12/30/2010



In the town where I grew up there were two grocery stores, Shop'n Save and Lounsberry's. Shop'n Save was the bigger, traditional grocery store, on the outskirts of town. Lounsberry's was a smaller market, located more in the center of town. I remember shopping at both stores with my parents and visiting Lounsberry's when my sister worked there as a cashier. Lounsberry's had character... a small store, owned by a local businessman who was the father of one of my classmates. The store had the automatic doors that swung open when you stepped on the mat. The floor in the aisles were uneven, unlevel, and sometimes made noise when you walked on them. The shelves, if I remember correctly, were wooden... and I seem to recall a sense of familiarity there...I remember a lot about that store...It has been closed for years and one of those chain pharmacy stores is in its place... the other store, the bigger one in town, Shop'n Save, was pretty non descript. I think I remember orange and white tiles on the floor... this store was renovated a few times so I don't really have clear pictures of what it looked like. One memory I have about both places was the process of checking out. At Shop'n Save I remember my mother conversing with the cashier and with the grocery bagger. I remember the bagger asking my mother, or grandmother, whoever I was with.... if they needed or wanted help getting their groceries from the store to the car. At Lounsberry's it seems that I remember the bagger wouldn't ask that question, but instead would just put the groceries in the cart and start pushing it out the door toward the parking lot in anticipation of getting directions to the car in which the groceries would be loaded.

Another memory that stands out to me about Lounsberry's is that many older people in the community shopped there. It was smaller, easier to maneuver around in, and closer to town, which meant less driving or walking for some... As the Shop'n SAve got more popular in town, which probably caused Lounsberry's to go out of business, I remember `my grandmother preferring to shop at Lounsberry's because of it's personal approach.

The last couple of times I have been at the grocery store where I regularly shop, a big box chain grocery store... it seems that I have seen several elderly people there... shopping alone... looking fatigued... seeing them in the parking lot walking those extra steps from the handicapped parking spot their cars are parked in to return their carts to the place they belong... because they are of that generation that does what they should do... the right thing... even if it means more fatigue...The timing has yet to be such that I can offer help, by taking the cart to one of the cart storage thing...

We hear on the news, that there are more elderly people than ever... people are living longer. Yet, these big grocery stores, and even big hardware stores... are not accommodating people. Grocery stores should still at least offer to take someone's groceries to the car, especially for older people. I mean... look around, the next time you go shopping... notice the elderly people who are walking slowly, who are so tired from having to walk around such large stores...
at least there is a bench near the checkout of the store I go to, and often older people sit on the bench for a while to catch their breath to make the trek to their car.

What has happened to customer service? To looking out for each other? Especially our elders? Shame on you, grocery stores... for not helping people take their groceries to their vehicle and then taking the cart back.... I have made a mental note to try to time things when an older person is leaving a store and offer to help them. I can't wait to see how they react... maybe I will also start getting behind an older person and suggesting to the bagger that they escort the person to their car...

12/27/2010

Triggers

My Dad and I headed to NY to spend Christmas with my sister and her family. Our hotel room was on the third floor and when we got into the elevator the floor was carpeted... and it immediately reminded me of the elevator in the hotel that was attached to the hospital where my mom had her surgeries... where my dad, sister, and I spent much time.... The elevator had a carpeted floor and placed upon it each day was a smaller rug that had the day of the week written on it... which somehow helped us keep our sanity and helped us keep track of the days... people who have spent any amount of time in a hospital or staying close to someone who was in the hospital, know how crazy the time gets... hard to keep track of... So when I see carpeted elevators I think of the days of the week carpet...and of the hotel attached to the hospital... and how miserable we all were...

While in NY for Christmas...I mentioned it to my dad in one of our elevator rides and he had forgotten the day of the week rugs... and I regretted reminding him of it... it seemed to change his demeanor somehow... we try hard to be okay, to have moved on.. but there are triggers... things that jump out at us and remind us of all that was endured... After reminding Dad of the days of the week carpets we started using the stairs at the hotel instead of the elevator... just one of those things.

It was good to be together for Christmas, good to be with my sister and her family. The excitement that the kids had for Christmas eve and Christmas day was fun... they are good kids... all three of them are similar in many ways, yet have their distinct personalities... the oldest is very focused... loves to read and can spend hours making a project including an origami creation he spent hours working on, building, taking apart, and rebuilding... without frustration... I would have thrown it in the trash! The middle nephew is a free spirit, goes wherever the wind takes him and sometimes the wind blows pretty strongly, as he changes direction often and quickly. He is a very smart kid to whom m any things come easy...yet he struggles to keep himself in control at every turn... and the youngest... he's kind of been the one most difficult to describe... he's the youngest and plays that card at times, wants so badly to be like his older brothers yet loves to be coddled and cuddled... he is also smart, and has a sweetness and innocence underneath his pouty exterior... I adore them all.

My mom would have loved seeing the boys and how they have all changed. She would have been right in the mix with us all, making candy, decorating cookies, and playing games...

And we started a new tradition... or perhaps it will become a tradition... it was actually one of my favorite parts of the trip... apparently there is a tradition in certain parts of upstate NY and other places too... where a pink peppermint pig is passed around a table... each person at the table says something they are thankful for or something prosperous that has happened to them in the last year and then hits the pig with a hammer... this smashes the pig into pieces and the pieces are shared... with the hopes that the good fortune will continue... Dad's friend/girlfriend sent it with Dad for us all to share. It was a nice addition to our time together.

12/21/2010

Christmas...

I have not decorated for Christmas this year... I have one thing hanging on my wall, that has been there since last Christmas... a slate my mom painted that has a Santa on it, sitting in a wooden chair, examining his list... and I am sure, checking it twice. I hung it last year not because it was Christmas... but because my mom loved Christmas... The last few Christmases have been hard... Last year was the first Christmas without mom... the year before that was spent in the hospital following what was Mom's last surgery...and the one before that also involved the hospital in some way...

Last year Christmas came with dread and went with relief... Dad and I spent part of the day with his side of the family and it was lovely...but, to be brutally honest, I had forgotten about how the day was spent. One of my friends said something about if Dad and I were going to once again be with my Aunt and other relatives... it was kind of one of those, "oh, yeah..." moments... I am not sure I could have recalled that information without my friend prompting that memory...I mentioned it to Dad and he had not remembered the day either. I think last year we were both focused on 'being okay' about the holidays and worked hard to not be sad in front of each other... and I think the consequences of that, was that we went through the motions of the day without really experiencing any of it. I feel guilty about it because my Aunt, Donna, did a great job at welcoming us into her home and invited people to join us and people were kind enough to oblige. She is a wonderful host, presents food in delicate, elegant ways, and makes even a snack a dining occasion... I am grateful for her... for the kindness she extended to Dad and me last year... Thank you, Donna. In thinking about it... I remember that I had coaching obligations, a track meet the day after Christmas.... which gave me a much wanted reason to return to my apartment/life, and leave Christamas behind me. Of course there was guilt about abandoning Dad, but there was part of me, and I am sure part of him too, that was relieved to have my own space to just feel the numbness of it all without having to interact with anyone... sounds kind of selfish I suppose... but it's the truth...Two years ago, on Christmas, I remember resenting people... people who were able to celebrate the holiday season, when my family was reeling...

So as this year's holiday season approached I noticed I was not feeling resentful or numb... I was appreciative of the festivities, the lights, and the music... and gave myself permission to either decorate for xmas or not... Being candid... I do have to say that this year, when I have been writing things about this holiday, I have referenced December 25th as xmas... which in the past upset me...not because I am religious, but because I did think that people forget the reason for the celebrations...but... this year 'xmas' feels like a short cut... and it feels easier somehow... not sure I can articulate it well, but it feels like xmas makes it less complicated... gives me permission to 'x' out things I don't want to endure or think about... I kind of expected that I would decorate... but as the time passed and life got busy, I didn't. Yes, I can blame it on my schedule, my graduate work and responsibilities... but I could have found time, if that's what I truly wanted to do. But... I have really enjoyed seeing what other people have done to celebrate, the lights, the sentiments... and am okay with it being christmas... I am sad at times, still missing my mother.. still very intense at times, heartwrenching... and I do get sad... Mom loved the spirit of Christmas... and she would never leave Christ out of Christmas... but this holiday, I am not sad... I wouldn't say I am happy either... but I am... just am... not numb...and I like that.

My students are so exicted about Christmas... although they have all shared their high levels of stress about it... they are excited... they are 6th graders... and think they are too old to still believe in Santa..but desperately want to believe...I have enjoyed allowing myself to see it through their eyes... they are good kdis... really good kids. Some have warm supportive homes, some will have ample packages under their trees... some will fall asleep xmas eve to their parents, or a parent and their significant other, fighting... some will ask Santa for a shorter vacation so that they can go back to school where they feel the most safe and secure... but they all want to believe... not necessarily in Santa... but in the idea of him... a man who brings joy, happiness, and things one can only dream of...

