Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Many Faces of Michael

A few questions about my partner Michael have been cropping up recently such as "can I borrow him" and "how did you meet" etc. I do mention him a lot in my posts so I guess that makes him my "significant other".
There is so much I could tell you about Michael - one post certainly
cannot do him justice. I am just glad and grateful that he has come into my life. We met 19 months ago at a dinner that we were both invited to by mutual friends.  We made a connection - I liked the way he thought about
certain things ie. I was showing photos on my camera of a sunset I had seen the night before at Bayfield while at my trailer. I explained to the group
that I didn't have one of those big expensive cottages at Bayfield, just a trailer and Michael said "cottage, trailer what's the difference - you see the same sunset." He's right isn't he?
Michael is a life coach by profession and as such he is very sensitive, very understanding, very encouraging. He pushes people by having fierce conversations to be all that they can be.
Michael is a complex person; when he was just 18 he asked himself difficult questions, such as, "is this all there is in life?" 
He responded to this inner questioning by joining an ashram and following the
teachings of Prem Rawat.  He lived in an ashram in various locations
for 8 years and lived a life of meditation and communal living.
What can I tell you about the Michael of today?
He meditates daily.
He LOVES music - that is his drum up above. He can't carry a tune in a
bucket (tone deaf) but he can really really DANCE!

One of the skills he picked up along the way - the art of cooking. One of the many reasons I am struggling to fit into my clothes!! However, I'm not
much of a cook myself so it is wonderful, indeed fantastic, that I never
have to think about what to cook for dinner!!
And he cooks healthy food: lots of veggies, lots of grilled fish interspersed with the odd steak, chicken "medleys" mmmmmmmm.
Right now?
He's cooking up a medley of stir-fried veggies and shrimp while little cubes
of potatoes are roasting in the oven in spices and olive oil. He also
grilled some talapia for me to have with my lunches at school:) 

Michael can't be kept inside. The first thing he does every morning is open the front door up wide and step outside to see what it's like. Most weekends find us out walking a nature trail, taking photos and in the morning he likes to get out for a walk or a run in the park.

There is so much wonder and beauty outside and we both feel closer to God when we are surrounded by trees, rivers and lakes. We
can relive those special moments through the many photos we take.

No bio of Michael would be complete if I didn't tell you this one very important fact: Michael loves to.....
I think I had forgotten how to play and it still takes some getting used to but I am learning!

Finally, Michael is thoughtful, loving and romantic. Every month on the 18th he acknowledges our anniversary. 
When asked the other day to describe himself in 3 words he said:
"happy, joyful and content!"
It doesn't get any better than that! 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Johnny Depp & the End of November

What do Johnny Depp and and the month of November have in common?

To find out the answer to this deeply mystifying question, if indeed you care at all, you will have to wait until the end of this post to find out!

Month End Report:  (I am feeling slightly intimidated by this heading!)

My first pay for December will be in my account as of midnight tonight so financially November is ovah! Yay! November will be remembered as the month of the accident - the month my baby girl realized that yes, driving can be dangerous, that other drivers don't always drive the way you think they should. A rude awakening indeed. She's doing well - she's in good spirits, busy with exams, essays and work and looking forward to about a 3 week break from school. Our trip to Toronto is all booked and this Saturday we are going on a Christmas Tree Adventure (a surprise organized by Michael)- for the first time we are going to chop down our own tree! Usually we put up a fake tree as we generally travel to see relatives but this year we are staying home so we will celebrate with a real tree just this once.

Oh yeah...the financials, got a little sidetracked there: I ended up making a profit on the replacement car and applied it to my line of credit which made me smile. I was overbudget by $16 on groceries but under budget on gasoline, hydro, natural gas and cell phone. I met my savings targets and exceeded my debt repayment target so all in all there is light at the end of Dark November.

For December: I reduced my savings goals for December thereby increasing my misc. spending from $288 to $750 - hopefully that will be enough to see me through a busy month of entertaining and being entertained. I am really hopeful that I won't spend all $750 but better to be prepared as I am rapidly finding out! 

OK - if you hung out with til now in hopes of finding out what Johnny Depp and November have in common here it is - the answer - the culmination of an amazing post - here goes - wait for it - NOTHING!! Absolutely nothing, except that Johnny certainly brightens up an otherwise dark and gloomy month...much better than looking at say... this calendar instead..

Boring, right??
Yes, thank you - I knew you'd agree:) And therefore I have a reward for you:
On December 10th "The Tourist" starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie opens "in theatres everywhere" and here is a trailer just for you:

P.S. A couple of months ago I tried to downloand a free songlist courtesy of the National Post. It didn't seem to work at the time but when I was re-syncing my iPod a few minutes ago there it was - 13 free songs! So now I'm listening to my NEW FREE music and enjoying it immensely!

