Crappy Voice(?) and Angel(s)

Happy first Monday of March, people! Please tell me spring is a-comin’–I am D.O.N.E. with snow and the cold.

So how cool is this li’l cutie hubby found on Facebook? I certainly hope he’s for real! (Video is 1:34–pinky swear it will make your day!)

So last Wednesday was blog-post fodder, everyone. A little of everything: kid drama and humor; a could-be problematic incident for me with an angel (?) or heavy-duty coincidence stepping in.

Day started off okay. Managed to focus and work on a report despite much preferring to chat with coworkers.

Drama showed with one of my third graders who has next-to no impulse control when he’s with one particular classmate. Tried seeing what I’d do when he pushed my buttons. Forced me to  put on my “discipline” hat  (i.e., make an active choice to not make excuses for his behavior b/c of his special needs).  I followed through: “Third warning. Back to class and tell your teacher you lost a point.” (This is big for them in class, lol. I felt so mean too. When you’ve had kids on your roster since they were three, you start to love them much the way you love your own.)

So we were practicing “French”, as his classmate refers to cursive handwriting. (Beats the kids who want to write in “curses.” Yes, many of my guys have delays and/or difficulty with speech, especially articulation. You learn the lingo after a while.) This little cutie of Costa-Rican born parents somehow inherited a mild accent that his parents don’t have. He is not, however, lacking in command of English or connecting verbal dots.

One of the girls was having a hard time with forming the letters. I took a peek at her paper and started to comment on where she was having a problem. “Okay, Mrs. Joanna. Please don’t yell at me.”

Huh???

“Since when does Mrs. Joanna yell?” (I rarely raise my voice.)

Li’l Costa Rican accent pipes in: “Mrs. Joanna doesn’t yell. She’s just using her crappy voice.”

He. Did. Not. Say. That–Oh! Li’l Accent Boy was referring to my typical line when they’re making me nuts, “Why do I need to use my crabby voice?”

What can I say? My students get to know me too.

And the day progressed until I had to leave one school to go to another. Dragged three bags, my binder and a travel coffee mug to the car. Had to do a bit of shuffling to get to the keys, dump everything in and take off.

Got to second school with five minutes to spare before session time. Grabbed the bag I’d prepacked for the 5th graders and reached for the binder with ALL my goals, objectives and progress logs.

Binder is not there.

NOOOOO! I did not leave it on the trunk and drive off!

Yanked out cell.  Called first school. Begged secretary to leave her warm office space and go to cold parking lot to look for blue binder. (Of course, the stuff inside is legal documentation as of this month, not to mention kids’ first and last names on EVERY page. And so goes HIPPA.)

Secretary came up empty. I entered second school and immediately wailed to art teacher, who is kind enough to share his room every week. (Yep. I have no real home in ANY school I work in. ‘Nuff said ‘bout that. Among the reasons I had so much stuff getting from door to car of first school.)

“Oh man,” art teacher says. “Know what’s really funny? I was wondering how you can always be so positive.”

“I’m positive I left my binder on the trunk and drove off.”

Suffered through that session—I was a tad flustered and preoccupied—and noticed a missed call from an unfamiliar, but local, landline.

Hope kicked in and I dialed my voicemail. Yay! Secretary found my binder about three blocks away, corner down in the snow! Papers dirty and wet, but cover not blown open and NOTHING missing! (IDK how it survived a left, a right and another left before finally losing contact with the car.)

Relief set in. I am not anxious by nature but this rattled me a bit, mostly b/c of the confidentiality thing.

Took at least two hours before normal calm set in. Then I realized had the other secretary picked up my first call (when I noticed my binder missing), the one who found it would have driven by the blue book stuck in the snow and ice and never thought twice. Instead she said she drove past and then, “OMG, blue!” registered. (She lives nearby and goes home for lunch daily.)

Everyone can talk coincidence as much as they want. My angel(s) stepped it up this past Wednesday. I did not complain about having to break down almost the entire binder and cover three beds with papers for them to dry. Made sure to lay them out in alphabetical order, as they are organized usually, so that re-organizing them would take less time.

