Monday, September 29, 2008

Is This True?

I am a member of a home school blog site. It is comprised of all races, backgrounds, economic levels etc. Long story short, these two ladies had a disagreement over politics in one of the forums. Now we all know that any political debate has the opportunity to develop into a heated argument, but they were pretty self controlled for the most part. This is the lady is white and she was voting for McCain. The other lady is black and she is voting for Obama. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion....but this is what I found interesting. The white lady said something about moral character being important in a candidate. This of course got them going about Obama and the whole Pastor Wright thing. This is the part I find interesting. The black lady said, " I agree with A LOT of what Pastor Wright said, and you just don't understand because you are not African American."
Hmmm.........I wonder how many black people feel that way? That whites just "don't get it". I think that his crass words and obvious hatred are not okay....especially, by a man who calls himself a pastor. I guess that fellow home school mom was right. I just don't get it.

Moose Hunting and Dog Fighting

I had a very interesting experience at Walmart this afternoon. I was being checked out by a very friendly cashier. She happened to be an older black woman. I mention her race only because I feel it is pertinent to the story. As she is ringing up my groceries a middle age black man comes over and starts chatting with her...he was also an employee of Walmart. He was laughing and asked her if she had watched Chris Rock? No. She had which he says something about Rock being on Larry King recently. He told this woman about how Chris Rock had said something to the effect of there are pictures of Sarah Palin hunting moose and everyone thinks that is so cool. She can hunt moose, but Michael Vick gets in trouble for fighting dogs? How's that fair?! The man said he wants to see that show---and isn't that the truth? And isn't that funny? The cashier woman was laughing and agreeing with him.
I just stood there and decided to hold my tongue. Now am I missing something or what? I didn't think that was funny at all. Last time I checked it was legal to get a hunting license and HUNT. To kill a moose and then EAT it, there is nothing wrong with that. BUT I don't know anywhere where dog fighting is LEGAL. Where is the humor in putting dogs in a arena where they are forced to fight, become injured, sometimes to the death? And this is supposed to be for grown adults enjoyment??? Quite frankly, I don't even see the comparison and don't see any humor in comparing the two VERY DIFFERENT things. Anyone who can't see the difference between hunting animals for food, and animal abuse for entertainment is ignorant. That is just all there is too it.
Do other people find this concerning? Now, I am no PETA person (in my opinion they are way over the line) but this whole conversation seemed so wrong to me. It was almost as if, because of the tone of the conversation, that they believed that it had something to do with a white woman hunting vs. a black man dog fighting. I don't see it as a race thing at all......I see it as a right vs. wrong. Period.

Sin Is Real...And It Exists In Us All

I'm listening to the news right now and the conversation is about the financial crisis. Now, they are discussing the global economy. Banks all over the world are in a panic. Ugh. I really think the media is TRYING to scare everyone. They make it sound as if we are headed back to the Great Depression. Now, we are having this Bail Out Bill. I just don't know how I feel about it. It is very aggravating that we the people have to bail out the fat cats on Wall Street. The one guy made 90 MILLION last year. How is this possible? How did that guy sleep at night? Power. Greed. No Conscience. Money itself is not evil, but the love of it sure is. Obviously. The whole thing just seems very unfair. Where is the justice in having to work real hard to have a decent, financially secure life---and then have to turn around to bail out people who made such a HUGE mess? It's just wrong. Who is going to make sure this doesn't happen again? How can we change peoples hearts? That is the real issue at hand.
I'm leaving my money where it is right now....but it is scary. The world we live in is such a mess.....and really it is a mess not because of politics, or banking thieves, or even murderous dictators around the world that we hear about on an almost daily basis. The world is a mess because of something much deeper. Peoples hearts. People's sinful nature. Most people don't want to hear that. It hits too close to home. Our self righteous nature wants to kick in and say, "not me. I would never do that!" Looking in the mirror can be the most difficult thing that one can do....
I'm currently reading a book entitled THE LAZARUS PROJECT by John Bayer. It's a really good book for many different reasons but there is one thing in particular that I want to share. There is one chapter where a demon (yes, you heard me right) talks about how humans are so naive about the unseen world around them....."It struck him as absurd that most humans thought of his kind as ugly, misshapen, deformed creatures, capable only of existence in the deepest regions of darkness. That simple belief accounted for more souls in the lower regions than almost any other strategy. Humans expected sin to be hideous, repulsive in the extreme. But that was not the case. Sin could be, and was attractive, enchanting, even captivating, at least on the surface. It was not until one got to the root causes of sin that the realization of its depravity came to light, and when exposed to the light, since could be seen for what it was. But few people wanted that exposure. And few today understood the degradation of sin. Most spoke of self-gratification, individual rights, and the belief that God existed to grant whatever wish a true believer requested."

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Blustery Day

Remember the Pooh story about a very blustery day? Well, the 100 Acre Wood must have been in Logan County, Ohio. Scott and I were out at the site for most of the day. The day was overcast and windy. Good grief was it windy!! That is one thing about the place we picked to call home.....we will have plenty of wind.
Tomorrow I leave with two out of the three kids to go back to Tennessee. The oldest child is staying with Scott. They will have some time together. They will probably drive each other nuts, but isn't that part of the parent child relationship? haha. The younger two have soccer so they are going with me. I promise when I get back to Tennessee that I will post some good, long blogs. Like I said the other day it's hard to blog in a sardine can.....This is not to mention that this trip we have had more living things in this apartment then just the five of us. We caught a mouse in the kitchen this morning. Yesterday I was in the kitchen and found "evidence" of a furry friend. Hmmm.....the chillier weather is bringing critters inside. This totally grossed me out. Out went the glue traps. My younger son greeted me this morning with we got him! Yuck. Sure, I like animals....just not in the kitchen....and not little gray ones that squeak. Then my oldest son killed a spider on the TV stand this evening. It's body was the size of a dime, I'd say. You know how I feel about spiders. Not my favorite. Not even close. I told him to squish it. He wanted to trap it under plastic and "study" it. Uh, no. Kill it. Kill it now. I have to sleep tonight and I don't want to think about that thing running loose around here. ( Oh, don't even say it. Don't tell me there are probably about 10 others running around the apt. that I don't see. Just don't even say it. )
I've got the creepy crawlies now.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