What is your latest freebie??

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Making Your Own Firepit

As I sit here by the fake fireplace at Starbucks my thoughts turn to Crofters Lane and the firepit Michael built there in August.  The house wasn't "officially" ours yet but the owners allowed us to "camp out" in the house until we signed papers at the lawyers in a few days. Michael had some very definite ideas about what he wanted to accomplish during the week we spent at our new home - first was the firepit, then he wanted to transplant some spruce seedlings from our forest to build a wind break to the north of the house.

It was an interesting week - we had a small bar fridge and ate a LOT of sandwiches. We had an old table in the diningroom and a couple of mismatched chairs. Upstairs we had a king-sized air mattress, some towels and toiletries. Although the owner loaned us a TV we had brought our own source of entertainment - a six-inch black and white TV with AM/FM radio. We found K-Rock 105.5 and turned it up high. This was one place where we'd be able to play our music as loud as we wanted to!

And then, Michael got busy!
 We used rocks from our driveway which had recently been levelled. There were literally hundreds of rocks in the culverts on each side of our .4km driveway to choose from and Michael spent a good while hauling them up in a wheelbarrow.  He picked the perfect spot for the pit and started digging.
 We didn't have a lot of tools but we had enough. Michael worked up a good sweat digging the firepit hole in the distinctive red PEI soil. Me - I was cleaning all of the woodwork inside...hence the yellow rubber gloves:)

 A spot was carefully dug for each rock and each rock chosen for its particular shape and size. Nothing left to chance.  Gradually the firepit began to take shape.
 Michael really gets "into" his work:) However, I would suggest that next time he pick a different coloured T-shirt...perhaps reddish brown??

Certain flat stones were chosen to be "set in" for seating or as small tables for holding candles and/or drinks:)

Looking good Michael but I think it's starting to get dark! The sun is starting to dip down behind the forest.
 Let's put out some candles - it gets REALLY dark around here at night - it's nothing like the city!!

Michael brought up a lot of extra rocks - he's thinking about expanding the "lip" of the firepit, or he might save them for another DIY project.

                                                                             It works!!

                                                                  All cleaned up.

And this is how you cook when you don't have a stove or a BBQ! A couple of good sturdy sticks long enough to reach across the top of the firepit and a small metal rack to hold our food.
There's a well-seasoned chicken inside that foil - we felt a bit like pioneers:)
Except I don't suppose they had tinfoil.
It was scrumptious!
Working hard.

Isn't it beautiful??

Functional AND mesmermizing!
We burned up a lot of stuff - two musty old dressers that were left behind, we broke them into pieces and fed them into the fire.
There's enough fallen limbs in the forest to keep the fire going for a long time.
If you're driving down Butcher Road next summer and you see a glow from a campfire, drive on up our laneway and sit a spell by the fire.
You'll always be made welcome:)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Weekly Wrap

News Beat is the Heart Beat:
Usually I do my weekly wrap on Friday but yesterday was waaaaay too busy and I didn't slow down til I reached Saffron, a restaurant on Fanshawe College campus that doubles as a classroom for second year Tourism and Hospitality students. A friend of mine teaches in this program and she invited a group of friends to sample the cuisine. After some fancy figuring I thought I had $96 left in misc. spending til payday on Tuesday but then found a $50 error (NOT IN MY FAVOUR BOO HISS) so in reality I only had $46 left :(

Intending to stay on budget no matter what I thought I would skip the appetizer or dessert or wine but then, miracle of miracles, one of my friends had just got a new amazing corporate client (he's a computer technician) and he paid for dinner (alcohol excluded)!! And if that wasn't celebration enough another friend in a burst of generosity paid for all of the bottles of wine we drank throughout dinner so all I had to pay for was my glass of house red that I enjoyed sitting near the fire while waiting for the others to arrive! I also helped with the tip so spent a grand total of $15.37!!

And I realized for the umpteenth time that I have really great friends. Not just because a couple of the men gallantly paid for almost everything but because of everyone's generosity of spirit. One of my friends is fighting breast cancer and had her second last chemo treatment yesterday. The effects don't really hit her for about 48 hours so she had a fantastic night - she was in top form regaling us with her special brand of honest, self-deprecating humour.  Most of the people at the table had supported her by walking, running or donating to her Run for the Cure effort.