Once the book was back together, I got to write the blasted notes. I suppose I was grateful I had everything I needed to do so, and will be able to turn them in, as is expected, within the next few days.

And we’re square with HIPPA (for today, anyway).

Thanks for indulging me.

This one’s kind of open. Talk to the topic or just talk. Sorry I went a little long, but at least I got something to write about in the end. (There’s that annoying positive outlook again… ;))

Have a great week,

Joanna

More Thoughts on Angels: Tribute to One in Particular

I’ve written about angels before. (Faith and Angels: Parts One and Two.) I truly believe they exist, taking on all kinds of forms. They touch our lives and sometimes alter a given person’s life trajectory. At times we’re aware of their presence or the forces/events they evoke. Sometimes, we’re angels to others and may or may not know about it until ages later—possibly never.  (BTW, knowing is a humbling experience, but a blessing too. Just another reason I have to believe.)

Doesn’t matter whether we’re aware or not; kind of like that tree in the forest falling and making a sound. Sound waves happened. Just because ears weren’t around to perceive the noise doesn’t mean there was none.

Quick disclaimer: I speak only for myself, from MHO and my experiences. Take what you like and leave the rest.

Sigh. Almost three years ago, I was assigned to a child who received home instruction and related services (i.e., occupational therapy) due to a combination of significant medical conditions incurred when he was a little under two years old. Until I entered the home the first time, I didn’t realize he was my neighbor too. He was pretty-much wheelchair-bound, and I had already seen him being wheeled around by his nurse on many occasions in my neighborhood. One more thing: this guy was roughly my younger son’s age.

That day I showed to meet him, his dad told me to expect the boy to cry. He did not. We shared our first session, engaged in a couple of activities and set our schedule.

I saw him once weekly for a full school year and during our extended school year summer program. I’ll never be sure how much he looked forward to me in particular coming (I really believe he preferred my colleague who also saw him once/week), but we hung in there just the same.

During many of our sessions he did cry. But during others, he tolerated me doing things hand-over-hand. He put up with me getting him up to dance to my favorite on his I-pod, The Jackson Five’s Rockin’ Robin. (On one occasion, I hit REPEAT so many times, the boy’s dad came in, wondering if something was wrong with the device, lol.) We practiced dressing, getting out of bed with as little help as possible, then wheeling into his adapted bathroom to do grooming and hygiene tasks (i.e., washing face, brushing teeth, combing hair—you know, getting handsome.)

He didn’t speak but signed for me here and there: mostly yes/no via clapping (or not) to indicate whether he wanted to do a given activity. He never verbalized directly to me but loved one nurse in particular and engaged in “conversation” with her. She’d say words and he’d repeat them—always immediately after my session, while I prepared to leave. He also talked to his dad. (I didn’t get to see too many interactions with his mom, but he always cried when she left for the day. She works a day job while his dad stayed home as primary caregiver.)

I didn’t know then that his condition was already deteriorating. By last January, his oxygen levels had already started declining and he often looked very blue. I spoke to his dad about this; he stated the doctors were very aware of the condition and that only so much could be done to stabilize and/or improve it. (For confidentiality purposes, I’m not at liberty to disclose more details.)

My student hung in there and we switched more to activities and tasks I hoped he found fun. Although I believe he enjoyed at least some our sessions, he still cried often, so this past September I asked my colleague if she’d be willing to take on the second session. He rarely cried when she was there. (The running joke was I did the show tunes; my colleague went by Mary Poppins.) Since she’d become his all-time favorite kid, she went twice weekly and always stayed longer than the scheduled time. He wasn’t work.

This boy didn’t have functional speech. He had physical challenges and was cortically blind. His ability to use his hands and walk was very limited and he was dependent in nearly all aspects of self-care. Yet, he was very aware of those around him, knew what he wanted and how to communicate that in his unique way.

