Friday, August 29, 2008

Day 3 in New York - Part 1: Hanging Out in Lower Manhattan

Our subway station

I was awoken early on Monday morning by a recorded message on my cell phone telling me that my tour of Ground Zero in lower Manhattan had been cancelled. Sigh. I got out of bed so that I could wish Brooke a good day (and good luck---today's the day she tells her boss that she's resigning). After she left, I settled in front of the TV and thought about what I was going to do with my morning. I took a short nap and watched a little bit of trash TV, including one of Maury Povich's infamous "Who Da Baby Daddy?" episodes. I decided that I would head to lower Manhattan anyway and visit Battery Park, which is one of my favorite places to hang out. It's on the very southern tip of Manhattan, and it overlooks New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty.

I ate a bowl of Cocoa Pebbles for breakfast. (Sidenote: Before Brooke left for work, she pulled all of her boxes of cereal from the top shelf and placed them on the counter for me because she knew I was too short to reach them This struck me as both funny and sweet.) I showered, got dressed, and packed my messenger bag with everything I'd need that day, as well as that evening at the U.S. Open.

I walked to the subway stop (which is about 2 blocks from the apartment), and caught the "N" train into Manhattan. I got off at 42nd St & Times Square and transferred to the "1" train, which takes you all the way to Battery Park. Incidentally, the subway train runs above the ground while you're in Queens (would you call it the supraway?). I prefer that because I like to watch the scenery.

The view from the subway platform in Queens

As I said, Battery Park overlooks New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty.

Lady Liberty as seen from the shore

The World War 2 Memorial is also there, and I like to linger there a bit and read the names on the walls.

The World War 2 Memorial

"1941***1945 Erected by the United States of America in proud and grateful remembrance of her sons who gave their lives in her service and who sleep in the American coastal waters of the Atlantic Ocean. INTO THEY HANDS O LORD"

Each of the walls contains names of men who died in WW2. They are categorized by their service branches.

I bought a hot sausage, cheese pretzel, and a bottle of water from a street vendor for lunch. While I ate, I watched a quartet of street acrobats who put on quite a show! Not only were they talented, they were personable and funny...their act was very entertaining!

I love the architecture of lower Manhattan. Older buildings are nestled in with the more contemporary and sleeker skyscrapers. I walked around and took photographs of what I thought were the most interesting buildings and combinations of buildings.

This is the Bowling Green subway station where you can catch the "4" and "5" trains. I love this little building!

While I was strolling around, I stumbled across the National Museum of the American Indian. I was bowled over even before I went in...the exterior of the museum is breathtaking!

The main entrance to the National Museum of the American Indian

I love museums, so I decided to enter and look around. Visitors have to go through security---it was almost like being at an airport! I had to walk through a metal detector after I laid my messenger bag on a conveyor belt that carried it through an x-ray machine. I think the most beautiful part of the interior of the museum was the rotunda! The ceiling was covered in panels of painting and drawings. I took photographs, but they hardly serve any justice. It is truly one of those experiences for which you must be present in order to appreciate the full effect of walking into this room.

After I finished at the museum, I caught the "4" train (at the cute little Bowling Green subway station I showed you) and headed uptown to meet Brooke outside of her office building so that we could head up to Flushing for Opening Night at the U.S. Open Tennis Champions tournament.

More to come!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Day 2 in NY: Out to Long Island

On Sunday, we got up and spent the morning with our hosts. We ate breakfast, and then Brooke, Lauren, Alexander, and I headed out to Babies R Us so that Lauren could stock up on baby formula and Pampers. We stopped by our beloved Taco Bell and ordered tons of food to take back to the house for lunch. We all sat outside at their now famous patio table and ate lunch together. Shortly thereafter, we said good-bye, and Brooke and I headed to Long Island to meet her friend, Mosie.

Brooke and Mosie

After about a 45-minute drive, we arrived at Mosie's cute little apartment (I loved it!). We sat and talked for awhile, and then Mosie suggested that we head to the little village of Bayville which is located about 20 minutes away from her place. Bayville is located in the town of Oyster Bay, and it sits on the northern shore of Long Island.

We parked the car and wandered over to the beach. The Long Island Sound is a large and beautiful body of water. Actually, when we first arrived, I mistook it for the Atlantic Ocean.

The Long Island Sound. That's Connecticut on the other side.