The last couple of years, I have not believed... this year.. I want to believe... and maybe next year... maybe next year Christmas will bring with it joy, hope, and the ability to believe...

11/26/2010

Theory vs. Practice...


In theory...things often work better, seem ideal, and are often seemingly simple... However when put into practice, the theory often gets disproved... I was worried about that happening when I headed up to my dad's house for Thanksgiving knowing that I would be spending time with him and with a woman whose company he has been keeping for about 6 weeks now... the idea of my father spending time with someone has been something I have been happy about. His voice sounds happier and he is much less lonely. In my head, my theory was that it was wonderful, that seeing them together would not bother me, that I would be fine with all of it... but there was fear too... fear that seeing him interact with another woman would sadden me and perhaps even anger me. So what happened?

I got to my Dad's house on Wednesday around 12:30p.m. I had a lot of baking to do to make dessert for my family's Thanksgiving. I had assumed that my dad would have some of the baking basics, bringing the rest with me... but to my surprise, Dad did not have any baking powder. He offered to go to the store to get it and I began getting things ready to get started. Dad got home from the store with a big grin on his face and said he had run into his new companion at the store... his face was all bright! She had invited us to her house for "suppah" and was picking up some last minute things to add to our salad. I finished baking around 4:30 and we headed to her house, stopping to pick up a pizza to take with us. I was a little nervous... wanting to be supportive while at the same time worrying I would cry for some reason... not wanting to cry, but worrying that me being my sensitive self would lead me down that road... We arrived at "the lake" and it was very nice to see her. This woman happens to have been my 6th grade homeroom teacher!! And I have not seen her much since... in fact prior to this encounter I think the last time I saw her was when I was in Walmart buying Thank you cards for Dad and I to send to people a few days after Mom died... She was in the card aisle and had not heard yet that my mom had died, apparently having been out of town for a few days, and approached me. In a very calm and caring voice she asked me how Mom was doing, and I began crying. I remember feeling really bad for her in that moment... knowing that she would feel terrible and did not want her to feel bad that I was crying or that she had caused me to cry... we have exchanged a couple of emails since she and Dad began dating and that has been nice.

We arrived at her house and exchanged a great hug and we all sat down and chatted. I think she was more nervous than I was. She gave me a tour of her house and I learned that she makes stained glass, something, by the way, I have one day hoped to attempt. Then we all sat down for supper and I got to see my father interacting with a woman in a dating/romantic sense other than my mother... and theory and practice began to merge... and I was pleasantly surprised that the theory wasn't too far off from what the reality was... I enjoyed seeing my father interacting with my former teacher. They are cute together, sharing their newly written stories of their time together. It was nice. They held hands off and on and after a wonderful visit, they smooched when we left. (Ewwwww...!!!! ha ha ha!) By the way Rico... I relayed your comment to my dad and his 'girlfriend' and they thought it was hysterical, which made me plug my ears, rock back and forth, and told myself to go to my happy place! HA!) She is asweet lady, she has lots of energy and brings out my Dad's positive qualities. I like that. She had been invited to join us for Thanksgiving, but had already committed to other plans.

Thanksgiving Day was great, a topic for another post... then that night after Dad and I had returned to his house and I had changed into my pajamas, she texted, inviting Dad and I to her house for the evening. I told Dad he was welcome to head out there or she was welcome to come to visit us, but that I was comfy in my PJs and did not want to go out into the cold. She decided to come to the house to visit for a while. My Dad, who usually sits in his recliner not on the 2 seater couch also in his living room, accepted my offer for me to sit in the recliner so he could sit together with his guest... This made me chuckle. So she visited for a while and as we were all talking I noticed that my father had made a change... a subtle, but significant change... After my mom died, the night she died in fact, Dad began wearing her wedding band on his left pinky, next to his wedding band... and I noticed that my dad has taken both off. I admit that when I noticed that I was completely unaware of what was being said... and my heart had two emotions simultaneously, sadness and happiness... sadness because his wearing their rings together is something I found beautiful in spite of it also being a reminder of our loss .... and I was happy, because I know if Dad took off his ring and mom's ring... that he is ready to be open to someone else... and I really want him to be able to be open to someone.... and this someone is a nice choice...

So... sometimes theory and practice are not so disconnected... I can't say it feels natural to spend time with a woman who is romantically interested in my father... but I also can't say it was unnatural. It's nice to see Dad excited about someone, having things to look forward to... I like that...

11/21/2010

A Niece...

You all know that I have three amazing nephews, who I adore... I wish we were geographically closer to each other so I could spend more time with them. Last Friday, a new addition arrived into the world. My close friends, Sara and Phil, had a baby girl! She is healthy, as is Sara... and Phil could not be more proud. So I have a niece... granted, our family trees do not share the same roots, but we are family... This is a picture of her foot in her dad's hand. Sara and Phil are amongst the few people in the world who do not publish all details of their lives online... so the foot is all you get... but trust me, attached to that foot, is a beautiful baby girl !

11/12/2010

My inspirations...

Wow... my students are amazing.. truly. They are students who have been identified as "disabled" by state and federal laws. But... they are differently abled.. have so many gifts... and today I was the honored recipient of two really huge gifts. One of my students came to me today and said he was struggling with his parents... they didn't understand him, they have rules he disagrees with, and he wants them to change their minds. Their rule is that he cannot date until he is sixteen. I told him I disagree with their rule too... it should be 35. He told me that he had a crush on someone... I said, "oh? who's the lucky girl?" He asked me to repeat the question and I said, "Oh? A crush huh? Who's the lucky person?" and he grinned as his face reddened... and he told me it was someone two years older than he is. I told him I may know this person because I have been at my school for a while... he told me he couldn't tell me... but said he would tell me the person's first name started with a certain letter... I got him to give me the first two letters... and then he said I didn't get any more clues... but with my masterful skills, I got it out of him the number of letters in the name and the last letter of the name... and I quickly realized that the name that would fit into those parameters had to be that of a male student.
So I asked him if the person's name was "JOE" (not the real name) and his face got even redder and said I was right and asked how I knew. I told him that I just took what I know of names that have the letters he told me and figured it out. I think he wanted me to know. We had a good conversation and I told him how grateful I was that he was willing to share with me that he is bisexual... he said he has known for a long time that he liked boys. He has told his parents (what a brave kid!) and I was surprised, knowing the family dynamics, that they seem to be accepting him and his sexuality. I asked him if he knew of organizations that are available to kids his age who are gay, straight, and bisexual. He said he knew of one, but not about others. I have seen some links on various talk shows so I need to find those resources for him. I am honored that he trusted me with this. I feel badly that my first question was "Who's the lucky girl?"... kind of that knee jerk reaction... that I need to not do... I have wondered a time or two if perhaps he was questioning his sexuality, but the fact that he shared that with me today... trusts me enough to share that... Wow... amazing...

The second gift today... well actually there were several gifts today.. but these two are the ones that really stand out... the second gift happened after I had made the decision to show a movie to my students. Now, because I teach math, I often question whether or not I am justified in showing a movie to kids... but the movie I chose with specific purpose. The movie I showed is called "Temple Grandin." Apparently there are two movies, a Hollywood version and a documentary. The one I had, was the Hollywood one. The movie depicts the life of a woman named Temple Grandin. Temple Grandin is a person with autism. She thinks in pictures and often the way she thinks is mathematical, seeing the measurements of angles in her head even... and she is able to build/design things quite easily because she can picture how things are supposed to work. Her story depicts her life, how she sees things, how she dislikes being touched by people, how every noise in the room deeply effects her... So... I justified showing this movie to my students because I do teach math... and my students are students with disabilities... and in almost all of my classes one of my students has autism. I had watched this movie for the first time about two weeks ago. As I watched it I thought of how the kids I work with could relate to Temple Grandin... even the kids who do not have autism... so I decided I would watch the movie with them and discuss things as they came up. Each class today was thoroughly engaged by the beginning of the film. ( We only watched the first 35 minutes or so because we stopped the film to discuss things along the way... which would normally annoy adolescents, but the kids were so engaged... it was awesome!) At the beginning of each class I introduced the movie, sharing that the film was about Temple Grandin, a woman who has autism. In one class, one of my students literally jumped out of his chair and announced to the class that "Hey! I have autism! She's like me!" He was so excited. I was proud of him for sharing that with the class. He has shared that before, when after watching the movie I had told my students a little about it, but he had never shared it with such clarity and pride. So I explained to them that I wanted them to watch this movie to see how one person experiences autism. The boy with autism said that he had heard of the movie and that his parents had tried to force him to watch it but he didn't want to... (Which made me wonder how he would react, because, with his autism, there are times where his reaction to things is so intense and has been known to become physical with me and with items in classrooms.. but he embraced this experience of watching this movie with his peers.) So we watched the film and whenever the kids had something to say or ask we stopped the movie and discussed it. They had good questions, including whether or not Temple knew she was autistic. I told them that like their peer who knows he is autistic, that Temple knew too. They asked how she could possibly know how to build the things she build just by looking at them, how she could see a page for a second and remember all that was written on it... and why she pictured people sitting on a fence crowing like a rooster when her aunt said that she and her husband get up with the roosters in the morning... not necessarily understanding figurative language... It was such a cool experience to watch this movie, just the beginning of this movie, with my students. They are amazing kids... So when it came time for me to dismiss this particular group of kids to their next class. This boy lingered and I told him to have a good weekend. He awkwardly approached me and hugged me! (Not typical for kids with autism!) Taken aback, I asked him what that was for... and his answer, said with a shrug, "Just for being you..."

