Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Weird, wild stuff

Last night about a half dozen thoughts were swimming around my head, most of which I considered for a blog post. At some point, or maybe just during my dreams, I thought of an actress whose name I could not figure out. I knew she played Jerry's fiancee on an episode or two of Seinfeld and was also in a movie about divorced dads. I figured based on that little info, I would never be able to figure out who she was.

Well, lo and behold, as I was logging into yahoo this morning, the number one topic in the Trending Now section was Janeane Garofalo. As soon as I saw her name, I thought, that is who I had been thinking about.

Can winning something be too far behind? I better go play the Powerball.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Thanks!

Earlier today, I wrapped up my second year of Vacation Bible School. Last year was a very good experience, but also quite challenging, because not only had I not taught kids since the early '90s and was out of practice, but I also was dealing with an autistic child, something I had never done before.

This year was really great. I was no longer a novice. I had taught 12 out of the 13 students throughout the school year, so I knew them pretty well. I had seven year olds, who can read and (surprisingly) are willing to act out parts from the stories (most of them, anyway). They can go to the bathroom by themselves. And best of all, I never lost anyone or even worried about it as I did last year. :-)

This is not to say that there weren't some challenging moments. A few kids would color or play their DS while we were going over the lesson. Some were unkind to others at times. A couple of them complained about various things. But honestly, those minor things hardly bothered me. I was just happy to do what I was doing.

What did taint a really nice week, however, was that only one parent said, "thank you" to me today. Admittedly, I am a little sensitive. And certainly I don't always think of saying thank you to people in situations like these. But most of these women got to have a few hours to themselves while I volunteered my time (and some of my money since I bought a few things without bothering to turn in any expenses), so you'd think they would be a little appreciative. At the very least, I was hoping a few of them would have wished me a nice summer. The majority of the moms did not even bother to say good bye. I don't think I am being overly sensitive when I expect that.

This just reinforced to me how important it is to show your appreciation towards others. Soon after VBS was done last year, I sent thank-you notes to Father and the director of the VBS. I got a lot out of the experience, and I wanted to thank them for that and just for their hard work. A few days later, Father actually called me to thank me for my thank-you note. It meant so much to him that I took the time to say thanks, and I will never forget that. You can bet I will be writing thank-you notes again this year.

It was so good to feel needed and purposeful this week. I like to think that every kid got at least a little something from their week. Even one kid who had been a struggle the few times I had subbed his class this year actually raised his hand to answer questions. When he left today, he asked if I was going to be his teacher next year. I told him that another woman usually teaches the older kids, so probably not. And as he walked out the door, he casually asked me to at least stop in and say hi next year. Moments like that mean so much to me. Even more than a thanks.

But if you are ever contemplating whether or not to say thanks (or go one step further and send a thank-you note), I am here to tell you to just do it. I can't imagine you will regret it. And if you go back and read some of my posts from July 2008, that sentiment will be further reinforced.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Parents of the year

Some would argue that it is not up to others to decide who should have kids. Some of those same people would probably also say that it is not up to anyone to tell others that they must prevent a pregnancy, particularly using artificial means. But every time I read a story like the one I read today in the PG, I always jump to the other side of the fence.

A couple with three kids, ages two months, 15 months, and just over two years old, was charged with homicide in the death of their youngest. You can read about it here. This same couple has also been charged with endangering the welfare of children for failing to feed their 15-month-old son. One could presume their two-year old is fine since that kid was not mentioned, but I can't be that presumptuous.

An excuse the mother used is that she never received prenatal care. Apparently for that reason, she thought feeding the kid two ounces of formula a day was enough (It has been awhile since I had a baby, but aren't there some sort of serving guidelines on the bottles/cans?!). Regardless, if you can't afford prenatal care, something that most women receive for six to eight months, you somehow think you can instead afford to raise a child for at least 18 years?! Yeah, that makes sense. And why not just keep having kids one right after the other, as they did? It would not surprise me if this woman was already pregnant again. If not, I have no doubt that she soon will be. Clearly this couple should have stopped at one kid (even better, none).

