Tribute to “Special”: A Gem

Welcome everyone! Happy fourth (?) day of Christmas–assuming you observe and/or celebrate, and depending on when you start counting ;). I was blessed to share another wonderful Eve and Day with Hubby (Christmas #21–who woulda thunk it?); our boys; our moms, family and friends. Can I ask for better?

It’s so important to hold on to joy, folks, and to make memories when we can. We never know when we’ll do that ‘last’ thing. Here’s one reason why:

“Special” means so many things, especially when one works in an educational setting.

When it comes to ‘Jewel’ it takes on more than one.

‘Jewel’ (not her real name) was truly a gem. In school, both as a child as an adult, she was often referred to as ‘special,’ perhaps minus the higher IQ that society uses to classify someone as ‘not special.’ A kind spirit, a simpler soul: soaring in goodness and the understanding of function. Did I mention she could play some beautiful pieces on the piano and had no problem kicking out a song too? And how she reportedly devised clever ways around eating the fun foods relative to celebrations her religion restricts?

Jewel didn’t drive. She walked, took the bus or got the occasional ride from staff member(s) or her senior mother—with whom she lived and with whom she is said to be the best of friends.

We go back, Jewel and I. Twenty-two years, if I remember correctly; personal aide for the one of my first six students in the district that now employs me. She never lacked for dedication.

Some other things that made Jewel special:

She was rarely without her smile. Her hearty laugh was always at the ready. Jewel joked and teased without ever hurting a feeling. If a piano was nearby and the timing was right, she played and often sang, too. More times than I can count, our conversations morphed seamlessly into songs with related lyrics. At the end of last school year she auditioned for our school’s first (?) talent show, fretting for a few weeks on whether or not Gladys Night and the Pips’ Midnight Train to Georgia was an appropriate choice for elementary school-aged kids.

She shied away from technology, but learned enough of the basics to help her students make use of it when necessary. Despite that, she knew how to foster function and independence in her charges, often the most physically challenged kids. She cared for them with her strength and with her heart.

Pairing Jewel with her current student—a very physically-challenged child—was the logical choice. They got along well and had a lot of fun. (We all did. You couldn’t help having fun when Jewel was around.) Chances are, Jewel’s heart led her to attend her that student’s holiday concert just ten days before Christmas. After the performance, she took off for home, a mere few blocks from the school.

It was to be the last thing she did.

She never made it home. Jewel was struck by a truck while crossing the street and died of her injuries en route to the trauma center. Reports we heard or read suggest that poor timing ultimately caused the accident.

I’m not quite sure how to wrap this one up, so I’ll share what I told Jewel’s mother at the wake: “Your daughter made people happy.” And in my sadness, I still feel happy, because all my memories of her make me smile.  Jewel is one of those folks whose spirit will be consciously with me more often than not. I will miss her terribly, in many ways like the friend I wrote about several weeks ago.

Thank you for taking the time to read about my special friend. If you are so inclined, please pray for her mother, whose new reality leaves her without daughter, roommate and best friend in the day-to-day we tend to take for granted.

Hug, hold and love those with whom you make your memories.

Happy New Year,

Joanna

Keeping It Simple–Kid Memories

Hi all. My weekend was busy; good thing it was long! It included a trip to the ER with my mom, two shorter reports for work and a wake on Sunday afternoon. And….the November paperwork from school keeps piling up. (Bleh. I HATE paperwork.)

All this also means the blog will be VERY simple this week.

Fall at Lenape pond 2014 Took this on Columbus Day–gives me a quick serenity fix in a pinch. 

One huge shout-out: Heartfelt gratitude goes out to our veterans. I could thank you to the limits of the Milky Way and back and still not thank each of you enough for your sacrifice. And active-duty military personnel? Ditto.

Okay: Favorite kid memory (or when you knew your child was a genius—every parent thinks so, right? 😉 ):

Older Son was about 12 months and sitting in his high chair. With a water-based marker, I drew a smiley-face on the chair’s tray, figuring I’d do the eyes, ears, mouth, etc thing. I was capping the marker when he looked at my sketch and said, “Hi.” What are the odds he was way ahead of me, lol?

Doodle by Nic or Kev I’m pretty sure Older Son is the artist. I referred to this a few posts ago: the kid-art on the louver door in the bathroom I will NEVER paint over. If this sketch is an inch big, I’m overestimating, lol.  

Of course I could go on and on, but I’ll share one episode that really had me flumgubbered. Same kid was anywhere from three to four years old. I was getting him into his car seat and noticed the container of wipes I normally kept in the car was face down, flip-lid open and flat on the carpet. I picked it up and was pleased to note (and comment) that the wipes hadn’t dried out.

