Monthly Archives: September 2013

Truth Is Stranger….

This little piece was a flash fiction exercise written the day before my firstborn was involved in a serious auto accident.

Spooky, scary stuff that this would surface like it did. For me, it was an intense piece to start with which was why I was quick to label it as fiction, so none of my writing buddies would worry.

I went back to read later after the worst of our real situation was over and got goosebumps.

From February 27, 2008

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Photo by Pam Roth

Inside it is still finally. Inside me, inside the room, inside my head. All the rampage is over, all the pain is settling in around the edges and will be steady soon, not so puncture sharp like at the first, but there beneath the drugs to make me comfortable, a reminder that life continues on.

It was touch and go there for awhile. I was out of it but not stupid even then. Thoughts faded in and out and around like a kaleidescope and sometimes melted like swirls of ice cream, but in the back of it all I knew it was a fight, sharp like brine, and so we set about fighting and here we are. Still. Recovering.

I’ve been here before. Tomorrow there will be the excruciating moments, lovely; they mean life and senses and opportunities that have not left entirely. Not yet. I dread the screaming moments along with the Buggins turn and the nurse it brings to me, some fine young woman who wants more than anything to be home soothing her crying infant, instead of a grown-up who was in the wrong place at the wrong time and really is none of her concern, at least not in the way the baby is.

I understand that, fully, as I drift off to sleep and I vow to be kind to them all, and most of all to myself. Expect nothing, no disappointments. But there’s a face that would do more than any pill, any bag dangling from the silver hook, and I dare not ask if I can see it.

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I Didn’t Die

Or fall off the edge of the world, although at times it felt like I was getting mighty close.

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I had lots of exciting things happen.  I had a flat. My brakes started making noises.  I lost my glasses. Two more rental units went empty. I am worried about my sister, my niece and her sweet girls for reasons I can’t go into here. My son has exciting but stressful things going on in his life. I had to pay those stupid quarterly taxes for the first time in awhile, walked blisters on my heels (my own stupid fault!) AND my hubby got laid off. Thankfully that last one was the only one that happened today. The rest were sprinkled liberally throughout the month of September.

To be fair, in the midst of all this, I did get a lovely girls’ weekend in Dallas with my daughter-in-law. We had yummy Italian food, a trip to the spa, got nails done, and spent a quiet afternoon/evening in our hotel room getting caught up on reading and napping, with the unexpected treat of catching My Big Fat Greek Wedding on TV. With complete control of the remote, I might add!

Oh and all that was before we went to MetroCooking on Sunday and got to watch Paula Deen cook in person. 🙂 I also found a couple of cool kitchen gadgets I am looking forward to putting to good use.

And today I had an overdue eye exam.  Last week when my hubby and I both looked high and low for my glasses and it became evident that I have done a spectacular job losing them, I was afraid of operating without them through Deaf Appreciation Day at the Oklahoma State Fair on Thursday as well as a weekend in Big D. So I started making desperation calls on Wednesday morning. The folks from whom I got the last two pair did not seem the least bit concerned with my plight. I do understand if you simply cannot help, but a little empathy would have been nice. 

Case in point, one place locally that I called tried very hard to slide me in. As a new patient. It was obvious to me that I was talking with a young woman who was willing to go an extra mile to make something work.  Even though it didn’t, I decided while I had her on the phone to make an appointment. For today.

Meanwhile I made due with an old pair I had run over with my car.  Yes.  Hubby bent them back into shape, and the scratches on the lenses, while significant, weren’t obstructing my view.  So I decided to just keep a close eye (tee hee) on the lens that pops out occasionally and make do.

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Today’s visit was just as pleasantly professional as my telephone conversation with the receptionist.  For an afternoon appointment, I didn’t feel the wait was terrible, though I wait better than some I know. The staff and the optometrist were cordial, efficient, skilled and seemed to enjoy their work. And even better, everything from blood pressure through eye health was great. My prescription barely changed and the optometrist agreed with me that I don’t truly need the bifocals to read; I simply have to take off the distance vision correction for reading, which was what I was doing anyway.  I never needed those stupid bifocals! Another nail in the coffin of my former eye care place. 

