Sunday, September 24, 2006

My Papa

Today I got an email from my dad about this website, called Boot Liquor Radio, based in San Jose that plays very eclectic country music. He mentioned that he heard a song called "Down Mexico Way" by the Sons of the Pioneers. It brought him back to a time when he was a young boy and his father (my papa) was just getting home from work, the radio would be on playing Sons of the Pioneers and various other oldies, and he would soon be on Papa's lap, despite the fact that he probably just wanted to relax after a long day at work.

It surprised me to read this because I never thought of Papa as the "cuddly type" - in fact, he was quite the opposite. Even when my brother and I came along, he still had an edge to him, though he was somewhat softer with us than with his own children. I was looking through my old pictures and found a few with my Papa and me. They were surprisingly tender moments where he is either holding me or playing or joking with me. I remember, when I was very young, having a difficult time approaching him because he was a very quiet and very tall man. As I got older, he opened up more, and even taught me to play cribbage. He was cut-throat about it - I didn't get any slack just because I was his granddaughter. I can't remember a time when we visited our grandparents that he wasn't watching or playing golf, going square-dancing with grandma, or getting together with their gang (the S.O.B's). No matter what the setting, you could count on Papa to tell an off-color Norwegian joke that left some people scratching their heads.

Despite his gruff exterior, Papa would surprise me every so often. When I became pregnant at a rather young age, he was the only one in my family who wasn't upset with me. Instead, he jabbed me in the ribs with his elbow and, with a straight face, said "You know, Jen, you should never take something serious that was poked at you in fun", then winked at me. When I was in grad school, and Papa was sick, I would sometimes come over to the house to help out - sometimes just for company, or to shovel the driveway. He would get teary eyed, something I never thought I'd see from him, and would thank me for helping, even though I know he was upset that he couldn't do it himself.

Even though Papa was gruff and stoic, he still meant a great deal to me. It brought a tear to my eye to read my dad's email about his wanting to be close to his father. It made me think of my relationship with Papa, as well as the relationship with my own father. I'm glad things have changed a little - that it's okay for a father to be tender and say "I love you". It's what every kid needs from a father.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Mixed Feelings

So now that I'm in the work groove, I'm in the middle of doing something that I like best - getting to know my students. At one school, I have most of the same students I worked with last year, which is very nice. At my other school, I have a whole new group of students, most of them are somewhere on the autistic spectrum. Only one of those students is so severe as to require augmentative communication, which is a device to help them communicate. Technically, according to how things run in California, he should be in what's called a "county program". The county programs are reserved for the most severely disabled children, as general education classrooms are not always appropriate for them (mostly because of a lack of resources and/or staffing). This is what brings me to the point of my post - mixed feelings.

Most of my professional career, I have worked in Washington state in the public schools. There, county programs do not exist, so kids are in the public school system regardless of the severity of their disability(ies). The only exception is if a parent pushes for a private placement that specializes in working with children with particular difficulties, like schools for children with emotional disorders. This way of running programs is vastly different than here, where the most severe children are in county programs that are run independently of the public school systems. When I first got here a little over a year ago and started working in various classrooms, I kept wondering "where are the kids with severe disabilities - they have to be out there somewhere". All I knew is that they weren't on my caseload. This has been a mixed blessing. I was able to end last year without a single incidence of being bit, kicked, scratched, spit on, snotted on, etc. For once, I didn't have scars on my arms from restraining my students. For the first time in a long time, I felt productive because all of my students were able to benefit from the program that I offered them. There was not a single child on my caseload last year where I doubted that my efforts were in vain. Sadly, I cannot make this statement for a few students I've worked with during my years in Washington schools.

