Monday, October 31, 2005

Love Your Work?

You know, when I used to talk to my grandparents about their jobs that they've had, a couple of things struck me. First of all, it didn't matter if you didn't like your job - you sucked it up and did your best. Also, there was such a thing as company loyalty and job security. If you did what you were expected to do and you showed up, you ended up working at the same job... for the rest of your life. Now, that may seem like a good deal to people of my grandparents' generation (called the Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw). However, times have changed drastically.

Women now go to school and get higher degrees to do jobs that challenge them and earn them a decent living. We have to because we have learned that we can rely on no one (except for ourselves) to pay our way. That's not a bad thing, in my opinion. I have a friend whose mother is divorced after 20 years of being married and being a home-maker. She never had to work before and doesn't understand the concept of it now, even though she needs to in order to do important things like pay the bills and eat. I have been in the position of needing to count on someone else for my financial comfort - it's not a good place to be in. You never know when your husband or your inheritance will run out on you (wasn't that from the "sunscreen" song?). This may seem pessimistic coming from me, but I think it's a more realistic view of things.

I am thankful that I have a good profession where I can always get a job, I can support myself and my son, and I can actually have a savings for the first time in my life. However, I'm not happy at what I'm doing. I don't like the fact that someone tells me I have to split myself between three different schools and provide services to 65+ children a week. I am not allowed to "recommend" anything (even if I think it's the right thing) because the school would be liable for picking up the tab. I watch teachers interact with children in ways that make me want to scream "get the hell out of the classroom and do us all a favor!" Yes, it's nice to have a paycheck I can count on and have benefits and some job security. Back in the days, that should have been enough for me - more than enough, even. But it's not.

Labor Day weekend, I was in the airport waiting for my son to arrive and I had some time to kill, so I was browsing in the little shops that most airports have. I always end up going to the magazine section, where I spotted the latest issue of "Oprah". Love her or hate her, she has some good stuff in her magazine. This issue has printed in big letters "What's next for you? The best ways to get unstuck". Now the reason I like Oprah is that her articles are helpful - they don't tell me 101 ways to please a man (do we really need more than a couple ways?) or how to "affair proof" my relationship (is any relationship "affair-proof? - I think not). Puhhhlease!

So I start reading the stories of these women who have the courage to assess their professional lives and dare ask the questions "Where is my life going?" and "Do I want it to go this way?" and "What am I willing to do to make a change?". Even though I love those questions, this very helpful issue of Oprah has been sitting on my table being used as a drink coaster since I bought it. It is one thing to get inspired and, yes, even teary-eyed while reading such inspirational thoughts as "So many dreams at first seem impossible. And then they seem improbable. And then when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable", which was spoken by the late Christopher Reeves. It's another thing to extract the lead from my ass, stop using information as drink coasters, and actually make a plan for my future - the future that I want to have, not the one I have to have.

The starting point is assessing where I am in my professional life by asking questions like these:

1. Does this job allow me to work with "my people" - individuals who share my sensibilities about life - or do I have to put on a persona to get through the day?

Hmm... this is a mixed answer for me. My job allows me to work with children who share a lot of my feelings about life and even teach me some things along the way, for whom I NEVER have to put on a persona. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many of the educators and administrators I work with. The attitudes of people who have been "educationalized" for a long period of time are hard to get out from under. I know if I don't make a break soon, I too will become "educationalized".

2. Does this job challenge, stretch, change, and otherwise make me smarter - or does it leave my brain in neutral?

This job definitely challenges me and makes me smarter - I need to constantly learn new ways of teaching, how to communicate with others so they will best be able to receive my message, and how to keep things fresh for my students. At the end of the day, though, I'm not sure my job always changes me for the better because of the stress and attitudes I bring home with me.

3. Does this job, because of the company's "brand" or my level of responsibility, open the door to future jobs?

Not future jobs in the system. I wouldn't want to go higher in the system - all the tea in China would not be worth being an administrator.

4. Does this job represent a considerable compromise for the sake of my family, and if so, do I sincerely accept that deal with all of its consequences?

