Therapy animals

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Saturday, February 14, 2014
I wish this picture was better. Ying has a look that is hard to capture, an expression of connectedness. She was on top of me when I took this picture. After a couple of rough days teaching at a high school where respect is a four-letter word, I need as much animal, and perhaps professional, therapy.
When I took this photo, I was relaxing on my bed. Ricky, the Chocolate velcro dog was near my head. Abby the Labby Number Nine, was at my feet. Ying, who our whom, whichever is correct, I have already mentioned, was on top of me. And Fredster, the cat, was smack in the middle. To survive the next five weeks, I am going to need all the help I can get.
Yesterday I started a 5.5 week assignment. Can’t tell you where. It is top secret. A high school. A very small high school where are self-labeled Rednecks.
I was so very much excited about this new opportunity. It felt like I have been sitting on the bench for a while as a substitute teacher, not really getting to teach, but doing more babysitting.
I had come to the school for a couple days to shadow the teacher. The school is in Oregon, but I am not going to mention names. I don’t want to give anyone a bad impression. I am trying to not repeat the same mistake that got me fired a couple of years ago from another Oregon school that shall remain nameless.
Anyway, even though this long-term sub job came with no plans, I knew that coming in. Creating lesson plans is fun. It is the grading that is the least fun. There is little funness in reading lots of badly written essays. Yes, I know that Funness is not a word, but at least I know the difference between which and witch. I can’t believe I have to teach seniors this lesson.
Did I mention how excited I was to start? I even started to think how I could earn the job down the road when John retires. John is a rather innocuous name that I feel rather confident that this clue will not be of any use, though there are many people out there who know exactly my location and my situation.
I started yesterday, Thursday the almost Friday the thirteenth. Please insert dashes in the appropriate places. This English teacher is too lazy to put them in. If I were typing and not swyping, I would. And lying down while writing, or in this case dithering about, is not ergonomical. Is that a word? My phone thinks not.
But enthusiasm will just go so far. I got to school early, and considering life without electricity for almost five days, this was a great feat. 7:45 a.m. reporting time is obscene. I would prefer to roll out of bed around 9:30 , or later.
I was nervous. I would be lying if I didn’t say it. To me nerves demonstrate how important and passionate I am about teaching. I am pretty good at not coming across as scared, though I notice I can’t always repress the shaky hands. It is a good thing I don’t still teach at the military school because I keep my quakey paws in my pocket. Pockets are not for hands. Not even when no one is shooting or trying to kill you and you need your hands to draw or something. I didn’t get an explanation.
I hope you don’t mind the tangents. It has been a while since I have written and I guess I just broke the dam and my brain is flooded. Little bits of debris float by, bobbing with the fast moving current. I better stop with the metaphor or I will end up with an ear infection.
For me, where there are great expectations, there comes Dickens. No, I mean, there comes disappointment. Adrenalin and high hopes. Will carry me just so far, especially since I am a bit overweight.
I have been on the job for just two days. Earlier today I confided in my friend Mary, another innocuous name, that it felt like I had been at the high school, the home of the Bulldogs, for two weeks. Right at this minute, the two days feel like two months. I am so friggin tired that I can’t sleep. Not even the Ambien has taken affect. Wait. Maybe I am sleep-writing. People can sleep walk or sleep drive, though not very well, and sleep driving usually includes an accident with the Ambien drugged driver has no clue how they got to main and seventh or how they wrapped the Buick around a telephone pole.
I will have to say that yesterday, February 13th, started off fantastic. The first two classes of Sophomores were great. Yes, I had to remind them several million times to stop talking while I am talking. They are sophomoric after all.
I think I need to announce a To Be Continued on this post because the Ambien is taking effect. That is correct, isn’t it? Or should it be affect?

Storm lands a knock-out blow

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Blogging in the dark. Well, I do have the backlight of my lap top, and I do have a flashlight nearby. It’s been a long time since we’ve experienced a power outage. All of the flashlights were dead, but one had a glimmer of light that helped me navigate to my phone that had been charging, which then led me to a bag with batteries. We’ve got plenty of flash lights. The best light is a motion sensor that we’ve been meaning to mount outside, but it’s nice that it is still portable.

I found a couple of blinking lights to put on two of the dogs so we don’t trip on the invisible Labradors. I did just trip on Lucy; she’s the only one that doesn’t have a blinking red light warning me of the blocked passage. My dogs are not very good at getting out of the way when I’m trying to walk by.

