Saturday, December 31, 2011

Resolutions 2012

The things I hope to accomplish in 2012, provided the world does not end:

1. Maintain weight.  Do you know how amazing it is to not write, "Lose weight?"  For the first time in my ENTIRE LIFE, I am at an appropriate and healthy weight for my height.  I have gained 2-4 pounds over the holidays, though, so I do not want to take anything for granted.

2. Wear high heels more.  I'm an upwardly mobile career woman.  I ought to be able to walk in heels.

3. Run a half-marathon.  You'll all be pleased to know that Sven laughed out loud when I told him this one, then said, "Sorry, were you actually serious?"  Aw yeah.  It's on now.

4. Clean my house.  I want to not only get my house clean; I want to organize things so cleaning is easier.  We've lived in this house since May of 2004; it might be time to go through the boxes I just shoved in a closet and throw some things out.

5. Spend time with those I love.  I want to spend time with my family, but I also want to get together with my friends more.

6.  Just trust me when I say I have a lot of work to do in a particular area that I don't want to discuss.

7. Write more.  I want to really write this year.  Looking back on 2011 has revealed to me that I did precious little "real" writing; I edited stuff I'd written before, but that was about it.  I want to really dedicate some time to writing this year.

8. Spend more time with my husband.  Sven and I need some grown-up time.  We've had two date nights now, thanks to Momz, and I really want to keep it up!  I find myself forgetting that, yes, I had a relationship with this man for almost 12 years before we had children.

9. Continuing Education: I want to start on my master's degree this year.  Even one class would be a start!

10. Positivity: I want 2012 to be about what can happen instead of what can't.  I want to see the good in every situation.  I want to look at myself and like what I see.

Happy New Year everyone!  What are your resolutions?


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Recipe: Deb's Amazing Apple Pie (Non-Diet, Completely Unhealthy)


3 cups Fuji apples, cut into small chunks.  (about 4 good sized apples)
Prepared (or frozen) regular pie crust, not deep-dish
2/3-3/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ginger
dash salt

1/2 stick (4 tbsp) butter (not margarine, real, SALTED butter)
1/2 cup brown sugar (I prefer dark brown)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup chopped pecans


1. Listen as your oldest child laments, with just a hint of tears, "You never make apple pie and it's my FAVORITE DESSERT in the WHOLE WORLD and I'll DIE IF YOU DON'T MAKE ME ONE."

2. Recall fondly when, as a teenager, you made really amazing apple pie.  Remember how easy it was and how impressed everyone in your extended family was when you brought it to Thanksgiving dinner.

3. Go to the store and lovingly select 5 pounds of apples so you have "enough."

4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Allow your youngest child to pull up a stepstool so he can "help" with the making of the pie.

5. Chop up 8 apples.  About 4 will go into the pie crust, the other 4 should be stolen by your children and (you are reasonably certain) husband.

6. Combine the sugar, spices, and salt in a cereal bowl and mix with a fork.  (Reserve fork for later.)  Dump the mixture on the apples and toss until reasonably evenly coated.

7. Using the fork (you're welcome), mash together the butter, flour, and brown sugar until you've got something more-or-less dough-like.  Add pecans and mash some more.

8. Using your fingers, press the crumb mixture over the top of the apples.  USE IT ALL.  You heard me.

9. Pop that sucker right into the oven.  Use a cookie sheet.  We're not savages, for heaven's sake.

10.  Let it cook for 40 minutes as you lament the state of your thighs.

11.  At the 40 minute mark, turn off the oven and look at it longingly as it cools.  LEAVE THE PIE IN THERE.  Do not question me.

12.  About an hour later, pull the cookie sheet out.  You're welcome.  The pie should also be there, amid the delicious drips of spiced apple goo.

13.  Call your children to sample the pie.  Look at the light in their eyes as they race down the stairs screaming, "Mommy made us a pie!  We have the best mommy ever!"

14. Observe the light in their eyes die as your oldest says, "Ew, that's what an apple pie looks like?  I am NOT eating THAT."

15. Put those children to bed.

16. Open the cool whip.

17. It was too good for them, anyway.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Completely Materialistic and Shallow Reflection on the Holidays

I love Christmas.  Mostly I love the gifts.  I love giving gifts, but I also love, love, LOVE getting gifts.  Does that make me shallow?  Possibly.  If it does, I don't care, because I'm busy admiring my reflection in whatever surface is handy.

Each year Sven and I do the ritual dance known as "I Don't Know What To Get You For Christmas, Soul Mate."  Seriously, we have been together almost nineteen years (almost half my life!) and he acts as though I am some unknowable mystery when it comes to gifts.

In truth, I'm pretty easy.  I have a lot of things I like, and many of them are things I believe of which one cannot have too many.  (That was exhausting.  I'm going to eat a chocolate bar now.)  Herewith, then, is my list of THINGS FOR WHICH I HAVE AN INFINITE APPETITE:

1. Jewelry.  I love jewelry.  Tacky, tasteful, real, imaginary, costume, subtle, sparkly, vintage, brand-new... I love it all.  Give me jewelry and you will see a happy Deb.

2. Shoes.  I own a lot of shoes but generally only wear one or two pairs 99% of the time.  The others are for me to put on my feet and admire as I wobble from one end of the closet to the other, remembering why I don't wear cute shoes all the time.

3. Makeup.  Namely lipstick, eye shadow, and nail color.  I really don't think you can ever have enough. Sven disagrees, particularly about the nail color; he recently calculated that I have over 50 different nail polishes in my vintage plastic straw purse.

4. Purses.  I love bags.  Totes, clutches, hobo, cross-body, satchels, handbags...  Keep 'em coming.  I also love wallets and organizers.

