to help me give this award. This year, neither could be there, so Cameron helped me present the award.

The young lady who one this award is named Samantha. She is a terrific young lady!! Earlier this year, she was chosen as our Character Counts Student of the Month. Samantha organized a garage sale last fall to raise money for a local organization that rescues dogs called Friends for Life. Samantha has also been a student council representative and a peer mediator in the past. Every time you see Samantha, you see a child with a big smile on her face and a hug to give you. She has been this way since kindergarten!

Next year Samantha will be the principal liaison as part of our student council so she and I will meet regularly to discuss student council business.

When Samantha came up to get her award, I told a story about a connection that we have. You see, Samantha's great grandma was a dear friend of my mom's down in Douglas. They often played bridge together. Samantha's great grandma, Christine Cummins, was a teacher in Douglas for many years. I told her that her great grandma and Cameron's would be very proud!

Another connection with our families is my Uncle Bill was very good friends of her great uncle, Frank.

Another year has quickly passed. They seem to go by faster and faster the older I get! It is hard to believe that I have been an educator for the past 38 years. I can honestly say that I have had the best job imaginable and I wouldn't trade it for anything!! I hope to continue to have the energy to do this for a few more years at least!! Being an educator is such an important job in our society, especially today. I don't think that people in the "real world" realize how much time, energy, and emotion is put into this job and how important having some time away from it to rejuvenate is.

Carl Jung said "One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of a child." I so agree!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Yes, We Have No CARDONNAY!

Yes, you read the title correctly!! I LOVE MY COUSINS!! Tonight Yaya had an "old fogies" dinner at her house. Pat was talking about wine and she actually called Chardonnay CARDonnay! After the laughs, I realized that it would be the perfect title for this post!! You can tell that Pat isn't much of a wine aficionado.

Our generation tries to get together every few months to reminisce, laugh, discuss politics, tell stories, etc. This was the first time that we have done this since Phil died in January. I was so glad that Yaya planned this evening as we all needed it. Yaya, Pat, Cecilia, Jay, and Yaya's dear friends, Barbara and John, and I enjoyed a wonderful evening. We even had a "maitre d" who set the table, poured the wine, and did the dishes. And we actually allowed Matt to eat with us..... He told Yaya earlier that he didn't understand what we talk about half the time and she reminded him that she has to listen to his friends and him when they sit around talking...

Tonight we discussed politics. Fortunately, we are all in agreement on this subject.... We did talk about the sorry state that our education system is in right now. It was depressing and we did try to keep away from anything too depressing.

It is always so relaxing for me to get together with my wonderful cousins. I have said this before, they are really my sisters and I love them very much!! Tonight was a much needed respite for me from the last several weeks of school.

I hope we can get together more often like this. I love to have all of the younger generation and all of the kids, but we don't really get to visit like we do at "The Old Fogies Nights!"

Thanks for tonight, Yaya, I needed it so much and I always love our time together! It is such a blessing to truly enjoy being around the family!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Happy Birthday, Jay!

Last December when Teresa told me that she was going to call all of her brothers' and sisters' chiidren on their birthdays, I told her that I would do a post on each one of them. If you have followed my blog, you have know that Teresa has made sure that I have done this.

With our family being as close as we are, I would love to write something about everyone one of our wonderful cousins. And possibly over the years, I will make this goal. I haven't written about any of the in-laws (or out-laws), other than Joan who was my first post. I wrote about Joan because of how much what she did for our John meant.

However, today I am going to make an exception and I want to say a special birthday to Jay Henderson, Cecilia's wonderful husband and the father of Monica, David, Mark, Annie, Katie, and Matthew. I feel as though Jay is like my brother-in-law. You see, Jay is always there for all of us Through the years, I have asked Jay to help me many times with different situations. Jay is one of the "salt of the earth" people who doesn't have a lot to say, but can always be counted on no matter what!

Jay is so supportive of our family in every way. He is a wonderful husband, father, father-in-law, grandpa, uncle, nephew, cousin and friend. His unconditional love and support is always something to be counted on. And he is fun!!!

Cecilia is so fortunate to have such a great man as Jay. And our family is fortunate to have Jay for so many reasons.

I know that Yaya and Pat in particular will totally agree with me on this. Jay is a great human being and I thank him for all of the great times we have had. He is a quiet and gentle man, who puts family first and loves our Cecilia so much.

So happy birthday, Jay!! I love having you in my life!! You are the best!!! Let's celebrate!!! (I think we will at the "old fogies" dinner at Yaya's Saturday.)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Putting Things Into Perspective

Every week at school I can't imagine things getting any worse, and yet it does. Never did I ever think that so many really difficult issues could arise like they have with the current economic crisis. I have seen the ups and downs of our economy and how it has affected our district over the years, but it has been nothing like this.

