08 December 2011

Simply Amazing

I am continually amazed at the fact that people who we thought were out of lives, had moved on with theirs, pop back up again. But really, we are doing what we need to do, keeping our noses clean, and completely above board. We have the City of Homestead's support and blessings, yet some very petty people find the need to try to derail our beautiful school at every turn. Fortunately none of these lame attempts have work. We have a clean operation and that's that. Bad business practices will never win over good. Always take the high road and stay positive.

Spread Your Wings!

06 December 2011

Crazy times...

We are having a terrific winter so far. Only 8 more school days until our Winter break. The kids were invited to sing at the Historic Downtown Homestead Christmas Tree Lighting again this year. So much fun!

Five new children started this week and the phone has literally been ringing off the hook the last few days. Tours are being given 2-3 times each day, every day. Crazy times, but awesome.

Got some news that may be good, but we haven't figured out how and when to move forward. More on that when I have a bit more information.

I love my family, my job, my colleagues, the Atala kids, and my life. Couldn't ask for anything more. Just needing a little guidance on the future. But that will come.

Spread Your Wings!

17 November 2011

Happy days

Just getting over a terrible case of bronchitis, feeling down because of being sick, and suddenly we have the phone ringing off the hook with new students! We have three new kids starting on the Monday after Thanksgiving, 1 starting the first of January, and three more starting as soon as they can possibly transfer to Atala. What a fabulously great week this has turned out to be! We can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel on this miserable economy. Our parents are happy, the kids are happy, and we have new families calling and emailing every week. Definitely a good feeling!

We're working on our Winter Production, a fabulous show based on the theme of "Peace." All the kids are starting to learn songs for the Christmas Tree Lighting. And we're buzzing along with Thanksgiving preparations for next week.

Not much else to say. Life is good.

Spread Your Wings!

23 October 2011

Mid-October Thoughts

It's been a month of ups and downs, but that's to be expected. One of the best things that happened to me was that I received a couple of "fan" letters! There are people who are reading my blog, responding, and even beginning to recognize how crazy academic life can be (especially in a state university) if you really want change.

A non-Atala note. One of our family's close friends was just fired. When you care only about yourself and do not realize you're a part of something bigger, when you act out because you do not have the place of honor you think you deserve, or when you don't remember that it's not about you, there are consequences. I was very sad this week to find out a family friend caused so much heartache and strife because he was so very self-centered and uncaring of others. Nothing can be done now since he refuses to take responsibility for how he acted.

Atala-related things: one of the other Atala owners was just honored for over 30 years of service to Montessori education. She was one of 48 women and men in South Florida--and the only one from Homestead!--to receive this honor. The whole staff attended the conference where the award was given, and believe me, we all stood up and cheered loudly as she was called forward to receive her plaque.

Times are tough. The economy stinks. There's no denying that. Things are definitely effecting the lower and middle classes a lot more than those with a lot money. Our school numbers are ahead of where we were last year, but we still would like to fill our rooms. Been spending a lot of time mulling over numbers, creating projections (budget and enrollment) and trying to figure out best to serve the children and parents of Homestead. Sometimes it seems impossible, but there's always a path. We just need to pick the best one.

Finally, Livya had an awesome costume party complete with bobbing for apples! My little girl is 6 and my big guy Liam is 10. Both are great kids and I am so proud to be their mom.

Spread Your Wings!

13 September 2011

What an awesome week! We are well underway in our second year. Classrooms are fuller than they were last year. We have a great staff who all genuinely like each other and are working for the better of our great Atala kids. Enough said on that. Can't ask for anything more.

Starting to think about fundraising. Working on the 2nd Annual Atala Chili Cook-Off already. Promises to be bigger and more exciting (and hopefully drier!) than last year's.

Just found out I was commissioned to write a new composition for the Greater Miami Youth Symphony. The piece will be based on Marjory Stoneman Douglas' "River of Grass" and will have the GMYS orchestra wearing equalizer t-shirts. Should be very cool for a beach performance. Later in the year, they'll perform it down here in Homestead.

