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Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Friday, January 31, 2014

Lets Ketchup And Mustard!

This is how I felt when I was sick! 
I missed another couple of days on my blog, didn't I? I had the misfortune of getting a bad sinus infection. The annoying part was, the schools I sub for were closed on Monday and Tuesday due to the cold. I didn't work last Friday, so I had Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, off. On Wednesday I was supposed to start a three day long subbing job that the school had specifically asked me to do, instead of putting it out to the general subbing population for anyone to pick up. I was really nervous and excited about it, but mostly excited. It was for a special education class at the school where I used to student teach. I knew I would be in my element there and it would be a good chance for me to really teach, not just try to survive a day in a classroom. 

I had been having wicked allergies all weekend. But I was grateful that I was otherwise healthy, not getting the flu or anything. Allergies are manageable. Meanwhile, on Facebook, my cousin's fiance was also posting about her own allergies, which eventually turned into a sinus infection. It was almost like foreshadowing. I saw that and thought, "Oh yeah, that's right... this could actually turn into a sinus infection!" And low and behold, by Tuesday afternoon I sure did have a sinus infection! I could tell because, instead of the itchiness and sneeziness of normal allergies, my nose was now completely clogged and my face was painful. I thought I'd take some extra vitamins, go to bed early, and wake up fine... but I was up all night, unable to sleep because I couldn't breathe and my nose and face was so painful. I got up and went to my subbing job anyway. But I could barely handle it. I spent the whole time sneezing and snorting and blowing my nose. I cannot take any sort of medication during the day, because it will make me sleepy... even products that claim to help you stay awake, like Dayquil. I did go to Walgreens on my lunch hour and get some Sudafed, but that didn't help. I was a hot mess. I could hardly pay attention to the kids. Luckily, the two classroom aides helped out a lot. I felt really stupid being a substitute who shows up too sick to work!

So on Thursday I decided to stay home, even though I felt horrible about cancelling the job I'd agreed to. I spent the whole day sleeping and drinking orange juice. Today I went back and I handled the day like a pro... and the secretary asked me to come back and sub all five days next week! 

I guess I'd better rest up this weekend!

My sinus infection was the reason why you didn't hear from me on Wednesday or Thursday. That was the whole point of the whole twenty paragraphs above.

In other news... I am still doing research on the history of my house! But I have managed to squeeze every possible ounce of information from the Internet, so I have moved on to other sources. I wrote letters to several of the people who lived in this house previously. All of the actual owners of the house are deceased, of course... considering they were all of house-buying ages by 1943... but their children are still alive, all in their 70's and 80's. I wrote to them, asking them if they had any memories about the house, the neighborhood, etc. I'm also waiting for it to get a little warmer out so I can walk to the historical society and look in the old phone books (the years I couldn't find online, which are the particular ones I need) to see if someone is listed with our address. I have some specific names I'll look up first, but if that doesn't work, I will actually read the entire phone book. (Easier than it sounds... the phone book was only about ten pages long back then!) 

OK... that is all the amusing news I have for now! 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Twisted Mix Tape Tuesday... Cheer Up!

What time is it everybody? Time for Twisted Mix Tape Tuesday! Today, the topic is, a mix tape that you would give to a friend when you're trying to cheer her up. I scratched my head and dug deep into my iPod and came up with these!

I discovered this one while playing some sort of dancing game with my little cousins on their Wii. When I saw the title, "Lollipop," I thought it would be, you know, "Lollipop, lollipop, ooh lolli-lollipop!" Well, this is a different "Lollipop," but just as catchy... you can't help but dance to it! And the video is sure to cheer you up, as well!



This song always reminds me of when I was in AmeriCorps and I worked at a day care center for children in foster care. One of my favorite kids was a preschooler named Jeramiah. He loved this song, and we even let him call the radio station and request it! My mom hates this song, but I love it. Sing along, everyone... you know the words!



I've always known this next song, but I never really paid attention to it until I heard it in the soundtrack of the movie "Crooklyn." I was in high school and life was melodramatic. When things were going poorly for me, I'd play this song and try to convince myself that things were going to get easier! When I listen to this song, I really do feel like a good friend is putting their arms around my shoulders and reassuring me that everything will be okay.


Well, we have to have some Grateful Dead in the mix, don't we? This next song is another one I listened to a lot in high school... it told me that I would survive!



And finally... this last song is one that I dedicated to one of my dogs, Trixie, when I first got her... I made a slideshow of pictures of her, with this song playing in the background. But you could dedicate it to any good friend, letting them know that you will always be there for them.

So there you have it... my Twisted Mix Tape to cheer up a friend! Do you feel cheered up yet?



Monday, January 27, 2014

Ghosts Of A Town

This family did not live in my house. But
they lived SOMEWHERE, in 1939...
was it YOUR house?
Some of you may have realized that I have been missing from the Blogosphere for a few days. Where was I? No where special... just in my own brain! You see, sometimes when I get a new special interest, it is very difficult for me to do anything else. I can spend days pursuing my special interest, barely stopping to eat or sleep! Especially on days like this past weekend, where it was too cold to do much of anything anyways. 

So what is my new special interest?

My parents' house, the house I grew up in beginning when I was seven years old, was built in 1931. It is a Sears Modern Home. For those of you who don't know what that is, back in the 1900's through the 1940's, and maybe beyond, you could actually order a house from Sears. They had a special catalog just for houses. I'm not exactly sure how it worked, except that the house came in a "kit," with all of the pieces numbered. People who had a little experience with building things... and in those days, most men did... just had to assemble it as instructed. Our house was built in 1930, and was one of the first houses in our neighborhood. 

Growing up in this old house, I was always sure it was haunted. Weird and crazy things were always happening. The most memorable thing that happened was one day when my brother and I were playing in my room. My closet door was opened, and my Punky Brewster high tops were on the floor in there. Sudden;y we heard a noise from the closet. We both turned to look, and we saw one of the shoes tap. Clearly move up and down by itself. We were both frozen, staring. And then it happened again! The shoe tapped by itself! (No, there wasn't a frog inside. No, it wasn't just being bumped from the house shaking as a train went by. No, there wasn't an earthquake.)

Bro and I screamed and went tearing down the stairs, bawling. (We were only 7 and 5!) Terrified, we managed to convey to our parents what had happened. After taking a look around in the room and making sure there wasn't really a frog or a mouse in my shoe, my parents told us that we had imagined it. Actually, they told us specifically that I had imagined it... they were always trying to tell me I imagined stuff... and that somehow I had gotten my brother caught up in my hysteria. But my brother and I always knew what we had seen. Even now, if you ask my brother, he will confirm that the shoe really did tap, and we both saw it. 

My parents didn't talk about it, but they were seeing ghostly things happen too. Lights turned on and off by themselves. Things fell. Once, a radio in the attic turned on by itself. Once, a jewelry box in my mom's room, which had been broken for years, suddenly started to play. The curtains had an odd habit of jumping off the curtain rod for no reason. 

All this continued throughout my growing up years, and on until recently. Now, my mom talks openly about the ghost and will tell anyone who visits that we have a ghost among us. (And yes, she totally believes that the shoe tapped by itself when I was a kid. But, as she says, "What were we supposed to do? Tell our children that there was a ghost in their bedroom?" Clearly, telling your daughter that she is completely insane is a better choice.) 

