Tag Archives: parents

Remember where you came from

A Twitter friend asked the question: If you could live in any state in America, which one would you choose?

I’m assuming she figured that her audience all lived in the United States, or else she might have asked “where in the world would you choose to live?”

I was born in California and have lived my entire life here and would continue to do so, no matter where else I could choose. I would always choose California because that is what my family did almost 85 years ago.

My parents came with two small children, with all of their belongings packed into a Model A Ford, from Arkansas. They had buried a baby boy who died of diphtheria, before there was a vaccine. They left family, friends, and a job my dad had with Welch Grape Farm. Neither of my parents were well educated. My dad could not read or write. And yet, they packed up and drove across country to California to start over.

It amazes me to think of doing something like this. My sister, 17 years older than me, would tell me stories of how hard it was when they first arrived. They camped under trees. They worked wherever they could find a job. My dad, a trained vine pruner, sought work in the grape fields and was able make a living.

It was only during the Franklin Roosevelt presidency, when work programs were instigated, that he got a well-paying job breaking up old, and installing new sidewalks in Fresno. He not only made a living but also saved enough to buy his own vineyard, and from there, their life in California became successful.

By the time I was born, they had sold the vineyard and bought open land so as to farm other crops. My dad became a successful cotton farmer as well as built the house they lived in, and where I lived until I was 18. The man who couldn’t read or write, but who could do plumbing, electrical, construction, and grow crops.

California provided a free education for me from kindergarten to twelfth grade. I applied for and received a California State Scholarship which paid for my four years of college at Fresno State University. After working 13 years in industry, I went back to that college and got a teaching credential and worked in a state-funded high school for the next 22 years. I owe my success and prosperity to California, just as my parents before me did. Why would I ever leave.


Oh, what a Thursday!

Thursdays are the days I read to three second grade classrooms. Because of the timing, number of classes, and the willingness of the second grade teachers, I am able to do this even though my original, and main, responsibility is to first graders. The second graders are great because they know me from last year. The teachers also know me and how I work with the students and my expectations and that I will show up every week.

When I signed in at the main office today, the staff, as usual greeted me by name as did a little first grader waiting to see the nurse. A mother was standing behind me, waiting for her child to come to the office to go to a dentist appointment.

“You’re Mrs. Zody,” the parent asked, “the lady who reads books to the students?”

I turn around to see the woman, and answer, “yes, I am.”

“My son, Julian, talks about you all the time! He comes home and tells us the book you read and what you brought the class. He gets so excited on the days you come.”

I ask her whose class Julian is in and find out it’s the class I had to leave mid-story last week due to poor behavior. “I’m sorry I didn’t get to finish last week’s story.”

“He told me that the girls wouldn’t be quiet and you left. He was very disappointed.”

“Yeah, me too,” was my reply. Then I said I would say hi to him today, but she told me he was absent, at home not feeling too great.

“He says lots of kids in the class are getting sick.”

Yes, it’s that time of the year, and sure enough, each of the three classes had sick kids who were IN class. Coughing, sneezing, one boy fell asleep. Of course, they all want to hug me, get right in my face to tell me things, and just like it was when I was teaching, I get coughed and sneezed on. All the classes behaved well so they all heard every bit of today’s book, Evelyn del Rey is Moving Away.” I handed out butterfly stickers as that was a trademark of Evelyn del Rey. I left more for the students who were absent so I hope Julian will get one.

By the time I walked to my car, I didn’t feel well. A little dizzy, stomach hurt, tired. “I CANNOT GET SICK” my internal voice screamed. I drove home, and as is always the case when I’ve been out, put all my clothes in the clothes hamper, washed my glasses and hands, but went one step further–got in the shower, and washed my hair, too. Sent all the cooties down the drain.

Now, as I type this, I am drinking a cup of hot tea and eating 365 brand pumpkin cookies. It’s the start of my Thanksgiving holiday time. I already feel better, and have plans to be back in two weeks. I just hope all the students and their teachers are well.

Just passing through

My big accomplishment today–get the laundry done before 9 am so that we can take a trip into the foothills later this morning to visit the goat farm and buy more soap.

As I dashed through the house to pull the last load from the dryer, I encountered one of the cats dashing the other direction, down the hall. It frightened her.

