Making and Keeping Rules

I told myself I’d never risk my health – my life, even – for my job. That was in November of 2010. I’d landed in the ER with chest pains, much worse than the average Sunday evening stress-stomachache. I went to school at 10 that night to leave sub plans instead of staying overnight in the cardiac care unit. Long story short, it wasn’t worthwhile.

In spring of 2014 I advised my coworkers “Don’t Wait!” I’d just found an interior carotid artery 99% blocked. Thanks to the timing and to the good luck of having an amazing doctor, the blockage was cleared and a stent installed.

So when the phone rang and I was offered Friday or the Monday or Tuesday that followed,  I looked at everything else on the calendar, took a deep breath, and said yes, I’d take the appointment. I didn’t put it off. I didn’t work around my staff development schedule.

Taking this appointment meant postponing the family garage sale indefinitely. It meant that La Petite will come home to help with the driving duties because Amigo has an important appointment an hour earlier than mine – in a different location, of course.

Rather than tie myself in knots to put everyone else first, I’m following my rules. I’ll have my head examined (a cerebral angiogram), get the results, and then plan for treatment of this rogue aneurysm if we find it has grown.

And that, my dear readers, is playing by all the rules.

Health Care is Complicated: The Letters

I didn’t actually send these letters. Blogging the thoughts helps me settle down and control the stress-related blood pressure spikes that occur when, irony or ironies, I’m attempting to use the health insurance company web site. 

Dear Customer Service Department;

I found what I needed while waiting on hold. That means the information was too hard to find, the web site is not user-friendly, and the time on hold to reach a representative is much too long.

Sincerely,

Techno Geek

Dear Benefits Service;

Thank you for your prompt assistance and good advice. I’m pleased you walked me through the process to make sure it worked rather than just handing out pithy advice like “Use a different browser.” In fact, I should have thought of it myself. My geek brain was exhausted from searching for the EOBs while on hold waiting for customer service.

Much Relieved,

Daisy

Dear Colleagues:

Thank you for your moral support as we navigate the mazes of these online services.

Yours forever,

Daisy

Summertime, and the living is…is..

Last Friday was the all-important, all-consuming, why did it take SO LONG to arrive Last Day of School!!

We spent the weekend shuttling Amigo to his reunion at the school for the blind and then to Lions Camp. Monday, I finally took a deep breath and felt summer settle around me.

I spent most of the morning taking care of various garden chores. There’s nothing better than starting summer with dirt under my fingernails! Buttercup the bunny came out, too. She nibbled on the lawn and rested in the shade. A little weeding, a little watering, transplanting two tomato plants that were too crowded to another big pot. Did I really use two, too, and to in the same sentence? Maybe my mind is still in school, after all.

And that brings me to the rest of the week, this first week that so many think of as a teacher’s summer “off.” All day Tuesday and Wednesday and then a half day Thursday will be spent in staff development learning more about the technology I use to teach online, but mostly, putting in the hours. Next week I’ll have two commitments: a book study (I’m leading it, so I’d better be ready) and a formal three day training in an intervention reading program.

Without driving the details, I’ll just say that June is a full, full month. I did my best to leave July more free. August isn’t bad, either. None of summer, at least this year, will be a full summer off.

So anyway, my point? I’m not sure I have one. I’m happy to have more time to dig in the dirt. In a few weeks, I might even try Sleeping In. Meanwhile, it’s summertime, the good old summertime.

 

Thoughts, prayers, moments of silence – and action.

The subject came up during a break in a much unneeded meeting: what’s causing this rash of school shootings? “Social media,” said one teacher. “Video games,” said another. “No, no, it’s the easy access to guns,” said one more. “It’s complicated,” I added, but no one listened. 

Didn’t I just say that? After yet another wasted session of thoughts and prayers and moments of silence? It’s complicated! It’s all of the above! Instead of rewriting, I’ll say it again. 

Who are the next school shooters or mass shooters? How can we recognize them, and how do we stop them?

