Monday, December 22, 2008

It's Beginning to Look a lot like Christmas


And we're off! The Towncar has been picked up. The GPS is programmed. The presents are in the truck. The boys have food and water and the adults have Cheez-it's and Diet Mountain Dew. The camera does not need film but has batteries. All the pills (and there are many) are in their respective cases. The laptop and cell phones have been charged. Oh, yes -- we even managed to pack some clothing, mostly comfort stuff and a couple of pairs of happy pants. See you on the other side of Christmas!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Going to Get Christmas

Christmas in our household is with the best family member of all, the one who respects our foibles and loves us in spite of them.

The one who says bring the dogs even when she really only likes cats.

The one who puts out the Schnauzer dog decoration dressed in traditional Santa costume among her much more classical nutcrackers and Christmas cats.

The one who gives up her own bed and sleeps on an inflated air mattress so the family is comfortable.

The one who puts up the Christmas tree and gets out the red place mats and the Christmas tableware and turns on the fireplace even when the weather is 60 degrees so we can FEEL Christmas.

Christmas in our household is shared with the one we love -- and who loves us in return.

We leave on Monday to celebrate Christmas. We can feel the love already!


Saturday, December 20, 2008

My Beautiful School


I teach in a grand building -- epic in scale, amazing in detail. Because it's on the historic register the building is in lovely repair and the architectural sense of it is kept pure.

At Christmas time the maintenance staff stock up on logs and burn fires every morning in the huge fireplaces built at both ends of the main entry / reception hall. In the center of the hall, students erect and decorate a bulldog Christmas tree.

This Christmas as the students entered through metal detectors (we still pay homage to modern safety) and went through to the reception hall, both the band and the choir were there greeting them with seasonal music. It was GREAT!

On Friday we had a party in my classroom -- a spaghetti lunch for third block who had met their commitments for the class with flying colors and actually finished their novel the day before. We also had a gift giving -- hubby made the spaghetti and assembled gift bags for every teen. Because Christmas is on Thursday this year, the kids were saying that most families were celebrating after Christmas - when they had paychecks.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Christmas Miracle?????

On Wednesday I came home, settled in at my computer desk with my $149 text book, and accessed the on-line final for my graduate course. About three hours into it, I suddenly realized I really didn't give a flying fig whether I passed or not, quit researching every question carefully, declined to edit the final answers (on one of the matching questions I entered E twice and thus missed every one of the items), blasted out the essay answers and submitted the darned thing.

Because the program will not grade the essay answers -- but counts them wrong until the professor does -- my score came back as a 73% correct. That's a C folks. A low C. Going into the final I had managed to eke up my essay / test/ discussion grades to a 91% of the points allotted - so I figured even if I got a C on the final, I'd get a low B in the class. That's enough for credit -- so I resigned myself, actually quite happily, to blowing my 18 hours of 4.0.

Imagine my surprise when I accessed my grades tonight to discover that I actually got a 96 on the final -- and thus managed to, just barely, maintain my A for the course -- and keep my beautiful 4.0 grade point going for another three hours.

Huge sigh of relief: class is over for this semester, I'm taking a break next semester and working on curriculum development, and my nights for the next semester can be devoted to doing the wash, reading good books, watching bad TV, and playing computer games. Now that's a sweet Christmas gift!

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Beautiful Voice

For me, his is not THE Voice -- that voice belongs only to my husband. However, this voice belongs to Hubby's best male friend and they have been singing together since 1966. He came as best man to our Wedding (left) and he came again to sing for our 25th anniversary (below). We meet now, every couple of years, and we celebrate the milestones of our lives both together and apart.

Celebrate this beautiful voice with me:

A Glimpse of Mr. Nabors

Friday, December 12, 2008

Deep Sadness -- and Helplessness

I just came out of a meeting with a sweet and spunky 16 year old. She should be a sophomore but she failed too many classes last year and is still classified as a freshman. She's always been fun to work with but this year she's really turned herself around. She's passing everything she's previously failed, and though she came to us with a rep for fighting anybody at the drop of a hat, this year she hasn't had one fight or even the hint of one.

The past month I've gotten hints that things were going wrong in her life but I didn't push her for information. She got a new coat over Thanksgiving and was so proud of it. She's sailing along in World History where I tutor her and she's passing English 1. She's even making great progress with algebra benchmarks. But yesterday she asked me to fill out her parental questionnaire on Romeo and Juliet and sign as her mother. I asked what name she wanted me to use and she was fine that I used my own name. In other words, I was the surrogate mother.

Today she came in to tell me that last night had been hard and she'd been crying most of the night. I asked why and the flood gates opened.

She's not living at home but with a girlfriend of her older brother -- there are 9 children in the home. She only goes home to see the little ones on Saturdays. Social Services was notified of the mother's failure to parent the little ones by the elementary school this week. Now she's afraid they will all end up in foster care.

The mother was "sent away" for drug addiction when she was 12. She lived with her father for a while but the new family didn't really "like her." Now the mother has new boyfriend. He was once homeless and he beats the mother so she won't stay in the house. This is why she's living with the girlfriend of her older brother. The girl she lives with is 25.

A week from Monday the girlfriend is taking off to visit her family. My student is staying in her apartment all alone. Christmas dinner will be Maruchan noodles -- that soup in a cup thing. We're off for two full weeks and during that time she will be completely alone. No presents. No holiday dinners. No decorations. No carols. Just a cabinet of noodles and an empty apartment.

I have no idea how to help. We visited with the psychologist and we're going to try and get her an official paper to stay with the brother. We're putting the social worker onto the case to help counsel her.

But what a dreary, lonely Christmas.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Midnight Snack

As I get older (and older), I don't sleep so very well. Things that wake me up include: trips (multiple) to the bathroom, night sweats, the need to turn over and a bad back and very sore hips and knees which require the correct support to move them, and two doggies that insist on lying lengthwise in the middle of the bed thus pushing the humans to the far edges. This year I've added in the fact that I get home from school so exhausted that I can't stay awake beyond 6 p.m. so by midnight I've already had six hours of sleep.

Thus tonight I sit here in my computer room at 12:45 with a huge container of reheated Mongolian beef from the best Chinese restaurant in the city before me, a diet coke, and a fork -- ready to dive in.

Sometimes it's good to have interrupted sleep.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Controversy

Interestingly, my high school is in the middle of a big old controversy. Seems my vice-principal may have done something to upset a very outspoken liberal gentleman.

Check it all out here:

dooty and honor

The Pitch

Hubby and I drove by the offending sign daily -- and I had asked the VP just why his name was printed in a pile of chicken poop, but he said he didn't know and didn't care.

The staff at school had been speculating over it for awhile. Then a local paper printed the story and the kids were sharing the web address for it all around school.

Today however the chicken poop sign was gone from the guy's front yard. Amends (or threats) must have been made by someone, somewhere.

Watch out where you toss your trash! Us liberals can get very testy.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Recap

Thanksgiving was wonderful. We went to Branson, Missouri, ate at the cheap buffets, took in two shows, shopped till we dropped (not long for either of us anymore) and had a delightful time.

The boys traveled well. This was Luie's first big trip and we took our little Aurora instead of renting a big car. Gus had the hardest time because some of the trip he was stuck in the backseat with Luie, who like any respectable one year old needed constant attention. Gus was forced to bite and growl and wrestle until he would poop out and finally bar his teeth and snarl in a "get off me, you dolt" tone, forcing Luie into submission.

We did a heap of shopping but very little for anyone other than me. I got a whole new set of clothes to wear to school, three watches, two rings, a Christmas pin, and a packet of fudge. And 14 new pairs of socks! Hubby got a couple of books. We got the Houston crowd some knick-knacks as stocking stuffers. The big outlet mall was open on Thanksgiving from noon to 6 p.m. and the smaller mall opened at midnight on Thanksgiving day. Both malls were jammed packed.

We saw two shows, one far superior than the other. Six brothers who make their own instrumental music and sing a-cappella a wide variety of music have a new show called, of course, SIX. We loved every minute of it. The other show, "Red, White, and Blue" was a variety type performed by seven of the younger dancers / singers of the really big shows (Williams, the show boat, etc.).