This past week, I had to meet with some of our classified staff to tell them about hours that are being cut which means losing health insurance benefits. These are longtime and loyal employees. We have also had to make our class sizes larger in order to make even deeper budget cuts. Each day and hour bring more bad news and very sad situations. Over the years, I have had to deal with many unpleasant issues as a principal. However, this is beyond anything I ever thought could happen. I know that as part of my job, I have to do some very unpleasant and difficult things, but these past weeks have been the absolute worst. Amidst all of this garbage, the school year goes on. We have to remember why we are there--for the children. So this time of year brings awards, etc. So I have had the honor of calling parents with good news. I have always said that the range of emotion that one goes through in a short time can be so unbelievable. I didn't know it would ever be the way it has been lately.

On Tuesday, I came back to my office from one of the many very depressing district meetings that we have had lately. I noticed that there was a wheelchair by my office. I asked who it belonged to and was told that it belongs to a parent who is dealing with terminal cancer.

A few weeks ago, we were approached by a non-profit organization that helps women with a variety of services. They provide legal aid, social workers, job counselors, and even help with how to dress, etc. Their purpose is to help women who have had set backs in life to get on with their lives and find out their own self-worth. They also provide classes in budgeting, parenting, and almost anything else that is needed. They had been referred to our school by the Chamber of Commerce because they knew how much we do for families. They are trying to branch out into our side of the valley. After meeting with the ladies in charge and reading about what they have to offer, I was very excited to have them be a part of our community. Once they get established, they will find a permanent location. As we were talking to the ladies a few weeks ago, I could think of so many parents who would benefit.

So last week was their first week at our school. They had several appointments already lined up, one of which was the parent with cancer. I walked out of my office a bit later and the mom was getting into her wheelchair. She was so sweet and asked me how I was. We talked for a few minutes and then she said she wanted to thank me. She proceeded to tell me that she had just been with the legal person filling out her living will. I was so taken aback by this and just told her I was glad we were able to help her. We talked a few more minutes and then she left. I went in to my office, shut my door, and cried for a few minutes. I had to pull it together for the next issue.

This was Tuesday. On Wednesday, we had our final Flag Ceremony of the year. At each Flag Ceremony, our local Kiwanis Club presents a bicycle, helmet, and lock to a student "caught with character." Teachers submit names and I chose one student each month. This is one part of my job that I love!!! The young lady who won this time is a first grader who has a very serious form of arthritis, but you would never know it if you saw her. She always has a huge smile on her little face and a big hug to give you. She has dealt and continues to deal with much pain each day. Some of the treatment that she has undergone is almost worse than her disease. But she is at school almost every day no matter what, works her heart out, and loves to be a Tiger. Although our job is to teach her to read, write, and learn math, she teaches all of us something every single day. I feel privileged to be her principal. Her parents are incredible and so supportive and trusting of us.

Both this mom and this young lady show courage that cannot be measured by any assessment or AIMS test. They demonstrate each day that life should be lived to the fullest no matter what obstacles may come our way. They truly put everything that is happening right now into perspective. Once again, I feel that these two events happening this week were not a coincidence. I believe that the resiliency displayed by both of these incredible humans can help all of us, but especially they have helped me. For that I am so thankful!

And I do believe that there are "Angels Among Us!!!"

Friday, May 15, 2009

Great News About My Favorite Place on Earth!

I have written previous posts about our cabin in the Chiricahua Mountains in southeastern Arizona. Our family, along with two other close family friends, bought this cabin in December of 1960 when I was in sixth grade. It is on the eastern slope of the Chiricahua Mountains near a very small place called Portal. It is about 60 miles from Douglas. In order to get there, you must go into New Mexico by a very small town called Rodeo and then back into Arizona. It is very remote and very beautiful!!

Because it is so close to Douglas, our families would go up to the cabin almost every Sunday after church. We have a guest book going back to 1960 and it is amazing to read. It holds such incredible memories.

As I got older, I always loved to go to the cabin and spend a few days whenever I could. When my kids were little and we spent summers in Douglas, we spent a lot of time at the cabin. We still go every chance we get as everyone loves the cabin. Our cousins from all over love to go up there,too.

The area is called Cave Creek and our cabin is in south fork. There is only one other cabin in this part of the canyon and a picnic area about a mile down. No camping is allowed at the picnic area. There are many unusual birds and insects in this area which draw people from all over the world. However, it is still out of the way and not many people know about it.

