Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Stuff Portrait Friday

I've been keeping up with Julia's blog, and she is a pretty regular participant of Stuff Portrait Friday. It's pretty simple - there are three categories per week that you get a picture of, then post it on your blog. I like challenges, so here is my first shot at Stuff Portrait Friday:

Because my job gets me up early, and exercising before work means I have to drag my ass outta bed around 4:45 a.m., I am in full support of my caffiene addiction. I know that supposedly, I'd have more energy without it, but I'm just not buying it. I think the fact that I don't have addictions that are worse is the reason I keep justifying my dependence on the brown grit.

I have two main sacrifices during most of the year - time and sleep. I've always been a person who needs at least 8 hours of sleep a night just to function the next day. Time is something I seem to never have enough of. The workdays are filled with "have to's" and my time on weekends, even when spent doing enjoyable activities, is too short. It seems like I'm never ready for work when Monday morning rolls around.

This is the second baby blanket that I've been knitting. I have about 1/3 of it done, so there is still a lot to get done on it. It's nice though, because it's done in a simple seed stitch, which does not require me to count stitches, and then subsequently lose my place and mess up the pattern. I think a simpler pattern works with this blanket, since the color is vibrant.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I Want My Mommy!!!!

Today was the first day of school for our district. It started out so promising - I got to work in one piece and without being stressed from the drive, people had smiles on their faces, and it wasn't too cold, despite the layer of fog. Then, the children arrived. The start of school can be such a harrowing time, not just for the students, but for their parents. I anticipated having to calm down students who are "high needs", so I tended to rotate between those classrooms, but they were just fine. Suddenly, I was summoned to the kindergarten classroom. Apparently, "Johnny" would not separate from mom, and she needed to return to work. When I got there, he was sitting on his square of the classroom carpet while the teacher was informing the class about the rules. Johnny was not listening to a word she said, but instead had his gaze fixed upon his mother, who was crying silently, while he whispered commands for her "not to leave" and to "stay right there". When the children were allowed to stand and move around, Johnny went straight to his mother and attached himself firmly to her thigh, and it all went downhill from there. I thought I won him over at one point when I had him in the middle of the room doing puzzles with other kids, but mother did not take my cue to leave, but began moving towards her son and snapping pictures with her digital camera. But alas, he became aware of her continued presence, and resumed his post as her "leg tumor" (which is my term of endearment for a child who can't separate from his mother). I thought I had a second chance to integrate him into the classroom when it was time for snack and recess, but mother remained by his side asking him questions like "do you want to go play with your friends?". At one point, mother did break away to use the restroom, at which point I had to grab Johnny so he would not run after her. I think I finally have my hearing back after the temporary impairment from Johnny's wails of despair yelled into my right ear. After mother came back, there was no way in hell Johnny would let her out of his sight. Finally, accepting defeat, I mentioned to her that it was her choice to either take him home, or for me to hold him while she made her exit. She opted to take him home. Before they left, I told Johnny that I looked forward to seeing him the next day, that he would come to kindergarten like a big boy, and that mommy would not be staying with him.

It's difficult for me to deal with situations like this. At first, I was sympathetic with the mother, but that quickly faded as it became clear that she would not leave Johnny. When my son was young, he pulled the same thing in preschool. The difference is that I actually left him, and he was fine after five minutes. It didn't take even a week for the behavior to stop. I also could not understand why she would ask the child what he wanted to do - it's obvious what he wanted. How hard is it to say "you need to do this"? When do kids begin learning that there are just certain things that have to happen in this world? The icing on the cake was when he would shoot her glances that clearly said "I have you right where I want you". That was the point I quit trying and asked her to either let me take him and help him join his class or take him home. I hope that I will see him tomorrow sans mother.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

I Will Survive

As of yesterday at 3:30 p.m., I officially completed my first week (although it was just a half of a week) at work. It went fine, for the most part, and I made it to Friday virtually unscathed. There are a lot of changes this year. First off, I have a new "main boss", whose title is Director of Special Education. I think I will really like her - I've already been in a few meetings with her and she handles herself quite well and has a nice manner. A bigger selling point is that she has a very extensive knowledge and appreciation for speech therapists from personal experience. Already I've given her a head's up on a few things I have coming up in my personal life, and she has assured me not to worry and that everything at work will be taken care of. The second big change is that, at my main school, I'll be working with a new principal. She is not brand-spankin' new, but just new to our building. I was not sure what she'd be like, but so far, so good. I take it as a good sign that she didn't freak out when I couldn't attend every staff meeting, and when I approached her about it, her response was "Don't worry - you just do what you need to do. I trust you."