But I still feel wrong not having the "county" students in our schools. They can still learn, even if they need a more restrictive environment than most students. Also, I've noticed that general education teachers here are, for the most part, less accepting of students with disabilities than those teachers who are used to an "inclusion" model of education. If a student doesn't fit a "certain mold" some teachers do not want those children in their classes and make no effort to make those students feel welcome. Additionally, students who are exposed to other children with a variety of disabilities and severities are able to serve in a helping role and to learn to have empathy for their peers. If I was a parent of a child with a severe disability, it would be very hard to make the decision as to which educational placement would be best, but I would not want them in a place where they did not feel welcomed. Even though my students are not my children, I get upset when they are not made to feel like part of the community they belong to, not just by their peers, but by adults. I don't know what the answer is, but I don't think exclusion is the answer.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Advanced Global Personality Test

self revealing, neat, craves attention, prefers organized to unpredictable, needs things to be extremely clean, worrying, perfectionist, emotionally sensitive, respects authority, social, vain, does not like to be alone, likes large parties, controlling, social chameleon, not a thrill seeker, enjoys leadership, takes precautions, puts the needs of others ahead of their own, assertive, rule conscious, makes friends easily, always busy, heart over mind, phobic, aggressive, clingy, compassionate, dominant, outgoing, suspicious, hard working, strong

I got this from Laura's post. It's pretty interesting. I would agree with it for the most part, except for the "vain" and "craves attention" parts. I'm definitely way more self conscious than vain. Other than that, it's all pretty true. Not very flattering, but then, usually the truth is not very flattering.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Keeping Score

As always, my life seems to follow themes. This week, the theme has been "keeping score" especially with respect to workplace issues and people's needs to have everything be "equal". In my own life, I have struggled (and continue to) with the issue of equality. My issues with this topic go back a long ways. When I was a kid, if one person in our household was working, we pretty much all were. It was the idea that since we all shared the privilege of having a house, then we all share the responsibilities for the upkeep of it. I liked that - there was some comfort in knowing that, if I was the one to cook dinner, then it would be someone else's job to clean up the dishes. Now that I'm on my own, things around the house aren't always "equal", and I'm learning to deal with it. For me, it was being asked the question "how is that working for you?" when I explained my need to keep a mental checklist of who does what. The short answer is that it doesn't work very well for me because it only serves to piss me off when I see that I'm the one doing more chores. But do I keep track as closely when I'm not the one doing the majority of the manual labor? Admittedly, no.

Funnily enough, the issue of "equality" is now popping up at work, with certain teachers comparing their workload to those of specialists (which is what I'm considered) and complaining that we have it "easy". Of course, since the roles were reversed, and I was on the receiving end of the "scorekeeper", it was easy for me to see how ridiculous "keeping score" is. It only served to make me feel undervalued and unappreciated for all the things I do and no one sees. It also made me realize that, no matter how hard you try, things cannot be made completely equal. Someone always gets what they view as "the short end of the stick". Also, why is someone else keeping track of what I'm doing in my work? Do they not have enough to do to keep track of themselves? Do they not realize that not only can I keep track of myself, but so can my supervisors? Oddly enough, my supervisors never have issues with my decisions or activities on any given day. What if everyone did their fair share, without anyone keeping score? That would work if everyone had the same work ethic. But we are only responsible for our own work ethic and don't have any control over another person's sense of responsibility. Shouldn't it be enough that, at the end of the day, we've done the best we can according to our own personal score sheet without worrying about someone else's tallies?

Friday, September 08, 2006

Best Radio Commercial Out There... Hands Down

Since I've gone back to work, I've been spending way too much time in my car trying to get to and fro. Usually it's a drag, but on several of the stations I flip between, they play the best damn commercial I've heard in a long time. The commercials are for Bud Light beer and are introducted with inspirational music and the lead in "Real Men of Genius" and are hilarious - I cannot listen to one without laughing. The latest one is "Mr. Hair Gel Overgeller", which talks about the guy who forms stalagmites (or is it stalagtites?) with his Dippity DOOOO. From this website, you may also enjoy such treasures as "Mr. Push Up Bra Inventor" and "Mr. Way Too Proud of Texas Guy". Maybe I'm easily amused, but hearing a commercial saluting silly men and the crazy things they do always puts a smile on my face.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

