Archive | September, 2008

Part One—My Memoirs From My Special Education Years

16 Sep

I have decided to use my blog to do a 5 part series on my years as a special education teacher. You will have a window into why I chose to teach, the people I met along the way, and the memories that will last a lifetime.
PART ONE–THE BEGINNING
Special education was a part of my life even before I realized it was a part. I grew up with my aunt who was born in the 1930’s. She was born with mental retardation. At a time when many mentally retarded children were put into institutions my grandmother chose to keep her daughter home with her. As a young child I knew Mabel was different, but she was still fun and interesting. Who else had a candy stash in their closet, and had such an awesome key chain collection? It was interesting to me as I got older that she could tell you things, and remember in detail events that had happened when she was a child.
My family had a friend at church that had a little girl who was born with a rare chromosomal disorder that caused mental retardation. My sister babysat for them a lot. She was like an assistant to this young mother. As a teen I also helped this same lady teach a special needs class at our church.
I babysat for a neighbor of ours that had a son with CF. (cystic fibrosis) I remember showing up early for my babysitting jobs and being instructed on how to give this little boy his enzyme medication in applesauce so that he would eat it. I remember watching his parents give him therapy before they left for their evening out. They would pound on his back trying to dislodge the mucus that was robbing his lungs of air. I remember how unfair that all seemed…to be a child plagued by a disease that would eventually take his very life.
It was when I was a teen that my desire to do something for this particular population bloomed. At sixteen I volunteered as a hugger at the Special Olympics…..it was then that I made my decision. I was going to be a special education teacher…I was going to make a positive difference in the lives of children. I was young and naive, but I had the desire and the drive to begin the journey.
At seventeen I took a summer job as an assistant camp counselor with the camps sponsored by our local Association of Retarded Citizens (ARC). Boy was this an eye opening experience! This was a “social” camp for MR adults (ages 18-70’s)……and boy were they social. I remember one night towards the end of camp was the BIG dance. The ladies wanted help getting “prettied up” for the men that would be at the dance. Wasn’t it a hoot that at 17 I was helping ladies the age of my mom or grandmother get ready for their big night out! Older bodies but with the minds of young teens. We teased hair, we put on hot red lipstick, and pranced into the dining hall like we were the best thing to hit this camp since whenever. I remember the fun of watching them have fun. One man was in a wheelchair and stayed on the sidelines…..I asked him if he’d like to dance? He said, “sure” with a big smile on his face. I wheeled him out and spun him around like we were trying out for the Rockettes. He clapped and laughed. He was having fun–and so was I. I had such a good time as counselor that I came back each summer for the next five years.
Along with camps, I also became a house counselor during the summers at some local group homes. When I say that I’ve pretty much seen it all I’m not kidding. I got into an argument with a young woman when I vacuumed under her bed and she had no more dust bunnies under there. She was so mad at me. She told me she collected them! And further more I had ruined her collection. In the same house was Helen, at the time in her early 70’s. She was having a temper tantrum because the senior center bus was late and she thought they had forgotten her. I told her to stand next to the front door and wait. She was not patient and threw herself to the floor in a toddler tantrum. I came running into the room from the kitchen to see this woman flailing around on the floor. I said, “Helen, for goodness sake get up!! I don’t want you to break a hip.” This went on for about 5 minutes…when we heard a honk. The bus had arrived. Helen jumped up, brushed herself off, fluffed her hair, grabbed her handbag and waved as she went out the door. So there you go. Shaking my head I retreated back to the kitchen to finish making eggs for breakfast.
In another home was Gregg. He was 40 years old and severely, profoundly retarded. I think that working with Gregg is when I truly learned how to serve others. (His mom was elderly and could no longer care for him though she visited him often) Gregg was in a wheelchair. Gregg couldn’t feed himself, couldn’t bathe himself, couldn’t talk. I recall wondering what kind of life Gregg had….what he thought about, how he felt, if he ever felt sad about his lot in life……..then it occurred to me. Maybe God had allowed Gregg to live NOT for what he could give to others, but for the opportunity for others to give to him. There was no hidden agenda with Gregg. He had to trust that you’d take care of him. There is something very profound in that.
One of the funniest memories I have is of Phillip. Phillip was small, skinny and wrinkled. He was the ripe young age of 78. Not a tooth in his mouth and only a minimal amount of hair on his head. But what a hoot! I vividly remember this—I was once again fixing breakfast (seems like all the funny stories happened around that time). I was 21 at the time, home from college for the summer, and working at Phillips group home. Back then I was a cute, young blonde. Phillip was a big flirt. This particular morning he joined us for breakfast in the outfit that the good Lord gave him. He had on nothing but a big smile and an open robe. I had my back to him, fixing some bacon in the frying pan. When I turned around my mouth hung open and I was in shock.
Even though I was only 21 my “mom voice” took over. “PHILLIP!!! You get your rear end back in that bedroom and put some clothes on. You better not come back out here until you are covered up. That is NOT allowed, now get moving!!!” He sheepishly made his way back to his room. The rest of us sat silently at the table mulling over the morning’s course of events, eating our eggs and bacon….until I burst out laughing. It really was funny. I couldn’t help but laugh. Leave it to the playboy of the house.
I could go on and on with the stories. Life can be hilarious. Lessons are learned. Strength is gained.
Tomorrow I’ll talk about my first years of teaching.