So that together with autumn weather in sight leaves me hopeful that maybe the hectic, unstructured pace of the summer is finally….

Wait….

Hubby is home. All day.  Every day.  

Okay, I am hopeful that much needed rays of sunshine will pop up when they are most needed!

Long, Long Ago…

In the infant stages of the telephone industry, it was nuts. Customer calls were handled by teenage boys who were hired to run across a room to plug in circuits. When boys are running in the house, it’s not much of a surprise when horseplay follows.

Young males aren’t always the most patient or understanding individuals on the planet. (I can hear my son saying, “It’s not Too-Duh-Lee-Doo you nit-wit [hopefully mumbled under his breath], “You want Tah-LEE-Doe.”) The boys’ penchant for playing craps turned reaching a responsible, working switchboard operator into…yes…a craps-shoot.

With exchanges ranging from curt to vulgar, these young male operators were giving a bad name to Telephone Dispatch Company exchange in Boston, Massachusetts. It was time to present a better image to customers.

So the company tried an experiment. On September 1, 1878 the Telephone Dispatch Company hired Emma Nutt, who proved her worth convincingly enough that her sister Stella was hired later the same day. The Nutts became the first female telephone operators and gradually things at the switchboard became a little less—well—nuts. Emma continued working as an operator for 33 years.

To convince families to allow their daughters to go to work, telephone companies took on a parent-like roll – hence the nickname “Ma Bell.” Because it was one of the few respectable jobs for women at the time, women quickly took over the switchboards, as well as office positions such as typists and secretaries. They also became telegraph operators.

Fast forwarding to the future, the July 21, 1935 issue of The San Antonio Express reported:

“New inventions are threatening to send the telephone operators home, even to substitute mechanical stenographers for human ones. But also new inventions are developing new opportunities. New social crises are developing new challenges. New chances may come to women if they are not too blind to see them, too mousey to [essay] them. After all, Emma Nut when she walked into a profane, smoke-laden telephone office, was not only a pleasant, well-mannered young woman, but also a daring one. “

It wasn’t until the early 1970s that women began to clamor for an opportunity to do other things for the telephone company, like becoming installers and repair technicians. In 1973 Time magazine reported that feminists had complained about this to the government’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and American Telegraph & Telephone was forced to open every job in their system to both sexes. Nine months later, the report was that the decree was producing many more male operators than female linemen or installers.

Of course in our day and age, the operator has been all but eliminated, or replaced by a computerized automated push-buttons-till-you-scream system that does absolutely nothing for a company’s image. Things have come full circle, with a twist.

I wonder what Emma would think?

P.S. Emma once commented that she was grateful she wasn’t named “Imma.” I believe their parents had a sense of humor because if you change the “e” in Stella to an “I”, you find Stella had something to be grateful for, too.

More info:  The Telecommunications History Group

Copyright 2007 Carolyn Dekat, first appearing on Small Addictions The Skateboard

Savvy Tenant – How to Make Your New Landlord Love You

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Photo by shho

Ask for a copy of the lease when you get your application so that your out-of-state fiance can have a look at it before you proceed with the application.

Be prompt about getting the application and fees to your potential landlord, who in turn works to get the application expedited so you have an answer before you go back to your home state in four days to get married.

Work to get the lease finalized as soon as possible.  This turns out to include working with cantakerous fax machines, requesting a revised lease with names spelled correctly so that the notary public will sign off on the lease.  Then working with more cantakerous fax machines and getting your initialed, signed and notorized lease faxed back for our signature, also done with a notary since you’re not here to witness the signature.

Finally, after a great deal of persistence and patience.  It’s done!

Photo by humusak2

Photo by humusak2

When power company unexpectedly turns off the electricity, you work with the landlord to get your account with the power company established and the power turned on to facilitate the make-ready process.  From out of state. Assure the landlord that if it becomes necessary you can stay in base housing for a week or so until the house is ready.

