New Adventures

24 01 2009

I wrote in a recent post how my son Ben was going to move our washer and dryer from the basement to our kitchen.  He told me that it would be several weeks before he could get to that project.  I’m glad he didn’t tell me ahead of time when he was going to attempt the project.  He just called after lunch last Saturday to tell me that he was ready to get started.  Initially, he was going to just begin the project.  However, he decided to finish the project since he never has a moment’s peace from people calling him to do work. 

Linda, his wife, came too.  She and I visited together all the hours that Ben worked on Saturday.  We went to get pizza and that was the only break that Ben took.  I was amazed to see Ben create plumbing where no plumbing ever exisited before.  My daughter Sandy’s husband came over around 8:00 p.m. to help Ben  drag the washer and dryer up the stairs.  The washer was ready to use but Ben still had the electrical work to do on the dryer.  He came over Sunday afternoon to create an outlet for the dryer and hook up a venting system.  I had no idea that one could purchase a vent hose that was 20 plus feet.  He installed the long hose and attached it to a window in the basement.  I figure that if we had paid someone to do this job it would cost us close to $1000.00.  Ben spent about 12 hours completing the  project.  I’ve been very happy to have my washer and dryer in my kitchen especially since substitute teaching jobs have finally come my way again.

I mentioned in my last blog that I had worked with junior high and high school students for several years.  Those schools know me and the work would have been readily available.  Instead, I wanted some new learning adventures and so on Tuesday I visited all but one school in our district.  There are five schools in the city and five in the county.  I had never been willing to work in the county schools.  For one thing, it wasn’t practical when my children were in the school system.  It would have been too hard to accomplish.  These days, it is no problem.  My visits paid off and I had work the rest of the week.

On Wednesday I worked with four year olds.  They were so precious.  We had a morning group and then another group in the afternoon.  I think that is the most adorable age.  I just had so much fun with them.  (It has really helped that I have young grandsons.)  On Thursday I was called to one of the county schools.  I was a special education teacher that visited different classrooms working with specific children who cannot read or write.  They are not necessarily slow but have tremendous learning disabilities.  I read the assignments to the children and then wrote down the answers that were given to me.  I particularly enjoyed a 5th grade social studies class.  The teacher was extremely excited about teaching her young students.  She provided a very interesting environment for her students.  I finished my week with another different kind of assignment in one of the city schools.  Four substitutes were hired to fill in while teachers were in professional development for two hour slots. I had two second grade classes, a kindergarten class and a third grade class.  We had only minutes to change assignments and had to land in our next room, read the instructions real quick and get to work.  Twice I had to pick up students from their specials ( or art) before I even got to really meet them.  I had two times of taking children to the playground.  They are so active and I just prayed no child would get hurt.  There were always several classes out at the same time.  I just prayed that when I raised my hand to let them know it was time to leave the playground–that I’d get the right class.  It was certainly an intense day.  Each class had at least one student who just couldn’t keep still.  I had one kindergarten student who literally rolled his little body all over the room.  There was an aide in that room and she just implied that there was not much anyone could do for that child.  I tried to not let it get to me because there were so many others who were doing their work and were behaving quite well.

My experiences in teaching were not new.  I’ve taught elementary school  before but it has been many years.  Children haven’t changed much.  Young ones are very energetic.  However, I wasn’t bored at all.  There is nothing worse than being stuck in a classroom of high school student for 90 minutes at time when there are not enough lesson plans left for the substitute teacher.  No, there will never be a dull moment in elementary school. 

My day is never done though when school is dismissed.  Public elementary school is dismissed at 2:10 p.m.  but they start around 7:10 a.m.  So on the days I work in the city there is still time to pick up my grandsons at the private academy which has school until 3:00 p.m.  On the days that I work in the county–Vera will pick up the boys.  Vera teaches, too.  She works at a career college.  She teaches four hours in the morning and then she teaches a class from 6:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m.  I’m grateful for help when I can get it.  We both help take care of John and Alex in the afternoons.  So I have some very busy days.  I was extremely glad to sleep until 6:45 a.m. this morning.  I’ve been getting up at 4:30 a.m.  during the weekdays.  But that is life–there are always new adventures.

God bless each of you!


Adjusting and Readjusting

10 01 2009

It has not been easy to face the fact that my husband will never be strong again.  I told Jim recently that in my heart I knew that he probably wouldn’t be able to stand the rigors of working in his factory much longer than a year.  This time last year, there were no signs of the economy hurting the business of the factory.  Jim was working seven days a week.  He only got to attend church about once a month.  He got an excuse from his heart doctor to work no more than 50 hours a week.  The factory would not honor the excuse.  His supervisor told him that if he couldn’t work what was required then he would be fired.  I ached for Jim.  He was so tired and weary.  I suspected that his health was not the best.