Ear Piercing Scream

15 Sep

I’m currently sitting on my bed with my lap top, well, on my lap. I’ve had a LONG day. You know the kind….the kind that nothing goes according to plan. The kind that seem to go on forever…….I think a good scream would make me feel better. I better not do that though, because I might give my kids a heart attack. Either that or they might think I’ve finally gone off the deep end. Yes, I got up this morning to make my breakfast and ended up with some of it on me. Butter fingers. School was in the tank today. The kids and I felt like we were stuck in quicksand. Today I was sitting at the kitchen table I saw my sons mouth moving, knew he was saying something, but it just wasn’t computing. Repeat, please? No, I have not had a brain hemmorage or anything. Just me, what can I say? This evening I was having some coffee and managed to spill it all down the front of my nice blouse. Lovely. See what I mean?
I am going to go to bed, will pull the covers over my head and hope that tomorrow will be a better day.

Pass Out At The Pump

13 Sep

I had on the downside of a half a tank of gas in my car….but I wanted a full tank because I have a full week coming up and as all us moms know…..WE are the chaeuffers of the family! So anyway, after the kid’s soccer game today I stopped at the gas station. $5.00 for a gallon of gas!!!!! (the station across the way was $5.07) After I picked myself up from the pavement and dusted myself off, I looked again. The price had not changed. The neon green light at the pump seemed to mock me. It seemed to say, ” if you want the privilege of driving then fork over the bucks lady!” What a rip off! Yes, I know that Hurricane Ike has wreaked havoc on the gulf. I realize that the pipelines for the southeast come from the gulf. Still! My Camry can probably hold around 20 gallons. Who has $100 for gas? It’s just miserable. Our van has a bigger tank then that. Good grief! I hope this gets fixed (or whatever) so that the gas shipments (?) can get here. Several gas stations in Knoxville have put plastic bags over their pumps so people won’t use them. They are already out of fuel. Another shipment was supposed to come on Tuesday, now it will be Thursday. People will panic–make a run on the gas, and then there really will be no gas. Either that or you’ll have to sell your firstborn just to get a few drops for your car to get from point A to point B.
I think Star Trek was onto something. We all need to get one of those machines that transports one from here to there WITHOUT gas!!!!!!!! Where is Captain Kirk when we need him?????

