Sunday, December 27, 2009

Explosion at the Goat Lick

My sister, Caren, is like a sprite. She is petite and adorable. She is cute, and she gets cuter with age. Caren looks one hundred times better than she did in high school. She is athletic and competitive. Don't try to beat her at anything because she won't let it happen. If you happen to get lucky and beat her at something, she'll go home and practice and challenge you to a rematch. Caren is everything I am not. That is why I always told her the mailman was her father.

One must have a great self-esteem to hang out with Caren. Everybody loves Caren. She is the life of the party. Caren will make friends at the drop of a hat. Don't sit next to her on a plane, if you don't want to make a new friend. Don't even try to put up that invisible wall. She has special sprite powers and she will break down that wall and become your new best friend.

Children worship Caren. It could be because she is a kid at heart. She will play anything kids want to play a million times, but don't think she will let them win because they are kids; she won't. Caren is a get-dirty-roll-on-the-ground kind of gal. She, also, has a very special talent that all kids big and small love. Caren is a burper and a farter! Kids of all ages line up to worship at the Church of Caren.

One summer a friend
that I teach with, Lauri, and her family came to visit Caren and me in Montana. Lauri has two children Seth and Larissa. Seth and Larissa loved hanging out with Auntie Caren. Seth especially loved Caren's "special" talent. He admired her ability to fart a tune and burp the ABCs. Lauri has always said, "Caren corrupted her sweet innocent son. After that summer in Montana, Seth became a regular burping and farting boy."

When we have visitors in Montana we do the regular Montana sight seeing tours: Big Mountain, Bear Park, Jeff Fleming Studio, Horseshoe Dam, Flathead Lake, Moose's Saloon and Pizza Parlor, Huckleberry shakes, and, of course, Glacier Park. Visiting Glacier is a full day trip. When driving through the park there are places where all sight seers stop: Glacier Hotel, Trick Falls, Lake Mary, Glacier Visiting Center, and the Weeping Wall. Montana is one of the most amazing and majestic places I have ever seen. It's beauty is so difficult to explain. it is one of those places one has to see to believe.

We were taking Lauri and her family on our official Glacier Park day trip. We had to take two cars. The girls: Caren, Larissa, Lauri and myself in my van, and the boys: Darrel (Caren's husband), Terry (Lauri's husband) and Seth in the truck. We communicated between the two vehicles with walkie-talkies. Our catch phrase for the trip was, "Hey, where are you aaaaaattt?" This phrase drove the school teachers in Lauri and I crazy because of the dangling preposition. Lauri became somewhat frantic about the phrase because not only were her young vulnerable children being corrupted by the fun loving burper and farter but, they were learning and using improper grammar.

On the way to Glacier we always stop at the Goat Lick. It is an exposed river bank where goats and other animals come to lick the mineral-laden cliffs. The cliffs are steep, so the mountain goats are the ones that are able to get to cliffs easier. On the opposite side of the cliffs is a paved trail that leads out to an overhang where visitors can stand and view the goats. As we walked toward the lookout with Caren and the kids in the lead laughing and giggling we saw a couple standing at the rail. When they saw or heard us coming they stepped away from the rail and made room for us. Caren was in front blocking everyone's view. Seth pleaded, "Come on, Aunt Caren, move so we can see!"

"Yea, move!" urged Larissa.

"Move, please!" insisted the the ever-correcting mother of Seth and Larissa.

At that moment, Caren lifted her leg like a dog and farted. It made a noise like a Whoopee Cushion being sat on by a fat man. It sounded like a rocket taking off. I am surprised the force of the explosion didn't lift her sprite-like body off the ground and over the rail.We all fell silent. Unbeknownst to Caren the older couple that was originally standing at the rail was still there. As Caren was turning around to face us she giggled, "Come you guys, you have to admit that was a good one." And then she saw the couple and her face went as white as a porcelain doll and she shyly said, "Oooops! Sorry!"

As the couple scurried away in bemusement, we all shouted, "Please, excuse our friend. She is a bit addled!"

"Aunt Caren, you should be ashamed of yourself, " guffawed Seth and Larissa in unison.

"Yea, Aunt Caren, you should be ashamed of yourself," the rest of us chimed in.

"Aaah, who cares? I'll never see them again!" replied Caren. "And you have to admit it was a goodie!"

"It wasn't just a good one it was a great!" worshipped Seth. "I gotta practice some more."

"No you don't!" shouted Lauri.

We continued on our trip through the park. When we were pulling into the Trick Falls parking lot Seth came over the walkie-talkie, "You guys aren't going to believe who is here!"

"Is it someone famous?" Caren asked over the walkie-talkie.

Seth laughed with gusto as he replied, "Yea, your famous fart friends."

And there they were, the couple Caren had so rudely imposed upon at the Goat Lick. And when we stopped at Lake Mary, there they were. And when we stopped at the Glacier Hotel, there they were. Every place we stopped, the people we were never going to see again were there.

Seth and Larissa are now much older. Larissa is a junior in college and Seth is a senior in high school. And when we have the opportunity to get together we still talk and laugh about that summer in Montana. The summer Seth and I came face to face with a bear. The summer Terry fell in love with huckleberries. The summer Seth became a regular boy. The summer of the explosion at the Goat Lick

Paco's Perspective

I love summers in Montana, but I don't love Auntie Caren's farts. I do love it when she shares he wine with me.

The Flip Side

I can't wait to go to Montana. Paco says there are lots of trees. More trees than in a dog's dream.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

I Prefer Spinster

Soon, I will be one year older. Since my parents were told my brother and I would die before our sixteenth birthdays, I am not ashamed of my age. I will proudly turn fifty-four on January eighth, which happen to be Elvis Presley's birthday. So when you are driving down the road on January eighth and the radio DJ says, "Elvis Presley would have been seventy-five years old today" you should shout, "Darn, I forgot Cathy's birthday again!"

As my birthday gets closer and closer, I continue to ask myself over and over this question, "Is this the year I officially become an Old Maid school teacher?" On the sitcom Sex in the City, Charlotte became worried that she has become an old maid on her thirty-sixth birthday, and I am turning fifty-four!

What is an old maid? During the Elizabethan era the term old maid referred to a woman or girl of marriageable age who is unwilling or unable to marry and has no children. In the encyclopedia it states, "old maid is sometimes considered an insulting term". Sometimes? Really, does anyone want to be called an "old maid"? Why are childless unmarriageable women called old maids, but childless unmarriageable men are called bachelors? This is the ultimate example of the term double standard. Unmarried childless men have the right to a degrading term. I am thinking maybe . . . . . "old bastards"!

When the term "old maid" is thrown out there what image comes to mind? Is it that scrawny, wrinkled, glasses on the end of the nose, old lady in the card game? Yep, me too!

It is time to face reality. I fit the criteria:
  • I am unmarried. I never ever thought I would be married. There aren't too many men out there that would want to commit to someone with as much baggage as I carry around. When I was young and hanging out in country western bars I never expected a tight jeaned, handsome cowboy to walk in and say to his friends, "Out of the way, boys, the chunky one in the wheelchair with a great smile is mine!"
  • I have no children. I have never longed to have children. I like children, but I like them the best when they belong to someone else.
  • I am wrinkled. Word of warning: Don't drink out of a straw. It is the quickest route to those wrinkles around your lips. I, also, have those horrible school-teacher-glare-at-kids wrinkles between my eyebrows.
  • I wear bifocals. I cannot see anything without my glasses. I used to wear contacts, but I always misplace my reading glasses (which I wore on the end of my nose) so I accepted my fate and bought bifocals which I feel is the symbol of old age.
  • I am old. I can't see. I have wrinkles in place I didn't know one could get wrinkles. Gravity has caused everything to go south. I can no longer eat spicy food.
Yep, it is official. I am an old maid. Worse yet, I am an old maid school teacher. While I was researching the term old maid I came across another term which was "spinster". Spinster is a medieval word that was originally intended to indicate a woman who spun wool, thereby living independently of a male wage. A spinster was a free and independent woman. Medieval people were afraid of spinsters because unmarried women were correlated with witches. Spinsters were free and independent women that could turn people into frogs. In two weeks I will be fifty-four years old, but please don't call me an "old maid"; I prefer spinster!

Paco's Perspective

Hey, Speenster, how old are you in dog years?

The Flip Side

I'm not old. Teach me some tricks.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Whatever You Do Don't Step on the Brake!