A few things worried me ab0ut the start of this year. First of all, I started back for a few hours on Tuesday, and already I had calls requiring me to put out some fires. Even worse is that our only two program specialists, who are psychologists that handle the "tough" cases, are in the hospital due to undisclosed illnesses. I know that they are stress related, which sets the tone for what's coming. These are the gals I turn to when I have a parent come to me with a 10 page list of demands. These are the gals I call when I've handled things as diplomatically as I can and the parents are still not appeased. At my other school, I have a lot of these cases. Usually the kids are wonderful, it's their parents who are the problem. More often than not, they are coming into meetings with advocates - people who are trained (and untrained) to push for certain things.

I am realizing quickly that, in order to make it through this year with my sanity, I have to ask myself a couple of questions when I start getting stressed out - "Is this worth my energy?" and "Is my stressing-out going to change the outcome?". This is another way of relinquishing control over the happenings of the impending school year. Giving up control is hard for me to do, but there are so many things that happen that I never had a handle on in the first place.

If made it through my first week, and hold on to those important questions that I'll need to ask myself on a regular basis, then I just might survive this year.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Mr. Burn's Award in Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence

So today I am one of the several recipients of our district's Exemplary Staff awards. It's not quite as ambiguous and hokey as my blog title suggests - I actually had to meet some criteria and be nominated. And, today I found out that the nomination process is not just simply putting a person's name in a hat and saying, "Oh, hey, this person is exemplary". The person who nominates a staff member has to write a detailed and lengthy essay that covers several topics. This made me feel slightly better about the meaningfulness of the award, but I had to go back and read the "District Core Values" - quality performance, focus on student learning, respect, positive interdependence, and integrity - to get a clear idea of what qualified people for the award. It was interesting to see the reactions of the nominees as they marched across the stage to receive their golden apple. There was everything to clear embarrassment to excitement and princess-like waves directed to the throng of people in the audience. My feelings about the award are mixed - I think it's nice to be recognized, but it's not going to change what I'm doing or how I operate at work. I don't need an award or recognition to do my best. I've been doing this job in the schools for several years and have never been at a school district that gives any kind of award or recognition to Speech Language Pathologists. This is not because we're lazy, and last year was definitely not the first time I've worked my tail off. It's just that, because we're autonomous (which is one of the things I like best about my line of work) means that not many people realize all the things that we're responsible for. Then again, not many of us go into this profession seeking awards. My best rewards have been when a parent comes and tells me how much I've made a difference in their child's life or when they thank me for the help I've given. But, I will keep my golden apple in my office as a reminder that recognition is not a horrible thing every seven or eight years.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Mental Preparation

Today and tomorrow I will be in a state of "mental preparation" for my return to work on Wednesday. Going back to work should be a good thing, and for the most part, it is. After all, what would I do at home all day besides sit on my bum and be lazy? I've noticed that I don't always use my free time in useful pursuits. However, I'm not quite ready to return to the source of much of my stress.

Yesterday, I was able to process it a little bit with a third person so that hopefully I can build some helpful routines into my schedule so that I don't get stressed out. 'Cuz when I'm stressed out, everyone suffers. First of all, I have to get back into the mode of evaluating my day (especially when I've had a bad one) and looking for the good things that happened. But even more important than that, it was suggested that I take 15 minutes at the beginning of the day to think about and plan what I'd like to have happen, do some pleasurable reading, or listen to inspirational music. It's not just the idea of positive thinking, but it's also the concept that my day starts out with an activity of my choosing instead of getting up and rushing off to work. Work should not "be" my day - it is only a part of my day. Also, when I explained my feelings about work, I was given three choices - either accept that my workload is crazy and unmanageable and make allowances, work with administration and/or union to change workload size, or change what I'm doing. It's funny because I had never thought of it in such simple terms. I started going through my options and realized that I will not just accept a high workload, because my quality of service suffers, and so does my sanity. If I would have been able to accept it, I would not still be complaining about it after 7 years. I'm not willing to try to "change the system" because I realize it would take a united front (meaning all the SLP's in agreement), which I don't think will happen. Also, to be honest, my heart is not in the fight - maybe it would have been if I'd started younger. Why do I stay in the jobs I do? Because it's a safe place - I'm guaranteed a yearly salary that doesn't change, it allowed me to spend more time with my son when he was younger and not have to find daycare, I've always had decent health care benefits (although I've seen them steadily decline over the years), and a lot of vacation days. But all of these things which I thought were good are not giving me what I want and need, so I'm left with my third option - change.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Misplaced Baby

