Saturday, July 31, 2010


While June was a perfect month for me and I enjoyed nearly every moment of it, July turned into the month from hell. The grad course, The Professional SPED Educator, was beastly -- and ate into nearly every waking moment of the month (even when I wasn't working on the projects, I was agonizing over them). Then mid-month something settled into my joints, belly, and head leaving me exhausted, dispirited, and foggy. It started with a bout of what seemed to be the 24 hour stomach misery -- but once that was over, my whole body turned into a huge pile of misery and exhaustion.

However, the final project was completed on time. The prof in the course wanted to add a few more days of agony so she assigned us two more projects to be completed after the final course session, but I even managed to get those in on time. Now I'm only waiting on the grades.

On Tuesday of last week Hubby and I celebrated our 32nd wedding anniversary (37 years of living together) by ignoring the whole thing. Well, he made me a bowl of tuna salad and bought me six lovely bagels with veggie cream cheese -- bagels seem about the only thing I can currently eat consistently. Then we took a long early evening nap and after a tuna sandwich we had a long night of snoring side by side.

We took in two movies: Salt (ho-hum) and Dinner for Schmucks (perfectly dreadful). I started Justin Cronin's The Passage which is long and really just an updated version of the stuff Stephen King writes (I don't read King anymore but this reminded me of him). The writing is good but the plot has been told over and over and over again.

On Friday the boys and I had a day of beauty. Gus and Luie were groomed while I swung by Fantastic Sam's for a perm and a head-shaving. They are always amazed that I keep saying, "No. Shorter. Shorter!" I get permed / cut once every 12 weeks -- and it only costs me $37.00. The boys, on the other hand, get groomed every four weeks for $80. Somethings in life just aren't fair - but Schnauzers need to be kept trimmed so they will not look like furry little bunnies and start to shed.

School starts for me on Monday -- a three day workshop to look at the new curriculum for this year in the high schools. We have workshops all the following week -- and the students show up two weeks from Monday.

Summer is over, at least for me.

I sure wish that somewhere in there Hubby and I had managed a little vacation, a little time away from home, a little time away from the mice that invaded the kitchen, the dogs on the diet, and the never-ending wash always in the basement.

Here's looking forward to Thanksgiving . . .

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Little Treat

Woke up very, very early this morning with the "stomach flu" -- it was a mild case but left me exhausted and depleted and sleeping until noon. Then I climbed out of bed, opened up my Pitt State account, set up two for the group work assigned for the coming week, and saw that I had been assigned grades on the homework essays, the group essays, and the midterm exam -- all taken in the last two weeks. I had 97.8% of the grade (or 137 out of 140 points) at the half-way point.

Feeling a tad relieved (though the final huge paper is still due), I climbed back in bed, put in an SOS call to Hubby for some 7-Up, and read my new copy of a very old John Irving, The Water-Method Man. Irving wrote this in 1972 and it was his second published novel. As with all the novels I've been pouring through, I was unable to put it down until I had finished it.

Many of Irving's themes are present: Vienna, dancing bears, sex as a force of life, man lost in his fears and failures. And many of Irving's delights are present, also -- his humor even in the darkest moments, his ability to make you care about the protagonist even when he's truly a jerk, his use of juxtapositions with time and place. Not his best, but riveting none-the-less.

Hopefully my head will be clearer and my stomach much more settled tomorrow. Next Wednesday my final project paper is due -- and I haven't written a word of it yet. Plus there are still those two I've got to participate in the writing of. And one other essay that's supposed to involve the interviewing of three paraprofessionals (at a minimum). I don't have a para at my school, nor do I know one to contact now. Still, I've worked with them during the last four years - so magic tea leaves do your thing, invent me one more essay out of whole-cloth.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Reaching Beyond My Abilities

Over the weekend we took ourselves to the #1 movie of the week, plus the one all the reviewers were claiming to be the summer hit -- and Hubby slept through it. I liked it -- but mostly I was impressed that anybody thought I could understand it.

We saw Inception. Honestly, to get any real insights into the movie I would need to see it at least six more times. There were so many levels -- both physically and symbolically -- that I had to work just to follow the plot lines.

The end result for me was positive. If nothing else, the panoramic views of Paris and the cities visited in the film were fabulous. The trick played in Paris with the mirrors was highly creative. The fact that folks could imagine this movie was beyond impressive. That they thought the average movie goer would understand it speaks well for how Hollywood is viewing its audience these days.

Hubby thought the whole thing was one giant snore and he received multiple punches in the side while I tried to keep him from making those snores audible. Probably this doesn't bode well for the "legs" of this movie as the summer progresses. I think audiences today are much more geared to understanding "Toy Story 3" (which by the way we both liked very much) since the message is clearly and repeatedly telegraphed to the audience.

