F*ck You, Cancer

**Please note, I wrote in November 2008. I recently felt the need to dig it out , dust it off and put it on display again. Cancer has crossed my path yet again and it infuriates me.**

Let me preface this with: anyone who is around me knows I have a foul mouth, sorry if my "sentence enhancers" offend and yes, it is indeed silly to rant in the form of an open letter to a disease...but I'm doing it anyway. Here goes...

Fuck you, Cancer,

You have touched my life in so many ways over the past few years or so and I have had it. In fact, I don't know anyone you haven't touched in one way or another. You are sneaky, you are relentless and your sole purpose is to create damage. You don't care who or what you damage...that doesn't matter at all. You do not discriminate...old, young, poor, wealthy, fit, not fit...it doesn't matter to you, you'll take what you can get...you fucking leech.

A friend of mine's Dad is having surgery for prostate cancer tomorrow. As I sit here, I am waiting to hear the results of the biopsy my sister had last week. You took my father-in-law from his family. You have danced in and out of my mother's life multiple times, taunting and teasing her to the point where she lives in fear that she will some day succumb to you in some way or another. She's had two scares from her doctor about you in the past year and even the simple thought of you has driven us all to distraction. You've robbed a friend of mine of his speaking voice. You tortured my cat who used to cry all night in pain from a tumor that we couldn't afford to treat. You killed my favorite postal clerk. Last, but not least, you ravaged Tate's friend's Mom and left her going for one reconstructive surgery after another in an attempt to restore her to the way she was before you fucked her up.

I despise you. I despise what you do. You create fear and panic, sorrow and dismay. Sometimes you're quick...too quick...you take people away before anyone can be prepared for it. My Mom's cousin was a sheriff in Caldwell county, but once he found out about you, he had less than a month to live. And sometimes you take your time and work your magic ever so slowly. You change, sometimes you feel like a little of this...but then you change your damn mind and decide to go for something else. Another one of my Mom's cousins just gave into her battle with you after having breast cancer and then battling other areas you decided to attack...until you set your sights on her brain, you son-of-a-bitch...how the hell was she supposed to contend with that?

I don't know what it is about you that I hate the most. Is it the fact that you are sneaky and almost always different...making you an impossible disease to eradicate? Is it that you destroy a person's sense of self? Is it that you rob children of their innocence and childhoods? Is it that you cut lives, that have so much left to be lived, short? Is it that you create a hysteria that makes us constantly search for ways to prevent you from entering our lives? Is it that people are so afraid of you that some go to such extremes as double mastectomies in the hope of never having to deal with you? People are willing to lop off any parts that you may be contaminating. They are willing to poison themselves, in ways no one on Earth would ever consider doing otherwise, in the hope that you will retreat. But are the people you've touched, and lived to tell about it, ever really free of you?

You don't care, you're a disease, what the fuck is it to you anyway? You doing your job and that's all you care about...everything else be damned. I swear, if you were a person, I'd get a posse together and we would kick your fucking ass...stomp you into a greasy spot. If only it were that simple. But since the dawn of modern medicine, you've stumped us all. I know that we'll cross paths again...since you're all over the place. But I can guarantee that my animosity for you will never wane.

Fuck you, Cancer!

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Driving Rant - Turn Signals & Roundabouts

There is a new epidemic I find when I am out on the roads these days and it has prompted me to ask the question: when you are sitting at the steering wheel do you ever wonder what that stick that sticks out from the left side of the steering column does?

If you've never really noticed it, you should try it out. Go ahead, give it a shot. If you flick it up, a little arrow points right. Flick it down and a little arrow points left. What does this all mean? It's a TURN SIGNAL. The idea behind this nifty little gadget is to alert people who are driving behind you to any turns you may be making. Since the majority of drivers are not psychic and cannot anticipate your every move, it's really a worthwhile invention.

Usually, you want to signal as you are approaching the intersection where you are turning. If you turn the signal on mid-turn, it does no good for the poor driver behind you.

BUT the turn signal isn't just for turns!! You can also use it for passing. It's a safety measure to let the people around you know your intentions. And with more and more people passing on the right, which is another rant in and of itself, a turn signal may draw attention to you and keep someone from pulling over into your lane.

This brings me to my second point, in the US, there aren't that many roundabouts. There are some in the larger, older cities but in suburban America they are few and far between. Well, until now, that is. I am finding more and more roundabouts in the area I live in.

Roundabouts are designed to keep traffic flowing at intersections. Unlike the four-way stop, drivers can just merge into the flow of traffic and go about their merry way. I go to England, the land of the roundabouts, once a year and have been exposed to some crazy roundabouts that consist of like 8 interchanging circles. But they work because drivers there know how to use them.

When you approach a roundabout you turn on your right turn signal and yield to any oncoming traffic. Once you enter the roundabout, do not yield to traffic waiting to enter. As you approach the "spoke" where you are going to exit, turn your right signal. It lets the other drivers waiting to enter the roundabout know where you are turning off. That makes the difference between a stop and a yield and improves the efficiency of the roundabout and traffic flow. I know this all seems like common sense, but apparently it is not, gauging from how some of the bumpkins around here drive.

I'm debating which irksome topic I want to tackle next...if you have any suggestions, feel free to give me a shout!

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My Evening Drive's Mix, kinda makes me miss mix tapes.

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If I Didn't Have Bad Luck, I'd Have None...

Holy Stoltz, it's been a long time since I last blogged. It's not that I've been lazy, I can assure you of all that.

A couple of months ago, I developed a pain in my back that was higher up and between my shoulder blades. It was like a twisting knife in my spine. I chalked it up to stress, heaven knows there's no shortage of that around here. I had a few Facebook friends recommend that I get my gallbladder checked out. I put it off for a little bit because I thought that was something that happened to older people. Bear in mind, my only prior experience with gallstones was when my aunt had them when I was a kid...and everyone seemed OLDER then!

I went to my regular doctor. He was worried it may be a massive kidney infection. But then decided it might be viral. He pushed around and found a tender spot on my belly. He knew I had the localized back pain. But he sent me to get my kidneys x-rayed.

Well. Everything came back fine. His nurse called me on a Friday to let me know the cultures came back clear. I explained that I was still hurting, but she told me if I had any problems to call Urgent Care. Way to go making your patients feel like you care about them! I decided that was my last dealing with this doctor. He had treated me like a hypochondriac for a couple of years now and I simply got tired of it.

I went to another doctor on the recommendation of another good friend of mine. He concluded it may be musculoskeletal (sp?) and sent me on my way with anti-inflammatory meds and pain pills. But the pain never really went away. I saw him the next day and finally suggested that he check out my gallbladder. I had all of the textbook symptoms. So he sent me to get a scan of my gallbladder.

It was so bad, that I was immediately admitted into the hospital. Once I got into the room, it took 4 nurses to get my IV in because I was so dehydrated from not having any water for about 36 hours. I had two of them tell me my skin is particularly tough and hard to get through. What could I say? I'm an artist, I'm rough on them. I just knew that as long as the IV wasn't in, nothing was happening, so I tried hard not to panic.