Last night was a doozie of a nightmare. H and I finally had a baby, who we named "Alex". It was difficult to tell whether it was a boy or a girl since we never changed its diaper. In fact, he or she remained tightly swaddled in a receiving blanket so that we were just only able to see a head full of dark hair and intense blue eyes. We finally took Alex to the doctor for a well-baby check, and while we were on the bus, there were a few couples who I'd gone to high school with. I asked one of them for a fresh diaper because I figured it would be awful to take our baby to the doctor without having changed the diaper. He would certainly realize at that point that H and I were neglecting our baby. We signed in and sat in a large waiting room with several different sections. I carefully placed Alex on the floor underneath my chair. Pretty soon, our names were called and we wandered off to a parenting class. While we were in the class, I realized that I left Alex under the chair in the waiting room and became panicked. I yelled at H to go find our baby, meanwhile I cried to anyone who would listen and insisted that "I'm really not a bad parent - I've never lost a baby before". People nodded their heads sagely, but gave me "the look" - the look that said they didn't believe a word I said. I became more and more hysterical, and went to look for our baby because H was taking a really long time. I went back in the waiting room, and it had changed - not only the layout, but all the people were different. I started looking under chairs, and I found several babies, but not one of them was Alex. I started wailing and accusing other mothers of stealing my baby. Just as I was about to call the authorities, I woke up.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Road Trip: Big Sur

Bixby Bridge - Highway 1

Coastline - Highway 1

Cliff - Highway 1

My mom has been visiting since Monday to celebrate my last full week off before my return to work. It's been a busy time so far, but today, we took a little bit of time out to take a road trip to Nepenthe Restaurant in Big Sur. We had a great lunch, topped off with a delicious berry cobbler-pie. The only blemish was the unbelievably loud woman at the next table who thought it was necessary to talk on her cell phone....loudly. After lunch, we drove down the road to the River Inn at Big Sur to view the Art Show - mostly photographs of nekkid women by the ocean and nekkid women in fields of flowers. In fact, the whole shop had pictures of nekkid women - it's the only time I've seen that much boobage in a place not labled "Adult". The drive was cut a little bit short by my bum arm, otherwise we'd have gone on the 17 mile drive and possibly shopped till we dropped in Monterey. Still, a very nice day on Highway 1.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

I Must Have "Sucker" Tattooed on My Forehead

I've been struggling with a theme this week, and it seems to be popping up on a daily basis - helping others less fortunate than myself. I know we are supposed to do this, but after my experiences, I can see why most people don't. I was walking to our apartment complex mailboxes on Saturday to get my mail, when I am stopped by one of the residents, an elderly African American gentleman - we'll call him Bob - with his dog. Bob informed me that the mailman was not done delivering our mail yet, but that he would wait because he is waiting for a grocery gift card which he needs because he has no food in the house. He also let me know that at least a neighbor had been kind enough to hook him up with a beer and a cigarrette. He went on to explain that once he gets his card, he would have to walk all the way down to Albertson's, then push the shopping cart all the way back (which is about 1/2 mile away). Well, like an idiot, I felt sorry for him and offered him a ride to the store. He gratefully and immediately accepted, and told me he'd let me know when the mail gets done. So I walk back to my apartment and begin knitting, and in a few minutes, he knocks on my door. I take him down to Albertson's and, when we get there, he asks me if he can leave the rest of his mail in my car. I put on my best "dumbfounded" face, since my intention was to drop him off at the store, then go home. He then asks me, "are you going to wait here for me or are you going to come in?". I mumble that I will come in with him. All throughout our shopping trip, he is mumbling about "now, I can't go over $70" and "I need this to last me for two or three weeks". I am silent and irritated throughout our shopping excursion. We finally get to the checkout counter and the clerk rings up his items, but it is soon apparent that all of the groceries will cost more than the $70 he has on his card, and he instructs the checker to stop when the total is close to $70. When she does, he still has quite a few groceries left on the stand, and I stand still and quiet as he assures himself that "I've done pretty good". The checker looks annoyed at the amount of "go-backs", and he gives a silent pause, but I remain quiet. I know that the expectation of his is that I will have a heart and help him out by buying the rest of his groceries, which I refuse to do. Finally, he asks the checker to ring the rest of the items, and that he will just pay for them with cash. We get the groceries out to my car, I drive him to his apartment, and set the groceries on his outside step for him to deal with, then leave. A little while later, I feel guilty for not helping out a little more, and bring him some of the fish I caught. All seems to be well - I don't hear from Bob on Sunday. Then Monday, I am stepping out the door, and he is there asking me for a ride to the closest military base to buy some things. Even if I didn't have a good excuse, I'd have refused. I am now past being irritated with him - and now irritated with myself. I felt no danger in offering this man help, but it's clear that no matter how much I help, he will need more. What I find even more exasperating is that he has rambled on and on about trying to afford groceries, but also has a dog and a smoking habit, both of which are expensive. I also don't understand why this man is living in one of the most expensive places to live if he's on a very fixed income. The other thing that complicates matters is that Bob is a disabled veteran - he served in the Vietnam War. I have very strong feelings about the treatment of our veterans, since my son's grandpa (on his dad's side) also served in Vietnam. He was in a submarine and became exposed to a harmful substance (I'm not sure which substance), and as a result, became sick with cancer. I saw first-hand how much assistance he needed, and I also heard some of his stories. I was there to witness how he would weep openly when he saw those advertisements about sending money to less fortunate children. Something happened to that man, but no one really cared that his life was forever changed. He ended up passing away from cancer when he was 47 years old - K barely got to know his grandpa. Like Bob explained to me, there's not a day that goes by that he doesn't think about the war and not a day goes by that he isn't affected by it in some way. But he's one of the lucky ones.