“Just passing through,” I shouted to the cat in my mad dash to get that last load of laundry.

Terry, in the kitchen, cooking the last of the breakfast pancakes, shouted back, “that’s all any of us are doing.”

I chuckled. That was one of my mother’s favorite sayings, “we are all just passing through.” Seems even more appropriate today as Terry received a text this morning that his mother, age 97, had passed on, just one day before his 69th birthday.

As you pass through, please take time to brighten someone’s day, to make life a bit easier here in this hard place.

Summer time and the living is a reunion

Must be the season for reunions, family mostly. I’m hearing about them. Not from MY family, mind you. If they’re having one, they haven’t invited me. But that doesn’t surprise or disappoint me.

Long time ago, every few years, there would be a family reunion on my daddy’s side. Mama’s side never got together because they were pretty much all dead or all living on the other side of the country. Mama’s family who did come to California stayed in their own towns, not much into mingling. When Mama and Daddy were alive, we’d pile in the car and go to southern California because that’s where my mother’s brothers and a sister lived. They all had kids. Older than me. One of them had a husband who worked for Disney. We were there when Disneyland opened, courtesy of this cousin. Yes that was a long time ago. See, that’s why everyone is dead now. Well, not me. I was very young at the time.

Daddy’s brother and his kids, on the other hand, lived in the same town as us. Some still live there. Well, again, not me. But, it’s not too far from where I do live. The reunions were always planned by that side of the family. We, being the poor relations, would be invited, and we’d show up. Most of the time. Again, they were all older than me. Not a whole lot in common, if you get my drift.

So, now that I am old, most of the family is gone. Dead or scattered to other parts. The younger generations don’t know who any of the older ones are. Probably for the best. I have never been into genealogy because I figure what you don’t know can’t kill you. I figure there are horse thieves, bank robbers, and other miscreants in the bunch. Especially Mama’s side. Her family were Gypsies. Or, so I’ve been told. Having done no research of my own, who knows.

Daddy’s side, though, I recently learned, came over from Germany to help the English fight the revolutionaries. My ancestors weren’t too good at fighting, and so abandoned their posts and became part of the pioneers heading out west. You know, to places like Ohio. I always think it’s funny when I hear about the western expansion being to those states. Daddy’s dad left the midwest and went to Oklahoma and met up with an Indian divorcee, my grandma. We called them Indian back then, but it’s now Native American. Actually, it wasn’t Indian for my grandma. She always told people she wasn’t’ Indian because the Indians weren’t treated very well back in the late 1800s in the Oklahoma territory. But my grandpa liked what he saw in this very short, feisty woman. I take after her. They had seven kids. Okay, maybe I don’t take after her all that much.

So, that’s it for the family reunion around here. If you have a family that has one, hope you go, mingle, tell stories, and take pictures. And, if it’s anything like my daddy’s family, there is probably really good food to eat. My aunt and cousins were some of the best cooks around.

This week’s project

A few months ago, while attending the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce monthly networking breakfast, I met a woman from Ronald McDonald House who was looking for volunteers to work with siblings of the hospitalized children who have to stay long term at our regional children’s hospital. Although not a task I was interested in, I knew of just the right person who would be interested.

A friend of mine, Gladys, with whom I worked for 21 years at the large inner city high school, had a granddaughter born with a congenital problem and had to remain hospitalized, in San Francisco, for nearly a month after her birth. The parents, and their other two children, were able to stay at the Ronald McDonald House there. Gladys wanted very much to return the favor, and she would be perfect for helping the siblings.

After much delay due to appointments and trips, we finally arranged a meeting on Monday with the volunteer coordinator. I went along to make the introductions, and to see the house for myself and what they offered. Gladys’s daughter-in-law wanted to help, too.

Corinna & Gladys chat with Ronald.

I did not realize that all cleaning and food services must be donated to the Ronald McDonald Houses as there is only a small administrative staff on site at each house. Seeing the kitchens in which parents could fix meals between visits to the hospitals, I realized this WAS an area in which I could help. The volunteer coordinator, Janie, said that hand-held, easy to eat foods were good for the families so they could take the food with them to the hospital. My Zody Red Wagon Pies would fit the bill.

