Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

As the year 2007 ends, I suppose I am ready for a new year. New opportunities, new challenges, new cats (the last one isn't very reflective, but a new meowzer is in order...). Should I be contemplative? Was it a bad year?

For me, it was an irritating year. There was Social Security chasing me, the ulcerative colitis, and losing my job. But these are receding, as I think I am at a satisfactory conclusion with the government, the medicine has corrected the UC, and I did not care for the company that employed me at any rate. These things aren't terrible, merely annoying.

Tougher things happen to others. Take Patti's mom: the fire and now her fractured hip. Those things are bad. yet her mom has remained positive, slightly tempered now by her very sore hip. Yet all things have to be placed in the correct perspective.

We are here, and I am surrounded by a great family in good health. With this, everything else is managable. We have the opportunity to fight the fight each day, and not feel alone. Life has been and continues to be very good for me. And it's not just the family, the bloggosphere has given me many more friends and acquaintances this past year. I didn't blog until 2007, so this has been a nice year for me for that alone.

New Year's is somewhat of an artificial holiday. I mean, why wait until the new year to make changes you feel are needed? That can be done at any time. And really, many times New Year's Day feels pretty much like December 32nd. For us, I made a large pot of turkey chili, which will be used in part to make delicious nachos with lots of gooey cheese and sour cream (regular strength, not low-fat). It will be the four of us at home...who needs a holiday to enjoy chili nachos? Happy New Year to my blogging friends!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Birthday Belles

It's a bit early, but I offer a Happy Birthday to my favorite ladies, that of course being Patti and Kid1. Their birthday is on Saturday, Kid1 will be 19. That's all I'm going to say about ages now.

It is nice that they share the same birthday, December 29. Kid1, who a few years ago had the ready response "in a minute" was true to form, and arrived a week late at 6:52 AM. She was the best birthday gift a mom could receive.

And to Patti, happy birthday to a lovely person and mom extraordinaire.

Celebrations for another birthday are in order. I haven't figured where we're going, but wherever, we celebrate the birth of two fine ladies.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

It's a wrap

I don't know if it is a guy thing or not, but I cannot wrap a present. Well, not well at least.
I understand "it's the thought that counts", but merely wishing for a more artistic style in my gift wrapping finesse won't make the corners neat.

This is the first attempt at the wrap of the lovely Patti's Joyeux Noel. The corners, and general flatness, are lacking. It's probably too late to do so, but I should thank the person who invented the ever useful package mending item also known as 3M Scotch Tape®. I used to think that only duct tape was the most wonderful fix-it stuff, but that would be overkill for Christmas presents.

The second try was not stylish, either. I guess the second wasn't the charm. Or is that supposed to be the third time? I wouldn't want anyone else to do this for me. Substance over style I say...

I always enjoy this time of the year. Christmas and the entire holiday season is the best. I know that when you're a kid you like to receive, but I always enjoyed the giving part. I enjoyed it even more starting with Patti during our first together in 1985. And it got better with our kid's first Christmases in 1989 and 1990. The kids love to receive, and we have joy in our hearts in giving to them. In fact, both kids do not mind being in the Christmas card even at their ages. We all love the time. I submit to our readers our 2006 card, taken in Hyannis that summer. I so enjoy the blogosphere, and enjoy the friends and acquaintances I've made. The following wish I send is for all (no PC here, not everybody celebrates Christmas), is for you all to have a wonderful holiday. Of course, there is no correct season for blogging...all year will do!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Math is not my strongest subject

I was tagged by Patti who was tagged by Linda with this modified meme, which originated with Debbie. As you may guess, I share many similarities with my mate (see an earlier post). Awaaaaaaaay we go:
8÷ 2 things I’m passionate about:
- Family & Friends
- Loyalty
- Blogging
- Loyalty (again)
8 ÷ 2 things I say often:
- Let’s get a cat or two.
- What do you want for dinner?
- Can I use the computer?
- Did I get any comments?
8 ÷ 2 books I’ve read recently:Not much of a book reader, but periodicals I do, so here is that 8 ÷ 2:
- Wall Street Journal
- Road & Track
- Business Week
- Hemmings Classic Car

8 ÷ 2 things I want to do before I die:
- Travel to Paris in my wheelchair
- Find a real career that I will enjoy
- Read more books
- Convince the naysayers that my mind isn’t affected by my physical disability

8 ÷ 2 songs I can listen to over and over again, and probably have:
This is a tough one as there are plenty, but as of now…
- Satin Doll by Duke Ellington
- New York State of Mind by Billy Joel
- I Second That Emotion by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
- The Way You Look Tonight by Frank Sinatra
8 ÷ 2 things that attract me to my friends:
- Accepting of me as I am
- A sense of humor
- Honesty
- Ability to respect my views as I do yours

8 ÷ 2 things I learned in the last year
(or a reaffirmation of what I have already learned):
- How to blog
- Letting your college age kids grow even though you miss them
- Jobs that you lose weren’t necessarily good anyhow
- I do like cats
I would like to tag anybody who will enjoy this meme...

