Monday, April 30, 2012

To my beloved:

I love you dearly, husband o' mine, but NO MORE AMBIT meetings. If you decide to pursue this, you're on your own, baby.

Yes. I realize full well that I am walking away from a once in a lifetime opporunity to make $100,000 (OR MORE!) every month. That my one and only chance to do such a thing ends at midnight tonight.

Yes. I realize that $429 is a mere piffle compared to the vast fortune that awaits me. Oh. That and a monthly payment of $24.95.

Think that I'll hang on to my money, and avoid harassing my friends.

Love you.


GASP!

Got a job interview tomorrow at 9 AM. Guess where? Know my last fieldwork placement? Yep. There. The place where I felt like everything fit, where I clicked, where I could help good things happen.

If my foot is in the door, I can make my way to where I want to be.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Small moment at the Tractor Supply

Today, at Tractor Supply, I noticed an old man. "Mary!" he called, walking down the aisle, turning his head this way and that. He had lost his wife, and he seemed a little frightened by that. Later, I saw them again. She had a severe case of scoliosis, bent almost double at the waist, and I watched her picking one can of dog food at a time off the shelf.

She hobbled to the front of the store with her husband shuffling along at her side. At the register, Heather waited on them, and they talked pleasantly with her, once laughing loudly at some joke. Despite their infirmities, they could both appreciate the joys of life. I continued taking down the sales signage, ticking things off my list, and watched them walking slowly out together, and my heart was touched.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Scared myself

Wow.

Did you ever read a book that scared you so badly you couldn't even finish it? You just kind of flicked through the pages to make sure you understood how it ended, and then, you threw the book out? Because it was THAT scary?

I did.

*Deep quavery breath*

Okay. Now I'm headed to bed to read Anne of Avonlea.

Relaxation

Today was spent applying for jobs. I received a very enthusiastic call from a 'head hunter', one with an obnoxious voice, sounded like a big phoney, like a used car salesman. I will call him back on Monday, returning home too late to return the call today. But he tells me that "there are BIIIIIIIIIIIG opportunities for me here." That remains to be seen. I just mistrust people with voices like that. Hope that I am wrong.

I drove to the big city today for my mammogram. It was overdue by about six months, but I didn't sweat it too much because I'd had a PET scan in August. The last two mammograms that I'd had were done locally, and it was scary, because they both were deemed suspicious, which required a second opinion. This time, I just went for the second opinion first, hoping to avoid the stress that happens as you wait for the follow-up, trying hard to convince yourself that it is nothing, knowing full well that there was that one time that you tried hard to convince yourself that it was nothing, only it wasn't nothing, and you spent the next six months scared witless. Hard to explain, really, unless you've ridden that particular roller coaster before. The woman was very nice, explained to me that the scan would be compared against previous scans but also viewed with CAD (Computer Aided Detection) which sees subtle changes that the human eye might miss. My appointment was at nine, and because I live an hour and a half away, I left early, to allow myself extra time, just in case. I got there shortly after 8:15 and was headed back home by 9.

I got Tim off to work, and I looked for OTA jobs, applied for two, and then went to the bank. I stopped at the thrift store, and found a beautiful set of cobalt blue pyrex mixing bowls. I also bought a leatherbound volume containing three 'Avonlea' stories. I've got two girls who are Anne fans, and so am I. I also bought myself a couple pair of jeans, a leather Ralph Lauren purse, and a book. The card in my wallet gave me a 50% discount, and I've been looking for a reason to use it for a couple months now, and I really wanted those bowls. I spent $14.44.

It's been sort of dreamlike time. Freed from the stress of school, I've been able to focus on making nice meals for my husband (cream of potato soup today), cleaning house, and reading for pleasure once again, even doing a little shopping (mostly browsing though). I've played in the dirt, and planted the beginnings of an herb garden (hopefully it has not been killed by the unseasonable cold). Yesterday, I stretched out to read a book and I ended up taking a half hour afternoon nap. It has felt nothing short of luxurious.