The loss of power is not unexpected. When I was outside earlier, there were branches coming down left and right. Okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but every few minutes I could hear the slow snapping sound of large limbs and then the sound as they plummeted to earth. We’ve got some mighty large Firs around here. Sylvia had done her good deed earlier by removing some rather large limbs from the road. One limb had taken a power cord down with it, knocking the power out across the street. And then later on, Sylvia was out and watched a power line catch fire, and then we lost power. There’s this small cul-de-sac that has underground cables, and they are the only houses for quite a range that has lights. This would be probably a good time to catch a star show as there won’t be any light pollution to get in the way. The TV towers are now blinking their usual red lights. I suspect if I went out there, I would only see white clouds.

Right before the power went off, I was working on a blog about the storm. I had written:

If the Pacific Northwest were in a boxing match against Winter, the decision would go to Winter. Our storm has been described as having three punches. I’m not sure which blows have landed and which are right around the corner. I’m not even sure if Thursday’s storm is part of this weekend’s storm.

When I went to bed Wednesday night, I knew that there was a possibility of snow. Not enough ice cubes in the toilet or spoons under the bed or not enough kids slept with their pajamas inside out because we only had perhaps an inch of snow on the ground. Northern cities, like Albany got hit the heardest and cancelled school. I-5 was one pile-up after another. When universities start to close down, you know the roads are not safe. Oregon State University closed.

I was at Churchill High School, one of my favorite schools to work at this year. It’s only five minutes away, though this commute was probably a 25 minute trek. My Subaru Forrester took the snow like a duck on water; no fish-tailing, but I was creeping down Blanton Road, creeping down Chambers Street. I don’t live on Blanton Heights, which is considerably higher than Blanton Road, but our 950.23 elevation is quite different than that of Churchill High School at 408.4. When I arrived at school there was just a dusting of snow on the ground, but because of the varied elevations surrounding the school, buses were delayed. Frankly I was shocked that we had school. This is an area that’s been known to cancel school just due to the forecast of snow.

Thursday it kept snowing. Nearby school districts tossed in the towel and declared an early dismissal. Sylvia called me and said that she saw on the news that the Eugene School District announced an early dismissal. I shouldn’t have revealed this information to my students; I was amazed at how quickly they were packed up and out the door; didn’t realize high school students could move that fast. After they fled, an announcement said that the school was not getting out early and everyone should be in class. I felt like I was being chastised personally. Guess this is one of those lessons I learned the hard way.

But I wasn’t the only one. When Lane Community College closed their doors, and the Eugene 4J Schools were still open, this was an unprecedented occurrence. Cars started to line up to pick students up. Word got out that one of the rival high schools had made an independent decision to let their kids out early, but Churchill was sticking to their guns.

The class after lunch was supposed to have twenty-eight students. There were four. The school did encourage students who did not have fifth or sixth period classes, especially those students who drove, to go home. The rest of us stayed.

Meanwhile, my five minute drive home took about an hour. I didn’t go the typical route up Chambers Street as that’s a very steep hill, so I drove around. I was a little nervous as cars were passing me on Willamette Street, and since the roads were not paved, you couldn’t tell where the lanes were. I was worried that it would just be one slip of an impatient or inexperienced driver would cause a pileup.

And the snow kept coming. There was absolutely no way there would be school Friday. I had no plans of moving off the hill until Monday. I was supposed to bowl a tournament, but that would be have been just crazy to tempt fate especially with the three punch storm.

The first blow came from the south. I think that is what they were calling the Pineapple Express, winds coming from Hawaii. Sleet. Depending upon the fighter, I imagine the first blow to be a left-handed blow. The second one, more like a upper-cut with the right came from the other direction with a nasty cold front, though the south winds were still getting their jabs in. The snow and ice have been hard on the trees and limbs as they bend with hopes of sloughing the snow off, but they are not as flexible as they used to be, and I sure can relate with them, and Snapping, and Popping, and Crackling have been heard all over as if the Gods were enjoying a big bowl of Rice Krispies.

I don’t think we’ve seen the third blow. According to one internet page, we’re supposed to be getting a “bent back occlusion.” The storm doesn’t really need to hit us with this final blow since it’s already knocked us into the dark.