He loved music and signed for it. He preferred kiddy tunes but his dad slowly transitioned him to more age appropriate, contemporary hits. As per my colleague, he’d tug at his hair to be told how handsome he looked. He did a Stevie Wonder impression and indicated his desire to engage in his favorites of the activities my colleague brought to their sessions. I’d tease him about ‘defecting’ to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ camp (from my newly beloved NY Giants) after one of his nurses’ sons joined the former NFL organization. (I’m thinking he was big on Elmo too. The floral arrangement pictured here is the only image I could find to give an idea of the full-body one made of red-dyed spider mums (?)—it was amazing!

 www.babiesgottahaveit.com

Here are some of my colleagues thoughts on their interactions: “He loved his routine and would start signing or pull on his hair if I went out of order, or forgot his favorite activity.  He knew. He had the most beautiful smile I ever saw. As you mentioned he had a great sense of humor.  If I laughed with favorite nurse or his father he would join in.  I believe he sometimes understood what we were laughing about. Wanted his music on immediately and his water ready. Could be stubborn as well, when I was ready to leave and asked if he would miss me he always refused to sign.  I could go on and on.”

His parents obviously adored him and dedicated their lives to making his the best they believed they could. I’m thinking he was their angel and vice versa. Recently he took on the abstract form we associate with those spiritual beings. He took a very bad turn after a recent medical procedure and passed away. (He turned my younger son’s age a little over a month ago.)

At his wake, I met the physical therapist who’d worked with him longer than any of us. She gave me more background on how many things this boy had been able to do before his health started its downward decline. I marveled at how much I’d missed coming into this boy’s story late as I did. From what I understand, he had a pretty cool sense of humor. (Think he showed it to my colleague more.)

Why am I writing this? I attended his funeral the day before and found myself tremendously listless the rest of the day. I’m still can’t stop thinking about him today. He crossed my mind every time I passed his street and will do so even more in future days. I think of his parents and how they handled their trip to Holland when they believed themselves Italy-bound. I’m looking to write a tribute to give to his parents and hope the best words come as I explore my thoughts and feelings. I won’t tell you he didn’t touch me before. These past two days I realize just how much and very deeply affected I am with his passing.

I’ve worked in my current school district (where I reside, too) for a very long time. I’m sure other children have passed away during my stretch-in-progress, but any who may have weren’t my students, so I wasn’t aware. In the past fifteen months, five have gone on to become angels. Four of those five were mine in some shape or form.

Makes me sad.

Makes me think.

Teaches me to see this particular population of earthly angels in a completely new way.

Thank you for taking time to read this.

Joanna

My Angels Came From…(Faith and Angels–Part 2)

Picking up where I left off this past Tuesday, friends. (Here’s the prequel, in case you’d like to catch up:).)

Yes, we’re back to talking angels. Last Friday (on my scheduled “day off”–or day when I work for no pay) I was at my new favorite supermarket. There I ran into a mom whose son I worked with as a preschooler. He is now in eighth grade. My older guy is in ninth. We mentioned college. With that came the topic of ‘where will the funds for that come from?’ so I went into my God-gives-you-what-you-need-when-you-need-it spiel and cited the examples from the previous post.

At nearly 2 PM , I took off from there toward school then decided the trip could wait until Monday. I missed a turn and figured it was no big deal to stop in since I was only two blocks from the school. (I wanted to drop off a couple of things I’d picked up for one of my wheelchair-bound students. I’ll be darned if I didn’t walk into her class at the very moment the teacher and this student’s assistant were struggling with the wheelchair’s leg rest.  I offered to help and in less than sixty seconds I had it fixed and showed them how to pull the piece just so, to avoid the problem in the future. (Moving and/or removable pieces on a wheelchair are just part of the rehab-occupational therapist’s gig.)

Another coincidence? I suppose, but at the risk of sounding full of myself, was I those teachers’ designated angel of the moment?

Okay, the big illustration. Several years ago, we had a small house fire. Reconstruction from that led to the beginning of my kitchen being remodeled when hubby and I had absolutely no real money to do so. Not only did I happen on an entire set of cabinets (hardware AND moldings included) at 90% clearance at a wholesale cabinet place, but the store’s demo  layout was pretty much what a Lowe’s designer had sketched for me a few months before, while I wondered how my crazy kitchen space could be best utilized.

