31 March 2015

Spongebob Squarepants Blog

My amazing 9-year-old daughter has a slight Spongebob obsession. By slight, I mean she talks about him all the time...non-stop...she probably even dreams about him when she sleeps. Her teacher assigned to write a term paper this trimester and Livy has selected the topic of Tom Kenny.

Now, unless you are obsessed with Spongebob as much as Livy is, you probably don't have a clue who the guy is. Well, not to keep you hanging any longer. Tom Kenny is the voice actor who plays Spongebob, among many, many other roles. My daughter can tell you exactly how many roles because she is now keeping track of crazy details like that.

Imagine if you will, a blog devoted entirely to Tom Kenny and the world of Spongebob.

Well, you're in luck! Please check out her blog (and please send all your kids and grandkids to check it out, too): http://tomkennyfansite.blogspot.com/.

Spread Your Wings!

28 March 2015

Spring Break 2015

We had an awesome Spring Break this year. It's not about what we did or didn't do or where we did or didn't go. The important part is that I was with my kids and enjoyed each other's company. We hung out, had fun, and just relaxed (which hasn't happened that much the last few months).

Being a single mom can take its toll on time. There's never enough time to do everything I want to do. Like all single parents with multiple children, I'm constantly juggling schedules between the two of them and trying my best to balance their wants with my ability to be in three places at once. The three of us have leaned that we all need to give and take, plan ahead, and be prepared for me to be late wherever I'm going because there's another sibling who needs me, too. This isn't a complaint: it's a reality.

We concentrate on making memories, not spending money or accumulating things. Things get discarded or broken and don't carry the meaning that sharing the afternoon watching a movie or baking cookies together does. Mainly we spend time together and that automatically creates memories.

Spread Your Wings!

25 March 2015

51st State = Academic BS

While the main reason I left academia was to spend more time with my family, certainly one of the other contributing factors was that abundance of academics who took themselves and their "research" too seriously and presented it as fact instead of research. Academics in larger or older institutions (I'm not talk about community colleges or very small colleges) often begin to believe that the world needs their research. I'm also not talking about the medical profession where diseases are being cured every day because of the high-level research that may or may not be affiliated with an academic setting. Rather, academics of all shapes and sizes in the sciences (hard and soft), arts, humanities, sometimes start to believe the world cannot survive without their research. They begin to take on a god complex (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_complex) and really can't see that most of the world could not care less about their "amazing" research.  

Yes, we all need research to the world moving forward, but let's get this straight: everyone eventually dies and life moves on without you. The best thing you can do is to make the world a better place for the most people you can during your brief time here. Sometimes that involves "research" but more often than not, it means real contribution—doing rather than writing or reading about doing. No matter what anyone says about how hard his/her academic research is (the long hours, the low pay, the long meetings), life in an academic institution provides an amazingly cushy job especially when tenure comes into play. 

While a few in the sciences (medicine in the particular) are working 72-80 hour weeks, most academics teach fewer hours a day than a high school teacher, get paid 2-3x the salary. Let's not forget it's a 9-month position with weekends and holiday vacations built in. Again, a few profs will work over that time, but most are enjoying time with their families and friends during that time off. And once tenure is earned a prof can pretty much do and say anything they want to. It's harder than heck to lose a tenured position unless you you've threatened someone with bodily harm or stop showing up to school all together. Even alcoholics and drug addicts hold academic posts quite easily, as long as their binges are planned out properly. When a prof with "issues" is finally found out (and they almost always are), the administration will likely put him/her on a leave of absence to try to rehabilitate them before they would be terminated. 

But, I'm getting off topic here. 

When several of my friends posted recent articles from the Sun Sentinel and the Miami New Times talking about the Mayor of South Miami wanting to secede from the rest of Florida and become a new state called South Florida, I just want to this opportunity to point out that the mayor of South Miami is an academic with both feet firmly planted in an ivory tower. 

The absurd thought of a new state got picked up in the news came from academic meanderings that mean nothing to the actual people involved. Let's think this through—why not just use the voting process to have the southern counties in Florida represented by stronger politicians. Oh wait...in Florida pets and dead people have been known to vote in presidential elections? So maybe creating a new state is a better way to create a better government. Really?! Let's get even more out of touch with reality and just ship everyone (read that wealthy, educated people) off to a space colony where they can be even more out of touch with reality. Oh wait...Hollywood already did that in ElysiumAnd that movie bombed. 

