Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"carrion" and "aught"

Tonight my roommate popped in The Music Man. A classic. But even though it is a classic, The Music Man is not one of those musicals that I absolutely love. I like it just fine. It’s exceptionally random, has catchy songs and I find Shirley Jones to be particularly (though subtly) hilarious and little Ronny Howard is particularly adorable...but it has not been one of those musicals that I crave seeing...not like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Tonight though I realized that The Music Man has a special place in my heart...because of the word “carrion”.

I know the word “carrion” because of this movie...and my dad.

I remember one day (it must have been some point during the high point of my “musicals” phase, which was quite extensive...and is not all together over) I was watching The Music Man in the kitchen. Dad must have been around...probably doing some handy project or another in the house. Dad is always working hard...he naturally keeps himself productive. At some point he stopped for a little while to watch part of The Music Man with me. I don’t really know exactly where it was, but I picture myself sitting at one of the stools in the kitchen, dad standing on the other side of the counter with some sort of tool, or cloth or piece of a project in his hand, both of us watching Robert Preston dance around and sing “Marian the Librarian” on the little TV that lives in the corner.
“If I stumbled and I busted my what-you-may-call-it,
I could lie on your floor unnoticed
'Till my body had turned to carrion....Madam Librarian.”

I remember dad stated that he was amazed that someone had managed to insert the word “carrion” into a song.
“What does “carrion” mean?”
“Carrion is the carcass of a dead animal, it usually refers to a carcass or flesh that is rotting”
“Like roadkill?”
“Yes, that would be a good example of carrion”
Of course I don’t remember exactly what dad said...but this sounds like what he might answer...concise and spot clear, and so easy to question about it

It was also during this particular sitting that I learned another vocabulary word: “aught”- I'm not entirely certain that's how you spell it.
“Professor Harold Hill. Gary Conservatory of Music, gold medal class of aught five”
“aught five” meaning ’05
...thus “aught” meaning 0
...used to describe the years of the early 1900’s

This information from dad prompted a discussion on whether or not people would use “aught” to describe the early years of the 2000’s (I see now in retrospect that the term “aught” did not make a comeback)

I pondered this experience as I spoke on the phone with one of my students. She is having a hard time lately...not so much academically...but just in general life. She’s not a space case, or messing up, or getting in trouble. She’s getting her homework done and behaving in class and being a positive participant. We even selected her to give a speech about Gratitude (one of our school’s 8 Character Strengths that we focus on) when the founder of KIPP came to visit our campus. She’s unlike the rest of the kids that we spend so much time focusing on...because it is so obvious that those kids need help. It’s not obvious with her. But one day she seemed a bit down in class so I asked her if she was feeling ok. She asked if we could talk about it at lunch.

“What’s up sweetheart?”
“I was in class and I looked around and saw the other people all happy and I just felt bad because I’m not happy”
At that point through her tears she pinpointed that she was feeling sad because her brothers were being mean to her...telling her she was worthless...telling her it was her fault that their parents got divorced.
“Do you believe you are worthless?”
“Do you think you are the reason your parents got divorced?”
“But it still hurts when they say that huh?”

Dumb teenage boys. She stood up to her brothers and they’ve left her alone.
Lately, though, there have been other things bothering her:

“know the problem is with my dad GF aka which”
Translation: now the problem is with my dad’s girlfriend, aka “witch”

This was written in a recent journal entry (we’ve been passing a journal back and forth for the last few days)

...but the problem isn’t so much the “GF” its the dad. It’s the time. It’s the attention. It’s the feeling that the “girlfriend” is taking it all.
The last time she remembers spending time alone with her dad was half a year ago.
Tonight as we talked on the phone he was in his room watching TV with his girlfriend and her 7 yr. old son.