We got in to Branson on Wednesday afternoon and came home Saturday afternoon, feeling rested and happy. We were glad to have had a vacation.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Finding the Spirit

I almost said no Christmas cards from us this year. It's just seemed too much trouble and expense. The stamps run at least fifty bucks. That doesn't count in the cost of the cards themselves (always bought on sale, of course). And I couldn't come up with a Christmas letter. Heck, I didn't even have a Christmas note. So for the past month, I've been dithering around, trying to justify to myself that a year without Christmas cards was acceptable, just this once, anyway.

But then I started to feel better than I've felt in the past 10 months. In fact, a whole heap better than I've felt in the past six months which have been actually, pretty awful. It's my life finally turning over a new leaf. I'm no longer so exhausted I can't stay awake past 4 p.m. I can actually make plans for after school and carry them through. If I need a hair cut and perm I can make the appointment and KEEP it. Plus, Hubby's been taking me out and about in the spirit of gathering Christmas goodies and my mood is vastly improved, too.

I finished a huge paper for grad class this afternoon and I thought, well, I've got some time. Let's see if a Christmas letter will magically flow from my brain to the computer screen. It's not art but I filled a page with this and that and some good cheer thrown in, too boot. So I unearthed the drawers full of Christmas cards and found the labels for the mailing list, edited the list, and even managed to do a mail merge without a lot of teeth gnashing. The to and from labels are now printed. The stamps have been ordered and will be here in a couple of days. The letter is saved, not printed, because I still may need to do some editing. The cards sit on my desk ready for the the hand-written notes, the letters, the address labels, and the stamps.

There will be Christmas this year.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hair

Getting my hair cut and permed makes me feel free. Getting up every morning will be a lot easier because that awful flat hair will now have some body. Getting all the sides shaved so hair no longer hangs over the arms of my glasses makes me feel trim.

Getting all the old dyed hair cut off makes me feel very, very old. I'm ridiculously white haired now -- not pretty white but ugly, dishwater white. And I've become really, really gray white.

I feel old, very old. But clean and neat, at least.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Counting Blessings

The news keeps reporting how many layoffs are coming in the next couple of months. The economic outlook is darned scary. My stomach churns every time I hear Citibank is laying off another 500 people or that the Morton's Steak House in our exclusive shopping district just shut its doors for the final time. I remember how I felt working in construction and I was told that my job was being phased out and I would be unemployed in under two months. As the major support of my little family, not being employed felt quite frightening.

Now I'm in my third year of teaching. In one more year, I'm looking once again at tenure. At the end of this year, I stop being reviewed annually. I was hired with nearly all my years of teaching counted into my salary (22) and this year I hit 15 hours beyond my master's degree for a nice little bump. I'm almost at the top of the scale in my district and though I'm not making six figures, I'm bringing home a very substantial paycheck compared with my construction salary -- and I have really nice benefits. Even better, I'm happy in my job; really, hugely happy. I'm good at what I do and I'm contributing to the betterment of mankind. I work with decent people for the most part in a beautiful building with responsive students.

Three years ago I was terrified when I faced being laid off from a job I hated. The silver lining, which I couldn't see then, was that this job was on my horizon. This job, with its security and decent salary and joy-making potential gives me a safety net that I didn't think I wanted in 1990 (almost 19 years ago when I left teaching). Now I'm eternally grateful to have that net beneath me.

As the holiday season approaches I thank my lucky stars that construction tossed me out, head over heels, and I managed to land once more back in the land of education. I realize that my home is secure, my dogs have good food and health care and lots of love, and Hubby and I are able to buy Christmas presents for each other and our family. The freezer and pantry are stocked with good food, the furnace is still relatively new and heats us well, and we have a new mattress on the bed so we sleep in comfort. Our closets and drawers are full of warm clothing and all four of us have winter coats, maybe not new, but warm and serviceable.

The terror of facing unemployment still haunts me. I know how the folks at GM and Ford and Citibank and American Airlines are feeling right now. I feel for them and their families -- and I count my blessings, both big and small.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

It Snowed So We Started Celebrating Christmas

We had a little sprinkling of hard snow balls (not flakes exactly, just little tiny puffs of snow) that fell from the heavens this morning and the wind chill index was 24 degrees. The wind was whistling and it was darned cold but, of course, there was no accumulation of snow.

We've become old codgers around here so we were up at 7:30 (I'm such a tired old codger that I was in bed and sound asleep at 8:30 on Friday night). Breakfast from the local super buffet sounded cheering so we don't our fleece coats and headed out.

For the first time I got to use my heated car seats. S-w-e-e-t! Man, that heat bubbling through my fleece jacket felt good. We filled up on ham and potatoes and hash and bacon (we DO like our pork around here) and eggs and fruit and then, since I'd been kind of mopping around, Hubby took me Christmas shopping.

Here's the thing. We don't shop anymore. His knees hurt, my back hurts, and shopping requires standing around looking at stuff we don't need to buy. I haven't been in a store other than a grocery or a Sam's Club for over a year. Today we actually went Christmas shopping and it was GREAT GOOD fun! Spending nearly a $1000 does that to one, I guess.

First we did the Big Lot store near the breakfast buffet and I bought a couple of emery boards and a box of band-aids -- all for my classroom. The total price for everything (including some tuna mix-ins and crackers) was under $20.

Next we took in our local Marshalls. I like Marshalls a lot: high end stuff at reasonable prices and if you shop carefully, great deals. Hubby picked up a ton of stuff for his Texas sister -- and his choices were really cute and different. I got all the goodies to make up Christmas treats for my work crew -- I bought the huge coffee mugs last year at the after Christmas sale at an exclusive China outlet -- a pair for everyone -- and now I have the flavored coffees and chocolate spoons to go with. For my favorite two mentors I got gorgeous hat boxes to fit everything into. Really cool. However, at Marshalls we spent over $150 (not much over, but still. . . ).

Then Hubby thought that we should check out the closing of Circuit City and our wallets took the real hit. We wandered in a very crowded store and Hubby immediately spied the hugely expensive and very complicated digital Canon that he has admired for the last five years and so we broke down and bought it for him as an early Christmas present. I picked out some CDs for $3.99 each -- and they were reduced another 15% -- so that's practically free, right? Then Hubby took us to the GPS department. I've wanted a GPS since we got to use one with the rental car we took to Tulsa to get Luie. The cheapest one was already sold out -- except for the display -- so Hubby got them to take it from the case and sell it to us. It's a little battered but it worked fine getting us home from Circuit City.

Now I have my Christmas present and Hubby has his -- and we have the presents for Houston sister and all the makings for my co-workers and we're not totally broke, yet.

It only takes a little snow to put us in the holiday mood. I think I'll go find our Christmas CDs . . .

Sunday, November 09, 2008

It's Hard to Publish When You've Nothing Nice to Say


The title pretty well says it all.

The election is the only really good thing to talk about right now -- and that's been covered by everyone else.

I'm working very, very hard in grad school. My lovely 4.0 took a huge header when I actually FAILED a huge paper -- but the prof let me try to make it up. I ended up with a low B on the paper and was grateful for that. Then I blew an on-line test and my grade point average for the class was suddenly in the mid-B range and I finally thought -- "screw it, nothing wrong with a B" and just tried to relax. The next paper and test went back up to the A grades so the grade point now sits at 91.33% and I'm trying not to blow it again. The writing and reading assignments in this class are monstrous and I'm totally overwhelmed.

I'm working very, very hard at teaching. This is my month for IEP's and mostly they have been conducted but mainly they haven't been written up. Also I've not made any inroads on my new course for second semester so I think I'm going to have to give up grad school in the spring and concentrate on building a new curriculum for the Freshman / Sophomore English course I'm going to teach.

I've been very, very sick on and off throughout August, September, and October but for the last week have been recovering nicely, once again. I can only hope that "sick" stays away for the rest of the year. I got the 24 hour flu (yeah, I know, it's not really flu) at school a week ago Monday. I couldn't make it to the bathroom on the third huge vomit but the kids were kind to me and haven't made me feel stupid about about covering myself in crap. Hubby came and got me fairly quickly and I spent 24 hours in bed recovering. However, I've had a lot of sick days this semester, more than I ever expected.

I've been wanting to tilt at windmills but the effort seems fruitless -- so I've taken the easy road out and simply stayed away from the windmill. Makes my Sunday mornings really peaceful and quiet and actually very productive. Hubby, though, is in the center of the storm. I've told him I'd go if and when he wanted / needed me to support him but my heart has abandoned the windmill, I think, forever. Autocrats fry my soul and unilateral decisions boil my brain. 'Nough said -- at least for the time being. Bah! Humbug!

