It was a typical Friday night. I pulled up to the store parking lot to meet the bus from the school for blind, gather Amigo and his bags, and head home.
As he got in the car, he was full of excitement. "Mom, did you hear what's happening in Madison?" He continued talking, telling how he'd been learning about how the legislature works, what a quorum is and why it's important, and a lot about the process of writing and passing a law.
Then he dropped the bombshell.
"Mom, I wish I could go to Madison tomorrow for the demonstration."
I offered, "How about downtown on the plaza tomorrow afternoon?"
Amigo responded with an enthusiastic "Yeah!!"
So we made a sign for Amigo, I wore red to support my colleagues, and La Petite charged her camera to document the event. Here's the rest of the story. The top photo shows my neighbors, both retired high school teachers, great people and great teachers. No, they're not wearing Bear colors; those are the colors of my alma mater, West High School.
This was perhaps the youngest participant at the rally.
I don't usually show full face shots of my offspring, but they were so great together I couldn't resist.
I'll have more background on Saturday's post: personal experiences passed down through the family the old fashioned way, by the oral tradition. Well, the updated oral tradition: my relatives emailed me the stories they'd heard from my grandfather.
Chuck thought my dream had a simple interpretation: I've been typing too much. I went to bed with a sore thumb. La Petite agreed. They may be right. I do have arthritic symptoms in my right thumb, and my left is catching up. I have a splint for the right wrist and thumb; I wear it at night to immobilize both and ease the pain somewhat.
So here's the dream.
I was in the emergency room - again. Same doctor, same staff, all recognized us from our back to back visits in early winter. This time, I was there because I'd dislocated my left thumb. Is that even possible? In my dream, the thumb had already been set, back in place, and the pain and swelling were gradually easing. Even so, it still hurt like the blazes. Dr. S had decided that I needed a cortisone shot in the joint. Disclaimer; I have no medical background and have no idea what would really be done at this point. It was a dream, remember? I've had many cortisone shots in my foot, so I know that they are very painful, but also very effective. I think the discussion went something like this.
Dr. S: Have you ever had a cortisone injection before?
Me: silent nod.
Dr. S: So you know what it feels like?
Me: silent nod
Dr. S: Okay, here goes.
Me: turn head, find focal point, breathe.
Chuck thinks it's as simple as going to bed with a sore thumb after being on the computer too much that day. He may be right. The other interpretations could be a little more complex.
Why was I completely unable to answer the doctor? I'm a verbal-linguistic person; words are my strength. I'm rarely intimidated by medical people. Was my silence significant?
The repeat visit to the ER - likely a flashback to the last one, when I opted not to be admitted to the hospital overnight and went to school to leave sub plans instead. Bad choice; I'll never do that again. At least in my dream I followed the doctor's instructions, no matter how painful.
Then again, there's that sore thumb. I'm relearning how to handle a keyboard and mouse in less painful ways, and I'm learning to limit the time I spend on the computer and prioritize that time more effectively.
Readers, chime in. What do you think of my dream? Simple, just a result of a sore thumb joint, or a deeper, more complicated meaning?
Now for the daughter. Hers was a bit more entertaining. We've traced the sources already; no need to interpret. Just enjoy.
The service crew, the techs from AT&T UVerse, had arrived at our home to finally replace the lines that stretch across the backyard. These lines have been nibble by squirrels, hit by lightning, and tangled around growing trees. We've been waiting a long time and we were so thrilled they turned up!
The techs replacing the line were (are you ready for this?) the Backstreet Boys.
The talented boy band members demonstrated their other skill by replacing the line successfully. When they were done, they climbed into their service van and drove away, singing.
Now here's the question: what were they singing? My contribution is this: "I am a lineman for the county." Come on, readers, let's hear it.
Pushing to the Winter Break is always a challenge at school. The moodiness. The excitement. The full moon and lunar eclipse, concurrent with a snowstorm and other mood-altering atmospheric conditions -- well, I can just say the last week of school in 2010 was more of a challenge than usual.
But I'm done. I survived. It's over.
It's more than over, though. I'm done - for the year. Not just 2010, but the full 2010-2011 school year. I'm taking a leave of absence from my teaching job from now until June.
Illness made teaching tough this year. Gout, flu-like virus, even the possibility of heart trouble had me missing more days than I wanted.
But more than that, school has been a struggle: a struggle that was making me sicker. I didn't sleep well at night. Worries kept me awake, and when sleep did come, I'd awaken in a head to toe sweat. Stomach aches every Monday morning, heartburn and headaches Sunday nights, there were too many symptoms to ignore.
There were tipping points. Getting hurt while preventing a student from throwing a chair. Getting threatened by a student and seeing no administrative response whatsoever. Spending time late at night to leave decent sub plans - against the doctor's advice - only to get all kinds of nasty notes about how my work hadn't been sufficient.
Between me, the doctor, and my family, we decided it was time: time to look into a long-term leave. A time to recover, to heal, both physically and mentally. A time to really examine my commitment to teaching and whether it can weather this kind of conflict. Before I make any kind of decision on my future, I need to rest. Rest, recover, and feel good again -- even on Mondays.