I didn’t much understand her response to my suggestion that she go watch TV with them...something about having to go to sleep...which makes sense, it was 9:30pm...but I thought in my head “take initiative, go spend time with your dad...even if it’s 100% how you want it to be”

As that crossed my mind, I immediately thought of The Music Man...and “carrion”...and “aught”. I thought about how I didn’t have to “take initiative” to see my dad...I didn’t have to fight for his attention...I didn’t have to call my teacher and have her explain that “just like kids are growing up and learning how to be good people, adults are learning and growing too. Teachers are still learning how to be good teachers, dads are still learning how to be good dads.” I didn’t have to worry if he cared about me or wonder if he had other priorities that were more important than me. My dad made it so clear and so easy to question about it...I knew I was a priority. Not necessarily through the verbal professions (though those were there), not necessarily through the special “Dad and Kate” activities (though those were there)...mostly through the little things...The Music Man, “carrion”, “aught”...many other musicals...and many other words. Thanks for the vocabulary Pops...and for so much more!

Friday, July 23, 2010


Yesterday Anna Bella was looking kinda down. She was rather quiet, which is not typical of her. Usually she is humming a joyful little soundtrack to her life, singing the lyrics of Duck Tales, or making up a tune about her Lucky Charms; but yesterday she seemed a little blue.
"Are you feeling a little sad Bella?"
She shook her head no.
"Well what's wrong little one?"
"I want..." then her voice trailed off and she didn't finish the sentence.
"What was that Belle?"
"I want something", she said.
"What do you want?"
She contemplated for a little while then answered "I'm not knowing what I want" with a sigh and a little frown. I gathered her up, gave her a big hug and said "Me too".
It was the perfect explanation of how I felt.
You know how pet dogs are pretty intuitive, they can tell when their owner is feeling a certain way and often times they reflect that in their own behavior. I don't know if the same is true of 4 year old nieces, and hopefully my own state of contemplation was not the cause for Anna's "not knowing what she wants" condition, but her insight into her own feelings gave me insight into mine.

I want something....but I'm not knowing what I want.

The reason for this I believe is manyfold (is manyfold a term?) Primarily, I'm going through a lot of change, and change, whether for good or for bad, is not comfortable.

There have been recent, major professional changes. I have a new job, working at a new school, a new school that, thankfully, has higher expectations for the students than my previous school. It will also have higher expectations for me as a teacher. It will be long hours, lots of hard work and a lot of dedication. I will be busy, and I will be tired, but I will grow as a teacher and hopefully the students will grow as learners. It will be good for me...but it is a change.

My personal life is changing too. My 2 year sidekick has a sidekick of her own now :) My roommate, and one of my absolute best friends in the world, Tiffany, got married last week. We both moved to Houston at the same time for Teach For America. Neither of us knew anyone, nor did we know what we were getting ourselves into. First year of teaching threw us through a loop and nearly obliterated me, second year nearly obliterated Tiffany, but we took care of each other...we survived many a crisis together, and as a result became almost freakishly interdependent. We needed it for those 2 years. I honestly don't think either of us would have made it without the other. But to everything (turn, turn, turn) there is a season. Tiffany found a superb guy and as of last Saturday she is Mrs. Patrick Garza. They are incredibly well suited for each other! and I couldn't be happier for her. It does however leave me short one sidekick and little Kate Connors must learn to be a bit more independent now :) Tiffany will still be around of course...and a big blessing from God is that my new school is literally attached to her new school, so I'll still see her pretty much daily, but it'll still be different. I'll still have to grow some little wings and fly on my own. It will be good for me...but it is a change.

Of course now I am visiting Utah. When I visit home I usually have a little too much time to ponder...and my pondering often winds up focused on my life path. Focusing on my life path...and wondering what that life path will be reminds me that the "changing" is not going to stop anytime soon.

I wan't something...and maybe what I wan't is to be comfortable...and the only way for that to happen is if things stop changing.

Unfortunately, at no point in the near foreseeable future will the major life changes cease. I must eventually learn to embrace change. All the changing will make me flexible. It will cause me to grow in ways I didn't think possible. It will require me to exhibit greater faith and deeper trust in God. It will make me blossom into someone even greater than I knew I was meant to be. It will be good for me...but it will still be change.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Through the Eyes of a Camera Phone: A Year in the Life (a blog in three acts)


Narrator 1:
a sleek black iPhone, in Kate Connors’ possession from Feb 2009 (when the 1st phone was stolen at school) until Sept 2009 (when the 2nd phone was stolen)

Narrator 2: a lovely white iPhone, housed in a cozy turquoise leather case (both of which fell victim to the 3rd phone theft)

Narrator 3: another white iPhone which lived in a flawless state approximately 1 week, at which time it leapt from my purse onto the asphalt of the PetsMart parking lot, developing a series of cracks.