Recently, after the kitchen curtains fell off the rod yet again when nobody was in the room, I decided to start doing some research to find out the stories of the families who had lived here before us.

And really, that is what has been consuming every minute of my life for the past few days. 

Using my free trial of a Newspapers.com account, the census records on Ancestry.com, some digitally preserved telephone directories on idaillinois,org, and good old Google, I've found some very interesting things. 

My parents bought the house from a couple who had purchased it in 1943. Those people said they had purchased it from the original owners. I still cannot figure out if this is true. I've learned that at least three different families lived in the house, before 1943. I think maybe the original owner was renting it out, though.

I still haven't managed to figure out who lived here from 1930 to 1936. But I know that, from 1936 to 1939, the chief of the town fire department, and his wife and two children, lived here. The son was a teenager at the time, who was also a budding architect, and he actually designed some of the houses in the area. (Besides being the chief of the fire department, the father also co-owned the town's major lumber business, which he had taken over for his father, who had taken it over from his father-in-law, who was one of the first settlers in the historic town.) After the son grew up, he became a volunteer fire fighter. In 1946, he was riding in a fire engine on the way to a fire, when they were hit by a train. This was before crossing gates were installed. Both the driver, and the guy from my house, died. (I even found out that, to this day, the town still has a memorial ceremony for the two fire fighters, every year!)

I don't think that guy is necessarily the one haunting our house, because he died 7 years after his family moved out. But the family who moved in in 1939 has another story. This was a young family with three little boys... actually, I think the youngest was born while the family lived in the house. They lived there from 1939 to 1943. At this point, the father went off to war... he was in the navy. I think the mother and children moved to an apartment a few streets over. In 1945, the father's ship was blown up in the Pacific Ocean. For a few months, he was considered MIA, but eventually was declared dead and considered Buried At Sea, meaning his body was still somewhere in the ocean. Could he be the one haunting our house? Although his family moved out two years before he died, this was the house in which he spent four years raising his children. His spirit could have been trying to go home and be with them again. 

But there is another prospect, as well. Of the families that did move onto my street in 1930, the year that the house was built, one of them was a husband and wife with two small children. One day in 1932 the father went out to work on his car in the garage, which was detached from the house. After several hours, the wife wondered why he'd been out so long, and went to check on him. She found him dead. He'd been working on the car with the garage door closed, and the fumes had overtaken him. Could he be the one haunting our house? I can't figure out his exact address... I only know that he did have a house, on our street, and there were only about five houses on the street at the time. 

As I've been perusing old newspapers and reading the stories of these families, I've gotten a little obsessed! It feels like watching a TV show! At night, when I went to bed, I found myself feeling a little homesick for the town as it was in the 1930's. Back then, everyone knew each other. The newspaper published things like, "Mrs. Jones has been ill this week, but is somewhat recovered at the time of this writing," and "The Smith family has returned from their vacation in Wisconsin, where Mr. Smith says he spent much of the time fishing, but did not bring any fish home for us," or "Little Billy Thomson had his tonsils out this week. His mother has been staying at the hospital with him.." 

I wish I could belong in a small community like that, where everyone knows everyone! I am sure it wasn't as idealistic as they make it seem. People were probably focused a lot on appearances, and creating the illusion that life was wonderful all the time. But still, wouldn't it be fun to live in a place where people cared about each other, and neighbors ate dinner at each other's houses all the time, and if you were sick people came and checked in on you? 

Maybe I was born in the wrong decade! 





Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Check In. Check Out.

Oh my gosh I had a rough day today! 

I substituted for a full day in a bilingual class of first and second graders. 

Does anyone know what Check In Check Out is? If you work in a school, or have children that go to a school that uses this, you probably know what it is. For the rest of you, a brief tutorial. 

You may know what Response To Intervention is? Basically it is a system where they will identify children who may eventually be referred to special education for their learning needs... but before they can get referred, they have to not respond to intervention. So they will get extra help in reading, math, or both... whichever one they are having difficulty with. If they improve quickly with help, and catch up to the other kids, RTI is successful. If they don't, they get  more help. If they don't respond to that, they get even more help. If they're still not improving, then maybe they have a learning disability and need special education. 

Check In Check Out (I don't know it's official name but the kids call it that) is similar, except for behavioral needs. They identify children who have a lot of emotional or behavioral issues in school. Each kid gets a "mentor," which can be any staff member in the school... other teachers, teacher's aides, music teacher, etc... any one who is not a teacher or aide in that child's actual classroom. When the child gets to school, he "checks in" right away with his mentor, basically to start the day out seeing a friendly person and getting some on-on-one encouragement. Then, every forty minutes or so, the child "checks in" with his classroom teacher to get feedback on his behavior... the teacher circles a smiley, straight, or sad face on the child's sheet. Before lunch, the child goes and "checks in" with his mentor to talk about how his day is going and get some extra feedback and encouragement. And at the end of the day, he "checks out" with the mentor to talk about how the day went. I think it is a cool idea because, for kids who are struggling with their behavior, having someone in the school who is not directly in charge of you in your classroom to give you encouragement and feedback throughout the day, cannot be a bad thing. I never worked in a school that used this, but I did some observations in schools that used it, back when I was still in college. The schools were just starting to learn about it at that time. Most classrooms will have at least one, and maybe two or three, kids who do Check In Check Out. 

The classroom I worked in today had thirteen Check In Check Out kids! More than half of the kids in the class! (And about half of the other ten probably could have used it.) 

This isn't to say they were bad kids at all... they were all very sweet in their own ways. But it shows that, in general, they do not put a lot of value in respecting adults. And they didn't do anything bad at all... they were just noisy and chaotic. For example, in most of the classrooms where I've subbed so far, although they are always a little noisy, there are usually certain things that will quiet them down, like doing a particular activity, or saying a certain phrase ("One two three, eyes on me!" seems popular.) These kids... they just kept going and going and going! They got very little work done because they were always talking, and they took four and a  half hours to transition to any new activity. My voice grew hoarse, not from yelling, but just from trying to give directions and imploring them to be quiet! 

(Does anyone know how to say "quiet down" in Spanish? I always thought it was "Callate," but then someone told me that actually means more like "Shut up," so I didn't want to chance using it!) 

All this wouldn't have bothered me a whole lot... I wouldn't have taken it personally. Except that the actual teacher was not really absent. She was in a different room, testing kids, and she was in and out all day. So each time she would come in, see the chaos, and yell at the kids in Spanish... oh yeah because there was the pesky language barrier as well... and I'd just be standing there, feeling awkward and embarrassed. 

You can tell how stressed out I was by the fact that, this morning I was wearing blue sparkly nail polish,  and by the end of the school day, I had peeled most of it off! 

So, yeah. Probably won't accept a job in that particular classroom again! 

In a completely different awkward moment, at lunch in the teachers' lounge, some staff members (I assume teachers but maybe aides too) were talking, and the topic of a certain adoption agency came up. One teacher was talking about how she had been adopted from there. Another teacher said that this agency had "ripped off" her neighbors. She explained that the neighbors had arranged to adopt a baby, and had paid for the adoption to occur, but at the very last minute... the would-be parents were already in the car with the car seat installed, on the way to the hospital...  the birth mother had changed her mind. And supposedly the adoption agency had kept all of the fees associated with the adoption for that individual child, even though said child didn't end up being adopted. If the family wanted to try adopting another child, they would have to start all over with coming up with the fees. 