5. Clothes.  Pretty clothes?  Forget about it.  Enough said.  Pajamas, socks, unmentionables...  I love it.

6.  Blankets & bedding.

7. Anything I have "Seen On TV."  I'll try it all.

8. Anything made by Apple.

9. Books, TV shows, and movies about vampires.  I'll take it all, from the laughably bad to the artistically implausible.

10. Money.  You can never be too rich or too thin.

Not that I would know.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

If You Can't Blame The Dog...

Since my recent intestinal adventure, I have become fearful-to-the-point of phobic of constipation.

I blame the well-meaning X-Ray tech (a former student of my father, thank you very much!) who earnestly explained to me about a possible complication of barium ingestion:

"You drunk about a half a gallon of barium, right?" she pointed out.  I nodded.  "Sometimes the body does strange things.  It can happen that your intestine will suck out all of the water, and just leave the barium itself behind, like a little plug of radioactive concrete in your colon.  So just drink plenty of water for a while, okay?  And if your poop is white, that's good.  It means it's the barium coming out safely."

Visualizing a plug of white, radioactive concrete in my colon did not make me happy.  Even imagining the superpowers that might result from such a situation did not ease my mind.  I dutifully drank tons of water and watched for any resulting whiteness, but alas, it did not appear.  Even the knowledge that, by now, all of the barium must be gone, does not ease (ha!) my mind.

So I have been consuming a staggering amount of fiber.  I think I'm up to around 30 grams of fiber a day, thanks to Splenda With Fiber (3 grams of fiber per yummy teaspoon!) and steel-cut oatmeal.  A few fiber gummies, a FiberOne Brownie or two... I'm good.  This amount of fiber, however, means that my organs are always giving a recital, so to speak.  This recital is often only heard by me, but it is, alas, "appreciated" by all.

This is not so much an issue at home as it is at school, since even the most well mannered thirteen-year-old can often not resist a comment like, "Who did that?  Or did something die in your room this morning?"

My tactic, since I have no dog to blame: keep moving and hope they blame each other.  So far, it works.

"Miss, they need to stop making those quesadillas (pronounced phonetically as "kwe-sa-dill-ohs") for breakfast!" one girl earnestly proclaimed.  "'Cause it is stinky after a while!"

"Oh, dear!" I say without a trace of irony as I float gently from one side of the room to another.  The moving teacher farts, and having farted, moves on, is my new motto.  Perhaps not worthy of a sampler, but it works for me.

(The above post is dedicated to my friend Laura, who posted her desire for a new blog post on my Facebook wall.  I hope you are happy.  The rest of you now know who to blame.)

Happy holidays!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Deb's "Dy-no-mite" Pumpkin Bars

I love, love, love pumpkin, so this is a happy time of year for me.  This is a recipe I have honed over several iterations.  It began as a nearly fat-free, almost vegan recipe for pumpkin cookies, but I have altered it to fit my nutritional needs.  It is delicious, but very, very heavy and filling.  I will note where you might want to alter the recipe, depending on what you need:

Preheat oven to 350.  Line a 9X13 baking pan with parchment paper (or grease it, I don't care what you do.  You never call me anymore.).

In a large bowl, combine the following dry ingredients:

3 cups rolled oats
1+1/3 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup vanilla whey protein powder (note: I put this in to add protein.  The recipe will work just fine without it, but you will want to increase the whole wheat flour to around 1 + 3/4 - 2 cups, or maybe put in about 1/2 cup all-purpose flour.  It's a journey.)

Thoroughly mix the dry ingredients until they are completely blended and there are no lumps.  Using a sifter is helpful.  Once the dry ingredients are ready, add:

1/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup Splenda with Fiber  (Note: I put this in to make this bar more fiber-rich.  Plain Splenda or white sugar works fine, or you can do 1/2 cup brown and 1/2 cup white.)
1 teaspoon each cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.  (Or a couple of teaspoons pumpkin pie spice)

Blend the sugars and spices into the dry ingredients.  Once the mixture is even and fine, add

1 enormous (29 oz) can pumpkin (or two small cans, or two cups pumpkin puree)  (Note: do not use pumpkin pie filling, get the 100% pure pumpkin puree)
2 eggs (note: to make this recipe fat-free, use 1/3 cup applesauce, but I need the extra protein and fat from the eggs)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
dash orange extract (optional, but I like the little citrus note there.  It will totally overpower if too much is used, though)

Mix everything up until it is smooth.  Add a bag of white chocolate chips and, if you like, a bag of craisins or a cup of raisins.  Pour mixture (which will be very thick) into your lined pan and bake at 350 for about 45 minutes to an hour.  Start testing it; when the toothpick comes out cleanly it is done.

Allow it to cool and then slice into very small bars.  I recommend at least 36 servings per pan.  Here's what they look like:

I suggest freezing half for later consumption; a little goes a long, long way.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Thankful for Memes

It's November again, which means two things:

1. National Novel Writer's Month

2. "Month of Thankfulness" Facebook posts.

Of all of the Facebook memes, the "Month of Thankfulness" has to be the least annoying.  (93% of people will not agree with me.  Will you be one of the courageous 7% who do?)  Unlike other memes, this one actually serves the purpose it claims to: remind people that they have lots of things to be thankful for.  Unlike "raising awareness" for breast cancer by posting hideously annoying, vague allusions to pregnancy and/or major life alterations, this one is straightforward, simple, and sincere.

Unfortunately, due to other commitments in my life both major (National Novel Writer's Month, a new Twilight movie, fiber consumption) and minor (marriage, children, career), I do not have the stamina to commit to a 30-day Facebook meme.  Therefore, I am posting my month of thankfulness here, on my blog, all at once.

Day 1: I am thankful for National Novel Writer's Month, which gives me a focused outlet for my creativity.

Day 2: I am thankful for my health, so recently recovered.

Day 3: I am thankful for Splenda with fiber, for transforming my morning bowl of oatmeal into a seismic event.

Day 4: I am thankful for Fresca.