The compromise to those close to me is that, when I'm working, I use all my energy and patience for work and I don't seem to have enough leftover when I come home. It's not a "time" compromise, as with some other professions. It's a "mental energy" compromise. I don't want to take this much energy away from my loved ones, and I can't imagine doing so for another 30+ years (or whenever it is that I'll retire).

5. Does this job - the stuff I actually do day-to-day - touch my heart and feed my soul in meaningful ways?

If I could answer this questions strictly based on the therapy I provide to students, then I would say "yes". However, it's all the other "stuff" that does not feed my heart and soul. It's the other "stuff" that sucks the life out of me.

So, what is my next step? I've actually taken a few, but realized quickly that I don't want to spend another three years in college just to get a PhD. From my answers to the above questions, I realize some important things - I love working with kids, but I have to be able to do it under my own terms. I don't want to do something brainless (even though on some days, it seems really appealing) - I like making a difference. So, back to my next steps? Get my small business license, get my SLP license for CA state, make an inventory of what I need in order to start my own business and how much it will cost, investigate the possiblity of using a billing service, save up enough dough for startup costs, and find an office space for rent. End goal? To have my own private practice within the next two years.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

A Big Thumb's Up for Great America

We went to Great America today with two of H's friends, one of which (like me) will go on pretty much any ride that GA has and the other who was a bit more timid. The picture above is of the ride "Top Gun", and came complete with the Top Gun soundtrack while we were waiting in line. This was my favorite ride because I love the fact that my feet dangled - I even took off my sandals so that I wouldn't lose one somewhere along the way. The part where you go through the corkscrew and your head is above a pond with ducks sitting quietly was particularly amusing. I also went on the Grizzly wooden rollercoaster, which was not as much fun and a bit bumpy and cramped for my style. I would not recommend that ride unless you like being jostled around a bit. Another good "feet-free" one was Invertigo, where they take you up, stop, then let you drop and go through a couple of loops (although not as long and not as stomach-fluttering as Top Gun) was pretty fun. Sadly, I did not have enough time to go on The Vortex, which is a roller coaster where you are standing up - that will have to wait for my next visit, as will the Scooby Doo store. All in all though, Great America was worth the visit.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

You Can Lead a Horse to Water...

But I can't make my son drink because he's as stubborn as a mule. Part of my funk started when I came back from visiting my son a few weeks ago. I had a meeting with his teachers, which was very positive, but there is always something said in a parent meeting that leaves me feeling guilty for the choices I've made. K has moved around a lot. Yes, some families do and kids are okay, but it has been difficult for K. Thank goodness he's very good at making friends. After that weekend, I was left with this feeling like "I should be there close to him instead of where I am". Nevermind that Spokane is not where I want to live. As a parent, we do things that aren't about us, but they are in the best interests of our children. K is changing each time I see him - he keeps getting taller and his voice keeps getting deeper (and his hair keeps getting longer). One thing that I know for certain is that he's happy with where he's living - I don't question that it was a good idea to let him live with his dad. Not only is he happy, but he's taking on more responsibility than ever before. Just today, he had to fix the fences because the animals got out. He didn't talk about his responsibility as a bad thing, but seemed proud of it. However, the "can't lead a horse to water" part of this post has to do with academics. He is not doing the best in math and science, and a lot of it has to do with lack of follow-through on directions given and work completion issues - not that he doens't know the material. He had a very rough year in school last year and it was all we could do to keep our heads above water. Towards the end of the year, after spending a lot of time and money on tutoring (with almost no support from school personnel), he failed two classes. At that time, we had both given it all that we could and did the whole "throwing hands up in the air" gesture. Even though I want him to try his best, I could see why he was frustrated last year - I was too. Now, it seems that once you throw your hands in the air, it's hard to get away from doing that. I'll admit - it is a bad trait of mine. I can take a lot of shit, but when I've had it, I've had it. K has not had the best role model in that regard. I think he has learned to be complacent up to a certain point and learn to accept certain things, while trying to do the best he can, but ultimately giving up in the end. So, now when these old issues are creeping up again, and I bring them up to him, how can I be surprised when his response is the "I don't care because it's not going to make a difference" attitude? To put more kinks in this situation, K has always had difficulties with organization and attention to task - especially when it comes to minute details. I remember in third grade, he needed to describe the procedure for a science experiment he did and his description was "you just do it". This pattern of his was always something we accomodated and he always passed each grade with the things we were doing at home. Until last year. I began to suspect ADD, something I'd not wanted to entertain the notion of before. Long story short, he's just finished with a round of neuro-psych testing that has shown that the Wernicke's area (receptive language and auditory processing) area of his brain is not functioning the way it should - the psych told me he had Wernicke's aphasia. For those of you who don't know, aphasia is usually caused by a stroke (although it can be caused by other things like head injuries) and implies that some sort of damage to the brain has happened. So now, I'm mentally going through every little bump on his noggin that he's had throughout his whole lifetime. Then I start questioning whether it might have been something I'd done or something that happened before he was born (I remember falling a few times when I was pregnant). I've finally quit cataloguing all the things I've done wrong, but they are still on my mind tucked away. So, the questions I'm left with after all of this are things like "how do you make a child want to try again after he's already tried and failed?", "what can I do from here to support K and is it enough?", "if K is diagnosed with either a language impairment and/or ADD, how do I not let him use it as a crutch?", "how do I quit beating myself up for every mistake I've made in raising my child?". How do I lead K to the water and have him want to take a drink without the adults in his life forcing it down this throat?