So then another staff member (an older woman) piped up, "They (the adoption agency) ripped off some friends of mine too!" She went on, "If you adopt a black child, you're supposed to pay half price. Well, my friends adopted a black baby. And the agency billed them for the full price! Of course, by then, my friends didn't want to return the baby, so they had to pay the full price!" 

All of the other staff members started choking on their food and giving the staff member "WTF" looks. But the staff member went on, "And he was a really black baby! As black as can be!" 

I swear, this is pretty much verbatim. From a staff member at a school. I am pretty sure she was an actual teacher, even. 

And with that, I am going to "check out" and go take a nap. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Say Hello To My "Tribe!"

Now that my blog is 9 months old, I've been trying to do more to gain more readers and "meet" other bloggers in the world. Well, not the world, exactly. The Internet. So I joined the SITS Girls Tribe Building Challenge. When I signed up, they matched me with a "tribe" of nine other female bloggers, and we're supposed to spend this week getting to know each other. It seems like often, in the blogging world, a circle of bloggers forms, and while you see these same bloggers everywhere, it is hard to discover new blogs that aren't in the circle. So I thought I'd take some time to introduce you to my tribe! If you're a blogger, you may not have discovered these blogs. If you have some time to explore, visit these blogs and see what they're all about. 

Kate Eschbach - A blog by an Arizona mother of two, filled with anything from photographs, to recipes, to personal stories about her family and life, to inspirational messages.

Soft Thistle - The first blog I've ever read by someone in Scotland. She has two little boys, one of whom has autism, and two adorable doggies! 

Making Love In The Microwave - If you are married or in a serious relationship in which you might as well be married, you will want to check out this blog. It is filled with advice and ideas for strengthening your relationship.

Prowess And Pearls - A Christian blogger whose mission is to encourage women to be their best. Even if you're not Christian, you can find inspiration and wisdom here!

Definitely Ashlee - A young mama who may or may not be raising her firstborn human child as a cat. (I'm kidding... don't send hate mail!) Her son and her cats are all adorable, and her blog is funny! 

Creative Pink Butterfly - This blog covers DIY projects, such as arts and crafts, organizing, sewing, decorating, cooking, entertaining, etc.  She also has a really cute Bichon Havanese dog named Cosmo. 

Simply Davia - A personal blog about everyday life... beauty, fashion, parenting, friendship, and what have you.

The Anonymous Blonde - This blog is about a little of everything, written by a southern belle/lawyer. 

Shana Norris - A blog by a mom/stepmom of six who loves to read and write. Her profile says she's a fan of the Oxford Comma, which of course made me think of Vampire Weekend, but I think hers is a completely different Oxford Comma! 

So there you have it... nine new blogs for you to peruse at your leisure. I am excited to have them in my tribe! 

Monday, January 20, 2014

My Dream On Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which means the schools are closed, and no work for me!

Whenever someone talks about Martin Luther King Jr, I can't help but think about the little boy I worked with at my last job as an aide (well, second to last... the one I was working at last school year.) I wrote a little bit about Taz on my last day of that job. I was assigned to work with Taz as a one-to-one aide, meaning that his behavior was so out of control that he needed an adult all to himself. The problem was, Taz's behavior wasn't bad. It really wasn't. He was just very, very active and spirited. And in that school, this was considered awful.

Taz was a first grader when I met him. He had lived in a foster home since the beginning of the school year. Before that, he had lived with his mother, who was addicted to drugs and alcohol and was in several abusive relationships. Taz had witnessed a lot of violence. I never found out what led up to him finally being removed from his mother's home. In addition to this, he had fetal alcohol syndrome, which caused him some serious issues with learning, attention, and hyperactivity. When I first met him, Taz was in a regular first grade classroom, but he wasn't doing much of anything. The teacher would have him look at books or play with toys when the other children were doing their work. (He did work once a day with the resource teacher, and once I started, I was supposed to practice his reading and math skills in the hallway with him while the teacher was working with the other kids.)

The thing about Taz was, he was such a happy kid. He was always dancing around, hooting and hollering, wanting to slap five or give hugs to everyone he saw. He literally thought everyone was his friend. And in this particular school, the staff's main goal seemed to be to squash his spirit. "We need to make Taz look and behave like all of the other first graders," they explained to me, as a reason for why I should be disciplining Taz more firmly when he danced, instead of walked, into th classroom. "He must be calm. He must be quiet. He must be still."

But a calm, quiet, still Taz would not have been Taz at all. I did try to teach him to be quiet during certain times, like when the teacher was speaking to the entire class. But it was hard for me to punish him for things like asking questions or wanting hugs.

I had just gotten my teaching degree that spring. In my university, we had been taught to look at kids like Taz, find their strengths, and work with them. We were taught to identify weaknesses, and figure out how to help students cope with them. For a very active student like Taz, my university would have recommended giving him more opportunities to move around, talk, and use whole-body learning. We were taught how punishing a child for things that he was neurologically programmed to do could only end in disaster. But at this school, the teachers took pride in being "traditional." Which meant, desks in rows, teacher at the front of the room, and quiet children sitting straight. Kids at this school even got reprimanded for asking questions. If the teacher wasn't teaching it, they didn't need to know it, and asking additional questions wasted time.

Halfway through the year, Taz was switched into a special education classroom. I went with him. Things were a little better there. The teacher found out what Taz's academic level really was, and began working with him there. It was amazing how quickly he learned! He loved learning and took pride in his work. But he still got yelled at all the time, basically for being too happy. The teacher would send "sad notes" home whenever Taz was talking out of turn in class. Taz would come back and report that he had gotten spanked by his foster father... sometimes with a shoe, and sometimes with a belt.

Taz was African American. He was one of about ten African American students in the school, and the only one in the first grade. I don't think he really noticed this... at least, he never mentioned it... until we started learning about Martin Luther King Jr. When the teacher read the class a story about him, Taz lit up. He shouted, "He looks like me! He has hair like me and skin like me!" We explained that this was because Martin Luther King Jr. was African American, just like Taz. Of course then we had to explain what Africa was, and what it meant to be African American (Taz got a little confused because he thought it meant he was born in Africa) and what slavery was.
Taz especially liked to hear stories about when MLK JR was a
little boy like him. 
Taz had stumbled upon a subject he was passionate about. He loved to hear stories of Martin Luther King Jr. and other African American leaders. We showed him a video of the "I have a dream" speech. Taz actually memorized part of it. On the playground, he would climb to the top of the jungle gym and shout out the "I have a dream" speech with pride.

Sometimes this bright, sensitive 7-year-old would even cry about Martin Luther King Jr. being shot. "Why did someone shoot him! He was such a good man! He was my friend! And now I can never even meet him!" he would sob.

I tried to explain to Taz that Martin Luther King Jr was in Heaven (Taz's foster family was very religious, so I felt this would be okay and would be comforting for him to hear) watching him, and that he was very proud of Taz. I told him that Martin Luther King Jr. had died trying to make the world a better place, and that the best thing we could do was keep on helping him make the world a little better ourselves.