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Through the woods to self-discovery
Friday, February 7, 2014

For some reason my desk top computer was making some strange noises, static-like noise. I haven’t used it in a very long time, though it’s still powered up. I woke it with the touch of the mouse and noticed that there was a document up on the screen, a document that I had visited back in November for a Wings CrossOver Seminar. I wrote this eight years ago. Was it eight years ago that I was an intern? Time flies. Anyway, I thought I would post it and see what you think.

My purpose is to be creative, compassionate, and calm.

My vision is to teach with a beginner’s mind, trust my intuition, and share my humor and honesty.

I am on a journey. I expect the unexpected as I approach an entrance of a thick-treed forest. I am at the brink of the unknown. Curiosity compels me, propels me to enter, to embrace my fears and discomfort. I notice my shadow is a few steps ahead of me. I know that I am never alone.

Once my eyes adjust and acclimate to the darkness, I begin to see the diversity in the flora and the variety of trees. Some are full and abundant while others are weak and struggling. I am open to differences.

I follow a well-worn path and wonder who else or what else has walked this path before I? My mind has more questions than answers. I wonder what it would be like to live the life of a deer, a coyote, or even an opossum. I know that everything and everyone has a purpose and has a path to walk. I feel connected.

Something attracts my attention, a sound or a unique sight perhaps, and I’m intrigued to step off the path and investigate, to discover. I turn rocks over and reveal worlds within worlds where ants hurry to rescue eggs, or centipedes race to safety. I accept that my inquisitiveness may disrupt others. I am clear with my intentions. I return the rock and acknowledge the impact of my actions.

I continue to forge a path through the forest and come to an abundant field. Activity bristles. My senses absorb colors, textures, sounds. I am alive. I am fertile.

I come to a small pond, the water so still I can see small schools of fish and tadpoles. I see water skeeters skate gracefully on the surface. I feel balanced like a delicate ecosystem.

As I gaze into the pond, I focus on my reflection. I am who I am. I am complete. I am just beginning.

I reach for the stars and dive into the pond. I create a splash that sends ripples out in all directions. Water touches and awakes the unexpected.

 I am a strong, courageous woman, passionate and bold

I am Blue Heron Standing in Water

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Fred

February 1, 2014
Since I turned Fred, my wandering neutered Tom, into an indoor kitty, I feel obligated to spend time with him. He is content to sit near me and purr away. As long as I don’t make any sudden motions. He hates it when I drink anything, especially out of my Army mug, a gigantic black ceramic mug. It scares him. He is a sweet cat, gets along with other cats and dogs. He especially likes to swat a dog just to remind them who is Alpha. He does not like other people and will bolt. Even my friend John Mills, the Cat Whisperer, can get Fred out from under the bed. I don’t know why. I think Fred and his sister Ginger, who I lost, were kittens to a feral cat. As long as I give him attention, quiet attention, he is fine and
content.

Olympics

Wednesday, February 5, 2014
The other day I was at Thurston High School in Springfield, a school I used to substitute at quite often. In an attempt to strike up some conversation, I asked one of the teachers if he were going to watch the Olympics. Probably was his response. When are they happening? I asked, wondering if we were playing twenty questions. Couple of weeks.
After the lunch room filled with conversation, I realized the the words were bouncing all around me, but never targeted at my direction, so I finally left. How can one feel more alone in a group of people than when all alone?
This is not an unusual thing. Often times as the sub, I feel like c the new kid on the block, but I am more like the homeless kid on the block. I don’t belong, and in many cases, unfortunately most cases, I am treated as if I were invisible. Often times I will try to insert myself into a conversation or ask questions, but seldom are questions asked of me.
I rationalize that teachers are busy. They need to save their energy for the kids, and I suppose talking to a unfamiliar person requires every. Sometimes this situation reminds me of my school days, especially high school where the clicks were formed and lines were not crossed.
Before I started writing this evening, I was thinking about writing about the Olympics and how no one is talking about the Games, but why start now?

Book or movie first

Monday, February 3, 2014
I am like most who prefer to read a book before I see a movie, though I don’t have substantial proof or scientific data to support my claim, but for all the comments I have heard over the years, I have never heard anyone say that they preferred watching the movie first; of course, this does not count the students I have dealt with who only want to wavy to watch the movie first do they can get out of reading the book.
I know one person who refuses to read the book if she has seen the movie because there is no point. Not like the movie is different than the book and visa versa.
A short while ago I saw the movie The Reader. I did not know it was based on a book until after I saw the film. Now I am reading the book and I notice the mental images of the movie are getting in the way. I am still enjoying Bernhard Schlink’s book. It is a quick read. I may be able to get it done in two sittings, which means for the rest of you, one sitting. I am a slow, methodical reader, turning words and phrases in my head to taste them and hold them and get every ounce out of them before I give them back to the book.
How many of you prefer to read the book prior to seeing the movie? Is there anyone who watch the movie first?
Let the science experiment win.

