Monday, December 19, 2016

Teachers - Mrs. Polnachek (4th grade)

Back in March this year, I started writing about teachers that had had an impact on me, because I had missed teacher appreciation day. I have decided to change the focus and, instead of just a list, I'm going write about these teachers individually, including a little bit of what else was happening in my life around that time.

So... let’s start at the beginning.

I probably had favorite teachers in kindergarten, 1st grade (Kowloon Jr. School, Hong Kong) and 2nd grade (Clarkston, GA), but I don’t remember them. I had Mrs. Schaeffer for 3rd grade in Bissonet Plaza Elementary – she hated the way I wrote my cursive b’s -- but the teacher I remember most from that year is Elizabeth Donohue: she had long red hair, was beautiful, and I just loved her name! (Priorities!) But the teacher who had the biggest impact on me in that school was Mrs. Polnachek. I’m not sure how her name was spelled, and I am probably confusing it with Jo from “Facts of Life” -- but it’s close! …

Mrs. Polnachek had been Dave’s 6th grade teacher our first year in New Orleans (Metairie, LA), and then she became my 4th grade homeroom teacher the next year. In the middle of the year, we had to move from New Orleans to Lafayette, LA. I was already a “professional new kid” by then, having been in at least three different schools so far, but leaving in the middle of the school year was a bit of a wrench.

Our family of six (plus dog) moved to a tiny two-bedroom apartment that backed up onto a field. The apartment was provided by the hospital where my Dad was doing either another course or a residency or something, and I don't think it was normally provided to such a large family! My brother and I shared a room, and my sisters slept on the pull-out sofa in the living room but stored their stuff in our room. There was a little cement area behind the apartment with clotheslines and I think a couple of folding chairs which looked out over the huge fields behind us. Looking back, I think the fields were the land bought so the hospital could expand, but I have no idea if that’s true. The huge field was a wonderful place for our little dachshund, Patty, to play soccer with her green, hard-plastic ball. Watching her was hilarious because all you could see was the bright green ball moving on top of the long grass as she nosed it along... really, really fast!

Tangent (because there always is one when I'm telling a story): I believe that that little “back yard” was where I humiliated my brother once. He had been learning judo while we were in the States, so he had bragged to his new friends that he could flip a person. Of course, I was his victim when he practiced his tricks, so he called me over to be his “practice dummy” again. Except, I ain’t no dummy! I had learned from all that practice, so I faced him as usual, but while he was explaining what he would do, I reached up and grabbed his shirt-collar, turned around and flipped him over my shoulder! (And then I raaaaaaaannnn!!)

Anyway… Lafayette was difficult. I mean, I made sure everybody loved me (ASSIMILATE!), but it was hard to have to build up your list of friends again, especially knowing that you would be going back to Hong Kong at the end of school.  

So what did Mrs. Polnachek do? Back in Bissonet Plaza 4th grade, they had a class activity of making pot holders. You know, the hook and loop pot holders? 

Mrs. Polnachek took this as an opportunity to let me know that I was missed. She had each of the kids write a note to me and packaged them up with all of the pot holders and sent me this giant envelope. I remember getting it and sitting on the couch (Karen and Cathy’s bed) and wondering what I was supposed to do with all of the pot holders, but feeling so wonderful that she and everyone in the class remembered me. It was the nicest thing anyone had ever done for me. That I knew of at that time, anyway. Heck, I was only nine years old!

So, thank you Mrs. Polnachek. You might not know how much it helped, but you made a nine-year old kid feel like she belonged.

Back to the grind?

Back in March this year, I started writing about teachers that had had an impact on me because I had missed teacher appreciation day -- but I never posted it. I saw the article when I came back here and I also realized that I've only written TWO POSTS the last two years! And I need to write again.

So, I decided that I’m going to change the focus. Instead of just listing the teachers who had an impact on me, I’m going to write about them individually and include a little bit of what else was happening around that time. And maybe that will get me back in writing mode again...