This is why so many people think academics (and politicians) are out of touch...which they are. 

By the way, if you are interested in reading from the horse's mouth, here are the original two articles I reference: 



 Spread Your Wings!

23 March 2015

Spring Break 2015

This week marks a very important week in the school year...only two more months of school left!

One of the reasons I left my academic job was to be able to spend more time with my family. Didn't realize I'd be going through a crazy divorce for 2+ years. But in God's great big plan for me, I think that's why I left my college position. There would be no way for me to drive 45+ minutes to and from work each day, be with my kids when they're sick, calm his or her nerves when they're scared, and do all the house things that need to be done on a weekly basis (and I'm not even counting cooking or laundry!).

We are planning time away from home just to relax and not have to worry about the stresses in our lives. So you know when it's free time, we want to play!

Even if it's raining, we're going to enjoy ourselves:

And walking in the rain never melted anyone except for the Wicked Witch of the West!

Spread Your Wings and enjoy life with your kids!

21 March 2015

Goop and Gwyneth

No, this isn't about that magical concoction you make in summer camp...

It's about Gwyneth Paltrow. There's not much to say here that has any substance. How can someone be more out of touch with the "common woman"?! A $595 suitcase? A $628 pullover hoodie? How about a $160 bikini top (that's just the top, bottoms not included)?

In case you're wondering where to buy all these fabulous items, just check in Gwynnie's website, Goop: http://goop.com/

Enough said. Too much has been said already about this ridiculously out-of-touch human being.

Now Spread Your Wings (and stay away from all the ridiculous Goop)!

18 March 2015

My Crazy Smart Daughter

Let me just start with the fact when I was pregnant and reading various baby websites, everyone referred to their children as their DD or DS and it took me a while before I figured out what the heck they were saying. Personally, I am happy that my daughter is not darling (and who uses that word these days anyway?!), but rather creative, silly, funny, and really, really smart!

You might not be able to tell the smart part from her New Year's Eve picture this year, but I bet you can get the silly and creative part...

About two weeks ago my very smart daughter started making up a language and writing her own dictionary. She organized everything alphabetically in her "Salakee" (dictionary) and has about a dozen pages of words and phrases. Did I mention she's a Montessori kid? Yes, this is one more reason I quit my academic life and am now running a school. My children are actually important to me and not just in words, in actions and deeds. 

While I was very intrigued at the fact that she was making up a language and writing a dictionary, the hard cold reality of just how much work that was set in pretty quickly. She's obsessed with new language. She spoke it all day last Saturday and Sunday. She tried to teach the dogs the language. And she tried to teach her brother and me the language. 

The slightly annoying part of this particular made-up language is that every word is at least 3 syllables and some are even 5 or 6. When I suggested she come up with some 1 syllable words that might be easier to remember, she replied, "Jaracka" (which means "no"). So if you're looking for a new hobby, learn a language. Might I suggest Larequeesha? I know where you can get a good deal on a translating dictionary!

Spread Your Wings!

16 March 2015

St. Patrick's Day Eve

Twas the night before St. Patrick's Day and all the through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The leprechauns were prepping their bright green hair,
In the hopes the pot of gold would soon be there...
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of shamrocks danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long Spring Break's nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow, (only in Ohio)
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature leprechaun and a pint of green beer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Patrick.

OK, you get the idea. Happy St. Patrick's Day Eve!

Spread Your Little Green Wings!

14 March 2015

Weeping Angels + Pi Day

Now most of you probably will read this because you are fans of Doctor Who. I'm only going to say that while my son is an avid fan and I have watched a number of episodes, I borrowed the weeping angel for another reason.

Any of you who have read this blog before know that I've been dealing with my aging parents for a while now. They moved to my hometown with the hopes of being closer to my family, avoiding terrible winters up north, and enjoying their golden years in warm, sunny Florida. It's not been an easy transition for any of us, but we are all learning how to cope with new situations.

This week, after only one visit, my mom fired their Visiting Angel. If you are not familiar with the Visiting Angels, they are a group of caretakers who can help with anything from light cleaning and housework, to bathing, feeding, and running errands for people in need. My parents are still very healthy and somewhat active, but they definitely need a little help getting around. 

But after only one visit, they fired their angel. 