Also at the table was another special lady who is working on finishing her Gr. 12 after raising a daughter as a single parent. She is working towards being a personal support worker and was finishing up a position wherein she had been helping a special needs couple learn how to care for their newborn. Another special friend is a local artist and supply teacher. She lives pretty close to the financial edge at the best of times and we love her so much for living by her artistic principles no matter the personal cost.

All in all it was a wonderful night and during the evening we planned our next event - a Mexican-themed potluck dinner in two weeks time.

My fretting about the cost of my dinner out made me realize that something is missing from my budget - an allowance for entertainment. I've managed to fund movies, wine and the occasional dinner out just fine over the last 3 months of zero budgeting but the Christmas season is a different kettle of fish altogether. I can't just avoid going to seasonal events in order not to spend any money so will need to increase my Christmas budget next year to include a reasonable amount for entertainment. My misc. budget is close to $300 a month which for ordinary months is more than adequate - I usually have something leftover. But I'm a little worried about this Christmas season - I had one dinner out already and have plans to eat out next Saturday night and have the potluck the following Saturday. More events will follow and I hate being "frugal" at this time of year.

Could this be termed an "entertainment emergency" so I can justify dipping into my emergency funds "in case"?

No, I didn't think so either...just a case of budget oversight. Well...December hasn't started yet so I may need to do some jigging of accounts - decrease my savings a little bit perhaps to provide a few $$ for some festive fun?? Maybe if I put my mind to it I can come up with some really economical ways of enjoying the season at a reduced cost...

I've spent a good portion of my Christmas budget already. I did end up saving a bit more than I had projected which will be helpful. But still not enough. I paid out $368 to cover my DD and my trip to Toronto the weekend of Dec. 18 and $308 for her classic iPod leaving me with a mere $174 to cover DD's stocking gifts, a gift for Michael, my godson and my neighbour.  I think I have a problem!!

Some serious number-crunching is in order. Hoo boy!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Night at the Library

Suzzallo Library in Seattle, Washington
I love libraries; I always have. I think I was born with my library card clutched tight in my teeny weeny fist. My village librarian was Miss Lossing - known in the distant days of my childhood as a "spinster" complete with glasses and her hair drawn back tightly in a bun. She knew me very well, too well in my opinion. I was happy that she knew the number of my libary card off by heart because if I forgot it at home it was never a problem as in those pre-computer days she wrote the number in a very tidy script on the pasted-in form in the back of every book I borrowed.  She must have written the number "222" a hundred thousand times or more as I borrowed books there (four books a week) until I moved away in my early 20's.

Aside: after Miss Lossing retired MY MOTHER became the librarian! She would often give me books from the FREE discard box that she knew I loved as a child. I currently own battered and torn yet beloved books from my childhood with the hand written number 222 still visible on the inside of the back cover.

A precocious child I often veered towards the "junior adult" section which she  kept annoyingly close to her desk. Oftentimes as I "innocently" wandered over into that forbidden area she would take me by the shoulders and gently steer me back into the children's section.  I'm not sure how old I was when she finally let me borrow more mature books from the junior adult section - probably nineteen:)!

One of my most vivid memories of my early library-going days was the trip from library to home. The library was open after supper from 7 to 9pm. To get to the library I would take a shortcut across the school ground  - a total length of about a block and a half. Heading over at 6:55pm there were always lots of people out and about and cars on the streets. Emerging close to 2 hours later it would be very dark and ominously quiet...too quiet. I was faced with the decision of sticking to the sidewalk and going the long way home - west one block, north one block or taking the shortcut across the school ground which was complicated by the fact that our century old red brick two storey elementary school had an actual belfrey inhabited by actual huge, black, blood-sucking vampire BATS!!! at least that is how my child's mind remembers them - I may or may not have imagined all of the atmospheric conditions: full moon every night with glowering clouds racing across its face, wind howling through the leafless trees and the occasional glasses-wearing, be-bunned witch racing around on her broomstick....

Gulping noisily I bravely started out across the school ground my two stick arms clutching my four books to my non-existent chest. I never knew whether to keep my eyes on my destination - HOME - or to check about me for imminent dangers - serial killers, mummies, skeletons or worst of all - BATS!! Inevitably I would glance up the hill to my left - my eyes drawn up to the school's belfrey.  Not being able to see very well in the dark any leaf or speck blowing around would catch my eye - was that a bat?  How do I know?? It could be a bat!! What if it is a bat?? Oh jeez, I better make a run for it and away I raced, books thumping against my chest, eye on our porch light growing larger and shining more brightly the closer I got to HOME, my wonderful, warm and safe HOME!! where there are people who love me and will protect me....pant, pant, panting I reached our porch steps....bang bang bang up the steps, in the front door....slam!!...whew...safe again.

