HodgePodge of Happenings

Posted on 5:43 PM
I have a student I have had for three years now (almost). He doesn't talk. He swears. Now, remember he is a severely cognitively impaired 5 year old with autism. His strength, running back and forth the classroom and hitting his head. This nonverbal child has suddenly been able to pick up swear words like a splash of spaghetti sauce on my white shirt, but he doesn't pick up functional speech. Sorta. We walk out of his favorite activity room with lots of swings and crash mats and he will stomp his foot and say "spit!" Or I was insisting that he take off his coat himself and in slow mo he says "maaasssstaaard" Of course with a "B." Or I turn off the music and he says "truck" I sure wish he would like a good word. Drink, eat, more, no, yes. Next, I'm waiting for the spam to hit the fan.

I went up North this weekend and found some really nice places to camp. I am really excited to go and can't wait until summer!

I registered Max the Dog (yes Sara, I started calling him Max the Dog to spare your Max the Husband any confusion!) and myself to be trained in therapy dog classes. I currently donate to the Helen Devos Children's Hospital in Grand Rapids and think it would be something to volunteer there in this way. I love taking Max the Dog places and think this would be a great experience.

I met someone. Alright, so this is news to many of you. All of you because I haven't told any of you. My BFF doesn't know yet because she's been too busy, but I met a really nice guy. The thing standing in my way? ME! I'm Ms Independent! He likes all of the things I like and is willing to do things I want to do and I want to do things he wants to do. Now, it is really super early in the "friendship" but the jittery, tingly feeling is there and well that has only happened one time. Early this year, but that "friend" passed away and I moved on. This would be the only other guy EVER to make me feel this way. To be continued...

The other thing is I had to call 911 the other night at 3 in the morning because of a awful burning toxic smell coming into my windows. Someone was making meth in a car down the road. I had to close my windows on a nice night because this awful choking smell was filling my house. My house is still stinking and thanks heavens for the nice weather that I can leave my windows open! It was quite a scary experience. But hopefully it will not happen again.

Thanks for reading my hodgepodge!

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Twists, Turns, and Wayward Paths

Posted on 6:32 PM
Holy toledo bejeezus.

First, I was offered a position as a Severely Cognitively Impaired special education teacher in Ft. Buchanan Puerto Rico. I turned it down for several reasons. The main one is I don't want to. It would have been a great experience and I applied just to see what would happen. But I was given another choice and I chose to do that instead. Here things are going well and I'm excited to ramble around in my camper and do some hiking and adventure here. It was a great opportunity and it did indeed shake up my world a little which is what I was looking for. But I like my current options. I want to keep Puerto Rico special. Enough said about that.

My life has taken another twist. My thoughts really. An old school friend of mine that I have reconnected with through the beauty of Facebook has rekindled something in me that I pushed away. She reminded me of something I have been passionate about for a long time

Another good friend of mine, even though it has been almost 11 years since I have spoken to her by my choice, is a or was a recovering alcoholic, drug abuser, self mutilator and attempted suicide victim. I don't know if she is recovering or still using. I simply adore her. But because she was harming herself and essentially dragging me down with her I had to stop being her friend. That killed me. That killed a little part of my compassion for people and also killed a little part of me that wants to rescue everyone. But it was actually one of the best things that could have happened for me. Selfishly this sounds, but had it not of been for her I would not have learned what alcoholism, drug abuse, self mutilation, and suicide means or how if affects everyone around that person. I was ignorant of what all of it was and such a disease it is. But fortunately, my experiences with her has prepared me for what was happening concurrently in my life at the same time.

My mother. I love her to pieces. I take care of her. Help pay her bills. Give her support. Really in many ways she is my friend more than a mother and a mother more than a friend. If that makes any sense. I rescued her more times than I can count. I rescued her from an alcoholic boyfriend who put a gun to her head. I rescued her from a stalker boyfriend high on drugs. I rescued her from an abusive boyfriend who literally threw her out of his house.

I don't tell this for the sake of recognition or good for you or poor you. I made the choices. But had I not had the friend I talked about above to teach me what addictions are I would not have understood what mom was going through and why. I would have fallen possibly into the same traps. I finished college so I could be completely independent and be self reliant. Survival skill really.

Anyways, it leads to what I have tossed around for years. To become some sort of grief counselor or become involved with the suicide hotline, or YWCA for battered women and children, or a counselor for abused children or to save someone from the things that are hurting them. To save them from the bad thoughts and help them through the tough times. But honestly, the thought of doing that scares the hell out of me. The thought of the turmoil people go through feels so emotionally draining. The thought of the tears that I would shed because people have gone through horrible, unimaginable things that no child, man, or woman should ever have to go through haunts me. I tear up hearing these stories. I cry when I see the pain. I don't know what I will do or if I will do anything. It is something to think about for sure.