Pete, from work, had given me a box of books, and I've had the best time reading his eclectic choices. I read an English mystery from the 50s, and travel guides from Stevenage, Hertfordshire, Shephall, The Meetinghouse at Jordans, all in England, and Kirkwall in Scotland. The Spoon River Anthology, The Education of Little Tree. There is still quite a stack of books to tempt me: Ivanhoe, The Lives of a Cell, The Ballad of the Sad Cafe. It's been interesting to read for pleasure again, to pick up a book and just read it because I love it.

It's also given me quite new view of Pete. I see that some of the books are purchased from the Baltimore County Library system, and surprisingly, I have a number of books of my own from that same library group, back from when I lived in Essex, Md. One of the books in the box was The Snow Goose, which I already have. It made me cry the first time that I read it and it made me cry when I read it again, all these years later. So now I want to ask Pete about his time in Baltimore County, and when was he there, and where did he live when he was there?

People are interesting, and it is wonderful, once again, to get a chance to visit with them, to get to know them, to laugh, and to share. I've got a list of people to have over to supper, and it is such a satisfaction to find my time freeing up so that I can do just that. It is a shock to realize just how much my life has veered out of my control between cancer, and then school. Once again, I have time to look around me, and to appreciate, to enjoy, and savor. I'm so very glad for this time.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Kids....

A man who took frequent business trips was usually met at the airport by his family. This time, however, his wife was unable to meet him due to the time he was flying back, so he drove his car to the airport, and drove himself home when his plane landed in the middle of the night, after flying through some pretty heavy weather.

He was frazzled and tired, and his drive home was no piece of cake either. He couldn't wait to climb into his own bed. Unfortunately, once home, he discovered his whole family sound asleep in his bed where the kids had apparently run for refuge at the height of the weather. He sighed a big sigh, but took himself off to one of the kid's rooms and slept in that bed for the night.

The following morning, he was greeted excitedly, and they all sat down to have breakfast. Daddy explained that it was well and good to sleep with mommy sometimes when the weather was bad, but on the days when he was coming home, he'd rather they did not sleep in his bed. His children listened attentively.

Arriving home after his next business trip, his family met him at the huge and packed New Jersey airport. His youngest caught sight of him accross the crowded concourse and bellowed, "Daddy!!! And guess what? This time, nobody slept with mommy while you were gone!"

He said the concourse got noticeably quieter as everyone tried to figure out who his wife was.

That's it really. Going to bed early.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Maya Angelou

I did get myself to Clarion with no real problems. This blast of winter weather was very interesting. F'rinstance, we had no snow at our house. None. Not even a dusting. Zippo. Nuthin'. Yet just a couple miles away, at the old house, we had a foot of it. There were so many downed trees in that part of the county that we had a man come in to buy his first ever chainsaw. He figured that it would take too long to get someone to come help him removed those trees. They had 'leafed out', and the heavy snow had laid so heavily on the branches that trees collapsed and snapped under the weight. My friend Karen did not have power for over 12 hours. Yet our house...nuthin'.

I talked with Cara, and Clarion was gray with swirling flakes, but nothing was sticking to the ground, same as here, so I set off. I ran into one 'snow zone' (for lack of better words), but the roads were wet, not snowed covered.

I got to Clarion, and discovered that Maya Angelou canceled just after I arrived. Not because of the weather. Her bus broke down. Ironic.

It was fun, anyway. I baked pepperoni rolls and watched videos. Cara felt badly that it was such a boring night. I was surprised that she still hasn't figured out that I'm a low key sort of person. I enjoyed the evening very much.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

There's no business like snow business

After the winter that wasn't, not really, we are supposed to get a major snow event. I live square in the middle of the purple band up by the New York State line, which means we are supposed to wind up with over 12 inches between now and Tuesday morning. This after a few days of weather so warm that you could go without a coat at all. It probably sounds whiney, but ooooh! So not looking forward to this. The good side of it is that I do not have to drive anywhere tomorrow, now that my clinicals are over.


