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Posts published in “Day: August 19, 2008

6 days in Cincinnati

One of the hardest things to do after you leave school is keep in touch with your friends. You no longer get to see them every day in class or at lunch. You no longer call each other to solve calculus problems or chat about the Homecoming game. In some cases, like ours, you no longer even live in the same state. So what’s the secret to our success?


We chat online several times a week, and we talk on the phone once or twice a month. Actually one of our favorite ways to keep in touch is to write letters, usually on goofy stationery we forgot we had. (Yes, people do still use pen and paper and the US Postal Service.) But even though we tend to rely on hightech methods of communication, the best way to keep in touch is lowest on the tech scale: seeing each face to face and hanging out in person.

That’s exactly what we did last month when Angie came to Cincinnati.

Day 1 started normal enough: Kristan went to work and Angie was dropped off at the airport. Unfortunately, Angie’s itinerary consisted of a full day of traveling on the world’s smallest planes — from Austin to Cleveland, then Cleveland to Dayton. Then there was a delay in Austin, which resulted in the itsy bitsy plane being restarted three times, and Angie began to worry about being late. Ironically, Angie ended up arriving early to Dayton, and Kristan was the one running late.

After a belated but happy reunion at the airport, we drove an hour through the pouring rain back to Kristan’s office to finish an important project and run it to FedEx. We got to FedEx at 8:58 pm — exactly 2 minutes before they would have closed, i.e., exactly 2 minutes before Kristan would have been fired.

Needless to say, we were both happy to go home and relax that night. And with Andy gone on a business trip, we were able to have some quality girl time.

Highlight of the day: The “7th grade sleepover,” reminiscing about the past as well as wondering about the future.

Day 2 was a little more relaxing. Angie spent the day getting to know Riley (the puppy) while Kristan was at work. That night Andy came back from Chicago and the three of us had a lovely dinner, followed by an even better dessert.

Highlight of the day: Black Raspberry Chip ice cream from Graeter’s. Officially Angie’s favorite thing about Cincinnati.

Kristan used a Personal Day on Friday (Day 3) to spend time with Angie. They took Riley to Eden Park, had dinner at Newport on the Levee — think: subdued version of Kemah — and walked across the Purple People Bridge from Ohio to Kentucky. Strangely, many of Cincinnati’s attractions are actually in Kentucky.

Highlight of the day: An adorable older woman telling us she wished she had a camera to take a picture of the three of us — Kristan, Angie and Riley — as we sat on a giant swing sculpture in the park.

Day 4 started with an exhausting but exhilarating aerobic dance class at nine in the morning. Afterwards, Angie said, “Let’s go for a run!” and Kristan gave her a look that said, “Over my dead body. No, really.” Then we drove around East Walnut Hills to look at ridiculous mansion-like houses and take pictures, much like we used to do in Houston.

Highlight of the day: Flailing limbs in the back row of dance class despite Kristan’s dance lessons and Angie’s ballroom course.

Day 5 was very food-focused, with waffles, bacon, and strawberries for breakfast at home, and then grocery shopping at Jungle Jim’s — an international market with singing Campbell’s Soup cans, bumper cars, and other strange novelties. We also did some clothes shopping, but after looking at our receipts, we don’t feel like talking about that…

Highlight of the day: Spending half an hour agonizing over which novelty candy bars to get. Lion Bars from Europe, Pocky from Japan, or Sky Bars from (1940s) America?

And finally on Day 6, Angie “got” to relax at home again, because Kristan had to work and forgot that the art museum is closed on Mondays. Luckily Angie didn’t mind, because she got to play with Riley again!

Highlight of the day: Singing off-key and talking about life while driving back to the airport in the PT “Party Time” Cruiser.

Maybe it wasn’t some wild and crazy, Hollywood-style, Thelma and Louise best friend weekend, but we had a good time even without Brad Pitt or getting chased by the police. Our friendship grew stronger, and we know it will continue to grow because of all the effort we put in. And the best part is, in a good friendship, effort doesn’t feel like effort at all. It’s just fun.

So whether by phone, World Wide Web, postal service, or in person, go keep in touch with a friend. It’s totally worth it.

Back to School Aug. 25th

Public Schools, Colleges prepared

The summer is over. You can tell by the preparations everywhere for students to start back to school on Monday, August 25 in most districts and colleges.

The Tax-Free weekend is over, with bargains and tax-free sales helping prepare families for the school year. Many stores added sales to the tax-free feature, and malls and parking lots were full last Friday through Sunday.

Other signs of school preparation include high school football teams starting their scrimmages prior to the first games on August 29th; teachers in the schools, preparing for the grand opening; and many Health Fairs and Back to School Fairs being held around the community. One of the largest of these was held at Aldine High School last July 26th, when over 8000 students and parents showed up for free school supplies, backpacks, and required immunizations. In addition, over 100 vendors were on hand for this fair, to acquaint parents with their capabilities.