While this is a major disappointment to me, it's out of my hands. There's nothing I can do to change their minds. While I wish they were able to age gracefully and accept the help that people are offering, wishing doesn't make it so. 


Today is March 14, 2015 (3/14/15), otherwise known as Pi Day! 3.1415. Nerds around the world (myself included) will celebrate with pies of all shapes and sizes. So I will be cooking up some fantastic round treats later this evening.

Always look for a positive, even in a crazy, chaotic world where angels weep because they were fired...

Spread Your Wings!

12 March 2015

Teaching Independence to Children

Since my blog now seems to have taken on 3 distinct strands (life beyond academia, aging parents, and raising kids as a single parent), I am taking the opportunity to shift gears and talk about work today. Our school is celebrating our five-year anniversary this year. We started with only 42 children and as of this spring we have 111 children. That's a remarkable feat considering we've survived an economic slump and are located in a mostly rural area 30 miles south of Miami.

Our children are wonderful and while I wasn't sure what life would be like after I took that leap off away from a college professorship, I find being in a partnership and owning our own business is really rewarding. This job, in particular, has me surrounded with children 8+ hours a day and so far that piece has (mostly) been a lot of fun and energizing.

 And yes, I have had more than one child call me mom. Usually they call me Miss Dr. Burns because they don't know where the Dr. part goes and apparently all women are Miss in a preschooler's eyes. Usually by second or third grade they get the hang of it or one of the other children corrects them.

We are a Montessori school and that provides so many advantages over a traditional school. Children are encouraged to work and explore on their own. They learn by doing, not by just reading about it. There's a lot of hand's on experience in a Montessori classroom. There's also an amazingly quiet classroom environment for all this independent or small group work going on. Montessori education teaches children to be responsible young people who respect each other and the environment (it's a very socially and environmentally conscience system). For me and my children, it's the by far the best way.

Independence is hard for some parents. They want to control everything the child hears, sees, and experiences. Often they want to do everything for the child to the point that they carry backpacks, cut up food well beyond the age that it's necessary, pick out clothing, etc. All that does is make the child want to rebel. Children need boundaries, but they also need responsibilities. Doing everything for a child turns them into a disliked, spoiled brat (just like Veruca Salt in Charlie and Chocolate Factory). Even as preschoolers there are chores children can do.

So I thought I'd leave you with a very Montessori thought as stated by a slightly snarky meme:

Spread Your Wings!

11 March 2015

Dory as Philosopher

I'd like to interject a bit of humor today. I frankly need a break from the day in, day out energy drain that can sometimes happen when one or both of my parents is experiencing a bad week. I can be positive for everyone and try to keep moving forward, but after a while everything starts to get to me.

So let's talk about Dory, the regal tang character from the movie Finding Nemo, today. She has become a sort philosopher to me. Although she suffers from terrible (and funny) memory loss, she still maintains a positive attitude. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming! By the way, I love that Dory has her own IMDB page and has also appeared in the Huffington Post. Her sense of humor (by accident or on purpose) gets her through life and keeps her out of trouble.

Dory: Hey there, Mr. Grumpy Gills. When life gets you down do you wanna know what you've gotta do? Marlin: No I don't wanna know. Dory: [singing] Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We swim, swim. Marlin: Dory, no singing. Dory: [continuing] Ha, ha, ha, ha, ho. I love to swim. When you want to swim you want to swim. Marlin: Now I'm stuck with that song... Now it's in my head. Dory: Sorry. 

Enjoy life one day at a time and just keep swimming! You're bound to feel better.

Spread Your Wings!

10 March 2015

Frustration of Aging Parents (Q-TIP)

So you might be wondering why the crazy picture of Q-Tips...well, it's one of the only reasons I'm able to get through the day sometimes. Q-Tip (Quit Taking It Personally) is an Al-Anon slogan that not only helps me deal with the alcoholic in my life, but also is now helping me through issues with my aging parents.

When frustrations pop up because of memory loss or confusion, often my parents will lash out at me because I'm the closest person in the room. My mom, in particular, has experienced varying degrees of paranoia associated with these episodes. She blames me when her check mysteriously disappears. She blames me when her bills are missing and unpaid. And she blames me when the money in her bank account doesn't match the money in her checkbook. While these are extremely frustrating situations for her, the only way she can cope is to blame someone else—usually my dad or me. These situations are usually cyclical and generally last about a week until she find whatever it was she was missing and no longer perceives it as being stolen. 