Act I - Narrator 1
Scene 1:
Pugsley –

Oh Pugsley, little ball of joy…came to us with fleas, hook worms, a bad knee, severe heart worms and separation anxiety….left us with a little Pug sized hole in our hearts.
As afore mentioned, Pugsley was a mess when my roommate Tiffany bought him and brought him home in his little kennel. But he cleaned up nicely. His favorite activities were crying at night, running in circles around the apartment at impressively fast speeds, cuddling, snoring in his sleep, chewing rawhides, running away from home when guys come over to give Tiffany a blessing (causing them to chase after him in their suits for a good 30 minutes), breaking the rules of gentlemanly conduct/indecent exposure, pooping on the floor when visitors (especially Virginia) came over to the house, chewing up heirloom blankets then hacking up pieces of them, chasing squirrels, eating random stuff off the floor (of the food and non-food variety)

His least favorite things: wearing Christmas sweaters, sitting quietly, spending time in his kennel, being introduced to silver spray painted pumpkins, bathtime, men, milkbones, turtle halloween costumes that have a strangely tranquilizing effect on him

Our least favorite thing: giving him away  At Christmastime Tiffany and I finally determined that poor little Pug didn’t have enough time or room to run around and get his energy out due to our business and lack of outdoor space. So even though we loved that little fellow, we took him down to a veterinarian in Sugarland and turned him over to Pughearts of Houston, a charity devoted to rescuing Pugs as well as placing surrendered Pugs in suitable homes. Miss you Pugs!

Scene 2:

William S. Holland Middle School…
I got a fortune cookie last night that said something like unto “A new adventure will change your perspective”…I said to myself (actually I said it out loud because I was with two of my co-workers/dear friends) “Sounds like my 2 year adventure at Holland”…this adventure has surely changed my perspective!
June of last year marked the end of my first year of teaching. The year was complete with the following
- drastic mid-year changes to my teaching assignment
- a sprained ankle (the result of falling in a hole in our school parking lot); and a very random week in which I couldn’t move my left shoulder without experiencing biting pain
- 2-3 massive fights (note the above picture and a previous blog post on the subject)
- my ever shrinking 8th grade class - lost 3 kids to CEP (an alternative school where kids are sent when their behavior is exceptionally bad; one girl was sent away because she was just plain ridiculous, the two other girls were sent away because they were caught smoking weed in the girls restroom during school) One girl dropped out because her mom lost her job and she needed to work. And one boy (14 year old father of two) was arrested and sent to juvy for selling drugs at school. All in all I lost 5 students from that class in the matter of a month.

- TAKS test results data that indicated that as a partial result of my teaching my 7th graders go a lot smarter…

… but my 8th graders may have gotten a bit dumber.

*though this particular pictured 8th grader did actually “get smarter” according to the “data”

- my “mentor” (the teacher who is assigned to provide support and a good example) being escorted off school property by police officers due to an investigation into his behaviors as a teacher.
- an appearance in the teacher talent show singing and playing Ingrid Michaelson’s “The Way I Am”
- and much much more
Approximately two days after the school year ended we at Holland Middle School, faculty, staff and leadership alike attended a 3 day SPA…..biggest misnomer in the world…that mug was no Spa…SPA stood for Summer Planning Academy…not relaxing.
As soon as that ended Summer School started.

I taught 6th Grade Social Studies for a week and a half until the brand spanking new Teach For America corps members came in.

