Complaints and Cures 2

Long day. Long, long, seriously long day. Slept poorly. Awoke with wife complaining of itches. Itches in places there shouldn’t be itches. Then, wife complained of shortness of breath. Wife has asthma and that can happen. A bit concerned, but wife said go to work-so, I went to work.

Went home on prep. period and as I turned corner near house, got a text. Wife wrote, “going to E.R. Having tough time breathing.” Panic. Full blown. Stepped on accelerator, which only matters so much as it’s got 103 horsepower. Still, one does what one can.

Home, through door, wife upstairs crying. “Why crying?” “cuz I can’t get air. It feels weird, it’s not the usual.”

Hmmm. Itch. Shortness of breath. “K. Get dressed, let’s go…”

Phonecall to allergist. Dr. Gianos. Great person, Dr. G. Friendly, pretty, good person. Helped wife a lot in past few years. Maybe she’ll help now. Dr. G. says bring her straight in. If she needs E.R., she’ll get her there. “OK. On our way.”

Distract wife with talk of child. Bad idea. Child being bad. Child being defiant. Child being willful and even mean. Child being…well…..a child.

More crying.

K. Change subject. “Teaching narrative analysis today and how to sustain a written argument.”

I know. But I didn’t have a lot of options at that point.

Wife laughed. Then wife cried.

Upstairs–no elevator. Allergist who treats asthma patients on second floor. Always wondered about that.

Seen pretty quickly. Wife having severe allergic reaction to arthritis med recently prescribed. Other doc who prescribed should have known. Wonder why doc didn’t know? Doc knew about asthma. Doc knew about allergies. Doc knew this med. causes allergic reactions in 20 percent of patients who suffer asthma. Doc forgot? Sure. It happens. Mad at Doc? Not yet. Wife damaged? Wife….permanently damaged? Then I’d be mad at Doc. Wife O.K. Doc off the hook.

Teaching. Hot. Overwhelmingly hot. Too many papers to grade. Too many pages to cover. Incompetent counselor visits classroom 6th period. Nice lady. Dumb as a rock. That happens, too, I guess.

Home–four interviews to accomplish. One interview with candidate for municipal water district. “Why running?” “Cuz, I want to know more about the process of water and how it works.” What I don’t say: “Shouldn’t you know something about the process before you get elected to a position in which you’re expected to…you know….run the process?” But like I said, I don’t say that. Hang up phone. Laugh a bit and shake head.

Come downstairs and get ready to go to Happy Hour with boys, er…men. We go to Happy hour. It is good. Beer is good. Beer with friends is very good. Beer with friends at Ladyface pub is good.

Leave pub and drive home. Blue orange sky fading to night. Big, puffy cumulus clouds reach into the heavens and streaks of lightning flash through them into mountains. Orange glow of sunset over ocean as I drive out over the hill toward home. Blue orange sky, fading distant lights, streaks of lightning painting mountain west skies. And that too is good.

And day is now over.


Complaints and Cures

The heat of this week has been remarkable. I will not go on and on, here. In my classroom, though, before the clock struck noon, the temperature therein reached 92 degrees. That’s inside. Not outside. It was 112 in parts of Camarillo yesterday. Today was in the 90’s with heavy cloud cover. I believe the Yiddish word for this condition is, “shvitz,” as in, “it’s a shvitz out there!” And indeed it was. The heatwave looks to break before the weekend. One can hope.


The problem isn’t the weather, of course. The problem is that in our little micro-climate of the world, because we are a coastal community, the geniuses we elect–and elected years ago–to build our schools decided that air-conditioning was not a worthwhile expense. “You only need it once in a while. Maybe a week out of the year.” This, of course, is patently untrue. In fact, because of the design of our particular school, for example, air-conditioning could really be used about 2 or even 3 months out of the school year. This is because in building the school, windows were put high up in the classrooms. These are the old fashioned kind that require a stick to open them. Imagine an architect today designing a building for public use in which 9 foot poles with metal hooks on the end had to be used to open the window.

Add to this lunacy that the buildings, designed by dolts as they were, were built with the windows facing north-south. Since, in this part of the coast, the breezes come from the west–and not the south or the north–there is no advantage taken of natural currents or events. In short, like so many of the public schools in America, the place is a dump.