Mom: "how was the library?"
Me: "ok"

Written in the relative safety of Landon Library, London, ON. Although pitch dark outside I have my trusty defender with me...between the two of us we should be able to get to the car before an escaped fugitive stabs us in the back!! Stay tuned...

Useful Dog Tricks performed by Jesse

This is a MUST WATCH!
I wish this was my dog! Imagine what we could get others to do for us with consistent
positive reinforcement! Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Two Things I Learned Today about Prince Edward Island While Reading the National Post During My Lunch Half Hour

 Don't these people look happy, would you even venture to say they look very happy?  Today in the National Post findings found by the Canadian Centre for the Study of Living Standards (doesn't that sound like a great place to work?) relayed that 92.1% of Canadians over the age of 12 are either satisfied or very satisfied with their lives. Wow! That is a very high number. 

(Aside: don't you ever wonder what we would do without the word very - I know I do!)
 The one thing that these pictures all have in common is that they were all taken of people in PEI.  That's right - PEI.  Now you're probably wondering what is the significance of this seemingly irrelevant piece of information. Well...wait for it... people who live in PEI are the happiest people in Canada!!! I kid you not! They scored highest on the satisfaction scale. No wonder I bought a house there this summer - look at my smile - could it be any bigger or any smilier??

Confederation Trail behind us

But like I said in my post title there were two things I learned about PEI today. The second has to do with clean renewable energy. Back in the mid 2000's PEI had a goal to generate 10% of their energy needs with renewable energy by the year 2010. In true maritime style they reached that goal in 2007! Now their target is 30% by 2016! Isn't that fantastic - way to go littlest province in Canada with less than 150,000 people!

Here is a quote from the article written by Julius Melnitzer:

"P.E.I. is home to the Wind Energy Institute of Canada where they test every turbine used in the country...so it could be that when it comes to cleantech, our smallest province is our national leader."
National Post, Nov. 24, 2010

I'm so very happy and so proud I could burst!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Humanness: Giving and Receiving Love

Fellow blogger, Sam from It's Me, Sam, made a comment recently on a post I wrote relating events that had occurred over the course of a day in my special needs classroom:
"Jane, do you teach children with Autism or special needs in their own class, or are they mainstreamed like all children with special needs here? I'm just reading about your day and thinking to myself, if my nephew could be in a classroom like yours, he might be able to manage the school routine better than he copes now."

I promised I would speak to this and other comments so here goes. There is a ton of controversy out there over the benefits of full inclusion of children with special needs in the regular classroom. For me it all boils down to this: inclusion must be meaningful for everyone in order for it to be worthwhile. This is my own philosophy and not everyone agrees with it. But I am not going to get into arguments - I just want to let you know how it works here.

Every student is an individual - we can't just lump them all together and expect things to work out - elaborate planning must take place. What works for one doesn't work for all. In elementary school all students are included in the regular classroom; however, some are withdrawn to work on alternative goals from time to time, and the amount of time depends on the needs of that particular student. Levels of support from educational assistants also varies depending on the level of need.

In highschool I have more leeway in developing individual plans for each student. My classroom is called the School to Community room because that is the "path" my students are on. Over the years we have called the various "pathways" by different terms like "streams" etc but in effect they mean the same thing. Every highschool has a School to Community classroom and we consider this to be "home base." My students range in abilities from non-verbal, extremely low intelligence to those who have a mild intellectual disability and are able to achieve a few credits.  ALL students leave the classroom throughout the day - some just for a few minutes of exercise and some for up to the WHOLE day! Quite a range!

Currently I have 5 students with Autism which is a record for me. The 2 Gr. 9 boys only leave the classroom for lunch (which they eat in the cafeteria), for physical activity and 1 of them has started helping out at our candy store. In the second semester the boy who is helping at the store will also start going to a physed class now that I know him better.

My students with autism all follow visual schedules and have the same routine day in and day out. There are of course days when there are changes like last Friday there was a musical being put on by the drama department and we all went to that. As long as students are prepared in advance for the change in schedule they usually manage ok. We are always prepared to bring any student back to the classroom if need be.

Sam - it could well be that with a more structured program and a "home base" your nephew would cope better. Inclusion isn't for everyone all of the time. The classes I choose for my students to be included in are geared to their interests - I am totally against putting a special needs student in a class where the content would be over their heads and thus either cause them to be embarassed or non-participatory- the time could be much better spent on other activities geared to their interests and needs.

