How I Deal with Life.....

How I Deal with Life.....

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Beat Goes On...and I'm a Hard Nosed Bitch.

Xmas 2011

Dad had a difficult time yesterday when mom phoned him at the V.A and tried to talk to him. He kept telling her to come get him.  It upset mom because she couldn’t make him understand that she would be there to get him in 12 more days. Time, for my father, has no concept or meaning anymore.

I phoned the V.A this morning to check on dad and the nurse said he was agitated this morning, but at the moment he was sitting at a table, smiling, and seemingly talking with one of the other vets. She said he has been asking about mom and she tried to explain to him when mom would be back, but he wasn’t processing the information. I asked the nurse, the next time he asks, to tell him that mom would be there to get him in twelve more wakeups. I am going to make a chart today that  the nurse can hang by his bed and cross the days off so dad will have a visual.  I don’t know if it will work. I am just trying to pull out ideas from my teacher bag of tricks. And we all know that teacher tricks sometimes work, and sometimes they don’t.

I am turning into a hard nosed bitch over all of this. My only concern is protecting my mother and father. I might have been (well, I was) rude and callous to someone on the phone at mom’s yesterday. I just couldn’t deal with trying to comfort someone who has never shown one iota of interest in my father until yesterday, and then this person had the audacity to  phone me, crying, searching for me to comfort them. It unleashed my inner bitch. Before all of this is over I am going to piss off a few people, but I can’t seem to find the compassion within myself to even care too much about that. I accept it. I embrace it.  

I am having to be pragmatic, and some people may interpret that as coldness on my part, however I keep remembering a day back in 2000 when I was facing an awful time in my life (due to my own  poor choices). That was before I developed a symbolic spine. Dad came to my house. I was crying and very upset, and the person who had caused my pain was in the next room. Dad walked over to me, put his face inches from mine drill instructor style, and between clenched teeth he ordered, “Don’t cry”. His eyes stared full into mine and I got the message: I must not allow the person who hurt me to see my pain. If I must cry then I do it later. Dad could be as pragmatic as I now can be. Dad could assess situations and allow his emotions to be placed temporarily on the back burner. I guess I have a lot of my dad in me..

I leave for Abu Dhabi in about nine weeks. I have to be able to hand dad over to my brother and feel comfortable with it.  My brother is not as pragmatic as I am. His heart is too big and he lives moment to moment, pulling inexplicables out of a bag that seems to have no bottom. If I tried to live that way it would all blow up in my face. For him, it works.  I sure wish dad had listened to mom and they would have had one more child. My brother and I need a spare sibling right about now. My brother will do a good job; the only issue is that he won’t be able  to just drop in on mom and dad because he lives two hours away. He won’t be involved in the day to day happenings or be available to mom for a quick hug.  Some people, when they hear I am going to Abu Dhabi to teach ask, “How can you leave your mom right now?”, while others reassure me that I must grab this once in a lifetime opportunity. I am torn, I admit. If I stay, I will have  regrets. If I go I will have regrets. I have had to weigh which regrets will be easier to live with.  My husband tells me to go. He tells me that everyone deserves to realize at least one big dream in their lifetime. And I will go, but it will be one of the hardest things I have ever done.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

How to Admit Your Dad into a Dementia Ward and Not Fall Apart..

Me and Dad. 1965
Today was not as difficult as I thought it might be, but still was certainly no cakewalk. Put it this way: if I had to make a list of things I’d most like to do, admitting my dad into the Veterans’ Administration Hospital’s Dementia ward would be very low on the list..

I arrived at mom and dad’s house around 9:30 a.m. I parked my car and then snuck dad’s packed suitcase into the trunk of mom’s car. That suitcase contained all of dad’s clothing that I had prepared the night before. I spent an hour just writing dad’s name carefully into every article of clothing. That, in itself, made the entire experience a little surreal, like I was preparing a sixty-nine year old man for summer camp.  Dad appeared withdrawn when he came out of the house, and he didn’t say anything. He got into the car with little prompting. I helped him with his seat belt. He didn’t respond much to mom’s attempts to draw him out. I drove, mom sat in the backseat, and dad sat in the passenger seat. At one point I reached over to take dad’s hand and he very firmly removed my hand from his and placed it forcefully back in my own lap.  It startled me and it hurt my feelings. It was difficult keeping my eyes on the road while it blurred with sudden unshed tears.  I maintained control by reminding myself that dad is not who he used to be and that my daddy, wherever he is behind those confused lost eyes, is still there and still loves me.

When we entered the V.A Center dad followed along where we led, but when mom held his hand he refused to grasp her hand back. He sat through the nurse’s questions, seemed curious about his room, was pleased to see photos of himself in the shadow box next to his bed (I had given the photos to the nurse when we arrived and she very quickly arranged them while we were in the interview session with the other nurse), and when Mom and I left I don’t think he even noticed much. Mom and I then went to J.C Penney’s and bought him a light blue comforter to go on his bed. Anything to make the place homier.  We went back to the hospital and I took the comforter in and gave it to a nurse, and mom put some money on dad’s account so he can get haircuts, go out on outings, etc. Mom phoned dad tonight and he asked where she was. She told him she was at home. He has a difficult time speaking, so the conversation didn’t last long. Mom said he sounded pretty good. .