So, the “shvitz” continued today and I, soaked to the core in my own sweat, sallied forth. Hard to make the kids work, but you have to. Hard to be uplifting and in a good mood, but you have to. Hard to think about grading papers, lecturing, managing a classroom, but you have to. So I do. But, it’s not fun on such days. And such days, while not the norm, are not one-offs, either.

I have plantar fascitis. It blows. My right foot feels like…hmmmmm. What does it feel like? OK, well, it feels as though someone has shattered my heel with a hammer and then, just for fun, is lighting it on fire from the ball of my big toe–only the fire quickly spread down the inside of my foot back to the heel. Yeah. That’s it.

At that website for the condition, you find this little ditty: *If you are in serious pain and are only looking for a treatment,
we recommend seeing the Treatment Section.
And yes–I am in serious pain. So, what’s the treatment? Yeah, the usual–try icing, rest, stretching, the gamut. I have been doing that–but it’s been two months. Sigh. I suppose I’ll have to try something else.

Despite my pain, my orthodics and I moved outward and Scoop and I went for a hike today and I’m glad we did. He loved it and though he was slower than usual, that could be chalked up to the heat and humidity. The exercise was a real balm for us both, I think I felt liberated and I have both orthodic insoles for the aforementioned fascitis as well as a wrap for my right foot that help a great deal.

While we were on the trail, a gentleman asked me if I knew the trails well, I said I did and he asked me for some directions. Turned out, he needed to largely do my route, so Brian, he offered his name readily, came along with Scoop and me for the jaunt. I confess I wasn’t looking for company, but he was an affable chap and we fell into easy conversation. He was grateful for the direction and the walk as was I.

Scoop met some friends as well. Two ladies were tethered by leash to 7 dogs, most of them Aussie shepherds and they too were friendly pups. Scoop, once he got the sense and scent of who and what they were, couldn’t have cared less. He rather walked by them without so much as a sniff. Rest assured, they were at peak Aussie shepherd-ness and wated to know more about the old man. But he wasn’t receiving, as Mark Twain might say. So, on we walked.

I came home and my sister-in-law, the renown Aunt Laurie, helped me cook dinner while Peanut was at soccer practice with mom. I found a recipe in Better Homes and Gardens (Yes I read it. No, I am not ashamed) for chicken with tomatoes, apricots and raisins and I whipped up a batch of it along with cheesy polenta and broccolini. Yessir, that and a glass of Byron Pinot Noir, and I was a happy dude as, I believe, my girls were happy dudettes.

Still having problems with the Blackberry, but RIM has assured me that they will get to the bottom of it. One can hope. Essentially, I’m not getting my yahoo e-mails sent to me as I have been in the past and this creates a problem. As a freelance writer, I rely on the ability to read and respond to e-mails quickly so I can get the jobs I want and beat out any competition. But if I cannot get the emails and an alert that tells me I have them, then….well… you get the point, no?

So, we’ll hope that RIM (that’s Blackberry’s manufacturer) will get the issue fixed. Because if they don’t….well….I dunno what.

Stay tuned.

Tomato Chutney and Chicken pizza

I’d been meaning to post this as a short phlog. Sue made homemade tomato chutney and chicken pizza. The secret was the homemade chutney in which she used a can of plum tomatoes, roasted red peppers, ginger, scallions, craisins (dried cranberries), pumpkin pie spice, cumin and other goodness. She used New Zealand organic white sharp cheddar cheese and organic chicken breast. Add in pizza dough from Trader Joe’s and you’ve got some tasty goodness, people.

The pizza was about the best I’ve ever had. I’d easily order it at a restaurant and served with a good glass of wine or a rich beer, it’s practically perfection.

If you want the recipe, let me know.

Rat’s End

My rare Saturday posts are becoming….well….less rare. But, tonight we must retreat and pay homage.

As the years have passed and Scoop the wonderdog now suffers from cancer, his days are numbered and we are sad here. But grieving while he still lives is pretty silly-and pointless-so we try not to.

This afternoon, upon inspection of the rat cage containing Cortney, Peanut’s pet she got in the summer of 2008, my sister-in-law noted that it was not moving. She waited to see if sleep was at hand, but it wasn’t. At least not the kind one wakes up from.