Wow... I was speechless and it brought a tear to my eye... One of my assistants happened to be coming in as that moment unfolded and she skillfully didn't react until the student had left the room, and then just looked at me... we were both in awe... Amazing.

Today, the teacher learned the lessons...

Here is a link to a blog by Dr. Temple Grandin. Yes DOCTOR Temple Grandin... I won't share more about the movie or her life story in case you choose to see it, which I strongly encourage.

http://www.templegrandin.com/

I am inspired by my students.... They amaze me!



P.S. Today... I heard about the lightbulbs... remember the lightbulbs... People are loving the lightbulbs! The comments I heard were at an after school gathering for teachers...and people asked if anyone knew where they started... and said it has been nice because it is not something that feels like 'token' recognition, that it is real and means something. Yay!
GREAT DAY!

11/02/2010

VOTE

I voted today. I admit that I have not been keeping up with every item that was on the ballot... and because of that, I did not vote on every item. I voted for the things with which I was familiar. It is our civic responsibility to vote... and perhaps I abused that right because I did not vote on every position... but, then again... perhaps that's part of my right, as an American... to vote... as I see fit. And I did.

I am glad that the campaigning ends today... the ads are ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous. Although, I do admit that the commercials did help me decide who was going to get my vote... I did NOT vote for the mudslingers.. I wish that the candidates who decided to frivolously throw money away by making those ads would have devoted those ads to why I should vote for them, not why I should not vote for their opponent... if candidates are willing to allocate that much money into ads... what will they do with our state dollars?

I was happy to see how many of my friends on facebook voted today. While I am certain that my vote and their votes were not supporting the same causes/people... I am glad to see people voting. That is what it's all about.

On another note... kind of random here... today I had a meeting at my school... with the principal, special education director and assistant director and all of the special education teachers in my building... meeting to tell us just how many things in which we are failing. In our state students are identified as proficient, partially proficient, or useless... oh wait, that's my interpretation, I think the official terminology is: not meeting the standards... but... unless their test scores are proficient they hurt us. Our overall school scores grade us as a 'passing' school. Yet, we have a population of students who are causing us to be a 'failing' school. That population: students who are receiving special education services. It breaks my heart. It really does. If those test developers only knew... the tests they have designed are easy for kids for whom school comes easily... the tests were designed for proficient students. The way the questions are phrased are ridiculous. A question on these tests may say, "What optical device may be used to reduce the effect of myopia?" Why can't they just say, "What do people use if they can't see well?" Really?!! Ok, that's a stretch.. but just think about that question for a second. What is the test assessing? Is it seeing if a student can decode each of those words? Understand those words? Know that myopia is a synonym for nearsightedness? Understanding what they read? And you take kids who have documented disabilities, reading disabilities, and you give them that question? It does not measure whether or not kids are learning. It accents the weaknesses that the kids already know exist. To watch kids take those tests and feel unintelligent.. it awful. I remember taking the Millers Analogies test.. and never felt more stupid in my life. Trying to answer those questions, guessing really... I felt so inept. Somehow I passed.. because out of say 100 questions on that test they pass you if you get 23 of them correct. (Not exact numbers, but that's the gist.) So that test is designed to confuse people, not to see if I can find relationships between vocabulary words. That's what these standardized tests are measuring, what kids don't know. It doesn't measure how teachers are teaching. Period.

I've been thinking about the press's coverage of schools... specifically public schools. There is a movie out, "Waiting for Superman." The heroine in this movie is charter schools... the villain... public schools.... It's all about how public schools are not servicing kids well... And then I look in my classroom... at my students... and know what I am doing with my kids and what my colleagues are doing... and it breaks my heart that someone out there says that teachers are not doing enough for kids... and then I think about the piece of the educational puzzle that is not discussed in most discussions about education and its sad state in America... Parents. Where are the parents in their children's education? I'll tell you where... on their blackberries checking their work email while the kids are at hockey practice, driving the minivan and talking on their cell phones, watching the shows they recorded on their dvrs, working hard to be cool in their child's eyes, being the friend instead of the parent... or... completely absent. Of course there are exceptions... but I find that today's exception, of parents being supportive and involved in their child's education, was yesterday's rule... My parents valued education. School came first... before friends, before sports... and if school called home with a concern, I knew I was in trouble... that just is not common anymore... So who helps students develop their moral compass? teach them to interact with each other? to introduce someone to another person? About health? about sex? about balancing a checkbook? Teachers do. And are criticized for not doing enough... go figure.


So after such an uplifting meeting, I returned to my classroom. And while voting was happening in our gymnasium, I was teaching. And my kids are doing GREAT! I have been able to teach my students how to follow the order of operations and they are doing it. This is exciting for me in many ways... but mainly because following the order of operations requires students to do many steps to solve a problem. AND... they are doing it. The students who I work with, most of them, have significant processing deficits and doing simple calculations are difficult... but they are doing this and are excited about doing it. They are jumping out of their seats to go to the board to do examples. I love it! I really do love teaching... I have so many students who are performing well... one particular student stands out in my mind... a boy... who I have known for three years now... and when he was in sixth grade, he had a hard time doing simple addition and subtraction problems... and while I have tried to beat it out of him, still uses his fingers to do addition and subtraction... but...with this order of operation stuff.. he is doing it.. and he comes in every day and asks in a very happy tone whether or not we are doing more order of operations... He gets very bogged down with each problem... and questions himself on every step... and what I have found.. is that once I give the kids time to work independently on some problems, this student needs moral support... so I have begun sitting next to him at an empty desk... and he has stopped asking if each step he does is correct... which he returns to doing if I move even 2 seats away from him...
So for him, this process is not yet fluent and automatic... but... he is doing it, step by step... and coming up with the correct answers. What do I love most? That the kids I work with... who process information so differently than most people, who absolutely require additional time to do the work... do it... with passion and excitement... and tell me that they feel good about math. I see them working, and talking to themselves, repeating little catch phrases that I use to try to remind them of things... and I smile... because I know that I am making a difference... If you could see this boy...whose stack of books and binders is bigger than he is... you would perhaps immediately notice his awkward ways... and would perhaps shy away from him for his oddities... he is a bit... quirky. His quirks are beyond behaviors like tapping a pencil or the facial ticks some of my other students exhibit... this guy... this little guy... has behaviors that are a result of his obsessive compulsive tendencies, that manifest by forcing him to plug hie ears, violently close his eyes, wrapping his arms around his head, contorting his body into a pretzel, unintentionally breaking pencils when his energy gets overpowers what the pencil can handle, loud inhalations that mimic the sound you may make it you burned your hand when taking something out of the oven... so while these behaviors take over, this kid is also managing a processing speed that is significantly below average, a mind that is anxious about the grade he may get on an assignment that has not yet even been assigned and trying to tell himself that his 'quirks' have been identified as undesirable behaviors and is working hard to control and extinguish them... And HE... gives me the gift EVERY day... of coming to my class, smiling, and excited about what math awaits him for the day... As hard as it is for him... he keeps showing up, ready for something new... EVERY DAY...

What I know is this... in my classroom... good work... no GREAT work is happening... kids are learning... and feeling pretty good about it in the process. And... if you are all waiting for superman... come to my classroom... he's that kid in the corner, avoiding his peers, turning himself into the human knot, plugging his ears.... and DOING his math... look closely... you can see his cape!



Image of the boy can be found here: http://media.photobucket.com/image/boy%20with%20glasses/pen_and_ink/for%2520website/portrait/boy.jpg

10/30/2010

Unsettled...

