A S Has A Face

A S Has A Face. just ran across this fellow WordPress blogger’s site.  If you are curious about AS (ankylosing spondylitis) or it’s related family of autoimmune disorders, give this a read and a follow!  Good stuff!


Siemens We Can Change The World Challenge

UPDATE!!!!  As of May 14th, our SAS Fab 4ths are National Finalists/State winner for VA in the 3rd through 5th grade division!  WOOHOO!!!!  Check back on May 30th to see if we won 1st-3rd place!  So proud of these kids!!


Siemens We Can Change The World Challenge.

Playing around a bit on Twitter today, I ran across a contest for schools that caught my eye, the Siemens, We Can Change the World Challenge.  Always being up for a bit of a challenge, I figured I would take a look…anything that might be an engaging project for my students and help them work on team building is ALWAYS of interest to me!

I was really excited to learn that the theme for this challenge is sustainable projects, research based, that the students investigate, execute, and report.  The theme in particular is of extreme interest to those of us at St. Andrew’s School, environmental conservation/sustainability.  See, our building, I’m fairly certain, could have served as the model for Hogwart’s in the Harry Potter franchise…3 floors plus basement/maze plus rooms tucked away in odd spots and stairways that appear around corners.  Then there’s the attic…still haven’t ventured up there yet.  We have massive glass skylights, enormous heavy wooden doors…the school is absolutely beautiful and full of more charm than you can possibly imagine!

We’ve already started a few programs within the school to help reduce our impact on the surrounding community such as recycling (although the company that picks up and pays us only wants white paper…that’s it…nothing else), and we have a new lunch program (prior to this year, students were required to bring their own lunches) that includes freshly prepared, healthy lunches (Jamie Oliver would be so proud!).  We serve lunch on plastic, reusable trays with real utensils and plastic cups.  The only things “disposable” from lunch are the napkins, uneaten food, and the trash from the children who elect to bring their own lunches.  Hummmm…..

This got me to thinking, how much trash do we generate still that could be reduced even further?  What if we had a better company/resource to pick up recycled items? How about if, like the school my daughter attended when we lived in Nashville for a year, any lunches brought from home had to be packaged in reusable containers with real napkins…nothing could be disposable? And finally, what if we were able to create a system for composting food waste in the dining hall, rather than disposing of all of it? After all, our school does have a beautiful garden plot in the middle of the city, right next door, that could certainly make use of compost.  Heck, we could even perhaps start our own worm farm from the compost!

So, I’ve registered my 16 4th graders for this challenge and will present the contest to them Monday morning.  Only wish I had found this sooner since we will obviously have to come up with a project quickly that can be  started and completed (for the most part) by the March 15th deadline.


Welcome to my own personal “therapy” sessions and a spot to (hopefully)share my experiences with changing careers midstream, raising kids with an assortment of auto-immune disorders (apparently we hit the genetic jackpot on this one), and trying like mad to have a ball, make a bit of a difference, and perhaps learn a bit along this ever so slightly crooked, winding path we call life.

So pull up a chair, a comfy blanket, and your favorite beverage, and join in the chats.  I’d love to hear your own stories!


A funny thing happened on the way to the dissertation…

Well, it’s been an interesting journey to say the least in my pursuit of my Ph.D. in Special Education and Disability Policy, filled with more twists and turns than a John Grisham novel to say the least!

I’d like to think that I was completely and thoroughly dedicated to this endevor, but oddly enough, “Life” kept conspiring with the writing Muses to keep this project dragging on for what feels like forever.  I have always been a lover of learning, but not a finisher of classes.  I married young, started a family young, and those factors combined with the very limited finances of a growing young family made it challenging to finish my post-high school education in anything that resembled a timely fashion.  Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade a single moment of diaper-changing, sleepless nights, and last minute science projects with the kids to be able to say I had my degrees, but in the end, this path to becoming “Dr. Mom” as the kids put it, will have been a total of 28 years to traverse.

Really? 28 years?  And I thought my husband was the one who couldn’t take the shortest route anywhere!

