Classic Movie of July


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Last month I randomly chose the movie 3 Women, literally about three young women grappling with some weird shit back in the 70s; and this month, in some strange coincidence, I chose a movie about three young men also grappling with some weird shit in the 70s. Completely unplanned, yet a perfect follow-up. In fact, I recommend that these two films be sold in a DVD twin-pack.

merkel_jborte_port2BIG WEDNESDAY (1978) - In doing my best not to sound completely pretentious, this movie was freaking lyrical. I’m talking ebbs and flows of a great poem. The film follows the lives of three free-wheeling California surfers, but don’t be fooled – it’s not just an excuse for a fun beach soundtrack or epic surfing montages. While there were moments I definitely laughed out loud (Gary Busey in his element!), the story has many quiet, subdued moments. (Just like the ocean tides?? Why yes, just like that). The boys frequently engage in drunken fist fights and general mayhem (i.e. oiled up Gary Busey throwing himself into an oven), and other times slows as the guys struggle to find their place in the tumultuous times of the late 60s and early 70s. Their friends get married, have kids, get drafted, get killed, become alcoholics and lose it all…but surfing (and their epic bromance) remains constant.

Actually, let’s add Point Break and make it a TRIPLE DVD-Pack. Radical!


Clocking those burpees


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While my goal of a burpee mile was initially set for last month, the weather in Portland has been H-O-T. I generally don’t fare well in any exercise over 57 degrees, and I lost my workout gloves so until I can guarantee I won’t get heatstroke and blister my hands on the track, I’m just going to keep training for lots and lots of burpees.

I don’t know anyone else personally who has tortured themselves with a “Burpee Mile” and, admittedly, I haven’t really looked at a specific training plan for this kind of challenge. That being said, I did 80+ pushups without stopping a couple years ago and I trained for that by just doing them ALL THE TIME, with lots of variety. I’m taking the same approach.

Just doing burpees for an entire workout sounds really boring (and exhausting), so here’s a workout I did this week for an example.

My Burpee Workout #1

1. Warm-up 

2. Descending Burpee Ladder (do 10 in a row, then 9, then 8, etc…I give myself a 10-20 second break in between) = 55 burpees


3. Alternate 3 sets of Exercise Ball Jack Knife (40) and Bicycle Crunches (40)

0906-swissball-ab-pike  0502_bicycle_crunch

4. Repeat Descending Burpee Ladder

5. Alternate 3 sets of Sit Ups with Medicine Ball (40) and Mountain Climbers (80)

mens_fitness_5022  Mountain-Climber

6. Repeat Descending Burpee Ladder

7. Alternate 300 meter row (fast) and Planks (1 min)

8. Cool down and stretch

The whole thing usually takes me about an hour. And in the end, I’ve done 165 burpees (amongst other things).

If you’re into increasing your burpees (David, I’m talking to you), here’s a good reference site to challenge yourself: The Burpee Workout.

Do you do burpees? How do you include them in your workouts? I’m always looking for something new and shareable.

Me and Martha


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Yesterday I was at a friend’s BBQ, and you wouldn’t believe how many people asked me, “So you’re off work for the summer, right?” After giving the affirmative, everyone asked the same follow-up question, “What exactly do you do all summer…?”

This is a difficult question. Should I be honest and say that I sleep in till 7:30 (that’s late for me), drink coffee with a cat on my lap, have a leisurely work out at the gym, and…..? Since it seems like bragging; I generally attempt to deflect the question. Yet at the same time, I certainly don’t just sit around.

Martha Stewart Living is one of my favorite magazines, and I always look forward to her calendar, right behind the table of contents. I imagine most people flip right past, but I zero in on Martha’s “to-do” list. Of course there are many other items that aren’t listed on this calendar, but I like to think these are her most-important items of note; things that are seasonal or a better chunk of her day.


In fact, I specifically plot out my summer calendars with Martha in mind. (BTW, yes I did officially enter the state fair crafting and baking competitions today).

Screen Shot 2014-07-13 at 8.15.40 PMMost people roll their eyes when I tell them Martha Stewart is one my heroes. I get even more condescending laughter when they find out I own some shares of her stock. Maybe it’s that she’s of an older generation, or she became the butt of many jokes when she went to prison. I’m not really sure why. I certainly don’t tease people when they say their heroes are cliches like Maya Angelou or John Lennon. That’s their prerogative.

However, if I’m going to put my lady, Martha, on the spot, I might as well tell you why I think she’s fucking amazing.