License Plate Holders That I'd Never Have

I was driving down the road today and, while sitting behind and orangish BMW or some such car, I read the license plate holder, which said "YOU CAN NEVER BE TOO RICH OR TOO THIN". Of all the messages to have on a license plate holder, that's one of the last ones I'd choose. Other license plate holders I'd never have include:
  • anything with sequins or bling on it (too flashy)
  • any saying with the word "PRINCESS" in it (gag!)
  • wording similar to the "NURSES DO IT WITH CARE" line - mostly because I can't figure out how speech therapist would "do it"
  • anything starting with "I'D RATHER BE....", especially if it ends with "shopping" or "golfing"
  • anything with the phrase "HAPPINESS IS...", because even when I'm at my happiest, I don't want it defined by one single moment or activity
  • "I _____ THEREFORE I AM" (insert favorite hobby into the blank) - again, I don't want to be defined by just one thing
  • "YOU SHOULD SEE ME WITH MY TOP OFF" - Do I really need to call that much attention to myself?
  • "I BRAKE FOR ________" (insert favorite mundane activity or noun)
  • "JESUS LOVES YOU" - save it for church - not everyone on the road believes in Jesus
  • "MY OTHER CAR IS A ______" - Why would anyone care which type of car I drive?
  • "WORLD'S GREATEST MOTHER" - (putting pinky to mouth in Dr. Evil style) No, not really, I can't back that up

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Movie Review: Match Point

We Netflixed "Match Point" last night, which is the second Woody Allen movie I've seen. I must preface my review by saying that this movie disturbed me to the point where I could not stop talking to H about it last night, even past the point of sleep deprivation. I guess that's the sign of a good film, but I'm still upset about it.

Without giving too much away, the story is a classic entanglement of boy-meets-boy, gets invited into the family, first boy-meets-sister, sister falls head over heels, first boy also meets second boy's fiance and he falls for her. You know - the typical love story. Right from the beginning, I could tell that things would go south quickly, but leave it to Woody Allen to throw in enough twists and turns to keep your attention until the bitter end. It was kind of like a scary show - you don't want to watch because you know that awful things will happen, but yet you can't help yourself. The characters were well written and they were just ordinary people who were easy to identify with. You've either been like one of them or knew someone like them at some point in your life. Yet, I was not able to fully sympathize with any of the characters because none of them were either "strictly protagonist" or "strictly antagonist". At the end of the show, I was most upset by the universal truth in life - many people get away with atrocities against their fellow man and never suffer any external consequences. The only thing that made me feel better in the end was knowing that this character would have to live with himself and look in a mirror every day - something that I wish brought him an inordinate amount of misery.

Normally I would not be so vindictive, but I think that when an innocent human life is taken in order for someone to escape the awkward situation of having to be honest, there is no excuse for that. This is only one of the issues that "Match Point" raised. It also had to do with knowing the difference between love and lust, and not acting on every hard-on you get. After all, what good can come out of diddling your newly found friend's fiance in a field of wheat in the pouring rain? A bigger issue that I think most people would be able to relate to is that you never know the side effects of pressuring someone into doing things that they were only luke-warm about in the first place. Some people will suck it up and try to make the best of it. Others will try to keep their chins up, but have silent resentment that runs like poison through their entire body, and others will do the unthinkable. You could argue that the person was weak to begin with in order to agree to a life that they weren't sure they wanted in the first place, but money and comfort seem to make people complacent when it comes to decisions like that. In the end, each person is ultimately responsible for their own decisions and courses of action, despite the tendency to blame someone else.

If you like a movie with a message, believable characters, and a convoluted story that could only have a bad outcome, then you will like this movie. Even though it will take me a few more days to get over my intense feelings about this movie and remind myself that it is just that - a movie - I would still give it 8 out of 10 dancing feet. This is a good flick, and according to H, not in the typical Woody Allen style, which might encourage Woody-haters to give it a shot.