We walked across the sand, and Brooke and I immediately took off our shoes with the intention of wading in the sound. As we approached the water's edge, we noticed several items that had washed up on shore---bottles, cans, the waistband of a pair of men's briefs, etc. We heard parents in the background yelling to their children "Don't go in the wah-tuh! Don't go in the wah-tuh!" Plus there was seaweed everywhere, and I haaaate being in the water with seaweed because I'm constantly being tricked into thinking there's a critter brushing up against my leg. So we reconsidered wading in the water and settled for standing right on the edge and admiring the view from there instead.

Don't go in the wah-tuh!

We walked across the street to the Bayville Adventure Park. They have an ice cream parlor there, and we stopped in and each ordered a treat. We realized right away that we are---er, maturing because we all agreed that the it was just too damned noisy in there. So we went out onto the patio to eat our ice cream. We were surrounded by screaming children, but it wasn't nearly as loud as it was inside.

We then walked to a different area of the beach and sat on a bench, and Mosie began to prep Brooke for a difficult conversation Brooke was to have with her boss the following day---she was going to tender her resignation. This was the first time that I had ever met Mosie. Based on my observations of her and things Brooke has told me about her, my first impression of Mosie is that she is really really really really smart. She seems to be very good at helping a person dissect a difficult decision that must be made. Mosie's a great sounding board, and she's good at pointing out the various outcomes and scenarios and then helping you prepare for each one. She'd make a great consultant. Next time I have a difficult decision to make, I just might call her and ask "What do I do!?!?"

On the way back to Mosie's place, we stopped by the private school at which she is an English teacher. She gave us a brief tour of the campus, and it is beautiful. It has a very collegiate feel to it.

We hung out at Mosie's place a while longer as we continued Brooke's prep session. Mosie initiated some role play in which she acted as Brooke's boss, and she peppered Brooke with questions, arguments, and counteroffers her boss would probably pose during this conversation. It was really quite good! We said good night and began the drive back to Queens.

We parked Brooke's car and walked a couple of blocks to her apartment---which I love, incidentally. It's a cozy 4th floor walk-up in a Greek neighborhood, and I think it's very cute!

The entrance to Brooke's apartment building

We both puttered around and did our own thing...Brooke called her Dad, and I got caught up on my e-mail and viewed some digital photos I had taken throughout the day. We inflated the air mattress and got the guestroom situated. Her two cats, Stanley and Lanikai, weren't too sure about the air mattress, so they investigated thoroughly.

"What the meow is this?"

We went to bed shortly afterwards, as we were both pretty pooped, and we both had to get up early the next morning. I thought I would sit up for awhile and watch some TV after Brooke went to bed, but I ended up dozing off in the recliner and waking up 30 minutes later with Lanikai curled up on my lap. I stumbled towards my room and crawled into bed. I love air mattresses! It was very comfy, and I was asleep within minutes.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Day 1 in New York: The 'Burbs

The view as we touched down at LaGuardia. Who says New Yorkers aren't friendly?

My flight from Charlotte to LaGuardia was uneventful, and I was looking forward to dinner that night in the NYC suburbs with Lauren and Jayme, a married couple with whom Brooke is close.
Brooke met me outside of baggage claim, and we hugged as we loaded my suitcase into the trunk of her Mazda sedan. She mentioned, "Lauren wants us to pick up a patio table on our way to her house tonight." This made me laugh because Brooke said it so casually, "patio table" could have easily been replaced with "head of lettuce" or "bag of ice". The thought "How are we going to fit a patio table into this car?" flashed momentarily through my head, but it dissipated as suddenly as it appeared. It turned out to be rather prophetic.

We figured we'd walk into the first store we found, pick out a table, and head north for dinner. However, it seems that finding patio furniture in a northeastern state on the cusp of September is not all that easy. After visiting one Target and two Home Depots, we finally found a table at a gigantic liquidation discount store. We liked the table we saw on display, and we were delighted to find that there were plenty in stock AND it was on sale for 50% off! We looked at the box, looked at each other, and the question of "Is this going to fit in the car?" was introduced. Naturally, we had no tape measure with us. We examined the box from several different angles, and we knew it would be close. So we threw caution to the wind ('cuz that's how we roll) and decided to take a chance on it.