The surgery was on the second day. I really do like my surgeon, Dr. Ipapo. I trusted him implicitly. I can remember an injection in my IV, then it was lights out. When I came to, I felt really bad. I reached down and immediately knew that the surgery was not laproscopic, I could feel the big wound left across my abdomen. (And imagine my surprise when one of my nurses asked if I had had a mastectomy! It's like, "Woman, did you READ my chart!?!")

From there it got worse. I realized that had stuck a tube in me to drain bile. Ick. Not fun. Then I was told that because there was so much infection and inflammation, that I would need a stint to make sure the bile goes where it should. The only problem was that it was a bank holiday weekend and no one was around to put in a stint. I was complaining to a nurse about it and she brought this gastrointestinal Dr in to talk (chastise). This Dr explained that my surgeon had called her late the night before trying to set up this stint thingy and that I should be glad that someone who isn't even on call would come in and do it. Yes, thank my lucky stars...and I'm so sorry to inconvenience you. You're a doctor, you save lives, you get calls at all hours...deal with it. She walked out while I was yelling at her.

Around midnight that same night, I got the call that they were ready to put in the stint. I can remember being wheeled down to the ground floor and seeing the stint Dr. As I was wheeled into the operating room, the nurse asked the anesthesiologist how he was. In a very rude manner, he replied that he was tired because he had been there since the morning, blah blah blah. Made me feel like shit. So I told him that I had been trying to think of a way to thank everyone who had helped me, because I had been in so much pain before, then I started crying. He changed his tune then and explained that he was here for me...blah blah.

The bitch about stints is that they have to be removed at some point too.

That procedure went well. And almost every day I was sent to get a CT scan or X-ray. Turns out that I had a LOT of fluid building up on the right side of my body. My diaphragm apparently got punctured during the surgery and I had fluid above it and below it. Guess what, I needed a new drainage tube and bag coming out of me. Wooo. Not. This one was placed while I was in a CT machine and it hurt SO much...like lots of pins and needles. I was convinced when it was over that I had needles in me...it felt so bad.

I can't remember when, but sometime, I got a PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) in my upper left arm. It had to be done by a cardiologist and it's like a super-IV that goes straight to your heart, but would actually reduce the number of times I'd have to be stuck if I had blood drawn. Blood could be taken directly from the PICC. Meds can also be injected into it like a regular IV. At one point it was scary, I had two IV stands with stuff and sooooo many lines leading into the PICC that I my arm looked like a keychain with too many keys hanging off.

Then there was the fateful night that I had a massive amount of pain that took my breath and jump-started respiratory distress. I was moved to another floor to an intensive care kinda ward. I was there for a week. Had more scans, more x-rays...then it was decided that I needed a lung puncture to drain some fluid out of my right lung. It's called sympathetic fluid, but there's nothing sympathetic about it.

The day that was scheduled, my nurse had a student nurse at her side the entire shift. The student was so nice that she offered to go with me for the puncture, if it was allowed. She walked by me as I was wheeled to the room where it's done and she stood in front of me as I had to sit upright and held onto me so I wouldn't freak out too much.

At this point I'd like to take a minute to say that I was terrified of having anything done to my lung. I had cartoonish/nightmarish ideas of what could happen and it really messed with me.

They did the puncture on my back and through my ribs. It was kinda high, up towards my shoulder. He injected lidocaine first to numb the area...which is really a joke since it only numbs the surface and does absolutely nothing about the feeling of a foreign object entering your lung. Then the liquid was essentially vacuumed out. Pretty gross. But my student nurse rocked and I don't think it would have gone as smoothly without her.

I kept having spasms around the area where the tube/drain on my side was. It hurt so much and was toe-curling.

After about a week, I was moved back up to the floor I was on before. That was a good sign of improvement. I was on a million antibiotics, IV nutrients, treatment for what may have been a fungal infection, potassium and I had to take meds to try to restore the "good" bacteria that is in the digestive system. It was all so odd and seemed contradictory.

Then there was this horrible day. My Dr told me that there was more fluid in my lung and this time, I needed a chest tube. And it was going to be done right then and there, in my room. I freaked. I was like a wild animal backed into a corner. They ended up giving me 14 units of morphine, but honestly, I didn't feel a bit of the morphine. Adrenaline is powerful stuff.

My bed got raised up very high. I had two nurses at my left side, two at my feet and my surgeon at my right side. There was nothing I could do. Again, wimpy lidocaine was injected to help, but of course it didn't. It was a pain that was like anything I have never experienced before. And then the tube has to be pushed in more...more. Then stitches to keep it there. And this tube is not small...about and inch wide. All I can remember is primal screaming and nurses trying to talk to me and get me to breathe properly. Like I'm going to chit chat after I've been shanked...really?

The chest tube was a whole new beast. I couldn't really walk anywhere because the box the fluid drained into was taped to the floor. Quite handicapping. I guess the tube was in for 2 or 3 days. Then it was time to take it out. Surely it couldn't be worse than putting it in...right? WRONG!! I was told to breathe in...then when I exhaled they yanked it out quite forcefully and threw it on the floor. Then they yanked the drainage tube that was in my belly. That was particularly gross because I could feel it...it was like a worm or a snake was wiggling through my guts. Ick.

I made sure not to look at the stuff they left in my room, including the chest tube. I told a nurse all that stuff had to be gone by the time I got back from getting an x-ray. I just can't believe they left stuff all over.

I am amazed that with technology and all of the advancements in medicine, so many procedures are still so barbaric and brutal.

My days and nights were spent watching CNN and Bravo. I rotted my brain cells on every Housewives show there is. I had to be careful about what I ate and as you can imagine, hospital food isn't always the best. I was in almost constant pain. And about 2 weeks in, I just couldn't get comfortable in those hospital beds. I had many restless nights.

The only thing that ever helped were the shots of dilaudid. I would look forward to my shot every time it was ready. You get a nice fuzzy warm feeling and since it would be injected into my PICC, my heart would be one of the first things to get warm. There was a taste that came along with it, but I cannot describe it. I knew that once I had dilaudid, I would have about 2 hours of peace. Pain meds were administered every 4 hours though, so the pain always came back. But there was a little peace.

Slowly but surely, my Dr got me off my IVs. And then one day, I was deemed healthy enough to go home. Sure, I was going to still have to have a nurse at home...and we had the oxygen delivered in case I needed it, so it wasn't really the same as being at home.

I went through a period where I cried multiple times a day. I feel like I must have something similar to post-traumatic stress syndrome. And I don't know if I'll ever drink Coke, Sprite or ginger ale again.

My other drainage tube got removed about a week after I was released. That was a big relief. Nothing to make you feel like an old fart like a bag of your bodily fluids velcroed to you.

Now, my scars are healing. I can breathe alright...have to slow down a lot if I get winded. But I still have a lot of pain at the chest tube site. It's right at the side of my breast, so my ribs are sore, there is sore breast tissue...my side feels like it's been kicked. I was taken off narcotics, but the new meds don't do anything. I'm picking up something new tonight, so I hope that helps.