I am an Arizona Girl through and through. I love the Arizona heat. What is so bad about Arizona weather? When it is hot a person steps out of their air conditioned house, gets in their air conditioned car, and drives to the air conditioned mall. I can always get cooler, but once my toes get cold there is no turning back. The only way I can get my feet warm is to take a hot, hot, hot shower and jump into a toasty, warm bed. I despise the cold. I believe God is okay with people whining, but only about one thing, so when the temperature gets below eighty I whine.

My aversion for cold leads me to ask this question: Why would anyone want to play in the snow? If one lives in Arizona, one has to drive at least two and one half hours to get to the snow, and then this means driving in the snow. I have only driven in the snow two times, because I purposely avoid cold weather. I was caught in a snowstorm in Texas driving to a family Christmas. Believe when I woke up and saw the snow outside the hotel window I thought about heading for home, but Caren said there was no turning back.

My first snow driving adventure happened in Flagstaff, Arizona. I went there with a dear friend, Jeri, and her kids. I think we went to see the Grand Canyon in the winter and to play in the snow. This was pre-accident, so I was game for just about anything. It was a nice day the drive to Flagstaff was easy with no complications. The drive to the Canyon was the same, but on the way back from the Canyon to the motel it started to snow. Then it started to snow harder and I started to panic. (My van was only equipped for me to drive, so there was no changing places.) Jeri, being the mother of teenage boys that drove, was very calm. I on the other hand was a basket case. I clutched the steering wheel until my knuckles were as white as the new fallen snow and I squeaked, "What am I going to do?"

Jeri replied very calmly, "First, you are going to stop gripping the steering wheel so hard. Ease up a bit. Then you are going to slow down."

"Ooooooo, but what about the people behind us? They are going to start honking and then I am going to get nervous," I whined like a kid wanting a new toy.

"The other drivers can go around us. We don't care about them. Slow and steady," she cooed like she was talking to a new born babe. But then she added with a little bit of an edge on her voice, "But whatever you do, don't step on the brake."

I was lucky there wasn't a lot of traffic in front of me. It was all behind me HONKING! As I drove, the words, "Whatever you do, don't step on the brake", kept going through my head. I wasn't quite sure what I was going to do when I got into town and came upon a red light, and I was too frightened and focused to ask. I prayed my way through two stop lights. I slowly pulled into the motel parking lot hoping I would coast to a stop. I coasted into a parking space easing closer and closer to the sidewalk when Jeri's eyes got as big as a fifty cent piece and she shouted, "Step on the brake!"

Paco's Perspective

I am glad Caren drives to Montana. Whatever you do, don't stop giving me treats.

The Flip Side

I don't think I like car rides.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Not Suitable for Wheelchairs, Really, We Mean It!

I have found myself in some interesting predicaments. Many of these predicaments have come from not believing posted signs. I always think that the "Don't Do That" signs are only written for insurance purposes. For example, on just about every kind of medication there is a warning that states: Don't drive heavy machinery while taking this medication. I believe that warning is there so that some knucklehead that drove a bulldozer through a house while on the medication couldn't sue the manufacturer of the medication. So, I have a tendency not to believe warnings on medication or "No Trespassing by Penalty of Death" signs because, really, is someone going to shoot a human being for stepping on their property.

This brings me to those "Not Suitable for Wheelchairs" signs. Really? I need to know how unsuitable they actually are. I think there are degrees of suitability from Okay-go-ahead-but-don't-blame-us-if-you-lose-a-wheel to We-mean-it-you-could-die. I have come across quite a few of these signs, and I have tested them out for there degree of suitability. At the San Diego Zoo there are walkways that have signs that state: "Not Suitable for Wheelchairs". The sign is absolutely correct! One might be deceived by the paved walkway and the sixty degree slope at the beginning of the path. It's that eighty-five degree slope that wheelchair brakes and a friend walking backward, holding the chair, wearing holes in their tennis shoes, trying to keep you from zooming at breakneck speed into the gorilla pit that the sign is warning visitors about. Been there, done that!

I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to do things that no other wheelchair bound person has done. I have been beach combing, white water rafting, hot air ballooning, glider plane riding, dirt bike riding, hiking, etc., etc., etc. I have been able to do these things because of my wonderful friends. My friends that look at me and see just Cathy not Cathy sitting in a wheelchair. When making plans my friends have never said, "We can't do that because Cathy is with us." They have always said, "Let's figure out how Cathy can do this with us." Two such friends are Jo May and Peggy Hillis. I taught with Peggy at the beginning of my career and Jo May (we never call her just Jo) worked at the district office. I was the rule follower that didn't want to do anything. Peggy was always the instigator, and Jo May was the one that always said, "Yea, let's try it!" Together, we were quite a trio.

Me saying, "Ooooooooo, I don't think we should. Someone could hurt, and most likely that will be me."

Peggy saying, "Come on you big whining, rule-following, baby! Let's go!"

Jo May smiling with that wide-eyed kid at Christmas grin saying, "Yea, let's try it!"

Quite a few years ago we were in Vegas when the three of us came across a sign that said, "No Handicapped Access". We were walking on the strip and we saw a shortcut to Cesar's Palace. It was a moving sidewalk. In order to get to the moving sidewalk a person had to go down four steps. Next to the steps was that sign "No Handicapped Access". Peggy was always ready for a shortcut, and Jo May was always ready to follow.

As Peggy and Jo May are checking out the stairs, I am saying, "You guys, it says 'No Handicapped Access'. That means crippled kids stay away from the staircase."

"Ummmm, Cathy, it is not a staircase. It is four steps," Peggy egged on.

"Yea, let's try it!" agreed Jo May.

"But, I have learned, in the past, that when it says 'Not Suitable for Wheelchairs' it is maybe not suitable. Jo May, do you remember the hiking trail in Prescott? It took us hours to get out of that canyon. We traumatized those Japanese foreign exchange students. And does anybody remember the San Diego Zoo when I was almost lunch for the gorillas?" I unsuccessfully pleaded my case.

"Cathy, you big whining, rule-following baby, no one died in Prescott or San Diego. It is only four steps, and the moving sidewalk is wide enough for a semi truck. It is a shortcut! We will get to the food faster," insisted Peggy.

"Yea, food! Let's try it!" said Monkey-See-Monkey-Do.

"Since you put it that way, let's do it. But, if I die, I get to say, 'I told you so!'" I agreed.

"Yea, yea, yea! Let's go!" snarled Peggy.

Yea, yea, yea! Let's go!" sang Jo May.

We easily made it down the four steps. The moving sidewalk was wide and we made it to the end of the sidewalk with no problems. The moving sidewalk stopped directly in front of doors that opened to Cesar's Palace. As Peggy entered the door she stopped cold, Jo May ran into her and stopped cold, and I ran into Jo May. It looked like a scene from an old Keystone Cops silent movie. I heard Peggy say, "WOW!" and Jo May gasp, "Yikes!" The two parted like the sea for Moses and I saw it! A staircase. A golden staircase, but a staircase. Not four steps. A huge flight of stairs with no other route to take. We couldn't go back from where we came. The sidewalk only moved in one direction, and it was packed with people.

As I surveyed the staircase, I started to giggle, "So I am thinking, maybe, this would be the reason that sign said, 'No' let me repeat, 'NO Handicapped Access'. Call me crazy! Where are the half-naked, strong, Roman Cesarian guards when you need them?"

"I bet as soon as they saw us they ran and hid," chortled Peggy.

At that moment four foreign men, asked in broken English if we needed help. They carried me down the golden flight of stairs. I am not light, and my chair is even heavier. The entire time three of the men were swearing at the one that offered the help. I didn't understand what they were saying, but swearing in any language sounds the same.

When we eventually got back to our hotel room and settled into bed, I asked, "Guys, what have we learned from this evening's adventure? The next time we see a sign that says, 'Not Suitable for Wheelchairs' what are we going to do?"

"The same thing we did in Prescott, and the same thing we did San Diego, and the same thing we did tonight," replied Peggy.

"Yep, the same thing," yawned Jo May.

"Yep, the same thing," I sighed as I drifted off to sleep to dream of "Not Suitable for Wheelchairs, Really, We mean It!" signs.

Paco's Perspective

I don't like that chair on wheels. It hurts.

The Flip Side

I like that chair on wheels because your lap is always available.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Here's Your Sign

Bil Engvall is a comedian that has a "Here's Your Sign" routine. It is when people ask stupid questions that have obvious answers. I have had heard many a stupid question, but I am never quick enough to reply with that witty "Here's Your Sign, Stupid" answer. I always think of the witty answer at two in the morning.