Signs of the recession finally hit the factory in May.  Suddenly there was no more overtime for Jim and many others.  It was a real relief.  I believe now that if Jim had kept up that pace–he would have died.  Since August, this factory has laid off about 200 employees.  Jim made the first cut and his illness came right before the second cut.  This was a trememdous blessing as Jim was able to keep his insurance and draw short term disability pay.

Meanwhile, many were urging us to complete the process for Jim to draw Social Security disability.  We both dragged our feet because it seemed so final.  I can’t speak for others but neither Jim nor I wanted to believe that he  was actually disabled.  Although the signs and symtoms were under our nose each day.  Finally, close to Christmas I called the national social security number and set up an appointment for Jim in our local office.  Our appointment was on Christmas Eve day.  It was a nasty day weather wise and we got a call from a social security worker in Campbellsville, Ky asking if we would rather have the interview on the phone.  I asked her if I could be on the line because Jim doesn’t handle these types of things well.  I had already filled out forms of medical information for Jim to take to his appointment.  We had about a 45 minute interview on the phone.  She told us that they would back his date back to November 1, 2008.  Moreover, she told us that if he was accepted that he would get his first check the end of May. 

There are two kinds of social security disability.  One kind is for people who have never earned enough credits for working and are extremely poor.  We didn’t meet that requirement.  That kind of social security comes with immediate health care. Jim , if approved, will get the kind of disability based on all of the working quarters he has completed in his life.  He will have to wait two years to get medical care. 

That certainly left us in a dilemma as Jim’s insurance runs out when his short term disability is finished.  We can buy what is called  Cobra for 18 months but it is extremely expensive.  We started thinking about any benefits that he could get because he is a veteran.  We had already been thinking about completing the paper work for us to be buried at the beautiful veteran’s cemetery in our county. 

This past Monday we made a visit to the veteran’s cemetery.   Jim handed the secretary his DD214 form and she said that it would be processed in a couple of days and that we would receive a post card of affirmation.  I can be buried with Jim, too.  We have to furnish our caskets but the rest is free for Jim.  There is a $300.00 dollar cost for me.  It doesn’t matter if I die first.  We will be buired on top of each other.  That was a relief to get that matter settled.  Jim asked how one could find out about veteran’s health benefits.  We were surprised that a veteran’s benefit’s person had an office right there.  So we went in to talk with her.

She got Jim’s DD214 and started working on our case.  We spent almost an hour answering questions and we were done.  She faxed Jim’s information to the veteran’s hospital in Nashville and told us that we could call in a few days to see if Jim was in the system.  We did call and they had not processed  Jim’s claim yet.  Hopefully, by early next week we will know.  The lady who helped us didn’t seem to think that it would be any problem for Jim to be approved. That will take care of Jim’s health needs.  I will be able to have cobra and that will cut our cost for healthcare in half. 

Early in December I completed all of the requirements to go back to substitute teaching.  I didn’t have to get references again but I had to get a TB skin test, fill out a few forms and get fingerprinted again.  I also had to get an extenstive physical exam.  I’ve done this three times since 2000.  I’m not going to be able to resign this time.  I’m going to have to stick it out.  I had been teaching junior high and high school students.  I enjoyed it so much from 2000 to 2003. However when I went back to work in 2006 I was shocked at all of the cell phones and ipods in the classroom.  There  were rules against them but I couldn’t get the administration to back up my discipline referral slips.   Finally, I resigned.

This time I’m only going to teach kindergarten through the 5th grade.  I had tried some teaching in the lower grades initially in 2000 and didn’t like it at all because it was so “busy” all of the time.  I didn’t like lining up the children for every little thing.  I didn’t like going out on the play ground twice a day for recess.  But that was before I had grandsons.  I’ve learned to like young children once again.  I think all of my experiences  of working with my grandsons will be a great benefit to me.  I have developed a more “childlike” heart since they have been a part of my life.   I now believe that working with the younger children with their very full days will be better that dealing with high school students who are bored out of their minds with the 90 minutes class room blocks. 

Hopefully, the calls will come soon.  It will be another adjustment.  But that is what life if all about with adjusting and readjusting.  I’m thankful that we have completed the process for Jim’s social security disability, our burial and his veteran’s healthcare.  Life is certainly much different for us these days.  There is a path of grieving that we are both walking through.  And I’m sure many ideas of future blogs will grow out of that grief.  Yet in the midst of our grief  is joy because we still have faith in God to see us through each day.