No, I Haven't Dropped Off The Face Of The Earth

When I'm in Ohio it is sometimes more difficult to blog...I don't have my optimum blogging power. It's difficult to blog when I'm either crammed into Scott's apt. like a sardine or on the rural roads of Ohio where both cell phone reception and wireless internet are practically nonexistent.
We were over at the property yesterday checking out what had been done. Scott was excitedly showing me the plumbing tubing and all that stuff. It is exciting, but to me it just looks like a bunch of insulated tubing. I am a very visual's hard for me to see tubing and think this is where the kitchen sink will be or this is where the master bath toilet will be. He probably thinks he married a dumb bunny when I just stare at him and smile (and shake my head--like I have a clue as to how this foundation, gravel and tubing is going to miraculously come together as a beautiful house in the near future:)
I have to admit, I was pretty excited to stand at what will be the front door and stare down our driveway. I tried to visualize pulling up to our house and turning into the driveway...... Of course, the llama across the street stared back at me. I was probably making him paranoid with all my staring. He probably is wondering what all this hub bub is about.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

On The Road Again

Just a quick note to let everyone know that we are on our way back up to Ohio today. We will be packing the van this morning. Lots of boxes. Good many boxes. I wish I could be like a genie and just blink and it would all be packed and moved. Man, that would be great.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Part Five--Where I'm At Now

This is the last of my five part series on my years working in special education.
After marrying Scott, I worked for another 1.5 years before resigning from my position at Norwood to come home and teach our own kids. With homeschooling I still get to teach, just teach my own kids. No, none of them have special needs....well, I shouldn't say that. They all have special needs---just nothing as severe as what I was used to when teaching in the public school. They have normal teenager special needs. ha!
I still get a lot of questions from people about "special needs" issues. I still read a lot about the latest information on special needs, and hope to be an advocate whenever possible. I hope that I will still be able to help students and parents in an advocacy type of way. I have sat on the school side of the table, and after 17 years I pretty much know how the system works. Now, I'd like to be of some assistance to the parents.
I really don't know how all this will work out, but I'm leaving my options open.
Maybe when we make our move to Ohio, I will be able to help home schooling parents who have children with special needs. Maybe there is a need for that. Maybe I can help. I don't think I'm done yet. I still believe there is work to be done, goals to be met and children to advocate for....

Friday, September 19, 2008

Part Four---The Last Decade

By the time I started at Norwood Elementary I had seven years of experience under my belt. I had taught in rural America, the suburbs and the inner city. I was bringing with me a plethora of things that I had learned along the way. At this school I met my new assistant, who would go on to become one of my very dearest friends, both inside school and out. The two of us were known as the "dynamic duo" around school and kids from other classroooms would often get our names confused...unsure of who was who.
Years later I would be talking with my assistant and she confessed that when she first saw me walk into school she was unsure about me. She thought I looked "too nice"....but I changed her mind when she saw how I took care of business and nipped any problems in the bud. (Hey, I'd just come from the inner city...this school was piece of cake comparatively speaking!)
At this school I had the opportunity to have after school math/science class with the general ed. kids. I got to teach students how to balance checkbooks, track weather patterns, understand severe weather, grow our own plants, learn about graphs, and figure out how much money they would need to spend a day at the ballpark. It was fun! The kids really enjoyed their time with me and I with them. We ended the year with a big, blowout luau party to celebrate our successes. Life is good when you are wearing flip flops and drinking your Kool-aid from a glass with a little umbrella in it:)
After teaching at Norwood for three years my son was turning five. He was able to come with me to school and attend kindergarten there. That was one of the great perks about being a teacher. It was a happy time knowing that my son was just down the hall. Little did I know what was just around the corner for us. Just how strong we would need to be..... On November 4th of my son's first year in school his daddy died. My husband was only 34 when he died from a heart condition. I will never forget standing next to the casket talking with people who had come to give their condolences, when the door to the room opened and my fellow school teachers came walking in. They must have decided on a time to meet, because they just kept coming. One after the other....there must have been fifty teachers. I was so touched. Kendrick's kindergarten teacher gave him a teddy bear, that was just what a sad five year old needed. We still have that bear to this day....a memory of another's kindness.
Over my ten years at Norwood I learned what it is to have to control my emotions at meetings with parents. My anger threatened to boil over at a mother who took drugs and drank during her pregnancy and then had the gall to accuse the school of not doing enough for her child! I cried along with a student who suddenly lost her grandmother around the same time that I lost my husband. Her pain broke my heart.I learned that no matter how much I'd like for it to be, many children go home to emptiness. Not all children have balanced meals at home, some don't even have clean clothes or toys to play with. I could make school good and safe for them while they were with me, but I couldn't change their circumstance once they left.
I remember the pride I felt when my students were able to overcome the odds and be successful at school. I felt like a proud parent when general ed. teachers would come to me and tell me what a good year one of my kiddos was having. I remember a decade of happy faces at Norwood. No, not every day was perfect or even good for that matter, I had frustrations too, but overall it was good.
As the years went on, I began to be trained about autism. I started to get more and more autistic students and even though I was at first unsure of how to relate to these children, I soon found out just how fascinating they could be. I began to be intrigued with this diagnosis and still am to this day.
One of my sweet autistic students had a fixation with flipping light switches on and off. This was the year that my classroom was like a disco. Every time I turned around the lights were flashing on and off. It's a good thing that none of my students were prone to seizures because all this light flashing would have surely done it! I went to all the light switches up and down the hallway and put messages next to the switches. "Only adults touch light switches. Do not touch!" My student was beyond frustrated with this situation. He could read so he knew he shouldn't touch the switch, but oh how he wanted too! Some days were better then others---and one always knew what kind of day it was according to whether you were standing in a dark hallway or not:)
From this school I will remember friendships, fun, meetings, paperwork, struggles, successes, challenges, and most of all learning....about life.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Part Three---The Hard Years

