Category Archives: Music

Volunteerism – It’s Not Just a Job; It’s a Job Without a Paycheck.

At about 3:45 pm on Tuesday, I dropped by the dubbing stage on the Disney lot, where Erik the recordist downloaded my conformed dialogue tracks. By 4:00 pm I was waving goodbye to my supervisor, my boss, the mixers and the producer of “Once Upon a Time.” I probably won’t see any of them again until season 2 begins next September.

I love my job as the dialogue editor on the show, but with only 22 episodes a year, it leaves a very long hiatus.

So on Wednesday morning I woke up and started my new job. I love this job too – probably even more than I love working on a hit show. And my new job pays nothing.

When I say “nothing,” I don’t mean that it’s something close to nothing like minimum wage at McDonald’s. My new job pays nothing because for the next month I’ll be working as a volunteer.

Since 2001 I have been a parent at Colfax Charter Elementary School in Valley Village. Back then, most families in the neighborhood sent their kids to private schools. They didn’t really know much about our little public school. So in 1998 when my daughter turned 2, I started volunteering at Colfax in an effort to infiltrate the school and see first hand what it was like.

They placed me in a 1st grade class with a teacher named Paige Gage, and I fell in love. Besides having a name that rhymed (something every 1st grade teacher should have) she was engaging, fun, and she genuinely seemed to enjoy being there everyday with the kids. It turns out she was a parent there years ago and became a teacher later. Her children are now grown and she’s still at Colfax and teaching 2nd grade now. And I’m still in love with her.

There are countless parents and members of the community who consistently devote a truckload of time to help this little gem of a school. Throughout the work season I participate in little ways as a room parent and in PTA, but when I’m on hiatus, I have the opportunity to really dive in. It is an incredibly rewarding experience to work with other volunteers to make our wonderful school even better and be able to interact with the kids. Here are some of the really fun things I can look forward to doing for the next 6 weeks of the school year:

Kindergarten violins

On Mondays and Wednesdays at 12:30 I get to help my son Jake and his classmates place their feet correctly on the Arthur Murray-like foot positions on the floor and keep the boys from having sword fights with the bows. The kindergarten recital is May 24. For that day I’ll probably work as a kid wrangler and try to keep them from messing up their white button-down shirts. Good thing the recital is first thing in the morning or after recess I’d be racing home and washing a large load of white button-down shirts.

Helping in the classroom

Today I helped the kids paint sunflowers. I let a girl named Emma make a second one after I totally screwed hers up by suggesting she fix a part of it. She was doing way better without my help.

Beautification

This Saturday, May 12th we’re all bringing our gardening gloves, rakes and creaking backs to the campus to sweep, clean and plant. It’s scheduled right between Jake’s baseball game and my niece’s baby shower in Yucaipa, so I can just spare an hour. That’s how long it should take to clean up 10 square yards of an area covered in juice box straw wrappers. Damn Juicy Juice.

PTA/PACE Elections

May 17th I get to see who’s going to be Co-VP of Communications with me. The term will be up for my current partner Joanne, which is really scary since she’s the one who takes the great photos and sends out the Constant Contact email messages to the whole school. I’m crossing my fingers that the new Co-VP is artistic and tech-savvy. Otherwise I’ll need to learn how to take photos where people actually have their eyes open.

Restaurant Fundraisers

Lisa and Abbe are a couple of energetic go-getters, and I work with them on Restaurant Fundraisers where Colfax gets 20% back. I have the task of counting out the exact number of flyers for each classroom and placing them in the teachers’ boxes so they’ll go home in the students’ backpacks. We have fundraisers at Menchie’s on May 18th and a combo Cold Stone Creamery / Green Apple China Bistro on June 5th. The teachers scoop the ice cream at Cold Stone, and there’s always a line out the door of students who ask, “Mrs. Tepper…  can I have another sample?”

Teacher Appreciation Lunch

I’ve signed up to bring lasagna. I used to make an amazing lasagna before I had kids.  Now every year I sign up to bring a lasagna to the Teacher Appreciation Lunch with the intention of making a homemade one, and every year I realize that an amazing lasagna takes about half a day to prepare. I’m thinking of just cooking a Stouffer’s in one of my Corningware trays so it looks like I actually spent more time on it than merely turning an oven dial.

Vaudeville

Every year, that same teacher I volunteered for back in 1998 puts on a Vaudeville Show. Starting in January, Paige Gage has rehearsals every Wednesday afternoon not only for her 2nd grade class, but she also offers it to every 2nd grader in the school and any older student who wants to help with the show. I’m the gal who gets to press “play” on the iPod. The kids sing songs like Jimmy Durante’s Inka Dinka Doo, perform magic tricks, and tell really corny jokes. I’ll hear the words “knock knock… who’s there?” more than any sane person should hear in a lifetime.

School Site Council

There’s a governance meeting once a month where we get to discuss the school charter, curriculum, budgets, and other topics that would make a kindergartner’s eyes glaze over. This is the time I get to act like a grownup and try to act like I really understand all that “I second it” and “I’d like to make a motion” stuff. Because it’s elementary school, I’d love to call it “Me too” and “Whatcha think if…?”

Career Day

I have the opportunity to make three 20-30 minute presentations on what a sound editor does for a living. After I explain that I work from home and wear headphones all day, the kids who will decide to pursue this career when they grow up will either be sound aficionados or anti-social shut-ins.

