Tuesday, February 28, 2012

During a spell in my life that was more normal (whatever that means), this would have been a great day. Not only because of the little dog in this photo. Professionally too. But it will keep.
Scanning lots of photos.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The improvement was short-lived, unfortunately. My mother-in-law passed away yesterday morning. So, no send-off or visit to the Cathedral. Instead we went down yesterday and made the arrangements, with calling hours Friday and the service and internment on Saturday. Eventually I will share more here, but today I wrote her brief obituary for Newsday, and within the next few days I will write something more elaborate for the community paper.

We did go on Saturday to meet the dog, and we may be getting her today.

What a day, what a week, what a month, what a year. Very surreal.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Yesterday my mother-in-law showed improvement, and there is now reason for cautious optimism. Bob has made four trips down there in the past week, and I have made two. We are becoming very familiar with central CT! (Nice state, btw. But one thing that is missing: Stewart's! That store chain has no peer that I've ever encountered.) But this weekend, we are staying put. Both of us, (but especially he) need rest. And, we have a couple things on the agenda.

Tomorrow, we are going to Washington County to see a beagle that is in a town shelter. She is small (14"), picked up as a stray, a young adult, unusual markings, sweet disposition. The animal control woman is calling her Anna! I took that as a sign since years ago, my niece Anna rescued a small female beagle from a town shelter. If we get her, we plan to name her Rose. I don't know the process town shelters use so I am not sure if we can bring her home tomorrow or if we will have to make two trips to spring her from doggie jail.

Sunday is his send-off Mass followed by the ceremony at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Really looking forward to that.

My classes are OK. That's nothing short of a miracle, considering how crappy '12 has been so far. The online class is especially good. Strange to have that section be my strongest class. However, I have only one that is troublesome, my Tuesday evening foundations class. It is also strange to have that be the worst class, since generally it is the best. It has been bothering me a lot, so yesterday I fired off this note to the students:

I’m sending you this note because I haven’t been too happy with what I perceive is a lack of engagement from about 1/4-1/3 of the students in class. This distresses me greatly because usually the Tuesday evening section of EEST 300 is a pleasure. Of course there are always a few students who are coasting, but the unusually large number of slackers and rather small class size makes it more apparent this Spring.

I want the remaining 2/3-3/4 of the students in class to know that this is not directed at you - there are some very fine and thoughtful class members who are intellectually alive and are clearly bright lights, but I have a feeling that since the class is small, eventually the disengaged will have a negative impact on the overall atmosphere (if it hasn’t already). Some past semesters I might have ignored it, and waited for the last day of class to arrive when I could joyously celebrate the end of the semester. However, this happens to be a particularly difficult semester for me personally, and frankly I don’t have the patience to put up with it until May.

The problem is particularly pronounced in Groups 2 and 3, and not as apparent (or not apparent at all) in Groups 1 and 4. I believe the lack of engagement in the former two groups is stemming from two things: 1) not doing the reading (and maybe not even owning the books) and 2) excessive text messaging. In both cases not all students in those groups are displaying lack of engagement, but it is clear to me that the more serious are being drained by their peers, and this is unfair.

I don’t want to single out students, so if this behavior describes you - now is the time to straighten up and fly right. Be prepared. Do the reading – bring your books to class – engage in the discussion, and put away your smart phones. If I don’t see an improvement, I am going to take a drastic action. I will scramble the groups and isolate all of the disengaged into one new group so that rather than ruining the lesson plan project and weekly discussions for your peers (and me) you can text to your heart’s content and sink together.

I believe it is not too late to salvage things. I hope you are paying attention. Thanks.

Then today, I received this note from administration. It is a copy of something that was sent to all students.

We have been informed by CDTA and by our own University bus drivers that the behavior of some of the students at the bus stops on Friday and Saturday evenings is approaching dangerous levels.

Rushing the buses in an attempt to board quickly not only places other students at risk, but causes the bus drivers to feel unsafe. Last weekend, a University bus door was broken by student

Some students are exiting University buses through the back or side emergency doors. It is unsafe to exit these doors unattended into traffic and it is a violation of NYS regulations to use these doors in a non-emergency. An accident with a parked car was a result of one of these actions.

he entrance and exit gate arms at the visitor’s parking lots on Collins Circle have been broken off repeatedly since the opening of these lots at the beginning of the fall semester. This is senseless vandalism.

Some students are entering the bus highly intoxicated and, if they get sick on the bus, the bus is taken out of circulation for the rest of the night.

It is in the interest of your safety that we provide bus transportation to and from campus late at night. We request your assistance in preventing such incidents at the bus stops - both on campus and downtown - so that we can continue to provide transportation services on Friday and Saturday nights.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Sigh. Must be I have landed some of these misbehaving students in my class this semester. And I expect these fools to take their education seriously? Stay tuned.

Oh! I finally got my consulting $. What a nightmare, but yay. No legal remedy needed.