Luie is adjusting to our family. He's a hoot of a dog. The eye doc says he will be totally blind very soon -- the eyes are failing rapidly but Luie doesn't seem to mind. He just loves life. Gussie likes him enough to sleep on him during the cold spells. That says a lot about how well he fits into our family.

Today I got all the summer clothes put away. I had resisted doing it because of the many trips required up and down the stairs AND we kept having days in the 70's and 80's. But it's November and this weekend we had temps in the teens so it was finally time. I always forget how much I like my winter clothes -- my winter happy pants are really nice. My summer clothes are not so pleasant in the wearing so when I finally got all the shirts and skirts and dresses put stored away and all the lovely happy pants upstairs and folded in the drawers, I realized how much I was looking forward to wearing my warmer clothes.

I'm going to try to update a bit more regularly . . . but a huge paper is due in grad school for the 24th of November, so this could be a pipe dream. Happy fall, my friends.

Friday, October 10, 2008

This and That

Little Luie had another eye doctor appointment this week. These specialists are very, VERY expensive and this is his fifth appointment so far. It's $100 just to walk in the door and from there, every second the doctor spends peering in Luie's eyes costs more big bucks. We've never gotten away for less than $150. Anyhow, Luie's eyes are showing improvement -- and they are deteriorating at the same time. The corneal abrasions look much better and the redness has abated -- not disappeared but his eyes have a more normal appearance. His cataracts, though, are getting worse every month and the pressure in his eyes is going up. Removing the cataracts is not an option right now because the doctor is afraid that glaucoma will set in. We may have several months or several years where Luie is still able to detect light and some shapes but eventual prognosis is complete blindness. And if we continue to have the growing cataract problem we will have to do surgery at some point.

Otherwise, Luie is healthy and happy and going through the wonders of puppyhood. He still chews everything he can find, especially his housemates beard. I laugh with wonder every time I find Luie pulling Gus through the house by his beard. Gus gets his own back on Luie though -- eventually he will upend Luie and straddle him and nip his nose. Luie laughs with delight!

This weekend is the church's 120th anniversary. Instead of a Homecoming we are having a "Turning Over a New Leaf" celebration. Says to me that everything old must be thrown out and we need to celebrate starting over. Except (and I got a huge laugh out of this) the literature for this new leaf campaign all shows beautiful autumn leaves falling from their branches. Pretty much is symbolic of my whole reaction to this new church we are becoming -- the new leaf is dying on the vine as we speak. Hubby was asked to head up a concert to be given from 2 to 3 p.m. outside on "new leaf" Sunday. We have no portable piano (the lovely one we had has disappeared), no sound system, no stage. Field events are supposed to be going in the same yard where we are singing -- as well as the final stages of a barbecue. Hubby asked to move the concert inside as a consideration to the singers and the accompanist but was soundly and roundly rejected. Just one more thorn in my side concerning this new leaf we're turning over. I'm really frustrated that everything, even if it makes no sense, must be done the new pastor's way. I think I've decided to drive myself to church this Sunday, sing with hubby during the service, stay for the barbecue and pot-luck (I love tuna casserole) and then go home. Hubby has decided just to have a hymn sing outside and not have our ensemble sing, so I really don't need to be in attendance.

Our weather is still warm. We have the air on at school and I usually turn it on at home during the late afternoons when we're in the low 80's. I still haven't gotten out the winter clothing but I'm slowly collecting the really summery shirts for storing in the basement.

We made Thanksgiving reservations for Branson. I'm thrilled and Hubby is accepting. It's only a three hour plus hour drive from our house on 4-lane highways. There is shopping and shows to see and scenic drives to the lake. Eating is cheap and we have a hotel that likes little dogs and will give us a king size bed on the ground floor. I'm looking forward to an easy holiday.

Tomorrow evening we are spending time at the local nature center for their annual presentation of the "Magic Woods." In 2006 Mother Nature sprinkled us with her magic dust in the woods so we could hear the animals speak. In the car, patiently waiting for us were Wolfie and Fritzie. The next day Wolfie, my heart dog, suffered a massive bleed into his gut and I had to put him down. I never really recovered from his loss. By the time my father died in the early 1980's we were so estranged that I had already suffered his loss and accepted it. Wolfie, however, tore my heart into pieces. But this year little Luie will be going to Magic Woods. Maybe some of that magic dust can save just a little of his eyesight. But even if that is too much to ask for, the magic of Luie's determined cheer and good nature continues to bring healing to my heart. Wolfie must be doing a little jig in heaven.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Coasting Along

It's hard to update here because I'm tired so much of the time. A lot of writing is required in my grad class -- writing that I'm not doing very well, actually. Co-teaching a world history class, teaching English 3 / 4 and a reading study skills class, and acting as case manager for 13 kids takes a heap out of me every day.

At my little small rural Kansas college (which calls itself a university) I'm taking an Internet course, studying the characteristics of functional students. I don't teach functional classes -- that requires far more skill and patience than I currently possess or probably ever will. Internet courses are notoriously awful for requiring tons and tons of work and this one is not different. The worst assignment involved rewriting a portion of my school crisis plan to meet the needs of functional students. I hate fire and tornado drills and every other kind of crisis drill. I always have. These are merely interruptions in my day and the elevator is shut down and I have to hike down six flights of concrete stairs and then hike back up, once the drill is over and the kids have become sufficiently hyper. But I gamely tried to rewrite the plan to meet the challenges of my school -- which has few functional students because it was not designed to provide assistance to multiply handicapped students. The paper was worth 100 points - and I got a grand total of 44 of them. In other words, I failed the paper miserably. Goodbye 4.0. I thought I'd care more than I do, actually . . . but the prof gave me a small time frame to rewrite the thing and today I gave it a shot. I probably got no more than a C on the paper, but I'm hoping I did bring up the F. Jeez!

Church is very frustrating for me right now. My church has decided to become evangelical but I was brought up old line Methodist -- sing a hymn, sit in your pew on Sunday, sing another hymn, listen to a sermon, go home and eat pot roast for dinner. Testimony is as foreign to me as having the service in Latin would be. The minister wrote the mission of the church and then asked us to approve it. She appointed the leaders of the church and we didn't have any say in their selection. With every decision made unilaterally by the minister I find my frustration level increasing. When the praise singers want to play canned music and sing with it, I cringe in horror. This is not the Methodist church I grew up enjoying. Change may be good, but radical change, without my consent, is difficult to swallow.

The physical toll taken by school is much harder this year because of the number of classes I'm actually teaching. The kids are okay. I had a bad week with my junior / senior English class three weeks ago and wondered if I'd lost my touch. The class was hostile for the entire 110 minute period, challenged my authority repeatedly, and acted out. However, the next day I lit into them like a steam-roller and I adapted writing assignments to address their continued complaining about everything we did. Within thirty minutes the class had turned themselves back around and were humming along quite productively. I also enlisted all the help I could find to work with me on the worst girl in the class and this week there has been a noticeable improvement. This is a class with very low reading skills and in some instances they have been accommodated through their IEP's into believing they needn't do any work requiring thinking. We're turning that around, slowly but surely.

The new dog, Luie, has eaten his way through our house and car. Two pairs of Hubby's glasses have been destroyed -- at $400 a pop. The new leather seats Hubby had installed in the old Lincoln only lasted a week before Luie realized that tearing apart the leather would unearth piles of foam that could be shaken and heaved all over the car. The seats are now held together with duct tape. When Luie started on our shoes, pricey numbers that they are, we had a "come to Jesus meeting" with him. He got the tabs off my $110 shoes and started on Hubby's $250 sneakers -- and then the little boy found out that a thoroughly angry Hubby was not something he wanted to meet again. He now carries off a shoe once in a while, but he doesn't destroy them. Hubby had learned to put his glasses up high so Luie can't reach them. We've found that a little blind dog has to put things in his mouth to discover what they are -- and if they bend, snap, crack, and can be chewed -- he's delighted to destroy them for us.

My week's accomplishments have included taking an on-line test for grad school, rewriting the crisis management paper, writing up a teacher interview (six pages) to prove that I understood what is required of functional instructor, getting my hair cut, putting out the church's newsletter using the new software on the MAC (which is no longer intuitive for me -- you get colors in the color palate by actually grabbing the color and putting in an empty box on the palate -- what a concept! -- it took only 35 minutes for me to figure that one out!), getting the Internet connection repaired after sweet Luie had chewed through the connection (we were down four horrible days!), and cooking up a mess of Swiss steak in the crock pot for our dinners. And this is only Monday.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Two Weeks In and I'm a Bad, Bad Mama

So we'd had Luie for two full weeks. Two weeks in which he attempted to destroy every piece of paper in the house. We'd forgotten what a big boy who is nearly completely untrained in the ways of indoor living can do to create havoc.