Brooke paid for it, and we pulled the car to the front of the store and waited for the table to be loaded. We looked at her car and decided that this would never work. The box was going to be too big. We shook our heads as we waited for the gentleman to bring the table out. We planned to tell him "Sorry, but it's not going to fit", get Brooke's money back, and head to Lauren and Jayme's sans table. A young guy rolled the table out with a hydraulic truck dolly, and another gentleman who appeared to be the manager came with him. Brooke popped her trunk, and the manager shook his head, saying "No, it's not going to work. It's impossible." However, his young employee was more optimistic. In a soft voice laced with what sounded to be an African accent, he stated that we could indeed get the table into Brooke's car. He tried to fit it in several ways, but it wasn't working. It was just barely too big, which made it all the more frustrating. We were standing around and shaking our heads when the young man asked, "What if we take it out of the box and load the pieces separately?" Our faces lit up as we enthusiastically agreed that this was a brilliant idea! Our young friend cut open the box with his box cutter, and we were cooking! Brooke and I tossed the legs, brace, and hardware into the trunk as the two men started to load the table top into the car.

Suddenly, it was no longer about the sale. It was no longer simply two employees trying to load a table for a customer. They turned into "guys" who now had a project. Come hell or high water, they were going to figure out how to get this tabletop loaded into Brooke's Mazda 3. They were driven by the challenge that had been set before them. Their eyes glazed over, and they went to work. Doors were opened and pushed to their maximum span, headrests were removed, seats were reclined, and billions of stryofoam particles were expelled. I was wondering where Brooke and I were going to sit if and when they did manage to get the tabletop loaded. I envisioned having to lay flat in the backseat while Brooke drove us to dinner.

And then somehow....somehow...the table slid in. They were able to shut all four doors and return both front seats to their upright positions. I clapped my hands and proclaimed that a miracle had just occurred. Her car reminded me of one of those bottles that contain a model ship. You don't know how the ship got inside, and you don't know how to get it out with breaking the bottle.

The drive up to Lauren and Jayme's was something of which Lucy and Ethel would have been proud. Bear in mind...the glass table top was balanced precariously on top of the headrests. One end was resting in the back window while the other teetered just behind our heads. Brooke tried to slow down when we came to tricky spots in the road, but it's impossible to dodge them all. I'd reach behind my head and brace the glass with my hands as we simultaneously yelled out "OHHHH!" each time we hit a bump or a dip. We'd cringe and listen for the sound of glass cracking, but it never came. At one point, I was laughing pretty hard. But only because the glass never broke.

We finally arrived at Lauren and Jayme's beautiful new home located just north of NYC. It's a gorgeous house set in an idyllic neighborhood...a perfect place to raise their new baby son, Alexander.

Lauren and Jayme's beautiful home

I finally got to meet little Alexander. He's the cutest and smilingest baby! His face is so expressive...he reminds me of Calvin from "Calvin and Hobbes". Everyone wanted to hold him. Lauren and Jayme were gracious enough to allow him to be passed around like a cigarette.

Brooke, Lauren, and li'l Alexander

Believe it or not, the tabletop came out of the car much more easily and quickly than it did going in (ain't that the way it always happens?). I will say, however, that the expression on Jayme's face was priceless when he initially looked inside of the car and realized we weren't exaggerating with the "model ship in a bottle" analogy. Jayme is the last of a dying breed. He is a thirtysomething guy who knows how to repair stuff and put stuff together. He had the table assembled in less than half an hour, and we were in business! The table looked great, and it even matched the four chairs that Lauren had bought earlier at a different store! I am convinced that this table was destined to live in Lauren and Jayme's backyard.

Jayme enjoys the fruits of his labor

Lauren and Jayme are the most gracious of hosts! Lauren brought out some chilled pink champagne and pita crisps while Jayme got the grill fired up. Remember how I said Jayme can fix stuff and build stuff? Well, he's also a grillmaster! He has it down to an art. He has all of those grilling accessories that nobody really knows how to use or what they're for...but Jayme knows! He cooked pork sausage links, hamburgers (to perfection!), fresh corn-on-the-cob, and peppers. Lauren prepared some tasty baked beans. We had quite a spread! I had never eaten grilled corn-on-the-cob was truly some of the best tasting food I have ever eaten. I practically buried my face in it. It smells like popcorn when it's grilling. We ate it straight off the cob with the husks still on. It doesn't get much fresher than that, does it? It was so pretty, I took a picture of it. Yes. I'm that dorky.