And finally, Tuesday a publisher is coming to pitch me the opportunity to write another text book. We'll see what happens.
I am seeing a small light at the end of the tunnel.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Yesterday was a very long and draining day -- up early to drive through MA and CT to get to the ferry for a trip across the LI Sound to Port Jefferson. My MIL's condition was very grave indeed. The news from the doctors was not good, and during lunch the conversation centered on those inevitable topics that we go through life hoping to avoid, since denial is so much easier. After we returned we were presented with a surgical option with lots of risk, but it offered the only hope. So, she had emergency surgery in the afternoon, has survived the critical 12-24 hour period, and although critical, appears to be stable and possibly improving. So maybe things are looking up. Bob will return to downstate tomorrow, but I am going to Samsonville, and will pick up one of our dog crates. Hopefully there is a Bagel in my not-distant future, and all will be right in my world once again.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Things are not so good. My MIL has c.diff. It's serious. Yes, certainly in one of those spells, no doubt about it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Do you ever notice that life seems to go in "spells?" By this I mean that there are long stretches where things are sunny. I don't mean weather-wise, I mean all is well, life is good. Then there are other times where back luck rules. For me lately this is how it has been. Some of the clouds are trivial (such as my computer crash or the consulting non-payment annoyance) while others are devastating (such as Sophie's death) and still others are not trivial, but also not too ominous (sinus / tooth problems again!). A long-ish preface to this: Bob is on Long Island, his mother is quite sick and in the hospital.

Monday, February 13, 2012

I always try to avoid sharing stories that aren't "mine." But today I can't resist. Yesterday was a wonderful day. Cold -- even in a winter that wasn't a non-winter. That wasn't what made it wonderful. After years of reflection, Bob is converting to Catholicism, and yesterday was his welcome ceremony. Since the story isn't "mine," I won't write anything about his path to get here or his reasoning.

Ten members of my family met us at Sacred Heart Church for Mass. (I write "my" not because they are not "his" but just because none of my in-laws were there.) Afterwards we had brunch at the Chatham House.  It did my broken heart good and will be a lovely memory for all of us.

The next step is the first Sunday of Lent, the send-off. In the afternoon we will go to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception to meet the Bishop with all the other adult candidates in the diocese.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Don't feel much like writing here. Eventually I will likely write more about Sophie, as I did with Rudy -- but it will take time to gain perspective. I already went through my pictures -- her life spanned the time when I transitioned from regular print photographs to a digital camera to a smart phone and so there were many places to look. I found about 75, and now we have to select five for her urn, which has a photo cube design.

Bob had said that he didn't want to get another dog, because Sam might be better as an only dog. But Sam is subdued, and could use a companion besides TB/TC. So now that our "wegalicious" is gone, Bob went on petfinder -- before I did. That has never happened before. I've also done some light looking. Over the years, we transitioned from small dogs to larger dogs, but now we have to go back to small-ish. It has to be something I can lift easily. We are not going with tiny -- but instead thinking of the 25-35 pound range, a young adult that can handle Sam's enthusiasm. A female bagel, if we can find one nearby.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

I am not a sports, especially football, enthusiast -- but I will always remember that Sophie left us on Superbowl Sunday 2012.

After her long gradual decline -- stretching back years -- her final journey was a quick one. She even went out on her leash twice that day, and ate a meatball. But she was weak, and her hearty appetite abruptly vanished.

When I spotted her back in late 1999, the most pitiful dog in the pound -- did I envision what her life would be like? Her allergies and skin issues, her grumpy personality, her adorable behaviors, her worship of Bob? I never imagined she would have such a long life, but no dog could ever live long enough to satisfy me. I wanted her to live forever.

For the first time we did not do a backyard burial in Samsonville. Instead, on Monday afternoon we went to Buddy's Place and had her cremated. I've never been crazy about the idea, but it was strangely comforting. We witnessed it, bought an urn, and were able to bring her ashes home that evening. She wasn't crazy about Samsonville or the outdoors. So now she can stay in the living room in Castleton. Near her futon and the fireplace. How empty that space seems!

I walked around yesterday on campus, numb. It was a good distraction to be out of the house, but difficult at the same time. I was thinking, passing students on their way to class and campus center, can they tell how sad I am? How tired? However, my self-consciousness was unnecessary, because it was unlikely I was seen at all. Their focus was solely on texting as they hurried along, as it always is.

RIP dear Sophalina. I miss you more than words can say.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

I like music, but I rarely listen to it when Bob isn't around. I prefer silence, or as I call it, natural sound. Today we both were working around the house, and when we do that, he always plays the radio or music. Pandora is what is on. Some music is so evocative of mood.

Friday, February 03, 2012

You’d think by the time you hit 50 you’d have run across about every type of person imaginable and had to deal with all sorts of situations. That isn’t true, it turns out. I can think of no similar experience in the past. I guess I must be naive! Frankly, I cannot imagine why this has happened. It is so outside of my expectations. It has put me in a difficult situation professionally, to say the least. Of course I can stop personally visiting the schools and sharing feedback, but I arranged to have student observers go to classrooms, for which they receive three college credits toward the minor in education. This possibility was encouraged at our first meeting in 2010, the director attended an on campus student presentation in May 2011, and she was aware that I was recruiting new college student participants for 2011-12.  The university has even provided me with a small grant that helps to defray the students’ mileage costs from campus to the schools. I currently have two students participated during the Fall semester, and will be continuing the project this Spring semester. I owe them the experience, and I must honor that commitment, regardless of the status of my relationship with the organization. Why would the director put me in this position? There was never a cross word, and I have been diligently keeping up my end of the bargain. Looking back, I suppose there were red flags, that a more suspicious person would have heeded. But I have always been a person who believes in the moral character of others. Today it looks like my collections efforts may have paid off. Time will tell.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

I thought I had everything up and running, but I'm having a problem with uploading audio recordings. Waiting to hear a response from customer support. Classes are going well, but advisement has had its irritating moments recently. Still have not collected the money owed to me, and that is a major aggravation. Then, Sophie's situation is another stressor. I don't like leaving her when I go to campus, but really have no choice. She is holding her own but it is a nearly constant worry, and of all the things on my mind, it is the most important. Being jerked around by crazy people and cheated out of money, student issues, computer problems, who cares.