Also just found another calling--Media Consultant. Working on a great project with new friends. Lots to think about but can't say much at the moment. Will involve editing a book as the primary duties to start. Glad to be back in editing/publishing. I miss working on the journal and the encyclopedia project. Sounds like a great project to jump back in.

Liam's 10th birthday is this weekend. We're doing a video game (Atari) party. Hope he lets me play, too...  ;)

Spread your wings and fly people!

06 August 2011

Another year

Having an awesome summer with family and friends. While it hasn't been entirely relaxing, it's been a great time to rejuvenate.

We are getting ready to start another year at Atala. We are starting the year with more children than we started last year, and we're expanding up to 7th grade. The toddler room only has one space left! I've met some wonderful parents and gotten to see our first class of Atala kindergarten students graduate into elementary school. Livya was among those children--I am so proud of her!

It was a year of firsts, which was awesome and tiring all rolled into one. This year we can work towards perfecting some events, and adding new ones. We are going to do the Chili Cook Off again in the fall. And in the spring we're adding a Renaissance Faire. I've spent the latter part of the summer honing my recorder skills and will play in a Renaissance consort as part of the entertainment. Can't wait!

In the meanwhile, I enjoy scanning articles in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Universities and colleges live in a bubble and it seems to be catching up a bit, at least with a few. So much corruption--padding enrollment to receive additional funding from the state, charging students for services they never received, plummeting admission standards to try to fill seats. Tenure is fast becoming a thing of the past, which is a good thing in my opinion. Why guarantee someone a job for life? Shouldn't you have to earn your job and work to keep it?

Spread your wings!

29 May 2011

Year One

One year ago yesterday I left FIU. No more bologna, no more blatant sexism, no more "Peter" principle, and no more stress. Well...that last one probably doesn't really hold true, but this is a totally different kind of stress. That was then and this is now.

Living and breathing all things Atala has been fabulous. Kind of makes me want to get up in the morning and figure out how we can X, Y, or Z better. You name, we have tried it this year. And next year is going to be even better.

We ended our first year making our payroll every month, paying all our bills every month, and with a track record that includes a gubernatorial proclamation, a mayoral proclamation, a lot of happy families, new friends, and a feeling that this is going to be a lot bigger than all of us put together!

Thank you everyone who made this possible. Spread Your Wings!

23 April 2011

Strange, but true

So it's been nearly 2 months since I sent my letter of resignation to FIU.  I have not received official confirmation that they got the letter let alone got the letter. When I wrote her, my friend who works in the dean's office did email me back to let me know that "they" received my letter and were working on a response. Two months and still no response at all? I know it's too much to ask for someone to actually thank me for my 14 years of work, but a simple breakdown of the sick leave pay the owed me would have been the professional thing to do. I had a mysterious deposit from FIU in my bank account, but I have nothing to let me know how many sick-leave hours I had, how much tax was taken out, and what the rate of pay was for the sick leave. It's not at all surprising given the lack of professionalism in the College of Architecture + The Arts, but it is disappointing.

On a happier note, several of my former students got accepted into great graduate schools including University of Oregon and Brown.

And coolest of all, Colby and I had a terrific article written about us in the Miami Herald: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/04/02/2145726/the-sound-saver.html. Strange thing was I received a call from a former boss at FIU telling me that it's too bad the author didn't mention that I'm a composer and not giving me enough press. Apparently he didn't read the article and completely missed the point. We collaborate on things. It's not about who gets the top line of the article, it's about the difference you can make in your community.

Spread your wings!

01 April 2011

Science Fair and Art Show

This has been a year of firsts and tonight was no exception. The 1st annual Atala Science Fair and Art Show was awesome! The kids focused on recycled art, found art, reusing and repurposing materials, and everyone did a great job! I'll post pictures on our Facebook account.

Had two more registrations for next year just today and a lead on several properties for our permanent home.

So glad it's Friday! Spread Your Wings and breathe!

