My journey to shoot for the moon.

Archive for September, 2011

Adult Company

I recently met my friend Erica for lunch.  Erica and I met at the school I worked at last year.  Both of us were new for the school year, we were both Educational Assistants and both of us were RIF (reduction in force) for this school year.  Erica found a job at the school Michael would go to if he wasn’t open enrolled at a different school.

Erica and I used to have lunch together once a week.  I miss that.  So, getting to have lunch with her was great!  We talked about our boys (she has 3) and work/interviews.  It made me realize how much I miss adult conversation during the day.

I do talk with my mom almost every day, but looking someone in the eye, watching their body language and seeing their expressions is the part that I miss.  Because I am hearing impaired, I rely on these cues.  That isn’t to say that I don’t hear what the other person is saying, with my hearing aides I usually do.  But, there is just so much more to a conversation than just listening to the words.  And I often miss the nuances when I am on the phone because I cannot see the person.

Spending my time alone has been good too.  I’ve gotten a number of projects finished and I’ve had a chance to re-charge.

Monday I started Substitute Teaching.  I am very happy to be working again.  It is nice to spend the day doing something that I love.  On Monday, I substituted at a magnet school for a Mild/Moderate SPED teacher.  It was a good day and I had some fun.  The people were nice and I actually knew 2 of the teachers.  It was a long day and from 8-10am seemed to take forever.  The rest of the day went by fairly quickly.

Tuesday, I subbed at David’s school (middle school) – also for a Mild/Moderate Teacher.  I had a great time.  Besides having to be there at 7 am, it was wonderful.  I have decided that I LOVE middle school.

Today and tomorrow I will be subbing in Early Childhood Education as a SPED teacher.  It should be interesting, as I have never done this before and the classrooms are integrated.  There will be a regular ed teacher.  I am sure that I will be quite tired by the end of the day.  And then I have to go back and do it again the next day.

Friday I sub at another Elementary School as a Mild/Moderate SPED teacher.

It is keeping me busy and providing lots of adult company, just not the same adults day after day.  David’s school has me scheduled for a day in October and I am hoping that they ask me to come in for some long term sub positions (more than 10 days).  It would be wonderful to be in the same place for more than a day or two.  Mostly, I am having fun.  Look for the story about my day at David’s school – I should have something posted by early next week.

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Substitute Teaching

I just wanted to write a quick post and let everyone know that I started substitute teaching this week.  I have 4 different jobs for this week – totaling 5 days.  Very busy, very tired, but happy.

Friday night is Marching Band Night at the High School and I’ve volunteered to chaperone.  Saturday, Michael has 2 soccer games.  One is 10-11 and the other is 11-12 and then we are going to the Rapids game with his team – a tailgating.  Should be a great weekend, but really busy.

So much for easing into things.  I will continue to blog, as I am able – hopefully a couple of times a week.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo – Road Trip Part 2

Michael and Micah feeding the giraffes.

After we finished at the Manitou Cliff Dwellings, we went to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. We got there right about 11 am and after we got the map, the boys and I sat down to figure out what we HAD to see at the zoo, so we could make sure that we did.

This is how I usually do museums, etc. with the boys because we have, in the past, run out of time and missed stuff that they really wanted to see and spent time seeing things they didn’t care about.

At the giraffe area

The first thing the boys wanted to do was feed the giraffes. So we headed to the giraffe area.  Last year when we went to the zoo with my friend Kathy, the giraffes were eating “cookies.”  This year it seems to be lettuce.  There was a sign that said that the giraffes were going “green.”  Honestly, the lettuce was over-priced at $2 per bunch, but the boys had fun.  So it was worth it.

Michael feeding a giraffe.

After visiting the giraffes, the boys decided that they wanted to go on the Mountaineer Sky Ride.  Before we went to the zoo, I looked up the rules for the sky ride.  You could ride 4 at a time and 1 rider had to be 12 or older.    So, the boys could ride with either David or me.  They decided that they would ride with David, so I got to ride alone (which was fine – it was quiet and relaxing).

The boys riding the Sky Ride up the mountain. I just loved that I could see their heads and their feet.

At the top of the Sky Ride is a climbing wall and not much else.  The boys went to the climbing wall area and David and I sat on a bench.  The thing about the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, is that it is on the mountain.  So, to walk around the zoo, you are constantly either hiking up or hiking down.  It is beautiful, but on an 80°+ day, it was tiring.

The view going up on the Sky Ride to my right.