Yes, that's right; the wooden case says "Pete's Wicked Ale." It's full of baby board books. That's okay; baby Audrey is only 12 months old. She loves her books, but she doesn't read the labels on the book"shelf" yet.
Somehow, I don't think I could have gotten away with this with our teenagers.
I'm fortunate to live with an aspiring professional photographer. She does more than take pictures; she makes pictures. She uses her artist's eye, knowledge, and experience to set up the photo and edits it, crops it, makes it work. I learn from watching her, even though I know I'll never be at her level.
I do take pictures for my blog(s) and for the school slide show. If I ever give in and open a Facebook page, I'm sure I'll post pictures there, too. But anyway, back to the topic at hand: here's my list of five tips for making a good digital photograph.
1. Set up the photo before taking it. Look at the background and the lighting. A clean photo setting in the first place is easier than editing out clutter later.
2. Know your camera and its settings. I'm still learning mine. When I think it through and set it up thoughtfully, the pictures turn out much better.
3. Know your editing software. I'm looking into Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 for myself. I do not need the professional level Photoshop software, but I do want my end result to look good. La Petite uses a professional version of Photoshop, and she does wonderful work.
4. Keep the camera charged. I know, that's a "Doh!" piece of advice. I turned up at the Homecoming parade ready to take pictures only to find I had enough charge for one. One picture of my students in their school colors. I haven't made that mistake again.
5. Organize. My photos are in file folders by date and by topic. I delete those I no longer need, such as photos intended for the blog but never used. I also save them in compre
ssed size for blog use; if a photo might be needed in its full resolution, I save it twice: once compressed, once not.
One summer evening, Amigo and I were sitting outside reading in the backyard swing. La Petite hovered with her camera, making pictures of Amigo's graceful hands reading Braille. She eventually left us alone with our Harry Potter and went inside to download and edit her work. The final result was a contest winner titled "Touching Words." The photo is lovely, but my favorite part is the back story. Amigo had a spot of marinara sauce on his hand from the lasagna we'd had for supper. She had to edit out the sauce with Photoshop before printing and displaying the picture.
Was it worth it? I think so, but I'll let you be the judge. Here it is: La Petite's photo of her brother, titled "Touching Words."
Due to health issues and unbelievable workload, this is a repost from Compost Happens. I hope to see more holiday style photos and read many family Hanukkah and Christmas stories in the next few weeks.
He likes to hit the road, Jack. Make a new plan, Stan.
He enjoys when the truckers honk their horns for him. HONK. HONK. In fact, he's a little bummed when they don't. He takes charge of the radio and finds local stations wherever we are. I put him in charge of the cell phones so I can watch the road. He loves it. We pick up road food snacks or bring our own along.
We've made road trips to Milwaukee to see the Brewers play, the Chicago area to play with baby cousin, Lake Superior to see a great show, and more.
Last week we took advantage of a long weekend and traveled to see Amigo's girlfriend.
Yes, girlfriend. He wanted to visit and bring her a birthday gift instead of waiting until they were back at school on Monday. Since we enjoy our Mom-Amigo time on the road, I said "Sure, why not?" and we strapped on our seat belts and hit the highways.
We had a few mishaps. MapQuest picked a rather odd route, and I didn't like the back roads it chose. I didn't have a cell phone charger because I was driving Chuck's Saturn, so I waited until the last moment to turn on my phone's GPS. The GPS Navigator sucks up battery energy like a Green Bay Packers fan sucking down beers - in other words, a lot and very quickly. I really didn't want to be without phone for the way home. When we reached the right street, we circled three times before finding the right house.
Finally, we got there.
Girlfriend's sisters were there. Girlfriend's grandma was there. Grandma was a woman after my own heart; she had set up a sewing project in the kitchen so she could watch anything and everything the two lovebirds might have in mind. In fact, I felt safe leaving Amigo there for a bit while I visited a nearby big-city mall and thrift store to do some early holiday shopping.
I think Amigo would have stayed for hours, and the girls and Grandma would have kept him. I, however, felt the need to go home, so we packed up and hit the road again.
The ramblin' young man made his girlfriend feel special, I got to meet her family, and we had a relaxing day on the lovely autumn highways.
La Petite needed to take exit counseling online to ensure repayment of her student loans. However, in the infinite wisdom of the government loan programs, they sent the letter by snail mail to her home, not her college address -- with only days to go before graduation.
So we did it for her.
Then she found out that (courtesy of poor advising) she had one course left to take before she could actually receive her diploma. She took the course, swore a little (I swore a lot), and then called herself Graduate. And again, the exit counseling letter came.
We did it together (mostly) that time.
Then two months later, she got another email saying that she could only get her diploma after completing exit counseling. #?*!? Knowing that it was easier and probably faster to complete it again, rather than go through a govt. agency's phone mail maze, we did.
It was miserable. The site was so slow I took breaks between each page. "Loading page two! I'll go set the table for breakfast." "Loading page three! I'll set up the coffeemaker for morning." "Loading page four! I'll feed the bunnies."