Winter Blues

It really does not snow that much in CT, actually the annoying snow or sleet for an inch or two, which makes the roads slippery. Of course, the state and local authorities mix sand with the snow melt stuff, so your vehicles look dirty. If you want snow, here is a tip: Take your vehicle to the car wash and make it look pretty. It will snow the next day, and they will put sand on the road and your car is filthy again...I am attaching pictures of the infamous blizzard of Feb. 5-7, 1978. Thirty inches in East Hartford, Check our driveway and we kids all shoveled Les Alps along the driveway. The rescued vehicle is an AMC Hornet (remember those clunkers?). The only redeeming feature here is the sky, which is never bluer or more beautiful than the day after the snow stopped. The gorgeous sky is the only reward you will receive after this much snow...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The spirit of Christmas past...

Christmas is for giving, and it is still my favorite time of the year. As a parent, it is more fun to give than receive (the reverse of the child's view). I offer the joy of receiving Christmas 1993. That was the first year we put up a full size tree (Kid2 just turned 3). And what great presents: Snow White, Goofy, Snow White's dwarfs, a bowling set, a teddy bear and a Radio Flyer wagon. And both urchins enjoyed themselves, as did mom and dad...

We have a flatbed scanner from about 1999, and it is handy to have for remembrances of Christmas past. This is 1965, when I was in fifth grade. This is all seven of us (sorry Michele, whoever took the picture just cut you out). When we were small, mom always made certain that the girls would have matching nightgowns and the boys would be color coordinated as well! I remember that one because I was awakened when I heard a common expletive from both Santa Ralph's (dad & grandpa)...Santa had problems assembling the gift, which was a slot car racing set fully assembled. The best gift!

This is Christmas Eve 1975, when I was home from college in that magical burg known as Steubenville (well, not that magical). All seven kids are here, along with an in-law and a niece and nephew. In fact, the blondie wearing the white hat is the mom of the preemie Adam, aka Chunkino, who is doing very well now. A joyous holiday this year.

Finally, I offer the man who liked a very shiny tree, and you have heard of this gentleman, of course Mr. PO Box 1, Grandpa. He liked a big tree and he liked a lot of tinsel. In fact, when he visited us he reserved the right to add the tinsel to the tree. That was his prerogative as the grand patriarch. The picture to the right includes Grandpa, Grandma and Aunt Terry, and I would guess was taken in 1959 or 1960. The live tree nudges the ceiling, is broad and has lots of lights and copious amounts of tinsel. Nice memories.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Winter is for the birds (or kids)

Today is a snow day, although it is only a flurry of frozen precip so far. We were told 6-10" by 10:00 tonight, although it has been about two inches of a snow/sleet (sneet?) so far. Maybe it is as I age that winter is just not as agreeable to me.

Or maybe it is the use of the wheelchair that limits how far I can travel in the snow in my wheelchair, not more than 1". The most fun times in the winter is for the kids.

It is good for play, as we have a hill in the back yard which is good for sledding -------->

<-----Of course, all play and no work can make for a dull day, so time for Kid2 to pull out the Toro and clear a path to the road. No gain, no pain.

So, somebody has to have fun during this season, so we'll leave to the children to have the real winter fun, and leave us adults to the less pleasurable winter items such as skidding on the road and paying the higher winter utilities...

We did purchase a new Christmas Tree (not 'holiday tree', no sir) at Target on Sunday, but have not unfolded it yet, but did purchase LED tree lights, which are supposed to offset their much higher purchase costs with 82% lower electricity costs - our only contribution to the very secular 'Green Christmas'. Sigh, I used to consider the only green at
this time of the year the tree...but these LED lights are much brighter!

And so amidst the frozen moisture outside now (back to normal snow), I offer a glimpse into the summer of '92 or '93 and our blonde young'ins, Kid1 and Kid2. It looks warmer than today. Kid1 will be back for the college break next Wednesday. Santa had better get busy, I think...

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The egel has landed

From Queen Mimi, the lovely purveyor of the castle at Bloggingham, I received the Egel's Nest Award. The original source for this award noted that this is given for blog eggsellence. To Mimi, I appreciate your recognition. Moreover, if I may, Mimi, you will look positively elegant in that purple gown…it is definitely not a pencil dress!

Yet, Mimi noted that she was passing this on to me as a “…wonderful peace blogger”. Peace, of course, is the ideal, the dream, the ultimate. But how do you define the word ‘peace’? The first Merriam-Webster definition of the word Peace is: ‘A state of tranquility or quiet’. I like this one in particular. Why is that? For myself, I am at peace, as I live my life: I am married to the wonderful Patti, and have wonderful Kid1 and Kid2 in my life. Because of this, and no matter what travail awaits me, using that definition of ‘tranquility or quiet’, I am indeed at peace.