I have had the opportunity to be asked many stupid questions. Especially, when it comes to my handicap. Here is an example conversation:

"And where are you from?" inquires Shtupid

"Arizona," I reply.

"Oooooo, I have a friend that is in a wheelchair that lives in Arizona. Do you know him?" asks Shtupid

"No, I don't, sorry," I answer with my nonwitty reply.

But, my two a.m. answer is, "Yes, as a matter of fact, I do, and I have slept with him. Because I do know every handicapped man and woman that lives in Arizona intimately! Here's your sign!"

This past summer on the way to Montana Caren and I stopped for gas. As she was cleaning the windshield, Shtupid happened to be getting gas, also, and asked, "Did you hit a bird?" pointing to the grill of the van with a smashed bird.

Caren replied, "I guess I did."

When she got in the van she said, "Did you here what that guy asked me?"

"Yes, I did," I answered.

"Did you here my stupid response? Why can't I think of a 'Here's Your Sign' answer when I want?"

"I know how it feels. You should have said, 'Nope, before going on long road trips I catch a bird and tie it the van grill to deter other birds from making that mistake. Here's your sign!'"

My two a.m. response was even better, "Nope, I didn't hit a bird. That is our pet bird, Polly. That is where he prefers to ride on long road trips. It is too stuffy in the van for him. Here's your sign!"

Someday, I will be quick enough to respond correctly. I guess that is why I am not a comedian. But, as I age, I have a feeling that I am going to get slower with my witty responses. I bet I never get the opportunity to say, "Here's your sign, Shtupid!"

Paco's Perspective

"Paco, do you want to go out?" asks Shtupid.

"No, I always bark and twirl in front of the door. It is the best place in the house to practice my dance moves. Here's your sign.!"

The Flip Side

"Flip, do you know who that dog is in the mirror?" asks Cathy, I mean, I mean, Shtupid.

"Ummmm! Ummmmm!" Okay, I can't do it. If I think of something clever, I'll wake you at two a.m. Oh, wait I already do that.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Don't Sprinkle Rose Petals

The other day we were sitting at a stop light, and a funeral procession came through the light. There were a lot of Harley riders in the procession, so there was generally only one person per vehicle. This made for a long procession. We were there for about five minutes and they were still coming like a line ants to a sugar bowl. The procession was stopped and traffic was finally let through. As we drove adjacent to the procession in the opposite direction, we realized that the procession was almost three miles long!

At that instant, I decided on my number one rule for my funeral: There shall be no car pooling. I want a long procession. I want to mess up traffic. I want people to say, "Wow, that person had a lot of friends!" If there are five people in a family and they all drive and own cars, then they all have to drive by themselves. My own family will not be riding together in a limo. No! No! No! If family members and friends fly in for the festivities, I would like them to rent cars. There shall be no car pooling.

Rule number two: Don't mourn my death, rejoice my life! Puhleeze, find something nice to say about me. Remember all the good times. Don't worry about me, I will be in a much better place (probably running away from Brad). I hope there will be people at my funeral that can say nice things about me. At the rate I am going, if I don't hurry up and die there might not be nice things to say. Remember what your mother told you, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."

Rule number three: Sing the songs. Stand up, dance to the music. Even if you can't sing, sing loudly. I have spent an exorbitant amount of time picking the perfect songs for my funeral. (I know, I need to get a life.) I have taken careful consideration picking mostly upbeat songs. I had to pick one or two that might tug at your heartstrings, but most are uplifting-get-out-of-your-seat-clap-your-hands-and-sing-along songs. Don't be a party pooper. I know, I know, I am a party pooper. I am not fun. I am depending on my guests put the f-u-n in funeral. SING! SING like you're singing for your supper!

Rule number four: Don't sprinkle rose petals on my casket. I hate roses. I do not think they are fragrant. I hate the smell of roses, so I would prefer they not be anywhere in the vicinity. If a flower arrangement with roses is present, it is a clue that the sender didn't know me at all. Point and laugh at them, I give my permission. I like cheese as a matter of fact I love cheese. If someone asked, "Cathy, would you rather have steak and potatoes, or cheese and crackers for dinner?" My emphatic answer would be, "Cheese and crackers, please!" So don't sprinkle rose petals on my casket. Don't sprinkle any flowers on my casket; sprinkle . . . . . . .grated cheese.

Paco's Perspective

I like cheese. I like steak. I like potatoes. I like wine. I love ice cream. But, I hate that diet dog food you are feeding me. Unhuh, I know it is diet food. I can tell the difference. Did you think I just fell off the tomato truck?

The Flip Side

I like cheese. I like treats. I like Paco's toys. I don't know how many times I have to say this, but I don't like that dog called Reflection. He has got to go!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Who Brought Brad?

My brother, Brad was one and a half years younger than I. He was also handicapped and confined to a wheelchair from birth. Brad was unable to write or feed himself. This made attending public school challenging for him. Brad and I both attended public school in the sixties which was unheard of in that era. I attended first, and at the time I was able to walk, so my disability wasn't noticeable. When my mom registered Brad a year later the school wasn't going to let him register. My mom pointed out that I had been attending for a year and we had the same disability. She also informed the school that his problem was he couldn't walk not that he couldn't think. I think we paved the way for many handicapped children in the Cartwright School District. Throughout my public school career I always saw students in wheelchairs other than ourselves attending school. This was before public law 94-142 which stated that ALL children had a right to a public education.

Brad and I did not like each other. I don't know if it was "crippled kid" rivalry or what, but I can assure you he hated me. He and my mom were best friends and they were inseparable. Brad and my youngest sister, Caren, were also inseparable. I always teased Caren that he liked her because she would do anything he said. If he told her to guzzle a pitcher of beer, she would. If he told her to rob a bank or jump off a cliff, she would. To be honest, we probably didn't get along because I was jealous of him.

I always thanked God that Brad was in a wheelchair. He was a mean brother. I can't imagine what would have happened, if he had the ability to get a hold of us. He would have been one of those brothers that would have held you down, and let a loogie slide out of his mouth to where it would just get close to your face and then he would suck it back up. Except with me, he would have let the loogie drip in my face.

What Brad couldn't do with his legs and arms, he made up for with his mouth. His tongue was as sharp as a newly honed hunting blade. His words could slice through you and go directly to your heart. I am not saying that I didn't fight back. I learned snarly word whipping from the best, Brad himself.

Brad was the cutest little boy in the whole world. He was adorable. He was witty. He was funny. He was fun. Brad was the complete opposite of me, and that is probably the reason we hated each other.

When Brad was in first grade he made one of those typical first grade Christmas ornaments. It was a star cut from Styrofoam with a pipe cleaner hook, and it had his picture on it framed with glitter. Now I am sure throughout his school career Brad made many Christmas ornaments, but that is the one that my mom kept throughout the years, and always placed it on our tree. That is saying a lot because we evolved into a theme Christmas tree family, and a Styrofoam glittered star was never part of any of our themes.

Brad died two weeks before his twenty-fifth birthday. He fought the hard fight, and he lost. Unfortunately, sharp words can't battle pneumonia. I always wonder, if Brad will be one of the "five people I meet in Heaven". I am sure we will have many things to discuss as we walk the streets of gold. I am a little leery of meeting him because he will be able to walk, and get a hold of me. But, I will be able to run, if needed.

I always think of Brad at Christmas. When my family gathers for the Holiday, no matter what sister or what theme Brad's Styrofoam glittered star is put on the tree. We make a toast to him and other loved ones lost. It has been quite a few years since we have all had Christmas together. I miss those Christmas gatherings: exchanging of the perfect gifts, daily Scrabble games, the laughing, the teasing, the laughing, the fights, the laughing, the food, and the traditional Christmas question, "Who brought Brad?"

Paco's Perspective

Thanks to you, I have a little brother. He takes all my toys and he doesn't give them back. He won't let me sleep in MY bed! Don't tell him, but I like play fighting with him, and I like going for runs with him. Okay, I guess he can stay.

The Flip Side

Thanks to you, I have a big brother. He has great toys and his bed is very comfortable, especially, the soft blankie. Please tell me that dog you call Reflection is NOT my brother!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I Have Two Men In My Life

I consider myself lucky because I have two men in my life. They are complete opposites. Maybe that is why I am drawn to both of them. If I was forced to make a choice between the two of them, it would be impossible.

One is overprotective of me. He has to keep an eye on me wherever I am. He insists on being in the same room with me at all times. Sometimes he follows me to the bathroom. The other doesn't care where I am unless he needs or wants something. He knows where I am when he wants dinner.