There are a very few students who will never take a class outside of my room due to their behavior and/or intellectual level. However they are included in many other ways (who said inclusion is just for academics anyways?): they go to all of the masses, assemblies, concerts, the cafeteria for lunch, to the mall, on all sorts of community outings, to various parts of the school for vocational tasks, to the library and footballs games etc. We also have a club called Best Buddies wherein my students are matched (by me - do I sound like a control freak??) with mainstream student volunteers. These kids are amazing - they love to come in and interact with my students. Remember my tupperware boy? The volunteers will squat on the other side of a doorway and pass the tupperware back and forth to him. Some of the friendships that have been formed over the years are still active.

There is so much to be said for meaningful time spent with peers.

See "Norman" up there at the top of my post? He is graduating next June and I will be absolutely heartbroken. And I won't be the only one. I once overheard Norman's EA say to him - "you light up my world" and he truly does. Norman is non-verbal and mentally is at the level of an 18 month old. He can walk but not well enough to get too far, hence the wheelchair. A hero of mine, Jean Vanier, once said that if the only purpose a person has on earth is "to give love and receive love" then that is purpose enough. This describes Norman's life: he "hugs" us all day long by walking up to us and putting his head on our shoulder. One time he put both arms around me and "patted" my back so hard I was off for 3 days lol! Doesn't know his own strength.

Norman will approach even our hardest-to-serve aggressive students and they are putty in his hands. He hugs them, pats them, and laughs and laughs. He doesn't speak but he understands just about anything we say to him. One day he was patting Michael and they just instinctively started to roll around sort of wrestling on the floor. I don't think either had any previous "roughhousing" experience and Todd (although getting the worst of it) couldn't stop laughing. (And yes I got some pictures). 

Another wonderful thing about Norman is how he allows us to give him our love. You know how there are days when you just need a hug? Just need some physical contact? Norman's our man. I don't think I can put into words the benefits to all who know him of his affection and love. The more love and attention you want to give him the better he likes it. (Now, just to be entirely truthful Norman does have his days when he is a real grumpus but usually comes around after a while.)

I took the photo above when I spotted Norman and his mom sitting on the corner of the street where they live. Norman just loves to watch traffic go by - he loves anything with wheels. Every day after school Norman's mom takes him to the end of their street where there is a busy intersection. They sit for hours and have become a well-known fixture at this spot. When I saw them I quickly parked the car and went and had a chat.

You can bet that when Norman graduates I'll be making more trips to that part of the city so I can get my "Norman-fix"! What I have learned from that boy is too enormous to be completely captured in this post - he has taught me about humanness - there is nothing greater than that.

Norman deserves his own chapter in my future book. Heck - maybe the entire book!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Closed for the Season ........sob....

 Brrrrrr....Lake Huron looks cold and uninviting now. Hard to imagine that only three months ago we were laying on a blanket, book in hand, squinting from the sun, having a "beach day".
 The hydrangea blossoms have all dried up but they still look beautiful.
 This is what happens to climatis in the fall - I had no idea - very pretty.
Not everything was dead and dried up however - I was very surprised to see that my geraniums were still blooming!! A sight for sore eyes indeed! My geraniums in London have been frozen by hard frosts. 
 And it looks like my climbing hydrangea hasn't given up yet.

That was then...(see me in my hanging chair?)
And....this is now...

One last burst of colour from a rose, imagine that! before the snow covers everything for the next four, long cold and miserable months.
Yes, I am a summer person:)

By the way, it was very windy today but Cora did a great job on the highway - I was very pleased. By next Friday she should have her winter boots...I mean tires...on.
Bring on the snow!!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Another FREE Activity: Couch Potato

This was me today. Woke up with a splitting headache so managed to grope my way to the couch. Had some tylenol and coffee - a cure that works for me if I can get it into me early enough...and keep it in (TMI I know).

Well I kept it in but needed to repeat a couple more times throughout the day. Now I feel pretty good if I don't move my head too much. One benefit of being a couch potato - it doesn't cost a thing:)

Now I need to haul my butt into the shower - we have tickets for the latest Harry Potter movie tonight. We've been looking forward to this since we saw the last one about a year and a half ago. Just the kind of evening I need - no effort required but sitting in a comfy seat and munching on some popcorn:)

Which brings me to the real reason for this post...

Thanks for NOT enquiring about how the diet is going- I haven't even weighed myself in almost 2 weeks! It was too much to think about what with everything else going on - what was I thinking? So...fresh start on Monday....hopefully...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Weeky Wrap

(Photo in header taken August 25th in Goderich, ON which is on Lake Huron)

News Beat: 
That sound you're hearing is my huge sigh of relief that the "accident saga" is finally over. Cora is now safely residing in her very own parking space in front of our home. Cora is a dear little thing who looks great for her age, is very peppy and has very moderate drinking habits. And even better she has already saved me a pile of dough.