I finished up my parent teacher conferences yesterday. I have amazing kids in my homeroom. It is interesting to meet with parents and their children interact... after leaving school I had my blood drawn yesterday afternoon...as follow up to my blood clot...hopefully the last time I will need to do it. I have been on the blood thinners since early May and am ready to not be on them... ready to have a margarita... I then came home and debated about what I wanted to do on a Friday night.. I thought about a movie, looked to see what was going on locally... and thought about an event I had heard about through my drumming class... my instructor is part of a group called Inanna- Sisters in Rhythm. Her group was performing at a fundraiser, raising money to help fund a permaculture project in Sicily... I know nothing, well after last night I know a little, about permaculture. But... I wanted to do something last night and the fundraiser was going to end with a drumming circle, and invited any and all drummers to bring their drums. So I went, djembe and all...
I am not sure what I expected...and I have to say that for the first time in a long time I was acutely aware that I was there alone... which is ironic because the presentation included much about how we are all part of the earth and each other... which really was not what I was expecting... I was expecting a full on Inanna performance with a few snippets of information about this project... but there was a lot of talking about the permaculture stuff and not as much performing as I would have liked. The performance was held at a local church, a universalist Church. (Which to be honest intrigued me because I have, at times, thought of going to a service at a universalist church.) I had hoped that the performance would suck me in and make me forget the stresses of life and I found myself having to try to get sucked in... and as the music played, I enjoyed it. Many people around me were moved to get out of their seats (pews) and dance in the aisles. And I had such mixed feelings about them.. some people were really... moved by the music... I kept thinking that I bet the scene would be similar if I were at some crazy revival where people were speaking in tongues and flailing about... then I reprimanded myself for judgint those people who were able to let the music suck them in and to let go of any inhibitions they may have had...I was pretty determined to stay seated and just watch the band... and as the evening went on I relaxed. I did not get up and flail about, while the music was beautiful I found myself just wanting to watch the drumming, hear the sounds of the drums and just block out everything else.... and it worked... and then towards the end of the performance a woman, associated with the group of my instructor, got up and performed... not really singing, not really storytelling, but a combination of the two... her story was about mother earth and her children... kind of about people uniting, finding other people and bringing power to each other, together. She asked us all to get up and sing,chant, or echo what she was singing... and asked us all to hold hands forming a huge circle around the edge of the church... Not everyone got up to join, but I did... and held hands with two complete strangers... and it was good... thinking about how we don't connect with each other, especially strangers. And I relaxed a little. But admit that returning to my seat to watch the final song of the night was a relief. I don't know why I was unable to settle myself down enough to just breathe and take it all in, but I was very distracted. But then... the performance part of the night was over and it was time for the drum circle. I was excited to play my drum with probably 40 or so other drummers, all of whom I assumed had more experience than me... and it was COOL... so cool. We were given a starting beat to drum and then as we felt the beat, we all started doing out own rhythms on top of that central beat... and it was really awesome. I could hear my drum... hear the different intonations my instructor has been teaching me as I hit the drum in different ways... and I could hear my sound amongst the sounds of everyone else... and I liked it. There are drum circles, free, that happen around here a few times a month... and I am going to go when I can... THAT was my favorite part of the night.. banging on my drum... and feeling confident in my own rhythm... it's something I used to be really good at... being the single person in the room, comfortable with that... going out to eat solo, and being comfortable with that... Life has been busy and hectic and crazy for a while... and I think that things are settling in some ways, while still very hectic in others... and spending time with myself, without having so much on my mind hasn't happened in a while... I mean, I have things on my mind, but it's stuff for me, work, coursework, but it is different than being unsettled about my mom.... I am still grieving, don't foresee that ever stopping... but it is in a different phase or stage I suppose... and I think that for so long I have been worrying about things, being on edge all the time... that being on edge has become normal to me... and when given a chance to just breathe and take it all in... it's like I have forgotten how to do that... but I think last night... the drum circle... helped me take a step forward... in my own time... my own rhythm...

The picture is from Manas Roy (http://fineartamerica.com/featured/woman-with-african-drum-manas-roy-.html)

10/28/2010

My head is spinning...

What a crazy time... tonight I had parent teacher conferences... 9 conferences.. everyone on the schedule showed up, which does not always happen. Tomorrow I have the other 5 conferences... It's always such an interesting thing... to sit down with the parents of the students with whom I have daily contact. I don't like to think of myself as a judgmental person... but I am... I make assumptions about what kind of home lives my students have based on their actions and interactions as well as appearance. One of the kiddos... who has already carved a niche for himself in my heart... came to his conference tonight and was so excited and proud to share his work with his parents. His parents... were NOT what I had expected...had his parents not walked in with him, I would not have ever picked them out of a crowd as being his parents. I expected that he came from a family that struggles financially... and that seemed to be the only assumption about which I was accurate. I had envisioned two parents who were pretty typical blue collar folks.. who would offer praise to their son... who would ask how they could help him improve in the areas needed... and expected to have that warm fuzzy vibe... after all... just a few weeks ago this kid brought in home made doughnuts, made by his grandfather, to share with our homeroom... which only enhanced my assumed vision as a Norman Rockwell-ish type family.... The people who walked in were different from one another, very different... and throughout the conference I tried to figure out which of his parents shared his wonderful traits... where does he get his gentle nature? His kindness? His smile? I still don't know. The father acted oddly... squinting as he looked around my classroom and avoided eye contact... he sat silently as his son shared work he has done well with...but it was more than sitting silently.. it was completely disengaged... and then the student said that he does not like math, and the father suddenly tuned in and sternly lectured him about how math was the most important subject there is, that he will use math in his every day life more than any other subject... this boy's demeanor... changed so completely in that moment....and remained altered for the remainder of the conference... his eyes went from looking at his work samples and at his parents seeking their approval, to looking at his work with doubt with his eyes darting back and forth between his parents, almost afraid of what they may say... or trying to re-engage his dad who had once again begun squinting and looking around randomly... I changed the subject and once again the father was disengaged until I mentioned something about how our school is working on bullying... and before meeting this boy's family, I had planned on telling them about an incident that this boy was involved in, where he passively bullied another kid... thinking that with the kind of family I had pictured, would have a healthy discussion with him about what's the right thing to do and the wrong thing to do... but... I just couldn't go there... was it because I was intimidated by this father? I don't think so... I think it's because I didn't want to throw the kid under the bus... This kid comes to me EVERY morning to say hello, not just coming into my room, but coming up to me to say good morning and to share a story of one thing or another...and when I talk to my homeroom, he is one of the kids in there who I can tell is really hearing what I am saying... He struggles academically, school is not something that is natural for him... and yet he seems to crave attention and praise from his teachers... so I couldn't do something that would cause him to see me as someone who told his parents something for which he would probably be demeaned for... my conversation will continue with him... and will include my choice to not share his action with his parents... hmmmm... and another student... whose older sibling I have coached... her parents were stoic... crazily stoic... yet their daughters are so animated and their personalities are so vibrant... it was like seeing Richard Simmons coming to a conference and learning that his parents were Ben Stein and Barbara Walters.... so interesting....

Oh... remember the light bulbs? I haven't heard anything about them since starting them a while back... until last night.... at a leadership team meeting in my building, one woman said, "And whoever started the light bulb thing, and I know it was someone in this room, brilliant!" Hmmm... maybe they are making their way around the building... should I add a couple more to the mix? Or just see what happens?

What else... there is some big news to report... My beloved Dad... is amazing... that's not the big news... the big news is that he has turned a corner. I think somehow he has given himself permission to relax and have some fun... and this has included going out on a couple of dates! Yes, dates... oh and I MUST mention... the woman who he is spending time with... is my 6th grade homeroom/home ec. teacher!!! How CUTE is that? Is it hard to think of my dad 'dating' someone? Of course. But not because I don't want him to spend time with someone... It's just another change...adjustment... step in the process of losing my mom... it's a good step though... My mom, gave us so many gifts... I remember her telling me that she had talked to Dad, even though he didn't want to have the conversation, about not living the rest of his life alone... and she told me too... that she wanted Dad to find companionship... and wanted my sister and I to support him in that... So... knowing how mom felt... is huge... One of Dad's best friends told him that the only approval he needs to 'date' was from my sister and I... and I told Dad that he already had the only approval he needs... Mom's. Do I still miss her? Terribly... so much sometimes that I close my eyes and try to hear her voice in my head... to hear her laugh... to envision her cracking herself up as she was telling a story or making a self proclaimed witty remark... knee slapping and all... Do I miss seeing the way Mom and Dad were together, before the cancer? You can't even imagine how much... But...things have happened as they have happened... and I want my Dad to be happy, to have a spring in his step, a grin on his face, and to laugh... and this recent beginning... allowing himself to take some steps forward... has brought some of those things back to him... that had disappeared for a long time... a long time... Mom died about a year and a half ago... her cancer began killing her much before that... and I will never forget the moment after my mother's first surgery to try to remove the tumor... when we were in the waiting room, assuming that the news was going to be good... when the surgeon told us there was nothing he could do...That moment.... changed EVERYTHING... from that moment... our lives changed... Dad's life changed... and I don't think he has had more than a moment or two since that day, where he could smile authentically....... and he is smiling... He had emailed my sister and I to tell us about the date and tell us that he hoped we would understand his choice to go out and that it did not, in any way, take away from Mom's memory... I am so happy for him, to take this step... but I also hurt for him, ache for him, because I know this is not easy for him... and that he has been feeling an internal struggle to follow his heart that for so long was only in one place... and to give himself permission to let his heart lead him... without having to protect or care take... I want him to enjoy the happiness, the giddiness, the butterflies... all that... but I do worry that he will, at some point after taking many steps forward will freeze and back away from it.... and if he does, that's okay... but I am sure this is hard for him... but I am glad for him... proud of him... Love you Dad!