Gladys and Corinna were planning to return on Friday to help with the siblings so I spent the rest of the week buying ingredients and preparing five dozen pies for them to deliver on their return trip.

I made apple, blueberry, blackberry, and peach: Peach pies

Some of the blackberry pies fell apart when I took them out of the pans so I sent them along to Gladys for her to enjoy:

The rejects

Upon my retirement, the girls in the business department gifted me with a cart which I used a lot in San Francisco. Since returning to Fresno, it has resided in the hall closet. It came in handy to transport the pies:

Pie delivery

Next time the girls go out to Ronald McDonald House, I plan to send berrocks. I’m glad they go on Fridays so I’ll have a whole week to work on the project.

Remembering my father on a hot day in June

Although Sunday was Father’s Day, daddy has been gone for 43 years so I have no one to send a card to, or to say “thank you for all you did,” but I have been thinking a lot about his life. Terry and I have been had many an opportunity, driving across Hwy 152 towards the bay area, to talk about farming and how hard it can be. All those fields, all that work, all the memories I have of how hard Daddy toiled in his fields.

This year there are more cotton fields to check as we drive by, and I do that, consistently, just as my dad would do when he was out on one of his occasional drives. Daddy wanted to know how other farmers were doing, and he compared his cotton crop to everyone else’s, and his was usually better. I’ve always said that Daddy knew each cotton plant in his fields. He spent that much time out there: watering, weeding, fertilizing, checking, always checking. He could get nearly three bales to an acre from his hard work.

One year, not long before my father died, an aerial pilot took a photo of our farm and tried to get Daddy to buy a large, colored print. Although I have the small black and white version, Daddy refused to buy a larger one because there were “skips” in the rows, where the seed had not sprouted with a healthy cotton plant. My dad saw it as failure. I understand that now. For you see, I too have his controlling, perfectionist tendencies. When teaching, I wanted all my students to be successes, and if any didn’t make it, then it was my failure.

Today, the first day of summer, will be hot. My dad would be out, on his tractor, most likely, cultivating his beloved rows of cotton on a day such as this. Even when ill with leukemia, my dad never stopped, never complained, but just kept going. After working all day in the field, he would come in for supper and afterwards pick peaches from the trees he had planted out back. My mother would spend the next day canning those while I languished in the hot house until the jars had cooled and the swamp cooler could be turned on. I remember complaining, bitterly at the time, that it was not fair that I had to be so hot. Now, on this hot day, I think of my dad, on a tractor, in the sun, making his way up and down those furrows, as I sit in my air conditioned home. Although I have a strong work ethic, I have never worked as hard as my parents did.


Although we have had family come to visit us at the tiny apartment, today was the first time friends from Fresno came by while sightseeing in San Francisco.  I served them my Red Wagon Pies (blueberry) and coffee while they watched the world go by outside our window.

We have laughed about people coming to visit; they just can’t stay, because we don’t have much room.  But, there is always room to have a bite to eat.  Today’s visitors were a mother-daughter team.  Alyce is a former student whose mother, Delores, was just the best parent volunteer.  Delores took hundreds of yearbook photos for me.   She loved to attend the sporting events and get right down on the field, right in line of the players, to get good action photos. I couldn’t have done the job for 9 years without her because I didn’t like to go to sports events, and my students would never get close enough to the action.  They liked to take pictures in the stands. The students even knew that Delores photos would be the best, and they waited to get them before finishing their pages.

Later this week we will again be entertaining two of my former students.

Who is calling?

Our school district pays for a calling system that works very well.  A teacher can choose from a variety of messages about their students that will be delivered, by phone, to the parents each evening.  You can choose from attendance, grades, behavior, or homework messages.  There are so many choices that I sometimes get lost when trying to find something as easy as “forgot flashdrive.”  You must make the choices by 5 p.m. for the calls to go out that evening.  If I remember after that time then I am sunk until the next day.

The automatic dialer makes it easy to call a lot of parents at one time and since it will repeatedly call, it saves time and aggravation.  It also keeps a record of each call, whether it completes it or not.  A report is generated and sent to the principal who can show downtown administrators what his teachers are doing.