Mail the deposit check and the first month’s rent check, written separately as requested in the lease, and a note that says in effect, thanks for working with us and we look forward to working with you.

…….Fast forward one week……During which the landlord works after his full time job to get the place spit-shined beyond what most landlords will do.  Why?  He prides himself on his properties–all of them.  It’s why he has happy, long-term tenants who take care of their homes.  Also he is concerned about your new bride and the fact that she’s never seen the place first hand.  He wants her to be blown away when she does see it.  In short, he cares.  And he is excited to have you both as tenants in your first home together.  He even contemplates getting a bow to put on the lawn mower that the previous tenant left behind as a “Welcome & Congratulations” gift.  He makes sure the lawn is mowed and all that is left for you to do is move in and get settled.

Photo by Robert Proksa

Photo by Robert Proksa

How to Make Your Landlord Change His Mind

Show up with no communication before hand and request the keys on a Saturday.  Landlord, who has just come back from your house to eat lunch, is there with them promptly.

There are just a few cleaning items in the house and the burners covers from the top of the stove are being power washed to remove the stuff that wouldn’t come off with a basic cleaning.  Landlord acknowledges that he is there to clean the carpeted stairs.  His floor machine doesn’t fit on the stairs, so he’s removing the few stains by hand.  He’s also installing some outlet covers and phone jacks that were removed by the previous tenant.  Otherwise the place is spotless, down to the fact that he has disassembled the refrigerator shelves so he can get the crumbs out that have lodged between the glass and the shelving.

Let your landlord know that your wife isn’t here yet.  She’ll be out of state until she finds a “good” store in the area to transfer to, part of the nation-wide department store franchise that apparently has good and bad stores–a gazillion of them–throughout the metro area.

Tell your landlord that your wife doesn’t think it is fair to ask them to pay for the first week’s rent if the place is not ready to move into. (WHAT exactly would keep you from moving in?)

Tell your landlord that your wife wants to split the cost of a new air conditioning unit for the house.  They are willing to pony up a couple hundred dollars for this. (For a brand new$1,500 – $2,000 unit?  Ah, the bliss of ignorance. And by the way, WHAT FOR? The old one works just fine.) 

Try to have a conversation with your landlord and your wife on the phone at the same time.  Send her pictures as you tour the house and look for every little thing you might possibly complain about, but only finding one light bulb burned out in a ceiling fan upstairs. Ask if the landlord is going to be sure and fix that.

Yes.

It seems people are becoming disenchanted.  Not just you, either.

Ask the landlord about the clause in the lease that says after 30 days bugs that show up are your problem.  Has there been any problem with bugs in the past?

When the landlord says the only bug problem that has ever surfaced there was a termite issue three years ago and not one one has been seen since, relay that to your wife. Then tell your landlord she is a “bug person” wants to know what kind of termites they were.

“The kind that eat wood….” is the reply. “Listen, if you two are having second thoughts, that’s okay.  I will put the sign back up in the yard and the house has never been unoccupied since we’ve owned it.  It should rent pretty quickly.”

“What does that cost us?”

“Rent until the new people move in.  We get the sign up now and someone qualifies next week and moves in by th 15th, then you pay for two weeks.  If for some strange reason it doesn’t rent, then you’re on the hook until it does.”

“Oh, she’ll never go for that…. She’s my backbone.”

Great. (By the way, your buddy with you, he’s now rolling his eyes.)

Take the keys but don’t move in.

Call three days later and say you need an e-mail address.  When the landlord asks why you need an e-mail address, hedge.  Him-haw.  Say you have questions.  When the landlord asks why you can’t just ask questions like you have in the past instead of using e-mail, which the old-school landlord doesn’t use (his wife is the tech person in the family), tell the landlord that, for example, you’re worried about being responsible for termites if they show up.

