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On Learning and Life...and Living without my wi-fi


Thanksgiving Eve…My whole day kind of got turned around.  I was supposed to be having a meeting right about now for Ben.  I also had some different errands I needed to run (one being to return the bagged lettuce I bought yesterday since,  you know – e coli).  And I have a lot of cooking to do.  But then the meeting got cancelled because the printer at their office wouldn’t work.  So I went to town and got the errands out of the way and I find that suddenly, I have more time than I thought I would.  So – I can blog!  And fold laundry, get pictures put away, take care of the ever-increasing to-do list, order some Christmas gifts, figure out Christmas baking, start addressing Christmas cards…all those kind of things.  But mostly, I’d like to blog.

So yesterday was my presentation in the class at Faith.  I was trembling as I walked into the building, but you know, as soon as I got into the classroom and started teaching, it all went away.  The professor immediately put me at ease and even prayed with me before the students ever arrived.  It helped ,too, when I walked in and the lady at the front desk said, “Oh, you’re Sarah Heywood – I love your writings!”  Huh.  I always forget that I have stuff out there that sometimes people actually read.  I went through the presentation and I was able to speak for close to an hour.  Afterwards, the professor thanked me and told me that what I did was exactly what she was hoping for and if she teaches this class again next year she’d like for me to come back.  So all that preparation and all those nerves were really worth it.  Good things continue to come out of Paul’s death.
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I’ve got new glasses now.  But still, as I type this, my screen is magnified 170%.  Yeah, I’m still adjusting to the new prescription.  Actually, I’m going back to the eye dr. next Wed to double check the prescription.  I’ve already been back to the eyeglass place and they verified that they did make them according to the new prescription.  They said if the dr made a mistake they will remake the glasses for free for me.  So, we shall see.  But I could not believe what a haze I had been peering through until I tried on the glasses for the first time.  Driving home, I could suddenly see all these spots on my windshield that I had not been able to see before!  Those glasses were awful! So I had to stop for a car wash on my way home and even after that, I had to still scrub the inside and outside of my windshield before I got rid of all the spots to my satisfaction!
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I just found out my monthly electric bill (budget plan) is shooting up $30 a month for the next year.  I can’t see that I am using any more electricity than I have in the past, though.  I wonder if rates jumped.  Anyway – ugh!
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The kids’ Christmas program at school is in a couple of weeks.  Sam and Lizzie tried out for speaking parts and both got them.  And then yesterday Ellie came home announcing that the music teacher also gave her a speaking part.  So now I have 3 kids that need help memorizing lines!  And, also – costumes.  I remember grouching about this last year on my blog.  It used to be that for the school program, the kids wore their nicest clothing and that was kind of a neat thing because they all looked so adorable and it was a switch from the normal jeans and sweatshirts they normally see each other in.  But this new teacher they hired a few years ago is into costumes for Christmas.  So, I’m having to dress Sam up like a nutcracker soldier (he was pretty excited when he found out he had to dress like a soldier…until I showed him a picture of a nutcracker!), Lizzie as a reindeer, and Ellie as a forest animal (we’re going with black bear because she already has black leggings and boots and all I had to buy her was a black sweater).  The teacher  stresses to parents that she doesn’t want them to feel like they have to buy anything for the costumes…because, you know, every household just happens to have spare nutcracker, reindeer, and forest creature costumes lying around!  SO irritating to me…especially after I spent $70 on Amazon, at Nobbies, and Hobby Lobby buying the things needed to transform them.  I cannot wait until they are all in middle school and done with these silly Christmas programs!

I am pretty proud of Sam, though, for trying out for one of the speaking parts.  With his stuttering, it would have been so easy for him to not want to try.  As it is, I informed his music teacher this week that we will be modifying one of his lines because it starts with the letter “s” and it’s nearly impossible for him to get that sound out when it’s at the beginning of a word (I should have named him Harry or Orwell or Theodore or something – anything other than Sam with an S!).