When we pointed out that our President was also African American, Taz had another hero! He decided that he was going to be President when he grew up. He would tell us to call him "Barack O-Taz!" I could often get him to walk quietly in the halls by saying, "Barack Obama always has to walk quietly in the halls in the White House. Do you think it would be a good idea for the President to run around screaming?" And Taz would straighten up and walk, with his arms at his sides, like an important world leader.

I helped Taz write a letter to Barack Obama once. When I had first met Taz, he could barely write his name. Now he could write an entire letter, only needing help spelling a few words. The people from the White House sent him back a form letter geared towards children, along with photos of Obama, his family members, and their dog, and some facts about the White House. Taz got to "show and tell" his package to the other first grade classes. The photo of Obama got a place of honor on the wall of our classroom, where Taz would point it out and sometimes talk to it every day.

At the end of the school year, I was told, basically, that my services were no longer needed at the school. The principal let me know that he knew I cared about the students and was very nurturing... but not strict enough. I should have whipped Taz into shape, turned him into a model little student, but I failed.

I had no regrets about leaving that school. I didn't want to be an aide forever, anyway. But I still wish I didn't have to leave Taz behind. He was one of the most amazing kids I ever knew... but if the school had it's way, his spirit would be beaten into submission within the next school year.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I have a dream of my own. My dream is that someday every child will be seen for their strengths, and their uniqueness, and their talents. I have a dream that children like Taz will be encouraged to love learning, to ask questions, to be passionate. I have a dream that teachers, parents, and foster parents will realize that kids like Taz have as much to teach as they have to learn.

And my dream is that maybe one day Taz really will be President... but if not, I hope he will grow up to be happy, and to keep being himself, and to know how awesome he really is.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Social Sunday AND Sunday Stealing!

Hi everyone! I decided to try something different today, so I am linking up with Sunday Social!  The idea here seems to be to make new bloggy friends and catch up with old bloggy friends. They give you six questions to answer. Ready? Let's do this!

1. My top 3 favorite kinds of foods? Pizza, pasta, and angel food cake with chocolate whipped cream frosting!

2. First three things I do in the morning? Hug my dog, take a shower, and let my dog out.

3. Last three things I do at night? Take my dogs for a walk, put on jammies, and read for a while or listen to a podcast. 

4. 3 TV shows I never miss? Shameless, The Fosters, Parenthood. 

5. 3 places I want to visit? Key West, Hawaii, and Italy. (I've already been to Key West and Hawaii but I want to go back!) 

6. 3 people I can always count on? Uh, this is a tricky one. It depends on what I am counting on them for! I can always count on my mom and dad to help me with the practicalities of life, such as paying for car repairs when my car breaks down. For emotional support, I can always count on my Auntie M and my Aunt B. That is four people. Sorry I broke the rules!


And now for an old stand by, Sunday Stealing!

Did anyone call you last night?  No, nobody ever calls me!!!

How late were you on the computer last night?  Until 1 am because that is when my parents got home from the bar and I was waiting for my dad to walk the dogs with me!


What did you have to eat last night?  Turkey soup (frozen from Thanksgiving), and garlic bread.


Did you watch any good TV shows or movies last night?  Uh what did I watch? I remember watching something but I can't recall what it was. Hmmmm. Oh yeah... I watched "Brooklyn 999," "Raising Hope," and "Pitbulls and Parolees" on my DVR. 


Did any news items stand out to you last night?  I did not watch the news.


Did you go out last night?  No I didn't feel well so I stayed inside on a Benadryl-induced coma!
What was the weather like last night?  Icy cold!


What was the last thing you said last night?  See you tomorrow! (To my dad.) 


What time did you go to bed last night? About 1:15 am.


Okay, that is it. I know these questions were all burning holes in your minds, and now you have the answers Aren't you relieved? 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Time For Dogs

Today I went to my volunteer job at the animal rescue organization. My job is to go to the adoption shows, take care of a dog, walk the dog around and try to get people interested in adopting him.

One of the dogs I've had most often is Rickles. I've blogged about him before... he is an 11-year-old rat terrier/chihuahua mix. He's going to have a hard time to get adopted, because of his age and because of the fact that he doesn't really like other dogs. But he's a really sweet dog. He doesn't really bark at or try to attack other dogs, but if they approach him and "get in his face," he tends to snap at them. He just doesn't have the patience for their shenanigans anymore!

Today Rickles wasn't feeling so well. When his foster mom brought him in, she was carrying him and he was shaking. She said he had fallen down twice outside when his leg collapsed on him. After she left, it happened again... his leg gave in, he collapsed, and he had diarrhea on the floor at the same time. 

But he was cheerful except for that! He loves to keep walking, and we walked around and around the store for hours. Rickles loves to try to look under the shelves for food. 

I wasn't feeling that well either. My allergies were out of control! I'm not usually allergic to dogs, but I guess with so many dogs all inside on a dry, cold day, they can activate my allergies, which had already been flaring up lately. So I was walking around with itchy eyes, sneezing all over the place, and trying to supervise Rickles, who was limping.

I was kind of happy that the people who run the adoption show decided to call Rickles's foster mom and ask her to pick him up early. By that time I was feeling awful. I stopped at Walgreens and got some generic Claritin, and then fell asleep downstairs on the couch. When I woke up I still had terrible allergies, so I resorted to taking a Benadryl, which made me take another nap! Even now, I am still feeling a little Benadryl buzz. 

Rickles's foster mom gave me a Christmas present, which I totally wasn't expecting. It is so cute... it is a little watch, shaped like a dog! It has a clip so you can clip it onto your belt loop or purse. She told me it is to remind me of when it is "time for Rickles." I think I am going to start bringing it to work with me on my belt loop. It will be less bulky than carrying my cell phone around in my pocket, and the kids will like it! 


Here is Rickles. If you live in the Chicago area and would be interested in a sweet older doggie who is not good with other dogs (cats and small children are probably questionable as well) check out his profile online at Almost Home Foundation! 

Friday, January 17, 2014

January Is Long And Cold

I am really glad we are halfway through January.

January is my least favorite month out of the year. It is already such a sad month... October through December are filled with celebrations, parties, and family, but then once you get into January you are back to the old grind, filled with cold, dark, empty days.

In January my allergies get worse than ever. The basement leaks and the carpet and walls start to get moldy and mildewy, and I sneeze and my eyes itch and burn. People always think I have a cold, but it is allergies. (Some easy ways to tell the difference are that colds often come with headaches, fatigue, fever, etc, and they come and go... they may get really bad, but then they go away. Allergies, on the other hand, don't come with many other symptoms, but they do stick around much longer than colds do. Plus with allergies your eyes, throat and nose will itch horribly. That is what I have.)

My skin gets so dry too. I put coconut oil on my skin every day and it helps, but I'm still dry. The eczema on my eyelids flares up, and it hurts to blink.

I try to drink a lot of water. And I like to drink a lot of orange juice too, because it makes me feel like I am drinking sunshine.

Sometimes in the daytime the snow looks so pretty... like earlier today when it was coming down in big, fluffy, glittery flakes. But it is still not fun to walk the dogs when the sidewalks are covered with ice. I have to waddle along like a penguin.

I miss the sun! I want to go outside in a T-shirt in shorts. I want to feel the grass on my bare feet. I want the sun in my window to wake me up in the morning, instead of being woken up to my alarm clock when it is still dark outside. I want to be wearing less than three layers of clothes at all times!