After having taught at Oneida for 2 years, I got married and moved to Knoxville. I taught for three years at a large elementary school just across the county line. It was at this school that I learned about school politics. Not my favorite subject I can assure you. I learned that what is best for administration is not always in the best interest of the students. Frustrating.
"Red Tape" aside, I had a good time at this school. I had a wonderful teaching assistant who also became a dear friend. I could have never made it without her.
I taught one year of resource, with kids that had learning disabilitities, one year with a small group of boys that had emotional/behavioral problems and my last year with a class of more severe disabilities.
It was my last year that was the most fun. I had a little, second grade girl in my class that made the year interesting! She had cri-du-chat syndrome which is French for "cry of the cat." (due to the infant's high pitched crying resembling that of a cat) This is a syndrome that is due to a chromosomal abnormality. L.B. liked to lick everything in sight. That included you if you happened to be in her way:) My assistant and I spent a lot of time cloroxing the room down each day after school. L.B. was fascinated by my pregnancy that year. She would touch my ever growing belly as if she knew something good was going to be happening. Her mom would tell me that she went home at night talking about Mrs. Satterfield having a baby "in there". I'll never forget the day in May that L.B's mom came to me and asked if she and L.B. could visit me in the hospital when I had my son. She wanted her daughter to see that indeed a baby was the end result. I said, "sure", and so good to her word, here came mom and L.B. You could see the awe in L.B's face when she saw my baby. It was precious. It still makes me smile to think about it. Last night I was thinking about her. She is 20 or 21 years old now. I wonder how she is?
The next Fall I started teaching at an inner city school in Knox County. (where I lived). The two years at this school were the hardest for me. I was challenged physically, mentally and emotionally. There were days when I didn't know if I'd make it out alive. No, that is not an exaggeration. Little known to me when I accepted this particular position, that I would step into a world totally alien to anything I had ever experienced before. I had been hired to work with a group of nine of the most street smart, emotionally disturbed, and physically aggressive boys that you might run across...especially for an elementary school. I was trained in therapeutic physical restraint, crisis intervention, problem solving, and had the added assistance of mental health counselors (for the kids,not for me....though some days I could have used it). I should have known how this was going to go down when my first student sauntered through the classroom door. He was all of six years old, but tough as nails. (In the following story I do not wish to offend anyone with the language, but I think it is necessary in order to tell the full story. It is shocking to hear these words...and I'm sure it will shock many as you can imagine how I felt when I got it yelled at me.) "Little" John greeted me with, "HELL no! You a white bitch. Hell no! No muther fuckin' white bitch is gonna be my teacher." Well, and hello to you too.....and thus the school year began. I started out with a female assistant who left just a few months later when one of "our boys" hit her in the back of the head with a large book. It knocked her to her knees and caused her to see stars. She informed me that she felt bad, but that she didn't need this and was quitting. Entered Dale. A tough man who was a huge help to me. We became quick friends. I actually liked Little John even though I never knew what the day would hold with him. One day he informed me that as soon as my back was turned he was going to break a window, get some glass and cut me. Friendly little guy, huh? It could get scary, but even more then that, it was sad. I worked hard to teach these boys their academics, but each day was peppered with restraints (for their own safety and those of their classmates) and crisis management.
I vividly remember one day when a mother came bursting through the door near the beginning of school. She did not know me yet screamed, "White bitch! You not to touch my son. I will fuckin' beat yo ass. You hear me?" She was nose to nose with me, spit flying, and I just knew she'd hit me...I was tearing up because I was so thrown off guard by this verbal assault. After this I vowed no one would ever see me cry again. I would learn to be tough....I had to be. It was all about respect. Oddly enough, this same mother requested to go on one of our class' field trips shortly thereafter. This class had to go on "adventure" trips where we had to work as a team. It forced the kids to confront their fears and at times it was stressful. The trip she went on was when we went caving. We were about a mile underground with our guide. He told us not to touch the walls due to black widows...we only had his flashlight and the lights on our helmets. I'm claustrophobic anyway AND I'm terrified of spiders so I was dealing with my OWN issues on this particular trip.We got to one section of the cave that was so narrow that you had to put your arms out in front of you, slide on your belly and pray you didn't get stuck. Half way through this narrow tunnel I started to panic. Really panic. I just knew I was going to die in this hole, and for what? Then I heard that mom's voice. "Go, Mrs. S. Go. Just do it!" I managed to get through the hole and then it was her turn. She was scared and it was my chance to encourage her. She stopped half way through. Near paralyzed with fear, yelling, "My ass is as big as a football field. I can't get through." I kept yelling at her to move. Just move. She did and from then on we were friends. No kidding. Just goes to show that nothing is impossible. Our next trip was obstacle courses and zip lines. Once again I'm beyond nervous. I am on a platform all the way in the top of a VERY tall tree. I am harnessed onto a zip line and told to jump. My heart was about to beat out of my chest. The instructor told me to just close my eyes and jump. My students were like little ants down there on the ground watching their brave (crazy?) teacher being the first to go. I stepped off the platform and went flying through the woods like Tarzan. Only I didn't yell like Tarzan it was more like a blood curdling scream of imminent death. Thankfully, I made it and lived to tell the story.
This time brings back memories of threats on my life and restraining orders, being bitten by a student and having to endure a series of hep shots because of it, physical restraints that I just knew if the child got loose he'd kill me, police escorts, chasing an escaped student through the neighborhood, a drug dealer that ran through our school cafeteria and holed up in the office, refusing to come out because if he did the guy on the street would kill him. I also have sadness from this time over the senseless loss of one of the school's kindergarten students. She was in sitting in her front yard when she was hit by a stray bullet. A drive by that took the life of a sweet little girl. At this school drive bys were not uncommon. Other schools have fire drills. We had drive by drills. Children learned when they heard a whistle to get down on the ground. One day one of my students came in totally exhausted. I asked why he was so tired and he told me that his mom wouldn't let him sleep in his bed last night. I was indignant and made a mental note to call this mom to "discuss" this with her......until I heard the rest of the story. There had been drive bys in the public housing all through the night. The walls are thin in these houses and the safest place this mother could think of to protect her son was for him to sleep in the bathtub. She didn't pull him out of his bed because of neglect, but out of love.
So, you might wonder if I came away with anything after teaching at this school for two years. I did. I learned that many times people act certain ways out of fear of the unknown. Change can be scary...and that everyone needs help sometimes.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Part Two ----The Early Years of Teaching