Friday, February 12, 2016


​Notes from a few nights ago:

Slightly surreal. I'm in a pizza place and they're playing Hotel California. TV just showed two guys voting for best basketball players of all time,and I agreed with the 40-somethings at the next table: Michael Jordan, Kareem, Wilt Chamberlin, Magic, Larry Bird, etc. 
No Kobe Bryant or any of the newer players.
Why do I feel like I'm stuck in the 80s?

And then as I'm leaving, I walk by a kid charging his iPhone...
Oh, hello reality!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Happy Flag Day!

I have exactly one memory about Flag Day: Back in 1998, my mom came to MD/VA/DC to visit. She stayed with my sister in VA for most of the visit, but spent the last two nights with me in Bethesda.

One day, we went down to the National Museum of American History because Mom wanted to see "Old Glory" hanging in the atrium, and the First Ladies exhibit. We were disappointed to find that they had taken the flag down for preservation. But then we found out that because it was Flag Day, they had special tours to see the work being done on it. They had just started the part shown in #4 (see link), so we saw the flag all laid out and ready for people to work on it. The tour guide was very knowledgeable and we learned a lot. It was very moving and I'm glad I got to share that experience with my Mom.


Several years later, I returned to the museum with Mom, my sister, my 14-year-old nieces and my 12-year-old nephew. Old Glory was still being preserved (I think), but they had replaced it in the atrium with the flag that had been flown at the Pentagon after the 9/11 attacks. Again, very moving, and an amazing history lesson for all of us.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Adventures in Laundry

I was supposed to do laundry last Sunday. I went to a baseball game instead. 

Then I was supposed to do it Monday. 
I pawed through my closet to find an outfit to wear to work on Tuesday 
and then procrastinated instead.

We’ll just skip to Friday morning shall we? 

That’s when I *had* to do laundry because I had no (decent) undies left 
I need my red Nationals shirt because I’m going to the NLDS Game 1 at Nationals Park and ohmygoodnesstheNatsareinthePlayoffs!!!!

*ahem* sorry

So, I finally did laundry this morning. I got up at 6:30am and dragged my rollie-cart of dirty clothes down to the basement so that I could have as many washers as I wanted. I checked my laundry money card and realized I had enough for four loads of wash and dry.  So, I very dutifully split up my darks and lights into three washers so as not to overload them, and put towels in the last one. I set my timer and went upstairs to start work while things got washed.

Thirty-five minutes later, I’m back downstairs, and for some reason, I went to the washer in the middle first. And when I opened it, I noticed that the clothes were soaking wet! Argh! So I squeezed out as much water as I could then split those clothes up between two dryers so that they wouldn't take as much time to dry. And 45 minutes later, I had one load of nice and dry towels and two loads of mostly damp clothes. *sigh*

But... while I was bemoaning my fate of trying to dry everything again with only enough money for one more round on my card, I realized that one of the guys in the room was actually the technician for the machines. I pointed out that the washer hadn't seemed to spin dry the clothes. He immediately blamed it on overloading and heavy clothes. I have had that problem in the past, I explained, which is why I very carefully "load balance" my washers. Someone else had already started using that washer, so while I was folding the few dry things (and some not as dry as I had thought) I had been able to find, he watched the washer go through its cycles. And sure enough, it didn't spin!

He couldn’t give me a credit on my money card so I could dry my clothes AGAIN if necessary, but he did give my dryer another 30 minutes so that it should dry everything. Hope remains eternal!

And some of it is STILL damp, so I’ve got clothes draped all over my house. *SIGH*

Lessons learned from this adventure in laundry:
1.       Don’t wait two weeks to do your laundry.
2.       Make sure you have cash in $5 or over denominations before you do laundry. Just in case.
3.       If the washer doesn’t spin dry the clothes and they are soaking wet, put them in their own dryer so that at least the OTHER clothes will get dry!