How I Deal with Life.....

How I Deal with Life.....

Thursday, February 23, 2012


I love my hormone replacement therapy drug. My hot flashes are GONE! My mood swings are GONE!

Thank God the drug worked because there isn’t any room left out in the back yard for more bodies.

Write my own obituary? Sure, I'm bored enough....

Teri Coley Adams died yesterday at her home in Cochran watching South Park. Her last words were, “Goddamit, Cartman” before the ceiling fan loosened itself from the ceiling joists and came crashing down on her head. Death was instantaneous.

            Teri was born in Portland, Oregon, and she never forgave her parents for this. She wanted to be born in Texas. She grew up house hopping from state to state and country to country during The Cold War, thanks to her father’s military career. Her Military Brat status left deep scars on her psyche that led to a life of constant, almost scientific, observation of the world around her that warped her to such a degree that later in life she became a high school English teacher.  She is remembered as “that crazy lady” by her students for teaching assignments that included deconstruction of scenes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. She also taught her students to burp talk the entire first two stanzas of The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe.

            Teri’s husband, Jim has no idea what to do with her book collection of over 50,000 volumes. Ten years ago, Teri commandeered Jim’s beloved Model Train room, an act that almost led to the dissolution of the marriage, to house her ever increasing collection of books. The family fully expects to find several missing neighborhood pets (and maybe children) under the Southern Writers book pile, most notably the O’Connor stack.

            Survivors include husband Jim Adams, who will finally be able to sleep on more than three inches of bed space; children Adam, Lara and Aaron who are so thankful that death was swift and kind to their beloved mother (none of them wanted to have to chose her nursing home- and by the way, Teri left a note that stated " Ha, ha! I spent it all”); her three perfect more-gorgeous-than-your-grandkids grandchildren: Payton, Miley, and Emma; and Pirate, the blue fronted amazon parrot whose life expectancy of over 80 years gives him the last laugh.

            There will be no funeral. Per Teri’s wishes, the remains will be donated to a Body Farm where experiments in environmental changes on dead bodies are carried out. There will, however, be a brief memorial service this Friday at 8 pm at Barnes & Nobles (fiction section) where attendees will be expected to sing all the words to “The Worms Crawl In, The Worms Crawl Out” in Teri’s honor.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Alzheimer's: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Mom has finally, reluctantly agreed to give home assistance a try. Mom has got to have a few hours respite time that is all hers. She takes care of dad 24/7, and while he is ambulatory and otherwise physically fine, the common Alzheimer’s symptoms are getting worse: he asks her the same questions over and over again, is a bit snippy, is easily frustrated,  has trouble conversing, and forgets where he places items. Mom also lays out dad’s clothes now because he can’t match them any longer. For example, if left to his own devices he’ll wear a red button up dress shirt with a pair of green jogging pants. Yes, mom deserves a break. Her guilt gets in the way though. She thinks she should be doing it all for my dad, all the time. Just her. No human being can do that. Maybe I’ve finally convinced her that she needs help.   

            The only problem left with bringing assistance into the home is my dad. He will fight this tooth and nail. I know him. He’ll say, “I don’t need a babysitter” or “I can be here by myself”, but he can’t. Not safely, and not to the point where my mom could ever go off to lunch with a friend or go get her hair cut without wondering if dad was okay.  We’ve had some close calls. One day this past summer when mom made a short trip to the grocery store, my dad decided to clean the interior of my son’s old Mustang. When he got into the car he closed the door and then he couldn’t figure out how to work the door handle to get it open. He panicked. Thank goodness, he finally rolled the window down and crawled out. When mom got home, dad was very agitated. It must have been 150 plus degrees inside the interior of that car. The situation could have become a disaster if it hadn’t occurred to my dad to roll the car window down.  

            So, back to the home care point of this little blog entry: Today mom and I met with a woman from a company called Home Instead. Dear Husband picked dad up earlier in the day and they drove to the family cemetery under the guise of filling in some gaps in the Coley family genealogy research (it was needed info though). While Dear Husband and dad were snapping photographs and riding back country roads, mom and I were meeting with the Home Instead representative at my house. We were able to arrange weekly assistance (companionship, light house keeping) to come in to mom and dad’s home for four hours on Friday’s. As soon as dad gets accustomed to a strange woman being in the house, we can increase the hours. The goal, of course, is to give mom time to actually leave the house, but this is going to have to be accomplished slowly.  All of this is called “therapeutic lying” because we are going to have to convince dad that the assistance is there to help mom with the house, not “babysit” him. And really, it’s not a babysitter, just someone to be there if he gets too confused. Peace of mind for my mother to have some time to herself.

            I now have a headache.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

UAE or Bust!!

Next school year I won't be returning to the school where I have been teaching since July 2008. I’ll miss "my" kids, but I can't go back. I can't go back to a school district that has had four superintendents and five principals in four years. Constant inconsistency is the name of the game, and I am worn out. I gave it my best shot. Daily meetings during my planning and after school are just one of the many issues factoring into my decision. How can I work in my classroom if I am always in a meeting? How can I be there for my students if I am in meeting after meeting? In September I spent an entire hour after school one day in a meeting where the faculty was made to play word wall games in an effort to increase teacher use of word walls. Meanwhile, I had two week’s worth of papers that needed grading stacked up on my desk, and a student who desperately needed help with writing so he could pass the graduation exams. I knew I would be unable to catch up on my work the following day: I had another meeting during my planning and yet another meeting after school for one of the SEVEN committees I had been assigned. So what did I do? I stayed in that meeting room and played a word wall game for over an hour and fumed over what I wasn’t accomplishing. Staying after school everyday until 6:00 p.m wasn't helping much either, except for maybe contributing to my stress levels.