Mom came over and we took a long walk this evening. I think she’ll sleep tonight knowing that dad is being taken care of. I’ll sleep better knowing that she is sleeping.

I want to cry. I need to cry, but I can't. I am so scared if I start crying I will never stop. So, stoic I will be.

Things I did today to get ready for Abu Dhabi: No one damn thing.

Letting Go So I Can Go... Not so Easy.

This past weekend was Memorial Day weekend and my family and I went to my brother’s house two hours away for an overnight trip.  Yesterday, I was playing around on my brother’s computer and checked my email by habit. Thank God, I did.  In my inbox was an email from Teach Away Inc for a travel form to fill out for my flight to the United Arab Emirates.  Attached were instructions to complete and email the travel form back by the next day (Monday, May 28, 2012). The email put me in a temporary state of panic because one of the questions on the travel form asked for my passport number. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have my passport number memorized, nor do I carry my passport on my person at all times.  Luckily, over a month ago, I uploaded all the paperwork that I had, thus far, submitted for employment with ADEC (Abu Dhabi Education Council) onto Google. One of the pieces of necessary paperwork for ADEC was a scanned color copy of my passport.  Not the first time that I have been thankful for my almost obsessive notorious habit of backing up files several times and in several places.  I saved my own ass, so to speak.
One more step to Abu Dhabi complete.

 Getting ready for Abu Dhabi: Last week my husband ordered a new laptop on the HP site for me to use while I am away. Eight months ago we bought me a brand new DESKTOP… if I had had any inkling that a job overseas was going to present itself I would have bought a laptop instead.  Now I am the proud, and semi-broke, owner of both.  And I assure you, as soon as the new HP arrives, all of my important documents will be transferred over to its hard drive!

 I have new luggage. I have new appropriate clothing. I have my paperwork in order. I have new boxes of contact lenses and a new pair of prescription glasses. I have made last minute appointments for doctor visits so I can get prescription letters for my medications. I have a 240 volt hair flat iron and hair dryer.  I have dvd movies. I have downloaded music that contains an almost schizophrenic array from  Disturbed to Frank Sinatra.  What I don’t have is complete peace of mind and comfort about the move.

Emotional rollercoaster: The uneasiness and the slight case of nerves I am experiencing about the upcoming departure to Abu Dhabi are not about the trip, or the job, or the new country, language or culture. I am apprehensive due to my father’s continuing decline into the no man’s land of Alzheimer’s. The past six weeks have brought sudden, inexplicable changes in my dad. He can no longer be left alone. He can no longer dress himself, he needs assistance eating, and he sleeps a lot.  Simple tasks such as putting ice into a glass or changing the channel on the television confound him. In addition, his Parkinson’s is making walking more difficult and his fine motor skills have all but deteriorated into non-existence. When I step on the plane for Abu Dhabi I am leaving my dad for good. In six months he may not even know who I am. And I am leaving my mom behind to cope as best as she can without me- her only daughter.

 Tomorrow my father will be admitted to the Veteran’s Administration for a two week evaluation. It was all planned last week. During his stay his medications will be adjusted and his health conditions (of which there are several) will be assessed. I will use the two weeks he is away to make sure that my mom gets some much needed rest and that she attends to some medical appointments of her own that she has been putting off. She and I will also dejunk the closets at her house and toss out the vast and overwhelming collection of items that my father has managed to accumulate during his extended Alzheimer’s hoarding phase.

 Tomorrow will be one of the most difficult things I have ever done in my life. Mom and I will walk my father into the Veterans’ Administration and leave him there. My mom will not want to leave. My dad will not want to stay. He becomes agitated if he is away from my mom for more than ten minutes. He will feel betrayed, I know, and the blame will be placed on my head. My dad will not be able to process the information that “it is only for two weeks”. He will think we have abandoned him. We have been told to leave quickly and quietly. No goodbyes. No see- you-laters. My mother will fall apart, I know. She has been falling apart a lot lately due to exhaustion, stress, and grief.. She no longer smiles. When my father was first diagnosed almost four years ago, I promised him that I would take care of my mother. I promised him that I would not let this disease take them both. I promised him that I would not allow my mother’s health to be affected adversely. I have to keep that promise. My dad is counting on me, and I will not let him down.

 This past weekend my brother was finally able to see the ravages and the changes that have occurred over the past six weeks. He does not see mom and dad on a day to day basis; sometimes six months can go by between visits, although in the past year he has seen them more frequently- once every two months or so.  His work has kept him away in Texas for almost twenty years. Recently though, he bought a house two hours away from mom and dad.  The company he works for, United Airlines, is transferring my brother and most if its Houston employees to the new hub in Chicago in July and my brother can get on a set schedule of commuting between his work in Chicago and his wife and son here in Georgia. He will be physically closer most of  the time, and will be more readily available for my mom in emergencies.  

