My New Job

After today, I think that I am going to enjoy my new job. The meeting I had today was somewhat fun. I also learned quite a bit about what it is that I will be doing in my new job. There is so much that I can't say about my job due to confidentiality agreements, but trust me, the test writing industry can be quite interesting. The only problem with work today was that it was a long day. We started getting ready around 7:30 this morning and we didn't get done until around 5:30. It was nice to go out to eat with my new coworkers on the company's dime as well. Tomorrow night I am going to meet my sister for dinner. The only problem that I foresee with having an expense account for business travel diners is that it's going to make losing weight a little more difficult. I had planned on going to the hotel fitness center tonight to work out, but I didn't make it down there. Perhaps I'll try that tomorrow night.


New Experiences

As I write this blog entry, I am sitting in my hotel room in Bloomington, Minnesota. I am on my first business trip for my new job and as I sit in this hotel room, I can't help but think that there is no way I would have a room like this paid for me if I were still teaching. It's nice working for a company that can put me up in a hotel like this.

The drive up here was pretty uneventful. I left Waterloo around 7:00 this evening. I had been there helping my mother out with writing thank you notes for all of the flowers and memorials that we received for my father's funeral. It wasn't until I got to Bloomington that I began to worry. The exit that MapQuest gave me for the hotel was closed. The detour was well marked, up to a point. I ended up driving around in a big circle, delaying my arrival to the hotel by about twenty minutes, but I eventually found it.

Tomorrow I have my first work meeting with clients. There will be someone with much more experience with the company who will take the lead. I hope to learn a lot from this experience. I actually think that this meeting may be somewhat fun. I hope I am not disappointed.

I guess I had better finish my $1.25 can of Diet Pepsi so I can get some sleep.


A New Beginning

Monday was an important day in my life. First of all, I was returning to work after burying my father. Secondly, my fiancée and I were finally moved into our house on a full-time basis. Finally, I started my new career in test development. My first day of work wasn’t all that interesting. I filled out some paperwork and my mentor at work introduced me to a lot of people. I’ve never been too good at remembering names, so I have already forgotten most of them. Thankfully we all have to wear identification with our names on it while we are at work. That should help me learn some of the names. I do remember the names of my mentor, my cubical mate, and that of those who are my supervisors. It helps that I worked there last summer.

Next week I get to take my first business trip. I’ll be in the Twin Cities at the beginning of the week. It’s nice that I don’t have to be gone for the entire week. Also, since my sister lives in the Cities, we’re planning on getting together for dinner one night while I’m there. I’m not sure really what to expect from this trip. Of course I know the basics of what we’ll be doing, but I have no idea exactly what is going to happen. I guess my experiences of last week have shown me that one never knows what lies ahead. It sounds like I may have quite a bit of work to do in the evenings after meeting with those we are meeting with. Hopefully I still have time though to relax some each evening. Well I’d better finish getting ready for work now.


Saying Goodbye

Today I am beginning my new job in test development. I was supposed to begin last Monday, but events of the past week have shown me that despite the best of plans, one never knows what’s going to happen.

Around 4:00 in the afternoon on Sunday, June 12, I received a frantic phone call from my mother. She was screaming, “Help! Help!” into the phone and I also thought I heard her say, “He’s dead!” but I couldn’t tell for certain. I was afraid that she has been in a car accident and was in a ditch somewhere. It was then that a man took the phone from her and, after asking who I was, informed me that my father had passed away. I was in complete shock! He had turned 60 just six days before that and, while he did take medication for his blood pressure, he was fairly healthy. For goodness sake, he had ridden his bike on the last 14 or 15 RAGBRAIs! As soon as I got off the phone, my fiancée Mel asked what was going on. She was no doubt scared by my tone of voice and by the look on my face. When I told her, she couldn’t believe it. We threw a bunch of clothes into some bags and headed out from our home in Cedar Rapids to my parents’ house in Waterloo.

During what had to be the longest ride in my life, I called my uncle in Chicago, to give him the bad news. He had a hard time as well believing that his father was dead. He took care of calling others. When we arrived at the house, one of the pastors from church was there with Mom. A few hours later, my sister arrived from the Twin Cities, being driven by my cousin’s husband, John. People kept dropping in all evening. I don’t think anyone in the house slept well that night. Mom couldn’t sleep in her own bed as that was where she found my father after his apparent unexpected heart attack.