Speaking of his stuttering…we had parent teacher conferences last week.  All 3 are doing great – very high scores all around. Lizzie’s teacher told me that Lizzie has the most Reading Counts books in the class (the kids read books, take tests on them, and then are awarded points that they earn parties with – I have a real problem with bribing kids to read, but nobody asked me).  This just slays me because at home when I tell her to read a book she acts like I asked her to saw a finger off with a butter knife!  Anyway,  I asked Sam’s teacher if he had been following Sam’s 504 plan which allows for him to test reading fluency silently rather than by reading out loud.  The teacher looked a little sheepish and told me had no idea Sam was on a 504 until just the week before when he found the plan buried underneath a stack of papers on his desk!  But then all 3 of us got into a really interesting conversation about Stalin and so I decided to forgive him because it appears he likes history as much as Sam and I do. And this teacher said that he’s not a big fan of fluency scores anyway and I wholeheartedly agree with that.  He is the first teacher I’ve encountered at that school to admit to something like that.  Speed is a good skill to have, particularly when one gets to higher level academics, but it’s not entirely needed, either.  Comprehension is the most important skill.
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We had a student killed yesterday after school.  I didn’t know him.  But he was 17 years old – driving too fast on a country road outside Pville and hit a bit of ice and went into the ditch.  No seatbelt and he was thrown through the window.  So sad and so unnecessary (I ended up going to coffee with a teacher friend a few days later and she told me that this student had kind of a rough home life and that his mother actually just died last spring).
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Ben is moving.  Definitely was NOT part of my agenda for this month.  About a week ago he had called me telling me there was an opening at another one of the Optimae house and he wanted to move there.  I was not about to move him again and I told him no, I thought he should stay at his current place for at least a year and then we could talk about it.  He wasn’t happy about that but finally acquiesced.  Well, then Tuesday night of this week I got a call from the director of Optimae.  She told me that they have a situation of having too many openings and not enough clients and so they have decided to combine two of their houses and temporarily shut down Ben’s current home, until the need would rise again for two separate houses.  It’s a money saving thing and I get that.  So Ben called me yesterday and asked if I had heard the news.  Rather than being excited, though, he seemed apprehensive and he finally said, “It’s because, before, I wanted to make the decision but now they’re making the decision for me!” I thought that was rather astute of him. Today, the director of Ben’s current house called me to talk some more and she said both Ben and his current roommate, who also is on the spectrum, are experiencing times of real anxiety over this move.  Well, I can imagine – change is always hard.   Because of that, they’re going to double up on staff the first week to make the transition easier.  So, this will all happen next Thurs.  They have a moving company that will do the actual moving work.  I have to work that day but after I get done I’m going to head down to the new place and help Ben set up his bedroom.  In the long run, I think this will be a good thing.  It’s a larger home, there will be 5 guys living there, including one that was temporarily living at Ben’s house for a few weeks this fall.  He has two cats and Ben just adored those animals, so that’s a good thing.  Ben will have the same staff that he always has had.  And rent will be a little bit cheaper for Ben, I’ve been told. Plus, Ben will have the backyard he’s been wanting and since there are some fields nearby, there should be less traffic noise.  Ben has had a hard time adjusting to that at his current place. I will just have to remind Ben how he moved in August, knowing nobody at all, and how well things turned out.  Change is never easy, though.
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I am still seeing my counselor – and absolutely loving it.  This last time we talked about Paul’s family.  It was good timing because I had previously told the doctor that I would like to discuss this – specifically, why it is I react so strongly physically, still, to attacks by them.  And then, about 2 weeks ago, before we met again,  Paul’s sister, very weirdly, but normal for her, jumped all over me on-line.  It was the same old, same old stuff – I’m terrible, all I want to do is hurt their family, I’m lying to my children, etc, etc. I never respond, of course.  She’s the “angry dog” referred to in Proverbs.  But, I was really hurt when Paul’s aunt, whom I have been FB friends with for years, sent me a private message later that day, telling me, “Shame on you!” and berating me for not letting her sister (Paul’s mom) see her own grandchildren.  That was wrong for her to do that and after talking with Will, I did respond with a brief message, giving a vague explanation for what had happened.  She responded, “Well, it’s the children  who get hurt.  I just pray you can work it out.”  I left it at that.  I did tell David about it later and he responded, “I don’t think I’m hurting!”  But anyway, back to the therapist: we had a good session on what forgiveness is and what it is not.  I was delighted to see that her thoughts echo what I have come to in my own mind.  And better yet, she had Scripture to back up these same thoughts.  I have been on the right track all along about this situation.  Forgiveness does NOT happen until the other person asks for it.  But as Christians, we need to get to a point where A) We are willing to forgive should the other person ask and B) We do not allow the situation to fester in our hearts because that leads to bitterness and hurts ourselves and our relationship with God.  I’m going to journal on this more for her before I see her again in a couple of weeks.