The peeing and the pooping training were going fairly well. The wild chases of poor Gus were being handled, mostly by Gus, who was learning to give back as good as he got. But the chewing of everything that would go into his big gaping mouth -- now that we were not handling as well. Luie's need to put everything that could be shredded into his mouth was so incredibly pervasive that we couldn't contain it.

And then Hubby had to go to East St. Louis on some business over a Friday night and leave Gus and Luie in my "worn out from teaching" hands. We handled dinner just fine. We did the walk for pooping in the park after dinner just fine. We did the bed-time walk just fine. Except I was really tired so I went to bed at 8:30 p.m. Luie usually gets a 10:30 to 11:00 p.m. walk. Instead I slept right on through.

When I had gotten home from school that day I left my school bag on the floor as usual. It's a big rolling bag which no normal Schnauzer could ever get into. And in it I had forgotten that Hubby had put six huge candy bars purchased from a couple of students selling things for the soccer team.

Luie, ready for some action, around 11 p.m. or so had jumped out of bed, found my school bag, stood up on his incredibly long hind legs and gotten into it. Out came nearly a pound of ham, a huge slab of cheese, and the candy bars. And he proceeded to chow down.

Yes, of course, I was at fault. I should have put the lunch things that hadn't been eaten that day in the frig. I should have realized that Luie would be called by the food. In my defense, I was exhausted, I had completely forgotten the food was there, and . . . it had been two full years since I'd had a Schnauzer in the house who claimed every piece of food he could find.

So Luie had a supreme feast. Gus remained sleeping by my side -- this I know because he can't get back on the bed by himself. I woke up at 1 p.m. to find Luie bouncing off the ceiling. I stumbled into the bathroom (for the usual 1 a.m. relief) and watched Luie frantically running circles in the house. At least by then I had had enough sleep to be suspicious.

In the living room I found the school tote -- still upright but empty. All six -- huge -- candy bars, all the ham, and all the cheese missing. I looked at Luie dumbfounded. How had one skinny blind Schnauzer pup managed to eat all that?

And then I realized just how much chocolate he could have ingested and my heart sank. Luie continued to run zigzags around my legs, skidding past the kitchen tile, tearing into the bedroom to see if Gus would jump off the bed, and then leaping on four legs back to me.

Digging around in the living room I found five of the chocolate bars intact. Only one had been completely unwrapped and devoured. Sighing, with relief and exasperation, I hooked Luie to his leash, got Gus off the bed, threw on my oldest jeans with a tee, stuffed my feet without socks into my brand new athletic shoes, and out the door we went, off to the park.

Around and around the track in the park we trotted Luie. It was so dark we couldn't see the path but still we stumbled on. Did I worry about muggers and rapists? Well, a little -- but little Luie kept the pace at a steady trot. Gus dragged along behind, wondering why his peaceful night had been so rudely interrupted.

I hoped Luie would throw up but he seemed to feel super fine, just exhibiting a very sugary intensively high. I hoped he would poop but nothing passed through him. He did pee a lot. After 45 minutes or so of this, I stuffed both boys back in the car and we went home, Luie doing the dance of joy, hoping from front to back seat with abandon.

Back in the house, Luie was intend on getting to the water bowl which to his digust he had emptied before we left the house. Before I could even get the bowl to the faucte and to my amazement, up he stood on his hind legs and preceded to drink in huge gulps from the toilet bowl. Even big, old Wolf who could do most anything had never managed to get his body far enough into the toilet to get water! Eventually his thirst slackened, off he charged to gather toys.

Back in the bedroom, I stood, arms akimbo looking at little Luie. The initial vet bill had not been cheap. We had an opthomalogist appointment on Tuesday which was $100 just to walk in the door. Did Luie need the emergency vet now to make sure the chocolate hadn't done any damage?

Luie continue to bounce happily from room to room, dragging his toys, the dirty underwear, the foil from all that chocolate around with him. I went to the kitchen and got the long cloth leash and put it on him and then I crawled with Gus back into our warm, safe bed. Luie continued to dance -- but this time only a short distance from us because he was tethered to my wrist. If he had a seizure I figured I could feel it. If he got sick I hoped he would be near enough so I would know.

From 1 a.m. Gus and I lightly dozed, Luie tugging the leash to its maximum, me tugging him back inside the bedroom door. All the rest of the night, Luie kept up the dance. At 8:30 a.m. he flinally fell into a deep, deep sleep at the foot of the bed.

Never once was the boy sick. When Hubby came through the door at 5 p.m., I pushed both dogs at him. I promised him a home cooked dinner if he'd only get Luie to finally poop in the park. Off he went, two dogs happily trotting beside him. But it wasn't until Sunday morning that little Luie finally did the pooping -- three huge piles by report.

Seems our boy can ingest just about anything . . . just like the Wolfman before him. I've learned, yet again, that all food is fair game. And we're all learned that being blind just isn't much of a handicap if you have the will and the agility.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

A Healing Heart


Nothing like a new puppy to help heal a heart shattered pretty completely in 2006.

When Wolfie died, a part of me was lost. I loved that dog to distraction. I've never really gotten over his loss. He was such a pal. He gave me so much validation. And with his passing, my constant companion, the little guy who loved me with his whole being and proved it every minute of his life, left my heart bereft.

Fritzy was beautiful. He was smart and he was assured of himself. He gave sweet love when he felt like it and he could growl under his breath when he wanted to be left alone, which was about 50% of the time. He loved us. But he was his own little man and he wanted to be top dog. Periodically I had to turn him over on his back and spread eagle him to remind him that he wasn't the dude in charge. He didn't even come second, which he was quite sure really was his place in this household.

Gus is serene. He doesn't get bothered by things. He wants to be loved and he gives sweet love in return, but it's a quiet, peaceful kind of love. Gus doesn't go for the whole-hearted expression of pure unadulaterated love.

The new pup, Luie, has created quite a stir in our lives. He's full of piss and vinegar. He gets into everything he can reach -- and like Wolf, he's quite a tall boy. Yet there's something about him that is so special, something so giving and loving and funny that his presence in our household is healing the wounds left by Wolf's passing. He's definitely not Wolf. He's his own little presence. His funny little mannerisms and his antics tickle me no end. I'm always laughing. He's not stoic, he's not trying to be in charge -- he's just trying to live life to its fullest measure. And he wants you to join him on the ride.

Three weeks he's been with us. Every day has been both a challenge and a treasure. He's mostly blind and he always will be but he doesn't mind. He likes what he can see and what he can't he'll sniff and paw at until he understands what it can do to him or for him. He's always, always happy. His happiness has spread into my heart and is healing it, piece by piece.

I'll always miss Wolfie every day for the rest of my life. I'll miss Fritzy and Miss Milly, too, maybe not in the same heart crushing way but I'll miss their little quirks and delights. But Luie has come to me, full of spunk, disabled but charging forward, and he has given me a new spark.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Beastly Tired

I'm teaching again in the classroom, not just collaborating, and let me tell you, it's hard, hard work. I co-teach a 90 minute block of World History and the class is large. Today it was also hot. We have so many students who either don't speak English or don't read the language that it's hard to keep them up with the 10 or so who actually can move ahead in a relatively speedy fashion. I'm the disciplinarian. I'm the coach making sure that each student gets the drill, finishes the assignment, and tries his/her hardest. That means I'm on my feet and moving all 90 minutes.

I also teach alone a 110 minute Junior/Senior English class of students of moderate to problematic disabled students. One is so dyslexic he cannot write or identify even simple words. One will not talk -- well, once in a while in whispers. Three only yell responses. We're working on moderating tone. Three have discipline plans because they cannot monitor their own behavior in a classroom setting. Interestingly, maybe because I expect this class to have problems, these kids are the easier to teach.

At the end of the day I have a study-skills class and they're getting short shrift, partly because I'm so tired by the time they arrive, I just want to sit and veg. Again these students have some severe behavior and learning problems but I've had most of them before and they make my life very easy. They understand the rules, know the drill, and I don't have herd them through involved lessons.