On Monday, Mel, my sister, my mother, her sister, and I went to the funeral home to make the arrangements. I thought is would be more difficult, but the hardest part of the three hours that we spent there was being left alone in the room with the caskets. It was then that my mother, my sister, and I finally broke down. We did get through that however.

I thought that I did pretty well on Monday, but I Tuesday, I was just a mess! I just couldn’t keep it together. My mother, on the other hand, did much better. My father, a retired music educator, was well known in the Waterloo/Cedar Falls area, as well as in certain circles throughout the state of Iowa as he was in so many organizations; I think we counted 22 organizations when were trying to figure out what to include in the obituary. Because of this, the Waterloo Courier ran an article about him. It included quotes from many music teachers in the area. However, both the article and the death notice had an incorrect time for Thursday’s funeral. We eventually got it corrected.

The visitation Wednesday evening was a lot easier than I thought it would be. The only real difficult time was when we first arrived and we saw my father lying there in the casket. One of the things that made the evening go fairly easily that I was constantly talking to people. We didn’t count all of the names in the guest registry, but there had to be close to 400 people who showed up.

Thursday morning’s funeral was quite beautiful. In the almost-full church, a string quartet made up from local musicians performed. The church choir, with a few ringers from other choirs sang. The part that really got to me though was the performance of the bell choir. My dad had directed the bell choir the past year. Instead of having someone conduct, they draped the director’s stand in black and placed a baton on it. The pastor had a very beautiful sermon that was quite uplifting. The funeral procession on the way to the cemetery was quite long. It was really good to see how many people loved and cared about my father.

The rest of the week was time to get to work. My dad had recently started painting the house. He had just one short wall done, as well as the shed. So, since we had numerous family members there, we used the free labor to get the house painted. We got primer and one coat of paint on most of the house. My mom may see about getting people from church to help out with the remainder of the painting. I may be able to help out next weekend. I’ll probably have to go up there to help my mother with thank you notes for the flowers and memorial gifts we received. We spend an hour opening cards Saturday night and we were only half done.

It’s time for me to finish getting ready for work. Life has to go on, and from realizing how active my father was in life and since we never do know just how much time we have left, I don’t want to waste one minute of it!


No More of This for Me

I'm glad I won't have to deal with things like this anymore. Toward the bottom of the linked article is a story titled "Mom Does Daughter's Detention." Danielle Pelletier, a 39-year-old mother in Maine served her daughter's detention for her. It seems that the daughter was assigned a detention due to an unexcused absence. The mother pulled her daughter out of school half an hour early for a hair-styling appointment! The mother felt she should the serve the detention as she was the one who made her daughter miss school, and she doesn't think the policy is fair. She said, "The whole point of this is this shouldn't be happening. I should be able to come to school and take [my daughter] out when I need to." Excuse me, but she needed to take her daughter out of school for a hair-styling appointment? Perhaps that's when it was convenient for her do have the appointment, but it hardly sounds like a need to me. The school's administrators defended themselves by stating what state law allows for reasons for excused absences -- personal illness, medical appointments, religious holiday observance, family emergencies, and pre-approved personal or educational purposes.

It's All Over

At 1:00 this afternoon, I left school for the last time. I got my grades all sent and I cleaned my belongings out of my classroom, at least those that I wanted to keep. I had one student who was supposed to come in to take her final exam this morning. She had been suspended the last week and a half of school for fighting. I saw her in the building, but she never stopped by my room to take the exam. Oh well, I guess she'll get to take the exam next year when she retakes the second semester of Algebra 1.

Now I have three days before I start my new job. My fiancee and I are going to meet a friend of her for dinner at Fazoli's. I better try to get something healthy to eat since I've gained several pounds in the period of time that we've been staying with my parents. I'm not sure if it's because my parents cook more food or if the food isn't as healthy as what we often cook. Of course, it could be from all the candy that I've eaten in the car on trips between Waterloo and Cedar Rapids every weekend. Another reason that I'm watching what I'm eating for dinner is that I'm meeting Homercles for lunch tomorrow at a buffet. I plan on eating quite a bit then. This weekend my fiancee and I have a wedding to go to, then I am really going to start watching what I eat again. At least I'm still at least 20 pounds lighter than I was at the beginning of last summer.

In addition to watching what I'm eating, I'm going to get back into exercising regularly. I just got off the phone with the bike shop where I took my bike for a tune up and it is done. So on Sunday I hope to go out for a lengthy bike ride. It will be my first bike ride of the year, and it's none too soon as RAGBRAI begins six weeks from Sunday. Hopefully the weather is nice on Sunday, but I may still go out for a bike ride if it's just raining lightly. I'll probably end up riding in the rain on RAGBRAI anyway.