Today at the Tractor Supply, an old friend from my high school days came in. Of course, everyone is talking about the snow. Bill's a farmer, and he said, "Well, I've got a bet riding on it. A friend is paying for my lunch if we get less than five inches." I looked at him and grinned. "Tell you what," I said. "If we get less than five inches, by gosh, it will make me so happy, I'll pay for your desert!" We laughed.


We shall see what happens. Supposed to start in four more hours.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Prejudice

So, I'm waiting on customers at the Tractor Supply, and a fellow pays me, collects his things and heads off, leaving me calling, "Hey! You forgot your change!" He came back, embarrassed, and the Amish fellow standing behind him says, "Well, if he doesn't want his change, I think that you should give it to the customer behind him," and he grinned broadly. The Amish used to be quiet around me, but heaven knows, I can't be quiet to save my life, and I teased a couple, and the next thing you know, they're giving as good as they get. They're not the quiet sober folks they started out as.

So, anyhoo, the line has a laugh about the whole thing and the man takes his change, and heads off once again. I wait on the Amish fellow, look up his tax exempt stuff, and he hands me the money. As I'm getting his change, he suddenly groans, realizing that he forgot the very thing that he'd come into the store to get. Much to my surprise, he darts off quickly, leaving his stuff on the counter and me holding his change. His friend, standing behind him, flashes a smile in his own beard. I said, "What was it he said? That the change should just go to the customer behind him?" And the Amish man behind him laughed out loud and said, "I heard him say that very thing," and the line laughed once again as vague protestations rose up from the customer over somewhere in the chainsaw section. I finally got the two of them taken care of and on their way, not without a good dollop of good natured ribbing.

The customer behind THEM was surprised at their good nature. I rang her up and listened. "Nah," I said. "They have a reserved nature, initially, but take that as a caution: they give as good as they get." She listened and she said, "Well, what I can't stand about them is that they don't pay taxes."

And there it was. Prejudice. It was prejudice based on a myth.

"They pay taxes," I said. I explained that the tax exempt status meant that they did not pay sales tax through the year. Like many 'English' farmers, they're banking on the notion that their exemptions at the end of the year will balance out what they owe. They're no more tax exempt than a Methodist or a Catholic.

She stood there. "I did not realize this." She was not a unkind woman. I could see this. She was good natured too. She left and I went on to the next customer.

People do that a lot, you know. They've never met you, or talked to you, but based on something that they heard, they don't like you. I don't get that, but don't ever miss a chance to say a good thing.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Big Night

Today, I watched Cara give her honors presentation. She was the last speaker in a group of five. It is not just maternal pride that makes me say that her presentation was very good. The others spoke, one about social media, praising it, offering the expert opinions of a professor and a student that, by her own admission, she grabbed in the hall a half hour before she filmed the discussion that she based her presentation on. There was no discussion about the negatives of it, and in one case her slide made no sense, the question being "Do we use social media well?" and the answer being, from the student expert 65% and the professor's response, slightly lower.

Another girl presented on library programs for young adults and how they theoretically could foster positive behaviors. But the question was put to her: did she look at demographics? Well-heeled communities with a lot of money to pour into library programs might appear to be helpful, but those areas might not have the drug problems of an inner city demographic, where poorer communities mean more limited budgets. She foundered there, and the holes in her presentation soon became apparent.

A third girl got up to speak on the I-pad vs. dynavox technology, and at the end of it, the question was put to her: why did she only examine I-pads? What about other even cheaper 'tablets'. A professor pointed out that what she had done was a commercial for Apple.

The lone boy in our group got up to examine the role of the 'trickster' charactor in literature, talking about Loki and Odin and Lancelot, who he deemed a 'heroic trickster.' I personally did not see how it all tied together, but granted, I am not an expert in this, to be sure. A professor questioned him intensely about his assertion that the thread of commonality was a Freudian issue: creation vs. destruction. Freud? I didn't remember that stage either, but he had danced right on, and I tried to follow his thinking as best I could.