We ate and ate and ate, and we shared wine, beer, and conversation. Sitting in this wonderful backyard on a breezy summer night while the sun went down and the crickets chirped, I thought of my childhood and how this used to be my favorite time of day. Brooke and I commented that we never saw lightning bugs anymore (the "do you call them fireflies or lightning bugs" debate ensued). About 15 minutes later, little yellow lights were flashing all around us. It was the most relaxed I have felt in a long time.

By this time, li'l Alexander was bathed and tucked safely into bed. Lauren, Jayme, Brooke, and I relaxed in the den and watched television and talked. It had been a long day for all of us, so we were all in bed by 10:00. We slept with the windows open, and I could hear the crickets chirping as I lay in bed waiting to doze off. I was asleep within 10 minutes, and I slept hard. It was a good good day.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Very Short Hiatus

I know I promised updates as I go, but I'm just really worn out these past two nights. New York exhausts me, but in a good way!

Tomorrow, I will have several hours in between my tour and heading over to the U.S. Open. If I can, I'll posts an update or two then. Otherwise, I'll update Tuesday night after I get home!

Come back soon!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Today's Rant...

SCREW YOU, JC PENNEY! Leave "The Breakfast Club" alone!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Start Spreadin' The News...

My upcoming trip to NYC will soon be upon me...I'm leaving Saturday morning. I'm very excited! NYC is my favorite place to be!

I checked the seating diagram for my flights, and it looks as if the flight up is a full one. Sigh. I always secretly hope that the seat next to me will be empty. Coach seating is so cramped, I consider it to be a special treat if I can have a row all to myself. However, it looks as if my wish will come true for the flight far.

I'm not sure what exactly we'll be doing over the weekend, other than attending a cookout on Saturday. However, my friend, Brooke--with whom I'll be staying--and I managed to score tickets to the night session on Day 1 (Monday Aug 25) of the U.S. Open Tennis Championship tournament! I am so excited about this that I can hardly breathe when I think about it! I have wanted to go to the U.S. Open since I was about twelve years old, so a childhood wish is finally coming true!

Brooke has to work during the day on Monday, so I'll be on my own. I just booked a great walking tour of lower Manhattan...Ground Zero. Whenever I visit NYC, I feel a need to reflect on 9/11. While the rest of the world may have emotionally detached seven years later, NYC is still grieving. And how can they not be? There are reminders everywhere.

A firehouse located near the apartment I rented last summer. The plaques you see on the front right wall each represent a member of this squad who died on 9/11.

After my tour, I'll probably go say 'hello' to the Statue of Liberty since I'll be in the neighborhood anyway.

On Tuesday, I'll fly home, and my adventure will be over. For now, anyway.

I'll be traveling with my laptop and posting tales from my trip. Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Happy Birthday To Me!

Ordinarily, I'm not one to announce my own birthday. Modesty prevents me from doing so. But hell, it's been such a good day that I thought I'd write about it.

A friend of mine made turning 41 sound soooo cool. He wrote: "Born in the summer of love and two years to the day before Jimi Hendrix woke everybody up on a Monday morning at Woodstock with the national anthem." Pretty good, huh?

My mother took me to dinner (Thank you, Mom!), and I was able to speak to each of my three brothers on the phone. My three wonderful sisters-in-law sent cards, phone calls, and text messages. My friends who live far away have inundated me with phone calls, text messages, and online greeting cards. Heck, on a Dixie Chicks fan message board, there's an entire thread devoted to wishing me a happy birthday.

I received a snail mail card from my brother, Stephen, and his wonderful wife, Joy. Stephen wrote inside "I hope on your birthday you will be reminded of what a special and caring person you are and how much you mean to every person lucky enough to know you." That made me feel a little weepy, but it really got me to thinking. Originally, I didn't expect too much out of today. I was content to stay home, packing and cleaning. But Stephen is right. It is a day to stop and reflect on all of the people in this world who love me and whom I also love. I have the most wonderful family I can ever imagine. My Mom is great, and my each of my three wonderful brothers married women who are like sisters to me. I have extraordinarily supportive friends who offer unconditional love.

Here's to another year of love from family and friends.

I am truly blessed.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Touching Base

There's nothing much going on here this weekend (nothing interesting, anyway), so I thought I would just give some general updates on life and what not.

I'm still anti-nesting. Today was spent removing pictures and decorations from the walls. I placed some of those things in the "Yard Sale" box while the others went into one of my "To Take With Me" boxes. I washed some of the walls, and I filled the nail holes with spackle. I love spacklin'. I bought some really nifty spackle at Walmart. It's bubble gum pink when you fill the nail hole, but it turns white when it's dry. Hence you know for sure when it is fully dry.