One is very loud. He is constantly giving his opinion to others, even when they don't ask for it. He is not polite when giving his opinion. He is boisterous and overbearing. The other is quiet and seldom has much to say. Some mistake his silence for a lack of understanding or knowledge. I think he chooses not to speak unless it is important.

They both love their toys. One is happy to share with anyone even perfect strangers. The other wants no one touching his stuff. He will stay home just to make sure no one gets near his stuff.

One is a homebody. He never strays too far from home (because he insists on keeping an eye on me). When he leaves he only does what needs to be done and does it quickly, so he can promptly return home. The other is a wanderer. He leaves and comes back on his own time. I worry about him, and he doesn't care. He comes home when he is good and ready.

One is overweight. He insists he is stocky. It could be the nightly bowls of chocolate ice cream that contribute to his "stockiness". The other is trim, somewhat on the skinny side. He could stand to gain a few pounds.

One shares my bed. The other shares nothing.

I can't make a choice between the two of them. They both have their faults and their honorable qualities.They both pee in the shower. I considered them both to be very attractive. I even think the "stocky" one's waddle is cute. I love them equally. I worry about them equally. I call them "the boys". Their names are Paco and Flip. They are my best friends. They have to be. I am their pet, at least, that is what they think.

I never thought I would become a "dog person", and now look at me. I am a TWO DOG person. The three of us take walks together, we travel together, we watch T.V. together. We sit home alone together. Wherever we go, whatever we do, we're going to do it, together.

Paco's Perspective

Who you calling overweight? Let me repeat myself . . . STOCKY! And to everyone else, I AM the nice one.

The Flip Side

Are you sure you only have two dogs? What about that dog you call Reflection? I hope he doesn't live with us permanently because I don't like him. And what's this comment about not sharing?Align Center

Thursday, November 26, 2009

If You Get an Outfit, You Can Be a "Sistah" Too

In many of my blogs I refer to my "sistahs". I am often asked, "How many sisters do you have?" My answer, "It depends on the day." You can be a sistah, too, there are just a few qualifications:

If you wanna be a sistah, you gotta laugh. Your laugh must be loud, long and distinctive. Someone could record all my sistahs' laughs and I can tell one from the other. For example, my laugh, due to my respiratory problems when I laugh I suck in air like a donkey. It sounds like this: heh, heh, heh, heh, heeee-haw, heh, heh, heh, heeee-haw. You must be able to laugh until you cry, pee, spit, or fart. When laughing you must leak something from somewhere.

If you wanna be a sistah, you gotta appreciate sarcasm and wit. When you come to a gathering of the sistahs sharpen your tongue before appearing. The sistahs can be vicious. Above all else, do not take what has been said as personal, even if it is. There shall be no crying at a sistah gathering, unless it is at a sad movie or you are laughing.

If you wanna be a sistah, you gotta like to shop. You don't have to buy. There are many poor sistahs. You must be able to shop long and hard. As my sistah Peggy would say, "Let's go window shopping 'til the windows get heavy!" When the little sistahs (when I say little I mean skinny) want to go clothes shopping everybody has to go, and everybody must go into the dressing room. If you are a big sistah (when I say big I mean large), when one of the little sistahs asks, "Does this make me look fat?" you must respond, "Oh, no, not at all." Even though you want to wrap your chubby little fingers around her scrawny neck and squeeze until her skinny, well-proportioned legs shake.

If you wanna be a sistah, you gotta be competitive. There is a difference between athletic and competitive. You must want to win at everything: golf, Yahtzee, Scrabble, 10,000, shopping. (Yes, shopping is a competitive activity!) You must want to win whatever is set before you. You may not cheat and you may not be a poor sport, but you may jeer and make fun of others.

If you wanna be a sistah, you gotta get crazy. You must be ready for anything at any time. I am not very good at this part, but I am an original sistah, so they have to keep. I am usually the one that is saying, "Shhh, we don't have to sing, 'If you Like Pina Coladas', so loudly." or "You get down from that table and YOU get out of that tree!" or "No, really, we don't need to jump in the lake naked." or "It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye." The sistahs have participated in some wild activities.

If you wanna be a sistah, you gotta find the finer points in men. Anyone can man bash, it takes extraordinary skills to point out the finer points. And I don't mean, "Ooooo, did you see those Wranglers that just walked by?" You must state the good wholesome qualities that we know all men possess, but some people can't see.

The sistah hood is not an exclusive group. We don't have a secret handdshake, but if you want to make one up . . . . We don't have an "our song", but if you want to write one . . . . . We don't have special shirts, but if you want to design one . . . . . Join us. Anyone can come to a gathering even a brothah can be a sistah. My sistah hood moments have been some of the best experiences of my life.

Paco's Perspective

You make me wear many crazy outfits. Oh, brother, I think I AM a sistah.

The Flip Side

I love to play dress up! Brother Paco's outfits are cool. Hey, I think I am a sistah. I am going to start thinking up a handshake and a little ditty, today

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


  • the action of one object coming forcibly into contact with another
  • the effect or influence of one person, thing, or action on another
This word has had a major effect on my life. Both definitions have been a part of my life. I have felt the impact of a crash. My foremost goal throughout my teaching career has been to make an impact.

  • the action of one object coming forcibly into contact with another

I was in a horrific car accident in 1998. Thank God it only involved me and a pole. I was very ill at the time and I was on my way to have blood drawn. I passed out while driving and hit a curb. The impact from hitting the curb flung my body forward and I apparently pushed the gas pedal to the metal. I went flying through an intersection at 50 mph where I was stopped by a light pole.
At impact I slid out of my wheelchair, under the seat belt and came to a stop under the dash. I broke both hips, both tibiae, both fibulae, and my left ankle.

Surgery could not be performed immediately because I was so dehydrated. When surgery was eventually performed I had a near death experience, and almost passed. The thing that kept me on this earth was I heard the doctor shout, "Cathy, you have to stay with me!" I am a rule follower and I do what I am told, so I stayed, even though my father and brother were standing in a bright light at the end of a long hallway waiting for me. My brother and I fought like cats and dogs when he was alive, so that could have been another deterrent.

After surgery I was left with screws in both hips, four screws in each knee, rods in both tibiae, and an ankle that was never repaired. A day has not gone by that I am not in pain, fortunately for me, at this time the pain is not so intense as those first years after the accident. I spent two weeks in the hospital, six weeks in rehab, and another eight weeks at home before going back to teaching. I got bedsores in the hospital. I was on the "there-isn't-much-we-can-do-for-these-people" wing in rehab.

My life is now divided by pre-accident and post accident. Pre-accident I was a daredevil. Even though, I was in a wheelchair I would try anything. I had been river rafting, motorcycle riding, hot air ballooning, riding in a glider plane, and if someone would have asked me to go bungee jumping or hang gliding I would have without a thought. Pre-accident I drove everywhere and anywhere. Pre-accident I worked out at the gym three days a week at least an hour a day, and I was game for anything.

  • the effect or influence of one person, thing, or action on another
Post accident I became a wimp! I am afraid to do anything for fear that it might hurt. I no longer drive. I tried to get back behind the wheel and I couldn't do it; I cried the entire time I was driving the van. To this day, I don't even like being a passenger in a van. I don't work out. I don't seek adventure. I am a bonafide scaredy cat!

  • the effect or influence of one person, thing, or action on another
As a teacher and as a human being my goal is to have an impact on others. I believe that we are on this planet to teach and learn lessons, not math lessons, but life lessons. I have always wanted my students to leave my classroom with an abundance of knowledge. But, most important, I have wanted them to leave with a respect for themselves and others, a kind caring attitude, and with an understanding that believing is achieving.

I have taught for thirty years and I can't calculate the number of students I have come in contact with and, sadly, I only know a few that I have had an impact on. Those few have sent me a letter, or contacted me through Facebook. The letters written are my most cherished possessions. I hang them on the wall in my office and one I carry with me in my purse. I hope I have made a greater impact on more than just a few.

I would like to give a shout out to all those who have made and impact on my life: My parents who always believed in me. My "sistahs" who have taken turns being my caretaker and never viewed me as a burden even though I view myself as one. My friends who have been there when my family couldn't be there for me. My students, who over the years have taught me more than I could possibly have taught them. You have all made an impact on my life and there are no words that can express my appreciation and love for you.

Take time to let people know what an impact they have had on you. Give some a shout out. Write a letter to a teacher, mentor, minister, loved one, or friend. Give someone an extra long hug or handshake. Say thank you.