My brother helped my dad shave today. He saw for himself how helpless dad has become. How little he understands. How little he comprehends. Today I saw in my brother’s eyes what a difficult time he is going to have coming to terms with the extreme changes in our dad, but my brother will rise to the occasion. Today he agreed that mom needs a rest. He agreed that Dad’s admittance to the V.A is imperative. Next week my brother and I will meet at mom and dad’s house. I will hand everything over to him; copies of the Medical Advance Directive and the Power of Attorney. I will give him the names and numbers of dad’s social worker and various doctors. I will give him the name and numbers of those who help support my mother emotionally; the friends she turns to. I will supply him with an up-to-date medication list for dad. I will fill him in on how to react and handle different situations that may arise. I have had three years to slowly get used to the changes and my new role in my parents’ life. My brother will be taking the crash course version. And he is doing it so I can leave and pursue a dream I have had all my adult life: to teach overseas. 

To be fair to myself and to appease my guilt though, in these economic times teaching jobs are becoming more and more difficult to find. I have to work. I have to put away some money for my retirement. I have bills to pay too. I can make more money in Abu Dhabi in one year than I can make in two years here in the States.  I will hand the mantle to my brother.  He is strong, capable, and will do what is best for my mom and my dad. I know that without a doubt.

 Tomorrow I will be a brick wall for my mom and dad. The day after that I will allow myself to cry for exactly ten minutes..

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Abu Dhabi Countdown Ticks Away

Only about twelve weeks until I leave to go to Abu Dhabi. School starts on Sept. 4th, however, the Abu Dhabi Education Council wants the teachers there ahead of time so we can get our medical checks completed and go through orientation. Rumor has it that we will be flying out sometime between August 8-11, but that is subject to change, as I understand all things in Abu Dhabi are. Ramadan won’t end until August 18, and I am torn between wanting to witness some of the holy month and not wanting to be there because  I won’t be able to drink water in public, and it is HOT over there in August!

I have done a lot- bought suitcases, packed my teacher supplies and my long skirts, ordered several pairs of dress sandals, gotten my official papers in order and made copies, and loaded up a jump drive (a UGA one~!) with teaching materials, but I still have so much to do.  First and foremost, I need to decide which laptop I want and get it ordered.. soon. I also need to order a VPN service to install on the laptop. Finally, as far as technology goes, I am going to have to download skype, netflix and other programs. The internet in the UAE is restricted, so downloading skype and other programs while I am still in the USA is essential, as I cannot download or install them once I arrive in Abu Dhabi.

I am also going to visit all of my doctors one last time and have them write letters concerning the prescription drugs I am taking with me. I have appointments lined up.  I will see my general practitioner, my gynecologist, and my rheumatologist. I am going to make sure that I get refills on all my medications by August 5th, including my three months of Enbrel.  I was kind of worried about transporting the Enbrel, but I phoned Enbrel support and they sent me a small bag in which to store the injection sureclicks for the trip. It holds two cold packs to keep the sureclicks cool.  In addition to doctors and seeing about my medications, I am going to have my teeth checked and cleaned on June 6.  Nothing like a clean fresh smile to take along to Abu Dhbai!

What else? Clean out my office here at home; decide which seven books I am taking with me (I am limiting myself so I can take some books for my students); spend time with my husband, friends, and family; and try and prepare myself mentality and physically for what is ahead.  The trip will take a toll on my sleep patterns and general energy level for a few days, and the mental processes of adjusting to a new culture will leave me gasping after the newness and sense of adventure have worn off and real life settles in.  It's going to be a huge adjustment, but I'm up to the challenge 

Hopefully, by the end of June, all the preparation work to leave will be completed and I can relax the entire month of July and read, write, and cook the month away..

Weird stuff I have packed for Abu Dhabi:

Black pepper, crab boil, season salt, packs of pencils, and instant oats with flax seed. And yes, those are bunny ears.. Don't ask.

The train is going by the house right now, blowing its whistle. I am going to miss the sound of the train..

Sunday, May 20, 2012

On Being a Military Brat

What I learned from growing up as a "Third Culture" Military Brat:

There is less racial discord in a military culture and that is what I loved about being a Brat (and yes, I wear the title proudly).  This was especially true when the family was uprooted and placed in another country. We banded with other military families across all racial, religious, and cultural backgrounds.  When planted on foreign soil, we become less identified with our own race and religion and more identified with our common nationality. It was an Us vs.Them mentality.  I haven't felt that kind of kinship since my dad retired.

We never had Xmas photos showing the entire family together because there were only the four of us.. someone had to take the photos (usually dad!). This was taken in downtown Iraklion, Crete in 1970. The floors were marble and all we had for heat were two small kerosene space heaters. Thank goodness it didn't get too cold there. The following year we were placed in base housing and there were actually other American kids to share Xmas morning toys with!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

TCHS Seniors 2012

Tomorrow, the Class of 2012,  from the small school where I have been teaching for the past four years, will don cap and gowns, walk across an adorned outdoor stage, and receive their high school diplomas.  Four years ago they were all still half-children whose insecurities and fears stood out in stark contrast to the defiant glint in their eyes. They entered my classroom, took their seats, looked hopefully at me to help guide them, and I fell in love. That first year we battled, forgave, laughed, learned, cried, fought, argued, hugged, and learned some more. They are all grown up now, about to be sent into the big wide world to either fly or plummet.  In the upcoming years they will love, laugh, create children, cry, stress out, handle health issues, resolve both disappointments and successes, mourn, celebrate, question, teach, and learn.