Panic at the Pump

12 Sep

Good grief! I woke up this morning and did my reading of the local paper online, like I do every morning. The big story is that between Gustav and Ike the oil refineries on the Gulf coast are not able to function and supply the south east like they normally would. There are several gas stations in Knoxville that have run out of gas and won’t get another shipment (hopefully) until Sept.17. People are lining up at the pumps and they are in a panic. One woman said last night she was in a line of 20 cars, another had to wait 20 minutes just to get to the pump…. One guy said the price will sky rocket because of this. I haven’t been to the gas station so I don’t know, but I’m not going to panic. Won’t do any good to panic anyway. If I am unable to get gas I guess I’ll just be staying at home.

Remembering…

11 Sep

I’ve been watching the tributes to those that lost their lives on September 11, 2001. It hardly seems like it has been 7 years…….
I was two hours into my school day that fateful Tuesday morning. I’ll never forget that one of our third grade teachers stuck her head in my classroom door telling me a plane had hit a building in New York. Since I didn’t have my classroom TV on, and didn’t want to interrupt my students, leaving my kids with my assistant I went to the office to see on the small office TV what was going on. Just as I got there the principal said, “the Pentagon has just been hit!” I stared at the TV stunned by the news reports. What was going on? Were we at war? I was confused with everything that was happening. My mind was numb and I couldn’t get my mind around what was going on. I went back to my classroom in a daze and told my teaching assistant what I’d seen. We were in disbelief.
We did end up turning the TV on and off throughout the day. I couldn’t take my eyes off the horrible replays of the planes crashing into the World Trade Center. One of my dear special students looked at me and said, “let’s pray”. Yes, I taught in a public school but that day it did not matter. She requested and we prayed. Her sweet young voice reaching up to her Heavenly Father….” Dear God help those people.” I cried.
This was a mere 10 months since I had lost my husband. Our school librarian had recently died from cancer. My favorite race car driver had died in February of that year. My husband’s aunt had died a month earlier. Now this catastrophic, life changing incident. I was numb….both for the people that had lost their lives on 9/11 as well as their families….I knew all to well what it felt like.
There are a lot of emotions and memories tied up in the tragedy that occurred on that day so many years ago….probably because of where I was in my own life at that time.
So sad. So tragic. So unforgettable. Yet, from the ashes of that day come the equally unforgettable acts of courage, the strong will to go on, the fierce determination that this would not be allowed to happen again. Average Americans died that day—but they are not forgotten, nor will they ever be. The memory of that fateful day is forever stamped on the hearts of America.
Not everyone agrees with George Bush or is pleased with all his decisions, but I believe that he will go down in history as a President who kept us safe on his watch. He has been vigilant so that we have not had another terror attack on our own soil……and for that I say a heart felt thank you.

Country Living —Autumn Style

10 Sep

I just received my October issue of Country Living magazine. I just had to share a great article that they had included in this issue. The editors of the magazine realize that “country” is a state of mind. So they decided to ask their readers, “what do you think of when you hear the words country living”? The answers were interesting and I enjoyed reading them. As I sat down at the kitchen table sipping my coffee I found myself wholeheartedly agreeing with the people who embodied what country spirit really is……
“It’s about having the freedom to embrace life at your own pace.”
“The chance to spend an afternoon on the front porch, relaxing on the hammock.”
“It’s where you go for peace and quiet.”
“Fireflies, swimming holes, and leisurely Sunday suppers.”
“Country living is a big,beautiful barn on the outskirts of town.”
“A roaring fire, a comfortable chair, and a good book.” ( My personal favorite!)
“Finding happiness in life’s simple pleasures.”
“It is about putting down roots and being part of a community.”
“Serving fresh eggs my kids just gathered from our chicken coop with a stack of buttermilk pancakes.”
“Wide open spaces and the scent of freshly mowed grass.”
“Rumbling down a dirt road in an old pickup truck in my favorite vintage dress.”
“Sitting in my kitchen with a friend, drinking coffee and talking, neither of us realizing the whole morning has passed.”
“Giving thanks for the bounty of nature.”
“Working in the garden, dirt under my nails, with the sun on my face.”
“Peacefulness.”
“Country living mean honoring family traditions, celebrating the seasons, and having the good sense to appreciate the gifts we’ve been given.
These heart warming sentiments came from the down home folks all across our great land. From Oregon to New York, Ohio to Arizona, and New Jersey to Minnesota.