They eventually made it past their deer-in-the-headlight stage and survived the summer teaching the Holland Middle School kiddos.
Whilst the incoming 2009 Teach For America corps members taught, Casetta Gunn and I were “Tutors”. Summer tutoring included such activities as:
- watching movies (including some classics that I had never seen, such as The Body Guard; and some other random, enjoyable ones, such as Madea Goes to Jail)
- Riverdancing in the halls
- Introducing Officer J. to Hawaiian pizza and Casetta introducing both Officer J. and me to the Snickers and Funions combination
- observing the TFA teachers and giving them encouraging notes
- watching Casetta develop into a “Twi-heart”, spending much time watching and re-watching Twilight and reading all of the novels at least twice throughout the summer school weeks
- being given all the paperwork to finish for LPAC because the former LPAC leader left the school (note the “mentor” situation mentioned above)
- approximately 2 days of actual tutoring
*Now before you assume that Casetta and I are just huge slackers I would like to note that the 8th grade students we were supposed to tutor in Reading ended up needing more assistance in Math. The school’s plan was to have them go through a round of Math tutoring before Reading tutoring would start. Long story short, Math tutoring never finished…reading tutoring never started.

Scene 3:
The Homeland –
Summer in Utah…through the lens of phone 1
Gummy and the kiddos make cookies:

Momsy and Popsy paint their rental house of cuteness where I lived my senior year of college:

Aunt Mae’s 90th Birthday (which was actually her 89th birthday) complete with all the family goodness…

…Uncle John playing some avuncular tunes

Aunt Mae plays some tunes on the chromatic harmonica...

…Gram rocks some sweet shades

…and possibly my favorite picture of all time taken on my camera phone… The Parish sisters looking pretty gangsta in their pastels

…three beautiful women…but seriously…you don’t mess with these ladies, they’re cutthroat…the result of well lived lives

Building a fort with Parksey:

Recording harmony vocals for Mom’s Christmas album:
Mark at the sound board…

My arch enemy, the microphone, that picks up every minute detail of my voice oh so clearly…scary…

The little wintery house to get me in the Christmas mood whilst singing Christmas songs in July…

Parker and Sophie eat Ring Pops at their daddy’s baseball game:

Gram pulls some pretty awesome faces at Olive Garden:

Mom, Dad, Annie and I sang at the Tabernacle for Pioneer Day:

My brother-in-law Jordon (Annie’s husband) celebrated his birthday with a stack of “bunny bread” instead of a cake:

Gram and I were “looking at da flowers” at Temple square:

…thesummer spent in Utah included much, much more, and was fun as always! I love me some awesome Utah family enjoyment!

This marks the end of Act I
Stay tuned for Act II where Narrator 1 takes us to Michigan, shortly after which we pass the torch on to Narrator 2

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Party's Over

Before moving to Houston, yes it bothered me that I never had a romantic relationship, but I only very rarely pondered it, and I didn’t feel it acutely. The hopeful side of me just figured it was something for a future time, but I had other things to focus on. The doubtful and afraid side of me had essentially determined that it was a possibility that I would never marry, but having had so many examples of truly amazing single women I determined it would be alright. I felt that if that was my lot in life I would follow the example of one of my greatest heroes, I’d excel in my career (while still being willing to sacrifice it), I’d devote my life to service. I’d adore my nieces and nephews, I’d support my parents, magnify my church callings, be a devoted friend and sister. I’d not allow myself or anyone else to feel sorry for me, and I’d trust in the Lord.

So once, early in our roommateship, I admitted to Tiffany that I thought I would never get married. It made her cry. It was actually the first conversation I remember where I really opened up to Tiffany. To be honest, it was the first time I had ever told someone with that much honesty that my worry that I wouldn’t get married had turned into the expectation that I wouldn’t marry as a defense mechanism. In my mind, that conversation was the beginning of our close friendship. That’s when I knew I could be vulnerable around her, that I could trust her and feel comfortable. This is one of her gifts.

Maybe another one of her gifts was that she taught me that I shouldn’t have resigned myself to spinsterhood and the tender age of 24, that if I continued to believe in that future then it would affect the way I act in the present, that it would essentially be a self-fulfilling prophecy, my own “I don’t care” attitude would be the biggest determiner of my future. It reminded me of my students who are afraid they will fail, so as a defense mechanism they choose not to care and not to try, essentially inhibiting them from learning the skills they need to be successful in school, which causes them to fail after all.