The only good thing about January is that, instead of going into winter, we are now headed towards spring. I love spring and summer, but I almost love the anticipation of spring and summer even more... those first few days when the snow starts melting and you can sort of feel spring in the air! The other day it was 30 degrees and I wanted to take my jacket off! When it gets to be forty or fifty degrees in Chicago, people start rolling down their car windows.

I really think the lack of sun effects my depression levels. My energy is so low. I have no motivation to do anything. I could sleep for days. Today because I had a meeting from 8 to 10 in the morning about subbing in an additional district, I didn't have to work for the rest of the day. I was going to get a lot of stuff done, but I ended up just passing out on the couch for four hours! 

I can't wait for winter to be finished!

Lily and I are tired of winter! 
Here is something that will cheer us all up. Have you seen the Subaru dog commercials? I love them! Especially the little puppy in the baby seat!




Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Don't Want To Jinx Myself But...

Hi everyone! Today was my second day of subbing! And it went really well! 

I was actually subbing at the school where I student taught. It was my first time being back there since I graduated in 2012. As I was getting out of the car I ran into the teacher I student taught with. We got along really well when I was there, and I loved student teaching in her classroom... she gave me a ton of freedom, while still helping me out with anything I needed. She was just the right combination of having high expectations, while still being laid back and not flipping out every time kids talked out of turn or got up without permission.

My subbing position for the day was "floater," but it turned out that I was actually working as a resource teacher. So I got to work with small groups all day, doing things like playing reading games and stuff. It was so fun and easy, and the kids were great! 

While I was in that classroom, the secretary came and said she had a special request for me. The assistant who works in the classroom where I used to student teach is going to be having surgery, and will miss anywhere from two weeks to a month of work. When the teacher had seen me and found out that I was subbing in the district, she asked if I would be able to be the one to sub for her assistant! I already know how the class runs and I have a good relationship with the teacher, so she thought I would be perfect for the job. 

The bad thing is that it will be as an aide and not a teacher. But the good thing is that it actually pays the same as an actual substitute teaching job would. I don't know why, but that is the way they do it in that district. Plus, since I student taught in there, the teacher will probably give me a lot more freedom than I had at my previous aide jobs. When I was student teaching, I taught the "low" group and she taught the "high" group, so it was actually more like co-teaching. I imagine it will be somewhat of the same thing. The only crappy thing is that aides have to go to recess, lunch, gym, music, etc, with the kids, which I really hate... but oh well, it will be fun to work with that teacher again! 

Another piece of good news is... I signed up with this site called PostJoint where I can get paid for hosting guest posts in my blog. So you might see a few odd posts here and there... but I am going to try to pick informative ones so you don't think I'm selling out or something. But I can really use the money, and although this blog is a labor of love, it is wicked cool when I can make a few dollars from it! Feel free to leave comments on the guest posts... even though they are "sponsored" and are not written by me, I still love to hear your opinions and feedback.

I don't want to jinx myself but it looks like I'm having a streak of good luck here! 

Guest Post: Five Ways to Stop Your Dog from Barking

Hi everyone! I have another quick guest post for you! I know many of you have dogs. I love my dogs so much... but the one thing that sometimes drives me crazy about them is when they are barking. Trixie just seems to randomly bark out the window... usually whenever she sees someone walking another dog outside. Lily, on the other hand, doesn't really care what is happening outside, but if we have visitors over, she barks like crazy. She has the most high-pitched bark ever! It can break your ear drums! So I was interested in reading this article about ways to stop your dog from barking. I thought I'd share it with you.

Five Ways To Stop Your Dog from Barking

A barking dog can be irritating to you, your neighbors, and anyone else who comes over. If you love your dog but aren’t sure what to do about its bad barking habits, here are five techniques that range from using an e-collar to simply ignoring the barking that can make your dog stop barking.
1. Ignore the Barking
Although it can be hard to do, one effective way to make your dog stop barking is to ignore your dog until they stop. Waiting until your dog stops barking is crucial in this situation, even if it takes him an hour and a half to stop barking. If you get frustrated and yell at your dog to stop, your dog will start to think that if they bark long enough they will eventually get the attention that they want.
2. Get Rid of the Motivation
The reason that your dog barks is because he gets some sort of reward out of it. To stop your dog from barking, remove the motivation that causes him to bark. For example,
  • If your dog barks at people and cars that pass by the front room window in your home, remove this incentive by closing the curtains in your front room.
  • If your dog spends time in the yard and barks at people when they walk by, monitor your dog’s time out in the yard or bring him inside.
All you may have to do is to remove the reason for your dog barking to make them eventually break the habit.
3. Teach Your Dog a Command
You may also want to try teaching your dog a “quiet” command and a command that permits them to “speak.” This way, your dog will know when it is appropriate to bark and when they should be quiet upon your command.  Although it may seem counterproductive to teach your dog both a “speak” and a “quiet” command, doing this will help your dog know when they can bark and when they should remain silent.
4. Tire out Your Dog
A dog may develop a barking habit out of boredom or frustration. To remain healthy and happy, your dog needs a certain amount of playtime and a certain number of walks everyday depending on their breed and age. If you sense that your dog is bored, make extra effort to add in a few extra walks throughout the week to your schedule and provide your dog with plenty of play time. While this may not eliminate the barking problem completely, it could reduce the amount of time your dog spends barking.
5. Invest in a Training Collar
If you have tried the above-listed methods and nothing seems to be working, invest in a training collar for your dog. Training dog collars are designed to aid dog owners in the training process so that their dog behaves and refrains from engaging in bad habits, like barking.
While all of these methods are viable ways to get your dog to stop barking, making your dog stop won’t happen overnight. Keep in mind that the longer your dog has been a barker, the longer it will take to break the habit.


Please feel free to contact Ella Gray with any questions at ella.l.gray@gmail.com.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Twisted Mixtape Time!

I don't know how I forgot to do Twisted Mixtape Tuesday last week, I guess I was a little distracted. I like the topic this week, though... we're supposed to share any new music we've discovered in the past year. It doesn't have to be new to everyone... just new to yourself.

Assuming the assignment means the entire past year (consisting mostly of 2013) and not just the first few weeks of 2014, I have some great songs to share! I discovered most of them on Pandora.

It all started when I heard the song "Busted Heart" in the soundtrack of a movie.
This song quickly became one of my favorites, and led me to look up Bishop Allen on Pandora.
And of course I got addicted to Bishop Allen... but Pandora also led me to some new favorites!

One new favorite group of mine is Vampire Weekend. I have shared Vampire Weekend songs before for Twisted Mixtape Tuesday, especially Oxford Comma. I don't think you've heard this one before, though... it's called "Finger Back.


This next one is pretty mellow, but I love it. I heard it a lot when I was in California visiting Bro and Sunny, and it got stuck in my head. It's called "Skinny Love."



One night I was having difficulty sleeping, and I got the funny idea to search for lullabies on Pandora. This next song is a lullaby meant for children, but I love it anyway, and I added it to my iPod. I think you will love it too! It is called "Night Mantra."



This next song is another that I heard for the first time in California. I forgot all about it until it popped up on my Pandora station around Christmas time. It is a catchy song and I couldn't help but want to hear it again and again! By Noah And The Whale, this is "Five Years Time."