What do YOU think of when you think of country living? I’ll start……….
Country to me is no city lights to disturb the beauty of the night sky. Country is making friends with new people, but already feeling like you’ve known them forever. Country is land and space to enjoy. Country is community.

Drill Here Drill Now

10 Sep

Country singer Aaron Tippin has a new song out entitled Drill Here Drill Now. I like it. Leave it to a country singer to pen a song that speaks to the heart of America.
Take a minute to visit his site and listen to an excerpt from his song. http://aarontippin.musiccitynetworks.com/

So That’s Where It Has Been!

9 Sep

You all know I’ve been packing the house. Well, my bedroom is becoming something of a treasure trove. I’m finding everything I ever lost…. the earring that I dropped and it “disappeared”…under the table at the end of the bed. The stationery I haven’t seen in forever…in the very back of the armoire. The devotional book that I just “know I put it somewhere”. Uh huh…behind another book on the shelf. Good grief! Just call me “squirrel girl”. I have more stuff stuck away in nooks and crannies all over the bedroom then I know what to do with. Living in this house is like living through an old 70’s episode of Sanford and Son. Remember the dad and son that lived in the junkyard? Well, I’m just saying….. I very well could pass out back in my bedroom from breathing in all the dust (yes people, I DO dust, but it always comes back!) and I dare say my kids might not be able to find me back there under all the boxes. Well, I guess they’d eventually hunt for me when they got hungry enough…..maybe they’d see my feet sticking out from underneath the avalanche of boxes and they’d take pity on their dear mom….or maybe they’d just go fix themselves their own peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Abortion—Murder or Convenience. What say you?

8 Sep

I was doing my regular early morning trolling of the internet and decided to check out Michelle Malkin’s page. (I really like her!) She had an interesting blog for this morning….on a statement Biden made about when he feels life begins.
Now, I believe life does begin at conception. Yet, women (and men for that matter) do have a choice. The thing is the choice is BEFORE conception. The choice is whether or not to have sex. As Rush said, “Abstinence WORKS 100% of the time!” There are also many types of birth control that women (and men!) can use. The truth is the REAL choice is made ahead of time. BEFORE a pregnancy occurs. In my opinion once a pregnancy occurs there is no choice. A baby is growing…not just a bunch of cells.
I could go on about this but I won’t….but I do want you to read Michelle’s short blog.

Slick Joe Biden admits: Yes, I’m a cold-blooded murderer
By Michelle Malkin • September 8, 2008 08:00 AM

Joe Biden gave us another notable moment this weekend on Meet The Press when he came the closest a high-ranking Democrat has come to admitting his advocacy of cold-blooded murder. Guess he didn’t want to get stuck like Pelosi, with Catholic officials breathing down her stiff neck:

Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee for vice president, departed Sunday from party doctrine on abortion rights, declaring that as a Catholic, he believes life begins at conception.

While Mr. Biden’s views may not be new to Democrats in his circle, his comments, in an interview on “Meet the Press” on NBC, came at a time when his party is confronted with a new face: Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, whose anti-abortion stance and decision to give birth just five months ago to a baby with Down syndrome have revved up the conservative base of her party.

In the interview Sunday, Mr. Biden tried to walk the line between the staunch abortion-rights advocates in his party and his own religious beliefs. While he said he did not often talk about his faith, he said of those who disagree with him: “They believe in their faith and they believe in human life, and they have differing views as to when life — I’m prepared as a matter of faith to accept that life begins at the moment of conception.”