Tribute Songs

During the very last PTA/PACE meeting of the year we have a presentation to say goodbye to all the 5th grade parents who have gone above and beyond in volunteering for the school. I have the dream-of-a-lifetime job of writing a bunch of parodies and having some of the 5th graders perform it that night. My goal is to make the parents simultaneously roar with laughter and weep like babies. (Have some fun and check out last year’s karaoke version at Colfax 5th Grade Tribute 2011 on Youtube).

Colfax World Fair Marketing

This is the Big Kahuna of my volunteer activities, which is fitting since one of the things I get to hype is the Big Kahuna – a huge water slide at the Colfax World Fair on June 2nd. Last year about 7,000 guests attended this event which made $140,000 in a single day. My job is to get the news out about the fair by any means possible and to make enough money to keep all of Colfax’s extracurricular (and curricular) programs alive. I have a great team of volunteers working with me this year who will be spreading the word with Facebook, Twitter, Patch, emails, banners, posters, car magnets, flyers, postcards, lawn signs, newspapers, magazines, radio, online or just good old fashioned word of mouth. By June 2nd, if you haven’t heard of the Colfax World Fair, it means you’ve been in a coma under a rock on a desert island.

Finally…

Tuesday, June 19th is the last day of the 2011-2012 year for this little LAUSD school. So at 1:30 pm I’ll be clocking out.

By then I’ll need a nap.

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Filed under Family, Humor, Kids, Multitasking, Music, Parenting, Public Education, Public Schools, Volunteering

Why Do I Love The Home Depot? – It’s the Muzak

My son Jake helping me pick out paint colors

For the past two weeks, we’ve been trying to spruce up our house for a possible refi, which requires an appraisal. I’ve already cleared away a good amount of clutter, but I got a bug up my butt about painting the kitchen and bathroom, as if a new color will suddenly make our home worth another 50 grand.

I’m a fairly organized person and I have all the painting supplies stored in a bin in the garage, then subdivided by brushes, tape, plastic sheets, sandpaper, patching supplies, etc. It’s a Virgo thing. I figured that all I’d need to buy is paint, so it would be a cheap and easy fix.

Yet somehow every single day – sometimes as many as three times a day – I’ve made another trip to Home Depot to pick up something.

It’s kind of a pain in the bucket. The store is only about six miles away, but when I’m literally up to my elbows in wet paint and teetering on the upper ledge of a stepladder, the last thing I want to do is stop and buy another gallon of semigloss Breakwater White Behr paint. Like trying to get blood from a turnip, I will squeeze every last drop from a bone-dry paint can before I say uncle.

I pull off my latex gloves, make sure I don’t track wet paint across the floor, and hop in my minivan. I head for the big orange sign, make a right turn into the parking lot and give an apologetic wave to the dozen day laborers who are hoping for a cash transaction, steer my over-sized shopping cart into the warehouse, and suddenly I am at peace with the world.

Why?

The Home Depot Muzak.

Their satellite radio is tuned to a retro ‘70’s station – some disco, some Nixon and Carter-era rock – but it always blares a tune that urges me to sing along.

On Monday I needed more plastic covers and blue masking tape and was greeted by Stevie Wonder’s Superstition and Elton John’s Bennie and the Jets.

On Tuesday I bought some patching compound and heard REO Speedwagon’s Roll with the Changes and the Bee Gee’s Jive Talkin’.

On Wednesday my daughter Mary told me that the Hibiscus Petal I picked out as a bathroom accent color instead looked more like a wall of cotton candy, so I returned to Home Deport for a quart of Raspberry Lemonade (the color, not the drink). Home Depot’s radio played Kiss’s Rock & Roll All Nite, and 1973’s The Ballroom Blitz, which I haven’t heard in decades.

On Thursday I decided to buy a better straight edge and was treated to Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet and The Steve Miller Band’s Jet Airliner.

On Friday I needed more primer and heard Gloria Gaynor’s megahit I Will Survive and Chicago’s 25 or 6 to 4.

Some of you may be familiar with the children’s book The Very Hungry Caterpillar, in which the future butterfly eats something different every day:

On Monday he ate through one apple, but he was still hungry.

On Tuesday he ate through two pears, but he was still hungry.

On Wednesday he ate through three plums, but he was still hungry…

You get the picture. I felt like the Very Hungry Caterpillar eating up all that music. I dumped my satellite radio about a year ago and traded it for the free Pandora, but I would pay to get it back just to hear this great nostalgic music while I was working on the house. I never minded waiting in The Home Depot checkout line because I was happy killing time singing along with KC and the Sunshine Band or humming to The Hustle.

I asked the manager the name of the radio station, but he didn’t know. However he told me that the same station is not only played for callers who are put on hold, it is the same music that airs in every single Home Depot across the nation.

So whether you’re buying a faucet in Florida or lumber in Louisiana or a plant in Pennsylvania, everyone hears the music that I grew up listening to.

This made me wonder about Home Depot’s listening audience. I’ve noticed that there’s a huge demographic of contractors, home fixer-uppers or employees who like me who are around 50 years old. And if we have the chance to click our heels three times and say there’s no place like Home Depot, we can be instantly transported to a time and place where the songs were memorable and the gas was only 68 cents a gallon.

So I figured if my sound editing gig ever dried up, it wouldn’t be so bad to apply for a job at The Home Depot where I could direct customers to hinges, switch plates, and PVC pipe and spend all day listening to great bands like Foreigner, Queen, Boston, The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Doobie Brothers, Styx… the list is as long as those odd/even gas lines that appeared the day I got my driver’s license.

In the meantime, if I’m feeling nostalgic for Kung Fu Fighting or anything from Saturday Night Fever, I can always call The Home Depot and ask to be placed on hold.

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Filed under Debt, Humor, Music, Parenting