            I am worn out, disillusioned, frustrated. I can’t teach in a school where the air conditioning and heating systems are patched over and over again instead of being repaired correctly. Believe me, Georgia in August and September is no place to teach with a hit and miss air conditioning unit. I can’t teach where there are no funds for basics like toilet paper in the student restrooms, yet admins carry around district paid for Ipads. I can’t teach in a system that values meetings, meetings, meetings over actual teacher/student interaction. I can’t teach in a system where the supposedly doctorial educated administration do not know how to write a paragraph without including at least two subject/verb disagreements, two run on sentences, and five unclear pronouns references. Makes me wonder who wrote their dissertations. I can't teach in a system that purchases educational software to the tune of THOUSANDS of dollars and that software does not work efficiently due to an outdated system server and hardware that is twelve years out of date. Didn’t anyone have the foresight to actually research the compatibility of the hardware and software before shelling out so much money? Money that could have been used to repair the heating and air conditioning unit? I guess not.

I can’t teach in a district where I am not valued as a professional; a place where an administrator points to my class literature texts and informs me that I do not teach my content (English), but rather I am supposed to teach the Georgia Standards. I can get a little testy when it comes to my content and my professionalism. I do not teach standards. I teach content. The standards are what I use to scaffold and support my content. Administrators, please stop a minute and understand what you are saying your teachers before you talk. And do not inform me that I can’t be a “good” teacher; I have to be “effective” one”. I am an effective teacher. Don’t use doublespeak to try and confuse the issue that you really have no idea what you are talking about when it comes to my area of expertise. I don’t try to tell you about your area.

            I can’t teach in a system where I receive an emailed warning for not being on duty in an area where I have not even been assigned. I can’t teach in a system that tells me to use my car and my gas to run to the alternative school everyday, teach, and then make it back in time for my 5th period class.  I can’t teach in a school where I am told that I must stay late to work sporting events for which I am not compensated. I can’t teach in a system where I am told not to enter a grade less than 60 on a report card for a student, even if the student has done no work at all. I can’t teach in a system that two years ago purchased smart boards for all the classrooms, but didn’t have the intelligence to purchase the ones that would have come with a repair service written into the contract. Now the bulbs are going out in the smart boards, the software is glitching up (for lack of a better word), and a lot of the smart boards are now hanging useless, where they aren’t so "smart" anymore. I can’t teach in a system where I am pulled into the administrator's office three weeks into the school year, handed a list of teacher evaluation items that I need to improve on, and (this is the kicker!) I haven’t even been evaluated yet. I can’t teach in a school system that holds faculty meetings to correct the “verbage” teachers are using on lesson plans. Give me a break. The “verbage”?

            I could go one and on. Issues that are state wide issues: lack of parental involvement; how NCLB is indeed leaving children behind; how responsibility for education is not divided between student, parents, and teacher, but rather loaded solidly on the backs of the teachers alone; the way teachers are ordered to “teach the test”; the exorbitant amount of money the state shells out for current standards material and training, just to change the standards five to six years later; how disruptive, ill behaved students are kept in our schools, regardless of how their behaviors impact the students who really want to learn; how systems hire totally online educated administrators who (surprise!) turn out to be ineffective. I could talk about all that, but I won’t.

            What I will do is follow my heart and go forward with an job interview that could see me headed to The United Arab Emirates in August to teach. Will it be perfect? No. The UAE is in the middle of a major educational overhaul, and as such there will be some difficulties. Will I run into some of the same problems as here? Yes, but I can be more forgiving of a country that is only forty years old and is valiantly attempting to create a top notch educational system. The United States has had over two hundred years to get our educational system right, and in the past fifteen years we have been de-evolving, rather than evolving in the time and resources we give to American education.

            In my own country I am vilified and portrayed as a greedy, lazy state employee who only teaches in order to gain lucrative retirement benefits, three entire months off in summer, and work days that end at 3:30 p.m. (I am still trying to locate ANY American teacher who fits this profile). In the UAE, as in many other countries, teachers are still respected and valued. My final interview for the United Arab Emirates teaching position is soon. I have been studying the culture, the language, the people, and the geography. I am excited to be given a chance to join and be a part of history in the making. I am looking forward to being respected and regarded as the professional that I am. I am looking forward to being creative and energetic in a classroom with “my” students again! It won’t be paradise, but I’ve been through hell.  All I want to do is teach. If the interview falls through and for some reason I don’t get the job, I will start to diligently rehearse the phrase, “Would you like fries with that, sir?” because until the American educational system starts operating under a modicum of common sense and professionalism, I’m outta here.  

Until then, UAE or Bust for this American teacher!!!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Jumping Off the Cliff...

There are some serious life changing decisions in the works right now. Just when I thought life had settled into a calm, peaceful, predictable pattern an opportunity comes along and blindsides me. I wasn’t even looking for it. It found me.

I’m not going to ponder it too much. I’m just going to jump. I’m fifty years old. If I don’t jump now, I never will.  Look out below!

Friday, February 3, 2012

When I Grow Up (a poem)

When I grow up I’ll be
Pristine, honest
Eager, helpful
Holistic, and non-judgmental.

When I grow up I will wear
Red cabbage roses, velvet dresses,
ruffle socks, linen trousers,
and a smile when I dance.

When I grow up I will feel
Confident, worldly,
learned, pretty,
loved, and humble.

When I grow up I’ll live in
a gingerbread house, an inlet by the sea,
a nook in a forest tree, a ch√Ęteau in the Alps,
a tulip lined cottage, or under a magic toadstool.

When I grow up I’ll own
a cut glass bracelet, a blue unicorn,
two Chinese fans, a white picket fence,
five yards of pale pink ribbon, and me.

Copyright 2012
Teri Coley Adams