Saturday, October 29, 2011

Looking at the Week

Nothing much important to write about but I'm sitting here at the computer and find nothing much I actually want to look up, or play (I like "hunt and find" computer games), or plan, or anybody I especially need to chat with (though I don't chat live, but only through email). So, I thought I'd write how my past week went.

The school week went okay:

  • We had 1.5 hours of advisory on Wednesday to prepare for the ACT PLAN for the sophomores and a run through of the ACT PLAN for the freshman. Little scheduled for the juniors and seniors to do. Then on Thursday we have three hours of advisory so the sophomores could take the ACT PLAN and the poor freshman could continue to "plan" to take the PLAN. The seniors got to go the cafeteria and interview college reps. But the juniors? Pretty much left hanging with nothing at all to do but groan, especially after the first two hours had elapsed. Both days were wasted.
  • The kids who are bad continued to be "tardy, disrespectful, recalcitrant, down-right ugly, and now-and-again suspended."
  • The kids who wanted to work, lived in my room, hanging on for dear life.
  • Friday, one of my Iraqi students (not on my caseload but an adoptee) brought in a huge fry-up of that she called "borac" and it was delicious -- fried filo pastry filled with yummy, well-seasoned ground beef.Full of grease -- a great way to start off a Friday morning at 7:00 a.m. -- but heck, I ate two just in case one wouldn't send me over the edge.
  • Third block is struggling with reading the novel "In Cold Blood" by Truman Capote, which sounds good for a Kansas high school student, but in reality, for a SPED kid is just much too dense and dry for them. We're watching the movie and reading the SPARKS synopsis after struggling through the first 70 pages to get a feel for the writing. On Tuesday we ate Ramon noodles with our movie watching; on Friday we popped corn and ate Mandarin oranges. Thank heavens for a closet full of treats.Promises of food keeps kids awake.

The dogs got groomed but the humans didn't.

We ran out of milk, eggs, bread, and peanut butter at home but didn't bother to go shopping. Finally, Thursday night Hubby brought home some eggs so I could have tuna fish salad for lunch on Friday.

Luie has forgiven us - and probably forgotten that he ever got lost. He's back to hanging out the windows of the Lincoln like nothing ever happened.

The final payment was made to on Gus's dental work. Hubby's trying to convince Gus to have his teeth brushed. Actually, Hubby's trying to convince ME that I should brush Gus's teeth. Gus just laughs at us.

Hubby has the second cold of the season. He also spend Thursday at the doctor's for the quarterly check-up. Blood pressure still too high. More pills being added for that. Otherwise, all the other ailments check-out okay. He is now scheduled for fasting and blood work.

The weather is perfectly autumn (a word I discovered my SPED kids did NOT know) -- just chilly enough at night for a cover and warm enough in the daytime to go without a coat.

Our debit card lost it's magnetic strip and this is causing us untold problems. We have a new one on order but it won't arrive for two weeks. Meanwhile, no one can swipe the card - and at Sam's over the weekend they couldn't even enter the numbers. We finally had to resort to a real check - and when one on longer carries a purse, proving you are the owner of the checking account is quite an ordeal without photo ID.

No school on Halloween. It's great to have a three day weekend. The winter clothes are up from the basement, the summer clothes are down into the basement and actually hung up -- and the washing is nearly totally finished. Plus there is a bag of Halloween chocolates in the kitchen -- and no kids ever come to our house for trick-or-treats. Yum.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Final Irony

Last Friday a voice mail message was left on my home phone. I needed to call the local funeral home and make arrangement for Mother's ashes to be buried next to my father.

I left the task of making arrangements until Monday, assuming this would be a very simple procedure. Set up a time after school -- say 3:45 p.m. -- go to the burial site and watch the interment.

Of course, I was wrong. Dead wrong would be too much of pun, right?

Because the funeral home had received the instructions more than 30 days ago, they refused to proceed with the burial of the ashes without signature authority from the closest relative 24 hours in advance of any scheduled "service." I use the word service lightly -- no service was planned other than putting the ashes in a pre-dug hole. And they had to do it between 9 and 3 during a weekday, a time when normal people are working.

Now Hubby was not at all happy about the whole prospect of having to attend this "service" and was especially not happy about having to drive out twice (once to sign papers, once to inter the ashes) to do it. On Friday he was downright surly about it all, but by Saturday he had mellowed out and just shrugged and said, "Set it up how you want it."

The agreed interment was eventually planned for Wednesday afternoon at 1 p.m. -- the only time this week available. I would need to take half a day from school. And I had to show up 24 hours in advance and sign papers -- except I am a mentor to a first year teacher and I had a "mentoring" district meeting scheduled from 3:30 to 5:30 in Kansas City, Kansas -- meaning I could never make the funeral home in Missouri by 6 p.m. Monday night.