This is where I say the couple should be sterilized. In my opinion, birth control is not an option because they have shown me they do not deserve the right to ever procreate again. And I am sure they would argue they did not have money for birth control anyway. Because, again, paying for birth control is obviously so much more expensive than raising a child. If only.

When a kid dies at the hands of his parents, people who clearly were not equipped to handle their kids, something needs to be done. This couple should have been better educated in the first place, for sure. And I admittedly am not sure how you would go about doing that. But enough is enough, even if this goes against some sort of personal or religious freedom.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day

My father lives about nine hours away, which means I don't see him much. He used to travel back to the Burgh a few times a year, but as he has gotten older and his knees and hips cooperate less, the long drive has become more difficult and has occurred less often. Last year was the first time since he moved south that he did not make back this way this way.

Fortunately, I was able to spend a little time with my dad when I went to visit my brother and his family just over a week ago, since they live about an hour apart. Of course, it is never enough, since I tend to be about quantity, not quality. But when traveling is not your thing, you have to take what you can get.

Regardless, today I am thinking of my dad. Even though our relationship has had its ups and downs (when your parents divorce, this is almost inevitable), I think we are in a pretty good place (even if we are not in the same place). I had a really great childhood growing up, the kind that most kids envy, I am sure. My parents did a lot for us, and just as important, they spent a lot of time with us, something that I often take to the extreme with Jordan.

But today I will tip my hat to dear old dad and hope that he has a great day, many, many miles away. And who knows? If global warming really takes off, dad might move back up this way!

Happy Father's Day to all dads out there (including Brian, but this is not about him). I hope you can be with your dad in person or in the spirit.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Make a decision already

I am not the best when it comes to making decisions, sometimes even simple ones. But in my defense, I am also pretty easy-going, so for most things, I could really go either way.

I have been a Verizon customer for years. Probably since before Al Gore invented the internet. At some point during our long-term relationship, Verizon rewarded customers with a "new-every-two" deal. I swear years ago it was better, that you pretty much could get any phone you wanted once your two years were up and you signed on for two more. But phones today are so much more glitzy and complicated that there is no way they would do that now. So you get 50 bucks towards something. Fortunately, for what I want, that and whatever special they have pretty much hooks me up.

I was up for a new phone this past October. Since my phone had been working fine, I waited until just before Christmas to see what my options were. But after looking at the array of choices and pretty much becoming overwhelmed, I ended up leaving empty-handed, not to return for over six months. Today, on a whim, I decided to go back to the store. I figured my phone was living on borrowed time, closing in on three years, so I might as well just get something. Apparently many others had that same thought, and I was told I would have to wait for 30 minutes to talk to someone, so I decided to forget it. I moved on to the Goodwill store, still shocked from yesterday's discovery that not only does the Gap no longer sell the shorts I bought in 2001 and have loved since, but shorts at the Gap apparently cost $40 now. And the jeans I also loved and probably last bought that same year now cost $60. What?!

Anyway, after I bought a much more palatable pair of $3 shorts at Goodwill, I figured I would try the smaller Verizon store at the mall. The sales dude there was able to help me right away and showed me a few phones, recommending two of them. I could not decide which was better--the virtually indestructible one with more megapixels or the one with the Qwerty keyboard, which I had been coveting because of the (hardly any) text messages I send each month. I told the guy I was ever so slightly leaning towards the latter, but I had to leave in under 10 minutes to pick up my kid, so I would be back. Then sales dude told me he could hook me up in five minutes.

This is where I typically falter. Where I go weak. The very reason why I hate car-shopping. I kind of wanted to go home and research these two phones more. But his persuasion got the best of me, and I told him I would go with the Qwerty one, which also happened to have a cool name (Cosmo or Cosmos; either way, still cool).

As with most of my purchases, I, of course, am now second-guessing my decision. The phone is made by the same company that made the phone I just gave up, so the similar setup and features are a big positive for someone like me, who hates reading manuals. But being the creature of habit I am, I have yet to try the Qwerty feature, so I might as well have gotten the one with more megapixels. And I am kind of annoyed by the leather case; I can't see what time it is without taking my phone out of the case. I am also missing my cool ringtones, but maybe if I go back the sales dude can pull those over just as he did my pictures and contacts.