The view from the Sky Ride is amazing.  It is about a 5 minute ride.

The one and only time I had to say something to the boys was when they were in the climbing wall area and they were throwing rocks.  When I asked them to stop, they did.  That was all the “discipline” I had to impose during our entire day.

Going down on the Sky Ride to me is scarier than going up because you can see the whole way down and it is a long way.  Michael and Micah rode with me on the way down and Sean rode with David.  Michael and Micah were fine, but nervous.

After the Sky Ride, we had lunch.  We were all starving and everyone had pizza except for David (who had hot wings).  The slices were huge, but we were all still hungry after the pizza, so we had ice cream.  Sean got a brownie that was bigger than a sandwich and ended up taking much of it home.

After lunch we wandered around the zoo.  The boys were navigating using the zoo map and we only headed in the wrong direction a few times.  We saw penguins, hippopotami, a tiger, naked mole rats, kimono dragons, snakes, monkeys, otters, mountain lions, wallaby, and quite a few other animals.  Before we knew it, it was just about time to head back.  Micah talked Michael and Sean into riding the carousel before we left.   The carousel went pretty fast and I was surprised.  I was also surprised that the boys wanted to ride (I thought that they were too old for the carousel).  But I am glad they did.

Carousel

Sunday’s paper had an article about Carousels and the one at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo was one of the notable carousels in Colorado.

In all, it was a great trip.  I hope that the boys learned a lot and I know that they had a good time.  They ate a ton of snacks during the ride back to Parker.  When Micah’s mom and Sean’s mom picked them up, they both started talking non-stop about the day.

Michael on the Carousel

Manitou Cliff Dwellings – Road Trip Part 1

The boys were awesome. Michael and his two classmates, Sean and Micah, sat in the back of the van. David sat in the front seat. For the whole ride, the boys talked, laughed and listened to music. It was great.

We left Parker, Colorado at about 8:35 am and arrived at the Cliff Dwellings in Colorado Springs at about 9:45 am.  It wasn’t a bad drive and it was pretty.  It is still amazing to me that the mountains are here!  Growing up in Illinois, I am used to boring flat land.  I love looking at the mountains and could spend days doing nothing but meditate on the mountains.  But this isn’t about the mountains, it is about the boys, our road trip, and their school project.

When we arrived at the Cliff Dwellings, there was a school group at the beginning. So we started at the end.  If you look in the picture all the way to the left, that is where we started.

Manitou Cliff Dwellings - Full View

The boys took turns climbing the ladder and going inside the first section.The first section we explored.  The platform that the ladder leads up to is only safe for 2 people at a time.  There was also a ladder inside the dwelling and the boys spent a lot of time exploring and climbing.  Michael was in charge of our “old” camera and I had the “new” camera.  He took some pictures inside the dwelling (at this point), but they didn’t turn out.

Michael standing on the platform.

When the boys finished this section, we moved on.  The next section was the middle area in the picture of the entire site.

At some point, we ran into the school group and the boys decided that it was time to go to the museum and gift shop and come back to the Dwellings after a while.  They really spent a long time exploring the gift shop.  I got two books.  One on the Anasazi and the other on the Dwellings.  The boys picked out a postcard for their teacher, as well.

The view looking out from the Cliff Dwellings.

They will use the books when they work on their project (hopefully).  They are doing a timeline and also a tri-fold poster on the cliff dwellings.

Since, all the individual pictures got mixed up in my head, I’m going to stop writing and post the pictures.  Enjoy!  (And look for Part 2 in the next couple of days on the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.)

Grinding stones

Corn Silo and Nine Room House

Firepit

Road Trip Today!

Today is a Professional Development Day for the teachers in our district.  That means that there is NO SCHOOL.  So, the boys and I are taking a short road trip to Colorado Springs.

Michael’s class is doing projects on the Native Americans of Colorado.  So, we going to the Manitou Cliff Dwellings to get pictures and information for the project.  Two of Michael’s classmates are coming with us.  Then we are going to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.  Besides Michael’s project, David will get “field trip credit” for going, since the Cliff Dwellings are mentioned in his Social Studies book (and since we are homeschooling Social Studies, I can have him do whatever I think is appropriate for American History).

David, Michael and I went to both of these places last summer with my friend Kathy, who was visiting from Illinois.  Since the Cliff Dwellings won’t take all day, I asked my boys if there was anything else they would like to do while we were in Colorado Springs.  Both of them wanted to go to the Zoo.  David said that the Zoo was “awesome.”  So, that is what we will do.