So, if you've wondered where I've been or what I've been up to...I spent 3 weeks in the hospital and have been at home, recuperating ever since.

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Woe is Me...wah, wah, wah.

Not a whole lot has happened. I am still having sweats and chills. The place where my back hurts still hurts. (Feels like trapped gas or a place that needs popped but won't pop.) While I am not sore all over from the vomiting anymore, my stomach feels like I've eaten glass since I've eaten so little lately.

I have decided I'm not very thrilled with the response from my Dr. yesterday. A while back he started treating me like a hypochondriac and apparently hasn't stopped. My Mom suggested I come back and the woman I see up here later this week, because she has gone to Africa for some program to help others abroad. I may do that. I really like her, she is no nonsense.

This all really stinks. I need to be at the top of my game this week with Tate starting school. I've had to cancel a couple of business meetings I am trying to reschedule. It's all just very frustrating.

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More Let's Play Dr. Games...

Okay, what's wrong with me? This is not a question that warrants quirky, witty, smartass comments that I would usually find funny. I feel so bad right now, it would most likely upset me.

If you've read my previous blog, you know I've had a trying week. The Dr. was afraid I may have kidney stones, so I got x-rays, no signs of kidney stones.

But my body is still sore all over, I can only guess from all the vomiting I was doing. I am still running a low grade fever and keeping sweats and chills.

I called my Dr. today for more insight, but they said that the urine culture came back clean, yet they still want me to finish the Cipro, just in case. And she said if I got worse, then I should just go to urgent care. I realize it's Friday and all, but this just came across like they are done with me...after all, "the doctor does have you on Cipro, meds for pain, meds for nausea and meds for sleep." What more could a girl ask for? I dunno, perhaps to find out what the cause of all this mess is? Tate starts school next week and I've got to be at the top of my game.

I'm very frustrated and worried...and sweaty.

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Let's Play a Game of "House MD"...

So, on Monday morning I woke up with a nagging pain between my shoulder blades. It kinda felt like trapped gas or like I needed to pop my back or something. But no matter how I contorted myself, no popping. And I tool Tums and Gas-X for good measure, but no relief there either.

As the evening wore on, the pain grew increasingly worse...to the point it made me nauseated. I couldn't keep anything in my stomach and developed a fever. I didn't measure it, I was just going from the chills and sweats I was having.

I didn't sleep much that night. And Tuesday morning, while dry heaving, I decided to go see the Dr.

So, I went. He said they would check my urine for any signs of a UTI and then they'd do bloodwork if nothing showed up in the urine. The white blood cell count was slightly elevated. But what concerned him more was the amount of blood in it. (I didn't really notice anything out of the ordinary, visually. And no it's not that time in my cycle at the moment, either.) He said that since I had a low-grade fever of 100.6 that he'd go ahead and treat me for a UTI. He prescriped Cipro for that. Vicodin for pain. Phenergan for nausea and Ambien for sleep...Restoril was really not working for me.

He also sent me to get an x-ray because he was concerned I may have kidney stones. But a few hours later, I learned that no stones showed up on the x-ray.

For now, my back still hurts and I am sore all over from the vomiting. It feels like I've eaten glass, so I'm very cautious when I eat. I'm still having sweats and chills.

So, what's your take on this?

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Well, it's happened. I'm almost 36 and I've figured out what I want to do with my life.

Sure, I will still pursue make-up and photography, but it's not that easy to make these things a career when it is such a highly competitive field. There's a lot of feast or famine. And I really just need a steady, fulfilling meal. (Of course, after my last blog, I should probably say a low-fat, healthy meal!)

Last weekend, we loaded up the kids and went to Charleston, SC. Dominic had a conference there, so we tagged along. The kids and I went to the aquarium, we all went to the open market, Folly Beach, then on Tuesday we went to the Children's Museum of the Lowcountry. Http://www.explorecml.org

This place ROCKED! It is an educational experience dressed up in the garb of a huge indoor play area! There are themed rooms and it's all designed for kids up through the age of 12. There's an art room with table after table of art supplies to dig into. There's a room that is a castle, complete with stonework, a second level, spiral stairs, dress up stuff, a puppet theater, a medieval kitchen...it was insanely detailed. Publix grocery store sponsors a mini grocery store, complete with check out areas and computers that scan the products. There's a water room with tons of things to do to get nice and messy, fortunately, smocks are provided and there is a set up to show the cycle of water...you know, evaporation to clouds to rain...that sort of thing. I could go on and on about this place. There's an area for toddlers. A big shrimping boat with nets, steering wheels, a mini kitchen and floors that wobble when you walk, to simulate the movement of a boat in the ocean.

For me, it was so exciting to see a place that was completely hands on! There really wasn't much that was off limits for the kids. There were tons of kids running around, using their imaginations...it's such a pleasant change from seeing kids with gameboys securely fastened in their clutches.

So it got me thinking. There really isn't anything like this in Charlotte. There is Discovery Place, which is more scientifically hands on. And there is Imaginon, which combines a public library and the Children's Theater. BUT there is nothing like this.

I plan on touring some of the other Children's Museums around. There is one in Winston-Salem, Wilmington and Myrtle Beach. I've been going over their websites comparing and contrasting with the one in Charleston.

The wheels are turning! I am fortunate enough to know lots of creative people and many teachers who can provide input. And my husband has a good idea of who I need to plan to talk to about sponsorships. But there is so much to do. I need a lawyer who specializes in non-profit organizations. I need to really research these other museums and the demographics of Charlotte. When I think about all I need to do, it's very scary. This is a huge project I never would've dreamed of undertaking. But it combines my love of kids and art and I can't help but think that it wouldn't be anything but completely worth it and totally gratifying.

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Confessions of a Fat Chick

Let me preface this blog by saying that I will be speaking very frankly. I may even be considered offensive by some. I apologize if this is the case, but I'm a fat chick and I am allowed to be blunt, honest and realistic about it. I'm not condoning being ultra-thin or skinny. I am condoning being healthy.

I'd also like to add that I am not fishing for compliments. People tell me I am pretty and I appreciate that, I really do. But I can look in a mirror...I can see what I look like. I know that if I were more healthy I could feel and look better than I ever have.

On my vacation in the wild west, I got a wild hair when I was at the Ubehebe volcanic crater in Death Valley and decided to take the vertical 1/2 mile hike up to the smaller crater on the side of the volcano, called Little Hebe. It was very tough. It didn't help that I had on hiking sandals and not closed toe shoes, rocks were all in them. But I huffed and puffed and felt my heart beating out of my chest like it was going to pop...on more than one occasion. I stopped at two different points and almost decided to quit. I can remember calling down to my husband and kids saying that I just didn't know if I could do it. I was really scared I was going to have a heart attack or something.

I persevered and finally made it to the top. I was very surprised to find that I was so overwhelmed that I burst into tears. Part of that was because I got to the top. Most of it was that I didn't die in the process.

I had the very stark realization that I am seriously unhealthy and out of shape. I weigh less than I did when I had my kids, but not by much. To be completely honest and open, I am at 217 lbs.