The Aldine Fair was sponsored by the Aldine ISD, the YMCA, and the Texas Childrens Hospital, and is an annual event.

Aldine Teachers Welcome

Aldine ISD has scheduled their annual convocation for educators for Monday, August 18 at 10 a.m. This is a large, upbeat, welcome-back event, held at the Campbell Center on Aldine Bender. The community and AISD Business Partners participate in this welcome, which includes student performances, a welcome talk by Superintendent Wanda Bamberg, and an inspirational guest speaker.

YOUTH Back to School

Last weekend also saw the Y.O.U.T.H. hold a well attended Back-To-School Community Festival. This event included a free Calvin Murphy Basketball Clinic, refreshments, performances, BBQ by the Noon Aldine Optimist Club, free clothing, and a Raffle for a $100 gift certificate to Greenspoint Mall. Over 150 children and adults were present for this event.

It also included information booths for Lone Star College, lead-free housing information, and a voter registration stand.

The highlight of the event was a dedication ceremony for YOUTH’s new Soccer Field.

Physical Changes

Many districts and colleges will open in new facilities, or changed environments.

Aldine ISD is opening several new schools, with more under construction due to their bond issue.

Much the same is true at Lone Star College, although construction is just starting on most of their projects that will be built with the new bond money. North Harris College is using the bond money to build a new Student Services Center, renovate the academic building, add on to the Fine Arts building and the Applied Technology building, and build a new Health Professions Building on I-45 at a new location. In addition, the Greenspoint Center, formerly Parkway Center, will receive renovations during the year. Improvements are also due at Carver Center, and the new Aldine Center.

North Forest will not open any new buildings, but will consolidate its two high schools into the old Forest Brook building, and use the Smiley high school building as a 9th grade center.

Houston Community College to open new Northline Campus

Ribbon cutting, Open House August 26th

NORTH HOUSTON – Houston Community College Northeast is about to unveil their newest facility, as they hold a ribbon-cutting and open house next Tuesday, August 26. The ceremony is at 10 a.m. at the new building at 8001 Fulton Street.

The futuristic four story building replaces the old building that was part of Northline Mall, but expands the space and the class offerings as well.

According to HCC-NE president Margaret Ford Fisher, students will be able to sign up for classes in Academics for transfer, Dual Credit with high schools, Early College High School, Automotive Technology, Biotechnology, Business Administration, Chemical Engineering, Chemical Lab Technology, Commercial Truck Driving, Criminal Justice Law Enforcement, Drafting and Design Technolgy, Electronic Engineering Technology, Fire Technology, Fuel Cell Technology, International Business, Instrumentation and Controls Engineering Technology, Petroleum Engineering Technology, Polymer Technology, Process Technology, and Public Administration.

Many of these programs are taught with partners from industry, which lead to job opportunities in the future.

The new building will function in conjunction with the Northeast Campus at I-10 and the 610 East Loop.

In the tour after the ribbon cutting, visitors and prospective students will be able to view the following:

FIRST FLOOR: Welcome Center and Admissions Offices; Financial Aid; Counseling; Testing Center; Cashier; Student Life; Job Placement; Book Store; Art Gallery; Community Room; Security Office.

SECOND FLOOR: Classrooms; Student Terrace.

THIRD FLOOR: Biology Labs; Chemistry Labs; Drafting Lab; Cosmetology; Business Technology Lab; Faculty Workrooms.

FOURTH FLOOR: Library; Learning Resource Center; Computer Lab; Intensive English; GED Program; Adult High School; and Continuing Education.

Dr. Margaret Ford Fisher stated, “That since Northeast College’s inception in 1991, the Northline Campus has grown from 50 students to currently serving over 7,000 students per year. Thus, HCC Northeast is a leader in helping to transform our community. Sincere thanks to the Chancellor and Trustees for their vision and support.”

North Forest holds budget hearings, hires attorney to fight TEA, looks at tax increase

NORTH FOREST – Back to School is not quite the same in this District as most. As the first day of school nears, the Board of Trustees must deal with an order from the Texas Education Commissioner that plans to replace them, and the interim superintendent.

TEA took this unusual action at the end of July, due to three ongoing problems at North Forest, according to Commissioner Robert Scott: Low performing schools that do not meet state standards, financial problems that have not been resolved, and a lack of cooperativeness with the state’s inplace Conservators.

However, the Board must continue to conduct its business according to law, until the decision to replace them becomes final or is overturned, School Board president Tobie Ross, Jr. indicated.