At home, I read David Nicholls' One Day, A Novel. The story is reported from the viewpoint of two characters whom we meet every July 15th from 1988 until 2008. This is the only day in their lives that we, the readers, are privy to. The two characters, Dexter and Emma, meet -- have a brief fling and then eventually become best friends. The novel has been compared to the movie When Harry Met Sally -- and there is some resemblance but not the humor. However, the characterizations, since this is a novel and not a movie, are much more in-depth and shaded.

The thing is I didn't much like either character but the writing was so riveting, that once again I couldn't put the book down and spent all last night completing the novel. The blurb says "roaringly funny" but I didn't find the novel so. I found it sad and in many ways "true to life." We all have big dreams but the reality is that if we can just make the small things in our lives work, we should settle for that as being successful.

On both media, novel and movie, I think my thinking has become simplistic and trivial. I supposed, if pressed, I could develop an in-depth essay, at least on the novel -- probably not the movie, but I don't want to. I liked them both. Enough said.

PS -- I read on the web that Ann Hathaway is in London making One Day into a movie.

Black Olives

I hate black olives. I pick them off pizza and out of salads. I spit them out if they find my mouth. Their taste is just weird.
I love green olives. They are salty and tart and melt in my mouth.

This week, while wildly trying to complete one of the 12 miserable essays due in my grad class by Tuesday, Hubby ordered pizza for dinner. With all the meds I've been taking -- to sleep, for the gouty toe, for the high blood pressure, etc. -- my stomach has been badly upset. Keeping this in mind, he ordered me a salad, in case the pizza was not something I could digest.

The salad came with blue cheese dressing and lots of little piles of things from the pizza salad bar, including a huge puddle of black olives. Initially, I couldn't eat either pizza or salad. Oh, okay -- I had one piece of pizza. The salad sat on my desk, smelling mostly of red onions, while I slogged away on my essays.

Unconsciously, I reached over, opened the salad box, and pried the top off the blue cheese dressing. I dunked a carrot into the blue cheese and nibbled. Without looking I grabbed up a couple of lettuce leaves and dipped them, too. Thinking I had another carrot, I found that my fingers were instead clutching a fist full of black olives. I popped them in my mouth without even thinking about it -- and man! did they taste good. So I ate some more. Pretty soon the entire mound of black olives had disappeared.

You think I'm pregnant, or something (ha! ha! ha!)? What in the world caused me to down a huge pile of black olives?

Then, after 15 years of avoiding any type of literature other than a couple of John Irving novels, about 5000 cozy mystery novels, all of Harry Potter, a 100 regency romances, and every People, Time and Newsweek magazine, I suddenly find I only want deep literature -- and I can't put it down once I've started. I lay propped up in bed reading all night long, while Hubby and the dogs snore blissfully around me. I've ordered all kinds of hard back books from Amazon -- but I've only read paper backs because of the carpel and how difficult it is for me to hold hard backs in bed for the last 20 years. I somehow desperately need the "fine" literature I have avoided since writing my master's thesis on Gunter Grass's Tin Drum (after that disaster I swore I'd never again read a book I didn't enjoy).

I'm doing okay on the essays, too. I managed to get all 12 finished by sunset this Sunday evening. That's a day ahead of schedule.

Sleeping? What a waste those pills are on me. It's 3 a.m. now and I'm wide awake, ready to chug away at 100 more pages of the current novel (review to follow).

I'd say I was going through the change of life -- but at 64? No. I've been there and done that. Weird times this summer is all I can think. Maybe it's the heat?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Gift for Myself

Reading and writing for grad class sent me into a frenzy of need for some really great literature and so I broke down and ordered a box of books from Amazon to soothe my broken spirit. My partial order arrived today and I greedily opened the smallest of the books, Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain.

Unable to put the book down even knowing I had three more essay questions to write, I finished it at 2:19 a.m. this morning. Bleary eyed, swollen faced, tears streaming, nose completely stopped, fingers convulsingly grasping Gussie's soft fur, I admit to being in love.

I swore off dog books when Wolfie died. The dog always dies in these stories and I simply can't read books or see movies or even hear stories about dying dogs any more. I just break down completely and go back to that moment when Wolfie left me, taking from me the purest love I will ever experience, leaving me so alone . . .

I read the reviews of The Art of Racing on Amazon and thought, "Maybe just this once I could take a chance." I'm glad I did. The story opens, though, with the dog dying. I started crying on page one. But then I quit almost immediately. And the ending is so life-affirming that my tears then were not from such a desolate place.