I know writing this is incredibly personal, but part of this blog is to purely write down my thoughts and then to share them with people I think are my friends.

If you are my friend then you should know what makes me simply me. In the meantime, say a kind word. You might just save someone.

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To Be Continued...

Posted on 2:02 PM
Alright. So I said I wanted a change in my life and here it is! I spontaneously applied for a teaching position through the Dept of Defense in Puerto Rico. I got a call Friday before labor day for a phone interview with some principals in Ft. Buchanan near San Juan. They are interviewing for a moderately/severely impaired teacher for middle and high school. In short form......


I GOT THE JOB! My options: stay in my job in mainland USA or move to Commonwealth Puerto Rico.

Now that I have done it, I have no clue what I want to do. AHHH! Decisions to be made. I will update in three days which is the deadline for accepting the offer.

To Be Continued...

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Alright, so it took almost 10 times to log into my blog because I could not remember the password. I simply have too many passwords. Remembering leads me to...

I start my second grad class tomorrow. Yes, Friday night at 5:30. Then again on Saturday at 8:30 am until 6:50pm. Every other weekend for three weekends. The class consists of a 90 minute working lunch in which you are supposed to work with your assigned small groups. I downloaded 47 journal articles ranging from 6 to 58 pages, 31 PowerPoints, 27 Office documents, and perused 17 HTML files. Oh, and the book that is 237 pages. I can remember those numbers because I am trying not to be afraid of this class and the demands of it for 5 weeks. I started to read the book in great interest (ha!) in hopes of feeling more prepared. I am staying overnight in a hotel room and packing lots of energy snacks (chocolate, chocolate, chocolate) and chocolate milk. See where I am going here?

Hopefully I will not forget what I know now and what I am supposed to know later for this class and will get an A to continue the A pattern.

Cheerio!

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Shake Your Booty, Shake Your Booty

Posted on 5:15 PM
Apparently, I am the only one giddy about having lived through an earthquake. It was 5.5 on the Richter scale and happened this afternoon. I was on the couch on the computer when I felt a shake. I thought my cat was sharpening her claws on my couch. It lasted about 20 seconds and was felt all over Michigan, Indiana, and New York. It came from 12 miles from the Earth near Quebec, Canada.

It was very interesting to feel this shake. It was almost surreal and felt very odd.

Other notable events. There is another tornado watch. I hate tornadoes. I never hear the sirens and am completely dependent on others to hear them for me. Hopefully this will just pass by.

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Horoscope

Posted on 7:34 PM
I subscribe to the Daily Om web page. They send you your horoscope and meditations. You can take online classes to learn about intuition and different meditations. I have been getting horoscopes from this page for awhile now and recently they have been very similar. Here is the horoscope for today. This more for my information than yours because I wanted to keep it and this seemed like a good place to store it. It is very fitting for the occurrences of my life.

June 18, 2010
A Leap of Faith
Sagittarius Daily Horoscope

You may feel more inclined than usual to take risks today, provided those risks have a calculable benefit to your goal-realization strategies. A progressive and courageous mood can facilitate your efforts to uncover hidden opportunities in your domestic spaces and in your workplace. You may find that you easily recognize those people and situations that have the power to aid you as you endeavor to reach your objectives. Making the most of this newly developed confidence can be as easy as taking chances and trusting yourself enough to accept that, whatever the outcome of those chances, you will cope admirably. As you address life’s complexities today, an open mind can be your greatest tool.

We empower ourselves to achieve many goals we might otherwise never meet when we are willing to take risks that require us to move outside of our comfort zones. Throughout our lives we face opportunities that demand that we immerse ourselves in the unknown. When we make a leap of faith, we demonstrate that we trust in our ability to effectively cope with any contingency the universe places in our paths. Our focus is fixed firmly on those steps we must take to ensure our efforts are met with success—even when we are unsure of what will befall us in the future. As pioneers, we carve a path for those who share our ambitions and will follow in our footsteps. Adopting a progressive approach to meeting your objectives today will help you move forward more quickly than ever before.

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A Series of Fortunate Events...I hope

Posted on 3:54 PM
A whole bunch of new things have been popping up out of nowhere this week. Things that further complicate my thoughts of life in general and where I want to go with it.

First, I was emailed from a woman in Florida who just received funding to open a preschool exclusively for preschool aged students with disabilities. Any kind of disability accepted. I was a fan of hers on Facebook and she contacted me to see if I may be interested in a position at the school. It would not open until next year. Since, it is so new and doesn't have consistent funding I have my doubts, but this yet points to a drastic move outside Michigan. All arrows are pointing South. Very far South. South outside of my comfort zone. Some more to think about.