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Writer's Block

The fog is rolling in around here in the morning and it takes a while to clear up. It's the same in my brain right now - it's pretty foggy in there and I don't have as many clear thoughts as I'd like. I know it's a combination of things - stressors at work, worrying about K, being a slug when I should be exercising, not feeling entirely "at home" at home, and lack of sleep from crazy dreams. At any rate, less blog entries lately until the weather in my head clears.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Movie Review: In Her Shoes

I've been very busy this weekend in my hometown of Spokane, WA. One thing I always do when I visit home is call up my grandma (who is pretty with-it for 80 years old) and ask her which movie she wants to go see. Her choice was "In Her Shoes", which at first I was not very thrilled about. I'd seen the previews on TV and it definitely wasn't on my "must see" list.

The first part of the movie was a bit slow - they set up the story in which two sisters (Rose and Maggie) are complete opposites. Rose (Toni Collete) is a lawyer who is a bit "mousy" and slightly overweight and who would rather work than face awkward social situations with men. Maggie (Cameron Diaz), on the other hand, is younger, prettier, cannot hold down a job to save her life, and is a tramp. Maggie ends up living with Rose for a short time (because her step-mom threw her out of the house because of her drunken ways), until she sleeps with Rose's sort-of boyfriend while Rose was away on a trip.

This led to Maggie hopping a train to Florida to look up their mother's mother (the mother had passed away some time ago). Grandma (Shirly McClaine) takes Maggie in and quietly puts up with Maggie's ways until she gets some advice from her elderly friends about how to relate to the younger crowd. She offers to match Maggie's money if she starts working a real job and then (through accident) ends up being Maggie's business partner as personal shoppers for the retirement community in which they live. Meanwhile, Rose does not know where Maggie has gone, decides to quit her job as a lawyer (for obvious reasons) and become a dog walker. She is wooed pretty seriously by one of the lawyers she worked with named Simon. At first, she resists, but then starts to realize what a great guy he is and that she actually has fun with him.

This part of the story is my favorite - watching how some men out there can appreciate a woman for who she is (with all her imperfections). She doesn't need to be a size two blonde bimbo - she can be smart and witty, have crooked teeth, and still be desired by a good man. I loved the part where they were starting to kiss and she turns off the light and he turns it back on, she turns it off, and again, he turns the light back on. That is a part I can relate to all too well because I like to hide in the dark from my own imperfections.

The other part of the story that is really good is getting a glimpse into why Maggie is the way she is - she has been told by people that she is stupid (even by her sister) and it's not hard to see that she is viewed as either a hindrance or an object to be used by most people. It's not until she starts working as a nursing assistant in a skilled nursing facility, that she is "discovered" by one of her patients (a retired college professor) who encourages her to read to him. He takes her under his wing and fosters a sense of pride and accomplishment in Maggie, which transfers to her treating the people around her with respect and caring.

At the end of the movie, Rose and Maggie resolve their differences, Rose gets over herself and finally opens up to her fiance about her dysfunctional family dynamics (whose family is not dysfunctional?), and Grandma even learns to make cosmopolitans and watch Sex and the City.