Who could have foretold this little windfall:  after picking up the cheque for cc
I then paid for Cora in full and had $2,548.00 profit!! I spent $129 at Canadian Tire for a set of 4 rubber floor mats for Cora, a new "telescopic" snow brush and an Obusform Massage Cushion that fits the car seat, plugs in to the data plug and provides both heat and massage:) :) :) (I carry all my stress in my back:() ps - it also works on any chair (like the one I'm sitting in right now and ohhhh it feels so very very good...)

Once at home I immediately transferred $2,000.00 to my Line of Credit leaving $419 which combined with my current balance of over $200 in my misc budget is going to buy Cora a brand new set of snow tires to ensure a safer winter on the road. I'm so happy I could sing a showtune - aren't you glad this blog doesn't have audio??? - believe me you should be!

In other news...that $10 bill I had in my wallet since last Sunday? I put it into the Crofters Lane jar this morning plus another $5 from $$ I withdrew today to bring the jar total up to an even $300.  My hydro bill was down $10 from last month so it ended up being under budget by $28 this month - it really does pay to power off everything before going to bed each night.

Still have $150 in the gas budget so I plan to take Cora out on the highway this weekend and drive to the trailer in Bayfield. This last trip to retrieve some things we need here at the house over winter was postponed due to the accident. So I'll see how Cora handles on the highway:)

And this is exciting (to me)...I am featured this week in Angela Barton's weekly edition of Thrifty Threads - check it out!!

Heart Beat:
DD is very fearful about getting behind the wheel of a car but this weekend I am going to encourage her very strongly to drive Cora with me beside her. She learned to drive on an identical gold Cobalt so I am hoping this will decrease her discomfort level. This will be a tough one but she needs to give it a go.

Really enjoyed working with my team of 7 educational assistants this week - they really are an amazing group of people. This morning was pretty rough - Michael couldn't stop picking at a hangnail to the point he was grabbing any object he could to dig away at it - nothing we did could distract him from self-injuring and he began to headbut his EA. He lives at a group home as he has very challenging behaviours and I had to call the staff to come and administer anxiety medication.  They ended up taking him back home. Tough day, but handled well.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Our Upside Down Day

Every once in awhile we have an upside down day at school.  It isn't intentional, it just happens that way. I knew right off the mark today that this was going to be "one of those" days.

Before the students arrived I had to inform my staff of seven educational assistants that our newest addition - "Fred" - might be apprehended by the Children's Aid Society because the brother who looked after him between 2pm til 10pm while their single dad worked had been placed into hospital due to having a psychotic episode. Both of Fred's older brothers have schizophrenia - talk about a tough family situation.

Then the students started to arrive. We had to call "Michael" by the name "Andrew" all day (lol) due to him bringing the wrong backpack to school. He is very difficult to manage so he doesn't live with his family - he lives in a group home instead with "Andrew" and the mixup was made while they were boarding special vans to school. No problem - one phone call - their lunches were both the same, no medications involved so on with the day.

Then around 11:20am I had to ask another student -"Lucy" - to back away from her computer as she wasn't following instructions and when I had tried all other options to encourage compliance we had to pull her chair back from the computer. Well the obscenities flew and my sweater almost flew off my back but within about 5 minutes she calmed down and went on to another activity successfully. 

A bit later an EA was in the washroom with "Albert" when Albert began to sway on his feet and almost passed out. He brought him out of the washroom and sat him in a chair. Albert's temperature and heartrate went through the roof so we laid him on a gym mat, removed his shirt and shoes, gave him a cool sponge bath and I called mom to come to the school. This is the boy pictured above - he loves to tap tupperware on the floor and pass it back and forth through a doorway. He is on the move constantly and must burn a trillion calories a day. But he laid still on the mat, his breathing laboured and mom arrived right away. His pulse slowed down and he cooled down but we urged mom to get him checked out by a doctor. Albert is non-verbal so can't express how he feels. I think he may have been having a hyperglycemic reaction.