Top 5 Reasons Martha Stewart Rules

1. She is self-trained in cooking. And just self-made in general. When I want to learn something new in cooking or crafting, her books or website or magazine are the first place I go because at one time or another, she also had to learn how to do it.

2. While in prison, she coached and advised other prisoners on their business plans. And from what I understand, she continued to keep in touch with a couple and provided some entrepreneurial support.

3. She never stops. I read somewhere that when she takes a nap, she’s still thinking. She also banned couches on the set of her show.

4. She’s an animal lover. Yeah she has lots of her own animals, but much of her philanthropic work is dedicated to helping animals. Need I say more?

5. She used her looks as an advantage in business. Some would argue this isn’t the “right” way for a woman to succeed, but men throw their weight around all the time. Why not combat it with hot pants and a little charm?



This is where the magic happens – Part Deux

A couple months ago I wrote a post “This is where the magic happens” about taking a risk. Remember that? I was frustrated with my job, and everyone around me (even my horoscope) was like, “Dude – accept all the good stuff you do have!” 


Well, I didn’t write something else pretty important that had happened. I had also interviewed to be a “Mentor Teacher” for my school district. I had solid experience and proven success (along with passion!) for this position, and I felt like I nailed the interview. This was it – I had been patient and finally an opportunity had presented itself. So it was a total blow when I DIDN’T get the job. Not just to me either! Everyone I knew professionally was shocked, pissed off, and confused. I did some digging with multiple people “in the know” as to what went wrong, and was told that it was a political move; I wasn’t sucking up to the right people; it wasn’t about experience, but more about the district’s agenda.

I sat at my desk, while my students were across the hall in math, and stared dismally out the window. What am I doing here? I wondered. Why am I swimming upstream in a place that everyone knows is toxic and dysfunctional? 

An hour later my students came back and we were finishing resumes for a career unit, and then practicing interview skills. I felt like a fraud. “In an interview, you need to really showcase your skills and expertise without bragging…just be yourself!” I said. But what I wanted to say was, “It’s all a lie! All that matters in this world is sucking up! Climbing over each other! Vote everyone else off the island!” I held my jaded tongue.

I have this book, Do More Great Work and in one of the exercises it asks you to write down times you’ve really felt inspired and energized professionally. I realized that many of my moments came from sitting in workshops hosted by Jim Knight at the Kansas Center for Research on Learning. He transformed the way I do and think about things as an educator. After my students left that day, I shot Jim an email. I thanked him for his guidance, and I suggested that if he ever needed a professional coffeemaker he should keep me in mind. Ha. Ha. Ha.

Now two months later, I have just accepted the opportunity to become one of his workshop facilitators. You know, someone who TRAINS the people who do that Mentor Teacher job I DIDN’T get in my school district. (Oh so satisfying.)

Next week I head to Kansas to present to my esteemed colleagues, then I fly to California and back to Kansas to learn from one of my heroes. Surely, this is where the magic happens.


Summer Sloth

Staying motivated in the summer when you’re a teacher is, well, a challenge in itself. All year you’re focused on your students’ goals, and your own professional goals. Then suddenly, you have three months off and no kids (or parents or boss) that you need to account for. On one hand, it’s pretty awesome to be so free; on the other hand, it requires serious willpower to get out of bed.

People who aren’t teachers often don’t get it. I literally had to explain to a group of professional non-educators the other day that that teachers just don’t have a “slow” time. We are pedal to the metal at every moment. They kept throwing out different scenarios:

Them: What about September or October? Haven’t things calmed down once the kids are in school?
Me (stifling laughter): Um no. We are setting annual goals, having Back to School Nights, Carnivals, fundraisers for the year. There are fall sports to coach and beginning of the year reading/math/writing assessments. Not to mention Halloween…and grades.
Them: Ok, what about November or December? When all that stuff is over?
Me: Parent/teacher conferences, holiday parties, choir performances. Principals have evaluations due before Winter Break…basketball games…the occasional snow day makes it worse.
Them: But surely January! When you get back?
Me: State testing runs consistently until May, in addition to winter assessments, more grades and –
Them: Ok, ok. Spring. You have a spring break, right?
Me: Spring assessments, work samples for each kid in each subject, more evaluations due. Outdoor School, field trips, field day, Run for the Arts; some of us do spring conferences. Then there’s graduation, last day of school. Final grades. We. Don’t. Stop.

Wherein I got some blank stares. When’s our slow time? RIGHT NOW. When were aren’t getting paid (that’s right, we don’t get paid in the summer, contrary to what you’ve heard).