My application package for NYU is almost complete. I have my reference letters, my transcripts, my resume, and the application itself ready to go. All I have to do now is to complete my "Statement of Purpose". This is an essay that I am required to write as part of the application process. There are five questions I am expected to address: 1. How did you become interested in social work? What personal, academic, organizational, volunteer, and/or paid experiences have influenced your choice of social work as a profession? 2. What are your reasons for seeking graduate school education at this time? What are your expectations of graduate school education? 3. Describe some personal and intellectual attributes that you believe make you particularly suited for the profession of social work. What attribute would you most like to strengthen or change in order to increase your ability to be helpful to others? 4. Briefly discuss a current social issue of great concern or interest to you. 5. What are your career interests and goals? As a graduate of the School of Social Work at New York University, how do you expect to contribute to the social work profession?

Simple, huh? I have already started on it, and I've written some preliminary responses for each question. I just need to expand on them and clean it up a little. I intend to mail it by the first of September. The deadline isn't until November 7, but I'm hoping that I will get an early response if I get my application early, especially since I'm sniffing around for scholarships and such. Plus, if I have to pick up and move to New York City, I'd rather have several months notice rather than several weeks.

I've added a new gadget, as you may have noticed. I found it on Wil Wheaton's blog, and I clicked the link to Last.Fm's website. I have it linked with the iTunes player on my computer, and it lists what I'm currently listening to. There are several other lists available that I could list here if I so choose. I can list the artists and the tracks that I listen to most frequently, as well as what I'm purchasing. The list showing now is pretty eclectic, but that's only because my musical interests vary. I'm currently listening to my "Favorites" playlist. It consists of a real hodge podge of different genres of music from various eras.

My new itty bitty kitty is doing great and thriving here! Milo and Jasper are becoming buddies and playmates. Gus hasn't hissed at him in days! They can actually walk past each other, tap noses, and Gus doesn't hiss or get bent out of shape. I think Gus and Jasper are bonding with Milo whether they want to admit it or not.

I'm watching the Olympics now and eagerly awaiting to see Michael Phelps win (hopefully) his 8th gold medal!

I think I've covered all the highlights from here. Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I Love This Song

I recently rented the movie "Juno", and I absolutely fell in love with this song from the opening sequence. I know the movie catches some flak because some feel that it romanticized teenage pregnancy. I suppose there is an argument for that, but I didn't come away thinking this. I liked it, and I thought it was sweet.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

God's Open Door Policy

I was visiting with a patient today who recently received some bad news. She has a lung disease, and she was evaluated for a lung transplant. Since she's only in her 50's, she was hopeful that she would be approved and would be placed on a waiting list for a healthy set of lungs. However, due to some co-existing medical conditions, she was told that she would not be eligible for a transplant after all. The doctors felt that the surgery and the recovery process would only weaken her further and detract from her quality of life...possibly hastening her death. At first, she seemed okay with it; she voiced acceptance and said that this was God's plan. She would simply live with it and enjoy whatever time she had left with her family. However, as time has passed and she's had more time to think about it, she is struggling more and more. She was tearful during my visit with her today, and she said she doesn't think that God is listening to her. Then she immediately started to back pedal and said "Not that I would ever question God, of course." What I'm hearing from her is that she's angry at God, and she feels guilty for that. I think she's struggling with her anger and disappointment in God and the subsequent guilt as well.

This got me to thinking more about my own views about God and being angry with Him. My thought is that it's okay to feel angry with God and to express it to Him. He can handle it. He created anger. Jesus became angry when he discovered the temple was being used as a marketplace. God became angry when His Son died. Anger is not sin. It doesn't indicate a lack of faith. Anger is not a sign of disrespect. Anger can result in sin if it is not properly channeled...but anger in and of itself is not sinful.

I think God has an open door policy. If you're angry, then it's okay to talk to Him about it. I think that He wants you to. My relationship with God is no different than my relationship with family and friends. If I'm angry with someone I love, I'm miserable. I don't want to be angry with them. I want to talk about it as soon as possible and fix it. Why shouldn't my approach towards my relationship with God be the same way? I've been in relationships before when I didn't express anger for fear of retribution or fear that the person wouldn't love me as much as they did before. Guess what? My anger didn't fade. It festered. I became resentful, and my relationship suffered. I think the same thing can happen in a relationship with God. If you don't talk to Him and acknowledge your anger (He already knows you're angry, by the way...He's God!), then your anger will fester, too. Your relationship can become strained and broken.