Day 5: I am thankful for a daughter who knows the difference between fiction and non-fiction, who instructs me on the way the Plains Indians used every part of the buffalo, who insists on "doing demonstrations" to show me the proper way to do things, but who still can't put on her own socks.

Day 6: I am thankful that my son is toilet trained.

Day 7: I am thankful that my son is learning how to aim.

Day 8: I am thankful for Clorox wipes.

Day 9: I am thankful for my homemade pumpkin-protein-fiber bars with white chocolate chips.  Though I cannot eat them in the presence of fellow humans, they are delicious.

Day 10: I am thankful for overly informative bumper stickers.  It is helpful to know that the abysmal driver in front of me is an idiot in other ways.

Day 11: I am thankful for my stalwart, long-suffering husband, Sven, who puts up with many people in our life now calling him Sven because of this blog.

Day 12: I am thankful to the Victoria's Secret Panty Raid sale.  Good times.

Day 13: I am thankful for my job, which provides me with new challenges every day.

Day 14: I am thankful that I am a mere 22 years away from retirement.

Day 15: I am thankful for my mother, who has surpassed me in cool technology.  She has a smart phone and a Kindle.  My Nokia flip phone has a rotary dial.

Day 16: I am thankful for the iPad 2 for giving me yet another unattainable dream.

Day 17: I am thankful for my enormous Rainforest Cafe mug, which has provided me with an identity.  ("Look, it's the cup lady!")

Day 18: I am thankful for my church calling, because it is the only time during the week that I don't have to deal with children.

Day 19: I am thankful for the children, whom I believe to be the future.

Day 20: I am thankful for Whitney Houston, who shows us all the money, talent, and fame in the world won't stop someone thoroughly determined to make an ass of herself from doing so publicly.

Day 21: I am thankful for gravity, which prevents me from drifting into space.

Day 22: I am thankful for wonderful, supportive friends, both those I know in real life and those I know online.

Day 23: I am thankful for internet drama, which proves that even the silliest, least consequential thing in the world can become a giant hairy mess of emotion under the right circumstances.

Day 24: I am thankful for Kim Kardashian, who makes me feel much better about myself.

Day 25: I am grateful for vague clearance sale mark-downs, like "Take 65% of the lowest ticketed price (reduction taken at the register)" and there are eleven crossed out prices but when you get it to the register they actually pay you to take it away.  (Not really, but I got an $80 sweater today for $11.90 at Macy's.)

Day 26: I am grateful for modern medicine and all the advantages it has brought us.

Day 27: I am grateful for Methodist Hospital payment plans.  It should only take me a few decades to pay off my most recent adventure!

Day 28: I am grateful for my younger friends, who are having babies left and right so I don't have to.

Day 29: I am grateful for digital cable.

Day 30: I am grateful for the opportunity I have to be snarky, snide, sarcastic, and snipey on this blog.  And Olestra.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

So here's what happened...

Last Wednesday I woke up about 30 minutes before my alarm went off, as is my frequent wont.  (My alarm goes off around 5:00 a.m., which makes no sense since I don't have to be at work until 8:00, but there you go.)  I didn't feel "right," somehow, so I decided to get up and take a hot bath.

That's as far as I got.  The next thing I knew, I was on the floor.  I couldn't move.  I yelled for Sven to get me a protein shake, thinking that perhaps I had low blood sugar or something, but that didn't help.  I got into the bath, but that didn't revive me.  As the time passed I felt worse and worse.  I thought, "I can get to work, maybe I'll go home early if I don't feel better."  Then I thought, "I'll just make it until Sven takes the kids to school and I'll go to the urgent care when it opens."

Without going into much gory detail, in the next few minutes it became clear that something was seriously wrong with me.  I alerted Sven, who got the kids dressed and took them to their daycare (which opens very early, thank goodness).  By the time he got back, I was in a bad way.  I couldn't walk.  I crawled to the top of the stairs and passed out there.  I don't remember what I saw when I passed out, but it was something, and I remember being very afraid when I woke up.  I crawled down the stairs, Sven carried me to his car (seriously hurting his back in the process), and we went to the emergency room.

I told them my name and that was all they let me say; I was rushed to the back and they got my vital signs.  My blood pressure was 69/40.  They got IV's going in both arms and pretty soon I was getting a blood transfusion.  I felt better after that, so I asked, "When will I be able to go home?"

Answer: four days later.  They admitted me to ICU, which doesn't allow children, so I couldn't see the kids at all that day.  I had a bleeding scan in nuclear medicine (take out my blood, inject it with radioactive stuff, then put it back in me and track it for a few hours).  When I was in tears the next morning, they moved me to IMCU so my kids could come see me.  After that, I had an endoscopy on my esophagus and stomach.  (After that they let me eat clear liquids; beef broth and jello have never tasted so good!)  The next day I had a colonoscopy.  (The less said about that, the better.)  After all of that, the verdict was this: we know you were bleeding in your small intestines, but we don't know exactly where or why.  Go home.

I went home on Saturday, but more tests were to come before they would let me go back to work.  Wednesday I drank an enormous quantity of barium and had a series of x-rays taken from about 9:00 a.m. until about 3:30 p.m.  Apparently I passed some kind of endurance test, because they released me to go back to work on Thursday.  I feel pretty good now.  It was like a big reset button had been pushed on my life; I'm eating better, sleeping better, and I hope I'm managing my stress better.

So we still don't know what caused it, but hopefully we will soon.  For me, it almost doesn't matter; it was a big wake-up call that I needed to take better care of myself.  I intend to take it seriously.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Wisdom of Youth

I am the oldest choir director in our school district.  I'm awfully young to be in that position, but circumstances have led to most of our schools hiring new directors in the last few years, and many of them are quite young.  22-23-24 young.

I'm getting used to the walker, but my hearing aids are giving me trouble.