Cara got up and did her presentation. I'd watched the other kids get ripped apart, and I was nervous for her, because she did not have notes. She discussed the Republic of Korea's Truth and Reconciliation Commission and their historical innaccuracy. It amazed me to hear her pulling Korean names out of her memory, dates, massacres, quotes. She was good, although her voice was quavery. At the end of her talk, she took questions. She did not falter. She answered them. In one case, a girl misunderstood a point. Cara quickly took her power point to the quote, and pointed out her mistake, which brought an apology. A judge questioned her passion, and she explained it. There were probably four questions, difficult questions, but she never wavered, she was clear and convincing. In the end, two people came up to her for further discussion.

In the car back to her apartment, I praised her and she said what I did not know. There was a scholarship involved. She was sure that she would not get it. The professor who moderated was not fond of her. But she said, "I know that I was good. I know that my presentation was solid."

Where did it come from, that clear view of her own abilities, despite what others thought of them?

I drove the hour and a half back home, and I marveled at that nearly the entire way. I still do not have an answer to that question.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Favorites

Today, I was working with a client, one who suffers from a traumatic brain injury. He's happy. Obviously intelligent, he 'talks' fluidly, tapping out words rapidly on his letter board. He likes to read, so we have something in common. Sometimes I think that the conversations we have are as important as the range of motion that I am giving to his contractured arms. So, we 'talk' and it always starts with me calling out to him as he is pushed into the room. He grins, and he grins big, and makes excited noises. "What's my name? Do you remember my name?" and he stares. When I prompt him: "It begins with a D..." he always, always gets it, and he spells it for me, repeating it in his garbled voice.

We exercise, and we blab. For the first time, I am glad to be a blabber mouth. He spells words back to me. Sometimes he gets excited, and tries to talk, and I say, "You'll have to spell it," and his twisted fingers fly. The first time that he spelled to me, "I like you," was a touching moment. I said back: "And I like you."

Today, I was working with him for the last time. He was having a good time, and got very excited about the activity we were doing. In the middle of it, he looked up to me and said something. I'd heard it before, and the sounds were familiar, so I said, "I like you too," and I patted his shoulder. He began to get his frustrated look and I said, "Well, you'll have to spell it for me," and he did. "I...Love...you."

There was no point in telling him that I was leaving, that it was our last session. It would only upset him. The plain fact of it is that his short term memory is so poor that by next week, he will probably not remember me at all.

I look down at him, teary eyed. He's nearly forty, but he has the features of a boy, and I cannot look at him without seeing the face of one of my own children. I pat him on the shoulder, and I say, "And you, my friend, are my very favorite," and he is excited to hear that.

Later, he is being pushed from the room, and I watch him go. He will not remember me, but I will never forget him.

Later I was sitting with two women, and as they worked on their projects, I explained this was my last week. One of them looked up at me and said, "I will miss you," and I said, "I will miss you too. You are two of my very favorite people." And the other one looked up at me quickly. She always tells me that I am a pain in her butt, and I always come back with, "Yeah, but I'm your FAVORITE pain in the butt, right?" which tickles her to no end. Anyways, pain-in-the-butt woman says accusingly, "Are you going to cry?" I laugh, and say, "I imagine so. I'm quite a crier." She goes back to activity and says, "Well, you just need to get over it." Made me laugh out loud.

Today, I had a cooking activity with one of our clients who lives independently. We were talking. She was telling me that she uses my exercise program every night. It's fun, she says. That's nice. I tell her that I'm really going to miss working with her. She's so motivated and independent. She's my favorite.

I'm not lying to them. They ARE my favorites.

All of them.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

On the verge.

I went shopping for myself last night. I bought two dresses and two pairs of dress pants and a very stylish cardigan. I even bought a couple bangle bracelets for just under $15.00. I am very slowly building up a professional wardrobe, this time paying a little more attention to style.

I never really thought that style mattered before, but I had a presentation, and I bought myself a new shirt for it. I have a classmate that is also on clinicals with me at this facility. She said, and I quote here: "I like your top. Really. I'm not being sarcastic."

I looked at her quizzically. She is a bit of a smartmouth.

She looked back and punched me on the arm. "You just looked at me like you didn't believe me."

