Saturday, April 25, 2015

Is Taking Your Kid to Work Always a Great Idea?

This week, I had the pleasure of participating in Take Your Child to Work Day (TYCTWD) by taking my granddaughter, Cloee, to school with me.

TYCTWD started back in 1993 by Gloria Steinem and the Ms. Foundation for Women as Take Your Daughter to Work. The intent was to educate girls and encourage them to enter the workforce.  The hope was a girl would see what her parent did at work and decide what she might want to become.

Cloee is ten and has lived with me for the past four years. She has begged me every year to take her to work with me, but I wouldn’t do it. I never did it with my children, always making a joke by saying that the reason I went to work was to get away from them. Also, I really didn’t see the need in taking them or Cloee with me. After all, I’m a teacher and they see what a teacher does every day in their own classrooms. Cloee had been to school with me many times before – when she was sick and I had to take her to school with me to wait for the substitute, when she had an appointment we had to attend, etc.

I put her off every year by telling her that I would take her on my last TYCTWD which occurred this week. I couldn’t back out of my promise.

I had a couple of problems with taking my 10-year-old granddaughter to school with me. First, my school is huge compared to what she’s used to, with over 2,000 teenagers milling around. Also, my students are all about to graduate and consider themselves adults already. Many of them have a less-than-stellar commitment to education right now. I didn’t want them modeling any bad behavior, so we had a long talk the day before Cloee’s visit, discussing topics like inappropriate behavior or language.

A couple of years ago, a teacher at my school brought his pre-teen daughter to class with him and one of his male students made a very suggestive comment about his daughter. I have seen some mad people before, but this man went off on this kid like I had never seen a teacher do. I don’t think the teacher was worried one bit about his job on that day. I can’t say that I blame him, either. My memory of that event is the reason I wanted to prepare my students.

For the most part, my students were pretty good after a quick reminder that we had an impressionable visitor in the classroom. I will probably have to take them some candy as a reward. They may pretend to be adults, but they can still be bribed with candy.

When we got home, I asked Cloee what she learned during her visit. She said she noticed that I said the same thing over and over to the classes which is because I have the same subject during several periods. She also said she understood now what I meant by the term Spawns of Satan.

I don't know what Cloee wants to be when she grows up. She has mentioned teacher but also veterinarian, nurse, etc. I'm sure she will figure it out and make a great whatever she becomes. I don't know if her going to work with me will make a difference in her decision but now she knows, at least. And I enjoyed TYCTWD, probably most because it was my last one!

Cloee learned that teachers often have to eat lunch at their desks because they have to tend to grading papers, preparing lessons or taking attendance.

Cloee got a chance to check out the new yearbook which looks fantastic!
Kudos to the staff and praise the Lord, I wasn't the yearbook sponsor this year.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

My Better-Than-Me Daughter

When I was 35, my then husband and I decided we wanted another child. We were very nervous about the decision because our previous child had been born with Down syndrome and clubbed feet, so we were afraid that our next child wouldn’t be healthy. However, we decided to go ahead.

The very healthy baby we were blessed with was a girl. Oh, what a change from having those two previous boys! Now I had someone to dress up, play with, and do things I knew how to do. I planned that we would have fun doing all those “girlie” things. I sewed her many outfits and I even learned to smock so I could make her those precious dresses. She was a doll with bright blue eyes and a quick smile. I knew she had so much promise and prayed that I would be able to guide her in the right direction.

Her dad sometimes would say about the way I was parenting Kelsey: “You are just raising another Pam.” Maybe I was a bit egotistical, but I thought that wasn’t such a bad thing to do. I was educated, caring, faithful, a hard worker, etc. I know I have many faults, but having another educated, caring, faithful and hard-working woman in the world didn’t seem to be such a bad thing to me.

All of that happened 21 years ago. During those 21 years, I have watched this person go from a little girl who could capture your heart with her smile to a young lady who can do the same. She is caring toward others and faithful to her Lord. She shows this often in her work with young people, with people with disabilities, and with her volunteering with her church and with Young Life. Kelsey’s dedication to her studies is about to pay off on May 2 when she graduates cum laude from the University of Florida with a BHS in Communication Sciences and Disorders. I couldn’t be more proud of her for everything she has accomplished.

Recently, she has made me the proudest when I watch her make the drive from Gainesville to Tallahassee to help her family. With her stepdad’s recent illness and hospitalizations, she has taken it upon herself to give up her last spring break and many other fun events during her last semester of college to come home almost every week to help.

I don’t know where Kelsey will go after she graduates. Neither does she, but I know that she will figure it out and go where she is supposed to go. Her path is set to continue being kind, caring, helpful, and faithful.

And her dad’s prediction didn’t come true. I didn’t raise another Pam; I raised a much better person – Kelsey.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Prom 2015: Oh, How Times Have Changed!

During this time of year, high school students are all excited about the big dress-up event -- PROM! My school's prom is this weekend, and my students have talked about nothing else for the past few weeks.

My brother and my future
college roommate at her prom
 in 1973. Check out his shoes.
Prom has changed tremendously since I was in high school, but what hasn't? At my school back in 1976, the girls bought or made a dress, the guys rented a tux, the junior class decorated the gym and everyone actually attended the dance and actually danced.We had pictures taken of us in our formal attire, standing in front of a Greek column or some other decoration. 