My on-line grad class started this week (three more hours) and the syllabus includes a test every week. Sigh. Huge sigh. I hate that kind of thing.

My church somehow thinks we don't have life. They keep planning weird weekend meetings that eat up valuable time, along with the regular service schedule.

The new pup demands attention, as well as doctoring for the "sad" eye problems. And he's still a pup in training. He chews everything he can get his mouth around -- our ears, anything paper or styrofoam, trash, food, garbage, but, thankfully, not shoes (or at least, not yet).

This weekend Hubby has gone off to advise a church in a city four hours from here about a money raising concert. I'm dog sitting and puppy handling and washer woman.

Maybe I'll even get a couple of decent hours of sleep.

Happy Labor Day everyone!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Can You See Me Now?

Hubby took the proverbial bull by the horns and got Luie an appointment with the ophthalmologist. Our vet recommended one in the 'burbs and our friend who works at the local nature center concurred that this vet hospital had the very best. (Well, it should be good -- $95 just to walk into the waiting room!).

After school yesterday we took Luie (and Gus) to see the eye doctor. Lots of tests. Lots of drops. A maze of waste baskets set up and Luie had to go through them. In the light he found Gus immediately. In the dark he was completely stymied.

The diagnosis is Luie's left eye is a small eye which is called microphtalmia. Both eyes have corneal dystrophy. The right eye also has cataracts and is currently ulcerated. He is blind in the small left eye and only has limited vision in the right but he can discern light. He is not frightened by what he cannot see and is happy to bump into things. He is not afraid of people and once he is used to where things are normally placed, he jumps and chases and plays vigorously.

We are treating the ulceration with antibiotic eye drops. Another eye drop that must be ordered from a specialty clinic will use calcium to help deter further deterioration and separation. The cataracts will be watched closely. He may get worse. In fact, he most certainly will as he ages, but for right now, he is not in pain and the eyes don't bother him greatly.

In all other aspects, Ludwig is hale, healthy, and full of good cheer. He is pretty good about peeing and pooping outside as long as we get him out immediately after he's eaten. He loves to eat! He loves to chew even more. He is still very, very much a puppy! And what a happy little pup he is. Everyone that comes in contact, immediately falls in love with him because he is so outgoing and demonstrative. He is happiest giving kisses -- and those of you who know Schnauzers, spreading kisses around is not the norm for this rather selective breed. In the past two weeks he has gained a pound, destroyed a trash bag of styrofoam containers and spread tiny pieces of them from the garage through the living room, and given Gus the most intense workout of his life. He has also lightened my heart considerably.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Humbug!

If you claim that your campaign is in support of change, how in the world can you go with the predictable, ulta-expected, choice for voice president of an old white man with bad hair?

How? Why?

Do you really WANT to lose this election? Is that the game plan all along for the Democrats?

Didn't you realize that you energized your (my) party by going outside the standard "old white guy with bad hair" candidates?

Don't you know that going back to the old white guy who's been in politics for 35 years is going to turn us off?

Obama wasn't my choice for change within the Democratic party but once he became the heir-apparent, then I supported him fully.

Now he's rejected change for what the Dems undoubtedly call the "safe" choice.

I'm totally turned off.

I'm even considering NOT voting.

McCain, Obama, Biden -- no different between 'em.

I'm so very disappointed. In fact, I'm more than disappointed -- I'm sick at heart. Hillary, we needed you -- and Buba! You represented change, you AND Bill. I'm so sorry that once again the Democrats took the path that will lead to another four years of the same old, same old . . .

I think I'm losing hope that ANYthing connected to a power structure can ever evidence real change.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Updating

  • I'm terribly busy but I'm finally getting well from the horrible aches and pains of the summer.
  • School started a week ago Monday but no students until last Friday. Instead we were in workshops and meetings and actually had one full day for room prep. Friday the freshmen were oriented; Monday school started for real.
  • I'm co-teaching with a social studies teacher second block (90 minutes) and teaching my own English class third block (110 minutes), as well my usual studies skill class during the last 45 minutes of the day. My English class is full of juniors and seniors and I adore them. My world history class has 33 sophomores in it -- and they even have a sense of humor and I adore them. My studies skill class is small and loving and I adore them. But it's hard, hard, hard physical labor and my body is very tired this week. Not sick tired, just worn out from all the activity tired.
  • My SPED caseload is the smallest it's ever been and I'm very grateful. Holding/writing up only 16 IEP meetings during the year feels so much more doable than having 21 - 25.
  • Luie is adjusting in his own funny way. He loves Gus with all his heart. Gus would like to send Luie back, I think.
  • Lu chews everything he can get his teeth on. Hubby's $500 glasses are being replaced because Luie got a hold of them and completely demolished the frames and pried out the lenses and tossed them around the house until they were thoroughly scratched. Then when Hubby was attempting to find out if the scanner was hooked up and was down on the floor, Luie jumped up on Hubby's body to see if any treats were on the desktop (they were and he could smell 'em). Of course, since he's nearly blind he didn't see the full and open bottle of orange soda on the desk and he knocked it over onto the CPU. Hubby was pulling wires as fast as he could as the sparks flew out of the back end of the CPU. Consequently we have been computer-less for three days. However, Hubby found a little shop in the middle of the city who worked magic and brought everything back to life. Luie's accidents are getting a tad expensive.
  • Luie also had his first vet visit and got a complete clean bill of health. All he needs now is an ophthalmologist to confirm the eye problems and a good grooming to make him look all pretty.
  • Meanwhile we continue to go to church, try to adjust to a new pastor, attend church workshops, and read church literature. Some days I think it's all great. Some days it's just too much effort.
  • My new school contract has arrived and been signed. I am happy. I picked up a couple of extra thousand by having arrived at the 15 hours beyond my master's mark.
  • Grad school starts next week. The good news is the class meets on-line. The bad news is there's a test every week over a huge $125 text book.

Updating may be slim for a while. But we'll be around.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

As the World Turns

Hubby couldn't take the emptiness of the house and especially the car but he tried to blame little Gus, saying he was so lonely running by himself in the park. So he went on line and looked at all the miniature Schnauzers the rescue organizations had up for adoption. He also checked out Scotties and Pekes and Doxies. He settled finally on three young dogs: a Scottie/ Schnauzer mix, a dog in Florida who I decreed was too far away, and an 8 month old in Oklahoma. He saw the Scottie who was huge and would have eaten little Gus in one mouthful. We talked to the rescue in Oklahoma and Hubby fell in long-distance love. Tuesday we picked up Skylar -- renamed Ludwig -- in a ten hour round trip drive. Yesterday he was wild and crazy, today he's mellowing out, probably due to the sweet influence of little Gus.

Here is Skylar, the rescue:

And here is his story:
  • Skylar was found on the side of a highway. The passerby noticed him because he almost got hit by a car. Though we believe he was only about 8-9 months old, his hair was overgrown and matted. After cleaning him up, and after two vet visits, we surmised that his left eyeball is smaller than normal. It is probably a birth defect.
  • We took him to a specialist three weeks ago. The final assessment was that he most likely does not have vision out of that eye. The right eye appears to be normal and functioning.
  • So what does this mean. Well, he gets along just fine. But every once in awhile he appears to be clumsy.... jumps on the sofa but misjudges the distance for the leap, jumped off the sofa after a toy and rammed right into a brick wall, when you offer him food out of your hand, it can be right in front of him and he doesn't see it, etc. But you really cannot tell anything is wrong with him 99% of the time.
  • He is darling, cute, spunky, friendly, playful... everything a Schnauzer should be. He gets along well with all the other dogs in the house (all 7 adults, most of which are males of varying ages). He can use a doggie door, and he is crate trained. He is just SUPER sweet!
We have renamed him Ludwig with the rescue's permission, and we call him Luie. His first vet appointment is Friday at 5 p.m. We'll know more about the eye then. By the time we picked him up, the rescue was afraid he was nearly blind in both eyes. They held his little head and made us stare into the bad eye and then look at the "better" eye so we would be sure to understand his problems.

Initially Luie was very afraid of us (people) though quite fearless in the car and with Gus. We think it was because he really couldn't tell what we looked like or if we were threatening him Last night he adjusted easily to the house and spent a quiet, restful night. He's pooped and peed in the park. He's eaten and drunk. He's played with Gus until Gus cried for relief.

