Saturday, April 30, 2011

At least no one got hurt

My husband was recently in a car accident. Learn how his perspective on our town was altered in today's Milton Musings.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

An unexpected insight

Abby and I were chatting at bedtime last night. Her math homework had been about volume, which builds on her previous homework this week about area. Both involve multiplying dimensions -- length times width, then base area times height for volume.

Abby's grasp on the formula for volume seemed tenuous, so I asked her last night as I was tucking her in, "So, how do you get volume?"

She looked at me with a huge grin and answered, "You scream! You yell!"

We both collapsed in a fit of giggling. Once we settled down, of course I had to ask her if her teachers had made that joke in school. She told me no, that she herself made up the joke right then.

It was the first time I can ever remember her making a spontaneous joke, a play on words that was genuinely funny in the moment. It made me so proud, not only because laughter is important to me, but because of the connection it created between Abby and another person, namely, me.

Abby's pun gave me a glimmer of hope. She's going to be all right.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Recovery in motion

I have a new column on Milton Patch called "Milton Makes a Difference." It's about people who live or work (or both) in my town who, through their work or volunteerism, make the world a better place. This week's installment is about Laury Hale, a personal trainer and certified cancer exercise specialist who helps her clients find their "new normal" after diagnosis and treatment.

She's an inspiring woman. Read about her work here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


I decided to google my last column for the Patriot Ledger, just to see how many other GateHouse papers ran it over the past week and a half. The links on the first few pages were nearly all for the column, and I effortlessly counted thirty. I kept going. Forty. Would I see fifty?

Once I decided I'd had enough, on the 18th page of the Google search, I had reached sixty. Sixty papers across the country ran my last column. Whoa.

I was pretty excited to see thirty, but strangely, as the numbers kept rising, my heart kept sinking.

I don't receive a penny for any of the other places my column runs. I get my little fee from the Ledger, and, because of the way my contract with GateHouse is, I don't own the column any more, and any GateHouse editor can run it wherever and whenever he or she pleases.

Make no mistake: I'm thrilled for the exposure. I imagine folks in Delaware, Louisiana, Minnesota, Colorado, California and many other places getting a chuckle out of my writing, and that makes me very, very happy. Plus, it shows me that what I write has a much broader audience than the circulation of my local paper. That's good.

I do think, however, that if the material has such broad appeal, there ought to be a way to be compensated more appropriately for it.

I've half-heartedly attempted in the past to open up a discussion with the regional editor for GateHouse, who really wasn't interested in talking to me. To be fair, I wasn't exactly over-assertive, and it was a few years ago, too. I do not believe, however, regardless of my assertiveness level, that there is any flexibility on the part of GateHouse where compensation for widespread distribution is concerned.

If anyone from a syndicate is reading this, let's talk. Anyone else, if you've got ideas to help me earn a living wage from this writing I do, I'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A gift in the present

Today was a day that reminded me just how far we've come as a family. I had to teach a little this morning, and the kids got themselves dressed, ready for the day and practiced their instruments without a fuss. Earl stayed home while I taught two lessons, then left for work. I had plans for a haircut, but my house-call-making hairdresser's schedule was a little up in the air. Finally she said she could come at 2:30, so I packed up the kids and took them for a short grocery shopping trip.

They were antsy in the store, but I had clued Abby in that I'd take them out for lunch afterwards. The boys didn't know this. The shopping went relatively smoothly, and we had just gotten to the restaurant, where we were waiting in line to be seated, when my hairdresser called and asked if she could come right then.

Of course I said yes, but had to explain to three hungry little kiddos why we weren't going out to lunch, after all. They weren't happy, but I explained some of the extenuating circumstances to them, and, while they still grumbled, at least they settled down. Besides, I told them we'd come back to the same place for dinner, instead.

So we zipped home, had a quick lunch and then everyone got their hair cut. Oh happy day! We all had just way too much hair. It was like the Cousin Itt family for a while. We're all much better now.

After my hairdresser left, I decided the boys really needed some dress shoes to go with their Easter outfits. I created the plan: we'd go to the mall (ick) and pick up some shoes, then stop at the lunch place for dinner on our way home. The kids were on board.

On our way to the (ick) mall however, we noticed that the lunch place wasn't open for dinner. This, despite the fact that a sign said it served dinner! Cut to three unhappy, disappointed kids in the back seat. I told them we'd find another place, hoping it wouldn't be the food court at the mall (ick, ick.)

We managed to find two little pairs of dress shoes -- one half-size apart -- and set out for dinner. There's a TGI Friday's near the mall, and, thinking it would have a kids' menu, I suggested that. Once again, they were on board.