Ricky the Rescue Dog

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Not only did I rescue Ricky, but Ricky Rescued me.

I had just lost my pride and joy, Jules. ImageMy students named him Thunder Dog. They even made him a cape. He loved chasing after the kids, especially if there was a basketball or soccer ball. All training went out the window when he was bent on something. Man, that dog would drive me crazy. I must have spent a jillion hours looking for him when he would take off. He loved me, I know he did, but he loved adventure more than anything, and if he was given an opening, like a gate was open, he’d bolt. He was known to walk into open doors. An elementary principal called me multiple times telling me that my dog was visiting. And Jules had a habit of going different directions. He discovered Spencer Butte and the Ridgeline Trail. What took him minutes to cover in distance would take me perhaps five or so times that amount. He took the Crow’s route.

I could go on and on about jules, but I started by saying that Ricky saved me. Jules died unexpectedly of cancer. I took him on my birthday with a positive prognosis, but when they opened him up, the cancer was so advanced that the right thing to do was to put him to sleep while he was under. i didn’t even get to say goodbye to him and he wasn’t even ten years old.

Lucy the Lovely Yellow Labrador was Jules’ dog. She went everywhere with him. If I wanted her to come, all I had to do was call for Jules. Don’t get me wrong, I love Lucy with all my heart, but Jules was my dog, and when he died, a I had this giant hole in my heart. I knew I needed to plug the hole.

I started looking for dogs. It was March and it wasn’t time for a puppy. I don’t housebreak dogs during the rainy season. I went to shelters. There were lots of wonderful looking dogs, but there wasn’t a connection. I did almost bring home a pitbull puppy that had been dragged along the sidewalk. I had even signed the papers, but there was a waiting period. I also found out that it’s possible my insurance wouldn’t like it if I had a Pitbull. (I have nothing againt the breed, just against the people who overbreed them and train them to be weapons.)

And then the call came. I had called them earlier about fostering a pair of Chocolate Labradors. But when they called me, they wanted to know if I could foster this dog called Sparky. Chocolate Labrador and Coon Hound. She told me he was in a really bad environment. Small house. Screaming Kids. Stuck. He was skinny and had patches of fur missing. She said that he might be psychotic.

Sparky sprang out of the car and then just went running around. Lucy wasn’t sure what to think, but they got along immediately. I don’t know how quickly the magic happened, but it may have been an hour or less. I changed his name to Ricky. I had already a cat named Sparky and I don’t do repeats.Image

I don’t know how many years I’ve had him. Two years? Three years? He’s my velco dog. My 75 pound lap dog. in my picture of my on the deck in the recliner, that’s Ricky Sprawled on me. He is the sweetest dog I’ve ever known. He makes my heart sing. It didn’t take him long to get rid of the psychosis, though sometimes he has a bit of PTSD. I can’t believe I’m his third person.

Ricky  reminds me that when bad things happen, good things are around the corner. I would never choose between having Jules and Ricky. They would get along so well, that it would be great to have them both. In fact, I imagine that in heaven, I’ll have Pip, who I didn’t really know, Pippet, and Pippy, aka P-Dog, those beagles that taught me how to be an alpha dog. Kahlua, my first dog I had on my own. Thank you Warwick Rhode Island for the German Shep cross. Harold and Maude, who chewed everything. Jules. And hopefully it will be a long time before Ricky, Lucy, and Abby get there.

Hanging with Fred

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Fred

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February 1, 2014
Since I turned Fred, my wandering neutered Tom, into an indoor kitty, I feel obligated to spend time with him. He is content to sit near me and purr away. As long as I don’t make any sudden motions. He hates it when I drink anything, especially out of my Army mug, a gigantic black ceramic mug. It scares him. He is a sweet cat, gets along with other cats and dogs. He especially likes to swat a dog just to remind them who is Alpha. He does not like other people and will bolt. Even my friend John Mills, the Cat Whisperer, can get Fred out from under the bed. I don’t know why. I think Fred and his sister Ginger, who I lost, were kittens to a feral cat. As long as I give him attention, quiet attention, he is fine and
content.