I began to realize that I should allow myself to desire a future that includes a husband and children. Somehow, through a process I don’t entirely recall or understand I broke down that “I don’t care” attitude and really started to develop that desire. I started to really deeply yearn for that in a way I never had before.

On my mission I became good friends with a Buddhist venerable (a female monk). Once she allowed the missionaries in my whole zone to visit their temple. There she explained an interesting philosophy of Buddhism. She said “desire is the root of disappointment”.

I guess that explains why I have felt more disappointed about my dating life in the last 6 months than ever before in my life. Not necessarily because anything in my situation has changed, but because my desire changed. I didn’t used to pay much mind to the fact that no one had really shown interest in me, because I thought I’d probably wouldn’t date an marry anyway, and I accepted that. That wasn’t a healthy frame of mind.

But now I’m at the other extreme, equally unhealthy, and I only noticed it very recently. I’m in the unhealthy state of pitying myself, moping about, complaining. It used to be the case that when I felt sad about it, I’d feel it for a while, maybe a few minutes, but I’d keep it to myself and I’d find something else to occupy my mind...but now I voice my complaints…often…and awkwardly. Those few individuals with whom I feel comfortable discussing this particular dilemma of mine are placed with the burden of hearing about it, and it’s wearing on them…it’s wearing on me.
I just today realized that essentially since the middle of this past summer I have been throwing myself a 6 month pity party. I allowed myself to feel incredibly lonely, I allowed myself to feel like a loser, I allowed myself to slip into jealousy every so often, I allowed myself to wallow. I allowed myself at times to base my feeling of self worth on the opinions of others. As a side effect of these things I have been hurtful to people around me. I’ve burdened others with my complaints and put them in difficult situations. I have become very negative and cynical again (which took years of mental labor and an entire mission to overcome)… All because I chose to throw myself a 6 month pity party and I am only just today realizing it.

Realizations like this always feel like a kidney jab for a brief moment, before the Atonement kicks in and you feel empowered to change. I remember in Junior High it was my History teacher who made me realize that my attitude and words were very negative. I had borrowed a gluestick and it was dry so I turned around and said to her in that annoying sarcastic teenager tone (that now plagues my ears on a daily basis) “Is this glue supposed to work?” She looked right into my face and said “You’re a very negative person Kate”. That hurt! I went to my next class and asked my friend Lindsey, “Am I a negative person?” “Well, yeah kinda,” she said. Thank goodness for honest friends. It hurt, but I realized, and I changed.
For this most recent realization, I once again credit an honest friend, plus 6 hours of proctoring a test giving me plenty of time to reflect.

So now…after having come to this realization I have one thing to say:
Pity Party… your time is up…In the words of Bon Qui Qui “Security! Se…curity! This dude need to go…He need to go… Need to go!”

And in the words of the classic song from the musical Bells are Ringing: “The party’s over”

For those of you unfamiliar with Bon Qui Qui…here’s the link.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


I am testing this my blog still alive? We shall see. Perhaps i shall post blogs again!

Maybe I'll post a blog about Dodgeball, it was great fun! I'm experiencing residual pain if that's any indication of the intensit of the game.

Also, I got life insurance...yay for me I'm trying to do normal things like get life insurance and a retirement fund.

Thursday, April 30, 2009


Dear TAKS, Welcome to Holland.

Dear Carlos, please read all your answer options carefully, don’t just circle the first answer that looks good.

Dear Edith, use your good mind…don’t be ashamed of your intelligence and don’t be overly confident (you usually manage that balance well)

Dear Selena, for heaven’s sake, take this test seriously and be careful in your choices…if you do you’ll beat it…if you don’t it’ll trick you.

Dear Adan, today I looked at you and I saw a sweet little boy…sorry that on most days I see a pain in the neck. At this point, all I can do is pray for you child. Somewhere in there I imagine you can read. Sorry that it’s been 8 months and I haven’t been able to pull out of you any proof that you can actually do so. God willing I’ll get the chance to love and help you more next year than I have been able to this year.

Dear Humberto, you’re the silent, smart type. You’ll do just fine on this test…and in life. I find it intriguing and a bit amusing that you are a kickboxer.