And so, I wonder, is he also prepared to accept his culpability in perpetuating the mass destruction of millions of those unborn lives that began at the moment of conception?

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Interesting, huh? I guess Biden is above Obama’s “pay grade” because he actually said life begins at conception. Just something to think about.

The Truth Is Sometimes Ugly…

7 Sep

I found this article interesting. Even though there are many issues that I disagree with the Dems on I have to say I can really hear what the female writer of this article is saying. I am not a fan of Hillary Clinton, but I do think she got a raw deal from her own party. There are evidently A LOT of females who were Hillary supporters that are disgusted with the treatment they are getting from the Democratic party. This article is from Real Democrats USA.

THE DNC MISSED OPPORTUNITY

In a stunning announcement today that is a game changer for the 2008 Presidential election, Sen. John McCain chose Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his Vice Presidential choice. Wow. Bold, risky and brilliant. Congratulations Gov. Palin. Well done, Sen. McCain. Gov. Palin acknowledged both Geraldine Ferraro, the 1984 Democratic nominee for Vice President and Hillary Clinton in her speech. Smart move and well deserved acknowledgement.

Geraldine Ferraro said today that in the 24 years since her historic run for the Vice Presidency, today was the first time she’s been publicly acknowledged. Wow. The DNC should take a lesson in respecting the female candidates of their OWN party for a change. The DNC and other elected officials stood silent while Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Clinton were relentlessly and unfairly attacked by the Obama campaign and the media during the course of the 2008 primary debacle. Hillary Clinton deserved respect and equal opportunity in 2008 from the DNC. She received neither and they must be held accountable for this failure.

As a young woman in 1984, as an enthusiastic volunteer for Mondale/Ferraro, I proudly stood on the sidestage of a campaign event witnessing Geraldine Ferraro make history. I never could have imagined it would take another 24 years to see another woman given this opportunity again and that it would NOT be my Democratic party.

The Obama campaign missed the opportunity today to acknowledge the significance of a female on a national ticket, instead choosing to snipe at Gov. Palin’s small town background. That clip won’t play well in the very areas the DNC needs to win over. Obama and Biden chose to engage in sexist “hard ice cream” guffaws on their bus trip stop today. They really DON’t get it. They are NOT funny. Later in the day nearly 6 hours AFTER the McCain VP announcement, Obama and Biden called to congratulate Palin. Too little, too late as usual.

The DNC has missed the opportunity to finally break through the hard glass ceiling by failing to nominate the incredible Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton who should have been the first woman on a national ticket to achieve success. But, alas, sexism rules in 2008 within the Democratic party. Their failure to put action into the words they have mouthed for decades to women and men that they stood for women and equal opportunity will go down in history as the greatest missed opportunity imaginable.

Not only did the Democratic party fail to nominate the strongest, most qualified and & most electable candidate they had in Hillary Clinton, they failed to put her on the ticket at all. Nonsensical. Hillary received more than 18 million votes compared to 8 for Sen. Joe Biden and HE gets the VP spot? Hillary received more votes than ANY candidate of ANY party in history and does not get a spot on the ticket?

If this first major decision by the Democratic nominee Barack Obama is any indication of his character and judgment, the Democrats are in trouble. They have nominated the wrong candidate(s). Obama is neither qualified or electable. The very undemocratic DNC convention and process was a farce. No amount of media promotion and rock star stadium events can change the fact that Barack Obama is unqualified to be President of the United States.

Sen. McCain and the GOP deserve kudos for a masterful stroke today. Women have been told we don’t matter in the Democratic party this year (even though WE are the majority voting block of the party) and to sit down, shut up and get in line behind in Obama. Women have been the majority voting block of the Democratic party for decades under the illusion that the party stood for women. We were very wrong. Women decide all elections and this one will be no different. Women will likely respond to this likable woman from Alaska who’s got more executive experience than Obama and Biden combined.

It’s time to hold the DNC accountable for the 2008 campaign debacle. Missed opportunities, indeed.

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