Most teachers I know use this time to travel or do projects at home. The money for summer school dried up years ago so that’s not much of an option. I don’t have kids, and yet sometimes taking a shower by dinner time is still challenging. (Pathetic, I know.)

What I’m saying is, I keep looking at my list, but somehow helping other people with their busy lives is easier than committing to my own goals. In the last week, I helped my dad run errands, worked with a teacher on her lesson planning, helped a friend move, and painted a different friend’s new house. I try to have a healthy, home-cooked meal on the table when Thor comes home. Then we spent the weekend meeting at my in-law’s farm for the holiday. So, like, I’m doing stuff…just not my necessarily my own stuff.

Thus I proclaim this week: MY WEEK. I’ve got my posted goals here, and a slew of other to-do’s taped to the refrigerator. Helping other people with their stuff is enjoyable because it’s a positive way to fill the long summer days, but realistically I have to remember that I have priorities, too. Important priorities. You know, like hosting a summer bonfire and learning to double dutch.


summer bonfire for a gathering

Coloring Book First Steps


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Now that it’s summer and I’ve got some time to myself, I’ve started brainstorming for my goal “Design and Publish a Coloring Book.” Right now, I’m thinking of finding a self-publishing site. I’m not looking to make big bucks (or even small bucks) or change my career to professional coloring book author (although that sounds rad). I frequently teach art to my students, and one time a kid said, “Mrs. Deacon, you should TOTALLY make a coloring book and we could color it!” Being the great teacher that I am, I replied, “What a great idea – how about the CLASS each makes a page and then we can all color them?” And we made a class coloring book instead.

But the idea stuck: I really would like to make a coloring book of my own, and then if my students are interested they can print out the pages and theoretically design their own. Although I teach art and play around with a sketchbook on a regular basis, I’m a total amateur; no delusions here.

My brainstorming process has been to jot down things I personally like to look at, and am inspired to draw when I’m stuck in a meeting or on an airplane; then sketch several pages of things that are rumbling around in my head. I’ll probably do this for a couple weeks, and start drafting rough sketches of page ideas (I’m shooting for 10 – 15?).



tiny things


foods, plates, cups



parties, decorations

mazes or hidden items


If you have any feedback on anything, I welcome it. I’m totally flying blind on this one.





I’ve also thought a lot about the coloring books I have liked throughout the years, and which ones I have bought for the classroom (typically curriculum based). Here are some great coloring books I would recommend (and my students would agree).



Life in Old Japan


Victorian Houses


Jumbo Hello Kitty 


Human Anatomy Coloring Book (by Margaret Matt)


Mexican Designs Stained Glass


The Anti-Coloring Book


The Boys Doodle Book – BUT I MUST BE CLEAR THAT I HAVE A HARD TIME RECOMMENDING THIS BOOK BECAUSE IT’S SO OBVIOUSLY SEXIST. I don’t agree at all that the cool book (with all the pirates and skeletons and mazes and spaceships) is for BOYS, and the lame book with all the shoes and cakes is for GIRLS. I have literally ripped the cover off this book. That being said, it’s always a hit.



Classic movie of June


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Image3 Women (1977) - On a very spontaneous moment, I chose Robert Altman’s 3 Women as my classic movie of the month. Mostly because it starred Sissy Spacek and Shelley Duvall (whom I both adore). I had also never heard anything about the film, yet after finishing the movie I read that Roger Ebert named it the best film of the year when it came out. 

I’m a big fan of narratives with crazy ladies…but don’t be fooled, there was no cliches in this one. Sissy Spacek stars as Pinky, a naive, awkward country girl immediately fixated on her coworker, Millie (Shelley Duvall), who initially appears to be completely self-absorbed and desperate for a man. They quickly become roommates, but just when things feel like they are headed straight for a Single White Female kind of moment, Pinky ends up in the hospital and Millie suddenly grows a soul. Things get really macabre when Pinky’s folks come into town to visit her in the hospital and from there the story takes on a distorted dream-like effect. Although the women don’t exactly switch roles, they are both creepy in their own right. Personally, I loved watching Millie make recipes out of magazines (hello Cheese Whiz and Tuna Casserole as classy dinner party dishes!), and Sissy Spacek sure knows how to nail “crazy.”

So who’s the third woman? Willie, a pregnant and seemingly mute artist who is married to the owner of the apartment complex they live in. She stays mostly on the fringes, but plays a gothic, yet modern, “mad woman in the attic” role. Kind of like Jane Eyre on LSD.

My only beef with the movie was the soundtrack. It was so dated, and although I understand things were supposed to feel discordant, I still couldn’t appreciate the flute and trumpet playing minor keys at awkward moments. It’s like, yeah, we get it.