Alright. That is it for my five songs. This list took me forever to make because the electricity keeps browning out, and every time it does, I have to reset the wifi and reset my laptop and get everything situated again. I don't know why this town has such difficulty keeping the electricity on! Anyways, I will look at all of your Twisted Mixtape posts, as long as the wifi stays on for a while. See ya next week!


Guest Post: How To Plan An Elegant 60th Birthday Party

Hi everyone! I have a guest post today from the people at Spencer's Gifts. We have a Spencer's Gifts in the mall near where I live, and I always love going into that store. They have some very interesting and cool products. Today they are sharing an article about planning a birthday party. Read on! 

If you're anything like me, planning a 60th birthday party sounds like hard work! And if you're more of a party-goer than a party-thrower, it’s hard to know where to begin. But it doesn't have to be ...

Any good host knows that 99% of the work that goes into a party happens long before people start arriving on the night - with some taking weeks, months or years to prepare for - Royal Wedding anyone? By following a few simple steps, however, your occasion will be everything you hoped for, minus the tension headaches!

I can bet most people imagine a 60th birthday party quite differently to that of say, a 21st. So if you’re helping your Mum or Dad plan for a 60th birthday then, the rules all change - these steps may just make your party the one to beat!

Venue & Theme

If you're planning a 60th birthday in the summer months you can't beat a garden party for effortless elegance. Just by putting up a marquis and hanging fairy-lights through the trees and shrubs, your backyard can transform from football field to a stylish and sunny party venue! This way, you avoid hire fees on a venue, on kitchenware, entertainment and you don't even have to leave the house.
For some great ideas on gifts and decorations for a 60th birthday, check out Spencersonline.com.

Food

It seems that recipes for appetizers and canapés come in the hundreds nowadays and it can be difficult (and stressful!) to make sure you're accommodating the dietary needs of your guests - so a caterer can be a great asset to any party! (especially as its one less thing for you to organize come the big day) If you're planning a party on a budget, it’s just as easy to do it all at home - high tea can be a lovely, simple alternative. Provided you don't mind baking all sorts of sweet and savoury treats the afternoon before: celebrating the big 60 with macarons and champagne while lounging out in the sun doesn't sound too bad to me!

Entertainment

The likelihood of hiring Elvis or a full string quarter is probably quite slim – but that doesn’t mean you have to settle for anything else! We live in the technology generation: so whether you hire musicians or a live band or not, music and entertainment are the easy bits. Ask your birthday boy/girl their favourite music: favourite songs from different decades of their life, and break it up into playlists or mix it all together! There’s something very special about listening to a song and reliving all the important memories that come with them. And I can bet that 9 out of 10 people will have access to a laptop or ipod to hold your music on – press play and you’re away!
Parties don’t have to be a huge drama, and if you’re opting for an elegant affair, drama is the last thing you want! Try out these easy suggestions, and the next big 60th birthday you celebrate will go off without a hitch.

Spencer's Gifts is your one-stop shop for all things gift- and party-related. For some great ideas on gifts and decorations for a 60th birthday, check out Spencersonline.com

Monday, January 13, 2014

Another First Day

Seems like my whole life is full of so many first days... I'm always starting one job or another, aren't I! Like I mentioned yesterday, today was my first day of subbing!

I had such a hard time sleeping last night. Part of it was because yesterday, when I got home from my grandmother's house where we had an impromptu birthday celebration for her, I found that my nextdoor neighbor had posted this picture on Facebook:

My neighbor said she saw this coyote prowling through our neighborhood in the middle of the day. It wasn't disturbed by her following it in her car or making noise or anything... it just kept on going. My neighbor posted on Facebook that she warned an older woman she saw walking with a small dog, to pick up her dog and go indoors.

So now I am terrified to go outside with Lily, especially by myself, let alone with both Trixie and Lily. Lily would be food for a coyote. And Trixie is bigger, but a coyote could see her as competition. I can't imagine being out on a walk with both of my dogs, being confronted by a coyote, and having Trixie and Lily both freaking out on the ends of their leashes... what would I do? I could pick up Lily in my arms but could I drag Trixie on her leash back to the house in time?

My mom gave me a rape whistle to keep with me when I walk the dogs. But I don't feel better.

So last night, I couldn't fall asleep at all. I was so afraid about the coyote and other coyotes in our neighborhood. (Remember I told you about my anxieties around losing my dogs, among other things?) And every time I'd calm myself down enough to stop thinking about the coyote, the other scary thing would pop into my head, "Oh my God I'm subbing tomorrow!"

I was awake all night, tossing and turning, literally thinking, "Oh no, the coyote! Oh no, I'm subbing! Coyote! Subbing! Coyote! Subbing!" It is a miracle I didn't dream about subbing for a classroom of coyotes!

In the morning I was so tired, never good for your first day of a job. But I got up, took a shower, went outside to check the backyard for coyotes before letting Lily out to relieve herself, made my lunch, and ate some cereal and cottage cheese.

Then I started feeling so nauseous, I was sure I was going to puke! For the last fifteen minutes before I left for work, I was walking around in my house, trying to settle my stomach, debating whether to run for the bathroom or just keep trying to walk it off.

But you know what? I made it into work. And it was not bad at all! The hardest part was classroom management. I am not the kind of person who can go into a classroom of children I've never met, and be like, "Alright, no messing around, sit down and do your work or you're going to the principal!" I'm more instinctively nurturing and gentle with little kids.

I did come up with a good trick with the second graders though. I told them I was making a secret list of the best workers in the classroom, to leave for their teacher. Whenever they were working, I'd walk around with my piece of paper and pretend to be writing down names. (At first I really was writing down names of the best workers, but in the end they were all working so hard, I just left a list with all of their names on it!)

With the kindergartners, they sometimes got a little noisy. I felt horrid for them... these five and six year olds spend the entire afternoon sitting down doing worksheets and other serious academic business. No games. No free time. No singing. No socializing. Nothing. Just work work work work work. Obviously they're going to get a little loud by the end of the day! I couldn't yell at them for it or discipline them. So whenever I needed their attention, I just said, "Raise your hand and stop talking, if you can hear me!" And they actually would. They were funny like that.

I don't have a job lined up for tomorrow, which is good because I am so exhausted. But I will be working Wednesday and Thursday, and on Friday I have an orientation with another school district in the area, so by next week I should be getting double the work!

I think it is going to be really good for me. I'll have to defeat my anxiety every single day, and find ways of controlling large groups of random kids. When I finally do get my own classroom, it will be so easy-peasy!

I have to sign out now... need to get some sleep! Good night!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Tomorrow I Start Subbing!

It has been a few days since I've written.... I haven't done much at all except sit around and wait for subbing jobs. And they've actually started lining up!

I downloaded this app on my phone that goes along with Aesop, which is the system most of the school districts around here use for assigning jobs to subs. Aesop is on the computer, and usually I just kept it up on my computer and kept refreshing it all day long, in hopes that an available job would pop up. If a job happens to pop up, you have about five seconds to accept it before someone else does. Stressful, right? I know!

But with this app, it sends me a message on my phone when Aesop has a new job available for me. I still have five seconds (or less) to accept it before someone else does, but at least I don't have to worry about all the jobs I'm missing if I walk away from my computer to use the bathroom do something really fun!