The story and the message of the book are wonderful and touching and uplifting. If you like dogs, you must surely meet Enzo and his owner Denny, a race car driver. Enzo adores racing, watching television, and especially Denny. He deeply regrets not being able to talk and is sure that with an appliance like the one used by Stephen Hawking's, he could make himself understood by the humans.

This book is magic.

Wisdom from Enzo:
"That which you manifest is before you."
and "In racing (as in life), they say your car goes where your eyes go."
and "We had a good run. Now it's over. What's wrong with that?"
and most certainly "Somewhere the zebra is dancing."

Friday, July 16, 2010

Shoot me now!

Last week, in my grad class called "The Professional SPED Educator," we were required to write eight (8!!!) essays. I thought that was a tough week.
This week we had seven (7!) essays but the prof threw in a mid-term exam -- all essay questions. There were five (5 -- F I V E -- 5! 5! 5! 5!) questions.

That makes 12 essays in one week. There are only seven days in a week. Don't college professors realize that? Plus she assigned three chapters to read - another 150 pages. And some kind of form to fill out that I haven't yet even looked at.

One of the questions asked us to design a collaborative teaching model for our school with by-in from all staff members -- as well as design the training program from the model. This was one of the throw-away questions. This could a disertation! It can't be covered in a couple of pages!

Another asked us to interview a consultant in our district and write a detailed overview of his / her training.

Yet another essay must be developed as a group process, including four other team members. The topic: how to provide treatment integrity for a given intervention.

Finally, for this week there is the essay test -- the directions were: write in-depth answers with annotation. Four questions required some creativity but mostly were answerable by doing research from our reading -- with a lot of explanation. But the last question was a case study of a first grader! The kid is six! I work in high school, for pete's sake.
There is still a huge project due at the end of the course. I have an idea in my head about what to write about -- but I can't find any time to even outline my thoughts.

This is simply beyond incredible. This is I M P O S S I B L E.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Ouch! Or Round 2

It's been raining a lot here in the heartland. It's also been very humid. This kind of weather proves ugly on arthritic geriatrics -- which, as much as I wish I weren't, I am.

This weekend I didn't want to cook, so Hubby and I ate out twice. Once I had crab legs and once I had buttered shrimp, boiled shrimp, fried shrimp AND crab legs.

Can you guess where this is going?
Two years ago I ended up in the emergency room being pumped full of heavy duty pain meds after ending up sobbing hysterically because of the pain caused by -- gout. Gout caused by arthritis and sometimes, the eating of certain foods -- like seafood.

Good grief. Gout. Only old men in Regency romance novels ever got gout. Certainly I couldn't have it.

But I did. And the pain was simply unbearable. If I could have, I would have cut off my foot -- anything to have stopped that endurable pain. Once the opiates kicked in, I still had the pain but didn't care so much that it was there. In fact, I had such a heavy dosage that I could sleep right through the pain for the next 24 hours.

The cause of the first bout of gout (poetry!) was judged due to arthritis and an infection that settle in the joint of my big toe. Plus eating a lot of sea food. So to cure it I took anti-inflammatories and antibiotics. Once the gout was gone I never had a recurrence.

Until yesterday.

Gout arrives while you are asleep. The doctors tell me this is because your heart will keep that blood pumping while you are up and around but things slow down while you are sleeping and your feet, which are farthest away from your heart just don't get enough pumping blood and gout settles in around your arthritis.

Saturday I just didn't feel right. So I took a nice long afternoon nap. Sunday I didn't feel very good either so I took another nice two hour snooze but when I woke up I knew that the gout had struck again. I tried like crazy to tell myself it was just arthritis because my right big toe (the one afflicted previously) was not hot to the touch nor was it red. But it did hurt pretty badly.

This morning I knew. The red band circled the toe. The steam rose from it in the nice cool air conditioned house. And the pain had doubled.

I called my doctor at first light and requested relief. You don't talk to doctors anymore on the phone. You talk to automated routers that shift you from front desk to office nurses -- but none of them are people either. Instead you leave lots of phone messages. I tried very hard to be succinct and complete, stressing I had ended up in the emergency room last time this happened and I was again in a great deal of pain and wanted to avoid at all costs another $2500 bill.

By the time I had to leave for my group class meeting to complete our Problem Assignment due tomorrow I still had not heard from anyone. I left both my home phone number and my husband's cell as he was driving me because I could not put pressure on the foot to accelerate the car, much less brake it. On the way home from the meeting (we did finish the paper), I stopped at the Walgreen's Walk-in Clinic, hoping they could give me a prescription. After a 75 minute wait they told me they never prescribed for a "chronic" illness.

"This isn't chronic," I complained. "I've only had it once before."