That's All, Folks

The school year has now come to an end, and so has my teaching career, at least for now. I still have one day left of work tomorrow, but there really isn't all that much that I'll have to do. I do have to check one final exam which, with the assistance of the Scantron machine, will only take a few seconds. I am kind of sad that it's over, but I am looking forward to my new career. I will definitely enjoy making about 20% more money than I make now.

Almost Done

Today is the last day of school for students, with them being dismissed at 11:00. It should be a really easy day as we only have three class periods for semester tests, and one of the periods is when I would be having AP Calculus if I had any remaining students (they all graduated last weekend). The two classes with which I had the most difficulty were both yesterday. In fact, they were the only classes that I really had any problems with. The two classes I have today are the Algebra 1 class which I have that is best-behaved and has the best grades, and Advanced Computer Programming. I feel like I kind of short changed the computer programming students as this class covers the C++ programming language. I had absolutely no knowledge about C++ before the semester began, so I wasn't able to teach it as well as I would have liked to. I am going to miss the computer class though. We seemed to have a special relationship. Some of the students even had a nickname for me, Darth (last name), as I, as well as some of the students in the class, are big fans of Star Wars. At first it felt a bit strange when they called me that, but now everyone in the class uses that name, even those who couldn't distinguish a light saber from a bat'leth.

With today being the last day of school, I am getting a bit sad. While I am glad to be finished with my poorly-behaved algebra classes, I am going to miss some things about teaching, mostly the students who love to learn. Yesterday however, I remembered one more thing that I will definitely not miss about teaching -- the lack of air conditioning! If I ever decide to return to teaching, I am definitely going to find a school that has air conditioning. Well, that wouldn't be too big of a deciding factor, but it would be nice to be able to teach in relative comfort and to not have students complaining all day long about how hot it is. What do they expect me to do about it? I can't control the weather.


Quote of the Day

In explaining what K'nex are to a six-year-old boy, an older boy said, "They're like Legos, but they're K'nex." That explains it entirely!

Welcome to the Neighborhood

Last night Mel and I went shopping to buy some flowers for our garden. When we got back in the evening, one of our neighbors was walking by and we got into a conversation with her. Meanwhile, the neighbor across the street invited us over for a beer. Not being one to pass up a free drink, we went over and had a nice conversation for a couple of hours last night over some beers. It was really nice to get to know a few of our neighbors.

The neighbor across the street is single and he has two sons, one of whom was home last night. The other neighbors we were hanging out with live around the corner from us. They live across the street from our next door neighbor, who is the father of the woman of the couple. They have a son who just turned six yesterday and they invited us over this evening for his birthday party. This seems like a very nice neighborhood that we moved in to. In the year and a half that I lived in my house in Waterloo, I spoke with the neighbors a few times but I never really got to know them.


Movie Week?

Apparently I missed the memo at school. From what I've been hearing from my students, this week must be the week to show non-curriculum-related movies. I know I mentioned last week that a certain other teacher was showing movies, but it has seemed to reach an epidemic level now. I've learned that a biology class has been watching The Incredibles and a Spanish class has been watching Pirates of the Caribbean, in English no less. I walked by a foods class today and I heard Finding Nemo coming from that room. I've also heard that Spaceballs and Jurassic Park have been shown at school this week. What really ticks me off about this is that I get caught for not making my AP Calculus students work the week between when they took the AP exam and the date that the seniors finished school. At least I wasn't showing a movie that has no place being shown in class! Quite frankly, it's teachers who aren't teaching, but rather showing non-educational movies, who make teaching more difficult this time of the year. Students think that they should be able to relax and do nothing at the end of the school year. Anyway, I give up! I think I am going to show a movie to my computer programming class next week. At least the movie that I plan on showing, Tron, is marginally related to the curriculum.

Old Acquaintances

Yesterday morning at work I ran into someone with whom I went to high school. She was a senior when I was either a freshman or a sophomore, so we didn't go to high school together for too long, but it was nice to see her. Heather, the person who I ran into, was subbing for an English teacher at school yesterday. I had actually seen her at school last fall when she was subbing for another English teacher, but she hadn't done any substitute teaching since then. Heather and I were both in orchestra together in high school, then years later, when I was working at the Hardee's on the University of Northern Iowa campus, she got a job there. It was nice catching up with an acquaintance who I hadn't seen in a while, especially since I actually had news to share (the new job, moving, getting married,...).