I laughed. "No," I said. "I'm just not accustomed to being complimented on my fashion sense. It made me feel confident to be dressed nicely. I didn't expect that feeling. I've always seen clothes as something you put on so as not to be naked. That's all.

So last night, I bought new clothes. I have Cara's honors presentation on Thursday night, and it makes me glad to think that I will be dressed rightly for this. I am looking forward to this night.

So much is coming to an end in my life, it seems. School, fieldwork, graduation, mine and Cara's both. Although I have not gotten a new job, not yet, I went to work today, missing it already. It really is a nice job, and a nice place to work. I will really miss my coworkers a lot. So much is coming to and end, but still for every ending, there is the promise of something even grander lying in wait.

It's a remarkable time.

This poem has been occupying my mind today.

Another Kind of Autumn

The petrified branch with the harsh look whose mineralized
splinters are needle sharp
was living a hundred million years ago,
bent to invisible wind, put out leaves on the mountain.
Today
the mountain is gone and this fragment
lies on my desk imperishable and waits for me in turn
to be gone.
Living once it has taken to minerals for survival.
This hand that writes
stiffens, but has no such powers, no crystalline absorption
to hold a pen through eons while slow thought gutters
from lichen-green boulders and fallen pinnacles.
Ink will congeal and perish, the pen rust into its elements,
the thought here, the realization of time, perish
with the dissolving brain. It appears the universe
likes the seams of the coal, the lost leaf imprinted in shale,
the insect in amber, but thought it gives to the wind
like the season's leaf fall. Where is the wind that shaped
this branch?
It perhaps still moves in the air, but the branch has fallen.
Its unfamiliar leaves are now part of my body
and I let the pen drop with my hand, thinking
this is another kind of autumn to be expected.
Leaves and thought are scarcely returnable. The wind
loses them
or one remains in the shale like an unread hieroglyph
once meaningful in clay.

-- Loren Eiseley --
the title poem from Another Kind of Autumn

Do you suppose that it is true? That we run out of thoughts, that we become once meaningful? It makes me sad to think that this might be true.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Winding down.

Today begins my last week of clinicals. Just five more days and it will be over.

Seems so strange.

I will miss this place and the people here very much.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Today

I haven't talked much about the store lately, have I?

I love my job, same as usual. I love my co-workers, same as usual. I love my customers, same as usual.

What has changed is a steady decline in store morale. We have a manager with a serious problem. The district manager has been advised of the issue, which affects virtually every employee in our store, but he only counseled our manager. Nothing else changed.

I'd always thought that I'd keep this job as a second job, work here on the weekend. I just really enjoyed it that much, but lately it has become increasingly stressful, and I know that I won't. I'm a lucky one though. I am graduating next month. I have somewhere else I'll be going.

Yesterday at the store, it happened again. This time, I was the target. It has only happened a few times before. I think I've probably been able to duck most of it because I have been working so few hours due to clinicals. I'm also sort of well known in the community. Not bragging. It's a fact. I write for the newspaper, and people get a kick out of talking to me. I think those two things keep him careful around me. Can't say for sure, but that what I guess.

Yesterday, though, it was my turn to get it, and I got it. He made me so mad that I yelled back at him, and I could tell that he was not expecting that. I went back to the break room, and Pete sat there eating his lunch and reading a book. He looked at me amazed. I wrote down the corporate number. I left the store, and I was mad. Oh, man...I. Was. Mad.

Driving home, I thought about it. Everyone is fearful of losing their jobs, and that threat has been made out loud. More than once. In this economy, jobs are hard to come by. I know that I am leaving. My future with the company is...well...that I don't have a future.

Everyone else, though? They're in it for the long haul. This is what I know about my team. They are good people and they are hard workers. We have a good team.

I made that decision. I called in my complaint to corporate. I went above the district manager's head. I filed a complaint. At the end of the conversation, the interviewer said, "What do you want to see happen here?" I told him that I want to see someone from corporate come out and speak with the employees, to get the full scope of the problem, and that I wanted to see the situation addressed.

