Saturday, April 26, 2008

Angels we have seen on high.

Thanks to the generosity of friends, Brett and I had the pleasure of seeing Wynonna's appearance with the Fort Worth Symphony Saturday night. The performance was wonderful! We were surprised with her range of songs, from country (duh) to standards ("At Last," "I'm in the Mood for Love") to a Foreigner cover that knocked our socks off.

I had seen one show there several years ago, but this was Brett's first visit to the opulent Bass Hall. During the intermission, we enjoyed a quick tour of the sunrise and sunset (the east and west ceiling murals), and we got up close and personal with the renowned Bass Hall angels and their 13-foot brass trumpets.

Angelic Brett

Barnes and Noble across the street

A view of Fourth Street

This evening reminded us that we really need to get downtown more often. What a happening place! But most of all, we were reminded that we're blessed to have good friends kind enough to share this experience with us!

ETA: Pb & K posted some great pix and a much more thorough review on her blog. Check it out!

Why I blog.

There's nothing like the blog to unite these feuding siblings!
They're even sharing (SHARING—What a concept!) the same chair.

Here are my hams after they realize I'm taking their pictures.

My MoJos.

Introducing the official "mobile journalists"

This afternoon we made a quick trip to Nana and Papa's house. Since Katie previously had enjoyed a stint as my MoJo, Ryan wanted to have a turn. I handed over my camera, and when Ryan and Katie gave it back, I had the following photographs to document our visit.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Mexican food, memory lane and mad skills.

Brett got to pick our Family Fun Night dinner destination. His choice? Pancho's! (I think the coupon Katie got with her report card might've influenced him slightly—that and the fact that he hadn't eaten there in years!)

Ryan seems to have turned the corner on the sickness that keeps wearing him down.

Katie downed her Mexican soda and was a big fan of the sopapillas.

And Brett and I reminisced about the last time we both ate in this building: Jan. 20, 1993!

How do I remember that date? Here's the story. We were part of the renowned Midtown singles, the huge group that spawned countless marriages in the mid-'90s. Our first date was on Monday, Jan. 18, 1993, and two days later, we went to Wednesday night church. Afterwards, the gang headed to Shoney's, and Brett gave me a ride. That was kind of our debut as a couple. Shoney's closed years ago, but Pancho's opened up in that same building. So tonight, when we were looking for a table, I naturally gravitated toward the corner of the building where we shared one of our first meals together!

Back at home we watched the Mavs get off to a smokin'-hot start, and at halftime, we were ready to shoot some hoops ourselves. Tonight our two-on-two game was boys against the girls.

Both kids and Brett are real sharpshooters, and they hit some unbelievable baskets. "Hoops" McCoy (as they call me) had a move or two on D. Tons of fun!

To top it all off, the Mavs won! Lovin' this Friday night!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

In case of emergency.

The bell rang, dismissing us to B lunch, and after my students made their way toward the cafeteria, I headed to the teachers' lounge. I grabbed my usual lunch (salad) out of my usual fridge (the one on the left) and sat at my usual table (the second one) with my usual lunch buddies (fellow English teachers).

Then our lunch became most unusual.

One of our colleagues informed us that we were in lockdown. Yeah, right! Wouldn't we have heard something if that were true? It didn't take long to realize that yes, the door leading to the hallway was locked. Soon we found out that our audibly shaken principal had ordered the lockdown over the PA, the PA that we can't hear in the lounge!

The faculty's been told that we will never practice a lockdown, so we knew this was real. What we didn't know yet was why we were in danger, and in those first few minutes, it was scary to think of our campus' labyrinth of halls and corners and crannies. And it was lunch! Our cafeteria was full of sophomores and juniors, and the parking lot, which seniors had just deserted for off-campus lunch, would be refilled within half an hour. I felt pretty safe in the lounge, but our kids—my kids—were out there!

We had a TV on, and we took the absence of breaking news as a good sign. We could see no police presence at the school entrance: another good omen. Since we knew we wouldn't hear announcements, we called to establish a connection with "the outside" (actually with our counseling department right across the hall) so we could find out something—anything!—if any news came from admin. Not 10 minutes later we were relayed the "good" news: The danger was outside, not on campus.