I've been wearing size 16 jeans for a while now. But when I recently picked up some capri pants and bermuda shorts for the trip, they were 18 and 20. The shorts were a little big, but they didn't have an 18. Holy shit...that was a wake up call.

I am not going to have loads of lame excuses. I've not treated myself well over the past couple of years. Late night snacking and soft drinks are my worst vices. I put on 60 lbs in the past year alone when I was in my own apartment, feeling depressed and sorry for myself. I didn't care about much of anything.

But now I do care. I don't even look like myself anymore. I'm shocked that I've not had people ask me when my baby is due. The only thin parts on my body are my wrists and my ankles. I don't see the point in being fashion forward when I feel like everything I wear makes me look frumpy. So, I live in American Apparel deep-V tee shirts because the v-neck is flattering and the sleeves come down just above my elbow and cover my upper arms. I usually stick to jeans that fall at the waist. I had stayed away from shorts because I hate the thought that they may creep up my thighs and do that icky bunching thing you see from time to time. The thoughts of that just makes me shudder.

I have no idea what to do with my hair. I feel like trying to have a trendy shorter cut is a joke, I'm still overweight and far from fashionable. But having it long makes me feel really dowdy and frumpy.

I suppose I simply cannot pretend to be okay with who I am right now. That's why I can't attempt to dress myself up like it's fine and I'm the norm. The only thing that can make me appear thinner is to diet in a healthy way and exercise regularly. Sure, America is a heavier nation in general. But that doesn't make it okay and we are kidding ourselves if we think it's more acceptable because overweight people are growing in numbers every day.

I now worry about my blood pressure and the possibility of diabetes if I do not get myself under control. Both conditions run in my family.

I want to teach my kids that I can be healthy and look and feel better. I want to set an example for them. My daughter has only seen me at a healthy weight in photos.

I'm not going to go on any wacky crash diets or get myself an eating disorder. I need to change the way I think and the habits that I have. I'm not afraid of the hard work it is going to take. I just wasn't ready before. Food was way too comforting. Being asleep most of the day was the only relief I had from the depression that plagued (and still does to an extent) me. I have no plans to fit back into my pre-baby size 4 clothes. Ideally I'd like to be a size 8. I think anything smaller is unrealistic and would be too thin for me.

I know I've made false promises to myself in the past about my weight. But I plan on going back to that volcano and kicking it's ass next year...without all the huffing, puffing and bursting heart.

Later today, I am taking the first big step and talking to my doctor about my concerns. I'll keep you posted.

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Driving Rant - High Beams

Okay, as I've said before, I've been longing to write a blog about driving. I love to drive. I just got home from a 5800 mile road trip to California. But it's the other drivers who can make driving a stressful, rant-worthy experience.

I'm not going to tackle all of my various rants about driving in one blog. It would be an epic read and I'd probably leave something out. So, I will write one here and there about one thing that irks me at the time.

I have found that there is a problem, nationwide, when it comes to using high beam headlights. Every time I drive at night, there is always some moron tooling along, blinding everyone in sight. Apparently this is a topic that is no longer covered in driver's education. So, I'll explain it as simply as I can.

**If you see a car on the road, ANYWHERE...then do NOT use your high beams. **

It doesn't matter if you see headlights or tail lights, do NOT use your high beams. Sure if you're on a highway alone and there is no one there, then go for it. But if you come around a curve or crest a hill and see lights in the distance, shut them off. Driving out west, I came across some very long stretches of straight roads. I could see cars miles away. Many wouldn't shut off the high beams until they were right at me, which it didn't really matter then, I was already blinded.

So, what if you are on an interstate that has a huge median in the middle of the road? Well, unless it is one of those concrete barriers that stand about 4 feet tall, then you still should NOT use your high beams if you see other cars. If it's one of those grass medians, I can still see you, you can still see me and you will STILL be blinding me.

If you're in an area with street lights, then you definitely do not need to use your high beams. That's just redundant and unnecessary.

The bottom line is that it's just plain dangerous, especially if you are on a two-lane road. And while this all seems like it should be common sense, apparently it is not. So please take note and be courteous to other drivers out in the world. It's really not an issue of one driver being against another one...I'm sure the incidents of road rage would drop dramatically if people simply looked out for each other.

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There aren't many moments in life when the planets align properly and the right conditions fall into place and you get to take care of business exactly the way it plays out in your mind. Sure, I have moments where I can be very quick-witted and think of great things to say without a blink of the eye...but it seems like whenever I am frustrated or upset, I always fumble (until about 20 minutes later, once the moment has passed me by and I'd just look pathetic).

Well, today, I decided to take my Mom to Valle Crucis to go to the original Mast General Store. We've been to the one in Asheville and I recently visited Valle Crucis and was immediately taken by the beautiful surroundings.

Most of the drive there is a 4-lane highway, but once you move away from Boone, the road narrows down to 2 lanes. I was stopped at the stoplight where this narrowing occurs. The right hand lane becomes a right turn ONLY lane. As soon as the light changes, this SUV come careening around me on the right and immediately cuts me off. Of course, my first thoughts were about what a jerk the driver was. But as I drove on, I realized he was most likely going to the Mast General Store too. And as I prepared to turn into the parking lot, he in the SUV directly in front of me. He parked really far out and took quite a while to get out of his car. I headed towards the shop behind the main store, with my mom and kids, but made sure to get a good look at him. I wasn't going to let this be another instant that just slips away from me.

Once we entered the main shop, I wanted to go ahead and get my confrontation with this man over with. So, I made a beeline as soon as I saw him. My Mom says it happened way faster than she expected! I approached the guy and said, "Hey, listen, I just wanted to tell you what a good job you did with your driving back in Boone. You know, when you illegally passed me on the right from the right turn lane you were in, jeopardizing the well-being of all parties involved? And it got you here SO MUCH FASTER than me! You were right in front of me as you turned into the parking lot here..."

Around that time he started to make excuses, something about how when he approached the light....blah blah blah....honestly, I was in the blind rage mode, so I don't remember looking at him or what else he said. I cut him off and said, "No...just no." I was about to explain that there was no excuse for breezing through an intersection from a turn lane, but my Mom started to pull me away. (Apparently I was starting to get louder.) Honestly, the only excuses I would've accepted would have been that his brakes were out or he was on the way to the hospital...not driving like an ass so he could poke around an old general store. I finished my conversation explaining that I have precious cargo in my car and I am protective as a result.

There's a line in the film Heart and Souls where Robert Downey Jr. (whose body has been taken over by a ghostly Alfre Woodard) says something like, "Don't mess with me...I'm a MUTHA!!"

Yep, that's me.

I've been wanting to write a blog about driving for a long time. But I've always feared that I would come across like a crotchety, old fart. I really enjoy driving. I am a good driver (Charlie Babbitt). And I guess I just expect the others to operate with the same knowledge of driving that I do. I need to lower those expectations! But I WILL revisit this...it's simply too late for me to get off onto THAT rant tonight!

(PS--When I got back to Charlotte, I had another Towanda moment. I have a neighbor who is perpendicular to me whose flood lights shine on my house like a spotlight from the Heavens. Makes going to sleep very difficult. I went to that house and asked them to please cut it off. I mean, really, point your lights towards your yard...not the neighborhood!)