The funeral home was adamant but eventually I found my school teacher voice -- and though they wouldn't agree on my showing up 30 minutes before the interment to sign the papers, they did finally accept my showing up on 3:30 Tuesday afternoon for the 1:00 Wednesday event.

I notified my principal and the school secretary (the most important person in the school, of course) and Hubby picked me up at noon today. We made it to the burial plot with 15 minutes to spare.

The funeral home, attached to the cemetery, had gone all out: canopy, chairs, carpet, and the unctuous grief counselor (who actually looked a lot like Uriah Heep).

Now the lawyer who had contacted me to tell me Mother had died, had said repeatedly that the family that cared for her in the last months of her life would be bringing her ashes to Kansas City for burial.

Evidently, the money was not going to be provided by the estate for such a trip. No one came from Colorado.

The funeral home thought someone I had never heard of wanted to attend the interment. No one showed.

In the end, at the very last of Mother's time above ground, it was just me, the unctuous attendant, and Mother. Hubby sat in the car with the boys. All the people who claimed a piece of her during her life had drifted away. I'm sure she didn't foresee that it would end up being just me and her, alone at last. She refused in the last 10 years to see me. She claimed to friends that she didn't know where I was. She surrounded herself with varying assortments of "hanger-ons" while refusing to acknowledge the family that could have cared for and loved her. But for a brief time this afternoon, with a chill breeze blowing and the sun crisply shining, she and I were finally united in one last, ultimate goodbye.

Friday, October 14, 2011

How Could You?

A week ago Hubby rear-ended a car just three blocks from home. The car he hit sustained no damage but the Lincoln lost its front bumper (with license plate). Interestingly, the police blamed the other driver so on Monday Hubby took the Lincoln in for repair and picked up a cherry red Nissan, much smaller than our town car. Both dogs were required to sit in the back seat. Also, the back windows were NOT child proofed and rolled all the way down, while the Lincoln's only went half way.

Luie hangs out windows. It's his joy when riding down the road, rain or shine, broiling heat or freezing cold. The back windows are nearly always down and Luie's head is facing the breezes. We think, because he's blind, he likes to smell where he's going.

Monday evening and Tuesday, I complained to Hubby about how far Luie was able to stick out of the little Nissan, since the windows were so low and the car so small. Now I could make a sexist comment here, about men, but NOT all men think they can control their entire world -- just my husband. So he left Luie to enjoy himself, flinging himself into the wind.

Wednesday, Hubby and the boys came from home to pick me up after school -- a journey of 18+ miles one way. Luie and Gus started our riding happily in the back seat, enjoying the afternoon cruise.

I came from school, tired from doing hallway bulletin board duty (I agreed to put up the Health student of the month boards for the year), opened the back car door to deposit my rolling school bag, and only Gussie greeted me, quietly sitting in the corner of the car. Gussie was looking at the floor, not offering me a happy greeting, as he usually does.

"Where's Luie?" I queried.

"In the back, of course," snapped Hubby.

"Nope. No, Luie back here," I answered.

And Hubby had the effrontery to turn around to prove me wrong. Strike one for Hubby.

Of course, there was no Luie.

I quickly clamored into the front seat, belted up and we tore out.

"When did you last see him in the car?" I tried to sound calm.

"I don't know."

"When did you last hear them barking?" I responded.

"They didn't."

We tore down the road to the 18th Street Expressway -- a highway of bustling traffic, semis, speeding cars, and motorcycles.

No Luie.

We raced down the highway, frantically searching the side of the road. After all, he had only have been gone for less than half an hour.

No Luie.

We sped into Merriam, Kansas, a little shopping district with a huge grocery, a Wal-Mart, a McDonald's, and other like businesses. You can imagine just how busy that area was.

No Luie.

Down Roe Boulevard we drove the speed limit. Past the elementary school with all the parents picking up children.

No Luie.

Back into Prairie Village with the Mission Shopping Mall.

No Luie.

All the way home, we hung out the windows frantically searching, not talking. Because if I had said it word, it would not have been nice. Not nice at all. Actually it would have been searingly awful. How in god's name could not know that a dog was missing from the car? Why didn't you listen when I asked that those windows be raised? How could you have let this happen?

Now here's the part where I'm to blame. During the summer, Luie's tags had been lost. They had come loose from his collar and fallen off somewhere in the park and we hadn't replaced them. Being blind, Luie is always leased. Always! He never is allowed to wander at will like Gussie, who is tagged with 4 jangling hearts and circles on his collar.

So, end run -- we have a blind dog, lost somewhere on an 18 mile strip of highway and bustling suburban shopping centers, with no tags and no street smarts and no way to find him.

My world was ending.

We spend two more hours traveling back and forth, hunting. No Luie.