Anyway, the other "new" middle school director is one of these youngsters; I think she is 23.  I have experience, she has energy and enthusiasm and optimism, so we often fall into conversations comparing out issues and methods of solving them.

An issue we have in common is Dramatic Divas.  These are the girls (usually in varsity choir) who believe they can get away with anything because they are SO INCREDIBLY TALENTED.  They can sing, sometimes very well, which means the director will never punish them for any bad behavior.

I should say that this view is not unreasonable.  There are a lot of people out there, choir directors among them, who will excuse an astonishing about of rudeness, disrespect, and even blatant defiance if someone is talented enough.  Or pretty enough.  Or rich enough.

I am not one of those people.  I made up my mind a long time ago that I wouldn't allow my choir to be held hostage to the whims of one student.  If my choir would collapse at the loss of one member, any member, then I'm not doing my job.  No one, myself included, should be indispensable.  The show must go on, after all.

Well, Young Teacher agreed with me, and then she said something so profound that it took me a while to process it fully:

"You know," she said, "I can teach a bad singer to be a decent singer.  I'm not sure I can teach a bad person how to be a decent person."

Wow.  I have been thinking about that statement for a week now.  The thing is, I do a lot of things to teach my students to be better people.  I teach responsibility, commitment, teamwork, hard work, tolerance, respect, and self-motivation every day.  That being said, those are things the kids only learn if they want to.  A student who crosses her arms, rolls her eyes, and audibly sighs after every sentence I say will not learn how to be a better person from me.  She won't learn anything from me.  She's made up her mind that she won't, and nothing I can do, no amount of dog-and-pony show from me, can change that.

So, yes, I can teach a bad singer to be a decent singer.  And I can help teach good kids how to be good adults.

And I still ask myself how I can do more.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


I was looking at some old pictures of myself, and I realized that the person I used to be no longer exists.

I look at those pictures, and intellectually I realize that is me, and I remember being there when the pictures were taken, but it's like looking at a picture of someone else.  That person doesn't exist anymore.

So where did she go?  And who am I?

I can't tell you how many times I've seen people I know well, people who I considered good friends, who have walked right past me, or treated me like a stranger because they didn't recognize me.  Then, if they realize it's me, I get this line:

"Oh, my goodness!  I didn't even recognize you!  You look FANTASTIC!"

I know they mean that nicely.  I know it's a compliment and none of these people would hurt me for the world.


I don't think I'm unrecognizable.  I know I look different, but it's still my face, mostly.  So... did all of these people, whom I counted as good friends, only see my weight before?  Was that such a huge part of my identity that I am unrecognizable without it?

So where does that leave me?  I'm 36, almost 37... I've lived a lot of years now.  Am I starting over?  Does my life as a fat girl no longer count?  If my weight was my defining feature before, what is it now? Who am I?

I don't know either.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Drama. Ugh.

I forgot how much drama there is in middle school, especially middle school choir.

Choir teachers become a bit more emotionally involved than, say, a math teacher.  We get to know our students on a much more personal level.  99% of the time, that's awesome.  The other 1%... not so much.

My middle school choir program currently has 130 students.  115 of them love me.

The other 15... DRAMA.

"Miss, it's your fault we messed up at the concert," they say.  "You didn't direct us right."

"You should treat us the same as the other classes," they say.  "You say you hold us to a higher standard because we're the varsity group, but that isn't right."

"It's not fair," they say.  "We're the only ones who get in trouble."

They weren't in trouble.  They didn't mess up that badly.  And they're usually the ones demanding special treatment because they're the "varsity" group.  Sigh.

I'll win someday.  Maybe it will take a few years, but one day...


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Monday, September 19, 2011

Of sausage and yearning...

I have splurged over the last few days.

The first few weeks of school were very stressful for me.  I'm not sure exactly why, but the why doesn't matter, really.  The point is, I was very overwhelmed.  I lost 5 pounds in the first three weeks of school.  I was beginning to get those looks.  You know the ones: the slightly furrowed brow, the smile that didn't quite reach the eyes.  The comments were, "Are you sure you're okay?" and "You know, you look great, you don't really need to lose anymore weight."  Right.

So I had a rough patch.  Fortunately, I found the way to counteract stress.


The last few days at work, I have indulged in a fast-food breakfast.  Namely, a sausage and egg croissant (with cheese) and hash browns from Jack 'n' the Box.  Calories: close to 1,000, which is supposed to be my daily caloric intake.  Weight gained: 3 pounds in 5 days.

Done and done.  I can gain weight, if I try.  Now all I have to do is get back down to my pre-fast-food weight and all will be well.  If I need to gain, I know the secret.

Drive-thru.  It has worked for generations.

It will work for me.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where I Was

On the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I was sitting in my 8 a.m. music history class.  The class met every Tuesday and Thursday and, as is often the case with 8 a.m. classes, was often dry as dust. All of us in the class were upper-level music majors and had the same basic schedule.

I remember that day was clear and gorgeous.  The sky was that perfect, crystalline blue that comes to Southeast Texas every fall for a few weeks, then disappears for another year.  Our music history class had ended and we were waiting for the next class to start.  The sunlight was streaming in through the windows and we were all just chatting, trading stories across the room, when one of the student assistants ran into the room.

"Someone attacked the World Trade Center," he blurted out.  "A plane flew into one of the towers and then another one.  They're saying another one hit something in Washington."  He ran out of the room.

The class was silent for a few seconds, then the conversation started again.  We had no idea what we had just heard.  The guy who came in (who is now a top-level administrator for fine arts education) was known as something of a jokester, but none of us really thought it was a joke; we just had no idea what was going on.  A few minutes later the department chair, who taught the 9:30 class, came in and told us what had happened and said he was canceling morning classes.

My car wouldn't start.  We had to have it towed to a place to get a new starter put in.  I cried the whole day; the TV kept showing images of people falling (or jumping) from the towers as they burned beneath them.  The mechanic who worked on the car kept nodding at me and saying, "Don't worry, we'll get 'em."