Second, I met another man yesterday a few years older than me. He is interested in going out. He was my substitute teacher's aide and was very nice. Why is this important? Well, I asked for a parade of men to come into my life and it seems to have started! Three very nice guys in the last 12 months. My odds are getting better. Some more to think about.

So, you see a whole bunch of new things happening that make me go hmmm. My latest series of events that is leading me to somewhere!

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Could this be the one time???

Posted on 2:37 PM
Could this be the first time? The first time I could win a contest? I enter contests and never win, but maybe I will this time.

My friend Sarah wins everything. She has a blog too and has been inspiration for this one. She wins movie tickets, gift certificates, free dinners, and probably chocolate. I'm hoping someday her luck will rub off.

Sarah is having a contest with CSN stores. I'd load some pictures, but I don't know how to yet. They have a boatload of stores (over 200!)that offer all kinds of merchandise. Visit today!

Am I a winner? I will find out June 26th!

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Hello, My Name is Janet

Posted on 4:33 PM
I am prepared to admit I have a problem. A serious problem. A problem I never imagined I would ever have. What is it you wonder? It is an addiction. It is an addiction to something I never thought I could be addicted to. Should I share something so private? I suppose that everyone that reads this blog are invited souls that already pretty much accepts me as I am.

Hello, My name is Janet. I have an addiction. I am addicted to PUERTO RICO!

I wanna go back in the worst way and be there longer than a couple weeks. My brain is working overtime scheming how to get back. The culture is amazing. The history rich. The land phenomenal. The water is alive. There is so much I want to learn about it.

I usually accomplish my goals. But this is crazy even for me. This is a step out there. It is over a thousand miles away. Not to mention it is basically another freaking country despite being a commonwealth of the United States. Must think further about this. Must think how I can satisfy this need and desire. Must think why and where I'm being led. What am I being told? What am I suppose to do? This is more than a lackadaisical I want to go there for vacation. This is an impulse. It feels like something inside me has been found that I never knew was there. I've been asking the Gods where my path is and am I following it. Lots of meditating on it. I need to think.

Puerto Rico or bust!

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Celebrate Good Times, Come On!

Posted on 7:22 PM
There's a party goin' on right here
A celebration to last throughout the years
So bring your good times, and your laughter too
We gonna celebrate your party with you


I like to celebrate. It all began in college. I was a three time college drop out before I buckled down and got to business.(Don't be so shocked)

So, I began to celebrate my collegiate achievements. At the end of the semesters, I would buy a novel as my reward for just attending class and then finishing out the semesters. Sort of Applied Behavior Analysis to myself. Or, I'd have ice cream for good grades. (that means extra ice cream on top of the normal and good grades were usually Bs and Cs since I'm not very studious) Then beginning my actual Special Ed classes, I began to treat myself to dinners and celebrate the accomplishment of getting As. This upward trend is due to maturation and being tired of working 60-70 hours a week as a paraprofessional and pet store salesperson and eating Ramen Noodles.

When undergrad graduation started to become closer to reality, I started to celebrate and count down the days. I started counting down two years before graduation. Nuts? Yes, but by now I had 6 years of college already! I became known in my SPED cohort as the celebrator and at any given time someone (including profs) would ask how many days were left until graduation and I would promptly answer. 545 days. 400 days. 200 days. You get the idea. At each 100, we would go celebrate. It was fun. It was motivating.

After my first year of teaching (God help us all that was the most wonderful experience because I met some fantastic friends, but the most horrible teaching experience to date) So, after the first year of teaching I celebrated. After the second year of teaching I didn't celebrate. I miss celebrating. I often stop and look around my classroom and take a peek at my checking account to realize the most remarkable accomplishment of my life and that is I am a teacher. A teacher of severely impaired tiny kids who are the light of their parents' lives, who are scared to death to leave their children at school because of all of their severe medical and physical needs. And they leave them with me! All 11 (right now) of them. How awesome is that?

I decided I was going to celebrate this year. I haven't celebrated in a long time the little things that are happening. I will celebrate my third year teaching. I will celebrate my friend's successful, but stressful first year teaching down south. I will celebrate my friend's successful second year teaching urban kindergartners. I will celebrate my supportive boss.

But most of all, I'm going to celebrate everything I have learned over the last three years. The hard parts. The easy parts. The crying parts. The laughing parts. The amazing hugs. And the most important parts of all being the friendships I have made. Awesome friends!

Cheers to you and may Kool and The Gang celebrate with you!