These cabinets wound up piled in our garage and hubby got stuck with the job of figuring out what to do with them. The man can be handy, mind you, but he’d never taken on a job of this magnitude and was pretty overwhelmed. This led to major procrastination on his part.

     ‘BEFORE’ (major lack of counter space)

Enter his childhood friend (we’ll call him Raphael—Rafa for short ;)), up from Florida to do  work for his aunt and uncle. Rafa has perfectionist tendencies and was getting crazy and frustrated trying to work with his relatives to complete repair/restoration jobs they weren’t willing to do right. He was also getting very upset staying there.

Hubby offered him the option of staying at our home. Rafa accepted and found himself incredibly restless until he happened into our garage and saw my cabinets. He put himself on as foreman for my kitchen remodel (and threw in un-texturing the ceiling just…because). Together with another of hubby’s longtime friends who knows electrical work and was up fromPuerto Rico, they gave my honey the direction and help he needed to turn my kitchen into the dream the lady at Lowe’s designed.

   ‘AFTER’ 😀

(Pizza-dough-rolling perfection space–courtesy of Lowe’s designer who taught me granite cost nominally more than high-end laminate and included the fees for templates, delivery and installation. Go figure. Wall and floor tile work/design courtesy of my brother and his workers.)

     

Ask anyone who believes in angels where they come from. ‘Heaven’ is the standard answer. I tell everyone mine came direct from Florida and Puerto Rico.

So what are your experiences with angels and faith?

Thanks for taking the time!

Joanna

Faith and Angels–Part 1

Happy Tuesday everyone. I am a week behind when I originally planned on putting this one up. (Hope you found it worth the ‘wait.’ :)) The post is also a little longer than I would have liked, but the editing monster won’t let me cut it back any more so I broke it up into two parts. (Sorry, friends. God made me a chatty storyteller!)

Once upon a time I was a religious person. Not so sure about the dogma and discipline part, but I rarely lack for faith, primarily in a universal higher power I choose to call God. I try to practice many of the tenets taught by Jesus Christ. I also revel in the spirituality and peace-of-soul that comes to me via the philosophy and adoption (and adaptation to my unique needs) of the twelve steps.

Once upon a time, anxiety could get me up in the night, wreaking havoc with my mind while playing scary games with my heart. (During a particularly difficult period at my first hospital job, I’d go to sleep with music playing—crazy how I had to stop listening to Sting’s Nothing Like the Sun CD–after a few episodes of waking up in a stereotypical cold sweat and heart palpitations to  the cut Fragile. (Took me a long time to listen to that incredible song after that.)

This little recounting brings me back to my beliefs. I hold dearly to the idea that God gives me what I need exactly when I need it—not on my time, but on His—and yes, that may include an angel or two. (More on that in Thursday’s post.)

On one of those mornings when I was work-bound to that hospital where I felt I was losing my mind (I alluded to that time in this post), after one of those nights I’d awakened to Fragile, I remember tuning into a Christian radio station as I drove. I was immediately slammed with this Bible quote: “Do not be anxious about anything. But in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

I did a double-take at the radio. Coincidence? Maybe. But that was exactly what I needed and I’ve often fallen back on that moment or spontaneously called upon those words too many times since.

That’s one example and possibly a reflection of the way I choose to see how things happen in my life. Just the other day I was fretting about this month’s bills when hubby tells me we got an Escrow refund and our mortgage is going down. (When is the last time that happened–and exactly in time to help fund a fairly large but unexpected car repair?) Hubby also found a way to lower our auto insurance without losing coverage. We got an ALDI market in our neighborhood and now there is $$ left after food shopping. Need I go on?)

Uh…yes, but I’m saving that for the next post! Stop in Thursday for part two!

In the meantime, I’d love to read about your experiences with how you got what you needed exactly when you needed it. Take the floor folks. It now belongs to you!

Joanna