  • the action of one object coming forcibly into contact with another
  • the effect or influence of one person, thing, or action on another

Paco's Perspective

This is way too serious of a subject for me. I don't like mushy gushy stuff.

The Flip Side

I don't like big words. Also, I don't like that dog you call Reflection. He stares at me and mocks me all day long.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

It Was A "Bear" Necessity

My sister's place in Montana is near the town of Bigfork and near Flathead Lake. The yard is a shortcut to the lake for the animals in the area. They come down off the mountain across the road, walk through the yard and walk down a steep hill at the back of the property to the lake. This migration to and from the lake takes place in the early morning and evening.

Caren and I are those horrible "out of towners" that put out seeds for the wild turkeys and grain for the deer. We also put out hummingbird feeders that the hummingbirds empty once a day. We know we are not suppose to feed the animals, but it makes for great wildlife watching for me since I can't hike through the woods to find them in their natural state.

One summer a friend and her family visited. Her youngest son, Seth, loved Monatana and especially loved waiting for the animals to come and feed. Seth has tendency to become obsessed with things. When he was a toddler he loved basketballs and carried one with him wherever he went. he learned to dribble at the same time he learned to walk. He dribbled that basketball everywhere he went. He slept with the ball. We were sure that he was going to grow up and be a famous basketball player, and then he just stopped. Seth stopped carrying a basketball, and he stopped dribbling. He was done with that obsession. Throughout his life, Seth started and stopped new obsessions frequently. That particular summer Seth's obsession was bears. His room was decorated in bears. His bathroom was decorated in bears. He was sure that when he grew up he was going to become a forest ranger, and spend his days observing bears.

One warm evening Seth and I were in the backyard. I was reading a book and he was sitting on the grass waiting for the wildlife to take their shortcut home from the lake and stop for a snack. Seth looked up at me as said, "You know, Favorite Aunt Cathy, I really want to see a bear."

"Oh, hate to burst your bubble, Buddy, but we are too close to town to see any bears. I have only seen bears in Glacier Park and that was a rare sight," I replied.

"I have wanted to see a bear all my life!" He was eight.

"Your entire life?" I questioned. "All eight years, you have wanted to see a bear?"

"Well, not all eight years, but, FAC, it is necessary that I see a bear!" he whined.

"So, what you are saying is that you have a bear necessity. A simple bear necessity." I chortled. He was eight. He was unfamiliar with The Jungle Book. Therefore, there was no one to laugh uproariously at my great joke.

As Seth looked at me with bewilderment, at that a moment a BEAR walked into the yard. A-real-live-we-live-too-close-to-town-so-it-will-never-happen-BEAR. It was a baby black bear. The three of us frozen in place just stared at each other slack jawed. The bear was just as surprised to see humans as we were to see a bear, so he turned tail and ran.

Seth ran into the house to tell Caren, Darrell and his sister that he just saw a bear. They treated him like the boy who cried wolf, and told him had to stop saying that he saw a bear. As he was emphatically tried to convince Caren, Darrell, and Larissa of his bear sighting, his mom and dad came into the house and said, "Hey, as we were driving up the drive we saw a baby bear!"

Seth looked at Caren, Darrell and Larissa nonchalantly and said, "I told you so."

Caren sprinted to the door flung open the screen and shouted, "Cathy, BEAR! Get in here!"

"Aw, it was just a baby bear," I said

"Where there is a baby bear there is a mama bear!"

"OH!" I replied with my mouth hanging open. I left skid marks on the porch as I made my way inside.

Paco's Perspective

The only bear I have seen in Montana is Caren's dog, Osa. I like her, if you know what I mean?

The Flip Side

What is a Montana? Who is Osa? The only bear I have seen is the one Paco and I fight over. That bossy dog with the accent thinks all the toys are his.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What Was I Thinking?

In 1996 I was a runner up for Arizona Teacher of the Year. (In 1989 I was a runner up for Miss Wheelchair Arizona - always a bridesmaid) As a runner up I spent a lot of time traveling throughout the state giving motivational speeches to teachers. One such occasion was at the Littleton School District, and right before it was time for me to go on the assistant superintendent walked up to me and said, "I can't wait to hear your wise words of wisdom."

"Wise words of wisdom? Wisdom?" I thought. "Mmmmmmm, what would be my wisest words of wisdom?" At that moment, I quickly reformulated my speech in my mind and decided to start with my wisest words of wisdom, if I could only think of what they were!

In order to kill some time, I told the group the conversation I had with the assistant superintendent and how befuddled I was to think of my wisest words of wisdom. "After spending some frantic moments over there thinking about it, I know what those words are. Get ready, here they come, my wisest words of wisdom: 'How tight your pants are affects your mood for the rest of the day!'" They laughed hysterically and I proceeded to tell them why. It turned out to be a great opener for all my future speeches.

Thinking of this reminded me of another tight pants adventure. This was a pre-accident adventure. I measure my life pre and post accident. In 1998 I was in a severe car versus pole accident where I broke all my bones from the waist down except my right ankle. Prior to that accident I had not really experienced pain, so even though I was in a wheelchair I was quite a daredevil and would try anything. I was not acquainted with pain. Post accident, I met Pain and as Junie B. Jones would say, "I not liking that guy!" There has never been a day that has gone by that I am not in pain. But, I digress.

I was at a conference and I met someone that owned a river rafting company that rafted the Salt River. I was talking to her about her company and she invited me to participate in a rafting adventure. I organized a group of friends and colleagues to raft the Salt River. This was going to be an all day adventure which meant that I was going to have to go at least fourteen hours without going to the bathroom because there are no Cathy handicapped accessible bathrooms in the world, except those at home. Going fourteen hours without going to the bathroom around all that water was an adventure in itself, just one of many that day.

When going on a rafting trip one needs to stay dry. That dryness is accomplished with a wet suit. If you have tried to put pantyhose on a crippled kid, you would say absolutely not to a wet suit. It would be like putting stockings on a noodle. My friends that were attending the trip insisted that I had to stay dry someway. The P.E. teacher at my school had a rubber jogging suit that she used for racing in the rain, and she loaned it to me.

I am a big girl. I have always been a big girl. Even post accident when I lost a tremendous amount of weight and I was at my skinniest, in my mind, I was still a big girl. The person I borrowed the rubber jogging suit was NOT. What was I thinking? Let me tell you what I was thinking . . . . jogging suit, probably over sized, rubber stretches, it will be okay if it is two sizes too small. Let me repeat myself, what was I thinking?!

With the help of my caretaker, we stuffed this noodle in that itty, bitty, teeny, tiny, nonstretching, rubber suit. My friend, Don, who happens to be a huge bodybuilder came by to pick me up, literally, I asked him to come so he could tote me everywhere. He looked at the pained expression on my face and said, "You don't look well. Are you okay?"

"I am okay," I snapped, "let's just go."

It is a long drive to the bottom of the Salt River Canyon. As I sat quietly in the truck with a look of constipation on my face with a fake smile, these words were going through my head, "What was I thinking?" Unlike other people who could admit their stupidity and say, "Don, pull into this Wal-Mart. I gotta get something more comfortable to wear." I couldn't do that. Well, I could admit my stupidity, I do that quite often, but I couldn't change my clothes on my own. I was stuck or a better yet, STUFFED.

So I continued to put on a fictitious happy face as I greeted my friends. I tried not to be grumpy, but it is hard when your pants are so tight. Prior to getting in the raft there is a meeting where a river rat lists the Don'ts, Watch outs, And Whatever You Do Don'ts! At that time I started to have some second thoughts, "What was I thinking?"

I looked my dear friend, Don, directly in the eye and I confessed, "Okay, listen up, Big Guy! I am going to fall out of the raft, and you are going to jump in and save me. You WILL jump in and save me. You will pull my body ashore, and it will appear that I have stopped breathing, and you will think I have drown. Before you pull the blanket over my head and pronounce me dead, cut these damn pants off of me. They are way too tight and they will be the reason I am unable to breathe!"

Don reared his head back like a stallion and laughed, "I knew there was a reason you were grumpy." He kissed me on the cheek and continued to say, " I am NOT going to let you fall out of the raft." I didn't fall out of the raft, but a couple of my friends fell out of their raft. Don and I made it to the end of the trip without much incident. Much to my surprise, the true adventure was just about to begin.

When one is done with a rafting trip, one has to get back to their vehicle. This company used old school buses. The bus that carried people was overstuffed and there wasn't enough room for Don and me. I was already stuffed in those pants I didn't really want to be stuffed in the bus. We "got to" ride in the bus that was converted to carry all the rafts back to the beginning of the trip.