I've been angry with God before, and I approached Him in the same manner that I approach other loved ones. My prayer to Him went something like this: "God, I'm so angry with You right now, and I hate it. I don't know what to do with it, but I know I don't want it to be like this. Please help me to understand what is happening. I can't go on like this...I need You too badly." My anger didn't fade instantaneously. I continued to pray and talk to God about it over the next few days. Eventually, I made peace with God and the issue that angered me. God and I kissed and made up, figuratively speaking. We were okay again. Actually, my bond with Him felt stronger and deeper. It felt more vibrant.

A long time ago, I met a gentleman named R.F Smith, Jr. He was a pastor, and his sister was a patient of mine. He traveled from his home in West Virginia to spend her last days with her, and he and I had several opportunities to talk. As it turns out, he is the author of a book entitled "Sit Down, God...I'm Angry." It is about his own struggle with his anger towards God after his 17-year-old son died in a water skiing accident. He donated an autographed copy to our resource library, and I read it in about two days. It's a phenomenal book. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is trying to come to grips with anger towards God, as well as pastors and counselors who may encounter people who are dealing with this strife.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Sure Sign of Aging

As I sit here and listen to one of my favorite 80's songs being bastardized in a Yaz birth control commercial, it occurs to me that I'm officially at that age where songs from my youth are heard more frequently as commercial jingles than on the radio.

Recently, I was playing music on my iPod at work. We were listening to my painstakingly compiled 80's playlist, and "Melt With You" began to play. One of my twentysomething co-workers piped up "That's the Taco bell song!" I quickly corrected her--"No, it's not the Taco Bell song! It's the Modern English song from 1982." She smiled and shrugged, saying "I wasn't born until 1981. I didn't even know it was a real song."


For those of you who think it's the Taco Bell song, I give you the complete performance and video for one of the best love songs---ever. And don't ever call it the "Taco Bell song" in my presence, for I fear my head would explode.

Oh. And by the way. For all you whippersnappers out there, it's not the "Yaz birth control song" either. That gem, "Goodbye to You" was originally done by Scandal, also in 1982.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Milo's Report Card

I took Milo to the vet this week for a check-up and to get started on his vaccinations. He weighs a hearty 4.5 pounds, and the doc estimates his age to be 12-14 weeks. He's just so little! The photos I have of him don't indicate just how tiny he is. He's outgrown his kitten face and his kitten body; right now, he simply looks like a miniature cat. I am trying to get photos of him with Jasper and Gus so that you can see how tiny he is compared to the two of them. I've had no luck so far. Milo is never still for more than a few moments when the big boys are around. I do, however, have a picture of him being held by my friend's nephew. You can get an idea of Milo's size in relation to a 4-year-old boy.

Milo and friend

Milo tested negative for feline leukemia and FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus---very similar to HIV), which was a great relief to me. I don't think I could have handled hearing more bad news about the health of one of my cats. He threw a horrible tantrum when he was having blood drawn for the testing! At one point, I thought that he was having some kind of seizure. Right before they drew the blood, they also inserted the "stool stick" in his rectum to try to extract stool so they could test it for worms. Oh my gosh...that little guy was pretty angry. But who can blame him? Apparently, his rectum was empty---no stool came out. When he's a little bigger, we'll apply a topical medicine that will kill any worms he might have...just as a precaution.

Oh. And he's definitely a boy. The doc thinks he'll be ready for snippin' in a couple of months. She says his li'l testicles have dropped, and everything feels normal. She said she prefers to "wait until they're big enough to handle." I laughed out loud when she said this, because it put a mental image in my head that, frankly, cracks me up.

I'm taking him with me tomorrow when I travel to visit my mother. I regret not having socialized Gus and Tucker when they were kittens. I feel like I have a fresh start with Milo.

Milo poses with a picture of Tucker

Friday, August 8, 2008

A Random Rant---Literally!

It's been a few days, and I apologize. My muse has been M.I.A., but I think she's back. There is nothing quite like a pet peeve to get her singing again.

Petty as it may seem, it drives me crazy when a person uses the word "literally" incorrectly. "She's literally driving me up a wall!" or "I was so scared, I literally jumped out of my skin!" You get the point.