Finally, as it grew dark, we wound our way home. I immediately composed a "Lost Schnauzer" ad for the newspaper, printed up stacks of lost dog fliers, and listed Luie on every lost dog registry we could find.

Then I took the maximum dosage of tranquilizers, plus one more for good measure, and passed out. Anything was better than staying awaking worrying.

Next morning we got up at 3 a.m., loaded the car with the flyers and set out. We attached flyers to every metal light pole for 18 miles.

We checked web sites. We sent off money to have Luie's picture mailed to every dog concern within a 10 mile radius of where we thought he may have been lost.

And I prayed. All day at school, I kept thinking, "If anything in my world is ever going to be right, please, God, let Luie be in the car when I come out of school this afternoon."

I knew Luie had been lost in a suburb that is noted for dog ownership. This people ARE dog people -- they own them, they care for them, and I have seen them stop in the middle of the road and endanger themselves to help a lost animal. If things went our way, maybe they would call Hubby's cell and Luie would be returned.

However, if Luie went missing for 24 hours, the odds diminished greatly.

Thursday afternoon only Gussie was in the car, still sitting quietly in the corner, looking at the floorboards.

We drove home in silence. Hubby took Gussie off with him when we got home. I think he decided it might just be better not to be the same house with me. We hadn't really spoken since Luie went missing.

I went in the house, swallowed the two plus a spare for good measure tranquilizers and fell into bed. Still better to be zonked than crying my heart out.

The tranquilizers were prescribed for my insomnia. They are mild -- and if nights are really bad, I'm allowed two. I'm very susceptible to such medications, so it doesn't take much, honestly, and I've never before had two, much less three. The affects last just four hours, but usually that is enough to allow me to get some sleep on the bad nights.

Right on the money, after four hours of sleep, I woke up at 7:30. Groggy, I realized that Gussie was in the bed with me. Now, Gussie is unable to jump on the bed. We have to lift him up because of his bad back / hips and short legs.

"Okay, Hubby came home and left Gussie with me." Hubby was out again but I wandered into the kitchen for a drink, and honestly to take two more pills so I could stay asleep. But I thought, I should probably feed Gussie. So I opened a can of the gourmet dog food, mixed in some pumpkin, and thought, "Old Gus deserves a treat."

When I hollered for Gus to come and eat, I looked over and out into the kitchen bounded Luie.

"Man, I guess I'd better stop taking those pills. Gus looks just like Luie now."

And then, right behind Luie, trotted in Gus.

The screaming commenced immediately. Luie turned tailed and ran back into the bedroom. He wanted nothing at all to do with the hollering woman who had let him be lost and terrified for the last 24 hours. In fact, he was royally pissed at both Hubby and me.

Hubby had gotten the call at 6 p.m. from the Shawnee Mission Police Department. He had picked up Luie but in typical Hubby fashion, hadn't asked one pertinent question as to where Luie had been, who had found him, or why the police had him. He jut took the dog and brought him home. He didn't bother to wake me up, either. Better a sleeping wife than one who looked like she was going to threatened to end a 38 year union with a couple of evil words.

We don't know what actually happened or why.

We do know that Luie was really upset with us. He wouldn't cuddle. He wouldn't play. He did come when called, but then stalked off, with his head turned away and his tail not thumping.

He began to get over it this weekend. He'll have tags before next week is over. The next time we're at the vet, he'll be microchipped.

I'm begninng to get over it, too. Hubby and I are again speaking. After thirty-eight years, you learn to forgive even the big things.

Luie is home. My world has turned right side up again. The rental car is gone, the Lincoln with the safe windows is driving Luie around, and we have all learned a lesson. Now to have Luie completely forgive us . . .

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

My Poor Baby

Gussie cried all the way home, just like a hurt child. A constant, sad, just over the breath low sob of hurt. The blood mixed with his saliva dripped steadily down his little chin turning his beard a faded autumn rose. His butt was yellow from diarrhea and his tail was stiff from where he had sat in it. His eyes were unfocused but tried so hard to tell me just how miserable he really felt. He'd paw me, then his papa, and his voice kept up the steady hum of a sadly miserable pup.

Today Gussie had his teeth cleaned and then extracted. Six needed to be removed. We honestly didn't think he still had six teeth to pull -- but the vet assured us that he still has a few teeth left in his little head. We're afraid of hurting him even more by pulling open his mouth to check what's left. I can tell the bottom two canines are still intact, probably just waiting to cost us another pocket full of change. He may have a couple of back teeth but that's got to be it.

Gus has had problem teeth since he was two years old. Now he's eight - in fact the little boy's birthday is tomorrow. What a lovely gift he's been given -- nearly toothless and the pain of pulled teeth radiating throughout his mouth. Every year he's lost from two to four teeth and set us back a couple of hundred dollars. This year the vet quoted Hubby a price of over $800 and Hubby went through the roof.

