Adventurous April

Friday, January 3, 2014

A Facebook Wake-up Call

How many of you use Facebook on a regular (or not so regular) basis?  If you're like me, it has become a handy way to connect with distant friends and relatives, plus a way to reconnect with old friends who scattered to the four corners of the earth after high school and college.  I'm careful with it, but I will admit that I enjoy it.  So I was a little surprised when a friend of mine announced that she was stepping away from Facebook permanently because - and this is the part that surprised me - it was throwing her into depression.  Totally unexpected.  Let me provide a little background:  this friend was widowed two years ago thanks to cancer.  She took an early retirement from her job as a teacher.  She's deeply involved with her large family and volunteer work.  She travels.  Her life is active and busy.  Her statement was followed by an explanation:  "I can't stand going on Facebook and reading how perfect and wonderful everyone else's life is anymore.  It leaves me feeling depressed and hopeless in comparison."  This is not what I expected to hear. Since then, I've read the status entries (esp. those from the friends we share) with a more critical eye.  Some people come across as very real, with a mixture of good times and bad.  There are those, however, who do read like a Karo syrup IV drip.  Every blessed thing is perfect and wonderful, and they are so happy with their wonderful life.  I could pick out the very people who pushed my friend into depression.  It's sad.  I understand though.  When we compare our lives to others, and we often do, we often find our own lives "wanting."  I know there are many people who believe in being positive in all instances.  That's fine, but now I can see what an impact this can have on someone who is struggling.  You feel bad to start with, and now you can feel even worse by comparison.  I have to give my friend a great deal of credit for recognizing that this is a problem for her right now, and making the decision to walk away from it until she is in a better place.  I hope we all have the strength to recognize when something in our lives is detrimental, and the courage to walk away from it.  On the flip side, maybe we should find a happy medium and strive for a healthy dose of reality in our posts.  Sometimes life is challenging, and it should be okay to express that frustration which accompanies it.  Sometimes life is joyous, we should celebrate that.  I guess what I'm saying is that we need to perhaps take off the masks we wear on Facebook and seek to be ourselves - with all our faults, successes, and baggage.  Are we on FB to share our lives with others, or are we there to play the "my life is better than yours" game?  Something to think about. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas

This is our resident ballerina in THE CHRISTMAS CAROL ballet - as the ghost of Christmas future.  It was an amazing performance with an original score by David Messenger, accompanied by a choir and the Teton Chamber Orchestra.  It was moving and epic.  All the dancers brought their very best.  Congratulations to all the students of Studio One.
Once we finished the performance, the rush of Christmas preparations descended upon us ... but there really seemed to be no time to do all that had to be done.  Christmas has come despite that, and we are calling it good.  Luckily, our celebration (unlike many folks around this area who seem to toss Christmas at 12:01 a.m. on the 26th) last through New Year's Day.  There's still time to do the very last of the tradition baking and get-togethers.  We host a party on the 31st, so I am content with what I've managed to do thus far.  Neighbor gifts were made and delivered.  Presents are 90% delivered (we hope to do the remaining two families this afternoon).  The presents are all wrapped, and the resident ballerina is upstairs primping for our traditional dinner at Olive Garden followed by church.  She purchased a new dress (emerald green satin covered by black lace) on sale ($15 for a dressy dress?  Go shopping girl!) 
I know it has been a long absence, but life has been rather difficult.  Mom's health problems have continued and she has begun to experience the growing confusion of old age.  It breaks my heart, but it is something we are learning to deal with.  Patience, patience, patience, backed up with lots and lots of love.
My sis has struggled as well.  She is having a real time with kidney stones.  They are becoming far too frequent, but she has luckily managed to pass them all thus far.  Through trial and error, she is discovering which foods seem to trigger their formation.  Hopefully they will become less frequent, since weekly is NO fun.
My body must have felt left out, because in August I had a reaction to prednisone the doctor put me on for an ear/sinus infection.  It caused me to go into complete chemical imbalance.  Very frightening, and I am still recovering.  My iron levels are still not up to the doctor's standards, so he is giving me one last blood test at the end of the month.  If I fail that one, he will schedule an iron infusion.  Boo!  Come on red blood cells, you can do it! 
Given all that, the blog was the last thing on my mind.  I'm feeling better though, so here I am again.  Hope your holidays are happy!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Hi ... I'm just back from a trip to hell

Got your attention right?  I know, I know ... it's dramatic.  Feels that way though.  The past three months have been rough for so many reasons.  You know those actions movies where the hero is dashing through what basically looks like the apocalypse and stuff is coming at them from all directions?  Kind of like that, except that instead of the hero, I am probably the road kill off to the side of the frame.