“I can’t hold you responsible for termites! That isn’t something you bring in or attract.  That clause is there for roaches, bedbugs, ants and the like, not termites.  Do you still need the e-mail address?”

“It’s not like we haven’t gotten ripped off there,” you reply. 

“Where have you gotten ripped off?”

Ut oh.

“Uh, in Oklahoma.  It’s just a more efficient way to communicate.”

“As opposed to picking up the phone or stopping by to talk.” (Landlord and tenant are in walking distance of each other.)

Okay….

Then after you get the e-mail address, why don’t you call at 9:30 pm after the landlord has gone to bed so he can be up at 5:30 in the morning to go to work.  Thankfully for everyone involved, landlord sleeps through the cell phone ringing.

*sigh*

So here’s what I want to say:

GROW UP! If you have decided you can’t afford don’t want the house, just say so.  But don’t expect someone else to take the fallout from your change of heart mind.

  • You had the lease for at least a week before you signed it.
  • You read and initialed each page and signed the last one.  Twice.
  • You took the time to find a notary in whose presence to do the above and then
  • There was all the effort to get it faxed so that we would take the sign down and stop showing the place to anyone else.

There was plenty of time for you to change your mind without paying  a penalty BEFORE YOU SIGNED A LEGALLY-BINDING AGREEMENT OF YOUR OWN FREE WILL. And mailed us two checks.

So don’t be looking for some reason to pin your wanting to back out of the agreement you signed on us so that you don’t have to pay the consequences for changing your mind as if you were somehow tricked into signing a lease.

And honey, if you think you have a landlord who hasn’t been through this before and who is going to roll over at the first hint of a “legal issue”, boy howdy, I am telling you straight up.  You had best think again before you make another very bad decision.

Photo by linusb4

Photo by linusb4

Okay, now maybe I can sleep with that off my chest.

This kind of thing makes me angry and then it makes me sad.  It is so unfair for a person who has never met us to work from a position that we’re trying somehow to rip her, and her backbone-less husband, off. How a relationship can do a 180 in such a short period of time never ceases to amaze me, although I guess I should be used to it by now.  It makes it hard to get excited and go an extra mile for the next tenant that comes along, which is sad.  It’s not their fault that the previous folks had issues.

But then this is a business.  Maybe it’s time to stop being personal.  Which is also sad.  Remember the good old days when a mailman could stop and have a cup of coffee with his neighbor and chat a bit before continuing his work?  I don’t but I wish I could….

Listen (or Play!) and Learn

I am being lazy again, but I dug this out of my archives thanks to my brother who commented on Monday’s post on Facebook. Unfortunately most of the links there to these research studies are no longer working. But I can provide a link to NAMM Foundation research page.

This post is dated March 11, 2009 on my old blog.

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I was intrigued when I read that the top academic countries in the world place a high value on music education. The study is showed that countries like Hungary, the Netherlands and Japan that rank high in science achievement also have required instrumental and vocal music training at elementary and middle school levels.

I dug a bit deeper and found that music study equips students to grasp advanced math and science concepts. Spatial-temporal reasoning is the ability to create, maintain, transform, and relate complex mental images, even in the absence of external sensory input or feedback. More simply put, this reasoning skill deals with proportional reasoning–fractions, proportions, ratios, and thinking in space and time. Music, math, science, physics, and chess all involve spatial-temporal reasoning.

In one study second-grade students were given four months of piano keyboard training and newly designed math software. A second group was given just the math software. The group given the keyboard training scored over 27 percent higher on proportional math and fractions tests than the software-only group.

In another study with pre-schoolers, one group was given private piano keyboard lessons and singing lessons, while a second group received private computer lessons. The children who received the music training performed 34 percent higher on tests measuring spatial-temporal ability.

Other studies seem to indicate that simply listening to music can enhance spatial-temporal reasoning. I was warned of the dire consequences of allowing my son to have headphones on “while he was supposed to be studying.” (He wasn’t listening to classical music either.) Because his school work and test scores proved that the activity didn’t seem to be hindering learning, I didn’t interfere.

