28 May 2010

Away we go!

Attend Liam's final show of the year on Wednesday, check
Take my leave from FIU, check
Attend Livya's final show of the year today, check
Signed the lease for Atala, check
Put down our deposit for Atala, check
Paid the architect for Atala, check

To do list:
Send out registration forms tonight!

I feel like I just won the lottery. So we're going to Disney this weekend to hang out with all the Star Wars geeks at Disney Studios and the Princesses at the Magic Kingdom!

Spread your wings!

26 May 2010

Enough about you, now let's talk about me

So those of you who know me know I'm just being funny with the title of today's entry. But since today is my last full day of work at FIU, I thought I'd take this minute to write a little bit about where I'm coming from in my decision to leave the well-protected nest of academia and take the long leap off the cliff into the vast unknown.

Over the next few days there will be a lot of closure in my life. Skip ahead if you get bored--I won't be offended (nor will I even know  :)  ).

I was born in Kentucky, raised in Indiana, and lived in Illinois...oh wait, that was Lincoln, not me... Seriously, I was born in NJ, but lived in Southwestern Ohio (West Chester specifically) my whole childhood. I started on piano in second grade, and was a band geek (flute) by 5th grade. All things musical were of interest--marching band, the pit orchestra of the spring musical, band, choir (although I'm a terrible singer), etc. Graduated from high school and went to Miami University (that's not the U for those of you in South Florida), which was only an hour away from my parents' house. 

At that point in time I really wanted to be a high school marching band director, but the trouble was, there weren't any female marching band directors in the area at that time. So I figured I'd go to graduate school to make myself my marketable. I was offered a full ride to the University of Denver to study music theory (my favorite subject as an undergrad) and composition (which was frankly a little scary for me at that time). One day into graduate school and I decided to never look back. It was awesome--I experimenting with creating music, getting to teach undergrad students, and having a ball. After the master's degree, I headed to FSU for one year. It was a diseaster--I couldn't stand the city. I looked for a school where I could learn about computers and music, still a relatively unknown course of study in 1990. I wound up on full scholarship at Ball State University (IN). Had a great time there, learned a lot, and graduated in 1994.

Before graduating, I was hired at my first full-time professor gig at the Oberlin Conservatory (OH). Stayed there three years before I left to go teach at Dartmouth College (NH) for a one-year visiting line. That's where I met Colby, who was a graduate student in the computer music program at the time. No, he wasn't a student! That's always the first question everyone asks. Rather, he was a graduate student who had forgotten to eat for three days (and yes, I also cannot believe that anyone in their right mind could actually forget to eat for three days, but that's his story...). He was one of three pathetic graduate students who didn't really know how to cook. So every Sunday night I would send them a grocery list, they would buy everything, bring it to my house, I'd cook for them, and we'd all watch X-Files and the Simpsons. It was a great time! And over the course of a few months we all got to be very good friends. 

I was then offered a visiting position at FIU to teach computer music and composition. 

My son Liam was born in 2001, and we were extremely fortunate that the University of Miami happened to have a position open in Music Engineering that spring. my husband applied, happened to land an interview, and was then offered the job. It's seriously crazy to think that we were able to both have full-time professorships in the same city. Many of our friends in similar areas either work in different states, 1 works while the spouse doesn't, 1 works while the spouse has a part-time gig, etc. So we know how incredibly blessed we are to have both found positions within a short commute.

In 2002 we moved to Homestead. As you can probably guess, I have moved around a lot--8 moves in 13 years. So now that we've been in Homestead for the past 8 years, we have really put down roots. Our daughter Livya was born in 2005. Our current house is the only one she's known, and I hope it's the only one she ever knows for a very long time. Liam also was so young, that this is really the only home he remembers. 

There are obviously a lot of details I've left out, and sometime over a glass of wine, I'll be happy to tell you about things like why we own so many crazy animals, my bio dad, my parents and brother, my wicked cool MG that Colby promises me I can drive to work everyday in my new job, etc. But for now, I'll leave my story at this.