10/03/2010

The Marathon...year 2

So do two halves make a whole? What about two half marathons? Does that make a whole marathon? I'm not sure if two halves, in marathon terms, equals a full. 13.1 miles is way different than 26.2. So participant in this year's half (in my crew anyway) was me, Jamie, Jaime, and Suellen. My blog followers know that Suellen is a good friend who lives really close to me and we often hit the gym together. Jamie and Jaime... I went to high school with them both, they were a year behind me. This is us BEFORE the race...notice how smiley and optimistic we are!!!



It was the perfect day for doing this race, cool and sunny with a slight breeze. I admit that at a few points I was a little chilly. Last night Sue and Jaime(1) and I had dinner together, the other Jamie wasn't able to join us. Jaime (1) was pretty confident. She recently ran an entire 10k without walking and also completed a sprint triathalon. (Which...for the record, may be my next thing!) Sue was a little nervous, like me she had not done any exercise since completing the 10 k a couple weeks ago. Jaime (2) was pretty nervous. She had sent us emails earlier in the week saying that she wasn't going to do it... but we had other plans... we told her to walk it instead of running it and she seemed to feel better, but was still very nervous. We all met at the start line this morning... Ironically Jamie (2) found Jaime (1) before she found me in the crowd! I know, I couldn't believe it!



The start line... is always sooo exciting...there are soooo many people. I forget how many there were this year... but they capped the number of people who could participate. We started toward the back of the crowd because our times are not considered fast... ha.. imagine that!

My goal for this year's race was to complete it in under 4 hours. My time last year was 3 hours and 38 minutes... but the last six weeks have been soo busy for me that I have not devoted much time to training. So I figured that it would be pushing it to try to compete with my time from last year. But as it worked out I was pretty driven... my pace for the first five miles was 16 minute miles.. I was happy with that. I was hoping to maintain that pace and was able to pretty much keep it there until mile 11 and 12... mile 11 was okay... I actually tried to pull ahead of Jaime (2) and did for about a half mile, but wasn't too far ahead of her and then decided to finish with her since we had walked it all together...and I thought I could keep her at my pace... while I was ahead of her I started talking with a guy from Boston who was walking his first half. Jamie (2) and I kept passing him and being passed by him throughout the race. Once I got up to him and started going by him again, I think he decided that he would use me to keep his pace. As we approached mile 12... I really wanted to quit. Truly. Done... D - O - N - E... I could have stopped there and been fine... except I would have been mad at myself later... the last 1.1 miles of this race... I'm not gonna lie.. it sucked! It was HARD... Jamie (2) somehow got a second wind (also known as the appearance of hubby and 2 kids, one of which jogged the last .75 miles with her) decided to jog the last part of the race, and she pulled ahead of me... leaving me and Mr. Boston... Mr. Boston had hit the 12 mile wall hard, like I had... and he was full of comments about how hard that wall was and how his body wanted to disobey his mind... I kept trying to speed up to get in front of him, but... my legs, like his, were disobedient... the spectators on the sides of the road were cheering us on, telling us it was ONLY another mile, ONLY another half mile, ONLY another 2/10 of a mile.... Their encouragement is nice... but I so wanted to tell them to go walk 12.9 miles and then have the finish line seem sooo far away.... but... I finished... and with no official time yet, I believe I will have finished in about 3 hours and 34 minutes... so about 4 minutes less than last year... man oh man... if only I had not been a slacker the last 6 weeks... I could have done close to 3 and a half hours... maybe less... that's a good goal for next year... when I won't have my internship to focus on... This is us at the end of the race... We mask the pain well... we were elated... Jaime (1) finished in just over her 3 hour goal, Sue finished ten minutes under her time from last year...and Jamie (2) finished her first half marathon and says she will do it again! A Good day... and It did not escape my mind... that once again, by doing this half marathon, I am reminding myself that PVNS... does not control me.. my life... look how far I have come !


OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH I almost forgot to tell you... Before the race started.. I saw... my morning motivation.. OH YES I DID!! And we spoke! ahhh... wished each other well on the course... I am sooo gonna use that as water fountain talk next time I see him at the gym... ahhhh and he seemed to be there solo... no girlfriend cheering him on... Hmmmmmm... just sayin'!

10/02/2010

What's a Djembe? and Marathon madness...

So in all of my free time this fall I have added something else to the mix! I am taking an African Drumming class. Years ago I saw a group of women who performed African drumming and it was amazing. Something about the music resonated with me and I told myself that at some point I would take lessons and be able to play music like that. I tried to make it work with my schedule last spring, but it just didn't work with my grad course schedule... so this time when I got the email I was determined to make it work. It is an 8 week session, and i have only been to one so far. It was fun... fun enough for me to go out and buy my own djembe, African drum. Here it is: It is actually my second djembe. I bought one and when I brought it home I was not happy with the sound... so I returned it. I then went to another drum shop and found this one. It is a little smaller than I expected I would find, but the sound is what I want...and it is made of wood, making it more authentic. So.. I have been banging on my drum. I can't wait to learn more and have been able to find some video lessons on youtube.

So... fall has arrived... There is a crispness in the air. The fall also brings the Maine Marathon... and once again I am walking it. I am much less prepared for it than I was last year because I have been so busy with my internship that I have not taken enough time in the last month and a half to walk... but I will be okay to finish the race.
I may not finish as quickly as I was hoping to finish, but I will finish. I am okay with that. Then next week I am going to get back into the routine of hitting the gym in the mornings and I look forward to that. Tonight I went out to dinner with Suellen and Jaime who are also doing the half marathon tomorrow. They are running... I am walking. Another friend, Jamie (yes 2 women with the same name...), will be walking with me. She and I went to high school together and haven't seen each other since. (or really been in contact since then.) So it will be nice to get a chance to get caught up. I think we should have enough things to talk about for four hours...


This is a picture of us at dinner... the lighting kind of sucks, but I like the picture. We were all laughing and looking forward to tomorrow's adventure! I will post pictures tomorrow!

9/19/2010

My second 10k

So today I walked my second 10k race ever. (The first being last year's) I couldn't remember what my time was from last year and I didn't try to find it because I didn't want to intimidate myself. I did GREAT walking this summer, was doing a lot of miles and feeling great. Then, the internship and teaching took over and I really haven't walked in like a month. So, I was nervous for today, thinking that I was going to be last (which would be okay as long as I crossed the finish line of my own accord, not via an ambulance or something...) But, it went well. I am tired I am sore, and will probably be more so tomorrow... which is why I already scheduled a chiropractic appointment for tomorrow! My time today, unofficially, was 1 hour and 39 minutes, six minutes less than last year's time. I am pleased with that. If I can maintain that pace for the upcoming half marathon, my time will be close to last year's... but... I am trying to not put that kind of pressure on myself. Because I want to enjoy the half... and I was really pushing it today. This year's half will also have some different challenges ... last year my sister walked with me, side by side, so we were able to talk and it helped pass the time. This year, I am walking solo. I have a couple of friends who are also participating, but they are running/jogging and will be ahead of me. So, I may take my mp3 player to dance my way through the 13.1 miles... we'll see.

I was hoping to be lighter this year, by the time the half roleld around, but I am not... I was hoping to be able to jog it, but I can't. BUT... I will walk it, all of it, and will be thrilled to cross the finish line... BFA and all!