It’s a complex problem, and stopping the mass shootings that are becoming all too common will require a complex solution.

Activists work to tighten gun laws. They want to outlaw guns like the AR-15, guns with only one purpose: killing. They want to require background checks, thorough background checks, any time a person buys a gun.

Mental health advocates work to help people who might consider carrying out such a shooting. Depression, anxiety, and more can be factors in producing a killer of many.

Not to be forgotten are the National Rifle Association (NRA), those who work to keep gun laws weak and widespread access to weapons strong.

It’s a complex problem. After Sandy Hook, after Columbine, after Parkland, expert and not-so-expert analysts look for red flags, events or ongoing stresses that might have built up the pressure on this individual. After the fact, folks in the know pick through a shooters’ profiles and backgrounds, identifying possible triggers, the proverbial straws that broke the camels’ backs.

It’s a social problem. Was the shooter harassed? Bullied? Excluded and isolated? Did anyone reach out to this person? Did anyone recognize the risk, help this person before the potential for disaster became real?

It’s a medical problem. Mental illness, diagnosed or not, can be a major factor in someone deciding to carry out such a horrific event, taking lives of so many others. Mental health care must be available to all who need it – and mental health coverage must be part of any health plan.

It’s a legal problem, a gun problem. That’s hard for me to say because I know so many responsible gun owners. Hunters, mainly, these friends would never dream of leaving their firearms loaded and accessible to someone – anyone – who might misuse them. That said, no one needs a semi-automatic for hunting game. The AR-15 that’s been in the hands of so many mass shooters doesn’t need to be legal.

It’s an accessibility problem. Felons, domestic abusers, people who have been identified as a danger to others must be prevented from owning guns. License to kill only exists in fiction. In reality, life is precious.

It’s a complex problem, and the solution will not be simple. I wish I had an answer.

Stop Creating Emergencies.

Sometimes I call it “panicking over nothing.” But then I have to remember that whatever’s causing the panic might not be important to me, but it’s important enough to upset someone else.

In the book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, there’s a chapter that advises the readers not to create their own emergencies. For example, it’s okay to buy cookies from a bakery instead of baking them from scratch. Pick up an already cooked rotisserie chicken instead of prepping and cooking a big meal. It’s not what I’d do every day on normal days, but sometimes it’s wise to step back and avoid creating unnecessary emergencies.

Right now, those emergencies are either kitchen or garden related. The kitchen remodel is coming sooner or later – most likely sooner. We have a lot of clearing and purging and emptying to do before demo day. We had to clear space in the guest room/office so that we could move the computer desk in there, and soon we’ll need to move the computer desk, the shelves on top of it, and the computer itself and all its cords into that room.

Garden! I started tomato seedlings and herb seedlings, and now I need to prep the containers. Yes, that’s right, the tomatoes are going in containers this year. I have the containers, I have the bags of soil, and I’m ready to start making those ready.

In addition to the containers, I have the pallet. It was glorious last year, and I have plans for the pallet garden again. I just haven’t had a moment to pull out the old, dead plants and fill it in with new soil and move it to its new home six feet away from where it is now – you get the picture. I want to do it all, and I want to do it all right now.

So, Daisy, why can’t you get outside and do it all right now? What’s stopping you? Regular readers, friends, and family all know that I’ve been sick lately. It feels like the last three weeks have lasted more like three months. I’ve been spending a lot of time resting, rehydrating, resting, icing or heating a sore back and sore knee, and resting. You get the picture. In between, I’ve visited doctors and pharmacies. Somehow, I managed to teach a few days and grade a lot, and I do mean a lot, of research projects.

It’s when I’m resting that it’s hardest. I might be sitting on the couch with an ice pack on my lower back and a glass of a refreshing beverage by my side, but I’ll be thinking that I really, really want to break up the soil in the main garden plot. It’s common to find me closing my eyes for a bit and then coming back to wakefulness with an Oh, No, I Need To — fill in the blank.