 I wish for my former students wisdom to chose the correct paths in life. Frost wrote about the finality of life choices, “Yet knowing how way leads on to way/I doubted if I should ever come back”. Chose the correct paths, my fresh-hoped, eager brood. Go with courage. Go with honor. Go with wisdom. There is no reset or refresh button in life. Do it right the first time.

Remember, I love you all….

Friday, May 18, 2012

Not Just Another Alzheimer's Story: My Mom's Journey

My mother had one of the hardest jobs that any person can have. She was a military spouse. She followed my dad around from military base to military base for twenty-three years. She had to make my dad’s career first in her life. She had to give up her dreams, uproot her life over and over again, create new homes in echoed-filled houses every few years, and shoulder responsibilities all alone when dad was away on remote assignments.  Dad served his country, but so did my mother.

In the past two months my father has lost the ability to dress himself. Mom has to assist him. He cannot speak an entire sentence. He seldom tries to communicate much if anyone from outside the immediate family is present. He has trouble eating because he can’t make his hands or his brain connect.  Mom has to prepare his plate in advance, cutting up his meat into bite sized pieces, making sure the food isn’t served on a plate of the same color as the meal (dad often can’t distinguish subtle variations in color and will not “see” an item if it blends into the background even a little).  I suspect his thirst and hunger signals are being affected also. I spent an entire day with him a few weeks ago and after hours of walking around a flea market I noticed he had not drank anything since we had arrived. When I bought water for him, he guzzled it down.  He had not said a word. I felt lacking that I hadn’t anticipated this occurance.

The Alzheimer’s is finally starting to take away the last scraps of identity from my father.  I am trying to prepare myself, but how does one just accept a father disappearing before their very eyes like smoke?  I can’t. But he’s going away. And I have to accept it. I have no other choice, nor does else anyone in my family. Least of all my mother.

I try and remember the conversations my father and I had right after he was diagnosed almost four years ago. He spoke of his fears. Of the dreadful certainty that very soon he would be a burden on his family. He cried and I cried with him.  One day that summer, he and I were in his backyard yard and I asked him if he had his life to do over would he live it the same way, and did he have any regrets. My father stood up to his full height, looked off into a distance that only he could see and smiled,. “I had a good life. I traveled. I did things. I saw places I never thought I’d see. I wouldn’t change anything. I have no regrets”. I try and remember those words whenever I look at the man he is now; confused, slowed down to an almost shuffling old-before-his-time, trying desperately not to leave us, yet not knowing how to stay.  

I catch precious fleeting flashes of my "Before Alzheimer's" (BA) father every so often.   They are brief. Those times most often occur in small social settings. To my eye, one who knows him, my father appears not able to process the conversations going on around him. I watch him closely as his old smile appears, he nods his head as if he’s following along, but I know he’s not. I see the way he glances slolwy away, how fixed his smile becomes, how his eyes drift.  How his hand trembles. I don't know if others notice.
My mother has to tell my father the same things over and over again. I picked mom’s car up from the local garage the other day after she had had the oil changed. I parked the car in their garage and went inside to visit while I waited for my husband to pick me up. Dad came into the room where mom and I were talking. He stood, seemingly puzzled and started to ask, “Where…..” and couldn’t get another word out. He pointed toward the garage. My mother supplied the rest of the question; “Where is the car? It’s in the garage, Jimmy. Teri went and got it for us”. He shook his head as if he understood and walked away satisfied with mom’s answer. Not three minutes later he was back again trying to ask the same question. Mom gently intercepted the question before he could even attempt to get the first word out, and he walked away again seemingly content with her answer. Mom whispered, “He’ll ask me the same question five more times”.

I don’t know where my mother gets her patience or her strength. From some deep well where her and my dad’s love and marriage has lived for fifty-three years, I suppose. That marriage is theirs, not mine. I cannot trespass into that place. I am my dad’s daughter. She is his wife. Dad’s wife, my mom, cares for him tenderly and intimately in ways I know she never dreamed she would have to. My mother and father  are almost cocooned together. Dad doesn’t like it when she is away from him for any length of time, He will keep asking where she is, his hands shake more, and he becomes agitated. My mom is the only anchor he has left.  But I see the toll it is taking on her. How long can she do this? Right now, I know she is taking it day by day. That’s all she can do. She told me last week, “I don’t know how much longer I can keep going to church. Your dad has a hard time getting dressed and he isn’t comfortable around all the people”. My mom’s one true out let is her church home.  The more my father retreats from life, the more my mom is forced to retreat also.

