Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A 6:00 a.m. conversation

For some inexplicable reason, my 19 year-old daughter and I were instant messaging about housework this morning. The conversation began when there was a delay in her response to me regarding another topic.
"Don't worry," I told her. "I was doing the dishes anyway."
"I wish," I continued, "that I could be obsessed with housework. As it is, I am simply depressed by the state of my house."
"Why worry, Momma?" Lora asked. "No one sees the house anyway."
No one sees my house? Is she kidding? Twice in the past few weeks I have come home after school to find Lora and her sorority sisters lounging in my living room. Her roommate actually came to my house for a shower on Saturday. She told me herself just a few days ago that during rush interviews she told potential pledges that when her sorority sisters are homesick for their pets, she brings them to my house for puppy and kitten time. Did she forget all this?

Actually I am quite happy that Lora brings friends over, but there are some caveats. For one thing, it would be nice is Lora and her roommate actually ran a sweeper once or twice before bringing strangers in my house. After all, two of the cats that shed on my carpet are theirs. Secondly, it would be nice if they did not leave their personal effects and garbage in the living room after the visit. Finally a call to let me know they are bringing company by would be greatly appreciated.

I don't think actually being obsessed about housework would be a good thing, but I don't think hiding in my room to escape the mess in healthy, either. Somewhere there must be a happy medium.

Last week, when Dan was New Castle, I was quite productive, even after school. I straightened the living room and ran the sweeper, changed the litter box (twice), took out the trash, cleaned my bedroom and kept up with the few dishes that needed attention. I even had time for naps. Why is it when people are in my house that I can't get anything done?

I think the answer simply is that people talk to me. Apparently, conversation is exhausting, leaving me with no energy to expend on housework. Add to this the fact that additional humans in the house cause the need for additional housework, and one can see how a virtual tidal wave of dirt and mess would accumulate.

I sincerely believe my options for dealing with this situation are limited. One, I could force myself to clean each night. Two, I could make Lora clean the house before and after she has guests. Three, I could simply not worry about it. Four, I can retreat to my room and ignore the entire situation.

Looks like number four is a winner to me!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

When I'd rather be running

For the third consecutive day I am sitting in the Bridgeport Conference Center. It's not that I mind being here. I have enjoyed meeting with my colleagues and sharing ideas. I have learned how to navigate Google tools, fine tune my blogs, and construct a wiki using wiki syntax.
But I can't stand sitting here. There is not enough happening! The problems we have experienced with the Internet connection has made it impossible for us to multitask as we would like. Some of my cohorts feel the same. They are bouncing on their chairs, talking when they should be listening. In short we are being poor students.
As for me, I imagine myself running around the exterior of the Conference Center, taking in the beautiful late suumer sunshine. In my mind I am energized, refreshed. My legs are strong, my lungs robust as I stride practically weightless in the fragrant fall air.
Back here in the real world in the interior of the conference center, my butt is getting sore from sitting. At least my mind is free to run when my body is constricted.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sunday Night Reflection

"Suzie, I'm disappointed in you," my dad said. It was one of the rare times he said something like that to me. "Football is my favorite sport, and you don't like it at all."
He was right. When I was an adolescent and a teenager, football did not appeal to me at all. I don't know why I didn't like football. Perhaps it was because I didn't play it.
More than likely it was because football controlled the airwaves during my childhood's Sunday afternoons in the very months that the weather was not conducive for my going outside to play. On these Sundays the television would be turned on to a game around noon and would not be turned off until it was time for The Wonderful World of Disney at 7:00 that evening. Even though my dad slept through most of the games, my brother and I had to be quiet, because Daddy was watching the game. The minute one of us would touch the dial the snoring would stop and Daddy would bellow, "I was watching that!"
Football season lasted forever.
Now, of course, football season flies by. I listen to weekly radio broadcasts of either of our hometown high school football games. Saturdays (and sometimes Thursdays) belong to the WV Mountaineers. And today, a Sunday, I found myself watching the end of the Ravens game, thinking that I should watch more pro ball.
What would my dad think of this? Most likely he would think that I came to football too late, now that we can't watch it together. What do I think?
"To everything there is a season," of course.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Some of the Items I Read This Summer

Summer is not, of course, officially over, but with school now in it's third week of our new year, it feels like fall has already arrived. Today, for the first time this season, it was actually chilly in the morning. To be truthful, the bite in the air was refreshing. Still, I think of the summer now lost and my accomplishments over the past few months.

This year I achieved my summer resolution ~ to rest. I had not been feeling well at the end of the school year, and I vowed that I was going to spend the greater part of my summer lying on my bed or my glider with my feet up. An added benefit of all the time I spent on my backside is that I read a lot of books and caught up on months of backlogged periodicals. Here is a report of what I read.