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The Hopeful Pessimist

I realize that I am not always the most positive person. I can succumb to depression and frustration just like anyone else. Sometimes I fear I am too cynical and jaded. But on the flipside, there are all too many occasions when I hope for the best, feel optimistic and positive and just set myself up for disappointment. Dammit. Then I feel foolish for putting myself on that position. Hoping for the best in people and in life can seem really silly when you feel so beaten down by things.

I recently had an old acquaintance really get under my skin...wanting to chat for hours on end. Very persistent in wanting to meet up. It had been years since I last saw him. Obviously much has changed.

It's no secret that while I am generally a confident person, I have insecurities about my weight. Childbearing wrecked me! And whenever I'd voice my insecurities, I'd get responses about how we've all gained weight and how I have an excuse because I'm a mom.

Well, I guess it's all good in theory, because when we met up, I was met with tons of excuses about hangovers and the list (of like two things that just got repeated over and over) that he needed to do. When I left, he couldn't even pry the cell phone from his ear long enough to give a proper "good-bye".

Upon my return home I sent an email to clear the air and say it's cool, my weight is an issue...I get it. But NO reply. No nothing...just "defriended" on Facebook.

It's been a long time since I've been treated with such little care and such disrespect. The one thought I keep in my head is that I can always lose weight, but he'll be a lonely, superficial prick forever. (Who is a tad on the doughy side these days and could benefit from some tooth whitening strips, a toothbrush or a trip to the dentist...they look like corn, honey.)

Unfortunately, this incident has left me feeling bad. I'm leaning towards thinking that socializing online is not the best idea, but heaven knows I'm not going to get out and socialize where I live now. I had decided not to let this hurt my feelings, but it's kinda like when a little splinter, you didn't even know you had, gets infected.

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What's Up, Buttercup?

I am so glad it is finally Spring. I feel like I am finally coming out of hibernation. Enduring the dark, mountain apartment all Winter wasn't easy. I was left depressed and without motivation. Sleeping all day, up all night. While there is still some depression and lack of motivation, at least now I can enjoy my surroundings some since everything is springing to life. I really love this time of year. I just wish the pollen wasn't so horrific and that it didn't get too hot too fast. When I can hang out and have my windows open, that's perfect.

The last time I wrote a blog was before my trip to London. I almost blogged while I was over, but I was really overwhelmed with so much to do and see that I simply couldn't get my thoughts all organized. I have notes upon notes that I still need to sort out and think through before these hands hit the keyboard about it! Otherwise, who knows what sort of nonsensical ramblings will come out of me!?! But I do have plenty to write about regarding the trip and I did write a little beauty blog about the cosmetics I picked up over there, you can read that at All Things Glam. All in all, it was a nice visit with Dominic's family and we got to see and do many fun things!

Tate has been doing well, although I believe her ADHD meds need to be a higher dosage. Some of the original red flags are starting to pop up again. And we have finally resigned ourselves to the fact that she is going to need food therapy. I know it sounds crazy, but her menu shrinks almost daily and I am running out of ideas of things that she will eat. My poor, sweet baby...I wish life were more simple for her.

School has been fine for Tate, with the exception of a slight hiccup in her speech therapy. The lisp is starting to get better, but she is lazy in conversation and doesn't focus on making her "s" and "th" sounds clear except for when we are doing her speech homework. Anyway, they have a game they play in speech therapy called Ned's Head. Apparently, you have to pull random items out of Ned's Head and you have to say what it is you get. Some of the things are wacky and fun. And some are downright gross. Tate has a problem with the fake vomit and "dirty" cotton swabs. I can't say I blame her, but then I get an email from the therapist asking what is wrong with Tate because she is the first person EVER to NOT love the game! She was asking if Tate had problems with food...well, YEAH! The speech therapist has sat in on all the ADHD meetings we've had at the school, this is not new news. Anyway, I didn't have anything to suggest about the game, apart from take those two things out. I mean, really...at the time, Tate went a week without eating breakfast. I had bigger fish to fry. Just go with what seems like common sense. I cannot honestly believe that Tate is the first kid to not love Ned's Head. Aw, screw Ned.

Jack has been my little sponge lately, repeating everything he's hearing. And yes, I tend to have a mouth like a sailor, so you can only imagine. He's been so charming. (Yes, that is sarcasm.) But it's so hard to scold, when I catch myself swearing constantly. And it's REALLY hard NOT to laugh. I know, I sound like the worst parent ever! But he is making progress with potty training, which is like everyone says and is very different from training a girl.

For now, it looks like I will be returning to Charlotte in June or so. If you are new to me and weren't around when I blogged a lot on my other blog last year, then you don't know that I've been separated for over a year. (I've since removed all entries with personal content from that blog since it is my business blog now.) Is my broken marriage fixed? No. Do I know what lies ahead? No. What we do know is that it just isn't financially viable for our family to live in two places. It's fine when I am working and can pay the bills, but work has been dreadfully slow since last summer and I have accumulated much debt just to stay afloat. I'm worried that my trust issues may not ever go away. Dominic is worried that I'll be unhappy and leave again. I am particularly dreading moving back to the house. It just holds so many bad memories and vibes. So we have been looking at new places. Maybe a fresh start could be beneficial for all. Who knows? I'm in no way a relationship expert. My views on marriage have changed since I've been married and I don't know what the best thing to do is. In general, I'm not sure, even on the smallest level what I need to be happy. This is the first time in my life when I don't really have a goal to work towards or a plan of some sort. I'm just doing what I have to do. I guess I'll figure it out as I go along.

On a totally random note, Tate woke me up this morning by telling me there was a frog in the toilet. And what do you know? There was! It was a little tree frog (see below). Dom ended up getting a plastic container and wrangling it. It's skin was so thin, you could see it's heart. I can't believe Tate's not terrified to use the bathroom now! But no, she was amused! I was so relieved!

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So today, I've felt under the weather. There's apparently some stomach bug going around or it's stress or something. Long story short, my stomach hates me.

But I had to pull myself together long enough to go to the eye doctor. I haven't had contacts in six months or so and I really want some before I leave for London to visit my in-laws in a week.

Last year I didn't make an annual check-up with the eye doctor, so my husband, Dominic, dropped the glasses and contacts coverage. We are separated and it's really a moot point anyway since his employer changes insurance companies every year.

So, my mind was boggled to discover that the new insurance doesn't cover having your eyes dilated. Then, as I am checking out, I'm told it doesn't cover contact lens exams either? So what the Hell does it cover? I honestly don't know. WTF? I would've done better going go one of these places like America's Best or something. And this local doctor charges you $20 for a copy of your prescription if you are going to pick up glasses or contacts elsewhere...again, WTF?

And the real pain of all is that my prescription is exactly the same as it was two years ago!!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

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The Plot Thickens... 1/20/10

The past week or so has been particularly draining. I've been meaning to write an update blog over the past few days, but have put it off because I'm tired and feel like I'm coming down with something.