Anyway, this one definitely gets shelved as a favorite for me.


Mid-Year Status Update


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Ok, it’s officially midway through the year and I have A LOT of work to do to cross off my goals. But as usual, my focus has shifted a little bit in a couple of ways. I know that goal setting requires continual revisiting and reevaluation of your goals, thus this is an itemized list.

I would very much appreciate any feedback or ideas you have……..

1. Learn how to double dutch. Ok I seriously went to PE with my students over the last two weeks because they were learning to double dutch. It was a big fail. The kids were terrible turners, and I felt like the instructions we received were hazy. The PE teacher failed to model double dutch very well for us, and by the end I just ended up playing tag. This goal is VERY reminiscent of my previous years’ goals of playing pool and horseshoes. If you don’t have reliable partners, it’s never going to work. My mom swears she can teach me, but I was really hoping to find a regular double dutch group here in Portland. I only found one, and they emailed me back to say they had disbanded :(

2. Throw a summer bonfire party. Oh this one is in the bag.

3. Watch a classic movie a month. I’ve been doing well on this, but I can’t cross it off till December. Any recommendations for the summer?

5. Plan my funeral. I already posted about this so it’s in the works. I plan to be done by July.

6. Read three books a month. Ok, seriously. I’m trying. I also can’t cross it off till December.

7. Do an old fashioned rope climb. Initially I thought I could do this one at school, but the PE teacher was never around after school to help me lower the rope. I’m thinking maybe this week he will show me……

8. Design and publish a coloring book. Haven’t even cracked this one, but I’ve read a lot of eHow articles about the process and it’s on my “to-do” list for summer.

9. Attend an opera. I think I will be seeing an outdoor opera in a couple weeks. My Starbucks guy is in it so I feel compelled to see him in action since he has provided pretty much the best customer service for me over the last school year.

10. Build a snow cave. Hmmmm hard to think about this one on the first week of summer…..

13. Teach a class at a university. Well, by choice I think I’m going to bow out of this. I’ve got to be honest: Portland State University has been so DISORGANIZED and I feel like they want us to do an obscene amount of work for free. We aren’t calling it off forever, but right now things don’t feel right. That being said, I am presenting at a conference next month at Kansas University. My topic is “Podcasting and Professional Development” and I’m more interested in what will come of that than anything else.

BONUS GOALS – Keeping in mind, these are the goals that I’m not exactly sure I can cross off just from sheer willpower. They require a set of circumstances to go my way…

15. Get hired as an Assistant Principal. Ohhhhhh lord. I don’t even want to talk about this one. I’ve applied, and all of us are waiting to hear when interviews will be. The last I heard, there are 7 positions and over 300 applicants. That’s all I’m going to say.

16. Take 1st Place in the State Fair in something. I’m a little uninspired in what to submit this year. Perhaps vegan banana bread? a cake? something crafty? all of the above to increase my chances? Either way, I have to decide by mid-July.

17. Run 30 days in a row. Oh man I haven’t even given this one a thought since my shot at it in April. I felt really good about what I accomplished, and I feel like I really paid for it in May. My plantar fasciitis flared up, my knee got inflamed for over a week…ugh.

18. Sing karaoke in Tokyo. Well, next week Thor gets to go to Tokyo for work. But I just don’t have $1500.00 to blow on karaoke. Bummer.

19. Do a burpee mile. Hey! I did a solid burpee half mile the other day. I was sore the next day, but not so sore I wanted to die. I feel confident about this one!

20. Pool party at Courtney’s. Oh yeah. She’s renewing her lease. She’s had 6 months to warm up to the idea. It’s on. 


The Summer Bucket List……..


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I could tell you that I ran 3.5 miles and did 1/3 of a burpee mile yesterday. I could tell you I’m supposed to teach a university class in a couple weeks. I could tell you I have been corresponding with a double dutch group. Or that I am planning on seeing an opera this month. I could tell you all that, but really, all I can think about is SUMMMMMMMERRRRRRR.

Today was the first day of the last week of school. My students were miserable little adolescent jerks. The window shades were pulled down “to keep the temperature down,” but really it was so my wandering eyes wouldn’t get distracted by the perfect weather. 

So yeah, I could talk about all my regular goals (that are mostly on track), but my summer bucket list is way more on the forefront of my mind right now.

