Guns In the Classroom

After dedicating 18+ years of my life to teaching high school before retiring this year, I can say with authority that arming teachers with weapons is a very bad and dangerous idea. While some of my former colleagues may disagree, I assert that only more tragedy will occur on an armed-and-ready-to-shoot campus.

Most people who propose arming teachers have not set foot on a high school campus since they graduated. So let me enlighten you. Schools are over crowded. My last teaching assignment was at an at-risk school – the largest Title I school in Nevada. I had 230 students. Most classes exceeded 40 students. Desks were jammed so close together that in an effort to assist students, I had to squeeze between desks. In that type of proximity, a motivated student could have disarmed me in seconds.

While most of my students were great kids, I had legitimate gang bangers, criminals, and mentally disturbed kids together in some classes. There were some scary moments when bloody fights broke out in my classroom between students who felt disrespected at the moment or were getting even for some earlier offense. Rogue students roamed the hallways – popping into random classrooms to disrupt instruction or call out to a friend or enemy. It typically took 5-10 minutes for the administration to respond to one of my desperate calls for a hall monitor or dean after a student went over the edge and began threatening me or another student.

Guns on campus will cause more problems than they solve.

Guns will be confiscated from teachers. A group of determined students could easily overpower most teachers – not just a 145-pound, fifty-something-year-old woman. Plus, many teachers would end up accidentally shooting themselves or a student. Even if locked in a desk drawer or cabinet, that gun is not secure from a student who is hell-bent on getting access to it.

So, do we need to change the qualifications for teaching?

Rather than being certified in a content area, should teachers be required to be weapon certified? Which is more important: a teacher who is gun savvy and bulky enough to intimidate their students, or someone who is committed to providing students with the best education possible?

What if we just allow those teachers who are comfortable shooting guns to arm themselves in class?

Students will quickly ascertain which teachers are “carriers” and which teachers are not. A prospective student assassin will know which classes to target and which classes to avoid.

What about metal detectors?

Bring them, if that is what it takes to be safe! I would much rather suffer the inconvenience of going through security every morning than working in an armed-and-potentially-dangerous environment.

I have had discussions with family members, friends, and even one of my doctors who advocated that I carry a gun in the classroom. No thank you. I promoted my classroom to be a place of peace, and I hope that the future of education in our nation supports peace over turning school campuses into fear-induced war zones.

Candy Sandwiches

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What is every preschooler’s food fantasy?

My grandson’s was a candy sandwich.


The Birth of the Concept

We are blessed with the most adorable Irish twins – ages 4 and 5. They were born one year apart with January birthdays.

A couple of months ago, while visiting them, my step-daughter Jenn asked what kind of sandwiches they wanted for lunch, and my older grandson replied, “a candy sandwich!”

That got me thinking (way too hard). I told my son-in-law, that challah bread would be perfect for candy sandwiches. He agreed, as he had recently seen a Food Network show with stuffed challah French toast.

Bread Snob

To be honest, I am a total bread snob. If it’s sliced, I probably won’t buy it. I am into fancy artisan loafs. When I was young and ambitious, I used to bake my own bread.

So, on my grandson’s 4th birthday, I put together the plan. I sent my husband to the best Jewish bakery in Las Vegas: Bagel Cafe. We go there at least monthly for breakfast, and we stop in every few weeks for bagels. Their rugalah and bobkas are also amazing.

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Bagel Cafe: Everything Bagel & Lox

We arranged to meet Jenn and the boys at their nearby grocery store, where we picked up marshmallow cream and Oreo cookies. The boys selected candy for their sandwiches: gummy bears, sour gummy worms, watermelon candies, jelly beans, and gum drops. I already had chocolate syrup and Christmas cookie sprinkles, and Jenn had peanut butter.

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Candy Sandwich Ingredients

The Process

I sliced the bread and helped the boys make it into circles using cookie cutters. Then I lightly toasted the circles to make spreading a little easier.

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My husband grated the Oreo cookies to make cookie “dirt.”

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The boys spread the peanut butter, marshmallow cream, and chocolate syrup in various combinations onto the circles.

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Next, they decorated their open-faced sandwiches with cookie dirt and candy.

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The entire process – aside from shopping – took about 30 minutes, and the boys had a great time!

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Final Product!

This would be a great birthday party activity!

Mayflower Kitten Gets a Christmas Home

Eight feral and stray cats have found their way to our house. During the summer of 2008, a stray cat (Mama Cat) had a litter of four kittens under a bush in our front yard. We discovered the kittens when they were about a month old. I affectionately refer to it as “kitten summer,” because I was working on an advanced certificate in Urban Studies for a pay increase. The program was mostly online, so kittens afforded me a delightful break from tedious school work. Our dog at the time, a beloved, but selfish, Yorkshire Terrier named Bodhi, was not impressed with our attention toward the kittens. Since I am severely allergic to cats, keeping the kittens was not an option. But since we were able to acclimate these cuties to humans, we were able to find loving homes for all of them.