The Queen mentioned that award recipients should pass them on to others if they so desire. I do not want to tag anyone per se, but I would like to mention three bloggers that I enjoy reading. Of these, I have to mention Ina, the Moose Buyer. She is going through such tough times with the recent death of her brother.Along with Ina, I mention her cousins, Joan and the Lynn. As a close family, all three are coping with this terrible family tragedy. They support each other because of their affection and love for each other. I hope and pray that they will the find peace in these tough times. This is not a tag, but is our hope for peace and the best for you three. Always.

To Mimi, again, this award is nice to receive and I am very grateful. We all want the peace that seems to elude us all. Thanks Mimi!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

As time goes by...

In happy news, I sent the final forms (with beaucoup documentation) to Social Security (SSA) yesterday. Since I cannot stand to even step foot into the local office, I sent this data to SSA via Fedex. It wasn't a long trip, but I did print my proof-of-delivery that shows that SSA received my three pound paperwork extravaganza. I hope for the best...

Well, guess who acted as a substitute teacher today? That of course is a rhetorical knew the answer just by the way the question was asked. Well, being unemployed I can use the money, and this was a different assignment in a HS in a neighboring upscale town today. And as such, the assignment went fine. So, I'll keep in touch with the agency, and will take sub assignments again. High School is far superior to middle School as far as overall behavior goes. I suppose that I have learned to never say never automatically...

Patti's mom finally was able to move into her temporary leased housing today, so that is a real step up for her. I expect Patti to blog about this later. But it is great news...

Finally, as I guy I should never fully understand this cartoon, but I like it anyway!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Gridiron Greats?

Today has been an interesting day in a number of different ways. First, Patti and Kid1 went to a baby shower today in Vernon for my niece Amy and her firstborn. I remember when she was born in 1980, and I remember her as an infant and as she grew. I will tell you that she is a great person and she will make a terrific mom. It is nice to report on the great things that happen to those wonderful I know. Great tidings, Amy!

Kid2 was playing in the band for the CIAC (CT Interscholastic Athletic Conference) football playoffs, Class ‘S’ Ansonia HS Chargers vs. New London HS Whalers. As noted previously, Kid2 is a geek, not an athlete. Yet, the football team is so into having the band at the games. You should know that after a fire in 1978 that destroyed the band’s equipment, the band did not exist from that point until 1999, when the HS hired their new musical director Miss. T. She has been instrumental (bad pun?) in reviving the band to its current glory. It is a small band, but we are very happy to have Miss T. running things. She is not a drill instructor, but is results oriented, but yet so motivating in allowing each member to shine. Our two kids have rated the band/music class their favorite in AHS. Yay to Miss T! And why not a yay for the AHS Chargers with their Class S win over the Whalers, 35-0? Why not enjoy a bit of civic pride in this?

We are happy that Kid2 was involved with the championship. We are so proud of him, and Kid1 when she was in the AHS band also. Champions are not just on the field, but playing music in the stands as well. Of course in the interest of full disclosure, I suspect that we may have an obvious bias here :>)

Patti’s mom bought us a ‘thank you’ after the fire of some Omaha Steaks, which we had for dinner tonight (they arrived yesterday via UPS). Kid2 and myself (of course it is a ‘guy’ thing to burn meat in a controlled manner). We coated the two fillets and two strip steaks with a garlic-peppercorn coating, and broiled away. These were delicious, and it was a nice meal, Patti, Marion, Kid2 and myself. We thank Marion for this nice treat. Not just for the food, but we really enjoyed the camaraderie, the conversation, the togetherness of this meal.

Steaks this nice will be great over charcoal next summer...

We may have freezing rain tomorrow might, but of course it is December in the northeast. It has been a good day, so who cares about the weather tomorrow night???

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


I have been working the Social Security (SSA) issues, and have just about wrapped it up regarding documentation, compiling the data in appropriate Excel spreadsheets, my blistering letter to accompany the data, etc. I will have my complete writeup ETA at the local SSA office by Friday morning. Yay! However, while I was looking through my records for more zingers to apply against SSA, I found this gem. It is the score card for our family foray to miniature golf on the Cape one summer. I love this place because it old and in great shape, and I am able to get on the 'greens' and am able to play a round while in the wheelchair. In order on the card is Kid1, Kid2, myself and Patti. Did you notice my hole-in-one on the scorecard? Of course, Kid1 had two of these, but hey, who's paying attention to her game???