24 March 2011

Spring Cleaning

We had a fabulous Spring Break at Disney with my sister-in-law and her family. Great to just kick back and finally relax a bit.

Things are moving ahead at a wonderful pace for Atala next year. We have 85% of our students re-enolled already and have had several new families sign up for the toddler and preschool rooms for next year already. Plans for the new middle school are coming along nicely.

Big news is that we have been looking for a permanent property for the school. We've been all over Homestead and seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. We think we may have found the perfect place. I don't want to say too much until we've been through it again with the professionals and our bid has been accepted. The bank is coming today to talk about a mortgage loan and line of credit to fix up the place. We're meeting with the real estate attorney soon. So I should be able to report on more good news by the beginning of the summer.

Spread Your Wings!

04 March 2011


Enough said.

Spread Your Wings!

26 February 2011

DCF, revisited

Let me preface this whole entry with a fact: I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican. That being said, I do lean more to the radical side of things in general, but not always. Yesterday was a perfect display of when I lean the other way...

A friend and I were headed to the SOBE Wine and Food Fest for a quick break and a wine tasting. We were headed to Ocean Drive, got to 8th St (roughly halfway there) and then hit a traffic nightmare. So we both agreed to head home: there was no way we were going to make it to the event before it was over. Once we turned around, we realized it was divine intervention.

We got a call from the Atala office saying that DCF was there to survey. Anytime DCF shows up you get a knot of frustration in your stomach, but this didn't make sense since we had already had our licensing officer measure everything. We were glad that we had made the decision to turn around, as we would arrive back on campus in time to speak with the rep. Several nerve-wracking phone calls went back and forth, but we prepared when arrived home.

When we arrived back, Beatriz was in the office with our DCF visitor. This DCF guy was having her complete a survey (they were measuring, but not our playground!) about the health and nutrition of our children. There were three questions she had waited to complete: 1) are you interested in participating in the government program for health and nutrition, 2) are you interested in having technical advice on health and nutrition, and 3) are you interested in receiving information on health and nutrition. When I questioned our "guest" about whether these were free programs, he said yes. But when I questioned him about where did it say that these were free programs and if we were obligating ourselves to participating in the program, he said it was in the literature he was leaving. Then I pointed out that neither of us had read the literature, so we were both uncomfortable signing anything.

Then the real fun began. First the DCF officer tells us about a little 2-year-old girl who was 300 pounds because her mother didn't know what to feed her. Then he starts using the word "abuse" in the same sentence. So I put two and two together and asked, "Are you telling me that if a parent of one of our school children sends a peanut butter and jelly sandwich everyday of the year because that's what he child eats, we are going to have to call and report that as child abuse?!" He answered, "Yes, that's not healthy" and again recounts the 300 pound 2 year old story.

The DCF officer then goes on to say, "We license you (as he points to the license hanging on our wall), and we want to work with you to educate you about the issues that are important to Mrs. Michelle Obama, who is going to be at the University of Miami meeting with DCF next week." So this not-so veiled threat to pull our licensing is all in the name of Michelle Obama?! Just on the off chance that Big Brother is reading all the blogs out there, let me just say to Mrs. Obama that DCF in Florida is one of the most shabbily run, disorganized, and corrupt government agencies with which I have ever come in contact. And you are thinking of putting them in charge of our children's health?! I implore you to rethink this decision. While I have no doubt that the 2-year-old our DCF visitor spoke of really existed, this is an extreme case. Kids are kids. One of my kids went a whole year eating nothing but nuggets--as long as we said it was a nugget, it was eaten. So we had chicken nuggets, fish nuggets, hamburger nuggets, whatever it was we called it a "nugget."

Whatever ridiculous DCF officer is going to try to monitor (and I still don't know if this was going to be free, but I'm guessing the school was going to get socked with some extra fees to cover the costs of monitoring everyone's lunch boxes), I guarantee you he or she doesn't know squat about children. Let's look at all the recent and not-so-recent news coverage about DCF in Miami-Dade County alone. Kids are getting lost in the system, dying at the hands of adults that DCF deemed fit to watch over children. And now you're giving them more power to screw up.