Yesterday I talked about the people and activities that got me involved with special education. Today I'm going to tell you about my early years in teaching.
I graduated from Carson-Newman College in Tennessee a week before my 22nd birthday. Four years of hard work had come to an end. Now, I just needed a job:) I packed up my dorm room and moved back to my home state of Maryland. I had every intention of going back there to live. I was filling out applications, going on interviews with school systems, while also working full time at the group homes that I mentioned in my last post. One afternoon I received a call from a former professor. He told me about a job opening in a small town in the mountains of east Tennessee. I flew back down to interview with this school system and was given the job on the spot. The special ed. supervisor gave me a quick tour of the town and took me to the only apartment complex in the area. This was to be my new home. Within two weeks I had gone back up to Maryland, retrieved all my earthly possessions and moved into my new apartment in Oneida, Tennessee.
Now, Oneida in the early 90's was a small town set back in the mountains. I sort of felt like the main character in the story of Christy as I began my new teaching adventure. I was barely 22 years old, and green as they come. I WAS the special education teacher for grades K-6. I had many teaching assistants to help me with all the kids for which I was so grateful. Looking back, I have to say I couldn't have picked a better school to get started in. The people I worked with were some of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet. Some of the 6th grade students I had that first year are now 30 years old! I officially feel old.
The kids of Oneida Elementary taught me more in the two years that I was there then I ever taught them. One sweet boy comes to mind. He was in 6th grade at the time. His family was very poor, and I believe day to day living was a struggle for them...but this child was always friendly, respectful and a hard worker. One day he was late to school and we had things to do so I was irritated when he finally showed up an hour late. I sternly told him that he needed to be at school on time, self righteously believing I was teaching him the importance of punctuality. I'll never forget this young man looking almost eye level to me as he said, "Miss Webb, I'm really sorry for being late. The wall of our house fell in last night and I had to help my Daddy wrap plastic around so the weather would stay out. I didn't sleep much." I wished I could have taken my stupid words back...instead I hugged Daniel and I apologized for not understanding. Having grown up with everything I needed I was absolutely naive to how some people lived. I learned a valuable lesson that day.
Another day I had to have some paperwork signed and couldn't get the parents to come to the school to sign. My special ed. supervisor and I went to the home of this particular student and knocked at the door. The father opened the door and after hearing what we needed, invited us in. Animals were in the house....and I don't mean just cats and dogs. I mean various small farm animals. I was taking this all in as I gingerly sat down on the couch (making sure to glance down before taking a seat). The father proceeded to tell us about his prize fighters. I wasn't really following along, until he mentioned his fighting roosters....and then I got it. Cock fighting. (Which by the way is illegal in Tennessee!) He told us not to worry about that, he crossed the state line into Kentucky on Saturday nights for the fights. My, oh my, was I learning life lessons about people.
Oneida was a small town. REALLY small. When I first moved there I was seen as an "outsider". People were not unkind, but I knew they were watching me---after all they considered me "a yank". I never realized how small the town was until one day I was getting a prescription at the pharmacy when one of my students literally popped up from behind the counter and scared me half to death! He was hanging out with his aunt (the pharmacist) until his mom got off work. (the sisters were identical twins which threw me for a loop for a moment)
Another time I was at dinner with a male friend. There was only one sit down country restaurant in town and it was connected to the local motel. (same owners) The next day at school one of my female 5th grade students demanded to know what I was doing at the motel last night?! Good grief. I explained I was JUST at DINNER and then went home, and why am I explaining myself to a ten year old????
Then there was the time one of my 5th grade students showed up at my apartment doorstep. It was 8:30 in the evening, getting dark outside when I heard my doorbell ring. It was Jason. Our conversation went something like this. "Hey, Miss Webb." "Hey, Jason. What are you doing here?" " Well, I was looking for your place." "Why?" " I dunno" "Hmm....well you found me." "You ready for bed?" "Yes. (as I stood there in my pink pajama set and slippers) did you find my apartment?" "Cause, I'm smart that's how. I figured you lived at the apartments. I looked for your car and found it parked in the parking lot. It was on this side of the apartment building so I started knocking on doors and ringing doorbells. I figured you'd answer eventually." "Interesting. Good deduction. Now it's getting dark and we have school tomorrow. Do your parents know you are out?" "Uh....I dunno." "I want you to ride your bike home. NOW. Promise?" " Okay. See ya tomorrow." " Bye, Jason."
My life in small town U.S.A consisted of joining a bowling league for entertainment, having an act in the school's local talent show, attending the high school basketball games, and going to the local Walmart. Everyone went to Walmart for entertainment....after all that's where one met up with everyone to chat. One day when I was there on my regular shopping trip, minding my own business, I was sidelined by one of my students. I hit the floor like a sack of wet concrete. I felt arms around my neck and realized it was Luke. He had escaped his parents grip, saw his teacher down the aisle and galloped at me like he was going for the win at the Kentucky Derby. Hey, if I had seen him coming I would have steadied myself for the assault...but alas, I was caught off guard and was not very graceful as I hit the floor. Luke's parents were very apologetic as they helped me up. Luke on the other hand didn't seem to mind that he nearly gave his teacher a concussion. Next time, I decided I might just wear a helmet when doing my shopping.
My first two years of teaching were fun. I remember lots of smiling faces, lessons, paper and glue, arts and crafts, the Halloween costume parade, sharing the gym and cafeteria with the middle and high school, talent shows, and friendships. Like I said earlier I couldn't have picked a better place to live and work as a new teacher.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Part One---My Memoirs From My Special Education Years