So, while I may be a bit crazy, we are heading out today, hopefully, by 8:30.  That should put us in Colorado Springs by 9:30.  I expect that we will either get lunch at the Zoo or on the way to the Zoo.

One of the moms asked if I was sure that I could handle this with the kids.  Four boys between the ages of 10-13.  3 Fifth Graders and 1 Eight Grader.  No problem.  I’m expecting it to be a lot of fun!  I figure that we need to leave Colorado Springs by 3:00 at the latest to arrive back home in time to get one of Michael’s friends to the High School for his sister’s softball game and then to get Michael to soccer practice.  His other friend is going to be picked up at the soccer field, since they live nearby.

It will be a Little Caesar’s Pizza night, our normal Friday night after soccer practice dinner.  I am certain that I will be too tired to cook.  I am also fairly certain that I will be headed to bed soon after dinner.

Look for a post on Saturday or Sunday with pictures and stories about our adventure!

Chris’ Cancer and Me – Part 2

HR knew about Chris’ cancer.  I told them.  Repeatedly, whenever I spoke with HR regarding my displacements.  They knew that Chris was on my health insurance.  They knew that I was working for my benefits and didn’t care about the paycheck.  They knew.

But at the time of my displacement (I think March 2011), I went to the Union.  The Union Rep. tried to intervene on my behalf.  And he was unsuccessful.  He tried again and again and was told there was nothing that could be done.  As we all know, HR has “power” and can make exceptions when they want to.  They didn’t seem to want to.  Why?  I have no clue.

All I was asking for was that I be placed in an Educational Assistant position rather than having to interview and be “hired” again.  That was it.  It really wasn’t that much.  I checked the job postings this morning and there were several positions that were open (there were a total of 30 open positions, but only a few of them were in the classification I was previously working in).  There have been positions all summer.  So, I wasn’t asking for something that was impossible.  I was asking for something that was reasonable.  Especially, under the circumstances.

Over and over again I told HR and the Union Rep. that I was concerned about my health insurance.  I was under the false impression that my insurance would run until the end of the school year, as I worked the entire school year.  Apparently, in the letter that told me that I was RIF and that I would be placed on the recall list, there was one sentence telling me that my health insurance would expire on May 30th.  The reasoning was that the last day that I worked for the district was in May (because of the school calendar).

Here’s the thing.  I worked my “contracted” 176 days.  If I had been at a school that had a different calendar, my 176 days would have ended in June and our health insurance wouldn’t have expired until June 30th.  June 30th was the last day of the school year.

The Union rep. was as surprised as I was when we found out my health insurance expired.

In the meantime, through all of April and May, I applied for teaching positions within the district.  I was not eligible to apply for “in-district only” positions because, while I was “in-district” I wasn’t working as a teacher.  Of course, it makes no sense.  A teacher on a “one-year only” contract was allowed to apply for teaching positions before I was.  And remember I had been working in the district for 4 years.

Our health insurance was a high deductible insurance.  We were required to pay for everything until we reached $8,000 out-of-pocket (the district would “subsidize” $3,000 of that over the course of an entire year).  Once we reached the $8,000, everything was covered at 100%.  We had reached the out-of-pocket fairly early on and really believed that we would have the month of June covered at 100%.

However, my insurance “expired” at the end of May.  And we couldn’t do COBRA for one month and then sign up for insurance through Chris’ company.  So, how should I put it, we were screwed.  Chris’ insurance runs from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31.  Mine ran from July 1 to June 31.  So, we would have to switch and have 7 months on Chris’ insurance before it started again.

If you’ll remember, Chris had radiation in June.  Originally, we thought that the radiation would be covered at 100%.  But because of the change in insurance, we had to reach our deductible and out-of-pocket.  For a single family member, the out-of-pocket was $5,700.  For the family, it was $9,700.  And all of it “rolls over” in January and we have to start again.  Even if I were to get a position within the district, we would have the same issue with the different coverage periods.

Following Orientation, I told KR and MF all of this.  And that HR knew my situation.  KR said several times that this never should have happened.  She told me that I should speak with the new Director of HR.  Apparently, he began working for the district in July. I asked her if she thought he was in, and she walked me to his office.  He was in a meeting, but she told me that she would have him call me.  She told me that, this should have never happened repeatedly.