Patti looks like she lining up for her putt. I think that you are supposed to line up your toes in line with the hole? I shouldn't be giving golf tips because my toes and wheels aren't lined up with the hole either. I don't know what constitutes the ultimate miniature golf game...Does the one in the foursome with the biggest score win the match?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Birthday Boy

Today is the seventeenth birthday of our Kid2. He is our resident computer geek (he built his own last year), loves playing in the HS band (seen here in his uniform for playing at the home football games), and is along with Kid1, the expert about Monty Python's Flying Circus including The Bishop, Spanish Inquisition and Confuse a Cat. He is a large guy at 6'2", 210 lbs, but not a jock. He is a thinking man, docile, loyal and great kid. I remember when he was born, and of course I was more a bystander and coach than a participant. It was the day after Thanksgiving in 1990, and we are as thankful today as we were then. Today we are mailing documents three colleges he is applying to, and will miss him when he (along with his sister) is at college for half the year. So, happy birthday Kid2, you are one of the few remaining good guys!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanks be given

To all, it is a great to give thanks for all the blessings we have received this year. I offer a past and beautiful turkey here. It happened to be on Kid2's birthday last year, so what is so odd about a Happy Birthday turkey?

As everyone knows, there is much to give thanks for this year. Patti's mom is being released from the New Haven hospital today (the catheterization showed no blockage) , and will be here later. So far so good. The stuffing and potatoes were made yesterday, the turkey is in the oven now, so we'll have our dinner about 3:00-3:30. And it will be time to raise our glasses and toast to all the good things we have.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Thanks are in order

These are yesterday's pictures of the aftermath of the fire at Patti's mom Marion's house. As you can imagine, the smoke inhalation can be far more damaging than we can imagine, which makes her rescue all the more wonderful. As we have found out, the town of Orange volunteer firefighter, the first one who arrived on the scene, happens to live on the same road as Marion, and was instrumental in her escape. We are very thankful for these circumstances. We believe here that there are no coincidences in life, things happen in a certain way for a reason, in this case for the best of reasons.

Marion is staying in the hospital for another night. Patti was with her for the afternoon. We are happy that she is there, as the specialists can better monitor her vitals. Other medical personnel will take a look at things tomorrow, and we hope that she will be released soon. We all will be together for our traditional Thanksgiving feast, including Kid1 home from college on Tuesday. Kid2 and myself did the shopping earlier today, including a twelve lb. turkey, ten pounds of potatoes, cranberries, bread stuffing, apple cider and so on. We have plenty of thanks to give...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Arising from the ashes

As you have may have read in Patti's earlier post, her mom had to be rescued from a fire at her home this morning. Marion is at the hospital, and she will be admitted there for at least a night for observation. She's okay, but as Patti noted, the thing that matters is that she did get out.

We are thankful to her next door neighbor was pulling into his driveway and was able to call for assistance. You appreciate it that people pay attention to their neighborhood. For that, we are grateful.

Patti took 51 pictures inside the house. The overall structure is sound, but uninhabitable, for sure. There is substantial fire and smoke damage. No one will be living there for many months. Because of all the steps, I and the wheelchair haven't been in the house since 1995. In the picture, you are looking at the remnants of the sleeper sofa in the living room. Not good.

We are figuring that she will stay here for awhile as the wonderful insurance company and adjusters sort this all out. Patti called and said that the house has been secured, the broken windows have plywood over them. In this Thanksgiving week, we are very thankful that the events did not lead to a final calamity, and we will all be together to give thanks...

Friday, November 16, 2007

Not a creature was stirring, not even a Ralph...

I took this from Patti. It is The Book Cover Meme and it is a fun one. These are the simple rules:
  • Go to the Advanced book search on Amazon
  • Type your first name into the Title field
  • Post the most interesting/amusing cover that shows up

I had not anticipated my namesake to be in any book’s title, but was surprised. Here is a choice that has my name in its title, but does not necessarily describe me accurately, or at least not perfectly. Here it goes:

Rotten Ralph

In this 1980 tale, Ralph is described as "a very bad kitty, as is generally what cats thrive on being. He is often rude, knocks things over, disrupts social occasions, makes sport of preying on pet birds, fish or rodents, and purposely exacerbates the one annoying, albeit universally inherent, trait in dogs: obnoxiousness...Ralph's consequential homeless journey thus necessitates him a good look inwardly, seeking the key to whatever could possibly save him from being lost forever to his comfortable home and family..."

What can I say? I am obviously not a cat, and I am not rotten nor rude (right Miss Patti?). I do not disrupt social occasions, and I never prey on unsuspecting rodents. and I love cats. 'Rotten' can be an apt description for many a cat, but when they provide extra warmth in the winter and purr contentedly when you provide a quality belly skritch, well...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Brought to you in Living Color...

I have been away for a few days, but I miss posting a blog. I like the colors of fall, and color in general.

To go along with Patti's lovely foliage photos in her post on Monday, I am happy to repost a favorite photo, which is timely to the season we are in. I like our profile and the lovely Patti looks great. I really like how the red highlights in her hair really come alive in the natural light. Autumn in southern New England is a favorite season of mine.

Under the heading 'Boys will be boys' I offer this. I can't speak for all guys, but there are those who will make or take any excuse to party with the guys. I guess that dogs do not need an excuse to leave their 'business' calling card whenever and/or wherever they want. I suppose the husband here is the coolest when with his buddies, but at home I am sure that it's "Yes Ma'am, no Ma'am", the way it should be!