I’ve managed to sidestep cooking emergencies with the help of a crock pot and a well stocked pantry. I even filled the Stamp Out Hunger bag for the Post Office food drive. But as I patted myself on the back for that, I remembered that the spices will need a new, temporary home, along with the taco mix and my favorite sloppy joe mixes.

And then I say Stop. Little by little, all will be well. For now, I’ll rest and recover so I’ll have enough strength to cope when a true emergency comes along. I don’t need to create my own.

RIP Bob Dorough

You might not know his name, but you would recognize his voice. If I named one of his hits, you’d be able to name several more.

He set an skater on ice with a song that, despite its simple subject matter, sounded magical and bittersweet.

He reminded the world that zero is a powerful number – superhero powerful.

He sold the world on enriching their language with adverbs.

He taught the legislative process through a first person perspective and a few catchy rhymes.

He modeled a train that hooked up words, and phrases, and clauses.

His name was Bob Dorough. If you haven’t started singing yet (you’re welcome), he was the creative genius behind Schoolhouse Rock.

He was a session player, lyricist, songwriter, and all around talented musician. Dorough was tasked with creating a song based on multiplication facts – eventually, several songs with several sets of multiplication facts. His job was simple: write something memorable for the kids who don’t know their multiplication tables, but can rattle off any song on the radio.

Boomer children heard his three minute tunes in between the pre-cable era Saturday morning cartoons. As the math series proved popular, Dorough branched out with (my favorite) Grammar Rock. America Rock, the American history series that followed, helped many a child comprehend the three ring circus made up of our three branches of government. Hey, he said it first, folks. Three may be a magic number, but Schoolhouse Rock didn’t stop there. Remember Interplanet Janet? She’s a galaxy girl, and she was part of Science Rock.

I use his music in my virtual classes – English Language Arts and Music. I haven’t brought them into the ancient history of middle school social studies, but give me time. I’ll find a way. Schoolhouse Rock songs were written to be entertainment, and also to be memorable. That’s where the teaching value comes from. That, and the idea that and, but, and or will get you pretty far.

No matter why you remember these short animated pieces, it’s certain that you will at least be able to hum a few bars.

In Schoolhouse Rock, Bob Dorough left a legacy that has already lasted through generations, and is destined to last through many more. Any questions? Oh, I forgot to remind you: Mr. Morton is the subject of the sentence, and what the predicate says he does.

Indubitably.

And So It Goes – The Saga of the Lost Lanyard

About a week ago, I lost my ID badge. I put off getting a new one, thinking I’d find it. I coded my key fob to use with the printer/copier. And then I got sick. You see, the last several digits on that ID badge are my pass-code to get into the absence reporting system. I remembered the code Monday morning. By Monday night I was so exhausted I entered the numbers in the wrong order – enough times that the account locked me out. School secretary took care of it for me, thank goodness.

Last night, I figured out how to request my log-in information. Duh! I was quite sick to completely overlook the obvious. I got my info, logged in, and verified that all is well.

And I gave in – I contacted Human Resources today for a new badge.

With my luck, I’ll probably find it tomorrow morning.

Encore – Knowing My Limits, Again

How is it that the more things change, the more they stay the same?  This post aired in April of 2014. Obama was president, and Hillary Clinton was aiming to run in 2016. You all know the end of that story.

By 2014, I’d recovered from a stroke, had a retina reattached, uterus removed, stent placed in a major artery, and aneurysm detected in another major artery. I like to think I was wise enough not to ask the fates, “What else can go wrong?” 

Fast forward to 2018. A few days ago I was diagnosed with (another!) urinary tract infection. The following morning, I was in the ER as the infection had spread into my kidneys. I’m now resting, feeling nervous about getting behind at work, and taking strong, strong antibiotics. 

Four years ago, I set these goals. Today, I reaffirm those goals. I want to turn Wisconsin blue in the fall elections, but I won’t be any good to anyone if I’m too sick to help.