In the grand scheme of things, I am sure it will be fine. It is not as if I just spent a lot of money or will be stuck with it for years on end (I think I am due for a new one in 20 months). But don't think I won't be pondering this decision a few times over the next several weeks or months.

After all, to this day, I still think about the other wedding dress I liked just about as well as the one I ended up with. And I got married over 11 years ago!

I am weird like that.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Waiting

I am pretty impatient. About some things at least. For years, I had the "pleasure" of sitting in Squirrel Hill Tunnel traffic (though to be fair, during rush hour, you actually do move a little once you get into the tunnel). The slow, often standstill, drive infuriated me for quite awhile, but then I just got used to it. You know, it is what it is. In fact, when we no longer needed to live east of the city, we actually continued to look for houses in that vicinity, which most people just could not understand.

Maybe more than being impatient is that I don't like when I think something is going to happen and it does not. I am not talking about how I NEVER win my church raffle, even though that streak continued this past weekend, what, into its tenth year. I am more referring to things I can't quite explain.

As I mentioned in my last post, I took a trip to NC to visit my brother and his family. I am happy and relieved to say that the trip went well. It was so great to see my nieces and nephew (and my brother and his wife). The drive was long for sure. And we did run into some traffic in Virginia. In fact, it took us just under two hours to go just over 10 miles. While suffering through that snake of traffic, not having a clue what was going on because a sign proclaimed "Left lane closed ahead" without bothering to say if said lane would be closing in 1000 feet or 10 miles, I actually appreciated PennDot at that very moment (well, over 100 of those moments). Typically in PA we get signs that tell us when something is going to happen. The traffic number I called on my cell phone was little help, because the backup occurred long before and well past the three miles that were supposed to be affected. And apparently this lane closure occurred from about 10 p.m. until about 7 p.m. the next day. Stupid time period, IMO. Why not move the start time up, so it can get finished before the evening rush hour the next day? So that was unfortunate, and it did cut into Jordan's swim time, but we dealt.

We also dealt with the heat in NC. At least three people said to me that it is never this hot (mid 90s) in NC this time of year. Funny, people told me a similar thing when I visited my little brother in TX four years ago in May. And yet when I visited the Dallas area for business back at the beginning of this century, in March, it was freezing. And, you guessed it, people said it was not normally that cold.

But, I digress. Sort of. Right now I am waiting to hear if I will be working on a freelance writing gig. I was originally not going to go to NC because this project was supposed to start last week. But it did not. I was back from said trip Sunday evening, thinking/hoping it would start on Monday, when my kid was in her first day of vacation Bible school. But, alas, it did not. My potential client thought she would hear from her client yesterday or today, but since today's workday is almost over, I am starting to give up hope. When I first talked to this person at the end of May, she said her client wanted this done before the end of June. So what gives?

I hate waiting and not knowing, especially when the project is pretty big. It just gives me more time to worry about getting it done. Or worry about not getting it at all.

Not complaining exactly. Just saying it like it is. And still waiting.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Heading down the highway

Tomorrow, Jordan, my mom, and I will be heading to NC to visit my brother, his wife, and their kids. I am not a fan of being in the car for hours on end, and even less a fan of being the driver, which is what is about to happen. Fortunately, we are breaking our trip up, traveling about five hours tomorrow and stopping at a hotel (with a pool for Jordan) for the evening, before tackling three hours the next day. On the way back, I plan to do it all in a day. We'll see.

I know a lot of people love to travel. They like checking out new places or visiting their favorites again and again. Most people appreciate getting away from the everyday stuff. Forgetting about bills for a few days or weeks. Not working (or at least not going into an office). Having someone else make their food and/or clean up. Enjoying the mountains, the woods, the sites, or the beach. Sleeping in and/or staying up late. I totally get those things. But I am a worrier, a homebody, and a frugal person who really likes sleeping in her own bed and couldn't care less about adventure. I am the antonym of wanderlust!