Friday, November 9, 2007

The end of the innocence...

Despite using the title of the Eagles song here, there are not many innocents around these days. It was inevitable that this substitute thing at the middle school had to end sometime. Let’s just say that I lost my cool with the most disruptive seventh grade class this Wednesday to the point that I was asked to not come back as a sub.

I offer no alibi, no excuses, and no details. In fact, after six classes to try to manage an unmanageable bunch, I was going to end it at the end of this school day, anyway. Naturally it would have been more satisfying to say ‘no mas’ and leave in a huff, never to return. Hey, I tried against all odds and I am satisfied with the outcome. Strange, but these situations sometimes have to end in the worst possible way to be certain that it has ended for sure, slay the dragon for real. No alibis, no kidding!

The only reason for my being there that day was that the Principal, heretofore known as L, had asked me if I’d be on the committee that was interviewing for this teaching position (the job was posted at the end of last week), so I took the music room sub assignment yet again. I spoke with L for about ten minutes before I left this brick playpen for good. She is a genuinely nice person, and I like her. I didn’t stick around for the interview.

No grown-ups have said, but I think that the reason for the music position is available is that the school is taking great pains to oust the teacher, to avoid discrimination and/or a union grievance. Yet while these things go on, there is no music being taught nor band practice at the end of the day, which was a continuing disappointment to the band students.

I had no desire to be a teacher; it was never a career choice. After college, I wanted to be involved with manufacturing, where something finite is built. Therefore, it seems odd that I would ever attempt to sub at a middle school. As a wheelchair user in a society that tends to devalue your abilities. I want to disprove this by trying even harder to prove them wrong.

Except this guy in the wheelchair at the most is still no taller than 5 feet, with nary the physical presence required to deal with a generally disruptive bunch of students. ‘Disruptive’ is the kindest adjective to use here. I will quibble with anyone who wants to blame today’s disruptive students as just mirroring today’s social ills. This of course is total BS. Parents don't do their job anyway, but our kids were well behaved, and many are.Perhaps the authorities should enforce a serious code of discipline in the schools with no exceptions. You hope the authorities will agree, and forget about the lawyers. Do what you have to do. Or choose another line of work!

As much as I hold myself at fault for losing my cool the other day (remember the ‘No alibis’ line earlier), I find that some of the moves by the administration in obtaining my services in that awful music classroom (see here) were a bit surreptitious and somewhat suspicious. On Oct. 23, the call came in for seventh grade math, Oct. 24 for seventh grade social studies and this past Monday, for sixth grade math. On each of these three occasions, I was directed to be the sub in the music classes. I had come to loathe this room, yet I complied. Other subs would deal with this once, and never accept this assignment again. But not me!

I generally had more respect for the Asst. Principal J before now, and for the reason that being in the wheelchair I never should have been placed in that room, certainly not alone, I needed to have backup. Not trying to deflect any blame here, but I was never the right person for this, only the most compliant. Silly me. Being a good guy meant that I was to hold down the fort until the school had hired a new music teacher. Although the assignment was necessary, why did I not just call the agency and say I never wanted to go to this school again. Perfect 20-20 hindsight, as they say.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Dona Nabis Pacem

Who doesn't want this? Thanks to the tireless and magnificent efforts of Mimi, we can continue the dream of peace. Can it happen? You can never give up a dream, never..ever!

What is more helpless and peaceful than these waterfowl babes? The world is a tough place, but if all can hope, pray and believe, any and all things are possible.

Many thanks to the Pencil Skirt and the wonder and hopeful things that we can affect.

Sunday, November 4, 2007


Well, life is good, despite all oddities. I have found a few things worth noting as a beef rump roast (no snickering!) is beginning its journey to our tasty dinner in a couple of hours.

What can you say about that formerly star-crossed American League baseball team? I love 'em, and winning the Series twice in four years is enough to forget about 1975 and 1986. It is being said that the Red Sox may become the New Yankees, constant winners that may become a most polarizing team, engendering either love or hate from everyone. I hope that they continue to win but still be lovable and not become some sort of evil empire. My two points: Don't sign A-Rod and offer enough to Mike Lowell to keep him around. Although I don't know if it's in the water in eastern MA, but I never blamed Bill Buckner for that infamous 1986 game six loss. It wasn't his fault, the relief pitching was always suspect. Once the Mets tied that game, all bets were off. It's just a shame that he was forced out of the Hub because of that (believe he lives in Idaho now). Buckner is a good man. Still, let's hope that the modern version of the Sawx avoid those ignominious losses, and quit being down 3-1 in playoffs having to win three in a row to keep on playing in October. Still, 4-0 sweeps in the World Series can be very satisfying!