It took about a week for things to get "back to normal" at Lamar University in Beaumont, but all of us who remember that day know that things have never gotten back to normal, not like it was the day before.  We were all adjusting to a new normal, a normal in which we were living with the knowledge that we were just as vulnerable as anyone anywhere.  In the petrochemical industrial area (where I have lived just about all of my life) we began to realize that not only were we vulnerable, we were potential targets.  And there was nothing we could do about it.

That being said, it was a surprisingly short time before we were able to laugh again, and enjoy the things we always have.  Everything changed, but we survived.  It's hard to believe that the students I teach don't remember that day clearly.  The world has always been the post-9/11 world to them.  I wonder if they will ever understand the fundamental change we all went through that beautiful morning.

I wonder if I do.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Gossip and good deeds

Added to the list of ways Seinfeld made my life better: it made me long to be a mentor, so I can have a protege.

I was honored last year to be entrusted with a student teacher, whom I will call Marvelous.  Marvelous is a young woman with an extraordinary voice and a real talent for music education.  She and I have grown to be friends, but I feel a certain pride in her as one of her instructors, thus, she is my "protege."  (Deal with it.)

In the state of Texas, music educators all receive the same certification: Music All-Level.  That means that elementary music teachers and secondary directors of band, choir, and orchestra all take the same test and hold the same technical qualifications.  (Yes, that means I technically *could* teach advanced orchestra, if there was an administrator stupid enough to hire me.  I will not follow that comment with another.)  This means that younglings looking to earn a degree and a teaching certificate in music must, in the course of their final (student teaching) semester, complete two cycles of student teaching at two different levels.  For vocal majors, this usually means a cycle at the secondary (choral) level, and a cycle in elementary music.

Marvelous did her time in high school and loved it.  She was awesome at it.  My friend Berry, the high school director who had her first, let me know that she didn't want to let Marvelous go.  Marvelous taught private voice lessons, helped organize music and uniforms, helped run auditions, and generally made herself indispensable to the program.  She came to me with friendliness but a lack of enthusiasm I only noticed because I saw her with Berry and could see how much she loved it.

In short, Marvelous believed she had seen her destiny, and it was high school.  She wasn't thrilled about wasting time in the elementary classroom.

I don't blame her!  I was in the elementary classroom and wasn't thrilled about it.  But Marvelous heard that I was "great," and resigned herself to the process.

I really think that we meet people for reasons.  I think Marvelous and I came into each others' lives for a purpose.  Marvelous was there for me at a very busy, crazy time: I had just had my surgery and was adjusting to my new life.  I still wasn't eating solid food and didn't feel great all the time.  At the same time, I was having unprecedented participation in my after-school choir and was trying to deal with that.

Enter Marvelous.  She came to rehearsals, she helped with the fund raiser, and she was there every day.  She took over classes, at first following my plans, then offering her own suggestions.  By the end, there were days when I actually put my feet up (under the desk) as I watched her, because I was so confident that she wouldn't need me to step in.

The kids were upset when she left.  "When is Miss Marvelous coming back?" they would ask.  "She's not," I would whisper.  "But we miss her!" they wailed.  "I do too!" I rejoined.

Now I'm back at the junior high level, but at one where I've never taught before.  Here's my office:

Isn't it cute?  Back to the matter at hand...

I found out today what purpose I am serving for Marvelous.  She's in a very scary place: she's a college graduate who can't find a job.  Texas is like that right now for teachers.  Nobody is hiring.  She has a couple of long-term positions lined up for this year, but the really big questions aren't answered: should I just keep looking?  Should I go to grad school?  What if there aren't any jobs next year?  What do I do?

That's when you need a mentor.  Marvelous came to my school today, and even though it meant I got behind on my preparation for the first day, I'm so glad she did.  We had a long talk and I got to tell her everything I thought she needed to hear:
  • You're amazing.
  • You're talented.
  • You're smart.
  • You're a gifted natural teacher.
  • Did I say amazing?  Good.
After I made that all clear, I shared with her one of the few bits of genuine wisdom I feel I have acquired in my 26 years on this earth.  (Just go with it.)  I know it sounds like a cliche or fortune cookie, but I swear it's true and sincere:

What looks like adversity when it's ahead of you will look like unbelievable luck and opportunity once it's behind you.  I didn't say it like that (I took much longer, because that's how I roll), but that's the most concise way I can say it: sometimes God kicks us a little to get us on the road we need to be on.  Getting fired from or not being able to find a job is devastating, but it makes you consider pathways you wouldn't have otherwise.  Being separated from your spouse, family, or friends can seem like a terrible hardship, but it can strengthen those bonds by making you a stronger, more secure person on your own.  Struggling with infertility or otherwise having to wait to start your family can make you appreciate your children more, making you a better parent than you might have been if you'd had your children easily or at a younger age.

And that's just me.  We all have heard or lived those stories that end, "...and it was the best thing that could have happened to me."  I've heard people say it about everything from divorce to cancer.  Terrible, uncomfortable, horrible things can end up being the catalyst we need to make positive changes in our lives.

Marvelous seemed to like what she heard.  I don't know what she's going to do.  She doesn't know what she's going to do.  But that's the point.

That was the "good deed."  The "gossip" in the title comes from Marvelous letting me know that I had become the hot topic of conversation among some of the other choir directors in our district.  I am, I realized, the oldest choir director in our district (we have 9: 5 middle school and 4 high school directors, and I am the oldest of all of them by two years).  Marvelous said they were talking about me, and Berry pointed out that I am the skinniest one, and then another director (Sonya) said, "Well, Deb told me she's the oldest one, too."

Marvelous said they all agreed that my being older was just unbelievable, because I look so young.  I have a so much energy, and I'm so excited and happy, they said, that it's hard to believe I'm even in my 30's, let alone older than them.  (Sonya and Berry are the next oldest to me; they are both two years younger than I am.)