Number one - health problems with my mom.  She had what was originally thought to be heart issues (turns out her blood pressure is very erratic), so we have been dealing with that.  Lots of visits to the ER, doctor appointments, and now we are finally working with home health.  They come in to monitor her blood pressure and are doing physical therapy with her to improve her balance and help her deal with her osteoporosis.  Folks, this woman is the poster child for osteoporosis.   Honest.  She is seriously a nightmare when it comes to bone density.  Our neighbor read a set of her x-rays and seriously freaked out.  Yup, it's that good.  So we've been really busy with her health issues and Medicare.

This was also the time that my computer decided it was time to have health issues of its own.  It started by doing weird little things, then moved on to major freezes and issues that had me screaming.  I have a kid whose textbooks are online, which was maddening for her.  I talked to a computer geek friend of mine about taking it in and basically had my face laughed in.  "Babe, it's five years old!  It's operating system can't handle what's out there anymore.  Why throw good money after bad?  Buy a new computer and send that old relic to Valhalla."  Am I the only person who sometimes wants to smack their computer geek friends?  So, sniffing and crying over my check book (not to mention feeling betrayed by my little green Dell ... something that may require therapy in future), I drug myself into Staples and threw myself on the mercy of my C.G.s (computer geek ... yup, I do acronyms) there.  They commiserated (at least on the surface) with my trauma over being betrayed by my Dell's operating system etc., then led me by the hand to the display area.  Knowing me as they do (she's a teacher guys, don't take her over to the BMW section), I was led to the sale area.  "It's the last Lenovo Ultrabook of this model.  They've got a new one coming out, so we've marked them down 50%  to clear them out.  This is the last one.  You're going to save about 70% if you take this floor model though."  Luckily, I'd done my homework and knew this to be a highly rated computer.  So, I clapped my little hands and did the dance of joy.  Gotta tell you, they love me at Staples. I think I amuse them because I like them so much.  I like them so much because they take such good care of me.  Always.

So, I went home with my new laptop loaded with Windows 8.  I was busy with all the things you need to do when you get a new computer of course.  I also had lots of end-of-the-year school assignments to do, plus several writing assignments.  Suddenly, I found myself fighting over the computer with the other members of the family.  No actual battles or preemptive strikes, but we did do our share of glaring over our own personal DMZ, accompanied by growls of   "I need the computer now.  Are you done?  Yet?"   That's when my daughter who is going into high school next year signed up for the school's Fast Track system.  She can take online college courses (eight) the school will pay for, and get a leg up on her general education requirements etc.  Okay.  I went online to see if Dell had any promotions going and found a laptop for 50% off.  Yup, I was feeling totally golden.  So, the new baby arrived and there was peace in the land once more.

My school year ended, mercifully.  This has been one of the hardest years ever.  So much ugliness went on.   I may post about that later, but not on this day.   Our school district, like every other school district in our state, is being seriously underfunded by our state legislators.  Therefore, we went to our patrons with a levy to help get us through.  It was crushingly defeated by our patrons.  Many of those who voted no did so because they are unhappy with our superintendent, administrators, and school board.  They wanted to "send them a message."   I don't know if they got any "message," but the ones left to bear the brunt of the massive cuts that had to be made were the kids and the teachers.  One of the things they did was fire all the school librarians.  So ... the year didn't end well at all.  We keep hearing about more cuts as the summer is going on. 