As time passed, we teachers nervously assessed our predicament. Our consensus was that we had lucked into the primo deluxe lockdown suite, right there in the lounge. Water cooler? Check. Bathroom? Check. Computers? Check. Good conversation with friends? Check. Two refrigerators we could pillage if we were stuck in there for hours? Check! What we didn't have? Restless and hungry students who were confined and missing their lunch break!

We could imagine the wild frenzy of texting going on between students and phone calls to parents, but really, students were safer locked in our building than if they ventured off-campus. Our cohorts at the other district high school and even the alternative school were emailing, wanting to know what was going on, but for the longest time, we didn't know what was up ourselves!

About an hour into our supposed 35-minute lunch, the local newspaper website posted a brief that clued us in. A savings and loan just to our west had been robbed, and the suspect took off on foot directly to the east. He'd headed our way! Since he was armed, the police requested the lockdown, and of course, our school complied.

An hour and a half after the lockdown began, we got word that it was over. The suspect had not been found, but the police felt the danger had passed. The B lunch students went back to class, the C lunch kids finally got to eat, and we all had plenty to talk about on our way back to normal.

(I know this is really corny, but I noticed, really noticed, all the kids I passed on my way back to our J lab, distinctly thankful to see them safe and sound. See? I warned you! Corny!)

Once we resumed class, I found out that one of my girls had been in the restroom when the lockdown was announced. As she ran back into the hallway, a teacher had grabbed her and given her refuge in her room. I heard about the seniors who had returned to campus during the lockdown who were ushered into the gym for safekeeping.

Since Columbine and then in this year since Virginia Tech, I've run through countless worst-case scenarios over and over in my head. I know that there's no absolute protection, no perfect safety for students and teachers. But I also know that in case of emergency, my school will respond quickly and with confidence, and we, as professionals, will do everything we can to take care of our students.

As usual.

Sure sign that summer's on its way.

Brett picked up a watermelon at the farmer's market today. He doesn't care for it, but Katie LOVES watermelon!
The stuff just tastes like summertime!

Ryan likes watermelon, even if this face belies how much he likes it!
What a ham! This is his "see how much I hate watermelon" look.
(He's been sick since yesterday, so we were happy to see him being his regular, silly self tonight!)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Recommended reading.

Preacher Mike: Love Hillary

"I’m not suggesting you should vote for Hillary. I’m not saying I’ll vote for her. But I don’t get the hatred. Vigorous political disagreement? Yes. Hatred? No."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Conventional wisdom.

Last weekend I took some of my students to the state high school journalism convention in Austin. We learned a lot about newspapers and yearbooks, and we enjoyed our time in the best city in Texas!

On our way to classes

Checking out the award-winning entries
(Several of our students, including the three here,
won individual awards for their work!)

Showing off a Wii won in a drawing
(Talk about a great prize!)

Posing after dinner at Fuddrucker's

This particular convention was an annual highlight for me when I was in high school. I love that (cough) 20+ (cough) years later, it's a highlight for my students, too!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Rested and ready.

Our tailgate spot looks like it's ready for us fans to resume our Saturday ritual!

And look! There's even a new bench under the tree. Five bucks says I will trip over that bench before the '08 season is over.

While on campus for our state journalism convention, I was compelled to visit this patch of grass yet again. Since I was in the neighborhood, I also had to check out the progress on the stadium. (It's a LAW.) The new north endzone is really coming along.

And yep! Section 1's still there, patiently awaiting our arrival, only 132 days away!

A needle in the stacks.

Among the esteemed library holdings at
the University of Texas, you will find...
Brett's book!
While on campus today, I took a little stroll into the Perry-CastaƱeda Library (you know, the one shaped like Texas) to see a certain video game book among its stacks. How cool is that?

(Want your own? It's still available on!)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Hello again.

Not quite a year ago, we said goodbye to CJ, one of KitKat's babies. The student who adopted CJ brought her to campus after school this week so I could see just how much CJ has grown. And has she grown! She is one long cat!
Here's CJ, now dubbed Lunna.
She's playful and curious, just like her mama, and it's so good to know that she's in such a good home.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Take me out to the ballgame.

My job is such a grind! Today I had to take two of my students on a field trip, and we were FORCED to listen to this guy:
When I signed us up for High School Media Day at the Ballpark, we knew we'd get to attend a press conference with a player or two. We had no idea we'd get to hear from the Rangers' new president, Nolan Ryan! What a thrill!