People tell my mother, “Call if there’s anything I can do”.  Then she doesn’t hear another word from them. Why do they do this? Why don’t they just take some kind of action? Why don’t they call and tell mom they are coming to visit dad? Why don’t they offer to take him for a short ride? Why don’t they DO something? I know. It’s because most people don’t know how to act around someone with Alzheimer’s. My dad might embarrass them or say something he shouldn’t.  But my father is dying. There is no doubt about that. There is no treatment. There is no cure. Why is my father not afforded the same respect and care as someone dying from terminal cancer?  If he had cancer, people would visit, sit around his deathbed in loving concern, bring flowers, talk to him. That, in the end, is the true tragedy of Alzheimer’s.  No one wants to be around it. They don’t understand it. They fear it. In their minds, my father has become the Alzheimer’s. So, people do nothing or little, even me, and my father fades away a bit more each day. And my mother is becoming exhausted.

She has risen to the vows she took fifty-three years ago. I look at my mom with pride, and an almost weeping amazement overcomes me.  She is tired, hurt, mourning, angry. She is walking in a land she never thought she would ever have to prepare for. And she is holding my father’s hand on this, their last journey together, just as she did for twenty-three years of journeying: from Georgia to Oregon, Colorado to Mississippi, Japan to Texas, Georgia to Texas, Crete to Texas, Mississippi to Georgia. Ending up where she started.  She never complained, not that I ever heard.  Her talent for making each empty new house into a home was taken for granted.

But, I see now, Mom. I really do see. Maybe a little late, but I do see. Whenever someone says I look like you and that I have your blue eyes, I smile because I know there is also a chance that your strength runs though my blood.   I can only hope….

Happy Belated Mother's Day. I couldn't get the words right the first try. Now they are complete.

Monday, May 14, 2012

He Ain't Heavy; He's my Education Administrator

I started writing an in-depth, detailed research blog entry on one of the reasons that American schools are failing at a dizzying rate no matter how much money we siphon into them.  I got so bogged down in the research that I started foaming at the mouth and was developing a nasty twitch in my left eye, so I hit "delete" and started over.

Breathe a sigh of relief, here.  I am not going to cite my sources or back up my opinions with too much rhetoric. You’re smart enough to research it yourself.

So, without further ado: THE NUMBER THREE REASON AMERICAN SCHOOLS ARE FAILING (NCLB is # 1 and shitty parenting is #2):

The boards of education in the various counties across the United States are more concerned with the title that is in front of potential administrators’ names instead of the reputations, success rates, university credentials, and educational IN CLASS experiences of superintendent and principal applicants.

Come on, people. Just because someone has a Ed.D does not mean they are qualified, especially when a lot of these Ed.D’s are coming straight out of purely for profit online “universities”  that do not possess any real credibility or valued reputations within higher education circles. These online degree mills do not demand the same rigor as conventional universities, thus the knowledge and skills of the graduates are sub par to what was expected and demanded of every doctoral education administrator candidate in all universities as recently as a decade ago, and is still being demanded at reputable and longstanding universities. You think dissertation standards at those for profit only online universities are in any way rigorous? Research the so called dissertations from these degree mills. It’ll make you laugh, then cry. Go ahead, I dare you.

But, anyway, how could I, a lowly high school English teacher, accuse certain online degrees of being virtually worthless in areas of rigor and credibility? Where do I get my information? Glad you asked.

I took two courses from a purely online university towards a Masters degree before deciding that the rigor was laughable and my fellow students were grammatical morons who possessed the reasoning skills of trained seals, and the trained seals were passing the courses with high grades! I was sick one night and had a paper due the next morning. I have no idea what I wrote and submitted, and after I got well two days later I read the paper and it was complete gibberish, but I received an "A" for my gibberish. It was, by the way, one of the so called better online universities (not all online universities fall into this dubious/distinctive category; the more established ones who, pre-internet,  already enjoyed valued reputations as brick and mortar universities offer some very relevant and rigorous course work).

So, (question time again) why do we fill our public school leadership slots with less than reputable online university degree holding administrators, and then scratch our heads in wonder as to why we are lacking true substance? We sit back and watch as our public school test scores become the "be all",  true learning continues to plummet, school culture continues to head into the shitter, and teachers keep leaving the profession in droves (I simply love the word "droves" and I have been searching for a way to work it into this little diatribe from the beginning). It takes much more than a fashionably expensive suit, fancy letters after a name, a fresh haircut, thoughtful posturing, and clichéd rhetoric to turn our schools around. Remember the children’s story, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”? Everyone knew the emperor was really naked, but no one wanted to say it out loud for fear of reprisals from the emperor. All it took was for one small child to say, “The emperor has no clothes on” before anyone else would admit to their own part in the delusion.