Older Son didn’t miss a beat. “That’s because no air got under there.”

What???

Somehow, he’s always gotten how things relate to one another.

Your turn, and yes, you may share about any child (niece, neighbor, student, etc) who has left you slack-jawed with their ability to infer!

Have a great day, everyone!

Joanna

FIFA World Cup and Polish Boyfriends

Hi all. I’m definitely a bit behind this week. Just started the summer program in my school district and spent about four hours total trying to schedule three mornings worth of students. I suppose lots of folks hope to win the lottery, but I’d be satisfied with $500/week for life. Then I’d take the summer off—for once since my early teenage years, when I wasn’t old enough to work. (I’d still have to keep the day job, but figure $350 after taxes ain’t a bad thing…)

Anyway, y’all know tennis is my game and I’m currently following Wimbledon. Yes, I know, Rafa is out. He managed to hold his own during a trouncing by qualifier Nick Kyrgios, but I’m happy Rafa beat Rosol in the second round. The rest—it is what it is. Who knows? Federer might take Grand Slam #18. That would work too. 🙂

tennis Image courtesy of Microsoft Clip Art

I’m not a big fan of soccer—that’s my little Italian mamma’s thing. She keeps me updated on FIFA World Cup standings, but I know it’s a big deal to lots of folks (including many of my favorite tennis players).

We’ve talked about the anxiety that seems to run on my mom’s side of the family. I promise you, some of these wonderful folks can take the simplest of situations and work themselves into a ridiculous frenzy over what they conjure into horror shows in their minds. Earlier today I remembered some loony stuff that ties into the 1990 World Cup.

I was working at my first full-time job, at a hospital in one of the boroughs of NYC. My friend had gotten married right around that time. She and her new hubby lived in a neighboring borough, had a couple of cats and needed someone to apartment-sit.

I offered. My anxious Italian mamma was not happy with my decision. In fact, she was so annoyed with me, she told me I shouldn’t have bothered calling her on the Monday immediately following the wedding, my first day as cat-sitter.

So the next day, I hung out late at work. Stayed to watch the final match, West Germany vs. Argentina, the team that took out the host team, Italy. (My friend might not have had cable. This many years down the line, the details are a tad fuzzy.)

soccer player

Image courtesy of Microsoft Clip Art

Aside: I’m not sure how valid this statement is, but don’t most Italians believe Italy should always win when it comes to soccer? If I remember correctly though, there was some questionable stuff associated with Argentina’s win, so any fans of Italy rooted for West Germany just to see Argentina get its due.

BTW, I didn’t call Mamma. (She told me not to bother the day before, right? I was being a good listener 😀 .)

Went to see a private patient after the game. Rolled into my friend’s apartment around seven or so.

I might have been in five minutes when the phone started ringing. (This was in the pre-cell phone era.)

At the other end was a work friend. “Call your mother. She’s looking for you and she sounded upset.”

A second friend called a very short while later. This one lived in my state, about twenty minutes from my house. “Call your mother. She has no idea where you are. She’s really worried.”

My newly-wedded friend’s mother called. “Call your mother! My husband’s going crazy over here.”

Turns out, my mamma went through my phone book and started making calls to any name she recognized. My newlywed pal’s stepfather—let’s call him Teddy—was born in Poland. His English is broken (but very entertaining) to this day.

I learned Teddy had the misfortune of picking up the phone. His conversation with my mother had him defending himself that he had no reason to take up with a 26-year-old girl. (My friend and I still laugh about it, and Teddy has retained the honor of being “first Polish boyfriend.” The second one never worked out. Thank. God.)

Anyway, I’m sure I wound up in an argument with my mamma that evening.

But for the sake of the people in my phone book, I called her the rest of the time I apartment sat.

Any FIFA World Cup memories of your own to share? Or stuff your parents did to make you nuts stories to tell about? You’re among friends here!

On a separate note: Quickie shout-out on behalf of long-time friend and very prolific screenplay writer Ric Rodriguez. He’s recently discovered blogging and sharing about his journey and other thoughts.  Check out his website/blog and show him some love! Many thanks to those of you who take the time to do so. 🙂

American flag

Happy Independence Day to all my American buds! (Image courtesy of Microsoft Clip Art)

Here’s to a wonderful day,

Joanna

Reese’s Pieces Sundaes on a Saturday

Happy weekend, friends. Hope the first of 2012 is relaxing and joyful!

Today, I’m having some fun.

Sometimes you realize something ridiculously simple has memories attached to it that you’ll carry always. Hopefully, those make you smile.