I was just watching a news story on TV about astronomical gasoline prices. The reporter was interviewing a woman while she was pumping gas into her car. She railed "We're literally being raped at the gas pump!"


Lady, I don't know where you're going to buy gas, but I wouldn't go back if I were you.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

What My Teachers REALLY Taught Me

For all of you teachers who wonder if you're making a difference...let me assure you that you are. Please believe me when I say that there is at least once child out there whom you've permanently touched. That child may very well be an adult now but continues to use something he or she learned from you.

I might not remember how to diagram a sentence or how to balance an algebraic equation. I am no longer able to conjugate verbs in French. But there are some more important and more meaningful lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Kay Wilson, 1st grade - I did not attend kindergarten, so the 1st grade was my first year in the school system. On the last day of school, I remember crying for much of the day after I got home. I was crying because I was going to miss Mrs. Wilson, and I wanted her to always be my teacher. I was very shy as a little girl, and Mrs. Wilson had made me feel comfortable and safe at school. I had formed an emotional attachment to her, and I was convinced that there would never be another teacher like her. This is my very first memory of a genuine sense of loss and grief.

Patti Salenius, 3rd grade - Good manners were a must as far as Mrs. Salenius was concerned. She taught us to say "sir" and "ma'am". When we failed to address adults in this manner, she made us write sentences. One day in class, she used two toy telephones to teach us about telephone etiquette. I learned that you should allow a phone to ring at least ten times before hanging up just in case the person was too far away from the phone to answer after just a few rings (this was before answering machines and voicemail). I learned that when I am the one placing the call, I should immediately identify myself to the person answering the phone. I learned to say, "May I ask who's calling?" rather than "Who's this?". It's been 33 years since I was in the 3rd grade, but I still carry these things with me today. I'm often described as "polite", and I give a great deal of credit for this to Mrs. Salenius.

John Magness, 4th grade - There was a girl in our class whom I'll call Becky. Becky was not very popular with the other kids. She was a know-it-all, and she was happy to point out other students' weaknesses. She talked too much. She was snobby. She was arrogant. She tried too hard to fit in with the popular kids---she came across as phony. Becky also came from a poor family, which did not help her case at all. Becky's clothes were obviously hand-me-downs, and they were not the stylish clothes that the popular kids were wearing. Sometimes, Becky came to school wearing dirty clothes; her face and hair were sometimes unwashed. I recall her coming to school on some days with bruises on various parts of her body. As a result, Becky was often a target of verbal bullying from the mean-spirited and socially powerful kids, especially the girls. The popular girls could smell weakness in her, and they pounced quickly and often.

Mr. Magness was a kind and fair man. He laid out his policy on discipline on Day 1, and he never deviated from it. Everyone was treated equally. If he had "favorites', he never showed it. Mr. Magness had a paddle he called "Mr. Goodbody". Boys received one smack to their rumps, and girls to the palms of their hands. Mr. Magness did not derive any sadistic joy or pleasure from paddling us. He didn't make a show out of it. He was simply holding us accountable and teaching us about consequences. Not having your homework was an infraction for which it was understood that you would be punished---no exceptions. One day, Becky came to class without her homework. Everyone knew immediately that this very unpopular little girl was about to be paddled in front of all of us, and this brought on cheers and taunts from some kids in the class. They were like piranhas converging on a sickly little goldfish.

And then something strange happened---Becky burst into tears. I don't mean that she cried "I don't want to get paddled so I'll try to cry my way out of it" tears. She sobbed like someone who was conceding defeat. She wept like someone who was exhausted and was giving up. She was completely vulnerable and exposed. Becky defiantly stuck her palm out and through her tears she shouted "Do it! Just do it! It's what they all want to see anyway!" And she just stood there, sobbing, with her palm extended, staring up at Mr. Magness. For the rest of my life, I will never forget the look of compassion and sadness that overtook that man's face. Everyone was silent, and all we could hear was Becky trying to stifle her sobs. In a soft and gentle voice, Mr. Magness said "Sit down, Becky" as he lowered Mr. Goodbody to his side. He then assigned "busy work" to the rest of us, and he took Becky out into the hallway, shutting the door behind them. They later returned, and Becky was much calmer, though her eyes were red and swollen. I remember feeling incredibly sad for the rest of the day. Later, I would learn that Becky's homelife was pretty crummy. Mr. Magness obviously knew that; he also knew that there was something more to Becky not having her homework that day other than mere irresponsibility. He was the personification of compassion and mercy, and that moment is forever burned in my memory. He has a place in my heart as one of my most favorite teachers--ever.