Substandard educational degrees from questionable and less than stellar reputation online universities create poor administrators.  Poor administrators cannot lead teachers. Poor administrators cannot turn failing schools around. Poor administrators just bounce from school district to school district seeking out Boards of Ed who just like to be able to introduce their administrators by the title, “Doctor”.  The title just sounds better and makes everyone on the board appear smart. No one is concerned with the reality and the truth. As long as the outside appears a certain way, it doesn’t matter what the inside is.  The best administrators I ever have ever had the pleasure of working for did not carry letters after their names, but were true lifelong educators who had a passion and knowledge of how education works. They could keep the wheels turning, command respect from his/her teachers, and not get drawn into the “good ole boy/gal” education network.  That network is pervasive, lacks any substance, and is going to be the undoing of our public schools.

I have edited enough “Doctor” administrators’ writings (at their insistence) to know they couldn’t write their way out of a high school English class if their shiny wingtips depended on it. I have had an administrator insist that an author’s purpose and theme were not related at all and hinted that if I wanted to have a passing evaluation I had better remember that. When I told an administrator I was a “good” teacher, I was reprimanded with, “We don’t need good teachers; we need effective ones”.  I have been instructed to order hundreds of dollars in classroom materials and textbooks for a Drama class only to have the class canceled after two semesters, much to the dismay of the students.  Those materials and texts, to my knowledge, are still sitting on a shelf somewhere collecting dust.  I could go on and on and turn this into the longest paragraph in the history of blogging. But, I won't. I will have mercy because if you are a teacher, you have your own little Ripley's Believe it or Not administrator stories to tell that could probably make mine seem like a trip to Disneyland. And if you are not a public school teacher, you'll just think I am exaggerating anyway.

A personal note to administrators: I have heard enough clichéd educational jargon to last me until Gabriel blows his proverbial trumpet. If I never hear, “Knowledge is Power” or “Every Child Can Learn” again, it will be too soon. Drop the clichés. Show me action. Show me true leadership. Help me to actually be a better teacher; don't  keep tearing me down to make yourself look better. Don't make me sit though hours upon hours of professional development that does nothing other than attempt to connect tired cliché upon cliché into a brain fogging monotone, and doesn't furnish me with any applicable tools and/or ideas that I can actually use in my classroom. And for God’s sake, stop buying teachers those costly little books sold by overpriced educational consultants that you hand out like Tic Tacs at the beginning of each and every new school year. We get it already. You know how to read. You like to get up, pace back and forth, and pontificate on and on about the newest little book in an effort to show us how much you know and how dedicated you are to building teamwork. We get a new little book almost every year when the new admins come in (new administrators are like a recurring case of mouth ulcers and teachers are the true witnesses to the relentless and never ending administrator turnover in public schools). Please, use the money you spend on the little books to buy copy paper, textbooks, and pencils. Teachers just throw away those useless little books anyway.

Back to you Dear Reader  There you have it. I just told you that the emperor is wearing no clothes. What are you going to do? To what standards are you going to insist upon and hold your district boards of education accountable when they make administrator hiring decisions? Go for the flash and dash, or go for logic and common sense? Actually research potential candidates or hire based on, "Damn, that suit looks good on him and he has a doctorate, even if it is from the University of Bumfuck"? You roll the dice. But remember who loses if you keep rolling snake eyes.

Friday, May 11, 2012

an extended metaphor....

     Vultures stalk a rabbit whose small heart is but one thin beat away from death, or they circle an already rotting carcasses splayed on a country road. Their vulture senses are drawn by the sticky sweet smell of fear and death. The black winged birds circle and circle high above waiting for an opportune moment when they can glide down and tear the carcass apart tender piece by tender piece.. Ingesting, digesting. Swooping back into the sky when they are startled, gilding back, beady eyes peeled for a sign of movement, a living being with a strong beating heart and a will to live. Of this they are afraid.

      These black winged scavengers are a cowardly, carrion eating, bottom feeding collective who prey on the dead and vulnerable, and those who cannot, or will not, fight back. They are a rank lot. Brutish and beastly.  Shifty eyed and repulsive. They garner no respect, just a shiver of disgust.

     Tread by them lightly. Do not look them in the eye. Death may be on your shoulder….

Thursday, May 10, 2012


You know you have way too much time on your hands when you lie in bed at night and come up with 106 uses for wooden pallets.

I went for a walk tonight wearing a long brown skirt and my black high top Converses. I looked like an Amish punk rocker…

I’m at that age that where if I try to grow my hair out I end up looking like a crack addict..

I took my mom to Savannah, Georgia three years ago. She was so excited. We got to see a guy stab another guy on River Street.

What is it about carbs that makes me so happy?

I am so curious: Who are the nineteen people in Russia who are reading my blog and why are they reading it??

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Learn to Fly, Learn to See

My authenticated papers came in from ProEx service today, all stamped and official looking by the State Department and the United Arab Emirates embassy.  That was the last official step on my part towards my journey to Abu Dhabi. Now all I have to do is prepare my personal belongings, buy suitcases and a laptop, and board a plane in August for Abu Dhabi. All of this happened so very fast, but I’m ready. I think.

One of my best friends, Susa, lost her husband, Chuck, out of the proverbial blue Saturday night. We are all still attempting to come to terms with the sudden loss. It doesn’t seem real.  One minute he was here, the next he was gone at fifty-three years old.  She is shattered and reeling, as I would be if I were in her place. Now I will leave in August. I am leaving her.