This movie really has stuck with me - it went straight to my heart. Obviously, I can identify with Rose, but as the story progresses, it's not hard to have some empathy for Maggie and her grandmother. The only person I disliked through the whole movie was the stepmother (who is the uppity sort of person who turns the silverware over at a dinner party to see if the brand is worthy of her). Rose is a girl after my own heart - an ugly duckling who is a swan in the eyes of her fiance who learns to quit hiding herself (and her feelings) in the dark.

Yes, yes - very stereotypical roles, but overall, I'd give this movie a "B" for most women. For men, probably a "C" or "D". And just for Zombieslayer, I'd give this movie a rating of 7.5 dead zombies (because when they are dead, you can have half-zombies).

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Watch Out for the Worryman!

I've been working with kids for the past seven years and I have a child of my own, and I am continually amazed and amused with the things they say. Here are a few clips for your amusement:

I'm driving in my car with my son to take him on vacation a few years ago and I pop in my disco 70's CD and pretty soon, Donna Summer comes on to sing about wanting some "Hot Stuff":

Me: (Belting out the words to "Hot Stuff" - off key)
K: Mom, what is "hot stuff"? Does she want some jalapenos?? (In a seriously inquiring voice)
Me: (EJECT, EJECT, EJECT - Why won't the damn CD eject?!?)

Working with a student today whose second language is English - I'm testing him for possible language/speech delays:

Me: "Edward worries all the time. People call him a....."
Student: "Worryman"

Back in grad school, I worked with a boy with Asperger's on language and social skills:

Me: (Explaining what I want him to do for homework)
Student: You're breath smells REALLY bad!
Me: Okay, and my homework is to bring breath mints for next session!
(While his mom sits behind one-way glass observing and is mortified)

Working with a fourth grade girl who can't say her /k/ sounds:

Me: Ohhh... is that a new backpack?
Student: Yeah, it's my Hello Titty batpat - my mom dot (got) it for me!
Me: Maybe there's another name we can use for Hello Kitty.... (blushing)
*Note to parents - please don't buy your kids Hello Kitty gear if they can't say their /k/ sounds!

Working with a pretty high level autistic second grader on his language skills:

Me: Okay, you need to describe ________ for me - tell me as much as you can.
Student: (Gives me a glare) Jen, if you make me say too many words, my head will asplode!
Me: Well, we'll just have to take that chance. (winks at student)

Working with a group of language delayed first graders on their categorization skills:

Me: Okay, we're going to work on completing categories today. I'll go first so you will know what to do. I'm going to tell you three fruits - pears, apples, bananas. Now your turn - tell me three sports things.
Student: Clits.
Me: Excuse me... what did you say?
Student: Clits.
Me: (long pause) Ohhhhh, honey, you mean CLEEEEEEETS!

Working with two fourth grade boys on similarities and differences:

Me: Okay, Joey just told us how a window and a door are similar and different. Now Tommy, tell us how a boy and a girl are similar and different.
Student: Well, umm... they are both people... and umm... how they are different (long pause) is that girls have two private parts and boys have three.
Me: (scratch my head - long pause) Okay... moving on!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Tagged by Justice - Idiosyncrasies

Blogger bud, Justice, tagged me to list some of my idiosyncrasies. Here goes...

  • I love tomatoes and ketchup, but tomato soup makes me gag.
  • I love chocolate, but I can't stand hot fudge.
  • On the OCD theme, when I'm in my car, I lock the doors, then unlock them, then lock them again (just to be sure).
  • There are certain movies I will watch millions of times, even though there is no apparent reason (Fried Green Tomatoes, Jaws, Star Wars, As Good As It Gets, Bridget Jones, Austin Powers)
  • If I'm in a public restroom, I will only go #2 if there is no one else in the restroom, even if I'm about to explode.
  • I ALWAYS have to arrive at work at least 15 minutes earlier than I'm expected to so that I can mentally go through "my list" for the day.
  • Matter of fact, I always leave early for everything because I hate being late, even if it's only a few minutes late, and even at the expense of missing something important (like brushing my teeth or eating breakfast).
  • If clothing gets folded (by someone else) inside out, I unfold it, turn it right-side-out, then refold it my way.
  • I don't mind going fishing, it doesn't bother me if I run over a squirrel (or other rodent), and I can crush bugs like nobody's business, but it bothers me when I see a hurt or dead bird.
  • I can watch a movie with violence against humans (except children) and take it better than if I watch a show where there is cruelty towards animals, especially dogs or horses.