Luie is just perfect! We are so fortunate! Hubby picked a real winner. We needed a Luie and Ludwig needs us.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Cold Comfort

Dearest Itty Bitty Pretty Fritty:

Last night was hard. By the time we got home from the vet's, I was second guessing our decision to put you to sleep. I disparately wanted to undo the deed, gather up our little boy, and hold you close. In fact, my misery started the moment I pulled out the credit card to pay for the final injection and the cremation. I asked the vet tech if you were still laid out in the examining room and could I go hold you one last time, but you had already been removed to their surgery. They told me I could go see you if I wanted but I left without holding you.

Most of last night I sat huddled in misery, constantly crying. Gus lay at my feet or tried to cuddle with me on the bed. I didn't reject him exactly -- but one dog certainly does not replace another. You couldn't comfort me when Wolf died. Now it was Gussie's turn to feel my pain.

At midnight I had finally exhausted myself into a sound sleep. I do not know if I dreamed of you. I don't remember doing so. I only know that at 3 a.m. I suddenly woke up and KNEW in my heart -- not just my head -- that we had done what you wanted us to do. You were no longer sick and tired and worn out. You had really wanted us to help you stop feeling so bad.

On Monday night I knew that you were telling me to let you go. On the Tuesday drive to the vet's, when you had vomited in the car from the heat and the misery in your little tummy, you had lifted up those huge brown eyes and told me how awful you felt. But once the vet started telling me about more hydration and starting new IV's and what they could do to try to bring you around (again) and long vet stays in strange cages, I began to second guess myself.

I had finally broken into the recital of options and said to the vet, "Don't you think he's telling us he's really tired and ready to stop all this?" And then finally they had offered up the deadly option. Afterwards, they all assured us we had done the right thing for you. "He had lost more than a third of his body weight since May. He wouldn't eat. He couldn't keep food down anymore. He was weak and tired and sad. He didn't want to visit the park and his buddies any more. He couldn't play. Even sleeping was becoming harder because he couldn't find a place of real comfort." Oh, yes, they assured me finally, this was the best choice.

Yet, if I had been willing to spend another $800 or so could I have kept you alive for at least another three weeks? So did I put you down simply to save the money? That was why I cried and cried and cried last night. Had I scarified my loving boy for money?

So, one more time, my little boy, you came through for me. You somehow let me know during the night that I had been right in my belief that you had clearly communicated to me that you didn't want to feel so sick any more. That you were tired and worn out and I needed to fix this problem even if that broke my heart. It wasn't money that made up my mind -- it was Fritzy, telling me you were done and to please help stop the misery.

Am I still crying? Of course. But my heart is easier in the tears now.

Thank you, Little Man, for all the love and joy and loyalty you gave to me and your papa and Wolfie and then Gus. Thank you for your life. I will always love you. I will always miss you. If there's a heaven, my little boy, you had better be right there, waiting to greet me and give me a nudge with that lovely bearded chin so I will rub your belly. I will have treats just for you. Keep the faith with Wolfie, okay? Because you and Wolf are the two I will be looking for first thing when I cross over . . .

With deepest love and thanks -- your mama

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Farewell Little Man


Fritzy, 1999

Last night he looked so sad. We cuddled in bed, he put his head on my breast, and he gazed longingly into my eyes. I held him close. I rubbed his belly and his back. I straightened his poor, savaged beard. He sighed and closed his eyes and leaned heavily against my heart

For three days he hadn't eaten a bite. He had thrown up in the heat every time he tried to ride in the car. He fell over in the park. He could no longer jump on the bed by himself. He didn't go to the door when the package delivery man knocked and Gus was throwing a fit.

At 4:00 this afternoon the vet checked his blood work to find he was off the charts in all the bad things that signal kidney failure. He was so very sick.

So, at 4:30 the vet carefully inserted the catheter. I held him and kissed him and sobbed into his soft, sweet fur. Papa held Gus, who looked on with wonder. The vet inserted the needle and he sank sideways onto the soft toweling given him his last bit of comfort. His heart continued to beat but he no longer knew us. He was so quiet. The vet left us alone. Papa cried. I sobbed. Gus watched in wonder.

We knew immediately when he was gone. One minute his gentle little spirit was with us -- and then suddenly the room was empty.

The vet came back, checked his heart, but we already knew.

I paid the final bill for him, arranged to get his ashes later in the week, and we drove home, just the three of us now.

I love you, Fritzy. I thought after Wolf that my heart simply wouldn't break again. But it could -- and it has. I will miss you terribly. You are such a good little boy, such a silly, pretty little minx, such an engaging personality. Saying goodbye my dear little friend is so awful. The tears just won't stop.

Fritzy during his last summer, 2008 -- sleeping with Gus

Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Memory

Last night, lying in my bed of cough, sweat, and mucus induced misery, I flipped though the TV channels to find something to keep my mind off how much my forehead ached, the pain being caused by the roots of my teeth in my gums, and the almost uncontrollable tickle in my throat. I settled happily on "The Glen Miller Story" a movie I hadn't watched in 55 years.

I remembered it, though, very clearly. That movie is one of the stand-out memories of my childhood. Starring Jimmy Stewart and June Allyson, it recounts the life story of Glen Miller from 1929 until 1944 when he was lost in an airplane during World War II. I have few intact memories from my childhood and I don't honestly think I can tell much about the year I was eight, but I sure remember seeing that movie.

My dad, working for the local newspaper, used to get movie passes for the opening night / week engagement of the big movies in town. This was when going to the movies was an event. Your mother wore stockings (and girdle and garter belt), your dad wore his suit, and you wore your Sunday shoes. You drove downtown to the big movie theater -- each of which were done of in gilt and stars and had velvet seats even in the balconies.

Mother always had us on a budget so you never got popcorn and a soda. You just got to sit still for two hours and act like a grown-up. As I remember it, I loved movie nights. Sometimes we ate at the downtown cafeteria before the movie. In that case you were required to have the cheapest thing on the menu. You were warned by Mother that you couldn't order extra things like desserts or salads. Mother always ate the green stuffed pepper. Dad, who didn't like stuffed peppers, had chow mien. I liked the crispy noodles so much that I could ignore the mostly steamed celery in the dish and I would order my own plate of the gooey stuff, too. You were also allowed a milk and roll. Odd, having milk and a roll with chow mien -- but you got filled up. Then we'd walk to the theater.

Dad got three movie passes for us one Friday night in early 1954 to go see "The Glen Miller Story." We happily went. I remember being sad that in the end Glen Miller died. I also know that I sat, quietly absorbed by the film, without being reprimanded by either parent. I never was a problem in the movie theater because I knew that to get to go along, you had to behave.

The next day, Saturday, was a big event in my life. I had been invited along with a bevy of other little girls to a popular girl's birthday party. I don't have any idea who she was. I only know that my mother seemed to think I had finally arrived socially. We were to attend an appropriate movie after being served birthday cake and opening presents.

At the party, I think because some parent had complained about the "appropriate movie" we were to see, the plans changed and instead of the announced movie, we were all taken to see "The Glen Miller Story."

I clearly remember not wanting to go. I didn't want to see the life story of that poor dead man again. A shy kid, though, I couldn't tell anybody I'd just sat through the entire movie only last night. At the theater we were partnered with another girl and given a small box of buttered popcorn to share and a tiny drink of our own. I remember thinking, "Okay! I'll get some good popcorn and this will make up for the next two hours." Of course, the moment we sat down, my partner spilled the corn on the floor -- and then, hissed at me, "We can't tell. We just have to act like every thing's alright. It wouldn't be fair to ask for more." So I sat, huddled in misery, though the film waiting for Glen Miller to die again.

Last night, as I watched this movie, I was aghast. The movie is NOT for kids. Well, it's not like kids shouldn't watch it -- it's just that is has almost absolutely nothing in it that a kid would really like -- especially an eight year old. Just how fricking old was I at eight? I must have been the best darned well-behaved eight year old in the history of eight year olds.

The movie has almost no plot, just long, long, long sequences of famous jazz musicians playing. It runs 115 and maybe 20 minutes of that is plot. The rest is just 1940's music played by big bands. Mostly instrumental music. And at the end the hero dies and everyone cries.

I don't know of a single child that would sit through this movie today. Not one. And I did it twice in a twelve hour span and never once complained. No wonder I never watched the movie repeated on late night TV again. Poor kid. Poor, sad kid. I'm quite sure I wouldn't be so well behaved now!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

We're not getting better . . .