Two years later, on Mother’s Day, we saw Mama Cat again – this time with two kittens. These kittens were apparently born under a different bush in our front yard. When we first saw them, they were too old to domesticate. So we contacted a local rescue agency (Heaven Can Wait), who provided us with three traps. It took about a week to trap, fix, and release Mama Cat and her two boys. Afterwards, Mama Cat never returned to our yard, although for a few more years we would see her roaming the neighborhood. The boys we ended up naming Queso (cheese) and Cracker. About a year later, we returned from vacation to find Cracker missing; it broke our hearts. But Queso is still in residence. He divides his time between our back yard and the neighbor who lives behind us. Suzanne – the owner of three house cats – is able to coax Queso (who she calls Mikey) into her house only during morning hours, when he likes to be groomed. During the evening, he pretends not to recognize her.

Around 2013, an older kitten showed up at our doorstep. Although blind in one eye, “Buddy” was a charmer. Our neighbor across the street adopted him to be the brother of her two existing house cats. We love hearing about his crazy antics, as he continues to amuse.

Enter Mayflower

On Thanksgiving morning, my daughter-in-law saw a kitten dash by our back door. Given the day he arrived, I named him (not knowing the sex) Mayflower. This kitten was an absolute delight, who within a day allowed my husband to pet him. He absolutely adored our new dog – a five-month-old Xoloitzcuintli (Mexican Hairless) named Layla. They became devoted playmates. It was clear that Mayflower wanted to be an indoor cat. We posted pictures on Facebook and placed flyers with his photo on all the mail boxes in our neighborhood – with no response. I contacted a work friend who is a cat person, and Liz offered to foster Mayflower until he could find a forever home. However, we preferred to keep him in the neighborhood, so he could continue his play dates with Layla. We finally contacted Suzanne who had been out of town, and after reaching out to her Facebook friends, she found the perfect (purrfect) family.

On Christmas Eve, Suzanne brought two British scientists to our house. They immediately fell in love with our little darling, taking him home that afternoon. While it was sad to see him leave, it is heartwarming to know that Mayflower – now known as Einstein – has a forever home.

Christmas Stockings

1969 was the second to the last Christmas I shared with my brother. Harvey was 14 years my senior, and in 1970, he died from complications of muscular dystrophy. We were both adopted at birth – from separate birth families.

I came into the family around the same time Harvey was transitioning into his wheelchair. When I began walking, Harvey was forever confined to his chair. However, our differences did not impede our relationship. As a toddler and young child, Harvey would join me on the carpet for play and affection. I was rarely in a stroller; rather, when we went out as a family, I sat on Harvey’s lap as my mom or dad pushed the wheelchair. Later, after I started school, I would walk alongside Harvey. Occasionally, we were even allowed to walk alone together to the ice cream parlor down the street and around the corner.

That second-to-the-last Christmas morning, Harvey came into my room to wake me up. It was a first. Normally, it was I who woke up Harvey. According to family rules, we were allowed to empty the gifts from our stockings on Christmas morning, but we had to wait to open our wrapped presents until mom and dad had their coffee in their hands. And even then, it was a controlled affair – one gift at a time was opened, and traditionally Harvey passed them out.

On the memorable Christmas morning, Harvey rolled into the living room as I ran alongside him. He got out of his chair on his own, as I removed the stockings from the fireplace mantle. Harvey’s stocking was smaller. It was red with a white fur trim and said “Noel.” My stocking was red velvet with white trim and bells. It said my name: “Joy.”Immediately, confusion set in. My stocking was filled with nick-knacks and items suitable for a young man, while Harvey’s stocking contained little girl toys. Santa had clearly made a big mistake! Mom and dad heard all about it when they got up some minutes later. The rest of the day went on as normal.

The following year everything changed. I woke up Harvey, and when we went for our stockings, Harvey stayed in his chair. Later, dad gave me the job of passing out presents. I looked to Harvey for approval; he just nodded and smiled. That February, he died three days before his 23rd birthday. Life would never be the same.

Our new Christmas tradition involved setting up a small decorated Christmas tree at Harvey’s grave. Visiting the cemetery was not just a Christmas ritual, we went every Sunday. At home, both of our stockings were hung on the mantle.

After I graduated from high school, my parents moved to Las Vegas. They downsized into a small apartment where they had no room for storage. So all of our holiday decorations were stored in a friend’s garage. His roommate cleaned things out, and everything precious to me was thrown away.

Dad passed away in 1980 from lung cancer, and mom died in 1991 following a stroke. When I cleaned out my mom’s apartment, to my immense pleasure, I found a couple of Christmas decorations mixed in with all her random memorabilia. These treasured decorations are in the photo above.