I have decided to use my blog to do a 5 part series on my years as a special education teacher. You will have a window into why I chose to teach, the people I met along the way, and the memories that will last a lifetime.
Special education was a part of my life even before I realized it was a part. I grew up with my aunt who was born in the 1930's. She was born with mental retardation. At a time when many mentally retarded children were put into institutions my grandmother chose to keep her daughter home with her. As a young child I knew Mabel was different, but she was still fun and interesting. Who else had a candy stash in their closet, and had such an awesome key chain collection? It was interesting to me as I got older that she could tell you things, and remember in detail events that had happened when she was a child.
My family had a friend at church that had a little girl who was born with a rare chromosomal disorder that caused mental retardation. My sister babysat for them a lot. She was like an assistant to this young mother. As a teen I also helped this same lady teach a special needs class at our church.
I babysat for a neighbor of ours that had a son with CF. (cystic fibrosis) I remember showing up early for my babysitting jobs and being instructed on how to give this little boy his enzyme medication in applesauce so that he would eat it. I remember watching his parents give him therapy before they left for their evening out. They would pound on his back trying to dislodge the mucus that was robbing his lungs of air. I remember how unfair that all be a child plagued by a disease that would eventually take his very life.
It was when I was a teen that my desire to do something for this particular population bloomed. At sixteen I volunteered as a hugger at the Special was then that I made my decision. I was going to be a special education teacher...I was going to make a positive difference in the lives of children. I was young and naive, but I had the desire and the drive to begin the journey.
At seventeen I took a summer job as an assistant camp counselor with the camps sponsored by our local Association of Retarded Citizens (ARC). Boy was this an eye opening experience! This was a "social" camp for MR adults (ages 18-70's)......and boy were they social. I remember one night towards the end of camp was the BIG dance. The ladies wanted help getting "prettied up" for the men that would be at the dance. Wasn't it a hoot that at 17 I was helping ladies the age of my mom or grandmother get ready for their big night out! Older bodies but with the minds of young teens. We teased hair, we put on hot red lipstick, and pranced into the dining hall like we were the best thing to hit this camp since whenever. I remember the fun of watching them have fun. One man was in a wheelchair and stayed on the sidelines.....I asked him if he'd like to dance? He said, "sure" with a big smile on his face. I wheeled him out and spun him around like we were trying out for the Rockettes. He clapped and laughed. He was having fun--and so was I. I had such a good time as counselor that I came back each summer for the next five years.
Along with camps, I also became a house counselor during the summers at some local group homes. When I say that I've pretty much seen it all I'm not kidding. I got into an argument with a young woman when I vacuumed under her bed and she had no more dust bunnies under there. She was so mad at me. She told me she collected them! And further more I had ruined her collection. In the same house was Helen, at the time in her early 70's. She was having a temper tantrum because the senior center bus was late and she thought they had forgotten her. I told her to stand next to the front door and wait. She was not patient and threw herself to the floor in a toddler tantrum. I came running into the room from the kitchen to see this woman flailing around on the floor. I said, "Helen, for goodness sake get up!! I don't want you to break a hip." This went on for about 5 minutes...when we heard a honk. The bus had arrived. Helen jumped up, brushed herself off, fluffed her hair, grabbed her handbag and waved as she went out the door. So there you go. Shaking my head I retreated back to the kitchen to finish making eggs for breakfast.
In another home was Gregg. He was 40 years old and severely, profoundly retarded. I think that working with Gregg is when I truly learned how to serve others. (His mom was elderly and could no longer care for him though she visited him often) Gregg was in a wheelchair. Gregg couldn't feed himself, couldn't bathe himself, couldn't talk. I recall wondering what kind of life Gregg had....what he thought about, how he felt, if he ever felt sad about his lot in life........then it occurred to me. Maybe God had allowed Gregg to live NOT for what he could give to others, but for the opportunity for others to give to him. There was no hidden agenda with Gregg. He had to trust that you'd take care of him. There is something very profound in that.
One of the funniest memories I have is of Phillip. Phillip was small, skinny and wrinkled. He was the ripe young age of 78. Not a tooth in his mouth and only a minimal amount of hair on his head. But what a hoot! I vividly remember this---I was once again fixing breakfast (seems like all the funny stories happened around that time). I was 21 at the time, home from college for the summer, and working at Phillips group home. Back then I was a cute, young blonde. Phillip was a big flirt. This particular morning he joined us for breakfast in the outfit that the good Lord gave him. He had on nothing but a big smile and an open robe. I had my back to him, fixing some bacon in the frying pan. When I turned around my mouth hung open and I was in shock.
Even though I was only 21 my "mom voice" took over. "PHILLIP!!! You get your rear end back in that bedroom and put some clothes on. You better not come back out here until you are covered up. That is NOT allowed, now get moving!!!" He sheepishly made his way back to his room. The rest of us sat silently at the table mulling over the morning's course of events, eating our eggs and bacon....until I burst out laughing. It really was funny. I couldn't help but laugh. Leave it to the playboy of the house.
I could go on and on with the stories. Life can be hilarious. Lessons are learned. Strength is gained.
Tomorrow I'll talk about my first years of teaching.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Ear Piercing Scream

I'm currently sitting on my bed with my lap top, well, on my lap. I've had a LONG day. You know the kind....the kind that nothing goes according to plan. The kind that seem to go on forever.......I think a good scream would make me feel better. I better not do that though, because I might give my kids a heart attack. Either that or they might think I've finally gone off the deep end. Yes, I got up this morning to make my breakfast and ended up with some of it on me. Butter fingers. School was in the tank today. The kids and I felt like we were stuck in quicksand. Today I was sitting at the kitchen table I saw my sons mouth moving, knew he was saying something, but it just wasn't computing. Repeat, please? No, I have not had a brain hemmorage or anything. Just me, what can I say? This evening I was having some coffee and managed to spill it all down the front of my nice blouse. Lovely. See what I mean?
I am going to go to bed, will pull the covers over my head and hope that tomorrow will be a better day.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Pass Out At The Pump