During these stressful times, it does me no good to try to reason with or point out that logically the situation doesn't make any sense. So while I love my parents and want to help them through their issues, it's not my place to correct them, set them straight, or try to convince them just how crazy they sound sometimes. My coping mechanism is to try to remain as silent as I can (and that's very hard for me sometimes) and just listen. And Q-Tip.

I try not to take things personally, which again, is very hard when someone is accusing you of taking money out of their bank account. Just like the alcoholic, arguing with a person experiencing memory loss or trying to correct them does nothing more than frustrate both parties. The alcoholic has his or her own version of reality as does the forgetful, aging parent. 

Spread Your Wings!

09 March 2015

Aging: Visiting Angels vs Independence

We are moving forward after Dad's 12-hour disappearance. Thank God for our deep roots and so many friends both far and near. One friend has helped find a GPS device to put on their car, another friend figured out which GPS necklaces we should but for them. And two other friends helped Dad get to his doctor's appointment and the follow-up tests at the hospital.

He had a TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack) which is a minor heart attack. They cannot determine exactly when it took place, but I would place bets that it happened last weekend. The doctor lowered his new medication, which was making him anxious and they recommended that he have more tests. Trouble is, now my dad is angry about all the fuss. He thinks there is nothing wrong and doesn't want this episode "held against him for the rest of his life."

Yet another friend recommended a group called Visiting Angels. This is a group of caregivers who can come in and help people in need with everything from bathing to cooking to running errands. My parents don't need help with the bathing or cooking part yet. But they do need help getting organized, making appointments, and driving around. The rep met with my parents and me last week. She was great, asking all about their background and needs. Both my parents insisted that they didn't need any help. Then I gently tried to point out that there were things they hadn't done because they didn't know where they were (like going to the zoo) or they hadn't made the appointment (like for the replacement hearing aid dad needs). Mom seemed to understand, dad just got more belligerent that he could get them there. I'm sure it's frustrating for them, but I am unable to take on the duties of a full-time activities director, driver, and financial consultant.

While they want to maintain total independence, their complete reliance on me for all their questions and issues is too much for me to handle. Just this weekend they were trying to get their dog to the vet. Rather than waiting for the Visiting Angels person to come on Monday, they decided to drive out on their own to find a new vet (their old vet apparently hadn't given them the answers they wanted). This new vet is way out in the country about 20 minutes from where they live. After driving and driving, they apparently pulled into a gas station to tank up and ask directions. As they were pulling out, my dad hit the concrete barricade and tore the fender off his brand new car!

When a neighbor mentioned it to me at church, I said I hadn't heard a word about any incident over the weekend and that things were just fine on Friday. I asked my parents and dad had no clue what I was talking about and mom dismissed it as just a little accident and no big deal. It's difficult at best to help them realize they need a little assistance at this point in their lives.

However, all those Al-Anon meetings have now started to work when dealing with my parents. I cannot control their actions, I didn't create this situation, and I'm not going to cure it. Unlike dealing with an alcoholic who is ignoring his children, this is the opposite. My parents are in my hair all the time. I kind of have two sets of children now—one is just quite a bit older. ;) I am unable to run over to their house to reset their cable TV or help them when their washing machine is broken. I am responsible for my two children and will continue to help my parents as much as I can. But they need to be willing to accept help from others, in this case the Visiting Angels. I am optimistic that this will be at least a partial answer to all our needs. One day at a time (another Al-Anon slogan) is the way to go. I'm not expecting miracles and I'm not thinking too far ahead.

Spread Your Wings!

05 March 2015

Memory and My Dad

My dad got lost for about 12 hours last weekend. I never, ever thought that would happen. He has been a rock (sometimes a boulder, actually) in my life since I was 3 years old. He taught me how to load the dishes in a dishwasher, to pack a box (which was very important since I moved 8 times in 13 years of college education and early teaching), and to not put up with any crap from anyone. He was difficult sometimes, but later in life I understood that while he was yelling and screaming a lot, he was looking out for me. These memories are important for both of us. So while it may be extremely difficult for him to accept this new diagnosis of dementia, it's definitely hard on me, too.