The bus driver was the river rat, Wiley (Coyote), the bus was built by the Acme Corporation. There were only two seats, and that was counting the bus driver's seat. The rest of the seats were removed to make room for the rafts as was the roof of the bus. The road traveled was a bumpy, winding, narrow, dirt road flanked by a mountain on one side and a deep canyon on the other. When two cars met on this road, the car on the mountain side had to drive up on the mountain a bit in order for the other car to pass. As Wiley was driving down the bumpy, winding, narrow dirt road he howled, "Man, I hope we don't meet any cars on the way back cuz the brakes on this bus aren't very good."

I was bouncing around the seat of an old converted school bus with poor brakes driving a narrow dirt road on the canyon side with a bus driver named Wiley Coyote. What was I thinking? And then I heard Wiley say, "Ah, shit."

My eyes had been closed the entire time, Don was holding on to me keeping me from bouncing off the seat and out the bus. I squealed, "What is wrong?"

Don replied with some hesitancy in his voice, "Uhhh, there is a car coming."

My eyes shot open and were as wide as an owl searching for its prey. I saw Wiley with his foot on the brake all the way to the floor, and he was pulling back on the steering wheel like he was "whoa"ing a horse. I looked Don straight in the eye while Wiley was frantically blowing the bus horn and said, "Listen up, Big Guy. When we crash and I am thrown from this bus into that canyon. You will come and rescue me. Come Hell or high water you WILL come and rescue me. When you drag my body out of that canyon and pull it up onto this road, before you pull the blanket over my head cut these damn pants off of me. I don't want to die in a pair of pants that are two sizes too small."

The driver of the on coming car drove up the side of the mountain as far as was possible. We squeaked by the car without scraping metal. The Coyote with an adrenalin flushed face looked back at us, sneered and said, "Wow, that was close!" What was I thinking?

Fourteen hours after we left my home we returned. As Don was putting me in my wheelchair, I looked him straight in the eye and said, "Listen up, Big Guy!"

He interrupted, "I know, I know, cut the damn pants off."

"No, I wanted to say thanks. Now, that it is all over and we are alive, I wanted you to know that was the best adventure ever! And I gotta go! I mean that literally!"

Don always believed that I could do anything. He was always willing to be the muscle I needed to participate in amazing adventures. Post accident, Don decided he didn't want to spend time with me anymore, and stubborn me decided NOT to try to find out why he felt that way. As I replay the many adventures I had with Don only one thought comes to mind, "What was I thinking?"

Paco's Perspective

What was I tinking? Letting you bring another mutt into the mix. The leetle one is always asking me questions, and I have to share my bed, toys, food and snacks. I refuse to let the leetle one share my ice cream! What were you tinking?

The Flip Side

I am knew at this. Adventure? You want adventure? Try being lost, scared, hungry and dodging those big machines on wheels! That older dog with the accent is very bossy.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Where Have All the Heroes Gone?

I have looked the word friend up in the dictionary to find all the forms of the word. There is: friend, friendly, friendlier, friendliest, and unfriendly. Friend is a noun and an adjective but unlike love it is not a verb. You cannot friend someone, therefore, you cannot defriend someone.

There is a reason that friend is not a verb because once one becomes a friend there is no turning back. A spouse can be divorced, but a friend cannot be unfriended. Remember that friend in high school? The one that stole your only true love? That you were sure you hated? Some years later you run into them at the mall, you have a "friendly" conversation, and later the person with you asks, "Who was that?" You reply, "Just an old friend."

You DON'T reply, "Her? Oh, we were once best friends, but she stole my one true love, and I have hated her ever since. I defriended her back in high school!"

I have a friend, Colleen, that I team taught with for many years. I have always said that one needs to choose a team teacher as carefully as they choose a husband or even more carefully, as carefully as they choose a friend. Colleen and I worked well together because we were and still are such good friends. Don't get me wrong we had some doozies of fights. We fought over students, philosophies, and much more. The arguments were usually resolved, and the ones that weren't we overlooked and went on. A few years ago, Colleen moved to Arkansas. When someone would ask if I was planning on team teaching with someone else, I would look at them like they just asked a recent divorcee if she were going to remarry and say emphatically, "No!"

The only intelligent thing I have heard Dr. Phil say is "There needs to be a hero in every relationship." I think Colleen was the hero in our relationship. She overlooked a lot of offenses. If you talked to Colleen, she might say that I had my hero moments. I try to be the hero in my relationships. I am usually the first to apologize or quick shut up.

I recently insulted a dear friend (No, not Cathy-open-mouth-insert-foot-Cunningham). In the process of trying to apologize, I insulted them again (No, not Cathy-open-mouth-insert-other-foot-Cunningham). I have officially been defriended. It wasn't one of those things where someone doesn't call as often, or you just kind of stop doing things together, or their posts on Facebook mysteriously disappear, nope, I was told that this person is no longer comfortable calling me friend. That was it! So long! Adios! Bye-bye! Which is bad for me for many reasons, one being I don't have that many friends.

I am not writing this to try to apologize, poorly, one more time. The friend I insulted isn't a follower. I just want to remind people to "be the hero"! Don't forget to remind someone how much you love them or how important they are to you. Don't forget to bring flowers home everyone once in a while for no reason. Know when to shut up. Say thank you. Be the first to say I am sorry. Remember to forgive and forget.

Paco's Perspective

Hmmmmm, and you wonder why I don't like you.

The Flip Side

I like the treats. I like my bed. I like that lady that rolls on the floor with me.I am starting to like that bossy dog with the accent. I didn't like the shots, and you ran over my foot today. We can't be friends, yet.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Stand Up For Wrangler Butts

In my younger days I have spent many hours in country western bars. My father taught my sister, Caren, to dance. Caren is very competitive, so she has to be the best at everything this includes dancing. Well, to become the best one must practice, therefore I have spent a tremendous amount of time in country bars watching Caren dance.

If one went to a country western bar, one needed to be mindful of the "uniform":Men-tight Wrangler jeans, roper boots,shirts tucked in, belt buckle the size of a dinner plate.(The size of the buckle, the size of one's hand and so forth) Women-tight Rockies, ropers, shirts tucked in, belt buckle much smaller than men's belt buckles. If one chose not to wear the uniform, one was open to ridicule.

Because I am in a wheelchair, I am at a certain eye level that emphasizes my ability to view the Wrangler butt. I appreciate the Wrangler butt. A pair of tight Wranglers can even make a buttless man have a butt. Over the years, I became quite an aficionado of the "Wrangler butt".

It has been a long time since I have been to a country western bar. When I stopped driving I stopped going places. I stopped driving twelve years ago which stopped my pleasurable journeys to The Land of the Wrangler Butts! I had to give up a lot of things when I stopped driving, but I think the loss of observation cycle of the Wrangler butt was one of the top ten losses.

I was asked to go to a country western bar with some friends the other evening. I was looking forward to parking myself in my "regular" viewing spot; next to the dance floor where many a butt passes by throughout the evening. Much to my chagrin there were very few Wrangler butts! Oh, there were butts, but not Wrangler butts, and very few people were following the uniform code! Baggie jeans and flipflops?! Shorts! Untucked shirts and tennies?! Who let this happen and why?

Ladies, we must take a stand! There is nothing attractive about baggie jeans. The buttcrack and underwear view is very offensive. Ladies, stand up for your right to see a cute arse in a pair of tight jeans. Ladies, step outside and shout, "We're not gonna take it! We're not gonna take it! We're not gonna take it any more!" Okay sing it, if you want. Stand Up for Wrangler Butts!

Paco's Perspective

You have made me wear some really ridiculous stuff, but never a pair of tight Wrangler jeans. I could be jor leetle vaquero!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Hide-and-Go-Seek Mishap

I have a tendency to get in some tricky predicaments with my wheelchair. Sometimes I don't realize what my chair can't do, or I'll forget I am in my chair. For example, I have bent over to fix my shoe while still driving and rammed my head in a wall. I think my wheelchair can fit in and go places it can't. For example, I have been on hiking trails that have signs posted that say, "Not suitable for wheelchairs", and the sign makers are right they aren't. Another time I got stuck while playing hide-and-go-seek. I am embarrassed to say it didn't happen when I was a young child. This summer I got stuck while playing hide-and-go-seek, even more embarrassing, I was playing with Paco.

When I am in Montana with Caren we usually go everywhere together, I even "walk" the golf course with her every day. When I do stay home alone I usually stay outside. I don't like to stay in the house alone because if anything happened I wouldn't be able to open the door. If I could open the door, I couldn't get off the porch. I don't mind staying outside; that is where I spend most of my days in Montana. I chase the sun around the house and read books.