Anyway tomorrow I have my first subbing job. I am going to be a "floater/" That sounds lovely, doesn't it? All it really means is that I will have more than one classroom assignment during the day. This could mean anything from going to six different classrooms for an hour each while teachers attend meetings, to just floating around the school and helping out wherever needed on a busy day.  But I did see a new note next to the job info on my Aesop screen. It says I will spend the morning in a second grade classroom, and the afternoon in a kindergarten classroom.

The ages are perfect! But I really don't have a lot of experience being in charge of an entire classroom of regular ed children. I thought I'd be subbing only in special education classrooms, where I'd have anywhere from one to four aides to show me the ropes. Instead, it looks like it will just be me... and... them.

My almost-12-year-old cousin gave me this advice: "Just be sure you know what you're doing, and you'll be fine!"

Uh... thanks... I think.

I'm so nervous, and I keep Googling information like, "first day of subbing" and "tips for substitutes." But it is turning out to be a little like Googling your symptoms when you have a headache, and finding out that you may have a brain tumor or meningitis or AIDS. I'm finding a lot of drastic horror stories. So I've decided to stop Googling anything, and just assume that it will be fine, and remember that I never have to go back to either of the two classrooms again if they turn out to be horrible. Which I'm sure they won't be.

I'll fill you all in tomorrow!

In other news, here's a lovely picture of me at my volunteer job yesterday! I was taking care of a Greyhound named Cole. (Cole wasn't enthused about taking a selfie with me.) I learned that not all greyhounds are used for racing at tracks. (I mean, besides the ones rescued as pets.) In Ohio, there is a new sort of "game" where they take a raccoon trapped in a cage, and release the dogs to run towards the raccoons. The lady who told it to me made it seem like they have to actually catch the raccoons, but some info I found about it online said the raccoons are actually trapped in a cage the whole time. Either way, it is an odd sport. And Cole wasn't very good at it, which was why he came to our rescue. He was such a sweet, gentle, quiet dog who loved putting his head on my shoulder and leaning against me for a Greyhound hug!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Workin' Hard, or Hardly Workin'?

Soooooooo.... yeeeaaaaaahhhh. The whole subbing thing hasn't exactly panned out yet. I expected to start working this week. But the school district I'm signed up to sub with was closed on Monday and Tuesday because of the freakishly cold temperatures. They didn't want children to turn into icicles while waiting for the busses, I guess. And as for yesterday and Thursday, maybe teachers didn't want to call in sick after having almost a month off.

I did find out that I am not just eligible to sub in special ed classrooms. I can sub in any classrooms. I found this out after inquiring about it, because the jobs that I did get offered were for subbing as a bilingual teacher and a gym teacher. (I turned both down. Because I don't speak Spanish, and I suck at sports.)

I feel just a little sheepish for quitting my job before I knew for sure how the subbing thing worked. But I couldn't exactly wait until the first day I got a subbing offer, and then randomly quit!

Besides, think of it this way. Once I do start working, I will be making twice as much as I was at my old job. Which means, if I start subbing next week, I will make as much as if I had worked all this week at my old job.

What have I been doing in the mean time? Not much of anything, honestly! The good news is that my depression has lifted enough so that I am no longer sad all the time. But I am in more of the "feeling nothing" stage, where I can't get myself to care about anything. Even blogging has lost it's luster. My big accomplishment of the week was stripping my bed and washing all the sheets. Lily's exciting moment of the week was getting to ride in the laundry basket as I carried it up and down the stairs.

I've also been watching a ton of Pitbulls And Parolees episodes, which I have recorded on my DVR. Actually I watched the last of my stored up episodes today, which means I better hope I get some work tomorrow!

I know I should say I've been working on my memoir, or starting my online class, or organizing my room, or running errands for my mom, or something equally productive... but I literally can't! It's like I panic! I couldn't even convince myself to walk up to the mailbox today! (Although I probably would have been more willing to do that if it were just a tad warmer out...)

Isn't this blog exciting? You're probably rolling on the floor from all the fun. But I guess being bored (and boring!) is way better than being sad and having a lot of bad news!

For now, I'll cheer you up with this awkward picture of me wearing the new winter hat my Bro gave me for Christmas!
Does this picture bring a smile to your face?


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Mind Is A Dangerous Neighborhood

Look how small and vulnerable my dog is! 
I've posted a lot about my issues with ADHD, autism and depression, but I don't post much about anxiety.  I think anxiety tends to take a back seat... if everything else is going smoothly, I can deal with the anxiety, and if everything else isn't going smoothly, I have bigger fish to fry. 

But at night, when I am lying in bed unable to sleep (because I had a cold and slept all day on the couch) my anxieties come to surface. They run around in circles and taunt me in the dark. 

A lot of my anxieties tend to center around my Small Dog, Lily. I don't worry as much about Trixie, because she is bigger and just doesn't seem so vulnerable. But there are so  many things that could go wrong for Lily... so many things just waiting to happen to a Small Dog! For instance, coyotes could come into my backyard and get her... or they could accost us while we are taking a walk, and snatch her from my arms. Or, if I move to Oregon, it could be cougars! Even owls, eagles, and other birds of pray, have been known to snatch small dogs. (Those small dogs probably were much smaller than Lily, who is about 19 pounds now, but still!) I worry that there could be a tornado that wrecks my whole house, and she could get buried in the rubble. Or a fire could burn the house down, and she could die from smoke inhalation. Or someone could break into my house and steal her and use her as a bait dog. 

Two summers ago, in a neighboring town, a family went on vacation. They left their small dog at home, but had a neighbor coming in and out to feed the dog, let him out, etc. During that time, the mother's ex-boyfriend broke into the house and stole thousands of dollars worth of jewelry. Maybe because the dog was barking at him, or maybe because the guy was a sick and twisted asshole, he put the dog in the convection oven and turned it on. When the family got home, they couldn't find their dog anywhere in the house. The worst part is, the family member who finally found the dog, still in the oven, was a nine-year-old child. And that story is horrid, for itself. But with my anxiety, I still freak out over it, thinking, that could have been Lily! Evil people clearly exist, and they could possibly come to my house and kill my dog in a torturous way. 

Or she could be swimming in an ocean, and drown, or a shark could get her. Not that I would ever let my Small Dog swim in an ocean. Not that she'd even want to. But what if I asked someone else to babysit her, and they let her swim in an ocean? 

Or we could move to Florida, and an alligator could eat her. Or she could be playing in the backyard, and see a rattle snake, and get bitten by it. Or she could fall down the stairs. I know someone whose small dog tried to jump up onto a chair, and somehow fell on his back and died instantly. How could that happen? But it did... and it could happen to me. 

I also am somewhat of a hypochondriac. I worry that I will get a painful disease that will leave me hospitalized for the rest of my life. I could get MS. I could get AIDS. I could get lupus. Maybe I have congestive heart failure. Maybe I have lung cancer. Maybe I have a brain tumor... I do have weird achiness in the back of my head a lot. Maybe I'm going to have a stroke. Or I could just get into a terrible car accident. Or I could get early onset Alzheimer's. Or I could fall down the basement stairs and break my neck. (That is probably the most real possibility... I've come close to falling from the top step a bunch of times, but luckily caught my balance!) 

The thing is, all of these things are possible, but not very likely. But because they are possible, in my mind they are just looming over me, waiting to happen. 