After about the first four hours that he was missing last weekend, I started to get a little nervous. I knew what could happen, kind of weighed the possibilities, and even drove around with my son for a bit out of desperation just trying to figure out which way he might have turned. He'd been lost down here in their new home one other time before, but that was right after they moved here. He had gone out to get coffee and wound up being escorted home by the police. Unfortunately he had gotten turned around and couldn't figure out where his street was. He had the sense to stop at a drugstore and ask them to call the police (dad doesn't carry a cell phone). They did and the police got him back to his house just fine.

But this time was different, he wasn't in communication and it was 12 hours of being lost. We're still not sure exactly what happened and we likely won't ever know. Thank God the police found him unharmed about 15 miles away.

Since the police brought him home that night, I have discovered a lot. I found out that my dad wasn't carrying his own driver's license (my mom actually had his license in her wallet). I found out that my dad likely had a TIA (mini stroke). And I found out that I have many, many friends who are willing to help. One friend I haven't seen since Oregon helped assess GPS devices for my parents to wear. Another friend helped with a GPS device for their car. Still other friends took my dad to the appointments that were immediately needed to figure out what's going on with him. I am forever grateful that I have that web of connectivity in this small community.

I cannot express how this outpouring of help has impacted the situation (mentally and physically). There are just not enough hours in the day to research all the options, plans, devices that my parents will start to need now. Only with the help of others have I been able to make a stab at lining things up. We are now in a stage of trying to identify the right kind of help to be with my parents during the week when I am working. We have a meeting with a group called Visiting Angels today. Hopefully they will earn my parents' trust and help them gain back their freedom and security. As this situation unfolds, there will be many ups and downs, but hopefully nothing like the nightmare this weekend.

03 March 2015

Aging Parents, Getting Lost, and a Horrible Weekend

Sometimes words do not have the power to really express the level of frustration I feel when dealing with my aging parents. I try to be patient, I try to be helpful, and I try to be understanding. But when I consistently receive phone calls after 10 pm on a school night, waking me from a peaceful slumber, I first get nervous that it's an emergency and then I get a little pissed when I find out it's not.

My mother has a tendency to call whenever something pops into her mind. Because this is usually late at night or early in the morning (very often before 7 am or after 10 pm), I tend to believe the call is likely an emergency and I answer it, only to be asked questions like "Is today Sunday?" or to tell me about the latest argument she had with my father. Until last Friday, it never has been an actual emergency.

Sometime around 2 pm on Friday afternoon my dad dropped my mom off at the hair dressers and he left to go back home to let the dog out and rest before picking her back up. He apparently never made it home. Instead, he wandered around for 12 hours before the police were finally able to track him down through a national Silver Alert. He was nearly 15 miles away and had no recollection of what has happened.

Because my mom calls upwards of 6 times a day, it is sometime difficult for me to want to answer each and every call, let alone be able to answer that many calls during work hours. The night before my dad disappeared, my mom had called me with her weekly complaint that, "I can't take it any more. I need to leave him." So I listened and then politely got off the phone given that it was 10:30 pm on a school night and I was dead asleep when she called. So when she left 3 messages in a row on Friday afternoon and I was clear up in Ft. Lauderdale at a conference getting ready to fight rush hour traffic on the two-hour drive home, I chose to let voicemail pick it up and listen to it later. By the time I heard her messages and then spoke to the police, he had already been gone 4 hours. I hit Facebook immediately with "Missing" flyers. Close to 20,000 people saw the flyer that night and then the same group saw the updated "Found" post at 3:30 am. It was amazing the number of people who jumped in to help in any way they could.

But back to the mom who cried wolf—so many calls each and every day wear thin on even the most patient of people. But this time, there was an emergency.

We are now working to find out what happened to dad. I'm learning all kinds of new terms like TIA, gathering information on GPS devices for their car, and trying to figure out the least invasive way to have home health care visit their home on a regular basis every week. We now start a series of tests—CT scans, memory tests, blood work, etc.

This is new territory for all of us, but my mom (the legally blind one) has given me a lot of pushback on any assistance. I know there will be many posts here about this on-going issue. Old age is not going to be reversed. Hopefully professionals can help me show my parents that the longer they live, the more likely it is they will start to need help. And help doesn't mean taking away their freedom, it means keeping their freedom as long as possible. Aging gracefully doesn't come easy to everyone, but I'm praying that we all smoothly ease into this next phase of life.

Spread Your Wings!