I made the decision that I would stay through the 2013-2014 school year (unlike many of our other teachers, who pulled up stakes and left for greener pastures), because I felt I needed to stay there for my team and finish our transition to teaching Common Core standards.  I'm the curriculum member of the team, so it's pretty much my baby.  It seemed cruel to walk out the door right now.  So, I'll see the transition through.  But, like many other savvy rats, if this ship continues to sink I am out the door. 

June is ballet summer intensive month, which means driving a van load of ballerinas to Pocatello every day,  My daughter got her phone stolen the second week (we got it back), which made for three very bad days.  However, she loved the actual classes and she did a wonderful job in their presentation of "La Fille Mal Gardee."  Can't believe they actually pull together a full scale ballet in that amount of time, but they do and it is incredible. 

Said dancer then had the toenails on her little toes partially removed.  Very long story involving a three year-old, jumping on a couch, springs, and nastiness.  Her toenails have been deformed ever since, and we'd reached the time where they needed to be dealt with.  Having dealt with them, we are now doing wound care and putting up with a dancer who is sure she is going to die because she isn't dancing. 

So, that's where I've been.  I still have a great deal to say about these past 3 months ... but that will come later.

Right now, I am just thankful for the AC unit we bought yesterday.  When your house is 90 degrees inside, life becomes pretty grim and depressing.  Everyone devolves into whiny slugs.  Not pretty.  Today the household climate is much better.  Only the injured dancer continued to sigh deeply while lolling about.  Please insert a deep sigh of my own here.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Returning to Sandy Hook

My thoughts have often returned to the events of Sandy Hook over the past two months.  It is something I know I will never forget.  It has touched me and changed me.

On Friday, we were in the middle of a teacher workday at our school.  The children had the day off so teachers could finish entering trimester grades into the computer and then export them to the server to be printed.  It's the type of "catch-up day" we treasure as elementary teachers. 

This normal day suddenly became anything but normal when our principal came on the loudspeaker shouting "Code Red!  Code Red!  Code Red!"  This is our lock down signal, so we immediately sprang into action.  Our doors are always locked now, but we had to make sure they were tightly closed, turn off all lights, and go to our safe places in the classroom.  Then silence.  For twenty long minutes there was not a sound.  We didn't know what was going on.  Had an irate parent arrived at the school and caused a scene?  Was there a felon in the area?  What was going on? 

Then we heard the running of feet on the second floor.  This is not an area we are used to hearing noise from.  It is our main storage area and the location of all the "mechanical" devices keeping our school going.  But now we heard the sound of running feet ... and then shouting.  Angry shouting.  Obviously there was an intruder in our building! 

More minutes passed, and then the sound of keys opening my door.  My heart froze.  Okay, they tell us that only the police will have the keys to our room.  Only they will be able to unlock our doors.  They tell us this ... but we know that sometimes the "bad guys" are able to do what they shouldn't be able to do.  Suddenly, my door was thrown open and two men stormed inside, each with an assault rifle held at the ready.  Each screaming.  One turned on me and started shouting - "Hands up!  Hands up!  Don't move!  Police!"  Your mind registers the uniform, but your heart quails - are you really who you say you are?"  The assault rifle was a foot from my chest.  The man continued to scream at me not to move.  The other officer was searching every nook and cranny of my room before yelling "All clear!"  They then turned and exited the room, going to the room next door where my 67 year-old teaching partner was.  "Oh God, please don't let her have a heart attack!"  I thought.  Once her room was cleared, she tried to come to my room and was screamed at and forced back into her room by an officer.

At this point, the thought hit me.  This is what the teachers and students at Sandy Hook faced.  They didn't know what was going on.  They were frightened.  Their last moments were lived facing down an assault rifle.  I thought of my family, my daughter, all I wanted to accomplish in my life.  There was no gunfire, but I was unsure what was going on.  My thought was that a felon had come into our school and they were searching for him.  What if he came into my now unlocked room?  (I was unaware that there were policemen securing the hallways to prevent this.)  I was afraid, as I knew they had been afraid.  That's when the silent sobs started.  My heart swelled and broke for the horror those teachers and children endured on that day.  I prayed that angels were there to comfort them and hold them through this.  Oh God, please tell me that You were there, holding them and loving them.  Slowly, my tears eased and a feeling of calm returned.  A sweet assurance came to me.  He was there.  Even in all that madness, He was there.  Love was there ... and in the face of all that horror, love won that day.  It continues to win each and every battle, for God is stronger than hate, and His love cannot be defeated. 