This was the Far Side on today's desk calendar. My interest is that when we were little in East Hartford, we actually had a tetherball in our back yard. The ball was the size of a volleyball and it was a riot at age 10. Now we never did what is illustrated here. It takes a warped mind to even think up stuff like this, perhaps an equally warped blogger to post such...

Finally, I think that there is light at the end of the tunnel of the Social Security fight I've had with them since the year 2000. I don't want to jinx anything, so I can't be more specific. However, I have this sense that things are turning more in my favor than has been the case in over a year. I shall keep you apprised as things develop, but if I could walk, there would be a pronounced bounce in my step...

Time to peel potatoes as I continue the quest to make a smooth gravy. Nothing like the perfect blend of fat and flour, I say...

Friday, November 2, 2007

La petite ├ęcole rouge

French is a lovely language, as Patti can attest, and what is more quaint than the little red school house? I have been this week in a couple of big (grande) red brick penitentiaries playpens schools. Of course I have been introduced to the charms of middle school, and have had three days of educational bliss there. Yesterdays class was 8th grade math, one good advanced Algebra class interspersed with four Pre-Algebra classes. You can guess which one had the far better behaved students. Today it was 7th grade math, with the same breakdown of one more serious group and four more.

I am starting to recognize students from previous assignments. Of course I remember them by their captivating personalities charisma issues. Yep, it’s issues. Class one today is a small one (19), but had no scarcity of passive aggressive can’t sit still students, loosely speaking. Happily there, I had an assistant. In class two I was assisted by a 7th grade special ed teacher, as there were several special ed students. It had its charms, as you have probably guessed by now.

And so it went. I’ll probably never really be an official teacher in a school system. Yet I expect to take more assignments there, because I have met many fine teachers, paraprofessionals and assistants who are dedicated and nice as well. I wouldn’t pick middle school per se, but the grown-ups are okay there, and I like them. I wonder what went through the school officials minds when the sub in a wheelchair arrived…

I tried a new approach this morning at classes, bellowing this as my greeting: “I am representing the middle school, and as such I AM THE LAW!”. I was probably greeted with more than a few “Yeah, right” comments. I deputized myself. But what kind of a lawman was I? Wyatt Earp or Quick Draw McGraw, minus his lovable sidekick Baba Looey. (Have you ever noticed that the sidekick is usually the smarter of the two)?

I was one day at a local urban High School. This is in a nice town, but the town has a massive change from the urban area next to the core city to a semi-rural area on the other side. Urban is the predominant word for this huge school of 2,400. The security was very evident as all three floors have security personnel with walkie-talkies. All students in the hall must wear their picture IDs. In the hall without signed ‘passports’ can get you kicked out of school that day. Yet, there are students there to learn as well as those who don’t. The Civics students didn’t bother with the sub assignments, but the AP History students did. More of the same, but success can be had by any student willing to work a little bit…

The teachers and security personnel at this HS were very nice, but I wonder what they thought when the sub in a wheelchair arrived…

Monday, October 29, 2007

Thank you sir, may I have another?

I always liked that part said by the pledges of the other fraternity in the movie Animal House as they were getting paddled. Notice that I took the assignment (hence 'Thank you sir, may I have...", etc. Now I'm not suggesting that the title of the movie is apropos, but I'm not refuting it, either.

Yeah, it was music. I met the teacher, and was impressed. He is a graduate of the Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford (see Kid1). This is one of the pre-eminent performing arts colleges in the country. I have a pretty good idea of how the school is easing him out, but do not have any official word. At any rate, I am thankful that the teacher will be there tomorrow. I have truly had it with obnoxious and disdainful students with no respect for authority...However, I do need some income so we can pay our mortgage to Countrywide every month.

I did get a wise-guy remark of 'Racist' from one student of color. I exploded with somewhat righteous indignation, like this, near to a shout, but not quite: "Don't you ever tell me about discrimination. I am discriminated against everywhere because of my wheelchair. People won't hire me because of my wheelchair. Don't you ever accuse me of discrimination. Got it!". The kid never said anything to me again.

And it was cathartic! I felt like that old Clint Eastwood movie where he said "A man's gotta know his limits".

However, I was subbing at the High School two days last week, and that experience was better. I had a science teacher's class, and it was far better. Of course, the ninth grade General Science was only a bit better than the eighth grade, but the tenth graders College Biology students were really good, and the Intro to Forensic senior students were really good. And of course, the teacher had a really good sub packet of assignments, so it was pretty agreeable.

What to do? Keep looking for a 'real' job and continue as is. Despite the previous rant to Mr. Obnoxious, every employer doesn't discriminate. I just have to look a little deeper, I have said that I do enjoy a challenge!

Friday, October 26, 2007

A sweet treat

I am honored to be the recipient of this One Sweet Treat to Read award. I am doubly honored to receive this award form that Tired Mama and former Bayside Belle Lynn. I am happy to be read, and more importantly, by the great writers I have met in the blogosphere.