Dear Jairo, TAKS has nothing on you! Kick some TAKS booty! Shoot for “commended performance”!

Dear Jesus, I enjoy your stories about your Chihuahua….I know that has nothing to do with the test you are taking right now…but I’m not worried about you and this test. (Oh…and just for clarification…Jesus Perez…not JESUS…I’m pretty sure the scriptures make no mention of Chihuahuas)

Dear Chris, my class hasn’t been tagged up with gang signs since you left…I don’t miss your graffiti…but I do miss you. Wherever you are taking this test…at whatever school you ended up in…good luck to you.

Dear Elisa, Juan and Gilberto, I’m sure you are each pushing very successfully through this test…keep going.

Dear Kevin, sorry I always, always, always get on your case…but must you always, always, always perform and behave in a way that falls so pathetically short of your potential…your incredible potential. It would also help if you were a bit less annoying…never-the-less, I’m pretty sure you will pass this test. See…that’s what bothers me…you could ACE this test, you could blow TAKS out of the water….but you’ll probably just pass.

Dear Jorge, I don’t know if you’ll pass…but I hope. I’m praying.

Dear Criselda, I know you think it’s strange that I understand you when you speak to me in Spanish…I think it’s strange too. You’ve only spoken about 3 sentences to me in English. I’m sorry that with you at a 2nd grade reading level and Elisa at a 11th grade reading level I haven’t been able to do much for either of you…but I wish you luck and pray that today is one of those days when you are less inclined to be completely defiant.

Dear Gabriel, you ask me for a bandaid everyday because you’ve accidentally injured yourself in one way or another…which sometimes leads me to question your intelligence…but in reality you are quite intelligent. I believe in you buddy. You’ve got this…you can pass.

Dear Room Full of 6th Grade LAT Testers, you are annoying me a great deal today

Dear Ms. Gentry, thanks for bringing Otter Pops to the 6th grade LAT testers I’m monitoring. Shows just a bit of understanding about how frustrating it must be to take a reading test in English without really even knowing English at all. Kind of an interesting move though after you lectured me for a good 20 minutes yesterday about how I wasn’t managing them well, had no authority in the classroom and I was allowing them too many privileges.

Dear Swine Flu, you’ve already shut down 3 HISD schools. If you’re gonna shut down Holland Middle School could you wait until after next Monday…that way all the 8th graders will be done testing and you could just close us down for the rest of the year.

Dear New Computer, you’re pretty chill

Dear Blog…here ya go.

Dear Anyone Who Might Read This and Knows How to Blog, how do I make my blog pretty?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday the 13th

Ah yes...Friday the 13th...never had a problem with it before...never believed the superstitions ...but has proven to me that the theories about Friday the 13th could in fact be valid. (and indeed that last sentence has proven to me, and to all of you I hope, that one can adequately convey meaning in a written sentence whilst using "..." in replacement of any valid form of punctuation...this proving that punctuation is as useless as I have always believed it to be!...glad I'm an English teacher...)

Today at Holland Middle School there was a gargantuan fight, involving somewhere around 100 students playing some minor or major role in the fight. I like to refer to Holland's larger fights as "rumbles" because it reminds me of West Side Story even though, unlike the Jets and the Sharks, the Black and Hispanic gangs of Southeast Houston do not sing and dance their way through the streets.
It's an interesting sight to see middle school students being escorted out of the building in handcuffs. I've seen it of my 8th grade students, a 15 year old (father of 2 mind you), stepping into a Houston ISD cop car with his hands cuffed behind his back. (Guess it's illegal to bring large amounts of Marijuana to school...go figure!)

As I walked out to my car during my planning period I counted 9 cop cars in the round about in front of our school.

Chaos was in the air...and apparently chaos is highly flamable, because in the wake of the afternoon rumble, a school bus that had arrived at the school early to pick up students, pulled up to the school and proceeded to light on fire.
It was a good thing that at that point the number of cop cars in the round about was reduced from 9 to 4 because it made just enough room in front of the school for a flaming bus and the fire engine that soon followed.

Here's to Friday the hat is off to you.
and here's to Spring Break! You couldn't possibly have come at a better time!