The Higher Power of Lucky. This title was the recipient of the 2007 John Newbery Medal. The story begins with so much promise: twelve year-old Lucky she is employed to clean up after the many twelve steps meetings that are held in a local restaurant. As she waits for the meetings to adjourn she eavesdrops on the members as they tell their stories of downfall and redemption by a higher power. Lucky, a motherless child being cared for by her father’s French ex-wife, desperately wants to find her Higher Power. In my opinion the characters in this book were never fully developed, and the resolution was way too easy. I was disappointed when I finished reading this story. If I were to recommend this book to any age group, it would be for fourth and fifth graders.

So Totally Emily Ebers. I liked this book. I totally understood Emily, a twelve year-old girl whose mother divorces her father and forces Emily to move to a new community across the country. She is sad, angry, hurt, and yet hopeful that her old house will not be sold and her parents will realize their mistake and reconcile. Ultimately she will be disappointed but will come to accept this fact of life. Her mother decides she and Emily should be friends and asks to be called by her first name. Emily is totally embarrassed by her non-mother- like, hippie mother, and she is enraged when her mother makes her join a volleyball league. Joining the team brings Emily in contact with two new friends and with the cool, trendy kids she would like to befriend. Throughout the course of the story, Emily learns a lot about love, friendship, and that people are not always what they seem. I recommend this book for fifth grade and up.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I read this book twice. The first time through I read it for the purpose of finding out what happened to Harry and his friends. I read the book the second time to get a deeper appreciation of the writing and plot development. I remain in awe of J.K. Rowling’s genius. I will not write a spoiler here, but I will say that this book is not for a child who has not followed the series from The Sorcerer’s Stone through The Half-Blood Prince. This is not, as a stand-alone work, a children’s book. It is a worthy, satisfying read. I would highly recommend it for those who have read the first six books. But I am sure you have already read it anyway!

The White Man’s Burden - This was probably the second most thought-provoking book I read this summer. William Easterly's premise is that the West donates billions of dollars each year to developing countries around the world, but those donations have limited impact on the lives of the intended recipients. The main problem, Easterly contends, is that the West tends to superimpose its ideals of what the Rest needs rather than involve intended recipients in determining need.

Full Frontal Feminism - Many of today's young women are shying away from identifying themselves as feminist. The author of this book contends that many of these same young women are indeed invested in feminist ideals, such as equality of sexes or access to birth control, but refuse the label because of the negative conotations of the word. My own daughter, who is perhaps the most vocal woman I know when it comes to issues of fairness and equality, rejects the feminist label. The author contends women should proudly label themselves as feminists and enjoy all it stands for.

The Mysterious Benedict Society - Many bright children assembled to take a series of challenging tests but only four children were chosen to be members of the ultrasecret Benedict Society. Strangely, all four of the children have no adults in their lives. Remy and Constance are orphans; Kate's mother is dead, and her father deserted her when she was two; Sticky is a runaway. Together these four have been chosen to overthrow an evil mastermind who plans to take over the world.

Freakonomics - According to this book's premise, economics can explain almost everything. A major focus of this short book is how incentives affect human behavior. I found this book insightful in several ways. One scenario I found interesting was that in Egypt, a day care center began fining parents who arrived late to pick up their children. The outcome? More parents became tardy. The presence of a fine system gave parents permission to pick their children up late, since they would pay for it. Other interesting case studies include an economist who spent several years observing gang/drug dealer behavior. I would recommend this book for someone seeking a layman's introduction to incentives.

Rules - Catherine is trying hard to be a normal kid with a normal life, even though she has much responsibility for her younger, autistic brother. To help her brother cope, Catherine makes rules to help him in various situations. A gifted artist, she makes pictures for the word book of a nonverbal parapelegic boy she has befriended. Little does she realize she will learn as much from him as he will from her.
This was a 2006 Newbery Honor Book. I liked it so much better the Higher Power of Lucky. The characters were much more fully drawn and believable. This book is on the 2007-2008 West Virginia Book Award list. I highly recommend it.

Perfectly Plum: An Unauthorized Celebration of the Life, Loves and Other Disasters of Stephanie Plum, Trenton Bounty Hunter - For fans of Janet Evanovich's fiesty heroine, this collection of essays was just enough to tide us over until the release of Lean, Mean Thirteen. A hot topic of debate is whether Stephanie would be better off with Joe or Ranger. Another realistic writer discusses the likelihood of her actually obtaining auto insurance, and a particularly thoughtful writer suggests that Lula could have a career as a self-help guru. I would recommend this.

Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War – This was by far my favorite read of the summer. It is not, necessarily, about deer hunting or religion but is about the ironic circumstances that bring members of the downtrodden working poor to believe that they are middle class. Author Joe Bageant returns to his hometown of Winchester, VA to find that his neighbors have lost ground economically since he grew up in the late 60s. He documents how the working poor tend to tirelessly support the government and economic institutions that have in fact kept them poor. He decries the predatory lending practices of mobile and modular home financing that makes it difficult, if not impossible, for anyone to gain real wealth through home ownership. The writing is humorous as well as insightful.

Lean, Mean Thirteen - Janet Evanovich returns to top form with the latest installment of the Stephanie Plum series. Things haven't changed much for Steph. She still has difficulty apprehending the most innocuous skips, but fortunately she still has Joe, Ranger and Lula watching her back. Unfortunately she is a suspect in her ex-husband's disappearance. Things with Steph are never boring!