9/16/2010

It's raining


I am sitting on my couch watching some shows I have recorded on my DVR... it's raining out... I like the sound of the rain tonight... I should probably be doing some journaling for my internship... but I have been working on some other things, more creative things for my internship... that I am excited about. My school is going through a bit of a rough time... people are stressed, very stressed... feeling defeated... historically our staff doesn't do a whole lot of 'warm fuzzy' things for one another. Those kind of things have been deemed "hokey." People have made efforts over the years to do things to try to improve our climate and often those efforts are thwarted because the 'eye rollers' in our staff have been able to squash the spirit of such efforts. So I am going to try again... People are feeling so badly right now that I feel like people are fading... so tonight I had an idea of somehow letting people know they are appreciated and I thought about giving people a message in a bottle... I thought of that because traditionally people put wishes into the bottles before tossing them out into the ocean, hoping they come true... and I think my staff needs some hope... so I went to the craft store and found these really funky little bottles shaped like light bulbs. What a great idea!!! (Yes I see the pun there...) So... I bought a few... (By the way the sticker says: DECORATION ONLY DO NOT PUT INTO LAMP SOCKET.... really? do people NEED that kind of warning? Oh well... I then searched for quotes about light... and found three that I really like:


“And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same” – Nelson Mandela

“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.” Elisabeth Kubler-Ross quotes

“To be a star, you must shine your own light, follow your own path, and don't worry about the darkness, for that is when the stars shine brightest” Unknown

So... I am making a tag for each light bulb jar, each has one of the quotes above and also the following message: Inside you will find a message from someone who has seen your ‘light.’ Know YOU are appreciated. After you take some time to recognize what others see in you, please, share your light. Put a new message inside this light-bulb and “shine it forward,” by passing it on to a colleague.

Hokey? Maybe... but it's worth a shot.

This is something that I am excited about... I get to be creative and try to change things, to make things better, two things I haven't felt capable of in the last couple of years...

I think the last couple of years were harder on me than even I realized... and maybe hardened me more than I realized as well. I had withdrawn from much of my life, and distanced myself most from work. Yes I loved my students the last two years, but the rest of it involved me going through the motions... and I don't think I had recognized just how far into the fog I had traveled. Recently I said to someone, I feel like I am waking up... that this summer, before really digging into my internship, I was able to relax and enjoy time with family and friends, people I love and who love me... and I started breathing, not to survive, but to live... there I go being cheesy again... And today one of my colleagues and I had a heart to heart... I went to ask her a question about one of the kids and she complimented me on some work I had done for my internship that I had to present at the staff meeting yesterday. Then she told me that she wanted to tell me something and that she hoped she could get through it without crying, which by the way neither of us did... but she told me she was so happy to see me... doing all that I am doing, to be doing it in true "Kim fashion"... she told me that she has seen how hard the last two years have been for me, how painfully hard it has been... and how hard it was for her and others to know there was little they could do to help me... She said that this year, even though she knows I am stressed with my job and internship, she said she is so happy to see her friend Kim back... and I totally knew what she meant...

So I think that the last two years, while I was disengaged, I did not lose myself, like I had feared.... I have just needed to conserve my energy and draw from the people around me...like the picture above shows the sun drawing water.... and now... I am finally able to give back... to let my energy rain down and see what grows from it! Am I stressed? Yup. Am I tired? Yup. Am I crazy busy? Yup. But you know the crazy part... I feel good...surprisingly energized and motivated... and yes my friend, Jill... breathing!

9/15/2010

A positive correlation...

So I have noticed that the more stressed I am, the faster I talk... not necessarily at work or when I am presenting things at work... but in my every day conversations. The last month, month and a half has really focused on my internship... and other things have taken a back seat...this includes any semblance of a social life. Tonight my friend Meg called and said her soccer team was playing nearby and I should swing by if I had time... so I decided I needed to make time... she's ot coaching, really, she is helping to supervise the kids, so at the game we were able to chat while she was on the sidelines... and at one point I just kind of realized how fast I was talking and how much was coming out of my mouth... WOW... take a breath woman! I am exhausted, but enjoying the internship... I will write more soon!

8/31/2010

Balance












It's all about balance.... Ohhhhhhmmmmmmmmmm....

8/29/2010

Seasons of Change...

There is, I suppose, a rhythm to things... beginnings and endings....Tonight marks the end of a season for me and the beginning of another... summer is ending for me, and school season is beginning... Each year before the first day of school I have some excitement, some anxiety, and this year I have managed to mix some creativity into it all... As this school year begins I can't help but wondering what the night before the first student day of school will feel like... because, I hope to be in a different role. I hope to be starting as an administrator. It is exciting to think about and also makes me nostalgic, knowing that this could be the last year I work this directly with students as a classroom teacher, special education teacher. I so love the work I am able to do with my students...I so dislove....making a new word perhaps, dislove the paperwork and meetings that surround it. I just want to teach. Yesterday I spoke to one of my former students and her mother who have recently moved to a southern state, so southern, that it is expected to end your responses to questions with Ma'am or sir... and that in their student handbook one can find that it is allowable to 'paddle' students if necessary... no I am not kidding. This student is an amazing young woman. She melted my heart for the last two years. She is in a shiny bubble as she bounces through her life... she sees things as great when people around her are concerned her bubble may burst...she compliments people in the exact moment when they need it most... her smile can melt ice faster than salt rocks...she loves drama and acting and we sing showtunes together from our favorite musicals. She gives people the benefit of the doubt to a point of concern... she trusts that people have her best interests at heart as she does for them. Academically, she has some strengths and some weaknesses. Math happens to be an area in which she struggles. Apparently in her new school there are no small groups for instruction in math. She has to go to the regular education class for math even though her skills are 2 years behind that of her peers. As a result, she is failing math. And because she is failing math, she is not allowed to take drama... So take a new kid in a new school, in a new town, and make her most challenging subject the ticket to getting into something she is so passionate about, drama? I am furious... If they pop her bubble... and her mom is starting to see signs of this girl not wanting to go to school... I will be very upset. Her mother gave me a huge compliment, telling me that since moving she had not seen her daughter as happy as she was when she was told I wanted to talk to her. How sweet. I am supposed to talk to her teachers tomorrow and hope I can talk some sense into them. I am all for challenging her, but she needs things explained differently than most kids do. So I think about this student and think about how she performed so well with me, largely in part to being so comfortable in my classroom... and knowing that I am a part of that on some level... is gratifying.. and I will miss it... but... I think that there are things I can do to make schools better overall that will benefit the kids. Last week I was part of staff presentations as part of our teacher days... my partners and I received so much positive feedback about how well organized the information was that we gave out and people eluded to the fact that they wished all the information was given out in that way... Today I emailed the staff some helpful, easy to read, schedules and have gotten great feedback on those as well. One of the comments I heard about our presentation and the materials my group had created was that even though what we presented is adding another component to their day, because we presented it so well and it was so clear to them what their responsibilities were, that it actually took weight off their shoulders. As an administrator I need to do that... keep up with teacher demands and make things streamlined... I also think it is a good sign that our building administrators have asked us if they can invite our Supt. to a meeting where we present to show him how well the program is going. (It's just starting...so we have to be patient!)

I must say I am overwhelmed.... very overwhelmed...at the time I have already devoted to just my internship. My presentation noted above was about an advisory program about which I am very passionate. Advisory programs have been around for many years. It's a way for every student to have at least one adult who really knows them, knows what they are about. It's a time in the schedule devoted to getting to know each other and building relationships while supporting academic and social needs. This will be an ongoing project and will take many more hours. In addition to that I was charged with redesigning the student handbook into a web friendly format. So... I am on my third formatting adventure... it has taken time to re-write pieces of the handbook, put it in an order that makes some sense... to me putting things in this order: attendance, bomb threat, bus rules, communicable diseases, and detention... does not make sense. So I rearranged the order, oh no not alphabetically? and I have updated some of the information about technology... and have been playing with the formatting... our school laptops are ibooks... Macs... which in case you don't know... I AM A PC, damn it! But I have been using the Mac... (the program pages, and open office - yuck) and have been using it well and find features I enjoy and some that drive me batty...but I think the best format for me to use is going to be WORD... Yup... PC programming being used on the mac. So we'll see if the tech folks can upload it.... This work, this internship work... is tedious... is time consuming... but I see the point of it. Preparing things well leads to less work later...

So my plight this year... is to balance... find the balance between staying in what I am doing and looking ahead too far into the future... I am excited about both... and look forward to a year that will be filled with so many lessons to learn. By the time I feel prepared for an administrator job... what season will it be in my life?

8/13/2010

I blame my hormones, mostly.