The doctor also told me that she looks forward to my visits and says she finds them, “invigorating.”  I think that’s a good thing!

I find that I am developing a strong interest in the field of counseling.  In fact, it was a major I briefly considered when I was figuring out how I wanted to finish my degree.  I am not saying I am going back for my Masters any time soon.  I don’t feel that’s something I can pursue until Ellie is grown and gone.  My kids had to sacrifice enough the last few years.  I don’t even know that I will ever get my Masters, but it’s something I  do find myself thinking about from time to time.  But anyway, if I were to become a counselor, I think I might get frustrated with my patients.  I mean, how do you counsel someone who just needs to fully surrender their lives, desires, and problems to the Lord – but refuses to do that?  I think you would be so limited in what you could do for them.  And then when their problems do not get better they’re naturally going to assume it’s because you are failing them as a therapist.  Someday, though, I’d love to go to this week-long conference that’s held every year out in Indiana or maybe Ohio – I’m not sure.  It’s a conference for what used to be called “nouthetic” counseling.  I don’t remember its new name.  But I think that is something I could really learn from.

A week later…
Because our internet was down for FIVE ENTIRE DAYS…my world just about ended, let me tell you.  And it was over black Friday shopping time, too! Ugh and ugh.

It must be the season for repairmen. The internet guy came Monday.  I have a guy from Geek Squad coming out today – any minute now, actually – to figure out why my dishes are coming out of the dishwasher dirtier than when I put them in.  And I have a service guy from Wyckoff coming out to do a furnace check later this afternoon.  That one makes me kind of sad.  My furnace is fine, but I haven’t had it checked out in about 4 years and something is telling me I had better do it this year.  I was having an old-co-worker of Paul’s do it but it’s so hard to arrange things with his schedule and then I have to sit and listen to his wife who is an unsaved, outspoken liberal while he checks, so I finally just decided to sign up with a local heating and air company and pay for them to come out twice a year and check things over.  It makes me sad, though, even after all this time because that’s something Paul used to take care of.  And when we had a part go down, he usually had something on his truck to take care of it.  Sigh…
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I had my eyes double checked again this morning by the eye dr.  No, I’m still testing the way  I did a couple of weeks ago with him.  The glasses people swear they made the glasses the way the prescription said to…so, I guess I’m stuck until my eyes adjust.  The dr. did say that because my astigmatism is so high in my left eye it will probably always feel like it is having to work harder (people with “normal” astigmatisms have a measurement of around -50 – mine is a -4.75).  And, I can see a little better now.  I’ve noticed I’m able to read magazines again, which is something I could not do for several months. I did ask about lasik surgery and he said it might be possible to get approved for that, even with the astigmatism.  But I don’t know.  It would be $4000 and the dr said I would still need reading glasses even after that simply because I’m old and getting older all the time.  And the thought of having my eyes operated on makes me a little nervous, too.  So, I don’t know.  Something to ponder, I guess.
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I am working three days this week – after all these weeks of not getting enough jobs.  Yesterday, I subbed for the first time at Knoxville H.S.  Wow – what a change from Pville.  It’s so big!  But yet, I know for a fact that Pville has quite a few Kville kids coming up for school.  So big must not necessarily mean better.  I was asked to fill in in the morning for the choir teacher and in the afternoon for the band teacher.  I actually had quite a bit of free time during the day, so it was good that I brought my kindle (esp. once I figured out the school’s wi-fi blocks Facebook).  Never mind that my gift to humanity is not singing publicly and I certainly know nothing about instruments!  The only truly difficult part of my day was the concert choir.  The teacher had left zero notes on her extremely messy desk so I was left wondering just what I was supposed to do with this choir that was scheduled to come to my room.  As it turned out, the accompanist showed up and informed me that the choir was to watch a past musical performance put on by the school.  I think drama and music are really big at Kville.  They even have a special door outside proclaiming the entrance to their “event  center.”  The kids picked “Beauty and the Beast” but none of them actually watched it.  First, I needed someone to volunteer their laptop to run the movie and I could not get anyone to do that.  That made me cranky.  Finally, a teenage girl reluctantly gave hers up. There were 70 kids in this room and not a one of them wanted to sit down, shut up, and watch the video.  I finally stopped the video and informed them that they would be finding an unoccupied chair to sit on and I expected to hear nothing above a whisper.  The thing is – I had nothing with which to threaten them.  I couldn’t even take names because I didn’t know them.  Of course, they kept getting louder and louder.  I finally gave up shushing them and just prayed for a quick end to the hour and a half block. The nice thing about school music rooms is that they are usually sound proofed so at least teachers in the halls don’t know you don’t have control over classroom!