Incantation - Fifteen year-old Estrella is proud of her family but is confused when she begins to realize how different some of her families customs are from her neighbors. Set during the Spanish Inquisition, Estrella, whose given name is really Esther, watches in fear and disbelief as her family one by one is taken into custody and burned at the stake for being Jews. Who can she trust to help her get to safety? Alice Hoffman's first person narrative takes us step-by-step as Estrella's eyes are opened to the truth about her family, her community and herself.

The Weather Makers - Australian Tim Flannery explains in lay language how climate change has affected the earth and why the current warming cycle is different from previous cycles. Among the topics discussed are carbon footprints, the coal industry, the Kyoto Accord, and the ability for large cities to create their own weather. The information in this book has made me think seriously about ways I can reduce my carbon footprint, and I do understand global warming much better than before reading this book. One caveat: it tends to be repetitive and is not what I would consider a page-turner. Still, I think we have a responsibility to learn as much as we can about our impact on the environment, and this book does fill that need.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Waiting on Word

I am sitting in Mon General's ICU waiting room, waiting on word of my brother's condition. I have not seen him since he was brought up from the ER about an hour ago. This, I realize, is not a long period of time.
Logically, I know John needs to sleep. He was brought to the hospital this morning when a coworker, calling to see why he wasn't at work, was alarmed by his state of confusion and called the ambulance. When the ambulance arrived the paramedics found John's blood sugar levels were over 630, resulting in confusion and difficulty breathing. My mom woke up to see her son being transported away by ambulance. She was scarred, because she had never seen John look that bad before.
I have seen him look worse. Two years ago when he was in the ER I literally thought he was dying. His skin was mottled, and his breathing was ragged. I didn't think he was going to make it, but he pulled through. Today I raced to the hospital and was relieved at what I saw.
This must be very hard on my mom, waiting at home for information. Here in the waiting room I am surrounded by whole family groups anguishing over the fate of their loved ones. I sit alone, knowing that support is a phone call away. But of course I know we all have business to go about, and sitting here will do John no good.
But I continue to sit here in the event that there is something I can do, that if John needs help, someone will be here. I'm not helping him, but I'm here.
I suppose that's something.

I may have seen John look worse, but in fact I don't think he's been worse. Previously when he was DKA, he would respond and be able to talk around 1:00. It's now 4:10, and I still have not elicited more than gutteral responses. He is sleeping soundly now, with somewhat regular respiration. The blood gases are slowly going up, and the blood sugar is slowly going down. I think he is only vaguely aware that I am here and in fact may not be horribly cognizant that he is in the Intensive Care Unit. His blood sugar is down to 365 now. He continues to sleep through the draws.
Christina called and said she would stay with Grandma tonight after work. When I called Mom she said she was still shaking, so naturally I was concerned.
I think I have exhausted all my available interest in web resources. Now that I have aggregators set up, I no longer spend hours searching for information; it all appears at my fingertips My eyes are getting tired of looking at this screen, and my butt is tired of sitting in this chair, but every so often John wakes up and asks to be swabbed with water. That I can oblige.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

How democratic can you get?

I love the idea of blogging. Even if no one reads it but me, I feel like I am contributing somehow to the world at large. I set up this blog for the purpose of an online class, but since school began I have been posting regularly to my blog on the state blog site. (The name of that blog is Let's Ponder. You need an access.k12 account to be able to comment on this site, but anyone is welcome to read my posts - and occasionally my rants!). My goal is to try to post every day in support of my eportfolio for the TIS_LM program. I know I'll slip up, but I thought it would be helpful to have an accurate record of my year in terms of technology integration.
I have just began to read blogs on a recreational basis. One of my favorite bloggers is Joe Bageant. I recently read his book, Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War. Though I don't agree in total with all of his political leanings, I think he makes an excellent point that many people identify as middle class when in fact they are struggling to survive. (Note: the book is not necessarily about deer hunting or religion; it describes how culture and sense of class has changed in the author's hometown, and how the people of this community tend to support politically those who tend to suppress a better standard of living.)
Blogs open a new world of thought to the masses. Not everyone agrees that it is a positive thing. A recent guest on the Stephen Colbert show, Andrew Keen certainly disagrees. His book, the Cult of the Amateur, makes the case that the Internet is destroying culture and putting legitimate artists out of work because "everyone is stealing." His interview can be seen at The Colbert Report's official website. I'm sure he makes some valid points, though based upon this interview, I find myself disagreeing with him. To be fair I should read his book.
I like the idea that the common man has a powerful medium to express his thoughts. With the conglomeration of media and the ratings hypes we must be skeptical of even the traditional media. Even venerable publications are editing their texts to make them more marketable in conservative areas. And lets face it, we need more balanced, analytical reporting and fewer sound bites.
I hope you'll check in often, and I hope you will comment on what I have to say. The more ideas we share in the world, the better off we will all be.