I'm sure I have more idiosyncrasies, but those are the ones I know about for certain. :-)

I tag Tessence, Bert, and TSHS mom - if they are up for the challenge. ;-)

Sunday, October 09, 2005

World's Most Useless Things

Eye Protector for Chickens
Andrew Jackson, JR
patented December 10, 1902

After going to Safeway to go grocery shopping and unsuccessfully attempting to use a temporary check from my newly opened Wells Fargo account, I decided to make a list of the world's most useless things. On top of my list is temporary checks. Who likes temporary checks and who actually accepts them? The only people I can give them to are companies where I have to send in a payment through regular mail. What choice do they have but to accept them? In the midst of my extreme irritation at not being able to pay for my groceries with my temporary checks, I got to thinking about all of the other useless things in the world. Here is a list of what I could come up with, in no particular order:

  • those flyers I get in the mail that advertise weekly specials at places I never visit
  • spam email that tells me "get a bigger penis in 10 days" (keep in mind I'm a lady)
  • the Lifetime channel on cable
  • fortune cookies
  • miniature decks of playing cards
  • those little plastic parachute men whose parachutes always come untied after one use
  • bronzed bibles (about which I used to participate in prank phone calls attempting to sell)
  • chia pets
  • caffiene free diet coke
  • FM transmitters for IPOD's
  • finger weights
  • fat-free cookies/candy
I'm sure there are more useless items in this world, but these are the ones I come across on a regular basis.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Movie Review: Serenity

Went to see "Serenity" tonight and I'm not sure what I think of it yet. I enjoyed it, although it wasn't the greatest film I've ever seen. What struck me the most was how the music matched what was happening and I actually noticed it (many times, I don't notice music in a movie) and also how much humor was inserted into even very tense situations. I understood the plot, but one of the main characters - River - was a bit annoying. I can see why they made her psychic, but I don't understand the point of having her be a "badass ninja type". That part got annoying because there's no way in hell a stick of a girl like her could "take down" all the evil reavers. (Insert "eye roll" here). Also, the dialogue was difficult to follow - the script was in a sort of English that I'm not used to. I knew nothing about the history of "Serenity" before I went to see it - that it was actually sort of an extension of "Firefly" - a short lived series on Fox. Now that I know that, the movie makes more sense, and somehow I have lowered expectations, which improved my opinion of the movie. Bottom line: If you like the humor of some of the shows that the writer has worked on and you don't mind a little "corniness", then the movie is pretty decent. If not, then save your $10 and wait for the DVD release.

Baby Steps

I went yesterday after work to get my hair done and I got to talking with Sunshine, the gal who was fixing my hair. Hairdressers have the gift of gab - they pretty much have to right? Isn't it a job requirement for them? At any rate, we found out that we were both not San Jose natives and were talking about how hard it is to get used to a new place. Towards the top of our lists of things we miss were our friends. Even though I'm a very social creature (it's a huge part of my job, as well), I am having a hard time connecting. I meet a ton of people, but I don't want to be friends with the parents I meet. I've learned through others' examples to keep a strict boundary between my professional life and my personal life. There are plenty of teachers I meet since I work at three schools - and they come in all ages. The problem is that it takes a while for me to trust someone enough to call them "friend", and I've done so much moving around lately that I don't stay long enough to get to that point. This is the first weekend I've sought out two other women I've met to have a coffee date. I'm very picky about who I seek out - they are usually at least my age or older. They either are in a serious relationship/marriage or have been in one and they usually have children or at least feel very comfortable around them. The younger ladies don't understand that I can't stay out until the wee hours of the morning drinking and the older ladies are a bit too grumpy for me and they talk about things that are before my time. As far as character traits, I've never thought about that as much when deciding who I will spend my time with. My three good friends from Seattle are so very different - one is wild and carefree and definitely a realist; the other is very grounded in her roots, down to earth, is the most genuine person I think I've ever met, with an awesome sense of humor and a laugh that is infectious; and the third is very conservative (bordering on uptight), emotional, funny, and the most giving person you'd ever meet. Each one comes from very different walks of life and have had very different experiences to bring them to where they are now. I feel like they balance me out pretty well. I miss that - I miss them, my friends. It's hard to be in a new place and find people who balance me out, but finally after two months of living here, I am taking baby steps...