Did you know that there are 6 counties in the State of Florida who refuse to abide by the rules of DCF? I'd like to mount a campaign to have Miami-Dade county added to that list! I do not believe big government can help this situation at all. Requiring us to monitor the lunch boxes of our families and then reporting back to a government agency is just bologna (and not fat free)!

14 February 2011



Ready for a long weekend. We're headed to Disney, which sounds like it would be exhausting, too, but sometimes you just need a change of pace.

Valentine's Day was awesome! The kids all had fun activities throughout the day. We had a chocolate fest in the office for all the staff.

Found out some interesting news today via the Homestead grapevine.

Bedtime is just around the corner. Sleep...and don't forget to Spread your wings!

11 February 2011


So tired...everyone's working long hours, but they are certainly paying off. We have enrolled 6 new students in five weeks and are well underway with our recruiting efforts for next year. We are at 80% of our target and will definitely exceed that by the end of the school year in May.

Other news, totally awesome that Value Place Lodging and Homestead Main Street are hosting an awareness event for us. Everything is covered--food, sound system, etc. They are even going to have the Golden Knights (akin to the Blue Angels, but for the Army) in full dress with parachutes. Should be beautiful!

Then we all get to march in a kazoo band down Krome Ave. on March 5 for a family-friendly Mardi Gras parade. Again, should be lots of fun for all of us!

Spread your wings!

31 January 2011


After over 6 months of bureaucracy, we opened the toddler room today. Every time we went back to the agency that oversees this particular room, they changed the rules, requested new information, or lost our paperwork. And every time we complied, provided, and resubmitted. Finally after months and months of driving back and forth to Miami and then to their new offices on Quail Roost, we were allowed to open the toddler room. There was nothing else they could do except let us open. With the help of some very wonderful advisors who shall remain nameless, we moved forward.

As of day 1, the toddler room is 50% full and we have the promise of parents to recruit to fill the other available slots. We are so very excited, especially Elizabeth as she has been working in the office to fill her time since August.

We are now working on plans for a middle school for next year. We have nearly everything in place. I'll post more about this when I can. In the meantime, it feels so good to be able to cross one more hurdle on our awesome trip.

Spread your wings!

22 January 2011

Laurie Anderson

OK, so one of my favorite all-time composers is Laurie Anderson. She writes music that people like, she has a fabulous sense of humor, and she has a wonderful sense of style (musical, hair, clothes, visual, you name it). She's just plain cool.

When I'm not working at Atala these days, I also serve as the President of the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States (SEAMUS). Each year this organization votes for one person who exemplifies what music technology means over the course of a lifetime. This year, I had the awesome fortune of Laurie Anderson winning that award. I had the even better fortune of her attending the conference, sitting at the head table, and shaking my hand. The cool factor was so high I can't begin to describe it. 250 nerds and geeks (and I count myself among them) attended this conference (that Colby and I hosted) who so admire this woman and what she's accomplished. What a fantastic, once-in-a-lifetime event.

Funny story #1: Laurie Anderson calls me on my cell (so now I have her personal cell number!) and tells me she was preparing for a short performance at the SEAMUS Conference banquet. In preparing for the performance, somehow she managed to glue her tongue to the top of her mouth. She calls me on my cell to tell me the bad news. But she's been to the pharmacy and is still coming to the banquet. Who glues their tongue to the roof to the roof of their mouth? Funny, in a painful way.

Funny story #2: My friend and (former FIU) colleague Paula is also a big Laurie Anderson fan. She was so very excited when I invited her to sit at the head table with Laurie. OK, so I'm taking Laurie to the women's restroom when she arrives because she has her tongue glued to the top of her mouth, and in walks Paula need to use the bathroom. Paula walks in, sees Laurie Anderson standing there, and turns right around and walks out. I had to go out to the hall and drag Paula back in assuring her that using the restroom would no way bother Laurie Anderson. Definitely my favorite happenstance of the conference.

Spread your wings!