That should be enough but we're not done yet! While we were attending to Albert another student - Michael/Andrew was left unattended while using a computer.  Michael has a habit of biting the wires off computer mice so hasn't been allowed on a computer for two months.  Well, today his occupational therapist had brought us a wireless mouse and keyboard to try. While using the wireless mouse Michael did attempt to bite the wires but of course there was nothing to bite.  However, when left on his own for a minute he was able to "disable" the mouse by smashing it - hey - he's a great problem-solver:)

So that was my upside down day. We met as a team at the end of the day to debrief and brainstorm for ideas to manage these situations better in the future. And we had a good laugh because when you work with students who have autism everyday can be an upside down day and we just take it in stride and try to adapt the environment and students' programs to resolve issues as they come up. Every day is a fresh start for everyone and hey - we have to see the humorous side of things or we'd go starkers!  We come back everday because we are driven by deep compassion and love and a desire to support students who need a little, sometimes a lot, of patience and understanding.

But then, don't we all??

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Back to the Future: Cobalt #3

Cora Cobalt II
There she is - I found just the right car for our needs. She's a bit older than my cc (crumpled cobalt) and perhaps a bit wiser for it. Happily she has about 20,000 less kms on her than cc so very pleased about that and she came in way under budget so I can afford to get some brand new snow tires for the dear.

I'm pretty fond of her already if you hadn't noticed. That's because she is identical to a gold 4door cobalt sedan I leased for 4 years (2005-2009) previous to buying the black cobalt coupe last year. Except she's a wee bit newer. I loved the test drive - everything was exactly where I remembered it to be and it was like putting on a well-worn but well-fitting old pair of gloves. So I think I'll call her Cora - comfortable sounding old-fashioned name.

I found an ad for Cora online a couple of days ago and found the low kms, sedan model and low price very appealing but when I drove to the small car lot yesterday no one was there. I looked over the outside of the car and it looked well cared for.  I was really disappointed no one was there to help me but carried on looking at other cars.

Today I looked at one with VERY low kms for the same price as today's find plus it was loaded with options, but when I went to see it it was obvious that it had had a collision at some point as both front quarter panels were ill-fitting replacements and THAT was very disappointing as I was hoping for a real find. Not meant to be.  On a whim I thought I'd drive by the small dealership and see if anyone was there and that's when I found Mike!

I liked Mike right away - he seemed like a regular guy - unpretentious, self-deprecating sense of humour, very accommodating without being overbearing. He wasn't at the dealership yesterday because he was sick and he's in business for himself - no employees but a mechanic - so he had to close shop for the day. I test drove the car at 2:30pm and by 3:00pm had it at Harry's, my mechanic, to check it over. Other than one small link to be replaced "my guy" said it's in great shape! So I drove it back to Mike and signed on the dotted line. Once his mechanic replaces the link Cora is mine, all mine:)

And just in time. I will return the rental car tomorrow and have them drop me at Mike's to pick up Cora all certified and E-tested and shiny clean. Then it's off to put new snow tires on it at Harry's.

I just texted DD to let her know about the "new" old car and she's tickled as can be that it's the same as the one she learned to drive in. I'm hoping that will help her feel less anxious when she finally gets behind the wheel.

So thankful that we can now put that awful chapter of life behind us. DD is whole and healthy, we'll be back on the road once again with Cora who I'm sure will last the four years I need her to until I retire. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Hunt Continues...


Day One of the hunt for a replacement car that fits within the budgeted amount is over. I drove a few cars that were either too expensive or too crappy. Still looking for the middle road - a decent car with fairly low mileage that only costs an arm instead of an arm and a leg.

Going to see someone who is selling their cobalt privately tomorrow. I am hoping they didn't make a mistake on kijiji about the mileage because it is VERY low.  I haven't bought a car privately for a loooong time but am willing to try. I don't think I can talk to another used car salesman again tomorrow - I need break. But I only have the rental til Thursday night so the pressure is on...

But enough for now, must put my weary body to bed...
Cheers everybody:)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Crumpled Cobalt

This was my car. Got a call from the appraiser this afternoon and it is officially a write-off.  I accepted the appraiser's offer and I was pleasantly surprised that:
  • he included credit for the new tires I had just put on in August without me having to haggle
  • the quote includes the tax on the lump sum amount as well, which I didn't expect but very much appreciate as our beautifully-named tax in these parts -"Harmonized Sales Tax" - amounts to 13% , yup, you read that right, on car purchases
  • he told me I could pick up my old license plates at the autowreckers, aptly named "Impact Auto Wreckers" and when I arrived I found that someone had hammered the worst of the dents out of them saving me the cost of replacing them (if you look closely at the photo above you can see that the front plate is bent right in half)
  • the lump sum was about how much I was hoping to get but was afraid they'd lowball me - so now I must get busy and find a replacement car - the insurance company lets me keep the rental for free for 3 more business days so must have a "new" car by the end of Thursday
The insurance company has still held back my $500 deductible as the police report is still being audited. If they find in my daughter's favour then I will receive an additional $500. I am looking at that as a windfall if indeed I get it - I am NOT including it in the price of my replacement car so here's hoping!