I'm not sure there was anything Marvelous could have said that would have made me happier.  I love my life.  I love my job (even though it really doesn't start for two more days).  I love my husband and my kids.  I love my family.  Life is pretty sweet.

I guess it shows.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Sunrise, Sunset

I just got home from a concert by the Southeast Texas Chorale.  This is a community choir that meets over the summer.  It is conducted by a former student of mine and many of its members are also former students.

At the concert I had the opportunity to see The Duchess, a friend and mentor and generally fabulous person, and her daughter, Lady Mary.  The Duchess continues to be a living example of what it means to be a Southern Lady.  I adore The Duchess.  Lady Mary is equally fabulous.  Both of these ladies looked gorgeous and I have forgiven them for how tall they are.  Fortunately, I was wearing The Outfit with a pair of boots, so I felt a bit taller.

I cannot tell you how truly inspirational it was to see this concert.  The conductor and artistic director, Mel Montanez (his real name) has turned from that fun, snarky, sometimes-awkward kid I knew into a poised, mature artist.  His conducting was so fluid and graceful that I found myself envying how easy he made it look.  He didn't just get up there and lead a choir.  He was part of the music in a way conductors sometimes cannot be; it is a testament both to his leadership and to the talent of his singers that there was so much great music.

My students are all grown up.  I get new ones every year, of course, but I never forget the "old" ones.  My students from Anahuac, TX have kids now; some of them have kids older than mine.  They're teachers and nurses and doctors and pastors.  They are homemakers and Scentsy salespeople and marketers.  They aren't my kids anymore, yet they are.  I am so lucky to have two beautiful children I raise in my home, but I have also had hundreds (maybe over 1,000) who are just a little bit mine.

That pride I feel doesn't go away.  When I see them on Facebook or run into them in the mall, I'm proud.   I love them all.

PS: Here's a picture of THE OUTFIT.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Who's That Girl?

Princess has, over the course of the summer, become quite a princess.

I do not mean that in a complimentary way.

Her vocabulary has expanded to include such teenage-isms as:

"Well, duh!"

"Mom, you're embarrassing me."

"That's just lame."

"You treat me like a servant!"

"This is stupid."

"I hate you."

Yes, it has been quite an eventful summer, seeing as how my 5-year-old has aged about 10 years in the course of 9 weeks.  I have to confess, I was beginning to despair.  If she is acting like this now, by the time she's 15 I'll be ready to send her to some awful Hogwarts-style boarding school where, I'm sure, she would be a Slytherin.  I went from feeling like this:

To this:

At least Mrs. Bates got to rest sometimes.

But then, as I was in despair, things began to lift.  We (meaning I) cleaned Princess' room last weekend when an infestation of ants made it necessary to remove her painstakingly-collected cache of Pop-Tart crusts from beneath her bed.  Her room is still clean, because she has been picking up after herself.

Then she began VOLUNTARILY clearing the table after meals and scraping the plates and putting them in the sink.  Then she cleans the table.

Then, last night, I called her to come to me.  She didn't come for a few minutes, and I was ready to be upset with her, but she explained that she HAD BEEN PICKING UP THE TOY ROOM.  When I went upstairs to check, EVERY TOY WAS PUT AWAY.

I didn't quite know how to react.

Despite a few lapses into teenage territory, the past few days have been wonderful.  I know it is smooth sailing from here on out.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Shopping Adventures

Last week my wonderful Aunt Amazing and Cousin Firecracker took me shopping.  They met me in Houston's Rice Village at a store called White House Black Market.  This is a store I've seen but have always been afraid to set foot in, due to my fear that I will have a Pretty Woman-style encounter with snooty saleswomen who will refuse to serve someone so clearly out of her element.

Since my weight loss I have stuck to Old Navy, mostly, with occasional adventures into The Gap.  My wardrobe consists of "kid clothes": jeans, chinos, polo shirts, and tees, mostly.  These are cheap and the sizes are fairly forgiving.  My aunt, who is, after all, amazing, got me right into the world of fashion and fit.

I gravitated immediately to the clearance section of the store and began to make some selections.  My salesgirl, Kim, offered to take my things to a dressing room.  She walked off, then returned immediately.

"I'm sorry," she said, "I can't let you try these on.  None of these things will fit you."

"Buh?" I managed as my bowels loosened dangerously.  I could just imagine the security force that would take me from the store, chanting "Not one of us!" as I struggled in futile protest.

"You've chosen things that are too big," she explained apologetically.  "You should really be looking at smalls, maybe mediums."

"Buh," I agreed.

"I'll pick out some things for you," she said.  I met her in the dressing room and tried on size 6 jeans.  They didn't fit.  I needed a size 4, which were fine.  The top and cardigan, each a small, fit perfectly.  For the first time in years, I looked at myself in a full-length mirror.

It was pretty awesome.  I was tall and lean, fashionably attired and not at all stupid-looking.  I felt that I had finally "made it," somehow.

I couldn't afford to buy much, but I bought that first outfit.  I don't know when or where I will wear it, but I wanted to have it to remind me of the day I saw myself for the first time.  I wish I'd had a camera, but if I get a picture of myself in it, I'll post it.  Kim brought me tons of outfits, none of which really measured up to that first one, but I got a few more things (and was gifted with a gorgeous cardigan from my aunt and a delightful skirt from my cousin, who are wonderful amazing generous beautiful blindingly intelligent women) and wore high heels for the first time since prom.

Life is pretty sweet.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Health Group Bashes Menu Items... So What?

I just read this little blurb of an article on Yahoo:

Health Group Bashes High-Calorie...

In a nutshell, this group is attacking Denny's, Applebee's, Cold Stone Creamery, and The Cheesecake Factory (among others, I'm sure) for offering items on their menu that exceed a healthy amount of calories, fat, and/or sodium in one portion.