In the current academic climate which stresses teaching to testing and where funding cuts often limit classes in the arts including band and vocal music, it would appear wise for parents to make sure that their children have a solid foundation in music. An investment in a keyboard and lessons may well be an investment in a child’s learning ability. At the very least, make sure after-school activities involve music, perhaps even while doing homework!

Keyboard photo by Manuella Hoffmann via Creative Commons
Calculator photo by Jek Bacarisas via Creative Commons

 

A New Place To Be

Her heart longed for her beach almost as much as it did for Adrian.  Her mind, just as insistant, told her all of that was history, nothing to be revisited.  But where to go now?  Her feet hurt.  Her eyelids were too heavy for words.  All she needed was a place to stop, a place…

There it was.

The shimmer of the sunshine on the water caught her eye. Her gaze was captured by the games the light played.  It was hard at first glance to tell which were real trees and which were reflections.  And water.  The familiar irresistable pull of water made her tip-toe to the edge.

This was perfectly different.  No throb, no pulse, nothing to promote a rhythm, a dance, a memory.

A place to think.  A place to plan.  A place to start life new in this world that was so deep in her blood that there was no question it was home.

Photo by ShadowRave

Photo by ShadowRave

Contemplating My Universe

It is not a secret by any stretch of the imagination that I have loved every minute of being a mom. I kept waiting for the twos to get terrible.  It never happened.  I waited for the sullen, silent misery of the teen years when my boys would become distant.  Never happened.  

That’s not to say we never saw a tantrum, nor was everything smooth sailing during the turbulence of adolescence. But for the most part we experienced bumps.  We worked throughout them.  We still work through them.

As much as I loved being Mom, I always tried to remember that they don’t stay little and that if I was doing my job right, I would gradually play a lesser role in their lives. I did my best to make room in my life for pursuits of my own that could fill in the gaps when mommy-hood disappeared.

Well, here we are.

I miss having little boys in the house and this has been compounded by the fact that I spent much of August culling old school papers so that I have room in the filing cabinet for stuff I may actually have to retrieve some day.  At this point having the dated and completed algebra worksheets that match with the school schedule, saved to prove we were providing an “equal education” here at home is unnecessary.  All the proof we need now are the framed degrees and certification cards for my two professional Sign Language Interpreters.

It’s been an exhausting week and last night my emotions got the best of me. I was a melted puddle of “the best of my life is over; all I have to look forward to are endless days of cooking, cleaning and laundry and if this is retirement who needs it?” 

My dear, fix-it hubby encouraged me to do what he knows I love to do. Write about it. 

“It” being our successful homeschooling adventure.

This isn’t the first time he’s tried to guide me down this path. I have resisted him for many reasons.  

  1. There are already a ton of books out there about homeschooling.  
  2. I have no credentials. Much as I prefer a person with experience in the trenches over an expert with letters after his/her name, I do have to accept the reality of the fact that those letters mean something to some people, namely people who publish and purchase “how to” books on something as important as giving your child a sound and solid education.  
  3. It seems a daunting task. Where to start. How to make it interesting.  What slant to take.

He was so kind as to point out that: 

  1. Our story is not out there and it, like every home education story, is unique. Perhaps our unique parts would help someone else. And who said it had to be a book.
  2. Our sons are professionals in their chosen field and live successful, moral, productive lives. They are our credentials.
  3. Just put it down in bits and pieces and tie it together later.  As Nike is so fond of saying: Just do it.
So why not just do it here? It seems like an endless source of blog fodder. 

Photo by Kelly Boesch

 
Because home has played such a big role from the time we found out our first child was on the way, I’ve decided to use the category Home for any posts that relate to this subject.  The posts won’t be dry clips about the nuts and bolts of things like curriculum and organization.  What fun is that? The fun of our educational process lies in the stories we generated.  
 
Who doesn’t like entertaining and informative in the same package? 
 
Here’s to my next chapter.