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Donnabeth Leffler

Teaching Beyond the Classroom

This column will add to a main problem with what is frequently written online:  I’m about to write my opinion of something about which I have almost no firsthand knowledge.  Kind of makes you want to click something else, doesn’t it? I’m writing about the apparently pending transfer of Chapel Hill High School English teacher Anne Thompson.  I don’t know the teacher, I don’t have a child at the school, nor at her intended destination of Carrboro High.  I am not a member of any group that has fought the transfer nor have I been affiliated with the school board or administration in any way.   Now that we’re clear on the many reasons I have absolutely no standing to have an opinion, here’s why I do:  I have a heart and compassion.   From what I read on Chapelboro.com, this teacher is one year away from retirement and is still recovering from the death of her husband this past year.  Thompson has taught at CHHS for 26 years and to not be able to finish her career there seems as if it was decided by machines, not people.  If there were any reason to think we were talking about a teacher who was phoning it in, a lame duck, I certainly wouldn’t want any child at any school to receive less than the best but that doesn’t appear...

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Who Said Summer is Relaxing?

I’m hardly in that blush of youth (first or otherwise) but, up until this summer, I think I still had some sort of romanticized view of summer.  Even if I wasn’t partaking, I’d picture lemonade by a lake or sailboats at sunset.  I’d imagine less schedule pressure and fewer demands, but it seems as though those may be fantasies brought on by too much viewing of the Norman Rockwell exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Art a few years back.   I don’t know about you but it seems like I run twice as hard during the summer.  Part of the problem is that week to week, I don’t know where I’m supposed to be.  Not only where.   But when am I supposed to be where?  This would be problematic if only a bunch of adults were awaiting my arrival but generally I’m checking a spreadsheet to find out which summer program is hosting my son on any given week and its particular schedule. Each week also has different requirements for lunch and snacks.  Refrigerated or not.  Send money or not.  Plan to be at a culminating event or not.  Does it involve finding a sleeping bag?  What about goggles and a towel?  Sunscreen?  Bug spray?  Both?  Will he re-apply?   I know the tired joke that parents are glad to have kids return to school because...

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Hot Story Time

I suppose some of you clicked on the title hoping for a hot story?  Well, maybe you can find one where I’m about to send you: The Chapel Hill Public Library. While we swelter or cope with tropical and copious rain or smile at a surprisingly cool morning, reading stays hot at the library with a cool (sorry!) summer reading program for kids, teens, and adults.  Each group has it’s own set of rules and you read independently and keep track of your hours online (for kids and teens) or submit reviews (adults).   I believe a good book is its own reward but the library has sweetened the pot, coming up with the possibility of prizes along the way thanks to the Friends of the Chapel Hill Public Library and many local retailers.  And there’s a chance at one of three grand prizes:  The Chapel Hill Public Library Foundation (of which I am a member) has donated three Kindle Touch e-readers for one lucky participant from each age group.  The winner will be selected from a random drawing of readers who have reached his or her reading goals.   If you’re concerned too much of the summer calendar has turned, no worries!  You can join and be eligible.  Just stop in the library, still at its temporary location in University Mall, or click here for more information. Some...

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Re-Lighting the Night Sky

Almost exactly one year ago I wrote how I lauded the decision to cancel Chapel Hill’s annual fireworks display.  While the economy is only inching its way back and can not yet be called healthy and while town leaders are certainly still making tough choices, this year I write that it was wonderful to have fireworks burst again over Kenan Stadium. Why the change of heart?  Because this year, in an acknowledgement that we’re all in this life and this town and this country together, lots of different people found a way to share the burden.  Donations at the stadium contributed about $8,000 toward the approximate $42,000.  That 8-thousand came from suggested donations of $-$5 so that means an awful lot of people dug into their pocket. More help came from some local businesses at the prodding of a really wonderful guy (full disclosure: I married him!):  Barry Leffler, CEO of WCHL and Chapelboro.com worked with the town to raise money from the following businesses:  140 West Franklin The Cedars of Chapel Hill Chick-fil-A of University Mall Corporate Investors Mortgage Group Cruizers Convenience and Marketplace East 54 Harrington Bank The Peoples Channel Performance Subaru Top of the Hill Restaurant and Brewery UNC Health Care Money isn’t the only way people helped bring back a terrific celebration: Police and fire departments for both Chapel Hill and Carrboro report no incidents...

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Lessons from an Unknown Dentist, the Political Spectrum, & Rodney King

Recently I chatted with an acquaintance I knew had been suffering from a painful tooth.  She replied to my query with a rueful overview of her experience and mentioned her dissatisfaction with her dentist.  She wasn’t happy with her care and she certainly wasn’t happy with her bill but the one aspect of the experience that seemed to be bugging her the most?  The dentist never called to see how she was doing after the anesthetic wore off following the long procedure.  She wanted it never to have happened, of course, but what she seemed to want next is some kindness. In another recent chat with a different friendly acquaintance (yes, I talk a lot, ask anyone who knows me), she told of an off-putting exchange with someone on one end of the political spectrum.  The conversation wasn’t even about politics but somehow it went there and the description shared with me was of a cold gaze of disapproval- and in a social setting.   A few weeks ago I bemoaned the lack of courtesy (and safety) in the lax approach many drivers take to using their turn signals.  But these two stories have made me think it’s a bigger problem than courtesy.  Where has all the “nice” gone?   I can barely listen to anything political anymore because of the ever-present sneering mockery that each side seems to...