I got a call from the school office telling me I had an emergency call from my husband -- and you know what my first thoughts were! Something dire and deadly, of course. But Hubby was calling to say he wasn't going to pay the vet any $800 just to pull a couple of bad teeth -- and he'd already told the vet that.

I'm no good at price negotiation but Hubby has clearly mastered the art. He gave permission to only have Gus's teeth cleaned -- and they could call with a quote as to the expense of extraction. However, if the price wasn't right, Hubby said, "It's time I found another dentist."

Now I love our vets. They are caring, compassionate, and extremely careful with their treatment. I know that Gus and Luie get the best care possible. Still . . . .$800+ for a dental is a whole heap of money. When the vet hospital called Hubby back, the price was substantially lower -- with a new price of just under $600. That seemed much more reasonable and the extractions proceeded.

Gussie is now home. He's nestled on the bed with his papa and his housemate. His butt has been thoroughly cleaned. A bit of water has been sipped. His bladder was been emptied by the big tree. The crying has finally stopped. However, those big, sad, brown eyes are still a killer. My poor baby boy. A lot of cuddling is clearly in Gus's future.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Staying Up Late Can Be Worth It

Wednesday night began the concert season for Hubby and me. We met friends for dinner directly across the street from the new Kauffman Performing Arts Center, then meandered down the glass-fronted walkway into our first peek at our newest and quite lauded KC building.

And W O W! It is a wonder. Soaring. Dramatic. Modern. Visually impressive both outside and in. From the reception hall, the Brandmeyer Great Hall, one looks out across the city. Green space fronts the building because the parking garage is underground and instead of seeing a concrete entrance, the builders planned for a green space with lawn and earth. Quite remarkable.

Inside the Helzberg Auditorium, which is the symphony hall, nothing impedes the acoustics. Everything is wood. The experts say is it is like being inside a cello. It felt more like an ark to me and I thought the space seemed smaller than I was expecting. The hall seats 1600 -- but it feels much more intimate than that. The orchestra tier is only 38 seats across but since seating is on all four sides (yes, three rows of seats are behind the stage) and there are 5 balcony tiers, I suppose that accounts for the number the hall can hold.

The feeling inside the Helzberg hall is very, very modern -- not cold, though. With the mid-toned woods employed -- and everything but the seat cushions is wood -- the feeling is kind-of Danish modern. The seats are cushioned in shades of medium to dark blue in a fluctuating pattern. Because the seats are tiered, everything requires wooden steps. This is not easy on arthritic knees and Hubby will have some problems attending future concerts there. For one thing, elevators are in scant supply and some only go up while others only go down so one has to hike to find an elevator.

The concert itself was a grand surprise. We knew the students were performing and so really didn't expect too much in terms of quality. However, the UMKC Conservatory Student Concert Jazz Band was conducted by the local jazz great Bobby Watson and performed Watson’s The Gates BBQ Suite. Ollie Gates is the barbecue king of Kansas City and these pieces were written to commemorate our barbecue heritage. Certainly not in Mozart's quality, the music was entertaining and we got to hear Bobby Watson perform with the Band. Everyone was bopping along and feeling upbeat about the performance by intermission.

The the PRISM Quartet, a saxophone group, performed William Bolcom’s Concerto Grosso for saxophone quartet and winds, a PRISM commission, along with the UMKC student symphony. This was my favorite piece of the evening -- a lovely melodic yet modern piece.

The conclusion of the concert though, showcased the acoustic wonders of the auditorium. I'm not sure I would ever want to hear this music played again -- but for the sheer excitement of it's first hearing and the maximum usage it made of the concert hall, this piece was creative, imaginative, and a spectacular end to a thoroughly enjoyable evening. The UMKC Conservatory Wind Symphony directed by Steven Davis performed Corigliano’s Circus Maximus, Symphony No. 3 for Large Wind Ensemble. And OH MY GOD! This was a circus for sure. Musicians were placed on all tiers of the Helzberg Hall. Four different levels of sound bombarded the audience. It was fun to watch the conductor hold up one finger and watch the musicians on the stage play. Then would come two fingers and the saxophone ensemble on our left would join it -- or solo. At three fingers the musicians behind us played and with four the instruments on our right joined in. Sometimes musicians on tiers two, three and four changed places. At one point they paraded across the stage. And some of them were in costume. Santa Claus was there in full beard and red suit, there was a beatnik, a naked swimmer, and several others. We were swiveling in our seats and trying to follow all the action -- until the final chords when a guy popped up from back stage fired a huge rifle -- with all the force of a loaded canon. It was hugely good fun: loud, dissonant, melodic, soft, fast, slow, merry, eerie, and unexpected.

Though we didn't get home until 11:00 that night (and 5 a.m. arrived very early on Thursday) Wednesday was a treat! I can't wait for more.