Star-Telegram reporters and photographers first briefed the students about sports journalism and gave some press conference pointers. Then three Rangers VIPs were led to the media room so the students could question them.

Nolan was first, and he talked about how coming to the Rangers front office was an opportunity he couldn't pass up. He discussed the learning curve since he'd been away from this club for a while, and he also shared his enthusiasm for the young guys on this team.

Of course, the students wanted to know about his playing days, too. He talked about pitching no-hitters ("one of those magical days when everything just comes together") and how his teammates helped him achieve those milestones ("My teammates behind me made one or two big plays that made a real difference" in each of those games).

He mentioned his "good friend" President Bush, saying he "respects his passion and love of the game." Nolan said he hopes Bush will return to baseball five or so years after "retiring" from the presidency, a comment that surprised me since I'd never considered that possibility.

Nolan also discussed how he has applied his work ethic to all areas of his life and not just his baseball career.

"My ability to throw a baseball was a God-given gift," he said. "Once I realized that, I tried to make the most of that gift."

He took the same approach to his business career.

"Baseball has given me opportunities in the business world, so I've tried to make the most of those opportunities."

He closed with some advice for the students: "If you enjoy what you do, you're better at what you do."

Next on the podium was rookie David Murphy, an outfielder acquired from the Red Sox in the Gagne trade last season.

My new favorite Ranger was articulate and friendly, not shying away from the tough questions. The big one on everyone's mind: What's it like to leave a team bound for the World Series to end up with the lowly Rangers?

"I'm going to lie if I say I wasn't jealous a little bit," Murphy said about his former teammates.

Still, he could tell he didn't have a future in the Red Sox organization.

"I never felt in my heart that I was going to get the 10- to 12-year big league career there," he said. The chance to come home to Texas and actually get to play provided the window of opportunity he needed. The trade-off (playing time vs. ring) was worth it, he said.

The third guest behind the lectern: former Rangers catcher Jim Sundberg.

Sundberg is now the Rangers' executive vice president for communications and public relations. He seems to be adjusting well to this role, using his experience not only as a player but also as a broadcaster to connect with the media and community.

He said he advises players to always be as honest and open with reporters as they can. Trying to hide from reporters after a bad game only exacerbates the attention or negative vibes, he said.

"I can only think of two articles in my career that were really negative," Sundberg said. "Try to be honest and allow the reporter or writer to do his job... Let the reporter do his job, be honest and direct, and when you mess up, admit fault."

He had advice for owner Tom Hicks, too, reminding him that the Rangers' "fan base wants you to be a caring, responsible owner" who's not dabbling in other ventures like the Liverpool Soccer Club.

Reflecting on his big league career, Sundberg said baseball was "the most grueling, grinding thing." The mental toll was constant because he always had to "manage the fear of failure," he said.

The physical effects of catching all those pitches wore on him, too. He said his shoulders were always tired from absorbing the impact of 90-mph pitches and then throwing the ball back with his other hand.

"I always thought that affected my batting," he said, mentioning the seasons when he felt he could've batted over .300 if he had played a different position.

Sundberg demonstrates how the ball hitting his glove
would also impact his left elbow and shoulder.

He credited his work ethic to his father, a letter carrier who left the house at 5 some mornings when a foot of snow meant he would have to walk instead of drive to work. That work ethic led Sundberg to play regardless of how he felt.

"It doesn't matter if you feel good or not," he said. Not working hard when you're feeling down is a "dangerous trap." He said he particularly dislikes when athletes take themselves out of the line-up because they don't feel 100 percent.

Sundberg also closed with advice for the high schoolers.

"Why kind of just passively go through life?" he asked them. "Find out what you really want to do and do it well. Do it with all your heart."

With those sentiments, the press conference ended and we were off to the rest of our field trip: the Rangers game!

Play ball!

First pitch

All the Rangers and Angels wore number 42 today in honor of Jackie Robinson.
Sixty-one years ago today, Robinson played his first MLB game.

New (and warmer) seats in centerfield

David Murphy at work

The FSN reporter looking for groups to interview

See ya, Nolan! We sure would've liked to have seen you on the mound today!