My family, friends, home, and community mean everything to me. So when I started to see the strife and stress going on in our lives, I felt I need to do something to help. I tried running to a new position at some other college in some other state. But the more Colby and I tried to convince ourselves that a move like that would be positive, the more we realized that we really do love our lives. So why not stay and make things better? It doesn't take any thought to run to another place, but I believe strongly in taking a stand and fixing what is perceived as being broken. And that's what I am doing.

This is not the end, but rather a beautiful beginning to what I hope is a very long story.

Spread your wings!

24 May 2010

Moving Day!

I moved out all my boxes at FIU. We've got them temporarily stored in the garage until I figure out what's staying in my home office, what's moving to Atala, and what's possibly going to UM. Everything fit nice and neatly into our awesomely-wicked-cool minivan, and I use those terms in gest--as you get to know me, you'll find out how much I hate that vehicle. So my office is looking pretty antiseptic these days. Just the things that belong to FIU remain. I'm sure those will be divided up among the survivors after I leave.  :)

Tomorrow we sign the lease and write the check for the down payment! It's a lot of money between the space and the architect who has to renovate it. I think I'm going to need a tall glass of Mad Housewife wine tomorrow night!

Great things coming on the horizon, so stay tuned. And all you lurkers out there should stop snooping in on me and sign up as followers.

Spread your wings!

22 May 2010

Lights, camera, action!

We're shooting a couple of quick, homemade movies tomorrow in an attempt to win $175 that we can apply to our library purchases. As soon as they're done, I'll post them on Vimeo or Youtube so you can all see them. 

Also working on a proposal for $2500 for a "green" project for Atala. Once that's submitted, I'll post here and on Facebook. This one involves the "audience" choosing the winner. So we'll need everyone we know to go vote for our proposal. It's due June 7. I'll keep you all posted!

Had a great day yesterday at the first of two going away parties. This one was with all my friends. The next one is general and open to the whole college. We had about 10 people gather at Bahama Breeze for drinks and food. It was awesome! There are some really special people with whom I'm going to have to make sure I stay in contact. There's a certain amount of emotion surrounding leaving FIU. But I guess I've been thinking about it for long enough that I'm super excited to move forward. Fortunately I've got a fabulous future planned in Homestead with a great group of women all working for a single purpose: to make a difference in the lives of children in our community.

Spread your wings! 

20 May 2010

Hold your breath!

Signing the lease today! Need to order t-shirts, professional cards, registration forms, flyers, in addition to getting the spaces as quickly as possible. 

We just had all our desks and a group of drawer systems that can be used to store lessons for the elementary classrooms donated by the University of Miami Music Engineering. We have another donation coming next week--office furniture, book cases, storage units, etc.--from Homestead Transfer and Storage in Homestead (plus they're storing our stuff for free!). Once we hit the flooring and landscaping, we have offers to help with the labor and installation, as well as donations of coontie plants! 

We are so very grateful to everyone associated with Atala Montessori for their help and *trust* these past few months. 

Spread your wings!

19 May 2010

Atala in Action

Keep your eyes pealed for news about "Atala in Action." You'll love, guaranteed. Coming June 1st on a website near you.

Spread your wings!

18 May 2010

Lots of ideas

Finalized the lease requests and the lawyer will submit them tomorrow. Yeah! Big relief.

Cool news of the day: I attended Boldly Go! at the Arsht Center in downtown Miami today. It was a workshop on fundraising in the arts. So many great ideas! I'm going to put them to use immediately. First project will be a very special contest over the summer for all students (and their parents) enrolling in Atala. I'll post the rules on the Atala website as soon as we have signed the lease agreement. Trust me, you're going to love this one! More soon, I promise.

Spread your wings!

17 May 2010

Final lease, finally

The final lease draft came. It's a bit more than we had hoped, but I think we can swing it. We'll meet tomorrow to finalize the signing and negotiations.

Spoke or emailed three more families with a total of four more kids. So we're definitely on our way.

Not much new to say. We need wrap this up and start to work. There's a lot to do before mid-August.

Spread your wings!

16 May 2010

Shout out to Jannah!