I just came from seeing the movie 'Eat, Pray, Love..' based on a novel of the same name written by Elizabeth Gilbert. It's one of those stories about a woman trying to find herself. It was good... the scenery from Italy, India, and Bali...beautiful. It is a film that, I think, all can relate to... Hell, I was lost just trying to get into the movie. I knew the movie started at 3:10, and as that time passed and I was waiting in the theater watching all the trivia and other pre-movie images on the screen, I noticed that there were some people in the room about whose presence surprised me. I noticed women, not many alone, couples, and teenage boys... I felt bad for the men dragged there by their other halves, and was curious about why the young men were there... and then criticized myself for questioning them... thinking that perhaps they were there to expand their knowledge, quickly followed by my cynicism of, maybe they have to watch this for some summer class they are finishing up... by 3:15 I was annoyed that the movie had yet to start and decided to make a quick trip to the bathroom so that I wouldn't have to leave the film once it started. As I was about to re-enter the theater I noticed I was in the wrong theater... Eat, Pray, Love, was the next theater and I had entered the theater for 'Inception.' Idiot. I quickly went back inside and grabbed my sweatshirt and bottle of water and entered the right theater...which was much less full, and, for the record, no noticeable teenage boys... So I missed the first ten minutes of the movie... but I have read the book, and the story was easy to get into. I wanted something in the movie to touch me, to inspire me, to give me this feeling of motivation to seize the day... and the film was beautiful. Motivated? Inspired? Not yet... I think it's one of those films I will see a second time and will mull it about in my head for a while before I decide if those are the feelings it gives me... but I was touched by the film. Probably in ways that other people were not, I found my eyes watering in a couple of spots that were not the most dramatic scenes in the film... where I was reminded of things in my life that somehow have not ever made sense... to me anyway... Many years ago I had a dream, I woke up not remembering much about the dream, yet I knew what it meant. Typically when I dream, and I remember the dream, the images are very vivid, in color, with a story and many many elements... The dream that I thought of today was one in which I met, for the first time, the mother of someone who was/is important to me. In my dream this beautiful Indian woman extended her hands to me, and in them she held an orange flower. She was welcoming me somehow. At the time of my dream I remember I searched online for the orange flower I had seen in my dream, and did not find it. In the movie today, there is a scene, in India, where people have handfuls of orange flowers, not like the one in my dream, but it triggered this memory... and saddened me, because I doubt I will ever meet my friend's mother, though it is something over the years I have, well maybe not so much now, hoped for. In the movie the orange flowers were being put together in long strands to decorate for a celebration, a wedding... and it upset me...not the scene in the movie, but knowing I have held onto that image and that hope... for a long time. Wanting something that I have only been able to hold onto with my fingertips for so long. And wondering if I will ever stop trying to get a stronger hold and will let it go, truly let it go, let him go... or intentionally push him away for good. The movie is about this woman's experience with love, and how much of her life was spent in relationships with men or in ending relationships with men...and I found myself sarcastically thinking, "Poor you... you got married, got separated, fell for another man, finalized your divorce, leave the new man...only to have men swooning over you all over the world... rough life you have, lady." So maybe this beautiful film meant to inspire most people, made me feel sorry for myself. I blame my hormones, mostly. I am PMSing like crazy, eating everything in sight and wanting bad food,but my house is filled with crap like watermelon, cucumber, chicken, carrots, and hummus... so if I decide to have the bad food... I have to order in... which I may do... or maybe I'll go out...After all the title does include the word, Eat. My self pity about relationships is not something new. It's something I often feel and try not to dwell on too often... though it is hard when my world is filled with people who are part of a couple...not all happy couples, but couples... a couple of weeks ago some friends and I went out for girls night. There were 5 of us... 1 married, 1 practically engaged, 1 divorced and now in a stable relationship, and 2 single... we were sharing stories about relationships and while I was happy to have some recent dating adventures to share they all asked me about another man, the man I mentioned above, knowing that my heart is connected to his. We jumped around the table sharing funny stories and somehow we got on the topic of kids, having them.... my married friend has a son, six I think, and says she is done, has no desire to have any more. My divorced friend has a daughter, also about six, and she says she would have another, no doubt. (By the way I do not think of my friends according to their relationship statuses, but for the purpose of this post, I am ...) My practically engaged friend wants children, hopefully within the next 2-3 years. My single friend and I both said we would like the opportunity to have kids, but want the marriage piece first. A couple of my friends told me I shouldn't wait to get married to have a kid...and kind of joking, kind of serious, suggested I get inseminated... I laughed... no way Jose! IF I am going to be a single parent it would be through adoption, something I have considered... but to go through a pregnancy alone, no thanks. My friends in relationships said it would be fine... my single friend agreed with me, that having to go to appointments alone or having to go into labor alone would not be something we would want. My friends said they would all help... Good intentions.... I laughed and said that's easy for them to say because they are in relationships and 2 out of 3 of them are people who have had little time in their lives where they were not in a relationship... and have always had someone there to help with things... for example, I told them... that at some point this year I am supposed to have a colonoscopy... (Ok... not great dinner conversation, but it's real stuff here!) I am younger than most people who have to have that procedure done, but since my mother had colon cancer (a few years before the kidney cancer that killed her) I am supposed to get checked at the age of 35.... so that means not only do I have to go through that procedure, I have to have someone take me to the doctor's to have it done because they knock you out and you can't drive... so... I have to beg one of my friends to take me to the doctor and take me home afterwards... and while I do have friends that I am sure will be my 'getting my butt poked' buddy... it's something that I have to think about, ask for... not something my 'in relationship' friends have to give a second thought to... for them, it's built in... automatic... so for them to say I could go through something like having a baby, solo... well... not that I couldn't do it, but it would not be my first choice for starting a family. Am I jealous of those who are involved in relationships? Yes and No. Some have told me how lucky I am for being single, for having nobody to be responsible for, to check in with, to go where I want when I want... And some have told me that in their relationships they are...'miserable with'... miserable with their husband, boyfriend, responsibilities, etc.... Unlike most of my friends who have now been married or been with the same person for a third to half of their lives, I have been single for all of my life... with the exception of living with someone for a while and dating here and there... and for that man I mentioned above, who has been in my life, well, been in moments of my life, going on eleven years... but that doesn't count as a REAL relationship... and it won't ever develop into that... so... am I jealous?... maybe. I want a best friend who becomes my husband, the father of our children (though that window seems to be closing, sadly...) Do I understand why some people in relationships want out? Yes. But I guarantee, at some point, they will want back in... perhaps not with the same person... but... single... especially when you feel like you have a pretty good sense of yourself, when you feel like you want to love, to be loved, and to be held... single isn't the greener side of the fence.

There is a lot more in my head these days than just my relationship status... A recent email from the man I mentioned above, expressed some sadness about things going on around him, in the lives of people he knows and cares about... and he is philosophizing (may not be a real word, but oh well!) about life and god and what happens after we die. I was not, as I told him, the person to bring optimism and sunshine to that topic. I am still very much in the grieving process about my mother and still get upset at the unfairness of it all. God? no god? afterlife? no afterlife? I have no answers... Something stupid set me off the other day... and it shouldn't have. My sister is a poet, among many other titles, and she wrote a poem about a dream she had, in which my mother made an appearance. I know she has had at least one other dream about mom since she died... and it's not that my sister had a dream about Mom, or what the dream was about that set me off... but the fact that my mom has not been in my dreams...and I wish she would be...there was one dream in which, in my dream I was with my dad and I kind of sensed her presence, but that's it...and I miss her so much. As my mom was dying, my faith in God or god or something bigger than us all, gradually decreased...not that it was an abundant amount before...but I have always believed that people are connected, spiritually, that we maintain those connections even after people die... and in the past, when I have lost important people in my life, they have come into my dreams and it gave me a sense of peace about them... I haven't had that with my mom... and it upsets me because we were so close... and I still miss her so much... and I don't like the idea that maybe we aren't still connected.

The movie today left me with a thought that I may try to do... it was about missing people.... and the advice, terribly paraphrased was this: 'Miss them, think of them, send their way light and warmth and move on...' It's the moving on part that seems to get me...

7/17/2010

Three Years Ago... today


Three years ago today I had surgery... to remove the diffuse pvns tissue from my left knee. That surgery was a pivotal moment for me. I had been in so much pain for a long time from the effects of pvns and was not only physcially in bad shape, I was emotionally exhausted. The days and weeks leading to the surgery caused mixed emotions in me, fear of course, who wants to have surgery? And fear that it wouldn't help.... Optimism, something I had not felt in a long time before that, that my knee may one day feel good and be strong... the day of surgery was easy on me, I was so drugged up that when I woke up I apparently asked why there was no Celtics player in my hospital bed with me... and the lovely epideral that was effecting the right side of my body more than the left so I kept pumping myself full of narcotics to alleviate the pain... the following days were tough, figuring out how to move and eventually stand. From there, I got home and the physical therapy really got going. There were hard days, MANY hard days... my parents were with me for a while to help out and my mom... she was there in the moments when I really did not want to get out of bed, when I really wanted to canncel the physical therapy appointment for the day... she kept me going... The physical therapy was painful, very painful as were the incisions... but looking back now... ALL worth it... ALL completely worth it. From what I have read and from what I have seen posted on the PVNS page on facebook, I am the exception to the rule. Thus far I have not had signs of recurrance and have been able to return to my 'normal' routine including being active.