Okay, so I last left off with the official diagnosis of ADHD and our plan of action for it.

We got the Strattera for Tate. As soon as I got to the car, I opened a capsule to see how it tasted. If it was innocuous enough, maybe we could hide it in her strawberry milk or something. Unfortunately, it was absolutely diabolical. A few grains touched my tongue, but the taste lasted for quite a while. It reminded me of the way nail polish remover smells. There was no hiding that!

So, I ended up doing what the psychiatrist had recommended and sat Tate down and discussed ADHD and the treatment for the symptoms. Of course, she was not pleased at the idea of having to take a pill. The first night took about 3 hours for her to work up the nerve to take it. The second night was about 3 hours, although I am certain she did not take the pill and disposed of it in some way. (I had given her some room and didn't sit right at her to make her feel uncomfortable and when she "took" the pill she didn't put up a fuss. Then, the next night she tried to pull a fast one 5 times!) The third night took 4 1/2 hours and I ended up giving up just before 1:00 AM...so no pill was taken. The fourth night took about an hour, Dominic was visiting and threatened to take her to a Dr. to see if he had any suggestions for helping her take the medication. The fifth night was about 20 minutes! And then tonight, we went back up to about 2 hours.

The main problem is that Tate's tongue pushes the capsule up to the back side of her teeth, making it nearly impossible for it to go down. Not to mention, I wrap it in a fruit roll-up to keep her from "tasting" it and that weighs the capsule down. Otherwise it would most likely go down a lot faster and easier. But we are working on it. While it is an emotional roller coaster, it has brought me closer to Tate. She isn't mad that I make her take the meds. I think it has helped remind her that what I say goes. There have been so many times during her young life that we've just let the little princess have her way. Although, my sister and I were talking about it tonight and we think that this generation is born without the fear gene. When I was a kid, if my parents gave me THAT look or spoke to me in THAT way, I knew they meant business. Today, my kids don't take that seriously at all.

So, Tate and I are working on it. She has a classmate who may be taking the same medication. They have apparently talked about it and compared descriptions of the capsule, so I think that makes her feel a tiny bit better about it. And while I know it's not the meds just yet, she is more compliant when I ask her to do things. She is less whiny. She is a lot more affectionate and I get more unsolicited hugs, kisses and "I love you's". Another thing she is very interested in are the yoga exercises on the Wii Fit, which is wonderful because yoga was recommended for her to help improve her focus and concentration. She is doing really well with that too.

Dealing with Tate's school and teacher is still a challenge. We had our meeting with the teacher, speech therapist and principal last week. And on that very day, her teacher sent her home without her new books for the reading program. WTF? We had a meeting with the teacher last September and explained that she would need to stay on Tate about making sure she has her books and is testing like she is supposed to. When she was left to her own devices, she flew under the radar and only tested on 8 books that first month of school. That's why she got so behind in the reading program. So, I sent her an email explaining that it was very disappointing. The deadline for their mid-year goal is the 22nd. And Tate is going to make it, but just barely. The teacher's response is that there aren't enough library passes for the students. Okay, what? Are you kidding me? The classroom is directly across the hall from the library! Not all kids get to go to get the supplies that they need?? That seems completely preposterous. (On a side note, the mid-year reading goal is reading and passing tests on 200 books! But the goal for the rest of the year is 9 chapter books.)

She then went on to mention that Tate is not doing well when they have math work on the computer and wanted to know what I would suggest for that. I explained that the only suggestions we had were on the report from the psychiatrist. But the deal is that Tate is an auditory learner. To stick her in front of a computer and leave her to it is simply not going to work. In a meeting with Dominic this week, her teacher explained that she can call out math problems to Tate and she can easily rattle off the answers, so this just proves the point. She needs someone to read the problems in order for her to process them.

And last but not least, the teacher mentioned that she was already making modifications to accommodate Tate, but that Tate still lacks focus and concentration. SO, she's passing the buck off to the kid with ADHD. This pissed me off.

The email pissed Dominic off too, so he made a special trip up to meet with these yahoos again. I did not go. I know that I am getting to the point where I cannot hold my tongue anymore. Not to mention that some of the idiotic things Tate's teacher says makes me want to smack her one. (One day she'll gush about Tate improving so much and doing so well and the next it is all doom and gloom, with a possibility of failure. If anyone needs meds, it's THAT woman.) Unfortunately, the principal couldn't be there. It's unfortunate because very early on it was quite apparent that Tate's teacher had NOT read the report from her Dr. The speech therapist had, she was able to keep up with everything Dominic discussed and was familiar with what he was speaking about. Tate's teacher was lost. She asked if the recommendations he discussed were ones made by Tate's pediatrician, but didn't even realize that they were all outlined in the psychiatrist's report she was holding in her very hands. It's pretty sad, really.

Oh, and the school uses this 40-year-old, Letterland program for spelling. It was created in England. The school is a pilot school for having the program in second grade. I can tell you that it is does not help Tate with her spelling in any way. The stories they create to try to remember rules are confusing and difficult to remember. What is really funny is that Dominic's brother, who is a teacher, told him that the Letterland program was abandoned in England about 15 years ago because it was too time consuming, distracting and ineffective. Makes you wonder what the hell is going on here? How is it a good idea to use an outdated program?

Dominic's theory is that she is a teacher that does very well with the students who succeed, but the ones who don't get left behind. I am growing to agree with this thought. She is a well-loved teacher. But I think it's more because she is friendly, dresses very fashionably and puts on a good front. My Mom recounted an occasion she was in the classroom when the teacher totally lost it on a student...picked up his desk, moved it so he was isolated, excluded him from what the class was doing and yelled at him in an inappropriate manner. Kinda scary.

I am also dismayed to hear that the classroom phone is still a distraction for Tate. The other day she told me she was upset because she never gets to answer the phone, this other kid always gets called to do so.

All in all, it seems like some baby steps are being made...although Tate actually taking her pills is quite a gigantic leap, even if it is a struggle!

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The ADHD Saga Continues... 1/12/10

A few entries ago, I wrote a blog about how Tate was having such problems in school and how we were going to have her tested for a variety of things to see what we can do to help out and make life easier for her.

I've not really mentioned much about it since then because it has been a lot of hurry up and wait. Tate was evaluated and the final conclusion is that she has ADHD with lots of anxiety and some depression. While the news was absolutely heartbreaking, it was not a surprise.

After the diagnosis, we had to wait for almost a month to get the formal report. This report has all of the details lined out for us and recommendations about what we can do at home and what the staff at her school can do for her. The report is very interesting. The results are all over the place. She scored averages on a few things, below average on a couple of tests and superior on a few. And what struck me as odd is that the scores were opposite of what her strengths and weaknesses are in school.

The psychologist explained that some of the lower test scores may not have been accurate because either Tate got distracted, couldn't remember the instructions or just didn't understand or care that she had time limitations on them. At one point, the Dr. had to turn Tate's back to a window because she became so engrossed in what some squirrels were up to.