Me and my date before my senior prom. My
grandmother made my dress. It was
much prettier in my vision than in real life.

For the most part, we all felt so awkward, like we were playing adult dress-up. Most of the girls knew how to play the dress-up role, but the boys were different. I remember most of them just looking at their dates and their eyes were asking, "Am I doing this right?"

Today, you can forget having the prom at the gym. Now they have a venue, somewhere big and dark, that costs a bunch to rent. That cost filters down to the price of tickets -- $55-85 per couple. And that's just the beginning of the money spent to go.

Another new thing about prom is being the most creative in simply asking someone to go. It's no longer the simple "Would you go to prom with me?" but instead it's the "prom-posal" and guys will go to all lengths to be creative in their asking. 

Some interesting prom-posals at my school this year involved Post-It Notes printed with the young man's request covering the girl's car, a boy wearing a horse mask coming into class to ask a very embarrassed girl, and a sail on the boy's boat with EMILY PROM? written in duct tape. He sailed by the girl as she was lying on the beach. My female students said the latter was the best invite this year. 

Prom-posal of the year at the high school where I teach

Random group of prom-goers in front of their limobus
Renting a limo or limobus is a must for most of these young prom-goers and the bigger the ride, the better. However, the bigger the ride, the bigger the cost. I have a group of students who are taking a limobus that holds twenty people and it costs $100 per person to go. What the heck? That's $2,000 for the night which shocked me at first. Then I thought about having to drive those twenty teenagers around for several hours while listening to their music and their screaming voices. I quickly decided $2,000 isn't enough money for me to do it. Therefore, limo driver is not a job I will pursue in retirement.

The inside of a limobus

 Other costs for prom can include

  • spray tan = $20
  • dinner = $50
  • flowers = $35
  • pictures = $50
  • hair/makeup/eyebrow wax/nails = $125
  • dress/shoes = $50-$500
  • tux rental = $100
There are other costs that can factor in like entertainment after prom and other food and drink.

All together, in 2014 the average prom cost the couple in the South about $926, with parents paying over half. 

Now if people want to spend that much money to play dress-up and go out with friends for the last time before they graduate, I'm all for it. But in my experience as a two-time prom attender, the actual event is anti-climactic to the preparation -- sort of like my colonoscopy. 

I always built up prom in my mind so that it was going to be a magical night. I fantasized about it for weeks and made it into a fun but romantic event. However, nothing turned out that way. It reminds me of The Great Gatsby and how Jay Gatsby built up Daisy and all the riches surrounding her in his mind but then everything fell flat in the end. All of that dressing-up that Jay did changed nothing.

When my students left my classroom yesterday, I spoke the words I use every Friday -- Stay Safe, Sober and Seat-belted -- to them but also put in some more cautionary words.  I hope that all of the young people going to prom have a wonderful time and the night turns out to be as magical as they imagined. I'm sure I'll hear about it on Monday.

Me at the prom during my sophomore year of high school. I did have a date, a nice young man named Joey Griswold, and we had our picture taken together but I couldn't find one.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Pet Euthanasia: Making a Really Tough Decision

One of the saddest movies I ever remember watching is Old Yeller. I'm sure many of you who are my age will remember sobbing through the end when the young boy has to shoot his pet dog because it has rabies. The irony is that Yeller contracted this disease while protecting the boy's family from a rabid wolf and then the parents make the boy kill Yeller.

Yeah, this Disney movie ranks right up there with Bambi for making children cry.

Making the choice to end a pet's life is just the way it is when you own one. Whether it be rabies or just sickness and old age, there comes a time when you may have to euthanize your cherished animal.

This week was our turn to make this decision. A week ago, I took our 13-year-old dog Roxy to the vet because she had lost weight and wasn't eating as much as she once did. The vet said she thought the problem was tooth decay, but the next day, she called to tell me that the test results indicated lymphoma. 

While the vet said something about high calcium levels and more testing, I started to cry and I couldn't stop. Through the sobs, I told her  that we were already battling cancer at home, that I was old enough to realize Roxy was a dog, not a human, and that I would wait to make a decision. After we ended the phone call, I sat in my car in the school parking lot and continued to cry. How was I going to handle this with my son Drew, who has Down syndrome. Drew was very attached to Roxy, and I knew he would be heartbroken. How would our other dog, Sweet Pea, react to her constant friend being gone?

The crappy thing about being a pet owner is having to be the sole decision maker for them. They can't tell us their wants and needs about life or death, so we have to experience the pain and guilt about whatever decision we make.

Over the next week, I vacillated between making the final appointment with the vet and watching Roxy to see if she were hurting. During that time, I looked for information to help me make the decision and feel at peace with my choice.

I found several articles that gave reasons to euthanize, and this graphic is a good summary of the major points:

I finally decided that it wasn't right to watch Roxy starve herself to death. She had all but quit eating and had trouble walking. I knew that if I were in her place, I'd want someone to help me. 

Roxy, I hope I made the right decision. I hope you are at peace. I hope you are in a place where there are no fireworks, gun shots or thunder to frighten you and that there are lots of squirrels and cats to chase. Thank you for the miles you walked with me and the barks you gave when a stranger approached the house. You were a great friend to all of us.