Here's the best part: the kids were GREAT. It wasn't too long ago that I couldn't take them anywhere because of the threat of a meltdown when there was a change in plans. Yet, our plans had changed a lot today, and, in my estimation, their reaction was only a little dialed-up over that a typical disappointed kid.

Not only that, but every restaurant visit -- and for this reason, they were few and far-between for years -- ended abruptly following a child being sick. I'll spare the reader the gory details, but suffice to say that it was awful, and always happened. Every single time.

Happily, our restaurant visit passed without incident. The kids ordered for themselves very politely, ate without misbehaving and even stayed close by in the parking lot. It shall I say

Who knew, ever, that a family outing, or two in the same day, could be more fun than stressful? What a gift.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Happy for...

  1. School vacation week. No, I'm not traveling anywhere. Yes, I'm still working. It's still awesome.

  2. The chance to write stories that make people smile, or think, or take action. I hope today's Milton Makes a Difference was an example.

  3. The best husband, ever. Here is a man, who, when asked if he can host a last-minute visit from his wife's college classmate and family, says "okay" and doesn't grumble. He worries a bit about getting things ready in time, especially since said wife is working up until the moment the guests arrive, but he just carries on, and does so cheerfully. He is the best.

  4. Renewing old friendships and making new ones.

  5. Homemade brownies, and deciding that 34 days without desserts was enough (yes, I decided this last week.)

  6. Children who practice their instruments while I'm out working.

  7. Children who can get along with my college friend's children, and have a good time while the grownups visit.

  8. More writing opportunities.

  9. A fabulous "Attende, Domine" by my children's choir on Sunday. They sounded beautiful, and I don't say that lightly.

  10. Knowing that there are six more days of vacation and at least three brownies left.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Baseball Fever

It's here! Little League has started, for the first time ever in our household. The excitement is palpable. Read about it in today's Milton Musings.

Friday, April 15, 2011

What a week.

All together now: TGIF.

This week started poorly, with my receiving a phone call while teaching that Earl had been in a car accident. A teaching colleague held my class while I called home and got the story, the short version of which was that Earl wasn't seriously hurt, but the van was.

Over the next couple of days, insurance issues were worked out (the other driver was at fault) and, after squishing three disgruntled kids into the back of our tiny Focus for a couple of days, we were able to get a rental with more room, although not a minivan, as they were in short supply due to the upcoming school vacation week.

Note to self: you're not the SUV type.

The accident (or "crash," as the official report calls it) has overshadowed our lives for the past few days, but now all that remains is to have the van restored to its former glory. That process is ongoing, and we don't know how long it will take. Earl has recovered from the majority of his aches and pains, and at least we have a vehicle that fits all of us more comfortably than our little second car.

The other TGIF-worthy news is that we had Abby's annual team meeting yesterday, to create her IEP for the coming year. It's a three-year reevaluation year, too, meaning that Abby completed a battery of tests in a variety of specialties to help the team determine her eligibility for special education services. Earl and I were very pleased with the testing reports, and felt that they gave an accurate picture of Abby's strengths and challenges. It's tough to see some of the challenges in print, of course, but the reports have given us a lot of food for thought.

Team meetings rank right up there with going to the gynecologist. Inconvenient but necessary, mostly annoying and a little painful, while feeling vulnerable the whole time. A necessary evil that isn't really evil; just a non-preferred activity, to use autism language.

Yesterday's meeting, however, was the best yet, with a very low level of nonsense, and a general sense that everyone in the room was on the same page. It still was an uncomfortable, almost-three-hour meeting, and Earl and I have to do more thinking about what was proposed. All things considered, however, it wasn't that bad.

And now, it's Friday, with school vacation week stretching before me. While I'm trhilled to have a week off from school, myself, there is that little matter of the kids also being out of school. On top of that, it's Holy Week, which is anything but restful for a church musician and choir director.

As I am wont to say in these kinds of situations: it's a different kind of work.

The coming days are bound to be better than the past week, if only because there's no team meeting on the horizon. Now, if we can avoid further car crashes, it will seem like a real vacation.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

It's enough to make you sick

No, I'm not talking about all the posturing that played into the threat of a government shutdown. Today's topic is how the world carries on, and those sidelined with yet another cold (that would be me) must carry on with it. Read today's Just a Minute, coming to you from Dansville, NY.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Rocketing Rodents

Soon we'll be taking down our birdfeeder for the warmer months, assuming the warmer weather actually comes. Until then, we're feeding the birds, and, unfortunately, the squirrels. What we didn't count on was the rodents' remarkable athleticism. Read about it in today's Milton Musings.