There is no debate that Tate is extremely bright. Her pediatrician used the best analogy: Tate's mind is like a souped-up, race car engine...but it won't stay in gear. Her psychiatrist said that in all her years, she has never come across anyone like Tate. What is going to be difficult for me is that Tate does best with auditory learning. I learn things visually. So this is a learning process for me. I have to re-learn how to do things in a different way so I can help her figure things out and remember them.

The psychiatrist's recommendations for life at home are all things we are already doing, that made me feel very good. Her recommendations for school are quite lengthy. To be honest, I am skeptical that the proper modifications will take place. But I'll go into a little more depth about that in a bit.

Finally, the psychiatrist recommended medicating Tate. Obviously, this is something that is not to be taken lightly. Dominic comes from a family that has always preferred alternative medicines. And there are some homeopathic options that have been proven to help some with the symptoms of ADHD. I, on the other hand, come from a family where if something was wrong and there was a pill for it...you took the pill. But when it comes to Tate, I don't relish the idea of her having to take meds, but the hope that her life could be easier, with less worry and stress really makes me open to the idea. She has been a worrier since birth and I would really love the opportunity to see her be a fun, carefree girl. That thought brings tears to my eyes.

The next step was to meet up with Tate's pediatrician to discuss our options. He is a really fabulous doctor and he is very cautious which is why we value his opinion and trust him. He started out by explaining that while there have been studies that show some correlation of diet to ADHD, there simply is not enough consistent information to support it. He did mention a couple of herbal supplements that have shown some evidence of improvement. After that he explained the different types of prescribed medicines that are available.

**Before I go into this, bear in mind, I am NOT a doctor. Please to not jump all over me if there are any inaccuracies.**

First he talked about Prozac and Effexor. He mentioned a drug called Vyvanse. Then he mentioned Strattera, which sounded particularly promising because not only could it help out with the ADHD symptoms, it may also help out with the anxiety and depression. And it's not a stimulant like Ritalin or Adderall, which were the last drugs he discussed. They have a higher success rate than Strattera, with visible results seen in the first 5-14 hours of use, but as I said before they are stimulants and they only work for as long as they are in the system. Tate already has wild mood swings, I cannot imagine what being on a drug with such highs and lows would do to her.

Although it's a cumulative drug and will take longer to see any changes, we decided to go with Strattera. I think that Dominic and I both feel that a life with less worry, anxiety and stress for Tate is something we never thought we would see. We are trying not to get our hopes up. And even more importantly, while it seemed like the most attractive option to us, it is what her doctor recommended too.

He said that it's an issue of which came first? The chicken or the egg? The anxiety or ADHD? Well, I can answer that. The anxiety was first...from a very young age. The ADHD symptoms have arisen only in the past two years or so. I can't help but think that if we can get that under control, maybe the other things will fall into place a little easier.

I know that medicating a child is frowned upon by many. Please do not judge our decision. All we want is a better life for our daughter.

Of course, Murphy's Law had to kick in at some point. Today we went to pick up the Strattera, but our insurance won't cover it. There is no generic for it and they want us to try one of the stimulant drugs first. I'm so glad that our insurance company, who has no idea about what is going on or what Tate's needs are, thinks they know better than our doctor. So, we had to call them up to find out what we needed to do to get it approved, then we had to call the pediatrician to see if he will call them and explain that he does not approve of stimulants for Tate. But he's been out of the office for a week and is playing catch up, so who knows when he will get around to calling them? And of course, if the insurance company wants to be stubborn, they can still refuse to cover it. Without insurance, it's $180 for a month.

More waiting...

This morning, we met with Tate's teacher, principal and speech therapist. (Tate has a lisp and has been approved for assistance with that.) What is most disconcerting is that Tate's teacher kept pushing for us to medicate her. (Saying things like, "When we decide what the RIGHT thing to do is, she thinks there will be drastic improvements"...etc.) The long story short is that I think she feels that if Tate is medicated, she can rest easy and not work on making some of the suggested modifications to facilitate Tate's learning. We ultimately ended up telling them that we are exploring alternative options. If we can ever actually get the Strattera and start administering it, it will be a great way to gauge how it's working when we hear feedback from the teacher. The changes won't be fast like if Tate were on Ritalin. And that way, with any luck, the teacher WILL make the necessary modifications to help Tate. We all have to work on this, at home and school, there is no magic pill to cure ADHD and make life rosy...there is no cure.

Last but not least, I am struggling trying to help Tate with her spelling. The school uses the Letterland program, which is about 40 years old and originated in England. Apparently it is quite successful with the kindergartners and first graders, but this school is a pilot school for using it in the second grade and they are not pleased with it. They have found that it is more distracting for the older children, wasting a lot of time and not really adding much to the learning process as a whole. Well, that's great but that doesn't do anything to help me help Tate. And there are no resources available online or anything because essentially there is no second grade Letterland program for the masses since it is only being tested out in a few schools. Even if resources were available, the resources for the kindergarten and first grade levels are available to BUY...which I think is a total rip-off. So in the meantime, the teacher has agreed to send me the little grammar stories they use to help try to remember things.

Anyway, I suppose that is it for now. We are doing the best we can at the moment and hoping things will get better.

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Education Lamentation - 9/30/09

Actually, after yesterday's blog and today's "stuff"...I am almost too mentally drained to write.

Last night Dominic came up for a visit since he had the evening off and the morning off today. This morning he joined me on my visit to the school and sat in on the class with me. Yesterday, I had requested Tate's report cards so I could go over them with her teacher today, but apparently the teacher put in the same request shortly after I did...so the receptionist told her, "That's funny, Tate's mom asked for them too!" Tate did alright in kindergarten, but she was painfully shy, so she improved, but had a slow start. Last year, however, she excelled the whole time. Of course her teacher focused on the kindergarten report card. "Well, Tate did have some problems there..."

The same chaos as yesterday ensued. And while it didn't seem as severe, it seemed like a more steady stream of distractions. The only thing I can compare it to would be a scream to a nagging, droning sound. Each are annoying and disruptive, but in very different ways.

The teacher got attendance recorded much earlier today. But she really didn't get that much into a lesson. She had work posted that the kids needed to do while she conducted one-on-one student assessments. While she did that in the back of the classroom, with her back to the class, the students started to lose focus as a whole. About a six kids got up and streamed in and out of the bathroom. Apparently no one asks permission for that sort of thing anymore. When the kids finished their assignment, they had to take it to the front of the classroom. And of course, they dawdled and took their time, meandering around to avoid doing much else.

And the teacher's son made two more appearances today...one before class started and one during class.

The teacher called out to them a couple of times when she heard talking, etc. but she didn't go up to the front of the room, she did it from her seat in the back. Most of the kids didn't even pay attention...why would they? She was not commanding their attention. OH...and the kicker is there is a class leader (called a camp counselor - they have a camping theme this year) and the teacher explains that when she is doing these assessments, the kids are to direct all of their questions to the camp counselor. So...they ask questions to a fellow classmate who is in the same boat as they are??

My father has described it as a self-service education. You get what you take from it, but that's pretty much all you're going to get.

