Killer

My name is Kellie.

When I type that into my online email program, it tries to autocorrect.

“Did you mean ‘Killer’?” it says.

Killer was the name of a neighborhood stray that lived on my grandma’s porch.

Killer was a big black labrador mix. Killer was old and very friendly.

Killer had no teeth. Everyday my grandma would cook Killer mac and cheese for lunch.

“No, autocorrect, my name is NOT ‘Killer’!”

That dog story.

My friend has had a series of golden retrievers. Rescues. I remember her telling this story about one of them.

One inclement Sunday morning, her dog did not want to go out. On a typical wet-weather day, when my friend was staying in, that was ok. On those days, he did not have to go out. He could wait for the rain to stop and the air to warm up.

This day was different. My friend had all-day plans, and needed her dog to go out NOW. It was for his own good…she did not want him to be uncomfortable.

Exasperated, she pushed him out the door, and she told him, “Trust me. I know what’s going to happen, and you don’t!”

My friend said she realized as she said that, God must sometimes feel that way about us. We don’t want to experience the inclement weather and refuse to move…not understanding why things are happening, not not seeing the bigger picture.

About Baseball

There are two things on my bucket list. Only two: A return to the ocean for a vacation(off-season), and a trip to Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame.

On Major League opening day, hotdogs and other ballpark-type foods are served at my house, in front of the tv. I use rabbit ears to watch tv, and not very many games are broadcast, but opening day is always broadcast on our local station.

I like baseball movies: Pride of the Yankees, Rhubarb, It Happens Every Spring, The Sandlot. I regularly re-read my favorite baseball books: Veeck as in Wreck(my all-time favorite), Cobb, The Curse of Rocky Colavito. And I love to read about dead ball era players and games, and the business of baseball.

I like the sound of baseball on the radio. It is the soundtrack of my summers, now, just as it was when I had my first transistor radio, back in the 60’s. It is a sound I associate with happy times.

My dad listened to baseball, and my grandma listened to baseball (although, sometimes she would take her hearing aid batteries out because she didn’t want to waste them on the Indians…yes, they could be that bad).

Growing up in the 60’s, the neighborhood kids played baseball in the street. The sewer lid was home plate. Telephone poles were bases. The rules and equipment were very loose…of course there is no sliding into a telephone pole. We used a bat (or stick), we used whatever ball we had, not necessarily a baseball. We only had two mitts among us. The pitcher was very often the biggest kid playing. He pitched for both teams and didn’t get to bat. Our games were not measured in innings, we ended when our moms called us in for dinner.

When I was pregnant with my son, Ken Burns’ Baseball was showing on PBS. I was on bed rest, and I must have watched it, all of it, at least three times over that summer. The Major League strike that year – the year I could have watched all the Cleveland baseball  games – really annoyed me, but not enough to keep me away from baseball the next spring.

I dressed my son in baseball gear quite often. (Clothes for little boys seem to come only in three ‘colors’: vehicle, sport or dinosaur. As a kindergartner he wanted to be a baseball player/archeologist.) My son played a couple seasons of baseball as a kid and I decorated his room with an old-time baseball theme.

I don’t follow the current players very closely, but my son regularly fills me in on the new players, trades and standings. Apparently, the love of baseball is genetic.

IEP

Individualized Education Plans.

This was a new concept to me when my daughter started school. Actually, her teacher suggested it and spearheaded the campaign to get it done. The principal advocated for my daughter’s accommodations with the music teacher and art teacher. (The principal would allow my daughter to sit in the office and work on her math homework if she wasn’t up to music class. I don’t know if it was the noise of the students or the loud voice of the teacher that upset her – she could never say.) The staff worked as a team to make my daughter successful. I know this is not typical. I have heard all the public school and IEP horror stories that parents tell.

I have one, only one, to tell myself.

Fourth grade – this year got off to a rocky start. First, a new principal was at the school. Before this year, I had no idea just how important a principal is – in terms of setting the tone for the school. Second, one month after school started, just when my daughter had gotten into the routine of a new school year, the school decided the class was too big and needed to be split. Of course, that meant my daughter would be moving to the new class, despite my pleas that this was not good for her.

A substitute teacher had the new class for a month before the permanent teacher arrived. Personal tragedy struck the new permanent teacher, and after a few weeks, another long term sub took the class. All this upheaval was not helpful to my daughter. And while I was sympathetic to the new teacher’s absence, I was annoyed with the principal’s refusal to leave my daughter in her original class.

Come time for the IEP, I left work early to attend the meeting. I was on time. The intervention specialist was waiting for me and we got down to business. No one – no teacher, no principal, no district representative – NO ONE else attended. Now, I liked the intervention specialist, but she was not in contact with my daughter on a daily basis. While we did go over the recommendations and the intervention specialist promised to go over the IEP with the teacher and principal, I left the meeting discouraged. If the meeting was inconvenient for them that day, they could have rescheduled. When the formal IEP transcript was given to me, I was surprised to see both the teacher and principal signed it as if they had attended. It made me very angry. It was clear to me that the educators were not taking my daughter’s education seriously.

The rest of that year did not go very well. In fact, I don’t know how they passed my daughter to the next grade. Because of this, I made a decision – to enroll my daughter in a charter school, one that had a large number of students with autism, bi-polar, adhd, and other related disorders, for grade 5.