It was absolutely freezing in the band room.  I ended up keeping my coat on.  Towards the end of the day I happened to glance at the locked thermostat and saw that it was set below 60.  That may have explained why even my toes felt frostbitten. I had to teach a Music Theory class but there were only 6 kids and all I had to do was hand out a worksheet and instruct them to work on their scales.  They did it.  And, again, judging by all the trophies on display and the posters hung up around the room, music is really big at this school.  One student, who I am pretty sure identified as homosexual, came in and spilled coffee all over the floor (guess he didn’t see the sign on the door that read, “Absolutely NO food or drink in music room!”)  He was wearing funky overalls and a floral shirt which first tipped me off that he might be batting for the other team.  I watched him for awhile and his mannerisms were distinctly more feminine, too.  But, unlike the student at Pville I had a few weeks ago, he didn’t announce his sexual preferences to me, so I could be wrong, I guess.

Anyway, that was my school day.  I was originally scheduled to work as an associate at Pville tomorrow and Friday.  Before I had my license to teach, I was asked to take these days and was committed to keeping them.  Well, Monday, I got called by Kville for some dates and was asked if I was free Friday.  I told them no.  Shortly after that, the secretary from Pville texted me very apologetically to cancel Thurs. and Fri.  The normal associate was supposed to be out of town, but her plans had changed.  So I texted Kville and asked if they were still looking for someone for Friday.  They were and I will be teaching a 5th grade class all day long.  And then yesterday, Pville texted me, needing a business teacher for Thurs in the high school.  So that is what I will be doing tomorrow.  And now I’ll be earning twice as much money as if the two associate sub dates had not fallen through.  Of course, I’ll be working a lot harder, too!

Immediately after work yesterday I had to head to the administration building in Kville to fill out paperwork.  And then I had a meeting with Ben’s team just a few blocks away.  And then he and I and his head staff person headed over to Ben’s new house so I could see that.  And then I had to go to Walmart.  And while I was in there it just hit me how tired I was.  But then David called and asked if he could heat up leftovers for their supper, which was my plan anyway.  And then I asked if they could handle doing the dishes because the dishwasher repairman was coming today and I wanted him to have a clean space in which to work.  When I pulled in the driveway, they were drying the last dish.  Nice.

I’m fighting a cold right now which is greatly contributing to my fatigue – runny nose, body aches, sore throat, etc.  It’s not enough to put me in bed, but it sure is wearing me out. I'm glad I didn't have to work today - although, the day was busy enough without it.  

The kids rode the bus home yesterday and were home alone for about an hour before David arrived.  I started getting texts from Lizzie about Ellie’s behavior.  At one point she even referred to her sister as a “psycho maniac” which made me laugh. Sounds about right!  Actually, if I had finished this post last week like I had intended I would have written about how good Ellie was being for the last 2 weeks.  I would have also written about  how suspicious I was and how I was looking at her side-eyed, wondering what her angle was and waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I knew an abrupt change like what she was evidencing was bound to not last.

And it didn’t.  Ellie told me last night that well, she just has “anger issues” and, “I just couldn’t control myself.”  But see, those kind of terms are a way of distancing herself from her actions.  So I told her very firmly that no, she had a filthy heart full of sin – that’s all.  And then I went on to remind her that that dirty heart is why Jesus had to die for her and it’s that same dirty heart that has put distance between herself and God and herself and me now.  I just have to keep redirecting her attention back to the one thing that really matters.  I read a really good quote last night by Linda Rice, who is the author of that book that has been changing my parenting.  She says, “Whether our children give grounds for joy or grief,there is something more important than the outcome and more important than whether we are happy or sad. While we rightly desire that our children trust and obey God, our central focus must not be on how they turn out so much as whether we parented to please God. We cannot make our children change, but we can obey the Lord ourselves. Loving and obeying God is a parent’s first priority.”

I’m learning.


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