So, here I am, at the start of what (had BETTER be), my final semester of dissertation pursuit.  I’ve got to turn in my first three chapters to my chair next week, the official start of the new semester, in order to officially present my prospectus.  Assuming I don’t get the “What were you thinking?” cold stare, I should be able to get IRB approval pretty quickly and get this final ball rolling down the hill.  Actually meeting with the subjects to collect data will take two afternoon sessions…the analysis and write up will be much faster.  Stop sniggering….I LOVE qualitative research; analyzing and discussing relationships is what gets this geek grinning like a twitterpated Thumper (Bambi reference for you youngsters…not Twitter). I’ve been known to get into a writing project, turning out a truly quality 20 pages or so in one sitting.  I’m just weird like that.

This final year, I took a leave of absence during the fall semester thanks to leaving my post at the university (not of my choice but due to budget constraints and reconfiguration of the department) and returned to the elementary classroom: as a 4th grade teacher…in a TINY private school…as  a general educator.  This has been a side trip of grand and epic proportions, and merits its own blog later.  I thought of it as a “reflective vacation” from academia.  In reality, it was a mental health vacation.  In 2005, when I started the pursuit of the final degree, and believe me, it is THE final degree, my daughter had just graduated from high school, and the boys were 14 and 10.  I had been having a few “health issues” that had gotten me thinking that staying in the classroom with students with emotional/behavioral disorders for the rest of my career might not be in the cards, as I noticed my reflexes getting slower and slower with major joints and spine becoming less flexible.  Not an ideal combination if you regularly are dodging flying furniture and runners.  The family graciously agreed that we would sell the dream home on 5 acres, downsize, and let me go back to school full time to retrain my brain in a career path less physical.  I figured I would be ideal at inspiring future generations of teachers to work with and inspire their own generation of students.  Feel free to wipe the spewed coffee off your screen now.  I’ll wait.

I was going to finish the 60 hours of coursework plus the dissertation in 3 years.  I was DRIVEN! I was AMBITIOUS!  I was an IDIOT! Over the next three years, my husband had 2 heart attacks, I was diagnosed with Undifferentiated Spondylorapathy, as were BOTH the boys, my daughter was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis (actually, she was diagnosed first, leading to the rest of us being “discovered”), followed by my daughter learning that the phrase “You’ll never be able to conceive a pregnancy” is actually the magic fertility spell.  In other words, Life had other plans.  Still, I made it through the coursework in 4 years.  Not bad…not bad at all.

Then hubby lost his job, not once, but twice, and had another heart attack.  In hindsight, had I not been in academia teaching and running grants, we probably would have not made it; there is a flexibility to the hours that saved us and made it possible to make all the doctors’ appointments that were required to get everyone to a healthy place again.  However, there is a bit of a dark side…it meant I wasn’t able to keep up the frantic pace to finish the dissertation research quickly.  My star was losing its shine.  When it came time to start applying for positions within the University, as I have no real desire to uproot my family from the area, I was confronted with another harsh reality of academia thinking that’s counterintuitive in my old department…don’t hire the people you’ve just spent a fortune training.  Ouch! Never mind the contributions to publications, the workshops or new initiatives, or the willingness to advise undergrads and actually enjoy it, my services were no longer required due to the fact that I was “home-grown”.  I’ll leave you to think on that one; it’s a pending topic for discussion.  But in a nutshell, it was a life-changing, bitch-slap of a wake-up call.  What was important to me, career, family, personal goals…all were suddenly and forcefully tossed in the air for rearranging.

So, here I am, a short 4 months shy of the elusive terminal degree, and I am finally feeling ready to “belt it out” and be done.  The mere fact that I’ve decided to share this journey with anyone willing to have a look speaks volumes to where I’ve come over the past 6 months.  Thank you for joining me in a reflection of where I’ve been and where I’m headed.  I hope these topics and musings are half as interesting to you, as they have been challenging to me.  I look forward to getting to know your journey as well!