Things I Want to Do This Summer That Aren’t on My “List”

Watch a movie on the rooftop of Hotel Deluxe

Pick strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries

Go to Sunrise at the Zoo

Go to Sunset at the Zoo

Let my friend, Kerrie, wax intellectual about wines at Pheasant Valley Winery in Hood River, OR

Eat some Jack Stack BBQ in Kansas City

Try Paddle Boarding

Bake a malted milk cake

Remodel our bedroom closets

Bake a strawberry rhubarb pie

Eat s’mores over an open fire

Play beach volleyball

Play horseshoes

Ride the Mt Hood Railroad Brunch Train

Organize the garage

Deep clean the kitchen

Convince my friend, Frances, to let me throw her a Roman Birthday Party

Pick an old TV series to watch from beginning to end

Play ping pong

Do a puzzle

Paint our bedroom a new color

Camp in a yurt on Sauvie’s Island


Four more days, people. Four more days.



Classic Movies of May


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I didn’t get much reading done, but that’s because I was watching SO MANY movies! 

First off, according to the internet, a “classic” movies is defined as any movie made prior to 20 from the present. I’m pretty sure Blockbuster decided that in like 1997 so that they could fill their “classics” rack with more crap. But whatever, I’ll go with it. 

ImageBack to the Future (1985): Thor’s birthday was a couple weeks ago, and he’s a huuuuuge Back to the Future fan…so when I saw that it was playing downtown in the theater, I knew it was kismet. We’ve watched it together a million times, but seeing it on the big screen was way more fun. I was also reminded what a genius Crispin Glover can be. 

ImageBack to the Future 2 (1989): On our way of the theater, our friend, Kerrie, remarked that she had never seen the sequel to the first BTTF. We immediately persuaded her to come back to our house and watch it with us. For me, this one might be my favorite, only because I absolutely love how sleazy Biff becomes. And who can deny the fun in comparing 1989′s version of 2015 with our lives today?  

But wait – there’s more!

Although I teach 6th grade 90% of my day, I also have an Study Hall elective that is an eclectic mix of 6th-8th graders at the end of everyday. Study Hall isn’t teaching. It’s more like being Mark Harmon in Summer School. I sit around and occasionally give them wise advice or make sarcastic comments. Most of the kids in there were “assigned” my class due to failing grades, but of course they never bring their homework, or if they even do they can’t focus on it for more than, like, 47 seconds. After suffering for three quarters trying to corral these completely unmotivated teenagers, I had pretty much given up.

Until a few weeks ago when a girl noticed Jurassic Park on my iTunes. “Can we watch it?!” She cried. Then the whole class begged me. So I pushed play. Why not? 

It was the easiest three days in Study Hall e-v-e-r. Why hadn’t I played movies earlier????? They sat and watched the movie while slowly working on their homework. Productivity actually went UP. I decided we would watch several more “classic” movies.

ImageJurassic Park (1993): Though I hadn’t seen this one in awhile, I’ve got to say it’s just as good as it was when I first saw it as a kid. In a world that is inundated with CGI, it’s nice to see some robotic dinosaurs still look pretty good. Even better was seeing my students fall in love with the story. Although I can’t say I’m super impressed with the acting, y’all know Jeff Goldblum is the shit.


ImageE.T. (1982): While searching for another school-appropriate Spielberg movie, I realized I haven’t seen ET in over 20 years, and within five minutes I remembered why. It’s so depressing. When ET gets left behind, I’m an emotional mess. When ET points out the window and says, “Hoooooome,” I’m an emotional mess. When ET gets found by the stream all white and dying, I’m an emotional mess. When ET makes the boys’ bikes fly over the cop cars, I’m an emotional mess. IT NEVER ENDS. That being said, none of my students had seen the movie and they also fell in love with it.

ImageThe Dark Crystal (1982):  Yeah, we were on an 80′s kid movie roll. Although I heard a lot of snickering when the narrator started talking about the “skesis,” the kids’ attention was soon unwavering. This movie is a good reminder that dark stories really appeal to kids, and that they deserve more complicated fairy tales than Disney’s Frozen can provide. 

ImageLabyrinth (1986): One of our vocabulary words in class was “labyrinth” and I was trying to explain that a labyrinth is more than just a maze; it has obstacles and plays tricks on people. The kids didn’t quite get it, so I showed them a clip from Labyrinth” in an effort to help them  understand. Seeing David Bowie (who they already knew from studying Space Oddity in a music unit) dressed up like the goblin king just led to more questions. Finally, I agreed that we could watch the movie if they were good


Overall, it was definitely educational for all of us. I realized how much all of these movies guided my preferences in literature and films later in life. I guarantee my classic movies in June will be much older than all these 80s classics, but we had a good time nonetheless. 


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