La Petite's comment: "Mom, I haven't seen you this active in weeks." It was a while before I realized that she meant it as a compliment. After all, I spent much of September on and off crutches, suffering from what we finally figured out was a bad bout with gout. Ouch. But now, filling out the (hopefully) final exit interview, I was making strides - literally - in healing.
She's going to call the financial aid office at her college today. If they didn't receive her documentation this time, we're going to run through it the old fashioned low-tech way by printing the documents and mailing them. I might even splurge for delivery confirmation at the Post Office.
La Petite had a Monday appointment at the dentist to get a tooth filled.
Most of the time, in order to leave her a vehicle, Chuck would get up early and drop me off at school. La Petite would plan to pick me up at school after her appointment. Ah, such a good feeling: the need for a third set of wheels avoided once again.
Then it got complicated. Over the weekend my ankle and foot swelled up - large enough and painful enough to make wearing a shoe difficult. Knowing La Petite had a late afternoon appointment (2:50), I attempted to work in a doctor visit for myself. The talk went something like this.
Me: "I'd like an afternoon appointment, please, with early afternoon best."
Nurse on call: "How about 11:00 or 11:30?"
"Uh, no, that's too early. 12:00 would be the earliest I could make it. Early afternoon, please."
"Oh, here's one at 1:15. I'll put you in there."
"Great! I'll take it. 1:15 with Dr. Ankleman."
"Wait. I'm double checking that time and your name isn't coming up... hold just a minute, please... oh, the computer has you down for Wednesday. That isn't what you wanted, was it? You wanted Monday."
"Yes, please, Monday early afternoon."
"We have 11 or 11:30."
"No, that won't work. 12 noon is the earliest I could make it."
Then we start working on times after La Petite's dental work.
me: "How about later, after 4?"
nurse: "We have a 4:15."
me: "Ouch! (oops, shouldn't dance with delight when ankle hurts) I'll take it!"
nurse: "Okay, we'll see you at 4:15 tomorrow."
Then I looked at La Petite's timing again and realized it would be just too, too close for comfort. If the dentist ran late (which is rare, but it could happen), she wouldn't get to me at school until barely four. the new family medicine clinic is a lengthy drive through town, no convenient or quick shortcuts, and takes at least 15 minutes. It's a large clinic with a big parking lot and a time consuming registration process, and then count in the minutes to limp or crutch my way to the gallery (they're not even called wings or floors) where the office is... sigh. It wasn't going to work.
So I took the afternoon off. Resting the foot could only be good. I called in the half-day sick time, and then settled in to write lesson plans for the substitute.
Then Chuck solved our troubles, provided a second vehicle; he got sick. Fever, weakness, tummy troubles - no way possible to work through it. He had to stay home.
It is indeed an ill wind that blows no good.
Supper? A stop on the way home at the local family restaurant for their famous chicken soup. It just seemed right. I drove, I paid, La Petite did the walking part, and we brought it home just in time for her numbness to wear off.
Shhh: don't say it too loudly. In fact, just whisper. Since Sunday afternoon, we've been (quiet, please) an empty nest.
Amigo is attending a boarding school for the blind.
La Petite is visiting her boyfriend.
Chuck and I are (did you hear us?) alone.
We're cooking for two - just us two. We drive the sedan because we don't need the minivan's extra space or extra seats. We run errands together - alone. Almost.
Last night we went to the pet store and stocked up on litter and hay. The shop was out of our favorite litter, so we headed to the King of Stores: Fleet Farm. We found a 20 lb. bag of our favorite corn-cob litter and a new pan for the big bunny's cage. I carried the lightweight pan and Chuck took the big bag of litter over his shoulder, insisting in his I'm A Man Pushing Fifty and I'm Still Awesome way that he didn't need a cart.
Then his cell phone rang.
Down went the huge bag of litter. Out of the pocket came the phone. It was Amigo. On and on they chatted - the teen in his dorm after sports practice, the Dad in the aisle at Fleet Farm.
And that's how I ended up in the middle of a huge farm supply store, taking a picture of Chuck sitting on a display of 50 lb. blocks of salt, with the equine trace minerals behind him.
No, people, that's not funny. It's lame and it's dumb. Making fun of someone for a disability isn't creative, either.
However, people can and do find humor in their disabilities. I've made jokes about being hearing impaired, and La Petite posted a video on her Facebook page of her brother holding his white cane and telling a blind joke.
After New York Governor David Paterson hosted the late-night bastion of humor Saturday Night Live, he had the following to say.
"As I said last night, while I have a good sense of humor, jokes that degrade people solely for their disability are sophomoric and stupid. Any suggestion - be it intentional or otherwise - that a disability would impede one from being a competent and contributing member of our society is damaging to an entire population in this country.
"My own disability has not prevented me from doing everything in my power to successfully protect the fiscal integrity of New York. In the last two and a half years, I have balanced the budget, closed $42 billion in deficit, protected the State's credit rating and never passed out an IOU.
"I am grateful to Lorne Michaels, Seth Meyers, and the producers of Saturday Night Live for giving me the opportunity last night to deliver that serious message with humor."
Delivering a serious message with humor: now that's no joke.