I had on the downside of a half a tank of gas in my car....but I wanted a full tank because I have a full week coming up and as all us moms know.....WE are the chaeuffers of the family! So anyway, after the kid's soccer game today I stopped at the gas station. $5.00 for a gallon of gas!!!!! (the station across the way was $5.07) After I picked myself up from the pavement and dusted myself off, I looked again. The price had not changed. The neon green light at the pump seemed to mock me. It seemed to say, " if you want the privilege of driving then fork over the bucks lady!" What a rip off! Yes, I know that Hurricane Ike has wreaked havoc on the gulf. I realize that the pipelines for the southeast come from the gulf. Still! My Camry can probably hold around 20 gallons. Who has $100 for gas? It's just miserable. Our van has a bigger tank then that. Good grief! I hope this gets fixed (or whatever) so that the gas shipments (?) can get here. Several gas stations in Knoxville have put plastic bags over their pumps so people won't use them. They are already out of fuel. Another shipment was supposed to come on Tuesday, now it will be Thursday. People will panic--make a run on the gas, and then there really will be no gas. Either that or you'll have to sell your firstborn just to get a few drops for your car to get from point A to point B.
I think Star Trek was onto something. We all need to get one of those machines that transports one from here to there WITHOUT gas!!!!!!!! Where is Captain Kirk when we need him?????

Friday, September 12, 2008

Panic at the Pump

Good grief! I woke up this morning and did my reading of the local paper online, like I do every morning. The big story is that between Gustav and Ike the oil refineries on the Gulf coast are not able to function and supply the south east like they normally would. There are several gas stations in Knoxville that have run out of gas and won't get another shipment (hopefully) until Sept.17. People are lining up at the pumps and they are in a panic. One woman said last night she was in a line of 20 cars, another had to wait 20 minutes just to get to the pump.... One guy said the price will sky rocket because of this. I haven't been to the gas station so I don't know, but I'm not going to panic. Won't do any good to panic anyway. If I am unable to get gas I guess I'll just be staying at home.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


I've been watching the tributes to those that lost their lives on September 11, 2001. It hardly seems like it has been 7 years.......
I was two hours into my school day that fateful Tuesday morning. I'll never forget that one of our third grade teachers stuck her head in my classroom door telling me a plane had hit a building in New York. Since I didn't have my classroom TV on, and didn't want to interrupt my students, leaving my kids with my assistant I went to the office to see on the small office TV what was going on. Just as I got there the principal said, "the Pentagon has just been hit!" I stared at the TV stunned by the news reports. What was going on? Were we at war? I was confused with everything that was happening. My mind was numb and I couldn't get my mind around what was going on. I went back to my classroom in a daze and told my teaching assistant what I'd seen. We were in disbelief.
We did end up turning the TV on and off throughout the day. I couldn't take my eyes off the horrible replays of the planes crashing into the World Trade Center. One of my dear special students looked at me and said, "let's pray". Yes, I taught in a public school but that day it did not matter. She requested and we prayed. Her sweet young voice reaching up to her Heavenly Father...." Dear God help those people." I cried.
This was a mere 10 months since I had lost my husband. Our school librarian had recently died from cancer. My favorite race car driver had died in February of that year. My husband's aunt had died a month earlier. Now this catastrophic, life changing incident. I was numb....both for the people that had lost their lives on 9/11 as well as their families....I knew all to well what it felt like.
There are a lot of emotions and memories tied up in the tragedy that occurred on that day so many years ago....probably because of where I was in my own life at that time.
So sad. So tragic. So unforgettable. Yet, from the ashes of that day come the equally unforgettable acts of courage, the strong will to go on, the fierce determination that this would not be allowed to happen again. Average Americans died that day---but they are not forgotten, nor will they ever be. The memory of that fateful day is forever stamped on the hearts of America.
Not everyone agrees with George Bush or is pleased with all his decisions, but I believe that he will go down in history as a President who kept us safe on his watch. He has been vigilant so that we have not had another terror attack on our own soil......and for that I say a heart felt thank you.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Country Living ---Autumn Style

I just received my October issue of Country Living magazine. I just had to share a great article that they had included in this issue. The editors of the magazine realize that "country" is a state of mind. So they decided to ask their readers, "what do you think of when you hear the words country living"? The answers were interesting and I enjoyed reading them. As I sat down at the kitchen table sipping my coffee I found myself wholeheartedly agreeing with the people who embodied what country spirit really is......
"It's about having the freedom to embrace life at your own pace."
"The chance to spend an afternoon on the front porch, relaxing on the hammock."
"It's where you go for peace and quiet."
"Fireflies, swimming holes, and leisurely Sunday suppers."
"Country living is a big,beautiful barn on the outskirts of town."
"A roaring fire, a comfortable chair, and a good book." ( My personal favorite!)
"Finding happiness in life's simple pleasures."
"It is about putting down roots and being part of a community."
"Serving fresh eggs my kids just gathered from our chicken coop with a stack of buttermilk pancakes."
"Wide open spaces and the scent of freshly mowed grass."
"Rumbling down a dirt road in an old pickup truck in my favorite vintage dress."
"Sitting in my kitchen with a friend, drinking coffee and talking, neither of us realizing the whole morning has passed."
"Giving thanks for the bounty of nature."
"Working in the garden, dirt under my nails, with the sun on my face."
"Country living mean honoring family traditions, celebrating the seasons, and having the good sense to appreciate the gifts we've been given.
These heart warming sentiments came from the down home folks all across our great land. From Oregon to New York, Ohio to Arizona, and New Jersey to Minnesota.

What do YOU think of when you think of country living? I'll start..........
Country to me is no city lights to disturb the beauty of the night sky. Country is making friends with new people, but already feeling like you've known them forever. Country is land and space to enjoy. Country is community.