As someone who has become very conscious of my diet in the past year, I was a bit stunned when my reaction to this article was anger... at the "health group."

Diet is about choice.  Really, truly, it is.  Offering an unhealthy choice is fine.  It shouldn't be a secret that a grilled cheese sandwich with four fried mozzarella sticks inserted therein is unhealthy, but apparently this "health group" feels that people will somehow be "led" to make unhealthy choices because this sandwich exists.

Picture the process:

Diner 1: I think I'll try this grilled cheese sandwich with fried cheese inside of it!  That looks tasty!
Diner 2: I don't know, Phil, do you think it's healthy?
Diner 1: Cornelius, it's Denny's.  Everything here is absolutely healthy.  Everyone knows that.
Diner 2: You're right.  Let's hurry so we can get back to the hospital before they figure out we're gone and lock down the ward.
Diner 1: Right you are, Horace.

Seriously, it's Denny's.  No one eats at Denny's for their health, but there are actually plenty of healthy choices to be made there if you want to.  No one is stopping anyone from ordering the salads or egg-white omelets.  Or from going to a different restaurant.

What really cheeses me, though, is the condemnation of The Cheesecake Factory.  That is one of my favorite places to eat precisely because of the huge variety of options.  Healthy?  Sure, order a weight-management salad or a serving of edamame.  Reasonable?  Sure, order a lunch salad, a lunch portion of several entrees, or almost any other choice.  Decadent?  They've got that too, including the thing that condemns them in the eyes of the "health group": red velvet cheesecake, which is 1500 calories a slice and so delicious I briefly saw into another dimension when I ate mine.  Of course, I ate two bites of it.  That's all I could eat, but I would hate to think that due to pressure from a "health group" I wouldn't even have the option to do that.

People have the right to make unhealthy choices.  If you are forced into making healthy choices simply due to lack of options, you will not form healthy eating habits, you will learn to accept what you're given and not take any responsibility for your own health and happiness.  It's like those kids who go nuts at the first opportunity because their parents were too strict: lack of agency equals a lack of responsibility and maturity.

So I say, "health group," lighten up.  Have a piece of cheesecake.

You've earned it.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Short Hair

A lovely by-product of my weight loss is the sad fact that my hair is thinning.  The hair loss is quite visible to me, and my hairdresser noticed it right off.  We decided to go very short.  Here it is:

Thursday, June 9, 2011


It's Day 3 of Deb-is-a-stay-at-home-Mom-time, otherwise known as summer vacation.  When I get so busy during the school year and have days when I only see my kids right after they wake up and right before they go to sleep, I tell myself: "You and Sven work hard, but for 11 weeks each year your kids get two full-time stay at home parents."  It's true.  It makes me feel better.

That being said, I currently get two more weeks of vacation than Sven, so there are two weeks in which I am, functionally, a Stay-At-Home-Mom, or SAHM.  Being a SAHM is a tough job, but it is one from which I receive many blessings.  First, I receive the blessing of appreciating the fact that I work outside the home 39 weeks a year.

I kid!  I kid because I love.  I love being with my kids so much.  That being said, this year is very different from previous years because of the change in my health.  In previous years my goal was to do as little as possible so I would have as much time as possible doing nothing.  I avoided commitments to anything that might cut into my nothing time.

This past Monday I began my summer vacation with a day of housework.  I accomplished more on Monday than I have ever accomplished on the first day of summer.  Heck, I got more done on Monday than I got done in total last summer.  I cleaned out the last of my unwearable clothes and reorganized my side of the closet.   I cleaned my room, my bathroom, the kids' rooms, and the living room.  I cleaned the kitchen and emptied the refrigerator and freezer of bad/old food.  I washed every dish in the house and did everyone's laundry.  I washed all of the towels.  I went to the grocery store.  I cooked my family breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Then I had to face Tuesday.  So much was done... what was left?  I went to the gym, then got home and took a long nap.  I still cooked breakfast, lunch, and dinner for everyone.  I cleaned up the dishes as I went.  I did a few more loads of laundry (blankets and quilts).  I found myself looking for things to do as I realized there was *nothing* to do.

Now I'm blatantly fishing for things to do.  Today I went to the gym again (and will go tomorrow).  Thankfully, on the way out the door, Princess asked, "Mommy, can we bake cookies today?"

"Yes!" I cried with enthusiasm.  "Let's make cookies this afternoon!"  After a quick post-gym trip to Wal-Mart for supplies, we were set.  I cooked lunch (having cooked breakfast previously) and assembled the ingredients and supplies for two very different kinds of cookies.  Princess helped.  By 2:00 I had cooling on my countertop healthy chocolate chip cookies and a strange but very tasty concoction of my own design: fairly fat-free pumpkin cookies with white chocolate chips and Craisins.  I had a mess to clean up.

Mess was cleaned by 3:00.  Sven gets home at 4:00 and I'm telling him enthusiastically about my plans for dinner.  I mention steak.

"Steak?" he asks with a dynamic sparkle in his eye.  "Do we have lighter fluid?"  Sven grilled the steaks, which left me to side-dish duty, meaning I had to open cans and turn on the stove.  (And place a bag in the microwave, let us not forget.)  Dinner was over at 8:30.  Dishes were in the dishwasher and everything was cleaned up by 9:00.  I folded the laundry and went upstairs.

Sven will be done with work for the summer by early next week.  I'm not sure if I want him to carry his part of the load or get out of my way.  I've got stuff to do.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Just wait...

At 1 month: "Just wait until you've been together a few months, when it isn't new anymore but you don't have a lot invested in a relationship.  That's when things get tough."

At 6 months: "Just wait until you've been together a year.  That's when the real boredom sets in and you start wondering if he's really where he says he'll be."