Afterwards, I called the assistant manager to tell him that I'd filed a complaint, since I mentioned his name in the report. He was thrilled, and hopeful that finally, FINALLY, the situation will be addressed. He tells me that everyone has been discussing doing what I did, but no one wanted to be the first to do it.

I'll be heading off soon. I'll be in a new line of work. I'll be doing a new job that I love. But I'm hopeful that I have given my co-workers a good-bye present, one that will make a difference.

I guess this is where the rubber hits the road. The ethics that the company talks about all the time? They either have them, or they don't. At least now, my coworkers will know for sure.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Grinning

Finished last homework assignment.

*ahhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!*

Thursday, April 12, 2012

What I Want for Graduation

You know, a couple posts back, people asked what I wanted for graduation. I was surprised, really, because I didn't even think of such a thing. What I want for graduation is a diploma and a job. That's all, and it's darned hard to gift wrap.

I'm at an enviable place in my life. I have everything I've ever wanted, as far as stuff goes. I don't need (or want) anything.

But know what? There is a 71 year old man. His name is Brian. He is an amazing man who takes part in the Laurel Run fundraiser. He is looking for sponsors right now, and if you were to walk up to him, he'd whip a pencil and a sign up sheet and tell you all about his plans. He is funny. He is busy. He gets up at 4:30 each morning and sets the table for breakfast in his group home. He goes about his business, and his business is staying busy. He's always doing something, and he will tell you that he's a man who likes to be doing things.

In his spare time, he likes to watch television in his room while he makes placemats to auction off at the fundraiser. He likes the Waltons. He comes from a small family, and he does not see his brother, and that is the only time that I've seen a shadow cross his face. He is a happy soul. It pleases him to be busy and doing things for others, and he is quite proud of his fundraising efforts.

There it is, really. If you want to give me something, consider sponsoring my friend Brian or donating to this cause. If you want to donate directly to my friend, I will make sure that your name gets written down on the sheet that he carries in the pocket of his apron everywhere he goes. I will give him your money.

It would make his day. Mine too.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Allegheny Tale Spinners

I was invited to become a charter member of a story telling group, and tonight was our first meeting. The invite came from a person I knew, someone who'd worked with the Conservation District when I worked there. I went, and I was prepared to feel awkward, but there was my tall friend, Tree, from the gas station I worked with a long time back. There was another man there, and he talked freely. He is looking for a publisher for his book about the Revolutionary War. And then Karin showed up, from the play that we had been in. It was almost like a reunion.

It is pretty cool, really. I sat there listening to the pleasant conversation winding around me and I just had this sense of joy. I haven't had the time for a long time to simply do something for the fun of it. Just because I wanted to do it.

The question came: "What did we want to be?" My answer came quickly: "I am surrounded by stories, and I want to tell them." No one laughed. Everyone else was there for the same reason, and it was an awesome feeling.

Our words spun and intertwined, and began to weave our little group together. We are a work in progress, and it will be neat to see where it all goes.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Update

Trying to knock out most of my school work this week. I am working on my final paper, and my facility project, and my presentation, to get everything done by Friday. Then it will be a matter of doing a couple evaluations and I am done, done, done.

So tonight I was working on my project, a cleverly designed thing to strengthen the extensor muscles of the fingers and hands.

Let me say this: I have discovered that super glue will dissolve foam plates, and there is also a reason that it is called super glue.

Never fear. I've managed to remove the wiffle ball from my right palm, and the elastic hair band from my left thumb.

Good night.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Laugh of the Day

One of the women I work with is a dainty, lady-like thing. Soft spoken, the very essence of all that is feminine. She told this story at lunch:

One particular day, she was having some digestive issues, and long story short, there were regular releases of noxious gas. They were what we would refer to as 'silent but deadly', and she continued on with therapy as best she could. At the end of the session, the person she was working with looked at her and said, "Excuse me." And my friend looked back at her surprised. "Why?" she asked. And the answer came: "Because I farted, and SO DID YOU!" (the last spoken with great emphasis).

We all laughed until we cried.