Drill Here Drill Now

Country singer Aaron Tippin has a new song out entitled Drill Here Drill Now. I like it. Leave it to a country singer to pen a song that speaks to the heart of America.
Take a minute to visit his site and listen to an excerpt from his song.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

So That's Where It Has Been!

You all know I've been packing the house. Well, my bedroom is becoming something of a treasure trove. I'm finding everything I ever lost.... the earring that I dropped and it "disappeared"...under the table at the end of the bed. The stationery I haven't seen in the very back of the armoire. The devotional book that I just "know I put it somewhere". Uh huh...behind another book on the shelf. Good grief! Just call me "squirrel girl". I have more stuff stuck away in nooks and crannies all over the bedroom then I know what to do with. Living in this house is like living through an old 70's episode of Sanford and Son. Remember the dad and son that lived in the junkyard? Well, I'm just saying..... I very well could pass out back in my bedroom from breathing in all the dust (yes people, I DO dust, but it always comes back!) and I dare say my kids might not be able to find me back there under all the boxes. Well, I guess they'd eventually hunt for me when they got hungry enough.....maybe they'd see my feet sticking out from underneath the avalanche of boxes and they'd take pity on their dear mom....or maybe they'd just go fix themselves their own peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Abortion---Murder or Convenience. What say you?

I was doing my regular early morning trolling of the internet and decided to check out Michelle Malkin's page. (I really like her!) She had an interesting blog for this morning....on a statement Biden made about when he feels life begins.
Now, I believe life does begin at conception. Yet, women (and men for that matter) do have a choice. The thing is the choice is BEFORE conception. The choice is whether or not to have sex. As Rush said, "Abstinence WORKS 100% of the time!" There are also many types of birth control that women (and men!) can use. The truth is the REAL choice is made ahead of time. BEFORE a pregnancy occurs. In my opinion once a pregnancy occurs there is no choice. A baby is growing...not just a bunch of cells.
I could go on about this but I won't....but I do want you to read Michelle's short blog.

Slick Joe Biden admits: Yes, I’m a cold-blooded murderer
By Michelle Malkin • September 8, 2008 08:00 AM

Joe Biden gave us another notable moment this weekend on Meet The Press when he came the closest a high-ranking Democrat has come to admitting his advocacy of cold-blooded murder. Guess he didn’t want to get stuck like Pelosi, with Catholic officials breathing down her stiff neck:

Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee for vice president, departed Sunday from party doctrine on abortion rights, declaring that as a Catholic, he believes life begins at conception.

While Mr. Biden’s views may not be new to Democrats in his circle, his comments, in an interview on “Meet the Press” on NBC, came at a time when his party is confronted with a new face: Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, whose anti-abortion stance and decision to give birth just five months ago to a baby with Down syndrome have revved up the conservative base of her party.

In the interview Sunday, Mr. Biden tried to walk the line between the staunch abortion-rights advocates in his party and his own religious beliefs. While he said he did not often talk about his faith, he said of those who disagree with him: “They believe in their faith and they believe in human life, and they have differing views as to when life — I’m prepared as a matter of faith to accept that life begins at the moment of conception.”

And so, I wonder, is he also prepared to accept his culpability in perpetuating the mass destruction of millions of those unborn lives that began at the moment of conception?

Interesting, huh? I guess Biden is above Obama's "pay grade" because he actually said life begins at conception. Just something to think about.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Truth Is Sometimes Ugly...

I found this article interesting. Even though there are many issues that I disagree with the Dems on I have to say I can really hear what the female writer of this article is saying. I am not a fan of Hillary Clinton, but I do think she got a raw deal from her own party. There are evidently A LOT of females who were Hillary supporters that are disgusted with the treatment they are getting from the Democratic party. This article is from Real Democrats USA.


In a stunning announcement today that is a game changer for the 2008 Presidential election, Sen. John McCain chose Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his Vice Presidential choice. Wow. Bold, risky and brilliant. Congratulations Gov. Palin. Well done, Sen. McCain. Gov. Palin acknowledged both Geraldine Ferraro, the 1984 Democratic nominee for Vice President and Hillary Clinton in her speech. Smart move and well deserved acknowledgement.

Geraldine Ferraro said today that in the 24 years since her historic run for the Vice Presidency, today was the first time she's been publicly acknowledged. Wow. The DNC should take a lesson in respecting the female candidates of their OWN party for a change. The DNC and other elected officials stood silent while Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Clinton were relentlessly and unfairly attacked by the Obama campaign and the media during the course of the 2008 primary debacle. Hillary Clinton deserved respect and equal opportunity in 2008 from the DNC. She received neither and they must be held accountable for this failure.

As a young woman in 1984, as an enthusiastic volunteer for Mondale/Ferraro, I proudly stood on the sidestage of a campaign event witnessing Geraldine Ferraro make history. I never could have imagined it would take another 24 years to see another woman given this opportunity again and that it would NOT be my Democratic party.

The Obama campaign missed the opportunity today to acknowledge the significance of a female on a national ticket, instead choosing to snipe at Gov. Palin's small town background. That clip won't play well in the very areas the DNC needs to win over. Obama and Biden chose to engage in sexist "hard ice cream" guffaws on their bus trip stop today. They really DON't get it. They are NOT funny. Later in the day nearly 6 hours AFTER the McCain VP announcement, Obama and Biden called to congratulate Palin. Too little, too late as usual.

The DNC has missed the opportunity to finally break through the hard glass ceiling by failing to nominate the incredible Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton who should have been the first woman on a national ticket to achieve success. But, alas, sexism rules in 2008 within the Democratic party. Their failure to put action into the words they have mouthed for decades to women and men that they stood for women and equal opportunity will go down in history as the greatest missed opportunity imaginable.

Not only did the Democratic party fail to nominate the strongest, most qualified and & most electable candidate they had in Hillary Clinton, they failed to put her on the ticket at all. Nonsensical. Hillary received more than 18 million votes compared to 8 for Sen. Joe Biden and HE gets the VP spot? Hillary received more votes than ANY candidate of ANY party in history and does not get a spot on the ticket?