The basis of this sweet award is the multi talented and artistic mom Trista who resides in the Pumpkin Patch. A bigger treat to myself is finding and reading so many other great new blogs.

I shall note the following rules:
"1. When awarded the Sweet Treat Award, make a post and award it to bloggers who you deem "One Sweet Treat to Read" everyday.
2. Make sure you inform those who you awarded that they have won!
3. Grab the button and proudly display it in your sidebar for all your old/new readers to see!"

I have to forward this award to everybody who I do enjoy reading, and they reside in places like Chicago, So Cal, Syracuse, CT, NJ, Idaho and elsewhere (can you guess?). I salute all the great writers I read regularly. Bravo!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Hey, Teacher, leave us kids alone...

This is just not a Pink Floyd reference. Aptly, The Wall fits this student teaching thing, because if all parents knew what goes on behind that wall...

I really do not know if irony is the best word that applies here. However, consider just the facts:

  1. I cannot read music
  2. I cannot write music
  3. I cannot play an instrument
  4. I cannot sing (certainly not with style or grace)

Yet, I seem to be in danger of becoming a semi-permanent sub in Music. This strikes me as bizarre, but the music teacher is not there, it seems, anymore. I think. I have not had any grown-up in a position of authority tell me for sure. Therefore, tomorrow I expect a computer generated phone call at 06:00 from Kelly Educational. Oh, yesterday the call said for a math teacher, but I was asked to do music. Today it was social studies, but I ended up in you know where. Therefore, I am ready to launch the assault again tomorrow.

I do like the floating aides, and the administration has backed me up. The first eighth grade class was so rowdy that I asked one student to go to the office for me. A couple of minute’s later assistant principal whom I refer to as J came in to restore order. You have to know that J was a former Marine, a serious jarhead. Well, he fit the profile of a Marine drill sergeant, the kind like Jack Webb in the movie The DI. Order was restored, IMMEDIATELY. The assistant principal even used the time-honored Marine term knucklehead in his well-versed tirade. Bravo, a great performance!

One question, one comment for the blogging public out there:

  1. Why do many kids become issues in seventh grade? I notice some of the sixth graders who look like they just may become seventh grade jerks. Yeah, I know that puberty plays some role, but why the very sudden change by many (but certainly not all) into obnoxiosity?
  2. In my opinion, I think the behavior issues you see with teens and older adolescents began two generations ago, when society seemed to encourage more individualistic behavior, you know, don't worry about authority. The results are obviously glaring. I really cannot care about societal issues any more as to why kids (repeat: many but not all) act up and tend to ignore authority.

When I was in grades 6-7-8 I went to St. Christopher School in East Hartford. You never ever challenged authority. You were not to speak unless you were addressed by the teacher. When your class was changing classes, you were in a straight line. Little things you do not see any more. At St Christopher, you never ever wanted to be sent to the principal, Father Murphy. He was extremely gruff, but with a real heart of gold. I would guess that he would put it into words something akin to this: "You know the rules, what's the problem?” ...I do not ask for perfection, just a modicum of respect. A little bit...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

No more teachers dirty...

I believe the completion of this old-time sentence is "looks". Not that giving the evil eye to those students that might turn them away from what grandpa might have called n'er-do-wells. Yep, I did another stint as a substitute teacher at the middle school on Friday. This time it was a music appreciation class (ironies abound when I was there, unable to read or write music and as for a great singing voice, well...). And the day involved two sixth grade, two seventh and two eighth grade classes. The kind principal put together a writing assignment for this class, and on balance the day went as expected: The sixth grade classes were pretty well behaved, one seventh and one of the eighth grade classes behaved okay. The others were badly behaved as a rule, with maybe 4-5 students taking the time to complete the really easy assignment, at least IMO. It has become a totally social setting for many kids.

I did have a floating aide for a while, but she was called away. I did remember what other teachers said: put the troublemakers in the hall, and remember that the principal's number is 6-0-0-1. I'll remember that.

As I noted before, the sad aspect is that so many of these kids are craving attention because they don't get any at home. Unfortunately, there really is not a parental figure advising them about proper behavior, about working hard to succeed, about paying attention to authority. The problem kids now are probably going to have problems as adults. However, I cannot worry about that. I hate to see anyone fail in life, but there is nothing I can do. With the tiny bit of authority a sub has, if a student is going to be a problem, out in the hall. You will not be allowed to be a problem for me this period. Amen...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Scary, and I'm not wearing a mask

The ever lovely Odat offered this unique way to get into the mood for the scary Haloween season. I like the results! Martini, shaken, not stirred, of course...
You Are

A Drunk Pumpkin Face

You would make a good pumpkin martini.
our Monster Profile

Evil Strangler
You Feast On: Pickles
You Lurk Around In: Candy Factories
You Especially Like to Torment: Hairdressers

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Here, kitty kitty...