Diane Burnette, 6th grade English - One of our assignments was to read a biography and write a book report about it; additionally, we had to write it from the first person point of view. I chose to read and write about President Andrew Jackson. Miss Burnette was passing out the graded papers. Before she handed mine to me, she asked that I step out in the hallway with her. Iwas terrified! In my experience, the only people who ever got asked to step out into the hallway were kids who were in big trouble. I was quite anxious as I followed her out the door, and I was trying to figure out what my transgression could possibly have been. Once there, Miss Burnette proceeded to tell me that I was an excellent writer and that I should consider a career in journalism. While my teachers always had a tendency to like me, I had never ever had one to single out a specific talent and encourage me to pursue it as a career. I was on Cloud 9 for the rest of the day! She handed me my graded paper, and "100" was written across the top in red ink. I don't know that Miss Burnette ever realized how much that moment meant to me. I wonder if she knew that I would still be talking about it 30 years later?

Pauline Yoder, 7th grade social studies - On the first day of 7th grade, Miss Yoder introduced herself to us. She was looking down at her planner, and she said, "Today's agenda---" and then she looked up at us and asked "Does anyone here know what 'agenda' means?" None of us knew, so she explained to us what an "agenda" is. Everyday for the rest of the year, she started class with that same phrase: "Today's agenda consists of...." We would even try to anticipate when she would say it and try to say it with her. This, of course, had nothing to do with social studies, but she saw an opportunity to teach us something, and she took it. The word "agenda" still makes me think of Miss Yoder.

Ann Williams, 9th grade U.S. history - She picked five students from our class, and I was one of them. She assigned each of us a U.S. history topic, and we were to teach it to the class as Mrs. Williams observed. I was assigned the task of teaching about President Andrew Johnson's presidency and his subsequent impeachment. I worked hard to prepare myself, and I thought it went well. Later that same day, I passed Mrs. Williams in the stairwell. She stopped me and hugged me, telling me that I had done a wonderful job and that I would make an excellent teacher. That moment meant the world to me, and it helped to boost my self-confidence which was lagging a little bit at that time.

Martin Eaddy, principal of my junior high school - One day, I was walking across the blacktop at school, and I noticed a piece of trash on the ground. I stopped, picked it up, and I placed it in a trashcan. I continued on my way to class when I noticed Mr. Eaddy bursting through a doorway and flagging me down. He approached me, smiling, and he thanked me for helping to keep our school clean. He was watching me through his office window, and he stopped what he was doing just to come and thank me for picking up the piece of trash. He stressed to me that I was an integral part of our school community. For a moment, Mr. Eaddy made me feel like a honkin' big fish in a little pond.

Chris Hoffman, high school tennis coach - Coach Hoffman and I had a great relationship. He seemed to truly like me as a person. His opinion of me was very important in my eyes. During my final year of high school, there was a day on which seniors didn't have to report to school because the other students were undergoing some standardized testing. I decided that I would blow off tennis practice, too. It was my day off, right? I wanted to go to the lake with some friends.

The next day, we had a scheduled home match against a very tough opponent. I reported to the courts at the end of the school day in order to warm up and get a little bit of practice in. Coach Hoffman was already there, and he had a basket of tennis balls. He was practicing his serve, and he was slapping the hell out of those balls. He was obviously angry about something. He wouldn't look at me or acknowledge that I was there. He returned my greeting with an indifferent grunt. When I asked why he was so upset, he stopped what he was doing, and he glared at me. He pointed at me with his tennis racket and said sternly, "If we weren't playing South Iredell today, and if this team didn't need you so badly, your butt would be on the bench today. You blow off practice one more time, and I'll bench you anyway." He was angry at the poor example I had set, and rightfully so. I was a senior, the captain, and the number one seed. I should have been at that practice. The rest of the team was there, and my absence was glaring. I immediately "got" what he was saying, and I apologized to him and the rest of the team. After a few days, things between Coach and me were right again. I'll never forget how devastated I felt when I realized that he was disappointed in me. But I learned a little something about leadership and responsibility.

There are other teachers whom I've loved and have meant something to me. This list is not all-inclusive. But the teachers described above have shaped me as an adult. These are memories that I carry around with me everyday. I wish I knew where they were today so that I could find them and tell them.