Never-the-less, no prescription. I could, however, go to the urgent care clinic another five miles down the road. So off Hubby took me. Except it was only 5 p.m. and they wouldn't see anybody until 6 p.m. and there were already two people ahead of me.

I went home. And there on my answering machine was the message that the doctor had called in the script and Walgreens had it ready -- and all I needed to do was eat a meal, drink a full glass of water, and take a pill (twice a day).

Damn foot. It had better heal quickly.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Summer Reading

When you get a new computer one of the things you are required to do is update your Internet bookmarks. This is when you find how many are outdated and no longer exist. My biggest bookmark folder, by far, consists of blogs / online journals that I read either regularly, semi-regularly, or once-in-a-blue-moon. I only list a couple of blogs that I have loved for a long, long time on this site -- but I have recently updated my favorite blog folder to include these:

Ampersand: a New Zealander with good, clear writing

Bayou Renaissance: a retired military man with an interesting political slant

BERNTHIS.COM: spicy opinions from a very witty woman

Cliff Morrow's Blog: a farmer and grandfather with a delightful mid-western slant on life

Big Fat Deal: I've read this blogger in other incarnations and she has always been a good writer, but in this blog she discusses the perception of the media about fat people -- and being a fat person, myself, I found her opinions both freeing and insightful

Dooce: honestly, if you don't like Dooce you just don't get good writing or like wonderful photographs; both she and her husband create blogs that are the basic primers for the rest of us

Everyday Stranger: a very good slice-of-life woman writer who leads a much more exciting life than I do, obviously

finslippy: like Dooce, another Internet staple blogger because she's a really good story-teller

Funny the World: the only blogger I read every single day; I know this woman on levels she will never realize; she's just back from a trip to Russia and her pictures are wonderful

Hyperblogal: a local photographer who takes wonderful photos of my city

Just Me: another local woman, around my age, who writes about her life on her farm with her husband, their animals, their gardens, and their motorcycles; right now she's cruising through Arkansas

mimi smartypants: another excellent, witty writer who makes motherhood seem like it might be possible AND productive

MoxieMama: a woman in my hometown who writes about as often as I do, but she always tells a good story

My Beloved Monster: a dad whose writing I have followed through a number of different writing venues, even bought his book from Amazon; his tales of life with his daughter are touching and wonderful
pamie: her tales of the life of a writer in Hollywood are like reading articles in People; you must read about her experience at the Korean spa!

Plain-Jane: another hometown writer but one who is snarky and sarcastic most of the time though she's real, too; she just needs to get over her dislike of other more popular bloggers

Ride Cactus: a dad telling about his adventures at work and at home

Snugpug: a friend in Singapore who writes about her precious dogs, her husband, and her life; she has a real talent with words

Stargazer: we have a mutual admiration society; she's a great teacher with a fantastic family out on the west coast; she's another journalist I read weekly, if not daily another blogger who turned his writings into a book that was most readable; no longer a waiter, he still makes wonderful stories out of everyday events

I don't communicate with these bloggers (except for Snugpug, Stargazer, Just Me and once in while MoxieMama). I'm the silent reader, the lurker. But I am a fan of their writing and if you're looking for a good relaxing summer read, you might want to check them out.

Friday, July 02, 2010

A Holiday Weekend

We are having as quiet a 4th of July as is possible when one lives in the "hood." Firecrackers go off at all hours of the day and night. People also find it entertaining to fire repeated rounds of gunshot. The boys are miserable. Gus especially has developed a fear of loud noises.
My advisor and college professor for the July round of grad school has sent out messages telling the class what to have completed before attending the first class on Tuesday, July 6th. Lots of reading. Even more writing. I spent this morning creating four different "small" essays: an introduction of yourself, and explanation of the style of collaboration used in your school, how are the new methods of technology affecting teachers and their collaboration, and what qualities does an educational leader need to posses and which of these do YOU have. Plus we have to have read over 150 pages before the first class begins. My weekend will be busy.
Hubby took back the Dell computer because he did not think that the read-write DVD drive worked properly (it didn't) but this was after I had almost completely finished setting it up. It took me a good week before I could even look at the replacement Dell he brought home -- a brand new one this time. Then, instead of messing around with downloads, I ordered through Pittsburg State the newest Office products and the newest software they recommended to go with them. They cut a pretty good deal when you are either a student or an educator. It took a couple of days before all the new soft ware arrived and I could face the installation process, but we are now running Windows 7 and Office 10 -- which should hold us for a couple of more years before we need to update again.
This weekend will be spent calming frightened dogs, reading dry education tomes, and proofing final drafts of the four essays. Nothing thrilling but certainly necessary stuff.