Although I use the automatic dialer, I like to make personal phone calls and I make a lot of them.  I usually call at least one parent a day.  One grandfather recognizes my voice and tells me I am the only teacher who ever calls.  A grandmother once told me that no other teacher ever calls when her granddaughter is out sick. (I call if a student is out 3 days.)  I log in every call on the student’s screen so that there is a record.  But, and this is the big problem, there is no automatic report sent to the principal that I made the calls.  The principal prefers the automatic dialer.

Maybe today I should have let the auto dialer do the job.  I finally reached a parent whose child not only does no work but is also rude and obnoxious in class.  I had previously left messages but never received a returned call.  I wanted the parent to know that I am having the student moved out of the class at the semester.  The parent just said “ok,” with no remorse for the student’s behavior.  I was aghast.  No apologies, no explanations, just a terse, “I’ll talk to him.”  Then she hung up on me. Made me very angry.  There is no record of that on the principal’s report.

Behaving badly

We are experiencing some HOT weather here in the San Joaquin Valley, but it’s not too hot for little boys to stay home, and stay out of trouble.  In a small town, out on the westside, in a school that has faced some tough financial times, a group of boys went in and did $250,000 in damage to school property, mainly damaging equipment.  The latest news article says that parents were involved in covering up for the boys.

In a New York Times article about boys misbehaving and parents’ reactions, the argument is made that discipline is a fine line and one must not overreact nor ignore.  An earlier news article about the local vandalism discussed the payment for the equipment replacement and school clean up, saying that the boys came from homes with little resources and they did not expect to collect damages.  Definitely not overreacting.

Be responsible for your child

I spoke with a parent today who was concerned that her daughter had missed her photo op for the yearbook. It seems that everyone thinks I can solve all yearbook problems because I am the adviser not realizing that the problems are actually caused by the person who is complaining.

Parents neglect to get their kid to the photographer during the summer for the ritual of senior portraits. Those pics are the first thing we put on the pages in the fall because they are color and should already be set to go in the book. That is, if people do what they are supposed to. Every year, I get a sorrowful call from a mother who wants her child, usually a son, in the yearbook, and it’s now March. The book is practically finished and I get the plea, “isn’t there anything you can do?”

Kids neglect to tell their parent they want to buy a yearbook during the time I sell the books. By January, the order has to be placed with the printer, and since we are very poor, I don’t have any leeway in ordering–I must order what I can pay for. “Can’t I buy a book now? My son was on the football team, in the school play, it’s his senior year, I have to have a yearbook for him.”

Today’s conversation was a bit different. Every time I think I’ve heard it all, something new pops up. Today’s mom wanted to know why her daughter couldn’t have a picture just of herself in the book. I started asking questions like, does she play a sport? NO; is she in the band? NO; drama? NO; any clubs? NO? “Can’t you just take a picture of her and put her in the book?” Well, mam, we’ve done a lot of group pages already like rallies, homecoming, games, siblings, first day of school, cars, as well as most of the clubs. I did have an idea because the daughter loves her fashion class…join the club sponsored by that teacher or join Future Homemakers of America and compete in the fashion area. We still have those pages to do. “NO, she doesn’t want to join a club.” Oh, I know, tomorrow night is the winter formal…if she goes we’ll make sure and get a photo of her because we still have that spread to do. “NO, she won’t want to go to the dance.” There isn’t much I can do for a girl who doesn’t want to be involved in school activities. Twenty minutes of my life, gone. Gone on a conversation that went no where, got nothing accomplished, and only left me wondering why parents don’t/can’t get their kids to do anything.

I decided it was a Friday night that deserved dinner and a drink. There in the restaurant was a small boy about the age of 8, who spoke loudly, overturned a chair, spilled the water, and his parents just sat there, doing nothing. Finally, when he hit his dad in the face, his father spoke sharply to the boy who immediately put his head down and pouted for awhile. After his pouting got him little attention, he got up from his chair, walked over to his mother and climbed into her lap and she petted him. Nothing was accomplished and before I knew it, the boy was talking loudly again. Some day that boy will be in a high school classroom and his teacher will wonder why he behaves the way he does. Someday I will get another phone call, and I will recall these events.