Comfort Food

We all have that favorite meal from our childhood. The meal that evokes my happiest memories is Ham Soup. My Jewish mother learned to cook from her Polish in-laws, and this dish was a family favorite. (Clearly, my mother had no interest in keeping a kosher kitchen.) Part of the allure of this meal is that it always followed a holiday: Christmas or Easter. (When you have one Jewish parent and one Catholic parent, all holidays are celebrated!) Basically, this is what we did with leftover holiday ham. Whatever ham is left on the bone becomes the heart of the next meal. My mom insisted on ham butts – never ham shanks. Yellow split peas are the key ingredient to this soup. In California in the 1960s, this was a hard-to-obtain item. My mom would get care packages sent from her sister-in-laws in Buffalo, New York. I get mine from Whole Foods Market. Green split peas are just not the same – they never get creamy enough. Also, you don’t want too much peas in the mix; after all, this is NOT pea soup, it is ham soup. For me, the vegetables are the best part. Truth be told, I have primarily eaten a vegetarian diet since I was 14. However, never wanting to pass up a cultural experience, I indulge in animal protein a few times a year. Since my kids (now adults) also love ham soup, it remains a bi-annual favorite.

Ham Soup Recipe

Ingredients:

  • Bone from a Ham Butt
  • 1 – 1 & 1/2 C. Dried Yellow Split Peas
  • Yellow Onion
  • 6-8 Carrots
  • 2-3 Potatoes
  • Bay Leaf
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Instructions:

  • Sort and rinse yellow split peas.
  • Trim visible fat from the remains of the ham butt – this is easy to do after the ham has been refrigerated over night.
  • Place the ham butt and peas in a large pot.
  • Fill with water to nearly cover the ham butt.
  • Add the bay leaf.
  • Bring to a boil, then turn to low.
  • Stir periodically.
  • Simmer until peas melt – about two hours.
  • Remove ham bone.
  • Peel and slice carrots – add to soup.
  • Peel and chop potatoes – add to soup.
  • Peel and chop onion – add to soup.
  • Carve desirable meat from bone – cut into bite-sized pieces – add to soup.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • When the vegetables are soft, the soup is done.
  • Serve with a loaf of artisan bread and enjoy! ❤️

 

Thanksgiving: A New Tradition

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Cherished holiday traditions should always hold a place in our hearts, but even greater joy is found in opening ourselves to new customs and practices.

As a classroom teacher, Thanksgiving was the hardest holiday to host. It was mad work to get everything done in the 24 hours between 3:00 Wednesday and 3:00 Thursday, even when side dishes were in part supplied by guests. When my adult children started hosting at their homes a few years ago, I was beyond relieved.

This year, my son and his wife volunteered to host the holiday at their new house. Counting kids, there were over 40 people in a 1500 square foot home. Everyone was welcome: family, friends, friends of friends, co-workers, and neighbors. The weather was beautiful and unseasonably warm for Las Vegas – a record-breaking 80 degrees – so tables were set up on the patio outside. The adults feasted, while the kids played on two bouncy houses in the backyard. At the end of the evening, after everyone made up their to-go plates, I looked at all the leftovers before I departed and felt sorry for my son and his wife. What will they do with all that food? Around 9:30 PM, I saw the following group text message.

“I wanted to say happy thanksgiving and thank you for coming over earlier. The L…s were very happy to host such a great group. This message won’t find all my guests so thank someone I missed for me please. I wanted to inform everyone that after feeding our whole group and packing out as much to go with everyone as possible, Steve and I took the leftovers and some plates and went and fed 30+ more people down off Washington and D. You know the spot under the 15. It was very nice to get to take an hour and serve some people that certainly didn’t wake up today with a feast on the schedule. I’ll tell you what- I’ll never worry about the over cooking this family does again. So easy to find people that are hungry. Sleep well family and friends. Blessed as we are. And know you just helped make a couple dozen people feel a lot better on their Thanksgiving.”

I responded back to him, saying how proud and impressed his father (my ex-husband) – who passed away about two years ago – would have been. To which my son responded, “Things are easier when you’re familiar. He did show us how to be charitable.” Indeed, one of my daughter’s earliest memories is of her dad directing her to take off her winter coat and give it to a little girl on the street. She resisted initially, but her dad reassured her that she would get a new one. The experience made an indelible impact on her.

This morning, I spoke to my son about this gracious act. He mentioned his surprise that the average age of the homeless people he met last night were his age: mid-thirties. Some had mental health issues, others had drug problems, and some just had a large measure of bad luck coupled with the lack of an adequate support system. We discussed the impact that a few bad decisions could have on an individual’s life.

Holidays are a time when we remember and mourn for all the loved ones who are no longer present in our lives. While it is important to reflect back upon our happy memories, it is equally important to always look forward. My son is anxious to host Christmas at his house this year and again share the leftovers with his neighbors who live under the I-15 bridge. His new holiday tradition will certainly have an impact on how his children chose to interact with the world around them.