This trial ended for us when our principal finally came on the loudspeaker and announced that we were to report to the library for a debriefing on the drill.  I'm not going to go into my feelings regarding this "over-the-top" drill we experienced.  That's for another day.  Today I am thankful to be here and to be surrounded by my family, to sing praises to a God who loves us at our most unlovable, and to breathe the sweet, if tentative, air of springtime.  I am thankful for another day ... and I am thankful for the unconquerable power of love.  Even in the face of death, love remains.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Special Needs

As a teacher, I hear this term every day.  Often many times a day.  Today, it means something so much more than just a child who needs a great deal of help and a different approach in order to be successful.

Today I had a conversation with a dear friend of mine.  Four years ago, she and her husband adopted a special needs child.  They have become tireless advocates for their son.  It breaks my heart that they have to be.  They constantly have to fight with their local school to get him the help and care he needs.  Frankly, as an educator, I can tell you that they have the makings for the mother of all lawsuits.  Their child has been referred to as "a pain in the butt,"  "difficult to work with," and "a behavior problem" on documentation.  Yes, you may now reel in disbelief. 

They are something that this particular district hates - informed parents.  They know their rights.  They know their child's rights.  They try to work within the system, but the system in this district has failed them.  The special education staff has not only treated them with disrespect, they have determined to make it nearly impossible for this child and his family to be successful.  They call meetings and testing times with little to no warning and at ridiculous times.  Quite frankly, they do whatever they can to make things as hard as they can ... all the while denying this child the services he needs.

All this makes me sick.  I find it offensive and horrible and just plain nasty.  It has made me ashamed of the educators involved, for I know they know better.

Today, the story took on another turn.  This time involving a situation at church.  Their son has been ignored during the children's classes on Sunday.  He is allowed to do whatever he wants, so long as he is not disruptive.  He is not included in the lessons or activities.  This has weighed heavily on my friend's heart.  She knows that her son is capable of learning, and feels that he needs to learn about God and his Savior.  Toward that end, she and her husband requested that a helper be arranged to work with their son during class ... to help him to be more involved.  This request was granted, and the helper is excited about working with their son.  Wonderful, right?  Happy ending.

Unfortunately, it didn't end there.  Since their request, they have ostracized by many members of their congregation AND their church leadership.  What a blow!  For now, they are determined to stick things out, praying that this situation will improve and that people will come to accept their son.  For now.  If this does not occur, they are facing the prospect of leaving their church and finding somewhere else to worship.  They have been talking to other parents, and have found that this is not an isolated occurrence.

As a Christian, this has broken my heart.  How sad when we become hearers of the word, but not followers of the word.  This has helped me to see that my faith must be more than skin deep.  It must penetrate to the very center of my heart ... I cannot be satisfied to be a hearer, or a follower.  I must live the gospel with every breath I take.

This has also gotten me thinking about special needs.  So often we merely concentrate on the educational needs of the child.  It is really so much more.  A special needs child has needs on many levels ... acceptance, respect, the chance to be all that they can be in every facet of their life, including their spiritual life.  Plus, we must never forget that a special needs child has a family with special needs as well.  They are weary with the daily fight they must wage for their little one.  They need support, understanding, respect, and compassion.

I want to remember all this and engrave it on my heart

Monday, February 18, 2013

Getting Schooled by My Child

I am the mother of ballerina.  The last ten+ years of my life have been spent as a "Ballet Mom," which is a pretty far cry from a "Dance Mom" in my opinion.  Ballet is my daughter's passion.

This month she tried out for the summer intensive at Ballet West in Salt Lake City with two of her best friends from the studio.  The intensive is MUCH more popular this year due to the CW reality television show, "Breaking Pointe," which features the dancers of Ballet West.   The parents were concerned going in that it was going to be much harder to land a spot this year, but you support your children's dreams and hope for the best.