One day Caren and her husband, Darrell, went golfing at a course that I can't "walk". It has too many hills and no cart path. I decided to stay home. I made sure I had a pile of books to keep me busy, and I had them leave the garage open, so I could get out of the rain. In Montana storms build, burst, and blow over within minutes. It takes about four hours to play eighteen holes of golf, so I had to keep myself occupied about five hours.

Eventually, I got bored with reading. Paco was being weird barking at everything. My sentry was "on guard", so he had to let everything that moves know that he was in charge and ready to attack anytime. I noticed that when he went off to bark at something he would stop barking if he couldn't see me, and look for me. I wanted him to stop barking, so whenever he would start to bark I would move out of his line of sight, and he would look for me. Well, one thing led to another, and I was playing hide-and-go-seek with my dog. I, a fifty-three year old, fairly intelligent woman was playing hide-and-go-seek with a dog!

Paco knew all my hiding places: the garage, behind the boat in the garage, behind the woodshed, behind the car, around the corner of the house. It was time to find a new place. Darrell has a small red trailer that he usually stores in the garage, except when Caren and I am there during the summer. At that time he stores it off to the far left of the driveway. I decided it would be a great place to hide.

Paco ran across the property to bark at the wind, and I went to my "new and improved" hiding place. I haven't spent a lot of time in that area of the driveway, so I didn't know that the gravel was loose and deep. Paco, after checking all the regular places found me rather quickly. I proceeded to move from behind the trailer and my wheelchair like a car in soft mud sunk into the soft gravel. I continued to try to work my way out, and I continued to dig my chair deeper into the rocks.

It was about time for Caren and Darrell to come home, so I thought I would just wait for them. That would have been fine, if my chair hadn't started tipping to the left in my last attempt to free myself. The trailer was parked on the edge of the driveway, directly next to a eighty degree drop into a ravine filled with bushes, fallen logs, spiders, snakes, mice, and many other creepy crawly things just waiting to attack. If I went over the edge I would tumble into the ravine never to be found again, I was sure, and besides it would hurt.

There I was teetering dangerously on the edge of a precipice and a storm was rolling toward me. I decided to call Caren and Darrell and check on their arrival.

"Ummmmmmmmm, Caren when do you think you will be home?" I asked nonchalantly.

"We just got done golfing. We had to wait for the storm to blow over. Right now Darrell just went into Home Depot," she replied.

"Oh, God, not Home Depot!" I thought.

"Why do you want to know?" she inquired.

"Well...... I am kinda stuck," I confessed.

"Where are you stuck?" she asked.

"Behind the little red trailer," I sheepishly replied.

"Behind the little red trailer!"raising her voice. "What were doing to be way over there?"

"I was plamabayahideandbobeepwithPababa," I mumbled.

"What? I didn't hear you. Say that again," she demanded.

"I was plamabayahideandbobeepwithPababa," I repeated.

"I don't know what you are saying, but if we leave right now, we still won't be there for about forty-five minutes at least. You are going to have to call Grandma, and ask her to come over and help," she informed me.

Grandma is Darrell's eighty year old mother. She lives about three minutes away, five if the only traffic light in town is red. So, I called Grandma and she came to my rescue. Paco led her directly to me. Grandma might be on in years, but she is made of good, strong, farm stock. She got me out of there with some work. After I was safely away from the dangerous precipice, she asked, "What were you doing to get stuck?"

I dipped my head and quietly confessed my stupidity, "I was playing hide-and-go-seek with Paco."

She squinted her eyes, titlted her head to one side, smirked and replied, "Oh, don't you just hate it when the dog finds all your good hiding places?"

Paco's Perspective

I am the king, I am the king, I am the hide-and-go-seek king. You think I didn't see you when I went to bark at the deadly intruders.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Sentry Alarm is on Duty

I enjoy being alone. Because I am handicapped I am unable to be totally alone, so I relish the time when I can be alone. I always thought if I wasn't handicapped, I would be one of those reclusive old ladies that lives alone in an isolated cabin in the woods where I would, talk to the animals, read books, and bake bread.

Janet always worries when she leaves me alone. She leaves an arsenal of snacks and drinks on the table that resembles a Salt Lake City pantry. When she leaves she always tells me to call if I need anything and I always reply, "The body will keep and the Sentry Alarm is armed."

The Sentry Alarm keeps the bad guys out guarding the doors ready to let out a shrill cry, if the doors are compromised. No one can can come within fifty feet of the house without me knowing. I only have to give it a snack every once in awhile. The Sentry Alarm is not the house alarm system; it is my chihuahua, Paco.

When I am in my bedroom Paco feels it is necessary to lay right by my door. I have to let him out every hour so he walk the perimeter of the property looking for bad guys. He scoots under the gate, checks the backyard, scoots back under the gate and comes inside. It is serious business while he is on duty. He refuses to eat or drink until Janet comes homes.

One might be thinking, "Ooooo what a brave little dog!" Paco is afraid of the dark. The darker it gets the shorter his perimeter walks get. When it is bright and sunny he checks the backyard, but as the sun starts to go down he walks just to the end of the driveway, and when it is completely dark he only goes as far as the kissing rock which is right outside my door. Paco and I together in the dark are like two teenager in a horror flick we are always jumping back at shadows, and barking at the wind. I bet if anyone did show up, Paco would probably grab one of his toys to share with the culprit, run in circles, pee on the floor and whine.

Paco may only be a brave "sunlight soldier", but I appreciate his effort. He won't let anyone get near the house without me knowing. Paco is a committed soldier; he doesn't eat, drink, or sleep while on duty. Paco stays at his post at all times and he won't leave until Janet gets home. Sometimes I think he loves me.

Paco's Perspective

Just a note of warning: Don't confuse love with instinct.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Scatter My Ashes on the I DA HO Border

I am a lover of tradition. That could be why I love holidays so much because they are filled with tradition. Summers in Montana have become such an important tradition in my life. I can't imagine NOT spending a summer there. Although the drive there is long, there is no other road trip that is more enjoyable.

Over the past fifteen years, most of my trips to Montana have been with The Snack Nazi, Caren, driving. She always has her eye on the prize, the destination. We only stop for gas, and if Caren could figure out how one of those tanker planes that tranfers fuel in mid-air could do the same for us, we would never stop.
You might think that a road trip with someone that will barely stop to let one pee let alone stop for food would be as enjoyable as a bee sting, but it is quite nice.

We have established road trip traditions: making up word games, me being the book on tape, and NOT doing any sight seeing. We play some of your ordinary travel games like flags, but we love to make up our own word games with our own rules that change regularly throughout the trip even throughout the game. We have even played the games with occupants in other cars with walkie-talkies.
We don't waste our money on audio books. I am the audio book. My favorite tradition is NOT doing any sight seeing. Just north of Panquitch, Utah is the Moqui Cave and every year I say, "Hey, Caren, we should stop there someday."She always replies, "Yep, but not today." This conversation is repeated throughout the trip. There are many magnificent places we have driven by: The North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, Moqui Caves, Bryce Canyon, an opal mine, Deere Lodge Prison gift shop, Hoover Dam, Vegas, Chief Yellow Cloud's roadside stand just to name a few. But we can't stop now, it's tradition.

Another long standing silly tradition is when we get to the Idaho border we shout, "Who da ho? I DA HO!" We shout this to each other. We walkie-talkie it to friends in cars following, we text friends and family at home. A silly tradition, but it's ours.

When I die I want all my sistahs to take a roadtrip, and don't let Caren drive. I want my sistahs to STOP at all the places I have never seen and scatter some of my ashes. I want my sistahs to STOP at the Idaho border, get out of the car and as they scatter my ashes shout,"WHO DA HO? I DA HO!" It's tradition.

Paco's Perspective

I like tradition: riding in Caren's purse on the way to Montana, snacks, our walks to the end of the road, snacks, eating ice cream with Dave every night, snacks, spinning three times before entering a room, and snacks.

Friday, October 16, 2009

I Am a Book Lover

I am a book lover. I am a carry-a-book-everywhere-I-go,-read-any-chance-I-get,-don' book lover. My love for reading oozes out of my pores and drips off of me like honey from an overflowing honeycomb. Like honey, my love for books is sticky and sometimes gets on others, if they sit too close. I want my students to be great readers, but most important of all, I want them to be Book Lovers.