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Just Call Me Survivorwoman

Posted on 1:56 PM
One of my all time favorite shows is Survivorman. I love Les Stroud. If you read his biographies and autobiographies (yes, I have both) he leads a very fascinating life of survival with nature. If you have never seen his show, he takes a bunch of cameras into a survival type of situation, whether it is a plane crash, getting lost in the woods, or lost at sea. He teaches the viewer how to survive practically within this environment using the resources that are available to him and how to find your way back to civilization.

I have used some of his suggestions before while camping or hiking, but of course I was never in any danger. Well, here is an adventure I had recently where I felt like Survivorwoman! I was never in any danger, but it was one of the most exciting, coolest moments I have ever experienced.

It happened while I was in Puerto Rico. The people I was with liked to sleep in a little and I decided I only had a short time to be on this island and needed to use every moment to my advantage. I woke up one day at 6:30 a.m. and decided I was going to head west on Shacks Beach. So, essentially I was walking towards the Dominican Republic. (this is just fascinating to me that I was so close)

It is a sunny, bright, blue skied day. Not a cloud in the sky. I have my camera,phone, and some water and am enjoying the view and solitude. I fail to notice that behind me to the Southeast there is a rain cloud. It starts to sprinkle and I knew that it tends to downpour in PR. I'm thinking "crap" as I am about 1/2 mile away from the rental. So I begin to look around to see what my environment is. I see palm tree fronds hanging over this tall aluminum fence. There are about 10 palm tree fronds overlapping one another creating a sort of shelter. I climb under there just as it starts to pour.

Picture it.
You are sitting under palm tree fronds in a downpour staying completely dry facing the ocean and seeing the waves while about 6 yards away are two crabs chasing each other around the beach. There is some sun peaking through the clouds. There is no one around in either direction.

I mean, how awesome is that! And you know what? I was so thrilled with it all I forgot to take pictures of my survival.

I start to watch for breaks in the rain and pay attention to how the clouds shaping and what direction they are going. I'm determining when the best time would be to walk back to the rental while the rain is down to a slight sprinkle. The clouds break just a little and I decide it is time to head back. No sooner than I walk in the door, it starts to pour and it poured most of the morning. No one knew I was gone. I snuck back in and got comfy on the couch with my Puerto Rican coffee with my book.

So my survival lasted for about 2 hours. The most peaceful 2 hours of my life.

Puerto Rico offered an abundance of experiences that I never thought I would ever live. To have this survival experience, as silly as it may sound, has helped open my doors to my realization that my life needs to expand.

So, have you been a survivorman or survivorwoman lately?

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The Owl Hoots

Posted on 7:09 PM
An owl's hoot is quite remarkable. Such a common sound to people, but for some of us it is an amazing sound. You can't see it usually. I have been blessed with seeing many owls in my short lifetime, but I never heard them.

My family and I would go camping every weekend. At night time around the fire my family would hear the owl hoot. They would always ask, "Do you hear the owl?" and I always answered no. I couldn't hear it over the sounds of the crickets and other nightlife. I always felt like I was missing something not being able to hear the simple hoot of an owl.

I moved out to the country about 5 years ago. One night, I was sitting next to a fire in my yard very similar to the fire at the campsite with my mother. She asked me, "Did you hear the owl?" and of course I said no. Then, I heard it. I heard my first owl ever. It was so amazing and I was completely thrilled. I heard this wonderful creature that I could never hear before. A very normal thing possibly for others to hear was miraculous for me.

I have lived in this house for 5 years and for 5 years I have been hearing the owls. I write this post today because I know that very soon the owls will start hooting. I am getting more and more anxious to hear them because it is such a special sound. My doctor told me once that I should not be able to hear a thing.

I was too busy listening to the owls to hear what he said.

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What comes around...

Posted on 10:49 AM
I'm notorious for making people repeat themselves. Even when it's not needed.  It's simple really. They say something and I say "what?" They say it again and I say "what?" Usually, they say it one more time before they get it and realize I'm playing a joke.  It's fun as a person who does frequently need people to repeat themselves. It catches them off guard. Kind of like the boy who cried wolf.

On Friday, my own joke was played on me. Except it was probably 5 times before I realized what was happening.  I told them no fair and that I wasn't used to it being done on me and therefore, that is why I fell so hard for it.  Everyone including me got a good laugh. And she strutted around the rest of the day feeling quite proud of herself. The other shoe will fall...