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Necessary Border Crossing

This column was always supposed to be about how and where we spend our money.  Many times I’ve expanded my definition to talk about how public money is spent and the choices made by people paid with public money.  This edition of $avvy $pender, though, is back to the more personal kind of spending, in this case, my own. This past weekend I was all set up to pack my son’s things to take to a summer program.  I had the staging area set complete with suitcase, the packing list, the permanent marker and clothes and sunscreen and towels strewn about. The Leffler Command Center was up and running!   Smoothly efficient, I was, and not a little smug with my planning.   That ended as I got to the bottom of the list where I had glossed over things like towels and sheets knowing we had some to send.  Glaring at me was the following: “a light blanket”.    I didn’t particularly want to take one from his bed to send, and anyway, those aren’t exactly light and thin for packing.  Okay, I thought, it’s Saturday afternoon, we can run out and get a light cotton blanket.   No problem, right?  Right, unless I want to shop in the town where I live.  No problem unless I want my sales tax to go to the coffers of the...

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Turning, Voting, & Smart Service

In the aftermath of the recent election, I found myself struggling to find a new topic.  I’d written in support of the defeat of Amendment One and in the aftermath of its passage, all topics I considered seemed overwhelmingly mundane.   I’d been noodling on one in particular and often dismissing it when I heard a segment of The Commentators on WCHL that brought up the exact topic:  turn signals.  Commentator Raleigh Mann suggests many cars today must be built without them since so many cars aren’t using them (to hear the original, click here and scroll down to Raleigh Mann’s May 29th presentation). My version of his lament is in parking lots.  While drivers may be operating at a slow enough speed to react in time to prevent a collision, there are few other places where drivers have choices as varied as in a parking lot.  Is the car nearby heading left, sort of left, straight, right into a nearby spot, right ahead at the next parking lane?  There’s a lot for the other guy to figure out.   There’s also a lot to watch out for with small children often hidden behind shopping carts (and bigger people!). There are very few saints behind the wheel and I’m not setting myself up as one so this message is a reminder for me as well.  Safely and politely signaling...

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Let's Save Marriage

Many proponents of Amendment One on Tuesday’s ballot see it as a way to support traditional marriage.  I’m wondering why all their efforts are focusing on how to prevent certain marriages (same sex, which are already against the law, btw), how to invalidate other stable, long-term relationships (non-married heterosexual couples), and how to undermine the structure and support of children of any of the couples listed above. Prevent, invalidate, undermine.  These are all words designed to exclude or weaken.  Why not find ways to support marriage in a positive way?  Why not make divorce illegal?  If that seems a bit extreme, how about the legislature using some of the money taken from schools this year (and that being used to pay to put this amendment on the ballot) to pay for marriage counseling sessions?  Or pay for more job counseling and transitional housing for domestic violence victims?   Let’s be a state that builds instead of destroys.  Let’s vote Tuesday to not write discrimination and narrow definitions into our constitution.  Let’s not concern ourselves with the private lives of our fellow citizens; instead let’s look to all North Carolinians to contribute to a healthy economy where children get a great education, where a history of discrimination is one we’ve learned from.  As Americans, we all know what it’s like to be hated by some for who we are.  Why...

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Opening Day Collection

By this time next year we’ll either already be enjoying our renovated, updated Chapel Hill Public Library or anxiously awaiting its imminent grand opening. The new version of our library will be 125% the size of the old and with a huge increase in WiFi space which will draw more users to the new areas for community meetings and public programs.  Our community will also find (click here for link, then click “images” to view floor plan) a classroom/lab for high-tech instruction; programs to advance children’s reading and writing and innovative initiatives for teens.   The Library is the busiest public library per capita in North Carolina serving approximately 375,000 people annually with an average of 1,085 visitors per day.  The library now checks out about 3,000 books and other items every day or over 1 MILLION each year.  With the increase in space, the library is also expecting an increase in borrowing- of approximately of 30–40%! So while construction crews are working on the building, the Chapel Hill Public Library Foundation is working to fill that extra space with an extraordinary number of new materials.  The Foundation is hoping to donate enough money to allow the library to purchase about 20,000 books and digital materials, arriving catalogued and shelf-ready for immediate use on opening day.  I can’t think of a more savvy bit of spending. The good news...

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Changes in Store

I’ve been known to do some seriously savvy spending in A Southern Season and until recently it’s been a bit of a treasure hunt.  A pleasant, well-rewarded treasure hunt surely, but the packed and looming racks demanded a rather intrepid shopper.  Well it’s a new day (and a clear one for you Broadway enthusiasts) because once inside A Southern Season you can now just about see forever.  The line of sight used to run down the center of the store and customers had to peer around barriers to merge into the well-trafficked lanes; now the retail space is open not just by shorter racks but also by the diagonal placement of them.  In other words, traffic flow is no longer only in a jammed straight line.   Many of the cookware products are arrayed now in an open display that shows them off to both you and to your wallet!  But some of the biggest changes are still to come and these will give us all even more reason to run in: A coffee bar will go up along the corner just before the baked goods across from the coffee/tea retail space.  If you want to grab and go, you don’t need to join the hordes at Weathervane.  This is tentatively scheduled for the end of the month. A soda fountain will offer cool treats sometime during the upcoming...

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