I had a nice time at the beach last year, and I really want to go back, although I am quite sure that won't happen for a looooong time. For years, we did not take a vacation, and I was fine with that. But now that we have that great trip under our belts, it is as if I have awakened a sleeping giant.

I definitely don't consider this NC trip to be a vacation, but I am pretty sure Jordan does, which is nice. To her, when you stay at a hotel, that is a vacation. And she is right. We are going someplace else. There will be a pool. We get a nice, hot breakfast the next morning that we don't have to cook. And we will travel through a few states to see people we love and do things we don't normally.

I need to focus on those things, not the hours of driving, what this is going to cost me in gas, how much I worry about things going wrong, and trying to squeeze as much time as I can with these people, in such a short time.

I think I can do this. Wish me luck and safe travels. Hopefully, I will have a good story or two to tell when I return. But if not, boring but safe is A-OK with me.

Friday, June 4, 2010

School daze

A few hours ago, my baby finished first grade.There she is, clearly happy to be walking into the parking lot for the final time as a first grader.

As the saying goes, it seemed like just yesterday was the first day of school, Jordan's first in a new school. She started off so excited, as you can see above, but almost as soon as she arrived at school, she was pretty nervous. The picture I took of her just before I left her classroom says it all:


Just over nine months later, she has come a long way. And so have I.

Jordan learned a lot and had fun doing it, for the most part. She started out barely being able to read, which was a big concern of mine, and ended up reading books on a second and even third grade level at times. She seemed to embrace the structure. She liked her teacher. She had fun at lunch and recess. She made a few friends. Her computer class, something she dreaded the first month, became one of her favorite classes. She eventually worked up the courage to participate in the monthly talent day in music class, playing her melody harp. She excelled in religion class, and, more importantly, exemplified the values she was taught.

Jordan ended up with all A's and one B, in handwriting. If you know my handwriting, you have to know how proud that B makes me.

Not sure what the summer will bring, although I did already buy the Summer Bridge Activities book her teacher recommended, so I am fairly certain learning will be a part of these next few months, much as it was last summer.

I am sad and happy at once, because the end of her school year marks the end of my school year as well. No more teaching. It is also sad to think that we will never see some of these kids again as some will not be back next year for various reasons. I hate saying saying good bye.

Time marches on. So do people. I guess you just have to go with it.

But in the meantime, I will embrace this special day and look forward to what lies ahead, whatever that may be.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Have some feeling, people

The P-G recently published an editorial/article from a mother of an autistic child in the Hampton School District. Apparently some parents of her son Jake's high school classmates felt that Jake was disrupting class too much and taking time away from their kids' learning, which they feared could ultimately hinder their kids' chances of getting into a good college. Not willing to own up to their feelings, these "concerned" parents sent an anonymous letter to Jake's mother Renee asking her to consider an alternative setting for Jake.

Wow is all I have to say. Well, almost all.

As I blogged about last year, there was a mildly autistic child in the vacation Bible school class I taught. It was very challenging for me, someone who had pretty much no experience in that area, but I was glad that child was able to do what all the others did that week. I think we all benefited from the experience, and I would not have traded that opportunity for anything. In fact, several months later I applied to substitute at a school for kids with autism or emotional challenges, though I unfortunately did not make the cut.

I am sure Jake is distracting at times. But hopefully his teachers have some experience in that area and deal with it in the best way they can. Kids in general are distracting. I have blogged several times about behavioral issues I have had while subbing this school year. In a perfect world, everyone is, well, perfect. There would be no disruptions. Everyone would be respectful, pay attention, not goof off or be mean. All children would be born with the same abilities. But, alas, the world is not perfect.

There is more to life than worrying about your child getting into the best college. Yes, I get that that is important. But to the detriment of a young man who is entitled to be in a regular classroom? And you live in the number 4 school district out of 105. I live in 98. Cry me a river!

Since the article came out in the PG, I have no doubt Renee has received a lot of support on this issue. In fact, I emailed her while I was writing this post. Hopefully, the parents and students who stand behind her far outweigh the cowards who should reexamine their values. As Renee said, the things her son has taught others cannot be found in a text book; they are life lessons.

Some of us could stand to realize the benefit of life lessons.