19 November 2008

Just Sayin....

Sometimes I totally feel "Lucky"...

(yes, its schmoopy... and I'm totally okay with that...)

18 November 2008

The Definition of Irony

Sitting in a booth at Denny's in Auburn on Sunday morning, I notice the people in the booth on the other side of us. In particular, I notice the scruffy young man (maybe in his early 20's) wearing a t-shirt with a picture of Gandhi on it.

I think: "that's kinda funny, I don't think I've ever seen a Gandhi t-shirt before."

Minutes later the waitress shows up with the table's order.

(this is where The Funny™ comes in...)

She serves Gandhi Guy last. I have never seen such a huge mountain of Denny's food in my life. I mean literally, the plate was piled HIGH with what looked like hash browns and eggs. THEN... she sets down a SECOND heaping plate of food. Seriously, I can't remember the last time I saw this much food set in front of one person. Of course... as I'm looking at these mountains of food, I realize... Gandhi is just barely peeking over the pile... staring past the food, directly at me with really hungry eyes.

The only way this could have been funnier... if the guy had opened the salt shaker and dumped the whole thing on his food.

Oh! No... wait... funnier: if it had been 14 lbs. of steak.

17 November 2008

A Wish...

I love birthdays.

Well, that's not entirely true. I love celebrating other people's birthdays. That's not to say I'm good at gift giving (I'm not), and that's not to say I'm good at phone calls (I'm definitely not). But, when I get the opportunity to plan something nice for someone, and enjoy it with them... well,that's when I love birthdays.

A weekend away in Monterey at a lovely hotel, an amazing dinner at Roy's (thank you again Johnny!), a beautiful sunny Sunday enjoying downtown Monterey and the aquarium.

It was truly fabulous.

I could take the time and find the words to describe what a wonderful weekend it was, but I really didn't want this post to be focused on the weekend. I wanted to focus on someone special, how happy I am to be a part of his life, and how much I enjoy celebrating all the special moments of our lives together.

There have been so many firsts that I've lost count (I actually had a count going for a while), so many things that might seem "little" to most people, yet have made me so happy I haven't been able to find the words to describe the feelings. I had written off things like "romance" and "love," assuming they didn't exist except in fairy tales and cheesy chick flicks, and even if they did, I would never experience them... I'm so glad I was wrong.

Thank you for being a part of my life, for sharing yours, and for all the happiness that has come from it...
Happy Birthday CSB.
May each one only get better from here.

13 November 2008

Confronted With Myself

As I mentioned, part of my job is "Case Manager" to a group of 'Special Needs' students. These guys aren't what most would think of when someone says "Special Needs," most of them are just very low in reading and writing skills, and therefore have behavior problems. Makes sense right? Can't read or write very well, don't think I'll be paying much attention in Biology.

But, I do have a couple of kids on my caseload who are a little more in my league... autism spectrum disorder, & emotional disability (ED)... the kind of kids I went into SpEd to help. Today I got to meet one of the ED kids.

Dressed in jeans, a Jack Skellington sweatshirt, and Chuck Taylors (with doodles and writing all over them), she was a little awkward, and definitely at that 10th grade stage of angst-ridden development. I knew her immediately when she came in. She was well spoken, polite, and got along well with the adults (from what her teachers said, she has a couple friends her own age, but tends to get along better with older people and adults).

As soon as we started discussing the results of her academic testing she started to quietly cry. It couldn't have been the results... everything was scoring in the Average to High Average range... no one had said anything negative. I silently handed her a box of tissue, and gave her a small smile, as the "Team" moved on to discuss her Psych testing.

Depression and anxiety came up, she has had a hard time focusing in class, sleeping at night, and although she does her classwork and homework, can't seem to bring herself to turn it in. A story that sounded way too familiar to me.

As we're discussing different options, and making recommendations for her educational plan, we asked for her input, and thoughts as to what might help her succeed in high school. And, as she sat there saying "I don't know" and crying even harder, I suddenly had a flashback, and knew exactly what that "I don't know" meant.