After we stayed in class for a bit, Dominic and I went to make an appointment with the guidance counselor. It turns out she had some free time, so she saw us today. We explained everything to her. She made lots of notes. She didn't have many suggestions at this point, we will be having a meeting with her and Tate's teacher next week. But she did continue to explain that the state's requirements are insanely strict and fast-paced...like Tate's teacher explained. She also told us that Tate's teacher had 4 or 5 students last year who required extra help. She is an advocate for the parents, children and teachers, so she is trying to see things from all sides, which is fine by me. I am in no way trying to circumvent Tate's teacher, but I want to make sure that we are using all the resources available to us to optimize Tate's educational experience.

We have also set up an appointment with a psychologist to have Tate tested for a myriad of things...ADD/ADHD, dyslexia, anxiety, etc. With any luck that will help us pinpoint something and we can begin to formulate a plan on how to address it.

Then I went and picked my baby girl up today and she was upset because some girls were mean to her...so she says to me:

"I hate this school."

"I don't want to go to this school anymore."

"Won't you just let them kick me out?"

"At first I thought this school was going to be awesome, but it's not."

"I don't want to go back there."

"Don't make me go."

I tried to get more info out of her to see if it was ONLY about the girls or if it was more. But the only other thing she said was that she was worried the other kids thought she was dumb.

She is at my Mom's house now and my Mom has reported back to me that Tate has only talked about the girls being mean to her. So, maybe that is it.

For now, we wait. The teacher/counselor meeting is the 6th. Her next therapy appointment is the 10th. The psychological testing is the 12th. Then we will see.

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The School Rant - 9/29/09

I have got to vent. Sorry...while I try to stay positive, this is THAT sort of blog.

For the past two years, Tate has succeeded in Union County schools. She has been at or above grade level in all areas of study.

It turns out that Caldwell County schools are surprisingly more difficult. It's funny, my Dad was worried that Tate would become a little country bumpkin! I think that there are some adjustment issues and those, coupled with the much tougher curriculum is really taking it's toll on Tate. She is no longer succeeding, in fact it's very much the opposite.

I've had multiple meetings with her teacher and I know that Tate has problems listening and focusing. She struggles with those things at home. But the teacher keeps explaining that the state provides their lesson plans, hence the super-fast pace and that even she is having a hard time adjusting to it.

Tate has not had the benefit of participating in things the kids at Sawmills Elementary have been. From kindergarten, the kids participate in the Advanced Reading program and the Letterland spelling program. This work is very fast-paced. Tate is finally starting to pick it up. But we were set up for failure last week with her spelling. Every week we get a sheet of paper with 4 lists of words: tricky words, list A, list B and list C. Every week the tricky words and list A words are highlighted and those are the words that are focused on for the week. Up until now, 70 was Tate's highest grade on her spelling test. Last week, we really busted our butts and practiced over and over. Her hardest word was "thought". I just knew that she had nailed it and done wonderfully on her test! Much to my dismay, the test came back a 70. Tate missed 6 words! BUT 5 of those words were from List B...which is not highlighted and not focused on at all! Had I known that these words were going to start to be integrated into the test, we would've gone over them!!! Had Tate NOT missed those 5 words, she would've had a 90 or 95! I think a taste of success would only motivate her more, yet she just seems set up for failure.

The teacher has explained that the words in List B (that do not overlap with the words in list A) are in similar word families as the ones in List A and Tate should be able to figure it out. That's all well and good, and I am NOT making excuses, but I know that the most effective way for me to learn things is to write it down and have it tangibly in front of me, rather than only relying on an intangible concept in my mind. I am certain Tate is the same way. So now, we have to add 8 more words to her spelling list just so she will be ready for the extra words that may or may not show up on the next test.

We've just been working so hard. It's not uncommon to devote a couple of hours to this 2nd grade homework to ensure that she "gets" it.

When it comes to the Advanced Reading testing, the kids choose their own books and the first ones Tate chose were way out of her depth...one was even a chapter book. Where is the teacher to help make sure this doesn't happen? Even some of the easy books have content that is too complicated for a 2nd grader. For example, in the book about a dolphin's life cycle, it is stated that a dolphin searches for food by echolocation. Their tail fins are made up of two flukes. The process of echolocation isn't even explained. The kids are just supposed to remember the word. Doesn't make sense to me.

Tate's teacher and I are keeping in close contact. We speak on a daily basis...but it's getting to the point where there is no point in talking. Yesterday she told me not to worry about the spelling test, Tate is improving every day. Today she told me that if Tate keeps up the way she is, then she will have to repeat 2nd grade. SO which is it? And she keeps going on and on about how hard it is for her to keep up with the state's lesson plans. I can only surmise that the kids who fall behind will be left behind.

For the past few mornings, I've been going into school with Tate to monitor her morning activities and make sure that she completes all of the things she needs to get done before school starts. Her teacher said that it was taking Tate 30-45 minutes to finish the morning tasks she must do. With my presence, we have halved those numbers.

But today, I ended up getting stuck in class because the teacher immediately went from the morning recap into a lesson. It was an eye-opening experience. The class is in a constant state of chaos. There's a kid who takes all the paperwork sent back to school to the teacher's desk. There's a kid who goes and checks the sign-in attendance sheet. There are other things I cannot recall at the moment...but it's not like back in the day when nothing is done before attendance is called. All of this is going on while the teacher is talking too. And after attendance was assessed, the teacher stops what she is saying and goes to enter it into a computer. Of course, this takes a couple of minutes to do, since the mornings are busy and the teacher explains that all teachers have to do this. (I don't know if she usually makes asides to the class or if it was strictly for my benefit.) Then she gets back to addressing the class, only to have her 5th grade son come in and interrupt. The bell had rung...why wasn't he in class?

Ultimately, the teacher complains about the pace and apparently cannot stay focused herself. Every time we talk, she says those same things over and over. So my question is: How on Earth does my child stand a chance in this setting...is she totally set up for failure?

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Hi and Welcome!

You may already know me from the blog "All Things Glam". But I've decided to make that a blog that is strictly about my business...beauty, photos and all things glam. This is going to be the blog about me and my trials and tribulations. Anyone who knows me knows I tend to have a crazy and hectic life. And occasionally I just need to vent, so this will be my forum for that.

I will be moving the blogs about my journey with my daughter, since we discovered she has ADHD last year. While I am NOT an expert, we are learning as we are going...and if my experiences help anyone else, then all the better.

If you're new to me and my blog, I'm a freelance make-up artist and photographer. I also like to craft a lot. I sew, make jewelry, paint and draw...actually...I'll try anything artistic! But I wish I could crochet. Not sure why, but I wish I could!

As for the name of this blog, "Holy Stoltz!"...there was this one time I was explaining to my good friend Jenn Ryan about this film I saw with Eric Stoltz where there is this scene of him just standing naked on a beach. My reaction was "Holy Stoltz!", thus a new term of shock and awe was coined. (The movie is called Naked in New York, if you're wondering.)

And there you have it.

The first few blogs here are going to be the ones I'm moving from the other blog. I'll be sure to post the dates they were originally posted.

Thanks so much for reading! I've been told I'm pretty funny, so we should have fun!

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