At 1 year: "Just wait until you move in together.  Once you can't get away from each other and you see how disgusting another human being can be, it all falls apart."

At cohabitation: "Just wait until you get engaged.  Making it official changes everything."

At engagement: "Now you're in for it.  Planning a wedding ruins people.  Just wait."

After the wedding: "Once you've been married a while, the spark is gone.  Just wait until you realize he's the only person you're ever going to kiss for the rest of your life."

On your second anniversary: "Just wait until you have kids.  It's all over then."

After the birth of your first child: "Sure, it's easy having one, but just wait until you hit the terrible twos."

When you're pregnant with your second: "Now you've done it.  Just wait until you're elbow-deep in diapers and your toddler is dismantling your DVD player and your husband waltzes in and asks what's for supper.  Then you know it's over."

On your tenth anniversary: "Just wait."

Still waiting, after twelve years.  So far, so good.

Sven and Deb, married June 5, 1999
Just waiting to see what will come next.

Monday, May 30, 2011


Now that I've had almost two weeks to reflect on it, I would like to share the story of how I learned I would be changing jobs next year.

POLITICAL BACKGROUND (YOU CAN SKIP IF YOU LIVE IN TEXAS OR JUST DON'T CARE) This has been a tense year for schools in Texas.  Our impeccably coiffed governor, Rick Perry, who supplements his income by working as a Squint Model, has brought tons of new businesses to Texas.  You might have heard pundits such as Rush Limbaugh (who subscribes to Squinter's Monthly) and various bland Fox News analysts talking about how Texas Has Done Everything Right and Rick Perry Should Be Our Next President Because He Understands HOW TO GET THE JOB DONE.

Teachers from Texas hear this and shake their head bitterly as they clean the kindergarten urine from their carpets with a solution of baking soda and tears.  The reason for their bitterness is thus: the new businesses were lured to Texas with the promise that they would not have to pay high taxes like they do in other states.  In addition to promising new businesses huge tax breaks, Governor Perry has also held fast to his promise to hold property taxes down.  Texas, of course, has no state income tax, so our state runs on property taxes, sales taxes, tolls, and the lottery.

Texas also has the distinction of having no full-time legislature.  Our state representatives meet for six months every two years.  If something doesn't get fixed now, we have to wait two years to fix it.  That's what happened two years ago with funding for public education: they didn't fix it.  Now they're trying, and it looks like thousands, if not tens of thousands of teachers will lose their jobs and in some cases entire schools are closing.  It's a tough time to be a fine arts educator; it's no secret that those are the jobs most often on the chopping block.

(HERE'S WHERE MY DRAMA STARTS) So it was Tuesday, May 17, and I was in a panic.  My fourth graders were set to perform their musical that night and my second-biggest speaking part quit.  "I can't handle the pressure," he said.  I performed a masterful (in my opinion) dressing-down that stayed even and level yet conveyed the mess he had left me in, then got to work.

My principal came into my room during kindergarten.  Of course I was showing a movie.  That's the law.  When your principal just drops by to see you, you will be showing a video and typing frantically on your computer as the kids chant "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" with such authority that anyone could tell they have seen that particular video many, many times.  I hop to my feet and start babbling about the program and trying to fix some last-minute details, and my principal (whom I adore) waves it away and says these words:

"They want you in the administration building.  I have someone to cover your class.  You need to go now."

Fortunately, I had just visited the ladies' room.  I'm sure that I resembled a slack-jawed idiot for several seconds, but I gathered myself together and went across the highway to the administration building, where the formidable head of personnel was expecting me.

"She's on the phone," said the receptionist.  "Have a seat and I'll walk you back as soon as I can."  The receptionist, as it turned out, was a former music teacher in the district whom I had known slightly (she was one of my younger brother's teachers).  We began to chat about people we knew in common and she found out I was teaching elementary school.

"Oh, I love elementary," she sighed.  "Give me those sweet little ones over those junior high kids any day."

"I love junior high," I defended quickly.  "Elementary is okay, but I miss my big kids.  I miss the concert cycle, and the thrill of performing with them...  I would love to go back to junior high or high school when my kids are older."

I was taken to personnel and told that I was being reassigned from elementary school music to junior high choir.  I had a choice, they told me.  I could say no.  However, they wanted an answer right then.  At that moment.  The more I thought and listened, the more I realized that they really didn't intend for me to say no.  I said yes.

I was terrified.  Was it the right choice?  The safe thing to do would be stay with my sweet little ones and remain there until my kids are much older, but I've never been one for safety.  I shook hands with the director of personnel and left.

As soon as I walked out of her office, I felt complete and utter peace descend on me.  I was no longer worried about the program I had a few hours later.  I looked at myself in the mirror of my car and saw a huge smile.  I got back and told my principal that I had accepted the reassignment, and she gave me a big hug and told me she knew it was for the best.  (I love her.)  I walked back into my second group of kindergarteners and the happiness and peace continued.

I know this is the right thing for me.  Everything has fallen into place as though it was supposed to be.  I have kept that peaceful feeling in the two weeks since learning of my new position.  I'm not worried.  I'm sad to leave my little Wildcats, and I'm excited to meet my new big kids, but above all is the strong sense that I am doing what I should be doing.

Feels great.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Good thing we only take pictures every 3 years or so...

I promise this will be the last post about our awesome family pictures shot by my friend Jennifer in the new city park in Mont Belvieu, Texas.  (What what to Bill C., my city-planner friend.  That's right, I have a friend who is a city planner.  Top that.)

I unleashed my inner Mac geek by putting the pictures in iMovie, then combined with my all-time favorite love song remix.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Family Photos In the Park

We just did a photo shoot with a friend of mine.  Here are some of my faves:

Friday, May 20, 2011

Movin' On Down

Last summer: Size 28:

Christmas: Size 20:

March: Size 16:

Today: Size 8

(In the size 16 jeans from the March picture)