"I don't know what is wrong with me, I don't feel normal, I don't feel right, I just want to be happy and do well. Why does it seem so easy for the other kids? Why am I so different? What is wrong with ME!?"

Follow that up with:

"Wouldn't it just be easier if I didn't exist? Then all these people wouldn't have to put up with me... then I wouldn't have to put up with me... all of this pitiful and miserable 'woe is me crap' would go away if I went away. I can't believe I'm so awful."

You might think I'm just projecting... and it is quite possible that I am a little. But, add in things like the fact that she is self-medicating (marijuana), and has been known to cut herself... yeah, it's pretty obvious.

As she left the room after the meeting, I put my hand on her shoulder, and said, "I know you don't know me, but I'd like to get to know you, if you need anything, you can come see me any time." She smiled and said "thank you," exactly as I would have at that age. It means, "thanks for making your empty promises to help me, but you can't possibly... if I don't know what's wrong with me, you can't possibly understand. Besides, why would you want to waste your time with me, you have better things to do. I'll figure it out, you don't have to care."

I know this girl.
I know her better than she expects.
I know her as well as I know the face that looks back at me in the mirror.
She is the reason I've asked myself a million times in the last 15 years, "if someone could have done or said something... anything... to help me, what would it have been?"

Still... my answer is the same... "I don't know."
As frightening as it is, I have no idea what would have changed things for me. I don't know how anyone could have helped me. I sometimes wonder if it was some kind of chemical problem in my brain, and maybe a combination of drugs and therapy might have helped. Maybe when the hormones kicked in my brain couldn't cope with the changes in chemistry.

What I do know, is I've been there. And maybe, just maybe, THAT is enough to help just one other person survive the awkward, awful, angsty (yes, I said angsty), low self-esteem years of misery that some people call high school.

(Please, don't worry, she has a strong team, and we are all aware of her issues. She is getting help, and being watched rather closely.)
*image is "goth crayons" that I stole from the web*

12 November 2008

Not Shoe Porn, But I Do Mention Shoes

There are things one doesn't understand until they've had the opportunity to experience them for themselves.

I never understood some of the things my parents said while I was growing up. The best example I can come up with, "Stop crying, or I'll give you something to cry about!!" Now that I'm a parent, and have experienced a frustrating tantrum at the end of the day over nothing...I fully understand the expression. There were a lot of things about my parents I didn't understand until I had the opportunity to walk in their shoes.

I honestly have always thought that teachers are (literally) crazy. No, not just when I was a kid... but all the way through my adulthood. I just figured they were all nutty... nature of the beast kind of thing. But now, now that I've been walking in those shoes for a few months... well... yeah, teachers are crazy. But, not in the way I always thought.

Imagine this:

You go into work every day with a passion for what you do. You want to help, you give of yourself freely and openly, you make things as simple and obvious as you can to help the people you work with understand what it is that you are trying to show them. You take concepts, figure out how to explain them to someone who has never heard of them, you twist them into a million different shapes, and attempt to force that square peg into a round hole (some days just WISHING you had a hammer).

Of course while you are doing all this, you are being ignored, disrespected, called a racist (and any number of lovely insults), and sexually harassed.

Now you have to find the balance... somewhere among all this you have to walk the fine line of behavior control and actually teaching something. So, now you are teaching, disciplining (its a word now!), on top of those things: lesson planning, grading papers and recording that data, calling parents, and helping students with their homework.

Now... add in that I am in Special Ed. I have a separate caseload of 15 students. Each with an individualized education plan (that I am responsible for maintaining, and updating at least once a year). Each student with their own list of problems and issues...

"I don't want to be in this class, I want to be in that class."
"Little Johnny isn't doing his homework, can he come to your room at lunch so you can help him?"
"Betsy is acting out in my class, can you tell me what I should do to manage that behavior?"
or one of my favorites:
"Zack isn't working in my class, but I know you have him in two of yours, can you see that he does MY work in YOUR class? Or, maybe he could spend some time with you at lunch or after school?"

WTF? Some balls huh?

Yes, teachers are crazy.
For damn good reason.
And, totally not in the way I expected.