To maintain my physical and mental health, I will NOT:

  • sign online petitions. It’s too easy, and therefore often meaningless to those in power.
  • forward emails that call themselves Memes. It’s a chain letter, people, don’t kid yourselves.

To further maintain my physical and mental health, I WILL:

  • learn about the candidates and become an informed voter
  • vote and encourage my family members to vote, too
  • remind friends and coworkers to vote (even on FB)
  • donate small amounts of money to candidates I support
  • for good vibrations, wear my Team Obama t-shirt from fall 2012
  • blog!
  • keep calm, and garden on. It’s cheaper than therapy, and in the end I’ll have tomatoes.

 

Elections and Money – My Money

I’m hesitant this year. I’m no longer a card-carrying Democrat, although I play one on my blog. I just got tired of the endless phone calls and the never-ending emails, all asking for money.

I didn’t renew Emily’s List, despite my affinity for their philosophies. I was tired of the endless phone calls, the never-ending emails, and (are you with me here?) the snail mails. Emily’s List still uses the occasional flyer with enclosed envelope. In the hopes of making donations easy for the old-fashioned folks, no doubt, they still use the USPS now and then.

I haven’t donated to my favorite Senator, Tammy Baldwin, either – and I know a small donation would go a long way. The Koch Brothers and the other uber-conservative fund raisers have her in their sights – sites? Anyway, she’s a high priority target. She needs money. I haven’t donated – yet.

The State Superintendent of Schools is running for governor. I hope he wins the primary, because he could put education back on track to reverse some of the cursed backwardness that Walker has implemented.

There is one race, however. It’s a local/state race for state senator. The candidate was chair of the local Democratic party. She is a single mom of two who works for the Girl Scout council. And now, all of a sudden, I’m considering putting money behind a candidate. She could be part of the Blue Wave that I’d love to see cover my fair state.

Before I reach for my wallet, however, I need to decide exactly how far I will go. How many phone calls will I answer, and what kinds of emails I will open. And then, and only then, can I put my money where my vote is.

 

Major, Minor – Oh, the Humanities!

It’s one notch in the larger troubles in Wisconsin, and again, it’s complicated. I can boil it down to a Governor who doesn’t value education, K-12 or university level. We can deconstruct the issue into its basic ingredients: budget cuts, high cost of tuition, student loan debt, emphasis on STEM careers, and more.

University of Wisconsin campuses are facing hard times. In fact, the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, a small yet vibrant campus, has announced that they will be eliminating 13 majors at their school.

A major is a specialty, a concentration or focus in one curricular area. A student might major in history, for example, or world languages, English, science, art, or music. Many of these areas need to be specific. A science major might emphasize biology, chemistry, physics, environmental science – the list goes on and on. Depending on the school, a major might take up half to two thirds of a college student’s course load. When all is said and done, when that student puts on the mortarboard cap with tassel, he or she will have earned a degree, most likely a bachelor’s degree, in their major.

Back to the major issue at UW-Stevens Point. English, history, philosophy, political science, Spanish, and sociology are a few of the subjects that will no longer be available as majors at UWSP. Marketing, business, and other “practical” majors will remain.

Somehow, the Powers That Be at Stevens Point still plan to train teachers in English, history, and the rest. A secondary teacher used to need a major in their area of specialty. A math major would earn a major in math, and along the way gather enough educational courses (ed psych, ed sociology, to name a couple) to qualify to student teach for a term. I’m not sure how they plan to educate the next generation of educators without majors in the humanities.

Forbes calls it “Inhumanity.”  I fear it’s something else. Along with governor “Who needs a degree, anyway?” and his attack on the state’s public school system, it seems like he and his cohorts are bent on creating a lesser-educated public. Voters with less knowledge are, after all, less apt to think critically and ask hard questions.

The sour taste coming out of our budget-starved smaller campuses might be only the beginning in what seems to be the Dumbing Down of Wisconsinites.

Inhumanity, indeed.