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


     It’s something I hate to admit, but I feel threatened.  How else can I explain my strange dreams?  Dreams in which I am standing in front of a crowd of my colleagues explaining results from research, when suddenly, my son’s new stepmother is there yelling that my results are all lies – that I’ve falsified everything.  Then I wake up short of breath with a feeling like my life is being wrung out of my heart…

The dreams are silly, really.  I like K’s stepmom – she’s a genuinely nice person and she’s doing a great job of taking care of K since he’s been there since this past July.  The thing is, she’s doing too great of a job – one that used to be mine.  Now I am on the outside of a circle waiting to get thrown tidbits of information about K and what is happening in his life.  I know there are things I’m not being told – not intentionally, but because life is so full of all the big and little details that some parts don’t get told.  Like the other night when J called to ask about K’s extreme fear of needles (he gets his blood drawn tomorrow).  I will not be there to hog-tie him when he visits the doctor (something I’ve become quite adept at, even though K’s almost as tall as me).  Or last night when J called to ask why K says his homework is done when it’s only half completed.  How many times did K and I have similar discussions in previous years?  But, I’m not there to harass him about why he’s only done half of his homework.  Someone else does it now…

I didn’t expect to miss the hard stuff – the stuff that most parents bitch and moan about.  Truth is, I miss the challenges and difficulties as much as the good times – times when K and I glance at each other knowingly and giggle quietly when someone says “duty” (because it sounds like “doodee”) or when we quietly slump side-by-side on the couch and offer Mystery Science Theater-type commentary on evening television shows.   I know details about K that not many people know – the kind of knowledge that comes from living with someone so long that you can finish their sentences.  

I guess it’s going to take my heart time to catch up to my brain and realize that, even though K is not with me, no one can take a mom’s place.  

Monday, October 03, 2005

Bills to Pay

Okay, Mondays aren't bad enough, but I still haven't gotten paid. I have a nice stack of bills, including rent, just waiting to be paid, but no paycheck. Forget the fact that I've been working since August 18, got my direct deposit form turned in mid-August, and it's now October 3rd and I have yet to be paid for over a month and a half of work. Working in the schools takes some getting used to, but most people don't realize we only get paid once per month - on the last working day of the month. That's IF you aren't new and IF they get off their asses and get the direct deposit set up and IF they don't mail out your check to your home address without even asking you (instead of holding it at the office so I could have picked it up Friday). Grrr....

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Too Shi-Shi for Me

Today we went to Santana Row in San Jose, which is where they have the local farmer's market. I love to visit all the different farmer's markets around the area - it's a great way to get fresh fruits and vegetables and support local growers. While it was very nice, Santana Row is a bit too shi-shi for me. It had lovely shops and beautiful landscaping, all of which screamed at me "Do Not Touch!". The shops did not seem accessible to me, even though I was free to walk right into any one of them I wanted. They even had several uniformed policeman patrolling the area.

It's not that I cannot appreciate beauty, but I grew up in the country and beauty to me means something totally different...

Instead of a concrete flower on a building pillar, I think that land that is not tampered with and built up to the point that we have people living on top of businesses is beautiful and rare these days. I love it when I'm in a place where I can see the sunset - buildings and shops do not get in the way. I enjoy being in a place where policeman are not needed in order to ensure safety and reduce theft. People are friendly and greet you with a smile and go out of their way to be kind and courteous.

On the bright side and totally unrelated note, we spotted this little red car and accompanying miniature bicycle sitting there amidst all the huge SUV's. It took up about half of a normal parking space and was the cutest thing I saw today. What was the miniature bike for, though? In case of car emergencies?

Stay tuned for next week's Farmer's Market Adventure.