OK, so I have a lot of "lurkers" that I didn't know about. One is my friend Jannah, who will be parent at Atala. According to her Facebook post, she was just dying to hear what happened today, so I thought I'd send you all a note updating you all simultaneously.

Had a great parent-kid meeting today. We had three families and a total of three little girls all five and under. Needless to say it was lively, princess-filled, and very high pitched. :)  We had a great time with all kinds of fabulous food that was prepared with loving hands.

So we're up to about 25 families with roughly 40 kids who are ready to register with us. I've got a whole other group of maybes, and then a group I haven't made contact with, but I'm guessing they'll be interested. We're already at our original guesstimate of enrollment, and headed on our way to next year's goal. We'll have 1 preschool, 2 toddler, and it looks like separate lower and upper elementary classes. Next year we can expand to 2 preschools, 3 toddlers, and hopefully 7th grade in addition to upper elementary.

I'm working on establishing the Homestead Children's Choir and the Homestead Family Theater as part of the Atala Foundation. Got some great ideas and great people with whom to collaborate.

Did I tell you I complete our first grant as Atala? It's called Music and Montessori: A Women's History Month Celebration. It partners us with the Deering Estate Chamber Players. Could be a really cool March 2011.

Spread your wings!

15 May 2010


All is well! I can breathe a big sigh of relief today. We had a meeting with the owner of the building we're trying to rent from, as well as the president of their board of directors. Everything went extremely well, and we will receive a final copy of the lease on Monday.

The architect can get back to work on the codes and designs. And we can finally start advertising the school and receiving registrations.

Big, big, big group of parents heading to my house tomorrow to learn more about the school. Everything is moving along as it should.

9 more days of FIU, but there are two parties, a root canal follow up, and a workshop for fundraisers at the Arsht Center. So it winds up being more like 4-5 more days. Woo hoo! I know I'll have a bit of a transition. I'm not used to sitting still for longer than the Thursday night NBC line up. But it will be fabulous to get back to composing again this summer! I'm going to start working on a new piece for pianist and Disklavier.

Spread your wings!

14 May 2010

Grant time!

Spent the day filling out grants for Atala. I'm working on a partnership with the Deering Estate Chamber Ensemble and FIU to take our preschool and elementary kids to learn about women composers next March for Women's History Month. The idea is that the students would get to learn about historical women composers and then actually meet a few in person. Then they would get to hear a free concert of music presented at FIU. After that, they'd go back to the classes and write, draw, compose, sing, whatever their impressions were of the visits. We'd put this together in a presentation for the parents and open it up to Homestead as an exhibition/concert with help from our friends at FIU. Let's hope we get a bit of seed money to start this. There are a lot of other larger grants that could tie into this later on.

Now I need to get back to writing. Keep your fingers crossed about tomorrow' meeting...and remember to Spread your wings!

13 May 2010


Have a meeting scheduled for Saturday noon to finalize all the lease agreements. Hopefully we'll be able to move forward ASAP next week. It's been frustrating.

Big news is that I think I scored us a free piano. Saw an ad on Craigslist that someone wanted to donate an upright piano to a non-profit. So I'm working on getting it for Atala. That would be very cool and very useful down the road.

Spoke to the rep from Smart Tuition. Looks like we can offer a variety of payment plans, which should make everyone happy. It's a very flexible set up, and we can create a unique plan for every family that enrolls. Yeah.

Things at FIU are rapidly winding down. I'm no longer on the "inside track" as far as any decision about anything. Fine by me, really. At this point I'm wrapping up the 7 websites I maintain and trying to get them to a level where no one will have to touch them until August. My office is filled with boxes, and I still need about 3 more to finish everything off. Colby will come by next week and pick everything up to take home. Woo hoo!

Spread your wings!

12 May 2010


Sorry I didn't post for a couple of days. A root canal kind of has me in a tizzy.

Just finalized the draft of our very first advertisement. We'll be featured in an ad with South Florida Parenting Magazine in the June issue! We have 1/3 of a page, and the ad includes both the visual images and a large text box side by side. We're also being featured on their website starting in June.

Hits are up on the http://atalamontessori.org website...strange, because I haven't really told anyone about it except you followers on my Diary.  ;)

And somehow I've also got 27 people who have pre-joined my soon-to-be-released Facebook page. Life is great!