She also told me that she would get my substitute “stuff” done as quickly as possible (and she did.  Thanks KR!!!) and to let her know if I needed anything.  She also told me that I was a “strong, beautiful woman.”   She also told me that it was amazing that I was calm and able to talk about what had happened (and Chris’ cancer) and wasn’t a total mess.

And this is the point that I wanted to get to – people tell me that I’m strong because of how I am handling my life.  But what other choice do I have?  I can’t stay in bed with the covers pulled up around me, NO MATTER HOW MUCH I MIGHT WANT TO.  What would that accomplish anyway?

I have to get up and face each day.  I have to do what I can.  I have to try to keep things going.  I have had to let go of my anger and stop asking the question, “Why me/us?”  I don’t have any other choice.  I have two boys (remember they are 13 and almost 11) who are going through something that I can’t even imagine – the prospect of losing their dad.  Chris is facing treatment after treatment and hoping (beyond hope) that they work and can keep the cancer at bay.  There isn’t time for me to have regular pity parties.  There is still laundry and dishes.  The boys still need to do their homework and practice their instruments.  The dogs need to be taken out.  And while I may wish it were otherwise, life goes on.

If someone would have told me 10 years ago, I would be facing this – this being my life – I wouldn’t have believed them.  I would not have thought that I would be able to deal with it all.  I would have thought I would be a mess.  That I would have a break-down.

But somehow, over the last several years I have managed to do things I thought I would never be able to do:  I lived for a year in IL, while Chris was in CO and managed the boys, work, and the house being on the market.  I dealt with a flood at our house less than one week before we were to move to CO – I had help, but I put in a tile floor (all by myself) and managed to get everything re-packed for the move.  I worked full-time while completing my Master’s and managed to graduate with a 3.98 GPA.  I have made new friends and adjusted to life in a new state, where I only knew 2 people (and Chris) prior to moving here.  I also finished my Student Teaching after Chris was diagnosed.

People, like KR, say that I am strong because I have done all of these things.  But, honestly, what other choices have I had?

This is why I find it hard to tell people about Chris’ cancer.  Somehow, it becomes all about me.  And it isn’t.

I had a friend who was upset about her dog dying.  She was in tears and talking with me.  And then it happened.  She said that she shouldn’t be upset and crying to me.  I had enough to deal with and her problems weren’t anything compared to mine.  I told her it was NONSENSE.  It isn’t all about me, all the time.  Her dog dying was upsetting.  She had every right to be upset.  She had every right to talk with me about it.  My problems don’t make anyone’s problems less.  Yes, it is sometimes about me.  But it can’t be about me all the time.  Sometimes, like after her dog died, it had to be about her.  It is as it should be.  It is hard to be a friend if it is always all about you.

I told my friend that right at that moment, what she was going through was important.  That it was upsetting to her and I was there to support her.  That, as my friend, she had the right, to have it be all about her for a while.  I told her that there would be days when it was all about me, but that day wasn’t one of them.

Much of the time, we are in stable and steady mode.  Chris’ cancer isn’t growing.  Now it isn’t shrinking either, but it isn’t growing.  He goes to work every day (and I am VERY thankful) and while he doesn’t feel well and he is tired, life goes on.  Yes, his cancer is always there, but there isn’t anything else that can be done.  So we all go on.

We will, at some point, hit crisis mode.  We expect that the cancer will start growing (like it did prior to Chris’ radiation treatments in June).  We will deal with that when it happens.  And we will need it to be all about us when that happens.  But day-to-day is just that, day-to-day.  Life goes on.  We manage as we have been managing for almost 2 years.

I find it difficult to decide when to tell someone about Chris cancer for all of these reasons.  I may be strong, but I haven’t had a choice.  If we had stopped managing when Chris was diagnosed, where would we be now?  It has been 2 years.  We have to live and not wait for death.  And that means that friends are going to need us.  For fairly normal stuff – like dogs dying and cars breaking down and fights with spouses or families.  And it doesn’t diminish the problem (the fact that Chris’ cancer is, well cancer).

But managing doesn’t make me strong.  Managing makes me human.  And I don’t see that I am special because of it.  I am not an example of how someone should deal, because I am me and I am dealing the best that I can.  No one can say how they would manage if it were them, because it isn’t them and honestly, you don’t know until you are there.

So, support me.  Be there when I need you and offer your help (thanks KR, MF and my friends ET, KH and AG for all you do regularly).  And let me be there for you, when it needs to be all about you.  Let me be your friend and don’t make me into something I’m not.  Because some days, I cry in the shower because it is all I can manage.  Then I end the pity party and go on.  Life is like that – you really don’t have any other choices.