Today, on my third anniversary of surgery I worked in the toll booths... the very hot and humid toll booth...and afterwards I met up with my friend, Sara, to go for a walk. We walked one of my favorite trails, walking about 3.5 miles. I was happy with that today given the heat and humidity... and I feel good about doing something active to celebrate my health...

I often think about other people who suffer with pcns, but more so today... and my heart goes out to everyone who has battled pvns, who have had surgery, and who have had recurrance... and about people being newly diagnosed... the road is different for everyone... and I know how lucky I have been.

Thanks to all who have supported me along the way! Today, I am GRATEFUL!

7/06/2010

Life...

I learned yesterday that one of my great aunts passed away. She was 89. I spent very little time with her... and know her only through stories and photos posted on a family website that we have. Her pictures reminded me of her brother, my grandfather, for whom I had great affection, admiration, and of course love. So I associate her with my memories of him... perhaps projecting many of her qualities onto her. Like any family, ours has medical issues that we need to be aware of...One of the things we have is aneurysms. My aunt died, as did my grandfather, from an aneurysm. Just recently my aunt had decided to forgo a surgery that could have perhaps removed the aneurysm because she felt like she was able to live the kind of life she wanted to live, that a surgery, at her age, would be so hard to recover from and knew that she may have never get back to the point of health where she was without the surgery... and she was feeling good and wanted to continue to feel good... for as long as she could. I admire that. A lot. I am sure that choice was hard for her and for her family... but she lived her life on her terms... and I love that. It's beautiful. Her death does make me sad... not because of my personal connection with her, but because that generation of people in my family is disappearing... and what a generation it is. As that generation disappears many of our traditions are also disappearing... the art of storytelling, cooking from scratch, sewing, family values, time, appreciation of each other... it also is a moment where you realize that inevitably you are going to lose other people too... While I didn't know my Aunt Dot... I hope I am like her in ways... at least in the ways I perceived her to be...

7/03/2010

Summer Vacation...

It's summer vacation... and while it started out being a little hectic... I have been able to have some fun... a lot of fun actually. The stressful start to summer involved finishing paperwork for my job and writing some papers for my graduate class and internship. But... then I have had the chance to go visit my dad up north, and have done a lot of activities inclucing kayaking and biking. I have been pretty dedicated to getting up early, 5:30 ish and heading to the gym or walking (M-F at least) and then later in the day often doing another activity like zumba, buking, or kayaking. I am very excited because I have been able to increase my mileage with walking up to 4 miles, as of today... this means that I am on track with my training for this fall's half marathon. My knee (not the pvns knee, but the knee whose IT band has been hurting) hasn't hurt... so I am sticking to the schedule and hoping for the best. Per the physcial therapist's orders I am avoiding walking on uneven surfaces like the beach. But my activity level is increasing...and I am happy. My back has been pretty tender, so I am being careful with it, icing it often and spending quality time with my chiropractor. I have a lot to do this summer, for my internship. Lots of hours working on school things... but I WILL continue to be active and enjoying this beautiful state. Here are a couple of pictures I took while kayaking yesterday.

6/14/2010

Should have done better...

Life is hectic. I rarely screen phone calls, rarely forget to call people back... but on Friday I missed a call... from my best friend from high school, Todd. We have grown apart like we swore we never would... but we still talk once in a while. When my mom died, he came... so Friday I missed his call... and he didn't leave a voicemail... in my head I told myself I would call him when life settled down and I had more time to talk with him... Saturday it slipped my mind as I was in my classroom finishing up things for the school year and then I worked on the turnpike... Sunday I returned to my classroom and didn't think about it until later in the day on Sunday when another friend emailed me and asked if I had heard that Todd's mother in law had died... WHAT?!! Oh my god... I felt so bad... soooo bad... what an ass I am to not have stopped the little, minute things in my life to call him back. I called him last night, and his son answered the phone... asking who I was and then proceeded to tell me his Gramie died and that his mom and dad were at a meeting... out of the mouths of babes... so I didn't get a chance to talk with Todd... I called this afternoon and after briefly talking with Todd he asked if I wanted to talk to his wife... and I did... I apologized for her loss, told her how sad I was for her and her sister and her dad... and I did not do it gracefully... I cried and she cried... and I told her that I was sorry that I was upset, that she should not have had to have gone through it... Her mom had battled Crohn's disease for a long time...and in November developed an infection that led to leukemia... had been in and out of the hospital with treatments and then decided enough was enough and wanted to go home. About 48 hours after being home, she died. She died with her husband and daughters and sons in laws with her... I hate, HATE that Todd's wife has been inducted into the club... HATE it... and I hate that I am not at a point where I can offer any kind of comfort to someone about losing their mother... it brought a lot back to the forefront of my mind... remembering losing mom, that process... and leaving my dad... yuck... I should have done better...

6/11/2010

End of the year...


School is ending next week... well actually I should clarify that... the school in which I work starts summer vacation next week... for me school will continue with the completion of my summer graduate class on the horizon and will continue with my internship work... but, I feel like I will get to have a break soon... and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. This year has been a difficult one for me professionally. My job involves difficult kids, usually more difficult parents, and paperwork...lots of paperwork. I HATE the paperwork... and to add to it I get frustrated at times with the way in which two of my supervisors operate and being my passive aggressive self, use a passive aggressive strategy to try to rebel against them. I delay my paperwork, which really only end up hurting me because it reflects poorly on my professionalism, but I do it anyway... I did not become a teacher to do paperwork... I became a teacher to help kids. And, with the demands of paperwork I have a choice, bring the paperwork home every day and stay up late doing it or give up time in my classroom teaching kids while having someone else cover my classroom. I have a really hard time giving up time with my students to do paperwork.. a really hard time. As a special ed teacher I have heard about people in my profession getting burned out... and now, more than ever I understand that.

Part of my passive aggressiveness this year also stems from being in meetings and feeling that the administrators at the meeting are not acting in the best interest of the kids... for whatever reasons, political or financial... and it really upsets me. Some of my colleagues have been put in awkward situations by being told or strongly encouraged to avoid saying things about students... because it may make the district look bad. Yet... it is putting people in situations, asking them to be unethical. Another aspect that has been growing is that we have these outside consultants, professionals if you will, who are hired to work in the district to help solve all of our problems... or, I say cynically, to keep kids who need alternate placements in our school to save our district money. These 'consultants' come to meetings and offer their professional opinions about the students and how to change/improve their behavior. The problem, and it's a HUGE problem, is that these consultants, in most cases, have NEVER even met the kid, NEVER even seen the kid... and based on paper in a file, they offer their expert opinions... which is bad enough, but the way in which they deliver their expertise is dismissive of all the work that the teachers do with the kid. These people do NOT work with these kids on a daily basis... their suggestions are things that have been tried and haven't worked, or haven't been tried because, knowing the kid it won't work... It is so frustrating... sooooo frustrating.

I have always prided myself in my ability to work with kids and to advocate for kids... and my instincts about kids are usually right on target. And to be treated like I have made no effort with kids, that my colleagues who work as hard as I do, have not done enough for kids... is such a slap in the face... when we know, KNOW, that the kids for whom these consultants are called upon need MORE than what the school can provide.... these kids are in need of mental health treatment... I have 2 kids in mind with whom I am directly involved and two other kids with whom my colleagues work. The feeling of helplessness is not something I handle well. ... interesting.... just realized that maybe my feelings about that stem from that... helplessness... that word...that feeling... makes me remember how I felt with my mom... and it makes me so angry. So angry.

I always told myself that when I got to a point where I felt like I wasn't able to help kids in the way I thought I should/could... I would leave...without being told to do so... and I think I am getting close to that point. Not leaving education... but...the classroom... Mt. St. Paperwork...

The good part about getting to this point is that I am more committed than ever, to move on, beyond my classroom, to take on a leadership role in education as a building administrator... where the optimist in me says I can make a difference, for kids and for teachers which in turn helps more kids...

ahhh... so.. I have to make it through next week... have to finish my summer class... and then focus on my future goals... and do it.... If I was allowed to have a margarita right now... you can bet your ass I would be raising my glass and saying CHEERS to that!

On another note... I went for a short bike ride tonight with Suellen... about 3 miles... and felt pretty good. We did some small hills and I do think I am in better shape than I was a year ago. Yahoo!

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