Spread your wings!

10 May 2010

Trying times

OK so today was possibly a minor set back, but we're moving forward. Everything is on such a positive upswing right now I'm not letting little things upset me. We're running into snaffoos regarding the lease, but I think we'll have everything ironed out in the next 24 hours.

Had inquiries about 5 kids today. I'm seriously getting parents from all over the Homestead area call or email me to find out about Atala. That is absolutely amazing! We have a hard deadline of Friday to sign the lease, or we're finding a different space. We have a second space already lined up, and that ultimately may be the way to go. I know you're all out there lurking, so I'll keep you posted. I promise!

On another note, Jessica one of my FIU chicks who is being terminated. Geez, I sound like I'm in Logan's Run, and if you're too young or too cool to know about Logan's Run, then you need to check it out: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0074812/. It's nerdy-cool sci-fi. But I digress... Jessica got word that she's got two interviews this week. So I'm able to watch my staff move on into other jobs, as my academic career moves into the private sector. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that one of these gigs will work out for her.

This one's for Jessica: Spread your wings!

07 May 2010

A Break

Sorry to take a break, but we took the family to Disney's Animal Kingdom today, and I didn't check email until 8:29 pm! First time that's happened in probably four years. And it feels great! We're headed to Epcot tomorrow, so quite likely there won't be a post tomorrow until very, very late.

Had 3 fabulous phone calls about 5 different children for Atala next year. The phone calls and emails have been ramping up over the last few weeks.

I'm so happy I'm up to 10 followers, and I know I have a lot more lurkers out there, too!  :)

Facebook page will be unveiled very soon...

Spread your wings!

05 May 2010

There's always tomorrow...

OK, so now I'm quoting from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. But honestly compared to yesterday, today feels like Christmas!

We received the nicest email from an interested parent! She works for FPL and has a daughter going into kindergarten for next year. She's very excited about coming to Atala.

Worked on the website a bit more today, and finalized the draft for the registration materials. The other owners are giving it the once over, and hopefully I'll be able to pass it along to the lawyer for the final pass. Then I can post it on the website and start distributing to parents who have requested information.

Plus, I got a call from my super awesome friend in Canada! Hopefully she's moving down here in December. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

Spread your wings!

04 May 2010

Spin, Spin, Spin

Spread your wings!

03 May 2010

Big, big, big news!

Here's my fantastic laundry list of what happened today:

1. We've got our EIN (which means we can now employ people, including the five owners).
2. The Articles of Incorporation are complete. 
3. I'll meet with the bank tomorrow morning to finalize the bank account information and order checks.
4. I have the paperwork for us to become a member of the Homestead Main Street Committee. 5. Robert Barnes, our architect, is likely going to be the new President of the Main Street Committee. And he wants us all involved in a big way. He asked me what my vision was for the committee, and I said it was a symbiotic relationship. We know we are going to bring families to the downtown who can afford to spend money at bookstores, shops, etc. That's how we help Main Street. But at the same time, we are yet not tapped into the local businesses who can help us out by supporting our events and needs.
6. I told Robert and Yvonne about the Charles Dickens play (which I don't think I've mentioned here yet, but will soon), and she wants to incorporate that production into the lighting of the Christmas tree in downtown Homestead. People would go there first and then process down to the school for the play. So that will bring another couple hundred people who wouldn't think about going, just because it's tied to the lighting. Cool, huh?

And now for the really big, big, big news! I was able to get Paradise Way (the pedestrian walkway to the north of the school) to be renamed "Atala Interactive Children's Garden." 

Spread your wings!

01 May 2010


We have a lot of Montessori and non-Montessori materials. Today we made our big list of what we've got and started a list of what we need. Looks like we'll be opening with 1 toddler class, 2 preschool classes, and an upper and lower elementary class.

Had a super meeting with 7 more families interested in the school. Everyone is super supportive and ready to move forward quickly. I'm working on a Parent Handbook, registration materials, and finalizing the website before we officially launch next week. Yeah!

Spread your wings!