 

Chris’ Cancer and Me

Yesterday, I went for Orientation for Substitute Teaching.  Meeting new people has never been easy for me.  As a kid, people took my “shyness” as being “stuck up.”  But I don’t think that I was really stuck up, just overly anxious.

When we moved to Colorado, I really made a personal effort to “re-create” myself.  I tried hard to smile and introduce myself.  I may have been quiet, but I really took the time to appear approachable and friendly.  And I think for the most part, I have succeeded.

Then came Chris’ diagnosis.  How do you talk with people you don’t know about your kids, job and life without mentioning such a big part of our lives?  It is tough to figure out when to share that information.  Sometimes I don’t.  And sometimes I do.  I go with my gut.  But it is really hard, because I don’t want to scare people away with too much information too soon, but. . .

Anyway, yesterday I attended Orientation.  I got their early and picked a seat.  Michael’s Science/Health teacher (who is a retired teacher and works teaching as a result of a Planning Time Grant) sat down next to me.  Of course, with nearly 1,000 students, he had no clue who I was.  I introduced myself and we chatted for a while.  That was the extent of my “socialization” during the Orientation.

After the Orientation, I stuck around waiting because I needed to fill out a Curriculum Choice page.  This is the page that they use when they enter all of your information into the system and it determines what jobs you can “see” in the system and take.  Obviously, I am interested in SPED jobs, but I had to indicate what other subjects/grades I would be interested in.  David’s band teacher said that he would use me as a sub, so I had to indicate Music (Vocal and Instrumental) or when he tries to request me, the system won’t allow it.  But chances are, I won’t take any Music jobs other than for his classroom.

When I finished filling out my form, I wanted to talk with the person from the Substitute Office and make sure that I was filling out the form so that I would be able to sub for a friend of mine who teaches Deaf and Hard of Hearing.  So, I waited.

When I had the chance to talk with KR (who is the person from the Substitute Office who would be my “manager” and the one who ran the orientation), she was so nice and friendly.  She let me know that, as a former employee, I would be making more money subbing than the general pay.    SPED is considered “hard to fill” for both teaching and subbing.  Sometimes they are desperate for subs who are willing to work with the SPED kids.  That is what I want to do and so it means that I will probably be able to work as much (or as little as I want).

Since I had KR’s attention, and I was the only sub left, I told her and MF (the other Substitute Office person) about Chris.  I wanted both of them to know that if I had to cancel a job it would most likely be last minute and that I was sorry.  I wanted them to know that I was a responsible person, but had “extenuating circumstances.”  And I wanted them to put my name and face together.

KR and MF were supportive and wonderful.  Both of them told me that I shouldn’t worry about it and that they would make sure that if I had an issue, it was taken care of.  MF came over and gave me a hug.  KR and I continued talking, and I told her about my experiences within the district.  For those of you who don’t know, here is a synopsis.

I was hired as an Significant Special Needs Educational Assistant in August 2007.  In February 2008 I was transferred to a different school (I moved with a student who was changing schools).  In June 2008 I was “displaced” and transferred to another school for the following school year.  In October 2008, I was transferred to a 4th school.  In June 2009 I was displaced again and transferred to another school for the following school year.  I worked the 2009-2010 school year and was again displaced at the end of the year and transferred to a 6th school.  For the 2010-2011 school year I worked at a single school and was RIF (reduction in force) at the end of the school year.

Originally, I was told by Human Resources that if I did not apply for positions (and find one) by July 1 I would be placed on a “recall” list for 90 days and could be recalled.  As I had obtained my Teaching License, and I wanted to teach rather than be an Educational Assistant, I decided that I would not apply and interview for EA positions.  At the end of June, I was informed by HR that I would not be recalled (no one would).  So, that was it.  My employment ended (actually it ended the last day of May).

As an employee who was involuntarily transferred so many times in my 4 years of employment, I felt that I shouldn’t have to apply and interview for EA positions.  I went where they told me to go and I thought that entitled me to some “special treatment.”  The original school that hired me had EAs that were hired way after me and had a lot less time in the district than I did.  So, if they hadn’t transferred me to another school during my first year, I would have had “seniority” at that school (every single EA I worked with at my hiring school has left the district – I am the only one who was still working for the district at the end of the 2010-2011 school year).

HR didn’t want to help.  And HR knew about Chris’ condition.

To Be Continued

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