As a child I was not a book lover nor was I a book reader. The saddest part of all is that no one expected me to read. Not my parents or my teachers. I was an excellent reader, thanks to Dick and Jane (Yikes, now you know how old I am). I can only remember one teacher reading aloud to me, Mrs. Morris, my fourth grade teacher, and to this day I remember the books she read: Brighty of Grand Canyon, Justin Morgan Had a Horse, Misty of Chincoteague, and The Secret Garden. I took a Children's Lit class in college because I thought it would be easy, and that is when I started reading and I haven't stopped. In that class, I learned what I had missed, and I made a solemn vow on a stack of children's books to never let anyone I cared about miss out on the joy of reading a good book.

As a teacher of thirty-one years, I have never been much of a basal reading program user. I never understood why children that lived smack-dab in the middle of a blistering inferno should be convinced to make a connection with a story about sailing. My first two years of teaching I used the basal because I didn't know what else to do, but deep down inside I knew it wasn't using the basal reader. The years to follow I devised my own reading program using "real" books. About ten years ago, I tripped over the reading workshop philosophy of teaching reading. I had finally found MY true philosophy. It felt comfortable like a soft cushy couch that you sit in, get swallowed up by and wonder if you will ever be able to get out without someone throwing you a life-preserver.

I am always asked how I get kids to love reading so much. My answer is always, "I don't know." It may be the oozing-honey-sat-too-close-to-me-and-got-some-on-you theory or magic. I am kind of pulling for the books are magic theory. I expect my students to be "real" readers. I read to them. They read to me. We read together. They read on their own . . . . . . Abracadabra . . . . . POOF . . . . sparkling fairy dust . . . . . they love to read. Believe me, I would love to take the credit for it, but I can't. It's not me. It's the books. Try one, but watch out for the sparkling fairy dust; it can get in your eyes.

Paco's Perspective

I can't read, but I do enjoy the sound of your voice, especially, on our trips to Montana when you read to Auntie Caren. Your melodic voice puts me to sleep. Wait a minute . . . . . . I like naps, therefore, I like the sound of your voice.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Snack Nazi

I loved spending time with my Aunt Co. She had a sharp wit. She was always laughing. Oh, Aunt Co wasn't perfect, she could be snarky, but she always made me laugh. The best part about spending time with Aunt Co was she insisted we plan our day around when and where we were going to eat. My Aunt lost her battle to cancer a few years ago, but when I think of her I always smile.

She came to mind today because my youngest sister, Caren, is in town, and I am going to a conference with her this weekend. My Aunt Co called Caren the Snack Nazi. Caren doesn't let us eat. She does not plan her day around food. Don't travel long distances with her unless you plan on smuggling snacks and you're comfortable wearing a diaper. When Caren is driving her destination is her goal, and she let's nothing get in her way.

One day last spring I got a call from my oldest sister, Chris, Caren, and "our sistah from anothah mothah", Rhonda. They were traveling together in Texas. Our conversation went like this:

"Caaaaathyyyyy, Caren won't let us stop to eat!" whined Chris and Rhonda.

I calmly said, "Caren, let Chris and Rhonda stop for lunch."

"We don't need to eat! We are almost home, and we are going to have dinner at the house," demanded Caren.

"But it's noon. We are not eating until seven. Can't we stop for lunch," begged Rhonda and Chris.

"NO!" shouted Caren

"Is Caren driving?" I asked.

"No," they replied with some confusion.

I rolled my eyes and hollered in the phone, "Chris, Rhonda, I am thinking you can take her! She isn't driving, she's little, and she's is probably weak from not eating!"

So, this weekend is my weekend with the Snack Nazi. I know my Aunt Co is up above looking down and laughing. If she was here, I know what she would say. As we were heading out the door, she would turn to me and whisper out of the side of her mouth, "You smuggle the Cheez Whiz in your bra, and I'll hide the crackers in my jacket."

Paco's Perspective

I never got to meet Aunt Co, but I know I would like her. She liked food . . I like food. She liked cheese . . . .I like cheese. She loved you . . . .uh, uh, never mind.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Random Act of Kindness

Janet had to run an errand for a sick friend today. I was waiting in the van for her with the window open, and a young, disheveled man stopped at the window and asked for cash. I didn't have any within reach, so I said sorry and looked away. (Don't make eye contact!) I have a random act of kindness sour taste still in my mouth from Christmas.

I was running some last minute errands last Christmas with Janet's daughter, Breann. We were getting gift cards for people at work. When we pulled into the McDonald's parking lot I noticed two homeless people sitting near the drive through area. I took for granted that they were asking for money for food. Breann and I went into McDonald's and bought some gift cards, and I ordered two Big Mac meals to go figuring I would participate in a random act of kindness. I didn't buy the cheap itty bitty hamburger, no, not me! If I am being kind, I am doing it big with Big Mac meals, SUPER-SIZED.

As we headed for the van I rolled toward the homeless. Breann jumped into the van saying, "I'm not going over there. I will wait in the van. I'll call the police, if anything happens."

Now, I am feeling good. It is Christmas, my favorite time of the year because I love GIVING gifts. I pride myself on finding the perfect gift. I relish the giving of gifts. I rolled up to the two homeless people with a big smile on my face and said, "Here you go, I got this for you."

They replied, "No, thank you, we are sick of McDonald's."

"You don't want it?" I inquired.

"No," they replied, nonchalantly.

"You don't know anyone that would want it?" I implored.

"No, we can't eat one more hamburger," they explained.

"But it isn't just a hamburger. It's a Big Mac meal . . . SUPER-SIZED!" I begged.

"No, really, we don't want it," they said looking the other way. (Don't make eye contact!)

I returned to the van stunned, confused, rejected, and baffled. I tossed the bag next to me.

Breann asked, "What's up?"

"They didn't want it," I sighed.

"You could eat it," she said.

"Are you kidding? I hate McDonald's!" I muttered.

We proceeded to drive away and Breann looked at me with a new realization and said, "Wow, Cathy, you were snubbed by the homeless!"

"Yea," I replied forlornly, "so much for random acts of kindness."

By the way, when Janet returned she handed me two dollars change, and as we were driving away I saw the young man that asked me for money. I had Janet stop and I gave him the two dollars.

Paco's Perspective
Excuse me, but you didn't bring the hamburger to me. Talk about the perfect gift. You could have made your little buddy very happy. And you wonder why I don't like you best.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Aberi Watoto?

I am reading a new book called Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life. It is about a boy, Jeremy, who receives a mysterious package from his long dead father on his thirteenth birthday. In it is an intricately carved wooden box that has the words "the meaning of life" carved into it. The box is locked with an amazing set of locks and there is no key. Jeremy and his best friend, Lizzy, set out on adventure to find the keys to the box. Throughout the adventure they are forced to ask themselves some difficult questions about life, even to the point where Jeremy has an existential crisis. He continually asks, "Why am I here?"

Why am I here? I, like Jeremy, ask my self this question. It usually comes to mind at about 2:30 a.m. Why am I here? Why am I here? Why am I here? I always thought that I was here to teach and learn lessons. Not math lessons, but lessons on life. I also have felt that I am here to make a difference in someone's life. The question is how many is enough? I could always fall back on The Starfish story where the moral is: If you make a difference in one person's life then that is okay. But is it? I am sure that throughout my thirty years of teaching and my fifty three years of existence, I have made a difference in somebody's life, but is that enough. When will God say, "You've done well."? OR do I always strive for one more?

At my school I believe that most of the staff is looking to make a difference in the life ofone more child. But, some have become complacent. Complacency is the enemy of excellence. Like a river a complacent person will take the easy route. During team meetings we have team roles, and the staff decided to add a role this week. That role is the questioner. It is the questioner's job to ask, after every team decision, "Is this in the best interest of our students?" What a great idea and what a great question!

The Maasai in Kenya are a tribe of warriors. Young Maasai boys are sent out into the bush alone to make their first kill at the age of thirteen. When these fierce warriors meet they don't bump chests and ask, "What's happening?" or "Whaaaaaat's uuuuuuuup?" They ask,"Aberi watoto?" (How are the children?) They answer, "Watoto wazema." (All the children are well.)

Wouldn't it be great if any adults that had anything to do with the welfare of any child greeted each other with this question, "Aberi watoto?" Wouldn't it be even better, if we could all answer, "Watoto wazema."?

Why am I here? I am here to teach and learn lessons. I am here to make a difference in the lives of others, and there is no magic number. I will continue to do what I do until I can honestly say, "Watoto wazema!"

Paco's Perspective
You are also here to make sure I get my treats! "Aberi waPaco?"