Gotta love The Far Side, a fave of many until its 1996 end. I suppose that Gary Larson just ran out of of all the loopy ideas there were after fourteen years. I like dogs (like the shady dog lawyer above), and really like cats. I was a dog fancier but not quite a cat person prior to Sir Humphrey becoming a member of our family in 1999. He was a unique animal, and really softened me up to becoming a cat person as well. Since his passing in June (here and here), we have been thinking another cat. To make it even more interesting, I propose our becoming a two cat family. My sister Michele volunteers at the Humane Society, and she said that they would be thrilled if we adopted an adult cat (most people want only kittens). I think that's okay, as our last felinus obnoxious was about 14 months old when we took him in. I guess that I like cats after all, they enrich our lives by doing absolutely nothing! I can't explain that...

I wouldn't mind a dog, but am not certain that it would work as easily as a cat given the wheelchair. So a cat it is. I grew up with a couple of canines: Boris, a gregarious, nice collie-shepherd mix, and Maggie, a lab-something mutt, aloof and liked to sleep a lot (a very cat like dog). So I'd prefer to not get into the dumb argument some get into, which is better. Both are adept at becoming furry family mates.

I have noted that if we got a gray cat, we could keep the existing pictures in frames, and who would know? Sir Hump was a fine fellow, although he liked doing things his way, which did not include his annual vet trip (see picture). You needed to use guile and trickery, of course, to get him into his travel cage. We referred to it as our patented Snag-n-Stuff Method®. It took three people to perform that trick (I could only offer encouragement). He doesn't look sad here, but resigned to his fate, booster shots in his hindquarters and a bath. His look here suggests that "they tricked me again"...Once my employment and SSA situations settle, we'll be on the prowl for a bunch more fur...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Ho, Ho, Ho and a bottle of cheer

I am honored to receive this gift from that terrific mom Linda. This award originated at Santa's Community Blog and can be passed on to as many other bloggers as you like.

According to Santa, the Spirit of Christmas Award is for those who talk about and show the spirit of Christmas in their blogs. Those that have a generous and giving nature embody the Spirit of Christmas… Those who care about others and who have a kind word to say or a broad shoulder to lean on…Those who display the "Spirit of Christmas.”

In that same spirit, I would like to present this to a couple of giving individuals: Ina, The Moose Buyer and to Curmudgeon, always giving his finest Second Effort.

Awardees can pick up the award code here and then pass it on to whomever they also feel displays the "Spirit of Christmas." I thank Linda for her kind words about us Connecticut bloggers.

Friday, October 12, 2007

School Daze

As I had mentioned in earlier posts (here and here), I was contacted to try my hand at being a substitute teacher. Well, the first day started at 6:00 AM with a call from Kelly Education (a division of the mega staffing agency known once as ‘The Kelly Girl’). You follow the prompts on the phone to answer. I accepted a seventh grade class at our city's Middle School.

Yeah, I know. Seventh Grade. I cannot imagine anything easy about working with students in this awkward age in society where respect for authority is lacking somewhat. Nevertheless, I figured that the worst possible assignment is worth looking at just for the experience.

Room 206, starting with homeroom, the challenge was to hold the students attention while being in a wheelchair. At 5 ft 4 in the chair, I do not enjoy the physical presence of someone who is standing. The sense I got was that they would not pay much attention to me, and there were those who would try to push the envelope.

I was not disappointed, as it happened just as I envisioned. At least I was treated the same as any sub at this school in this grade. There was no prejudice against the wheelchair, the instigators being equal-opportunity troublemakers, loudmouths, and/or attention grabbing kids. The class was Geography, and the teacher left the same worksheet for all five classes: Read pages 41-44, and answer the questions on the worksheet. I gotta tell you, this was very easy work IMO. However, it seemed like too much for many of the kids in there. They did not want to do it. I said a more than few times “Fine, it’s not my grade, it’s yours”.

But I don’t believe that all the classes were bad: the third of the five classes was the best behaved, I think that class was the most studious of all. I think that they were taking algebra, and were generally more into working and learning.Even they could make a dull roar. The worst was the fourth, the homeroom returning for the class. I guessed that the teacher that had this particular classroom was a big man, really imposing and he could maintain order just by being big. Other teachers I asked confirmed this. Note that in even the loudest classes there was a core of 4-5 students who took the assignment seriously, and they wanted to learn, and could block out all the distractions. That was nice to see.

Would I do it again? I will, even at the middle school. I need work, and will do this while pursuing better paying full-time work. I do think that much of problems you see with students starts at home. As background, the city where we live has a population of about 18,500, with city problems. There are projects and pockets of poverty, and middle class suburban areas where we live. While trying to avoid class or sociological reasons for this, I would say that many of these kids do come from broken homes or homes where schooling and learning are never emphasized. If you do not have parents pushing you, it is hard to get an appreciation for school. And many of the ones that aren’t working these easy assignments in seventh grade may not really do so at any grade level. That is the sad takeaway of what I saw. Nevertheless, I enjoy a challenge, so we will see if this can happen again.