If this first major decision by the Democratic nominee Barack Obama is any indication of his character and judgment, the Democrats are in trouble. They have nominated the wrong candidate(s). Obama is neither qualified or electable. The very undemocratic DNC convention and process was a farce. No amount of media promotion and rock star stadium events can change the fact that Barack Obama is unqualified to be President of the United States.

Sen. McCain and the GOP deserve kudos for a masterful stroke today. Women have been told we don't matter in the Democratic party this year (even though WE are the majority voting block of the party) and to sit down, shut up and get in line behind in Obama. Women have been the majority voting block of the Democratic party for decades under the illusion that the party stood for women. We were very wrong. Women decide all elections and this one will be no different. Women will likely respond to this likable woman from Alaska who's got more executive experience than Obama and Biden combined.

It's time to hold the DNC accountable for the 2008 campaign debacle. Missed opportunities, indeed.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

A Good Day

With all the craziness that is in the world.....sometimes it is nice to just get in your PJ's and fuzzy slippers, your old comfy robe and sip on a mug of hot chocolate. You know what I mean? Sometimes it is nice to just sit back and feel good about your life. Be thankful. The news is on at my house nearly 24/7. I consider myself fairly politically savvy. I can carry on a meaningful discussion about current events, and have been through my own personal trials in life. Things in this world aren't always perfect. Let's face it, most of the world is a mess! Yet, I have so much to be thankful for and I truly feel blessed. Sometimes I get in a thoughtful mood. Do I look like a supermodel? No. But I have pretty blond hair and a smile that I get lots of comments about. Is my husband Brad Pitt or Donald Trump? No. But he is a handsome guy and he makes a good living, and what's even better-- he loves me and is committed to our marriage and family. My kids aren't perfect, but they are good kids. I am proud of them. I have family that loves me...imperfections and all.
I have a house (and a new one on the way), plenty of food to eat, and money in the bank. Even more important then the physical things I have are the things one can't see---things that can only be felt with the heart.
My life is good and I am deeply grateful for all I have been blessed with.
Well, I'm going to go get that hot chocolate I was talking about.....and settle in for the night. My heart is full and my cup runneth over, and no I don't mean with hot chocolate.

Friday, September 5, 2008


Hello. My name is Dawn and I am addicted. Addicted to Arizona Diet Green Tea. There I said it. I've confessed. I feel so much better. I was completely miffed when I went to Walmart this morning and they were out of my big jug of the stuff. Evidently, I am not the only addicted one running around!! I had to buy the smaller bottles, which are more expensive then the big jug, but a woman's gotta do what a woman's gotta do! It's 100% natural tea. It also has ginseng in it. I don't know a lot about isn't something that, I'm going to find out later will have adverse effects on me, is it? I'm not going to grow an extra limb or furry eyelids or some such thing??? I don't want to be a poster child ( oh,okay already! A middle age woman) for green tea addiction. It would be totally embarrassing and really ruin people's perception of me. Well, now that I've confessed to the entire blog-o-sphere I feel so much better.....confession is good for the soul. Now, if you'll excuse me I need to go get some fresh ice for my tea.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Political Speeches

I stayed up last night to watch Sarah Palin's speech. I was also able to catch Rudy Giuliani's speech. I thought both of the speeches were great. I liked how Palin confronted the things that have been said about her with poise and confidence. I like that she is "real" and that the average person can relate to her. Of course because of that very thing, the media is going wild. Some put "a spin" on last night's speech saying she was "too smug". For crying out loud! I think she is strong and confident and that just eats them up. So what! As long as she continues to speak the truth and keeps her focus, I believe she will be just fine and will weather the liberal media storm.
While I'm at it, I want to share something that really had me angry. I was listening to the radio the other day and the talk show host quoted a female democrat as saying, "only uneducated women would be interested in Sarah Palin....that truly educated women understand that Obama is the real change they need." Give me a break. I deeply resent that sentiment. How dare some liberally biased female tell me that I am uneducated because I don't believe in abortion, I am a Christian and am not afraid to discuss God or church, that I am a mom, and am happily married. Conservative DOES NOT equal dumb. I better stop there.....
As a former special education teacher I can tell you that my heart was touched last night when Mrs. Palin mentioned all the parents of special needs children and how they (because of their children) have tirelessly attempted to bring change to the world. That they need to know that she understands and that she will be an advocate for them in Washington. I am sure that didn't go over well with a lot of the left. Many of them believe that she should have never had her son once she found out that he was going to have Downs......what a contrast when she said last night that she had given birth in April to "a perfect little boy".
It makes me want to run out right now and buy a SARAH BARRACUDA '08 t-shirt.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

County Fair

Last night we went to the Hardin county fair. It was a lot of fun. Scott, Breanna and I headed over to the animal barns to check out the "guests" there. The boys took off on their own to see the sights.
I have to say I was amazed at how huge the beef cows are. Goodness gracious, can I hear a MOO?! Of course as we are walking through the barn I'm getting a little nervous because the cows were facing us, rear end out. I told Breanna (who was walking in front of me) "If I see any tails going up, I might run you over to get out of the way!" Also I was shocked at how noisy the pigs are. One pig was irritated that he couldn't get under the fenced- in closure and he was letting everyone know about it! I expected some more high pitched squealing but, instead got very low grunts. Oh, the sheep were being sheared. They seemed to like it. Can I just say in my personal opinion, that I think sheep look a little crazy. Seriously. Maybe it's that their eyes are set so far apart. They just look wild and crazy to me. I hope the sheep don't take offense at my opinion of them......
After checking out all the (stinky but fun) animals, I decided it was time for a soft icecream cone. The ice cream was delicious and COLD. This was great considering the temperature showed 93 degrees.
Scott and I people watched on the bench while Breanna rode the rides. I told her I couldn't get on the spinning rides---not unless she wanted me to throw up. We decided against that so I benched it. haha. The boys checked in--and were off again. They played some games and Kendrick won something by throwing rings. All in all a good evening was had by all.