It's the flu -- the same one that nearly killed me late last winter.

We have the frickin' flu! in July / August!

We are both running temperatures of 101.8. We have aches, pains, chills, sweats, and worst of all -- our faces are full of snot in every single cavity (ears, eyes, noses, sinus, glands). We can neither lay down -- nor sit up! We are simply balls of complete and utter misery.

We are soooo sick

And we've had this damn flu already! How did we get it in mid-summer AGAIN?

However, a huge shout-out to my friend Fran. Last Sunday Hubby avoided church because he was too sick to go (this has happened three times? in our 10 years there -- and one of those was because of the aneurysm) but we knew that no one was going to show up today to sing -- or play for the service. So . . . Hubby dragged out of bed and I managed to go with him. Let me tell you, we were not exactly appreciated by anybody. One look at me and everyone said things like, "Oh my god you need to go home . . . you are so pale . . . you look terrible . . . nobody wants to see you like this . . ."

But I played through the hymns for practice and was sitting in my choir chair when I looked up and say my friend, and our old accompanist, Fran, settling into her pew. By the time I got to her, she didn't say anything to me -- just looked at me -- and stood up to hug me -- the only person to touch me all day. I cried. Well, the bad right eye wept more than it had before (another symptom of the facial misery) and the left eye had real tears.

So Fran played the service. Will didn't need to sing -- he couldn't actually -- and Fran, without complaining or telling us how "stupid" we were, simply supported and showed love and gave of herself. And played like an angel.

It's so good to have a friend who will come through for you -- and hug you at the same time. Thank you, Fran.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Frustration

One more week of summer and then back to work on a permanent basis. I'm not ready.

Hubby came home on Thursday night from his family reunion with a bad virus -- awful head congestion, low-grade fever, he lost his voice, coughing, earache, stuffy nose, sore throat, achy limbs. By Monday I had caught it full bore.

Also, we discovered, unhappily, that my stomach upset during the week he was away was caused by medicine interacting badly -- because Monday night I got the damned thing again, just 20 minutes after swallowing the pills. Seven hours of throwing up is NOT pleasant under any circumstance. With this dreadful virus, I have been laid low, down, and put out. The count has reached 10 and I can't get back up.

Somehow, this summer just didn't work out the way we had anticipated: slow, restful, lazy days of enjoying each other and our lives. Most of the summer I've been sick -- ridiculous as that is. For the first time in 15 years my blood pressure is normal. It's perfect, in fact. Mostly I run 120 over 80 and it seems the sicker I get, the lower it goes. Plus, since I've started back teaching, without doing anything different, I've lost 30+ odd pounds -- which undoubtedly helped the blood pressure.

I guess I can be grateful the bad back, the medicine interactions, and now this dreadful virus (OH GOD I'M SICK!) didn't happen while I was in school. I get to lay around in bed and not feel guilty that a sub was doing all my work. Of course, I don't do anything around the house, either.

The crowning glory to my summer woes -- the dentist decided I had a cavity that needs to be filled after I finally managed to keep an appointment with her on Tuesday. One more happy thing to look forward to.

So Fritzy, Hubby, and I lay around being lazy and indolent and gasping -- and NOT eating, because when it's 100 degrees and your kidney won't work (Fritz) and your nose won't breath (me) and your temp is at 101 at 3 p.m. (Hubby AND me), nothing sounds tasty.

And school starts in one week's time. I'm just not ready.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Homecoming

I am crawling out of bed this evening at 6 p.m. to walk the doggies once last time on my own. Then in my un-air conditioned auto, doggies and I are driving in 90 degree heat to get hubby from his wonderful stay in D.C.

Meanwhile we have had a horrible time all by ourselves in the heartland. Tuesday at 6 a.m. when dog walking I was fine. At 7 a.m. when I left for the dental school downtown for my semi-annual cleaning I was beginning to feel just a tad peculiar. By 8 a.m. when the dental student collected me from the waiting room I was feeling distinctly awful. When she pulled up my chart and announced, "Oh, just the exam, the normal cleaning, and then full-mouth x-rays," I had to demur.

"Um. Sorry. I don't think I can take the x-rays. With my gag reflex and the way I'm currently feeling, I think I'd embarrass us all."

So we agreed on only the exam and the cleaning. I never made it through the exam. I did make it to the bathroom where I threw-up several times. The student happily sent me on my way, grateful I'd made the bathroom in a timely fashion. I got to the parking lot and threw up again. Five times on the way home I had to pull the car over, open the door, had heave in the street. Every time I did, I hit the "heat seats" button on the door and wouldn't realize it until I'd start to even more profusely than I already was. By the time I'd get the darned thing off, I'd be pulling over to the side of the road again.

From there Tuesday morning was a blur. I threw up ever 20 minutes for three hours accompanied by profuse sweating. By noon I'd worn myself out to once every 20 minutes. By 2 p.m. I was mostly done, except for trying to swig of just a taste of water and now and then, and that would come back, too.

The doggies hovered over me on the bed watching in concern. They didn't demand and they didn't pester. They just watched my every move.

Finally at 3 p.m. I managed to sleep for an hour uninterrupted. Then I walked little Fritzy who is sick in his own right. Gus didn't get outside until 7 p.m. -- 11 hours without a pee. Poor little boy.

Wednesday I limped out of the house for the dog park at 7:30 a.m., after which we hit MacDonald's for two sausage biscuits for the boys and a huge regular coke for me (all that ice was heaven-- and it stayed down!). Back to bed we went. Every five hours or so I'd try to get up enough energy to walk the boys. Then we'd sleep. By 5 p.m. Gussie tried to run off with the neighbor; anybody that had a bit of life in them looked good to him. Chasing him, however, in my state was not pleasant.

This morning we had a bit more normal routine -- to the park, walks every 3-4 hours -- but not long and not energetic.

Meanwhile, Hubby seems to have a had grand time in D.C. with Sister. He's been to the beach across from Baltimore. He's seen a bit of D.C. - his knees decreed no line-standing, however. His oldest brother, 93, came up from Philly for a day's visit. He's gotten a cold. He shared family history and amazingly, enough, everyone seems to have done some talking to each other.

We are all waiting for him to arrive tonight at 9 p.m. He just called to say he was at the airport waiting to board his flight home. We have missed his steady influence and his dog walking skills terribly.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Traveling / Staying Home

I piled out of bed this morning at 4:10, flipped on the light, went to the john, swallowed a handful of pills along with a caffeinated diet coke, and fumbled my way to the car, after checking to make sure the U.S. Air flight was still flying. Hubby who had packed everything last night took his own morning meds, pulled on his clean undies, long pants, a shirt, some socks with loafers, yoked the dogs to their twin's leash, and picked up his suitcase. We made it to the car by 4:25 a.m.

The airport in our burg is miles and miles from home but we were there by 5:10, traffic being non-existent on a Monday morning pre-dawn. It took a bit to get him the wheelchair but soon he was being pushed through the sliding doors, away to get his boarding pass and in line for his 6 a.m. flight.

The dogs and I sadly drove home, muttering under our breath (me), and whimpering pitifully (them). One final stop at the dog park for a good morning pee and we drove home to await the car repair men who were picking up our only running car to see if they could get some repairs done on and thus give me safe transportation for the week.

I begged Hubby not to travel during the school year. The thought of my having to walk the doggies at 5 a.m. before leaving for school blew my mind. So he delayed this trip until school was well out, we had a running vehicle, and nothing big was planned.

Hubby is off to Washington, D.C. to see his elder sister whom he has not seen in 55 years. Frankly, it seems to me that if they hadn't connected in all that time, then what was the sudden rush? However, after she had contacted him this winter and they had talked on the phone several times, the bug hit him to pay her a visit - and the visit needed to be soon, for after all, he's 72, she's 98, and the brother they are visiting in Philly is 89.

I was "semi-" invited to visit with him, however, the doggies were definitely NOT invited as elder sister "HATES" dogs and cats and any kind of pets at all. Fritzy is really in such poor shape that traveling is out for him anyway and I certainly cannot board him in this condition, so I'm holding down the home front.

Except that things have not gone smoothly, as we had originally planned. The Lincoln is getting a new motor. The Aurora, sweet car that it is, is just too expensive for Hubby to drive, considering the amount of miles he enjoys traveling on a daily basis. At $100 a tankful, we need a car that takes regular unleaded and gets somewhat better mileage than the Aura does. Admittedly the Lincoln only gets two more miles to the gallon, but it does not require the premium variety gas. So "used" parts have been scavenged and the Lincoln currently sits in pieces at the mechanics, who is replacing the muffler and the engine.