This cabin is truly a cabin. We haul water from the creek and boil it on the stove for warm water to do dishes and wash our faces and hands. We have a small shed with a generator for electricity. We also have an outhouse. Yet, it is the most comfortable place you could ever want to be. The beauty and serenity can not be matched anywhere that I have ever been. There is no television, no radio, no telephone service--just the natural beauty of this part of Arizona. You can truly relax there.

Our cabin is on forest service land and through the years we have had to deal with times when we were afraid that the government would take back our lease. Several years ago, we found out that we had the cabin for sure until 2008. As a result, we didn't do much to fix the cabin up as we didn't know what was going to happen.

Teresa keeps very informed and does whatever is required by the Forest Service at any time. She has gotten several letters in the last several months about an inspection that was coming up. So last Wednesday, she got a ride up to the cabin and waited for the ranger to come by to tell us what was needed and whether or not the lease would be extended.

Wednesday night she called with the incredible news that we get a 20 year lease!!! There are some things that we have to do as far as improvements are concerned, but this is such great news!!!!!

I was worried about what might happen to our cabin and couldn't imagine what it would be like to not be able to go there anymore. I look so forward to my time spent in this most beautiful place and I am so thankful that we can have it for at least the next 20 years....that should be enough for me!!!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Cinco de Mayo--A Whole Year Has Passed...

It was May 5 a year ago that our Mary lost her battle with cancer down in Douglas. She died on May 5th and was buried on the day that is Mother's Day is celebrated in Mexico. This Sunday is Mother's Day in the U.S. I will be remembering my wonderful mother and our Mary on Sunday.

So much has happened in the past year and it has gone by very fast. We were down in Douglas over the Fourth of July and Labor Day. It seems so strange not to see Mary in the kitchen making tortillas for us. I miss those homemade tortillas, but more than that, I miss Mary. She was always there for our family. I know my Aunt Teresa misses her and that it has been hard to be in that big old house on 14th Street with all of the memories.

Mary taught me how to fix all of the Mexican food that I make for the many occasions at school and at home. Every time I make red or green chili or beans I think about Mary.

Mary's family is still a part of our family and always will be. We appreciate how much they help Teresa down in Douglas.

I continue to be thankful for having this wonderful lady in my life for many reasons. She was a simple person without many worldly possessions, but she gave so much to all of us, particularly Judy and I. I attribute much of who I am today to her influence in my life. A year passes so quickly anymore.........

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Longtime Friendship That Means So Much!

Last week I sent a birthday email to my dear friend, Susan, as I do each year. Susan and I have been friends for more than 40 years since high school in Douglas.

We were roommates at ASU and right after we graduated. Susan is a wonderful friend. She may not remember this, but she did something for me many years ago that I will never, ever forget.

Right after I graduated from ASU, my mom was critically ill and was in the hospital in Tucson. One of my cousins was getting married here in the valley and so everyone was here for her wedding. The weekend of the wedding, my mom took a turn for the worse and I felt that I needed to be in Tucson. Susan had just met a guy named Brian who was stationed with the Marines in Yuma. He was coming up to Tempe for the weekend and it was to be their first date. I think Susan had a special feeling about him. However, she postponed that first date until the following week so that she could go with me to Tucson so that I wouldn't be going down there by myself. It meant so much to me then and truly has been an act of kindness and friendship that I have never forgotten. And that good feeling about Brian was right as they have been married for many years now.

For many years, Susan and her husband, Brian, lived in Texas. We saw each other sometimes at Christmas when we were all in Douglas visiting our families. Susan's son and Patrick are the same age and had fun together when they were little.

When my mom died in 2002, Susan came for the funeral. The next summer, Cameron, Kerri, and I drove to Texas for Elliot's wedding. We had a great time visiting with Susan's family. I hadn't seen her mom in many years as she has moved to Texas also. Susan's mom died shortly after and we talked on the phone that day. We haven't been able to get together since because Susan travels a lot in her job and mine requires so much time. We have kept in touch through email.

Susan and Brian have two beautiful grandsons, Matthew and Cody. I know how crazy she is about them!!

To my surprise, I got an email on Friday from Susan telling me that she and Brian have moved to Douglas. Brian is going to be working at the hospital in Douglas. Susan's father is a medical doctor and has been very dedicated to the hospital. Needless to say, I am absolutely thrilled as this means that we will get to see each other much more often!!

So, Susie, I can't believe that we have gotten this old. You said that you didn't feel 60 other than being tired from the last month of working and moving. I agree as I don't feel that old either!! I am so happy that you are closer and that we will be able to get together more often. You are a wonderful friend and I love you!

Eleanor Roosevelt said, "Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart." As I said you probably don't even remember what you did that weekend over 37 years ago, but it meant so much to me then. Thank you for being such a great friend for so many years!