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14 and so grown up

Posted on 6:23 PM
There is a boy at work that is becoming my shadow. It is hard for me to call him a boy because he is so tall and big, but he is only 14. An 8th grader. A 14 year old 8th grader that has seen and been part of so much violence. It is hard though to know when he is telling the truth and when he is trying to show off.  He is attending an alternative school placement because he is on parole and is on a long term suspension from his home school. He lives in an urban home in a poor area.  Lots of gangs and violence occurs around him. 

"John" began volunteering in my classroom about 2 months ago. He was interested in one little boy in particular and I saw it as a good way to get him involved in something positive. What I was surprised about were his teachers were allowing him to come to my room when work was incomplete or his behavior was poor. So I set some rules. He had to have all his work done completely and well. He had to pull up his pants (he wore them clear to his knees).  He had to come to school and no skipping.  If he skipped he could not come that week. He could not talk about violence, guns, knives or anything inappropriate around the children (he has been jumped numerous times, been in knife fights, and shot at). 

The next day, he wore a belt. He was proud to show it to me.  He said his mother took him to the dollar store right away to buy him one. He has asked me how to become a special education teacher and what I did.  And still frequently asks me.  He has so many barriers for a 14 year old that it makes my heart sink to know there are so many years for him to try to not make bad choices and I just want to scoop him up and take him home.

  He pops in to say hi. He pops in to tell me bye before the weekend and I remind him to make good choices and that I looked forward to seeing him on Monday. Then he comes to say hi on Monday and gives me a report. Either I congratulate him or give him a little lecture. He seems to expect me to lecture him and said just the other day that he decided to just walk away when he was being bugged by someone. Of course I congratulated him. We talk a lot about how to make good decisions and how to think before reaction. 

He is still making bad choices. I told him I would buy him lunch if he didn't skip school for 2 weeks and had no bad behaviors. It was a goal set by him.  He was super disappointed when I told him I wasn't going to buy lunch because he skipped. He had all kinds of excuses.  We set another goal and hopefully he realizes how serious I am.  He wants to volunteer in my room over the summer to help keep him out of trouble. I'm entering new territory. Apparently, I need to talk to his social worker and parole officer first. I already laid out rules that he agreed to. If he misses 2 days, he is done.  He needs to learn some responsibility.  I'm really being hard on him and have high expectations, but he seems to respect me for it.  I talk to him like an adult and lay it out there point blank.

Like with many of my students I have learned so much from him about lifestyles and learned some about me too. I can be a real hardass according to the other adults in my room.  But it seems to be what he is searching for. He goes back to his home district next year. I hope he can keep it together. Maybe my voice will continue to ring in his ears.

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A little bright star

Posted on 4:42 PM
Today I met a two year old and her mother. The little girl is just a tiny little thing. Couldn't be more than 20 lbs and just a little more than 2 foot, sparsely blonde hair.  You can see her scars. One that runs from the left side of her head to the bottom of her toe. One long continuous scar. The scar of her shunt in her brain is visible. The scars of 9 surgeries in just over 2 years. One of her eyes are clouded and swirly white and black. You can't tell what color they are. Her other eye rolls under and you only see the whites. I have to admit it was hard to not look and study it and then to feel shocked by how it looked. Of course she is visually impaired, but that is only part of the story. I will explain more later.  Little "Hannah" can crawl and is learning how to walk. She will lean on you and work her way up to standing. She placed her face very, very, uncomfortably close to mine, but knowing she was "seeing" me I let her.  She used her nose to explore my face. A shy little girl no more when she climbed into my arms.  She said the few words she is able to say that melted my heart and tears sprang to my eyes. "Sing to me"  So, I did. Old McDonald which I found out was her favorite.  She smiled a giant smile that radiated from her heart to mine.

It is important that I tell you about her.  The thing is she is the reason why I went into teaching.  I get tired of doctors, teachers, and experts telling parents and the child that they can't do something because of disabilities.  Doctors insisted she was blind. I assumed it also on first judgment. After mom insisted that she could see the doctors have begun to notice she can. It is figured she can see about a foot away. She will push the lid up on one eye to be able to see when it rolls back. Talk about coping skills! She wasn't supposed to walk, but out of sheer will she is beginning to.  She isn't supposed to talk because of how doctors felt her brain developed, but she is! And being as severely impaired as she is, she shouldn't be able to climb, crawl, or even understand what is happening around her, but she does. She has outsmarted all of the doctors and broken all of the rules. Her light shines so brightly that she will be adored by everyone. She has already tugged at my heart strings. Her young mom and dad (couldn't be more than 23) work with her constantly and love her dearly.  She is definitely something special and certainly will teach me and those she comes across how wonderful life is and how happy everyone should be despite any difficulties.  I can't wait for her to start my room in the fall.  I have a feeling she will bring the sun rays with her when it gets pretty dark.

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