I will leave my other friend, Scott, who is on his last bit of chemotherapy before the doctors do his “reconnect” surgery that will divert his digestive tract back where it should, by nature, be diverted to.  I will not be here to hold his hand. I will not be here for my friends, and that hurts. With Chuck’s passing it has become all too clear to me how suddenly and inexplicitly life can turn on a dime.

My father and his Alzheimer’s will only get worse. There is no turning it back. He now has more bad days than good days. It is so very difficult on my mother, and I know my impending departure leaves her feeling somewhat betrayed.

I will leave my beloved husband, who means more to me than my own heart, behind. He wants me to go after my dreams. He wants me to have this teaching experience in Abu Dhabi. He says we will work it out. That all will be okay.  I hold onto his words, and his assurances.

I don’t want to live in fear of what may be or what may not be, but I can’t help it, I do. My need to go outweighs my fears though. This is my last chance. I am fifty years old. This opportunity will not drop into my lap again. If I stay, I will only become more afraid to attempt anything new.  I will be forced to teach in a school that will not allow me to be creative, that will make me “teach the test”, that will push every bit of love I have for teaching out of my soul and leave behind an acid bitterness that will leave me old before my time. If I do not go, I will forever regret it.

So, I will leave in August. I will board a plane and travel over 6000 miles away. I will leave behind Susa, Scott, my father and my mother, and my dear husband, Jim.

I will not be here for my fragile daughter who is struggling to find her way, yet resists any overtures from me to help. I will not be here when her child is born in October, or be here to help her pick up the pieces when the house of cards she has so impulsively built over the past year falls down around her ears.

Who am I responsible to? Just myself? That is selfish. But to what extent and for whom do I give up my dreams? What makes that sacrifice acceptable? Who can I be, if not true to myself?  Since Saturday, these are the questions I ask each night as I lie in bed, the ones that keep me awake.  I must take a deep breathe. I must gather my courage. I can be afraid, but I must not allow that fear to control me. I will not. When I return from Abu Dhabi in two years, I will be wiser, smarter, more experienced, more sure of myself.  The love I have here will go with me. Distance will not destroy it, but deepen it.  Make it all the more precious. That is what I must depend on…

The emotional rollercoaster that the death of a friend causes is something I have never experienced before. I have had friends die, but they were friends from my past-  ones who were not in my day-to-day life. Chuck was a part of my life here on Rose Street. There will be a void caused by his absence. I know it is his passing that is causing me to have second thoughts about leaving, but I also know that it is part of the grieving process I must go through. We all go through that process differently based upon the relationship we shared with the person who is now gone.  Chuck’s death has made me truly realize how little time we have to actually live. How little time is granted to us. How it can all end in a split second. I can allow those realizations to control me or to free me. It is my choice.

Tomorrow I will be funny and irreverent again. I promise. But tonight, I needed to be uncertain, serious, doubtful, and human. I needed to cry.

I am still going to go to Abu Dhabi.

Dedicated to Chuck Quinn-a true Beatles fan:


Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to be free.

Blackbird fly Blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night.

Blackbird fly Blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.

-John Lennon, Paul McCarthy

Sunday, May 6, 2012

In His Life He Loved Them All..

Fragility of life. So tender it snaps with no warning, tossing  those left behind stumbling, stunned, and dazed. The Grieving are not of this world.  They belong to a realm that exists outside the dimensions of logic, expectation, explanation, order.  Theirs is a world of certain Dali-ist surrealism. The heart knows there is a void, that something is forever gone. The eyes, the hands do not understand. They cannot process it. The eyes search for a glimpse of him, but he is no longer there. The hands devoid of that one meaningful touch, flutter like lost, starved birds.

     I see and hear her cry and the realization hits me that I didn’t know that one small body could produce such anguish, such tears.  I place my hand on her chest while she sobs and I can feel the quickening of her heart as it fights against the truth. He is gone. Where did he go? So quickly. A vibrant, promising life one second- the next second no light, no energy, just stillness. And she can’t bring him back. And we can’t comfort her or make her pain less. Each second that  ticks away takes us one second away from when we last spoke to him, hugged him, laughed with him, and one second closer to creating a life without his presence. That will the most difficult thing of all.

                      There are places I remember
                      All my life, though some have changed
                      Some forever not for better
                      Some have gone and some remain

                      All these places had their moments
                      With lovers and friends
                      I still can recall
                     Some are dead and some are living
                     In my life I've loved them all

-The Beatles

                                                   Dr. Charles (Chuck) Quinn.
                                                  October 18, 1958- May 5, 2012

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Bling me Baby!!!!

I joined pinterest.  Pinterest, the new internet site where you create boards with your interests, look over your friends’ interests, and steal their ideas to ‘pin” to your boards-  in reality I waste hours upon hours of otherwise productive time clicking through interesting projects. Meanwhile the dog hasn’t been fed and I’m still in my jammies at noon, but damn, one of husband’s keys is pretty as hell!!