While, it was the best choice for my daughter, it was not as convenient for me – it was across town and my daughter is NOT a good candidate for riding a school bus. (We did try the bus a couple different times, but it was Trouble – the capital ‘T’ is intentional.)

Family Weekends

At my daughter’s current placement, they have Family Weekends. Once a month, I travel to western Ohio for a day-and-a-half visit, with group and family therapies and free time. The facility pays for a hotel room, and when my daughter’s behavior permits, she can stay overnight with me at the hotel.

I like an extended visit like this. It gives my daughter and I time to talk about a lot of things, face to face, which I really value. It gives me time to interact with my daughter’s direct caregivers. The guest speakers, experts who address the parents only, share good ideas on self-care and practical advice.

But perhaps the most helpful part of the extended visits is this:

Extended visits give me a chance to talk to other parents, who are dealing with similar developmental and mental health issues in their children…and this is really helpful.

  • Helpful because I know I am not the only one in this situation.
  • Helpful because some of the trial and error experiences they share can save me a lot of trouble.
  • Helpful because I see hope for my daughter when they share their successes.
  • Helpful because I have seen the services available in my county are not widely available – it makes me truly appreciate the competency of the social workers on my daughter’s case.
  • Helpful because I can share my experiences with someone who really understands, someone who doesn’t look at me like I’m a crazy person when I talk about my daughter’s behavior.

Wait here until you are useful.

“Wait here until you are useful.” That is the sign on my desk. The sign has a quirky picture with a bird that I saw on the internet a few years ago when I was looking for something else.

I don’t remember what it was I was looking for when I found this sign.

Isn’t that how life goes? You are looking for something, working toward something….and something else, something completely different pops up. Maybe it is a change in circumstances, maybe a change in your health, maybe you make a friend that makes you stop and take stock of your life.

That’s why I keep the sign on my desk – not because I need to be reminded it is good to be useful – I keep it to remind myself that I need to keep my eyes open, pay attention to what is going on around me, so I don’t miss something meaningful, something unexpected and important.

City life. Part 3 – This is home.

I have lived in the same house since 1990. It was familiar to me immediately – it has the same floorplan that my grandma’s house did – with different details, and not as old.

When I bought my house, I was interested in the closeness of the bus stops. Do I take the bus? No, not usually. But I could if I needed to, and that provides me some security.

My parents and sisters all live within blocks. If I need something, or if they need something, everyone is nearby to help. I don’t have to travel very far to go to the market, hardware store, bank or post office. Doctors, and hospitals are both nearby. I have a 10 minute commute to work.

The utility costs are low, thanks to newer windows. The taxes are reasonable and, well, since I have lived here so long, there is no house payment. I cannot imagine anywhere I could live as cheaply as I do here.

For many years, even as a kid, my dreams took place at my grandma’s house – that house that was so similar to my own. Very recently, I started having dreams that take place in my house instead of at my grandma’s. My sister suggested that the shift could mean “the past is done.” I like that. And I think that the shift also means my future is here.

Moms always know.

My daughter is a horrible liar. No, I don’t mean she has the habit of lying all the time! What I mean is that she is just horrible at it.

Any story she tells is out of order and confusing, difficult to follow – so I tend to ask her a lot of questions.

When she is telling me the truth, she knows the answers to my questions, like -“Who was there?” or “What  color were they wearing?”

When she is lying, she can’t settle on an answer, or the answers are so far out of the realm of possibility, so outrageous, well, let’s just say she is always found out.  Her “tell” is obvious.

When she asks me how I knew she was lying, my answer is always the same: Moms always know.

 

Eyes and ducks.

When my son was three, he wondered how he got caught doing things he wasn’t supposed to do.  My aunt told him that moms have eyes in the back of their heads.

One day, while I was sitting playing with my son on the floor, he started lifting up my long hair; he told me he was looking for the eyes in the back of my head – he wanted to see those eyes.

Thankfully, my son outgrew the confusion between ‘an expression’ and fact.  (This is something my daughter still struggles with.)


We always had a large flock of rubber ducks in our bathroom – most were yellow, but there was the occasional odd duck.  When my son was two,  he was intently studying an oddly shaped blue duck.  He turned around, a very serious expression on his face, and grimly declared, “Blue ducks no have butts.  Yellow ducks have butts, but blue ducks no have butts.” He shook his head sadly as he walked out of the room.

He outgrew his sadness over the unfortunate blue duck – it was after all just a toy.  but he has never outgrown kindness and concern for those who seem ‘different’.  I hope he never does.

 

City life. Part 2 – Sights

I cannot imagine living in a rural setting. I love the city lights too much.

When I was a girl, visiting my grandma (just a few blocks from where I live now) I loved looking out over the city lights from her hill top home. The shape of the interstate and other roads looked like a Christmas tree to me. I still drive down that street occasionally just to see that view.

From my house, in the winter, when the leaves have fallen, I can see the city lights I can watch the New Year’s Eve fireworks that happen downtown. (In the summer the trees are so thick, there is only an occasional twinkle, and although we can hear the summer fireworks at the ballpark, we can only see an occasional glimmer.)

I like the look of the neighborhood homes – different styles and eras, all on the same street. No homeowners’ association to control what color(s) you can paint your house. Renters and owners all on the same street.

And I love the look of the families, families of every color – and families that include every color. At the local grade school, no one considered it odd that my daughter and I were not the same color. I like that.

There are some sad sights in the neighborhood: vulgar graffiti, an occasional vacant house – but the good sights outnumber the sad.