We thought the Aurora, which is now designated as MY car, would be fine, but any car that is 13 years old and has sat for over a year pretty much un-driven will throw you a curve every now and then. Saturday night Hubby thought the water pump was going out. The car began to shake and rattle and make incredible noises. Sunday morning though the car was quiet except it now had no air-conditioning. Meanwhile we are replacing the motor-mounts on it and some screws that have mysteriously disappeared and there are other problems, though not serious, that have caused it to buck rather like a kangaroo on starting up. The mechanic pretty much knows what's what but the problem is finding the parts at a reasonable price for a car that is no longer in production.

So I'm currently carless and not sure exactly the ETA on my getting wheels back. Meanwhile, I'm walking the dogs separately. The tandem leash has been dismantled and I take Fritzy for a brief stroll. He has little energy and only wants to go a short distance. Gus, however, thinks we should be walking to the shopping mall for treats and then galloping home -- a distance of at least five miles.

Hubby called and safely arrived in D.C. in good time. He is staying with Sister and is unhappy that her house in without air conditioning. He first question was, "Do you have the car?" and when I said, "no," he thought I should call the mechanic and discuss what was being done. After listening to my silence for a moment, we both had a good laugh. I can take care of doggies and do early morning walkies and make plane / travel reservations on line - but I have absolutely no idea what makes a car run, other than the little fairies inside the engine that undoubtedly produce some kind of fairy dust to get a combustion engine running. He hung up then to call the mechanic himself.

Thankfully, Hubby is coming home Thursday night. Hopefully, we'll have a car by then. Or maybe Gussie will get to enjoy a really long hike . . .

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Summertime Lessons

Things are a bit slow around our house. We seem to be experiencing summertime indolence. We have not exactly become slothful, but we certainly fall into the lethargic category.

Hubby motivated me to purchase for HIM a round-trip ticket to D.C. to visit his sister -- whom he hasn't seen in over 50 years. She doesn't like doggies, so I'm staying home with the boys. Fritzy is unable to travel, anyway.

I have been working on some lesson plans for the fall, mostly because I need to submit them by July 21st. Without a deadline, who knows when I might have opened my word processing application.

Otherwise we mostly putter around, doing a little of this, seeing a movie here and there (Wall-E was charming to me and Hubby slept through it; Kung Fu Panda pleased us both), and trying to keep up with the wash. This has given me some time to reflect on the deep, meaningful, and pertinent knowledge that I've gained from my summer of leisure:

  1. Sometimes it's important to purchase new cookware. The stuff we have been using from the 1970's and '80's does not cook nearly as efficiently as the new stuff on the market now. I can get a full spaghetti pot of water boiling in less than five minutes. Who knew cookware had so improved?
  2. Laundry that sits in the basement for more than three weeks does not wash itself, darn it!
  3. More laundry trivia: the dryer heats up the house fiercely on hot days even when it is located in the far reaches of the basement; the new containers of laundry soap sold at the big box discount store are too heavy to lift; if the basement leaks during torrential rains the dirty clothes on the floor get dirtier and smellier.
  4. "Stumbling" on the web is an unending source of amusement. Witness:

    A teenager was stunned to find that a baby bat had been curled up inside her bra for five hours - as she was wearing it.

  5. Playing BigFishGames can also eat up enormous amounts of time and provide hours and hours of solitary entertainment (especially the hidden object games); these games are especially entertaining when one can't sleep.
  6. Melon seeds can clog up the sink even when one has a heavy duty garbage disposal.
  7. Eating the main meal at noon (or thereabouts) means one can have ice cream for supper.
  8. It's important to get up and celebrate a "feel good" moment with a terminally ill dog even when that moment occurs at 3 a.m. -- plus he might agree to eat some roast beef just because you've gotten it just for him, chopped it, and are hand feeding it.
  9. Reality TV shows are boring; I'm too old for the stuff shown in MTV and the WBC (except for Reaper, of course); and nearly all the CSI shows are too graphically violent for me.
  10. Procrastination is just too, too easy.
  11. Prices are just too, too high.
  12. The weather is too, too wet.
And finally -- the summer is just flying by. It was only June 15 minutes ago. Drat!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Traveling the Globe

I find, "stumbling" around the web, that I have visited 10 countries (and one of those is my own) in my lifetime so I've seen only 4% of the world. I'd better get a passport.



Here's the link so you can check out how you fare:

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Sharing a Meal

We had a very Zen 4th of July celebration last evening. Hubby and I supplied the food and our friend Debbie supplied the garden setting. The weather was perfect, the company fine, and even the exploding fireworks around us were not too annoying.

When we learned that Debbie's hubby was going to be away visiting his own mother over the 4th, we invited Debbie to share our Independence Day celebration -- whatever that might be. In my past experience, the 4th was usually a time to heat up the kitchen and sweat at the stove frying chicken and stand over the sink peeling potatoes and chopping celery and onions for salad. Initially I had thought, that to avoid this, we would just go out to eat. Then I saw Debbie's sister's garden.

Debbie's sister, also named Melissa, died almost two years ago, leaving Debbie bereft. It is her car that we are currently driving. Melissa was a neat person, full of wonderful stories that she told with a spirit of daring-do that carried you along in them. She and Debbie were very close, living only four blocks apart. Melissa left everything to Debbie, including her old dog, Gracie, and her house with it's perfect garden. Last week Debbie had to say a final farewell to Gracie and send her on to Melissa but the house is being maintained until Debbie decides to what purpose to put it. Meanwhile, avid gardeners, she and her husband perform love-labors to keep up the house and garden with its fountain, koi pond, and wooden gazebo. When we collected the Oldsmobile from that house, we sat for a spell in Melissa's garden, the first time I had seen it -- and it was certainly a place of sanctuary.

So it occurred to me that a 4th of July picnic might be just perfect in Melissa's garden and thus we planned our evening there, with Debbie's consent. I didn't feel like spending time in the kitchen and certainly was unable to stand for long at the kitchen sink, so we used our Sam's card to collect tubs of shaved ham, turkey, and beef along with thinly sliced cheeses and a package of rich buttery croissants. I melon-balled two exotic melons (a yellow canary and a Santa Claus) and got a package of Mount Rainer cherries. Hubby made a macaroni salad and we added in a store-bought apple pie along with some chilled diet Cokes and Starbucks frappuccino. It was a feast.

We sat under Melissa's wooden gazebo, noshing on our croissant sandwiches, enjoying the delicate breezes keeping us cool and relaxed. The koi pond, with its cascading fountain, made for the perfect backdrop of sound and sight. The blue snowballs were in bloom and the surrounding yard was a riot of greens and whites from all Debbie's plantings. Even the fruit trees were bearing plentiful apples. We told our stories of the past. We caught up on current events. We laughed. We hugged Debbie's remaining dog, Maggie, who feared the backyard explosions of firecrackers and bottle rockets.

Sitting together, sharing our lives, we ate and talked until the sun went down. It was a perfect celebration of the 4th of July.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Celebrate!

Things to celebrate on this 4th of July, 2008:
  • Modem from Earthlink arrived yesterday, has been installed, and is working! We finally have connectivity!
  • Fritzy is hanging on. He's still eating poorly. He continues to have episodes where his legs just give out and he falls flat on his belly (all four legs just give out and he spread-eagles on the ground). He looks sad and he's become clingy, like he knows the time is limited now, BUT he's with us, he's loving us, and he still runs in the park every single day!
  • The new "used" car is running smoothly with lovely AC -- so driving around in our Aura is quite the pleasure. I can even drive it -- when I can pry it out of Hubby's hands.
  • I got a hair cut and feel much happier with the shag gone from my ears.
  • My back is better, not yet healed but considerably improved. The doc gave me a lovely renewable script for heavy duty muscle relaxers that help when I'm tired of the pain.
  • We are having a picnic supper of club sandwiches, Hubby's salad (whatever he chooses to make -- probably macaroni), fresh melon (crenshaw, honey dew, santa claus), Mount Rainer cherries, strawberries, and apple pie to celebrate the Fourth of July. A dear friend is joining us and we will sit around her gold fish pond an laugh and joke and tell stories.
Have a grand Independence Day!