This is a big dilemma for me. I feel cold and heartless when I refuse someone help, especially if I have the means. However, when I do help someone of my own accord, I end up regretting it. Then I think about how that person lives and I start thinking that I'd probably smoke and drink if I had to deal with some of the things that people deal with. So, it's really not my place to judge. But I need to find my own way to help on my own terms, otherwise I will just end up feeling like a sucker and not help at all. I know that's not how it's supposed to be.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

I Am Woman... Hear Me Roar!

More like, "I am fisherwoman.... hear me barf!".

fishing boats

my first wee fishy

Half Moon Bay

One of the things K really wanted to do this trip was to go fishing. He had never been ocean fishing, so I booked us a trip out of Half Moon Bay, which we went on today. This morning was full of promise as we got lost, stopped in Safeway in Half Moon Bay for directions, and finally arrived at the docks. As we were picking up our necessary supplies and paying for the trip, the lady remarked three times that "You are a cool mom for taking your son fishing - I never see that happen". I took that as a compliment, not a warning.

We were directed to our boat, which already had at least 20 men with their poles and tackle ready to go. I was the only woman on the boat, besides the first mate, Heather, who smoked a cigarette while getting us organized and reviewing the procedures. As we headed out of the bay, I had "butterfly" feeling in my tummy, which quickly turned to nausea as soon as we headed out to the wonderfully choppy ocean. I hung my head in shame as I tried to figure out why this would be the first time I've been weak enough to get motion sickness, while trying hide my sickness in the bathroom of the boat. Soon, all was well enough to attempt to fish over the side, which K and I did for a little bit - I even caught my first little bitty fish, and K caught two! Pretty soon, it was clear that we were not going to be the steadfast seafaring fishermen that I had envisioned on our early drive to the bay. K informed me that he felt sick right about the time my stomach was telling me again that I was sick. We both experimented with what to do to make things a little better. I learned a few lessons - first, never go into the cabin of the boat if you're feeling nauseous; second, try to crouch down low to keep your center of gravity as low as possible and to minimize what you're able to see; and third, don't watch the other people hurling (of which there were plenty) so as not to set off a chain of barfing, the likes of which you haven't seen since the infamous pie-eating contest scene in "Stand By Me".

I recovered enough to catch 11 fish that were "keep-able", but K was not able to fish after his first bout of sea-sickness, instead preferring to curl into a ball by my feet and occasionally hold the fish sack open for my catch. The people were very nice and tried to accomodate us and gave us extra praise when I caught fish. The lunch that I so painstakingly planned the night before went untouched, as food was viewed by us as "evil". All in all, K and I were never so happy to see land. We are safely at home now, with fresh fish fillets in our fridge, and our sea legs still a bit wobbly. I think next time, fishing from the pier would be a better idea.