We braved winter weather and roads to get to the audition.  One of the girls, Mary, was suffering with tendinitis.  My daughter was sick with a nasty cold.  We worried.  Would they do well?  The auditions are closed, so we had no idea how things went.  All three girls felt they did well, their abilities falling in the middle of the pack.  They critiqued one another, and felt good about their chances.  We braved the roads a second time to go home, and then the waiting began.

On the 15th I received a phone call at the dance shop from one of the other moms.  I could barely hear her over the heartbroken sobbing of her daughter in the background.  Then I finally made out what she was saying - "The other girls made it, but Bailee didn't."  Punch in the gut.  Tears came to my eyes.  Mary was crying in sympathy for her best friend.  It touched my heart, and I felt felt terrible.  I knew how much Mary was depending on rooming with Bailee.  They'd made so many plans together!  I didn't want Mary's joy turned to sorrow this way.  Then a text came from Aleks - "I feel like a jerk!"  Their love for my daughter had trumped their success.  Not much like what you see on "Dance Moms" according to what I've been told. 

My thoughts turned to my daughter, too far away to gather into my arms and comfort.  Was she in tears?  She had class in less than an hour.  Could she face that?  My inner mama bear roared to the surface.  I don't have any illusions about my daughter's skills when it comes to ballet.  I've spent too many years working at the studio and seen too many dancers.  She was as good as Mary and Aleks.  What the heck?!  Even the studio owner was stunned.  She'd thought Bailee would be certain to get in.  Why had she been cut?  Size?  She's only 5'2" ... but Aleks is the same size.  Skill?  Mary swears she nailed every combination thrown at her immediately.  She danced as well as Mary had ever seen her dance.  Age?  She's 4 months older than Mary.  Then the ugly demon rears his head ... was it because she was Asian?  Man, I hate that mama bear!  She was so angry, so irrational!  My hands were shaking as I dialed our home phone number (raging about why my family had not IMMEDIATELY called me when the e-mail arrived).  And I found ...

Total acceptance.  My daughter was fine.  Happy for her friends, no bitterness, no tears, no drama.  Mama bear was at a loss.  "Are you okay baby?" Her answer blew me away:   "I'm fine with it.  God just decided that the answer was no.  There has to be a good reason, and I'm okay with that."  She bounced off to dance like it was any other day, determined to share her friends' success and let them know it was okay to be happy about making it, even if she didn't.   Um, how did I manage to raise a kid with faith like that?  Especially when I was struggling with accepting this verdict and tears were streaming down my face?

Later that night, we talked about it.  She admitted to having a bad, dark feeling after she got home from the audition.  It just didn't feel right anymore.  She hadn't wanted to say anything because we'd sacrificed so much to get her to the audition (including driving through a blizzard).  Now I wonder if the rejection didn't verify those feelings as coming from her Father.  "Not now little one.  You won't know why, but I know best.  For now, the answer is no.  I love you, and I'm guiding your life and protecting you." 

She's still fine.  Still happy.  Still supporting her friends as they prepare for their great adventure.  My inner mama bear still growls from time to time.  I want all her dreams to come true, but I also want the Lord to watch over her and keep her safe.  This time, mama bear can't have it both ways.  My daughter is schooling me about acceptance.  The lesson isn't coming easily, but I'm hoping that eventually I'll be able to just drive that bear away, dry the tears that still fall sometimes, and accept what my daughter already knows - God knows best, even when He says no.

She'll go to her usual summer intensive in Pocatello, and she'll have an opportunity to work with teachers from around the U.S.  She'll love every second of it, and love sharing the experience with Mary and Aleks.  When they head off to Salt Lake in July, we'll pursue something else for Bailee.  She'll still be dancing ... or at least will be when she isn't texting her best buddies in Salt Lake and cheering them on.  Maybe next year it will be an experience they'll be able to share.  God willing ...

Friday, January 18, 2013

Oh my ...

We're finding out just how nasty and contaigious norovirus is.  It's made it's way from one family member to another, and has even done some repeat business.  No fun!