Last night, 3 a.m. I couldn’t sleep. I was bored. I was restless. I pulled my husband’s shop key from his keychain (husband was sleeping soundly and obliviously in the next room). I smeared the top portion of the shop key with a thin coating of Elmer’s glue. I then dipped the top of the key into a bottle of silver glitter. I held the key between my teeth for about a half an hour so the glitter and glue combo could dry. I then placed the key on my husband’s desk to finish drying completely so that later (this morning) I could apply several coats of clear fingernail polish to seal in the glitter.  Mission accomplished. The key is BLINGED!!

My dear husband woke up this morning, saw the key shining, flashing, beckoning to him… and he merely shook his head. The other two keys on the key ring now appear bland in comparison to the blinged key. They just can’t compete.


 This idea came from pinterest.  I need to stay off pinterest. There is quite a lot of damage that a jar of glitter, Elmer’s glue, and moi could cause….

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

How to Become a Teacher in the United Arab Emirates: Twenty Easy Steps

Want to teach in an exotic locale? Yearning for adventure?  Want to go where you won’t understand 60% of what is being said to you? Longing to sweat… a lot? Want to trade your frustrations over the United States educational system for an entirely different set of frustrations in teaching? Want to get away from homeless drunks accosting you in public? If you answered yes to all of these questions, then teaching in the United Arab Emirates might be for you (that is if you are an actual FOR REAL certified teacher.. do not attempt this if you are a lumberjack, dog walker, or drug dealer).

All you have to do is follow these simple steps:

1. Fill out an online resume

2. Email additional information.

3. Participate in a phone interview.

4. Participate in an In Person Interview (IPI) where you will be asked some pretty strange questions (I almost flubbed the “What religion are you?” question. I don’t think the interviewers were quite open to hearing about the Flying  Spaghetti Monster).

Flying Spaghetti Monster by ricknight

5. Have your teaching certificate and highest university degree notarized in your county. Write on your documents something like, “I confirm that this document is a true copy of the original.” Then sign your name and have notary sign and stamp with his/her magic stamp.

6. Take the notarized teaching certificate and notarized degree to the same county’s Superior Court and have the clerk certify the notary (I thought only mental health speacialists could do this, but hey who am I to argue?).

7. Mail or take documents to your Secretary of State Department so they can affix an important wonderful looking seal with your Governor’s signature and they can staple this to a piece of pretty blue paper. This step is called authentication for international use.
sidenote: This is what it looks like:

8. Mail the important looking signed–by-the-Governor-backed-by-pretty-blue-paper documentation to the United States State Department for further authentication.

sidenote: This is the Georgia Governor, Nathan Deal.. he signed my paperwork. He kind of looks like that old man who lives down the street from you who strings barbed wire around his property, doesn't he?

9. When you get the papers back from the United States State Department, immediately mail them to the United Arab Emirates Embassy along with a letter of accreditation from your university for the last step of authentication.  
sidenote; When your papers arrive back from the United States State Department, they will have Hillary Clinton's signature on them! I don't know where she finds the time....

BIG IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE: you can combine steps 8 and 9 and pay (it was $308.00 for mine) for a service like ProEx to handle the last two details for you. Expensive, but quick and secure!

10. Once you get the paperwork back from the United Arab Emirates Embassy, scan the entire package and email it to your representative (the agency that is acting as your representive between you and Abu Dhabi; teachaway or teachanywhere are just two examples of these agencies) so your rep can get it to the Abu Dhabi Education Council asap.  The UAE will then begin processing your VISA. 
sidenote: Keep the hardcopies and bring these to UAE with you.

11. Figure how many of your belongings will fit into two suitcases. Weight limit is 50 pounds per suitcase. All of my shoes combined are going take up one suitcase. Pack and repack no less than sixty-six times.

12. Make and keep doctor appointments. Get notarized letters from your doctors for needed prescription medications. Check the UAE’s site for banned medications (yes, there are many!). You can bring three months of non-banned medication into the UAE. But please have the doctor notarized letter (s)and copy of RX. Might want to grab a copy of your medical records too.  

13. Get your teeth cleaned, your eyes checked. Buy new glasses and contact lenses.  If you are a woman, go to your hoo hoo doctor for a checkup.  

14. Shop for long sleeved blouses and long to–the-floor skirts. Buy a hat for sandstorms. Scarves too. Pretty long scarves.. so feminine.

15. Set up a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service, download skype, google, netflix, hula etc while IN the United States.

16. Carry a map of the United Arab Emirates around with you and be prepared to whisk it out to show friends/relatives/ strangers when they ask, “Where are you are going to teach?” Be prepared for ignorant comments. Do not hit anyone, as being arrested for assault at this stage may slow down the VISA process.

17. Scan teaching materials onto a jump drive. Saves space in your suitcase for more shoes...

18. Locate your sense of humor and your patience. Keep it intact. You are going to need it.

19. Wait for your airline e-ticket and departure date. And wait. And wait. Take up knitting to pass the time.

20. Practice saying Insha’Allah

P.S I don't think it's going to be anything like Sex in the City Part Two:

If it is, I am not coming back.