That’s what a Reese’s Pieces sundae at Friendly’s does for me. Took my son there last night. Of course I asked for the smallest but the waitress told me it wasn’t worth it over their junior size. I’d just take home what I couldn’t finish, right?

Uh huh. My son and I were both scraping the sides of our cups but that’s neither here nor there. As I dove into my sundae—with extra peanut butter sauce, thank you very much—I realized I have very specific memories associated with that dessert.

The first ties to a friend with whom I am still in touch. Her daughter was two at the time and I was invited to tag along. Mom ordered the Reese’s Pieces sundae for her little girl, who dove under the table shouting, “Pieces!” every time one fell out. (Think they put a lot more candy into the dish then.)

Another time I ordered the junior version (three scoops of cookie dough) but wound up being handed the regular (five scoop) size. The waitress told me they’d charge me for the junior but suggested I keep the large since they’d probably toss it otherwise. I left one spoonful of ice cream in that bowl-on-a-pedestal.

 (www.friendlys.com)–the 5-scoop version :). Awesome, isn’t it?

I also recall a time I got one to go. Don’t ask why but I put that container at my feet directly under the heater on my side of the car. At home I pulled a container of cold soup into the freezer—I mean, if it were lousy after it refroze I could toss it then, right? Fast forward a few days: my best sundae ever. All those flavors came together in the most amazing way. (I still lick my lips thinking about it.)

Yes folks, I had to get in a post, lol, and meet that personal, two-blogs-a-week goal. It’s also Saturday and hopefully, a laid back day for many. (I’m blowing off the house and looking to sneak in two dates with hubby.)

Now how about some of you sharing a light and fun memory? Do you have a favorite dessert, or something you think about when engaged in a specific activity? (Like a teacher/coworker who, when I met her, told me, “I know you from the back!” Not my best side, I promise, but turns out she frequently drives past my house and often saw me working a small garden just outside my side gate.)

Did your memories make you smile? I certainly hope so. Take care and ttys next week!

Joanna

Scenes of a Black Friday (And Some Memories Too!)

Happy Black Friday, friends! (I mean, good day after Thanksgiving! Anyone want to bet on when BF will become our next national holiday?)

Spent a fantastic day with my immediate family, my brother and his (which included four kids ranging in age from nine to four years); my mom, mom-in-law and a friend of hubby’s. Amazingly, no drop-ins. Food abounded (as did noise and the mess) but all is cleaned up and back to baseline. Leftovers mean little or no cooking today. Works for me.

  Thanksgiving 2011

So who is into the shopping madness? I never was and most likely never will be (even though online deals can catch my attention…)

Having said that, I thought we might have some fun and share a few Black Friday memories. Mine fit me: often totally clueless until I’m in the middle of something before I realize I’m enmeshed.

These are my stories:

BF #1: I was old enough to have a driver’s license. Mom and I decide to take a ride to the mall. We were kind of surprised at the lack of parking but scouted for a spot and eventually made our way inside. Of course, folks were traipsing everywhere, but what really got me is how the second floor of the mall literally bounced under my feet. We probably stopped in a store or two, then skedaddled out of there. Haven’t been to the mall on BF since.

BF# 2: Fast forward minimum ten years. I’m married and my older son has just celebrated his first birthday. My stepsons are five, seven and eleven and still regulars at my house. A now-defunct department store chain had a really great special on comforters; figured I’d get some for the boys’ room. Popped my son into the car and then into the shopping cart’s seat and headed into the shopper mix over in the bedding department.

Folks were piled in front of an oversized box and frantically digging through it for the BF deal comforters; others were mashed against a set of double doors waiting for workers to bring out more. Guess I must have been standing there, taking this in and wondering how I’d get a couple without leaving my son unattended. Some lady looked at him, then at me and told me I shouldn’t really bring my baby in there—it’s not safe or he could get hurt or something like that. I remember being taken aback—and still not fully getting what was going on—but had enough sense to decide some on-sale quilts were not worth bringing harm to a one-year-old (or to myself, lol).

BF #3 (2010): Ventured out to Target or Kohl’s (or somewhere) for the first time since BF #2 but around 7 PM. Surprised to find relative shopping calm that late in the day. I suppose that’s what happens once the doorbuster deals are done and the all-night crowd peters out.

I now turn over the comment box: here’s a chance to share your Black Friday story! Are you among those willing to give up a night’s sleep among the shopper masses? Do you venture out at all? Is the internet your BF stomping ground?

Have a wonderful day, everyone! (And get ready for Cyber-Monday! :))

Be safe,

Joanna