May God bless each of you!

A Christmas Past/ A Christmas Present

1 01 2009

My grandsons and I were cleaning out a drawer and found my album of photos from the first ten years of our marriage.  It was in complete disarray.  I knew right then that I was going to get new photo albums for my pictures.  The boys and I went to the store to buy some albums that very morning.  Later, after the boys went home –I began putting my new albums in order.  There were two items of furniture constantly used for a photograhic background in those pictures.  Each new school year our four children would line up in front of our old piano for back to school photos.  The other piece of furniture is a bookcase.  It was also a very popular backdrop for family pictures.  We no longer have the piano but we still have the bookcase.  There is a story about that bookcase that I would like to share.

The summer of l982 was very difficult.  My husband was self employed working at various jobs.  Work was scarce and we were short of money.  I had already sold my mother’s fine china and silver ware to help make mortgage payments.  One day that summer Jim came home with a bookcase that he had torn out of a house.  One could tell that it was very solid and worth keeping.  The only problem was that it had been painted so many times over the years that it would take a great deal to restore the bookcase.  Neither Jim and I have that particular talent to restore furniture.  Thus, we put the bookcase on the street with a for sale sign.  We were asking $20.00 for the bookcase.  I didn’t have much faith that anyone would buy it. 

Within a couple of days a family came by and decided they wanted the bookcase.  The husband of the family did like to restore furniture.  While we were talking –we realized that our children went to the same school.  Matthew was in the same grade as Ben and Sandy. Tina, Matthew’s mother, was looking for an after school sitter.  She asked me if I would be interested.  I agreed to look after Matthew.  I was already baby sitting two other children in the evening.  She also asked me if I could take care of Matthew on certain days during the rest of the summer.  So not only did I earn $20.00 but I gained a job. 

Matthew was to be a part of our lives for the next three years.  I also seemed to become the sitter for many other children as well.  Those were busy years but the most interesting part of this story is that John and Tina gave us back our bookcase as a Christmas present.  John had stripped off all of the many layers of paint and refinished the bookcase.  Today in 2009, we still have that bookcase and it is one of our favorite pieces of furniture.  I shall always cherish the day that I met John, Tina and Matthew.  Tina and Matthew even came to visit us in Kentucky after we left Alabama.  And our bookcase is still a favorite backdrop for photo sessions.

Now for the Christmas present.  I was deeply touched when Ben and his wife gave us a card telling us that our Christmas present was to move our washer and dryer up into our kitchen.  One of my brothers fell down his basement stairs in November and had to have three surgeries.  I must confess that I have been worrying about my basement stairs.  I’ve been taking laundry up and down our stairs for 23 years.  And I’ve fallen several times with one fall being so serious that I had to have surgery.  Evidently, Ben and Linda have been worrying about us , too.  Ben has the skills to do all of the plumbing for us.  I’m so excited about not ever having to do laundry in the basement again.

Another wonderful Christmas present was having our former Mennonite friends and their six children come sing for us.  Daniel and Ruth were old order Mennonites until about eight years ago.  They left their order to start a new life.  Daniel learned to drive and they put electricity and plumbing in their home..  They also have phones, a DVD player,  a fax machine and a computer. They still live much like the Mennonites in that they are self supporting.  They farm, sell goats and rabbits, do carpentry work for others, and run a bookstore from their home.    We enjoy visiting their bookstore.  In fact, I did much of my Christmas shopping at their store.  Whenever we visit them–their children are always busy with projects to help around their home. The past two times we have visited them–some of the children have been busy baking.  The oldest son has been involved in building on to their home.  He helped his father with the blueprints and studied the rudiments of electrical wiring so he could do the actual labor of wiring their new addition.  They are an amazing family.  So we were delighted when they came to sing for us.  We took many photos of them as they are no longer under the ban of not taking photographs.  They had fun looking at our family pictures on display.  I had one picture of my birth family during Christmas time in which I was just six years old.  Daniel got very sad as he has no photos of his growing up years, of his parents and siblings nor of his wedding to Ruth.  However, he smiled again thinking of how it would be different for his family.  We had a lovely time with Daniel’s family.  It was an experience that I will always cherish. 

Christmas comes and goes each year but these two Christmas seasons will always stand out in my mind.  I’ve been busy working on my albums.  It looks like I will need four albums for my one huge torn up book.  There are many pictures of Ben as a child building all of his treehouses.  He was already developing his life work as a child.   The picures reflect many birthdays and Christmas seasons.  There is a space in my new albums to write about each picure.  This project will keep me busy for a number of days.  And to think all of these memories started from just cleaning out one drawer. 

May God bless each of you!