There are three ways that the ruling could be overturned. Scott has been asked to reconsider, the U. S. Justice Department may decide the ruling does not meet the requirements of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, or the School District might prevail in a lawsuit against TEA.

To pursue the lawsuit, the Board voted last week to hire an attorney to advise them, that is experienced in Civil Rights cases. Anthony Griffin, an attorney from Galveston who has worked previously on a case involving Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who recently publicly sided with the North Forest board against TEA’s actions. Griffin was retained for $50,000 according to reports. He said he plans to file appeals with the TEA and the Justice Department.

In the meantime, the North Forest board is conducting budget hearings, with department heads and comments from the public. So far they have had 3 of these workshop type board meetings, and another one is planned for Monday night, August 18 at 7 p.m.

Information presented so far indicates that the budget is balanced, with reduced expenditures allowing the district to show a surplus of about $4 million, that would allow them to start to repay TEA the $11.8 million that they owe.

However, TEA has asked that the District consider a tax increase of 13 cents per $100 valuation. This would raise another $2 million per year, and allow the debt to be retired quickly. The board has until Aug. 25th to make the decision whether to put a tax increase on the November ballot. This increase would mean about $97.50 more taxes per year, per $75,000 house, and it would indicate whether taxpayers want to help.

Aldine ISD to focus on college readiness

It’s never too soon for students to start thinking about college.

With that in mind, Aldine ISD will make a concerted effort during the 2008-09 school year to assist students and their parents about the steps they need to take to enter college once they receive their high school diplomas.

Aldine ISD, along with Cy-Fair, Goose Creek, Houston and Spring Branch, are participating in the Preparing to Dream program, a three-year initiative sponsored by Houston A+ Challenge and the National College Access Network. This initiative is funded through a grant from Houston Endowment.

The goals of the initiative are:

•Increase the number of students pursuing a post-secondary education

•Increase the number of students successfully completing college preparatory or accelerated learning classes (honors, advanced placement and dual credit)

•Improve college entrance exam and placement scores

•Increase the number of students completing college admissions and financial aid forms in a timely manner.

AISD will have a districtwide focus on college readiness and will strive to create a culture among its students to encourage them to go to college. Additionally, the Preparing to Dream campaign will raise public awareness of the importance of a post-secondary education for all students. The district also wants to prompt students and parents to take action now to plan, prepare and pay for college.

The initiative will be led by Dr. Charlotte Davis, director of guidance and counseling, and Twiana Collier, coordinator of student financial aid. Counselors at all campuses will spend time counseling students regarding post-secondary options. Additionally, financial aid sessions will be made available to high school students in the fall and spring and for middle school students in May. Scholarship and financial aid information will also be placed on the district’s website (

“The Preparing to Dream initiative represents a great opportunity for Aldine students,” said Superintendent Wanda Bamberg, Ed.D. “We have always had a focus of trying to help our students and community identify opportunities and scholarships for college. This initiative will help us revise and focus our efforts to reach more students and make college a reality.”

For more information, contact Collier at (281) 985-6649.

Memories of summer…

Dog Days of summer ends this week but do not expect cool weather anytime soon.

Dog Days are when it is the muggiest and hottest time of the year or so says Webster; tis between July and September.

The grown ups talked of Dog Days as I recall, mostly while on the front porch rocking and waiting for a cool breeze. Spoke of tending to a cut or scratch during the period for wounds would not heal as well or quickly. Reckon with all the heat, and sweat, bacteria tend to fester like a risen.

An interesting topic of conversation would always come up. Out on the Liberty Hill Road, we would hear the car coming way before it got to us, then, it would go by with a big trail of red dust to cover the kudzu.

Out there in the evenings, we would have to sit around back due to the sun being in front of the house. Ate a lot of watermelon back there in those wooden Adirondack chairs.

Grandpa would roll a smoke with the OCB leaves and ‘bacca from the red Prince Albert can or from the marble sack. The stank from the tobacco was very strong. He mostly smoked the pipe, probably because it was not as messy.

Ma Pearl always wore an apron that proved useful in her many chores through out the day. Many a dozen eggs were gathered and taken to the house in that old apron.

Grandkids would sneak up and untie the apron and sometimes a wet dishrag would come flying by his/her face to stop the aggravation of untying the apron.

The apron too was used as a sweat rag while in the kitchen bending over the hot stove.

It too was useful for carrying fruits and vegetables from the garden to the house and basement.

Chickens would come up when she would go outside with an apron full of bean or pea hulls after the shelling has been completed.

The apron was used as a signal to wave at Grandpa when it was time to eat.

The apron served many purposes and fortunately I have several of those aprons but they have shrunk over the years.

You think an apron is full of germs? I think not, about all I got out of rubbing up in front of an apron was a nice hug.