Stay tuned...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Weekly Wrap & ME

Hi everybody!

Heart Beat:

I'm a day late with my Weekly Wrap because I was over at a girlfriend's house last night having some much-needed "girl time".  I don't know about you but my deepest belly laughs and my deepest thoughts are those shared with my beloved girlfriends. Over glasses of wine, cups of tea, and homemade pizzas we hugged and giggled and laughed uproariously while creating works of art for an upcoming environmental artshow concerning oceans. My friend Jules (Julie) is a local artist that I've known for almost 30 years since we were both poor art students together at university. She is a devoted tree-hugger and always getting involved in artistic endeavors that have a "green" theme. So together with another very special friend, Troy, we chased beautiful watercolour washes around watercolour paper with straws, sprinkled on some salt in strategic locations and printed linocuts of fish and prehistoric-looking sea creatures onto the painted backdrop.

Mine isn't finished yet as I began to see interesting sea creatures in my paint drips so once totally dry I am going to outline the shapes in a permanent black felt tip marker. I'll share it here when it's totally finished.

COST: $12 for a bottle of wine. VALUE: priceless!

The other gift I gave to myself this week was ordering a new cell phone! Through my school board I can get a new cell phone every 3 years (FREE) on a corporate plan. I get a ton of minutes and unlimited texting for under $30 a month - a very good deal:) So I am happy happy happy!

News Beat:
The financial news is good too!  Over the first two weeks of November I managed to squeeze another $200 out of my food, gas and misc. envelopes. I put $50 into emergency savings, $100 into Christmas savings and made an extra $50 payment into my RSP account.  My Union Gas bill came in $25 under budget (probably the last month that will happen now til the spring) and I got reimbursed finally for school supplies that I bought back in August so my credit card is PAID IN FULL!!  

I spent more $$ this week than last week, but still very much within reason. Yesterday was a PD day and we were given 2 hours for lunch and travel time. I ate lunch with a couple of the educational assistants who work closely with me in my classroom so it was a real treat to a) eat in a restaurant and b) share time with the people who are such an integral part of my program. It was time and money well spent.

So between beer after volleyball on Wed. night, lunch out yesterday and a bottle of wine for last night's "girl time" I spent a total of $35.00. I can live with that:)

My goals for the rest of November:
  • save at least another $50 from my misc. spending budget ($136 currently left in it)
  • not spend more this week than the $18 left in my wallet
  • save another $50 from food/gas budget (that may be difficult with the price of gas these days but I will try my best)
  • start my Christmas shopping by buying gifts for Kazi's stocking
What are your goals this week?

Thursday, November 11, 2010


As I was sitting in my classroom this morning, reading the paper and waiting for staff and students to arrive I was interrupted in the middle of an article about new house prices by the sound of a bagpiper as he walked past my classroom playing Amazing Grace. And then I remembered.

Today I remember my father, Gordon Douglas Harrison, Leading Seaman for the Combined Operations in the  Second World War. My dad was a changed man after the war but did his best to raise a family of five.  And he did a great job in between debilitating bouts of depression and anxiety which saw him spend a number of years in and out of psychiatric hospitals.

I am the wee one being held in my big sister's arms. She is the sister who is also moving to PEI.

I also remember my grandfather Lawrence Fitzroy Catton who fought and was injured in the First World War. I remember my mother's brothers - Fred, Verne and Arthur who were also active in World War II, especially Fred who was cited for exceptional bravery.  My uncle Fred stayed at his post sending out morse code messages for troops to retreat while under attack.  Although ordered to leave, he refused and helped to save countless lives.

Who are you remembering today?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Scenes from Sunday's (FREE) Walk

 Many thanks to psychsarah for suggesting this spot in London, ON for a walk - the colour palette is more limited at this time of year but there were still many miracles of nature to enjoy.
 The weather was simply glorious - brilliant sunshine and just enough of a nip in the air to make exercise comfortable.
 I thought this spot looked like fairy land - enchanting.
 Hills and valleys...challenging enough to feel it in your calf muscles and to make you huff and puff at little when you reached the top of an incline.
 Have you ever seen a more vibrant shade of blue?
 Dried up and dying - but still maintaining a graceful attitude.
 Enjoying the fleeting warmth of the sun - sunset today was at 5:02pm...sigh.
 I love the fall because: no flies, no bees, no mosquitoes:)
 Still a little colour and life to be found.
Why do these, whatever they are, remind me of Pekinese dogs?