People tell me that, if you think about something too much, you could actually cause it to happen, by manifesting it. But to me, it feels like almost the opposite is true. If you worry about something, it somehow lessens the chance of it happen. I remember trying this at home as a very young child. I would think about some random scary occurrence. I remember thinking, "What if a chicken runs in here and starts pecking me" (At age 5, that was a scary thought to me.) Then I would wait for a moment. When a chicken did not run into the room and start pecking me, that proved that, by worrying about something in advance, I could keep it from happening. Not that we, or anyone living anywhere near us in our suburban Chicago town, had chickens. 

The scary things that did happen were things it never occurred to me to worry about. Like the time the neighbor left his lawn mower on while he was talking to my dad, and suddenly the lawn mower started driving around on it's own. I was already terrified of lawn mowers because of their loud noise, so watching it start moving on it's own was super freaky! Or the time when large, hairy bugs were crawling all over the windows of my mom's car. I am pretty sure that really happened, even though it sounds like a nightmare!

I don't walk around perseverating on these possibilities all the time. That would probably drive me insane. But sometimes it is hard to go to work and leave my dogs home alone. I often say a prayer as I go down my driveway... "Please let my dogs be okay, and please let me be okay, and please let us all be back together here in a few hours, safe and sound." 

Does anyone else experience this? Or am I the only cuckoo one? 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

I'm Swapping Again!

I had so much fun with the two Christmas swaps I participated in, so I've signed up for another blogger swap for this month! This time, we're going to be swapping books. The Books'n'Bloggers Swap is organized by Chaotic Goddess. Partners will send each other three books... one that you love yourself, one that you haven't read but would like to, and one from your swap partner's book wish list.

I can't wait! You know I love to read, and there is nothing better than a new book.

If anyone else is interested in signing up, there is still time! You have until January 14 to sign up. Just click the image below.
 

Happy swapping!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Stronger

Me and Auntie M at the Oregon coast in September. 
 I was supposed to start subbing today (hopefully) but the schools are closed today due to the alarmingly cold temperatures in Chicago. They're closed tomorrow too! Which works out nicely for me, because I have been coming down with a cold and I am typing this between violent sneezing fits. You should be careful... I might be contagious. I'll probably give your computer a virus or something.

My Auntie M made me a Shutterfly book with pictures from the two weeks I spent with her back in September. It is really cool, and it brings back all the good memories.

I've posted a lot about how I want to move out that way soon, but as of late I've been feeling a little nervous about it. The main thing that makes me nervous is knowing that I might be really homesick, for my parents and for my dog Trixie, who is really their dog and will stay behind with them. Then my mind starts spinning out all sorts of anxieties. I imagine myself alone and crying because I miss them. I imagine Trixie getting really sad and anxious because she misses me and Lily. I imagine someone burglarizing into whatever apartment I live in, and stealing Lily, while I am at work. Or a forest fire burning down my apartment building, with Lily in it, while I am at work. Or being out on a hike and a cougar stealing Lily and eating her. Then I imagine trying to take Lily on a plane ride, either to or from Oregon, and the plane starts to crash and the oxygen masks come down but they don't have oxygen masks for dogs, so I have to watch Lily suffocate.

My mind is a terrifying place sometimes.

One thing my most recent bout with depression taught me was that I should probably, definitely, get back on medication. It will help my mind stay more logical. I have an appointment with my doctor at the end of January.

But it also taught me that, even when I am not on medication, I am getting stronger. Because for a few days there after Sunny and Bro and Squeak left, I was in terrible condition. I could hardly focus my eyes without bursting into tears! I couldn't really enjoy anything, even our trip to the city to see the lights and stay in a hotel. I didn't want to hear any type of music because it made me sad. I didn't want to eat because eating made me cry. I didn't want to be home alone, or even in a room alone, for any amount of time. I didn't even want to glance at my Christmas presents. Sunny offered to Skype with me, but I was afraid that even seeing her and Squeak would make me burst into tears and I wouldn't be able to talk to her!

This lasted longer than my normal sadness lasts. Usually I can snap out of it within a day or so, but this grief stretched on for a week.

BUT... then I got better. I noticed myself singing again, laughing at stuff. I was able to help take down the Christmas decorations, without bawling. I was able to look at my Christmas presents and enjoy them. I was able to blog about stuff. I was able to reminisce about the fun times we had with Squeak and them, without bawling. I can even eat, drink, and sleep again!

So I learned that, if I do get homesick, the worst case scenario would be, I'll be really, really, really, really, really sad... for a few days. And that may repeat itself every single time I come back here to visit and then leave again. But with the help of medication, and with friends and family members out there to distract me, those feelings won't last long.

It also helps to remember that if I manage to move out there, it will be because I have a job waiting for me, and that will occupy my time and keep me busy. I won't just be sitting around with empty, lonely days stretching in front of me, the way I did after Christmas.

Plus, I can schedule regular visits back here. I could even come visit every 6 to 8 weeks! It would cost a lot of money, but I'll be making a lot more than I am now (which is zero) and I can get on some sort of frequent flier thingy so I could earn free trips. There are all sorts of possibilities.

My dad thinks I should just stay around here and wait until they move out that way... which will be anywhere from five years from now, to, um, never. I feel like I can't let my anxiety stand in the way of living my life.

Although I was originally planning to live somewhere between where my brother lives and where Auntie M lives, my dad also suggested that, if I do go, I live closer to Auntie M because she would be able to help me out emotionally more than my brother would... and I could still see Sunny and Squeak and them on a regular basis. Then after a year if I wanted to I could move closer to them. That sounds like a sound enough idea.

The steps I need to take are, as follows:

1. Get back on my meds so my brain chemicals can be straightened out
2. Transfer my teaching credentials to Oregon.
3. Start looking for a job.
4. Save up as much money as I can.

And now what I need to do is stop blogging and take an antihistamine! I am so sick of sneezing!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

A Resolution A Week

Most people posted about their New Year's Resolutions sometime between New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. I've always been something of a slacker, huh! I've never had much luck with New Year's resolutions anyways... I would think about them for a week or two, but then life would get in the way and I'd forget or stop caring. 

So this year, I decided to try something new. I am going to try having a mini-resolution every week... something small and attainable, but that will still improve me and my life. 


Because I'm so disorganized, don;t be surprised if a lot of my resolutions have something to do with organization! For instance, this week I decided to focus on my dresser drawers. I have a very small dresser with not a lot of room, and most of my drawers are so full, I have trouble opening and closing them. Plus, it is a little dark up there, and it is hard for me to find particular things that I'm looking for. If I was looking for, for instance, a red turtle neck, I'd have to rifle through piles of shirts and make a big mess in the process. I wish I had taken a picture in advance, but I forgot! Just imagine a bunch of shirts all bunched and wadded up like crazy in a drawer. 

As with all matters of my life, I turned to the blog world. One blog I follow, Organizing Made Fun, had an article about organizing a shirt drawer. It shows you how to fold your shirts really small, so that you can stand them up in rows in your drawer. This way, you can see them all, and it is easier to take them out and put them away. 

And here's the finished result!

I went a little further and organized my pajama drawer and my other shirt drawer (the picture is of my work shirts, but I also have a drawer of home shirts) as well. 

The good thing about a weekly resolution is, even though this was just my resolution for the week, I can easily keep it up for the whole rest of the year, and longer. 

I wonder what my resolution will be for next week?