Cortney seems to have passed sometime between midnight last night, when I went to bed and heard her gnawing away at her cage, and late this morning. Rats live about two to three years, it’s said, so that’s about right. For about a month and a half now, she was a sorry sight, barely able to walk, emaciated and stiff. Nasty, really.

I can say this because I’m fighting a war outside against Cortney’s brethren. Luckily, the rodents have been kept at bay and have not entered the house. No need to, apparently. Plenty of food for them outside. So, I’ve put up a few traps-including a rat zapper. It worked for a while and killed 8 of the little buggers. But now, it seems to be nothing more than a box sitting on the block wall waiting for something. I checked it this morning and spiders had spun webs inside. No rats, but apparently, I’m catching lots of bugs.

In any event, Cortney signifies the end of a kind of era. When we got her, she was gift to Peanut because Sofie was leaving to go back to Belgium and there were a lot of other changes going on in her life. She wanted something of her own to love and we thought it might be a good idea.

It wasn’t.

She never really did take a shine to it and while she chose the animal, she barely ever took responsibility of any kind for it. This has, of course, become a pattern in other areas, too and we’re working on those. But Cortney was basically a nuisance and in my opinion, an unlovable one. Her death from old age or whatever is a welcome moment for Sue and me. And for Peanut? Well–she shed no tears. She did talk about the rat a bit and she pondered over its death and life. Case made, I guess.


The Fire This Time

I’m writing from the upstairs tonight. I came up more than an hour ago with the thought of turning in. I had been downstairs falling asleep over my keyboard on the Mac down there. The Mac up here, older, more sanguine, but still useful in its agedness, drew me in as I watched an episode of John Adams on DVD.

But now, I’m just awake because that seems to be what happens to me lately. I get tired, fall asleep a few minutes, then go upstairs to unwind and allow the languor 0f the evening to cradle me to sleep.

Except-I don’t. Or, I can’t. Or something. I don’t know…

I thumbed through a few sites, checked out a few podcasts, bewept the state of public education, the field in which I’ve chosen to work–and am listening to my dog, who is slowly dying, breathe quite quickly as he sleeps. Apparently, one of the side effects of the prednisone is panting for dogs. He’s OK. He’s calmer now.

It’s not melancholy, but it’s close. The cool summer–and I mean cool in the literal sense, is coming to a close and as if on cue, the fall begins with 80 degree temperatures and promised Santa Ana winds this weekend.

Fall in So. Cal, as I have written previously, is a pretty lousy time. It will be 90 degrees here some days next week. The wind will kick up and if we avoid a major brushfire, we’ll be lucky. We won’t avoid it, though. It will happen. The brush is tinderbox dry and the heat combined with the wind will provide an incubator better than any devised by man for flames to rip through somewhere.

And the only thing to do is just sort of take it. The weather does not ask permission of me and I don’t control it. So, I shall sit back and watch and pray–and hope–that all will be well and that fires will not burn.

Channeling that assertion, that energy, I shall sally forth and work all weekend long. Saturday, I’m covering our town’s Art and Jazz festival and Sunday, the Oktoberfest at the Camarillo Airport. I look forward to it, too.

As long as it’s not windy.

The Rear View Mirror

I think it may well be dangerous to watch Diners, Drive-ins and Dives before bedtime. I mean, I ate and everything–but this show on Food Network is the one that causes me to want to eat. The others I can glance at with a cursory eye and ignore. I can even watch them when I’m hungry and not be affected. But not this show. This one show makes me excited to love food.

Once in a while, it also makes me nostalgic, like in tonight’s episode about a sandwich shop in Portland, Oregon.  There is a seminal moment in my life that I look back on frequently. I’m not sad about it and I don’t worry too much about it, but I do think about it. I was 27 years old and had just finished my first year of teaching in Simi Valley, CA. It was 1992 and my pal, Keith, had moved to Portland, OR. My roommate and other good pal, Shawn and I drove up through California, stopped and visited some friends in the Bay Area, and then headed north on into Oregon. We spent a few days with Keith and I fell in love with the place. So much so, that I secured a couple of job interviews while I was there and within the week, I’d landed a job offer in Beaverton, Oregon that I wanted. I’d be teaching Middle School English for seventh and eighth graders at Whitford Middle School, situated in a grove of maple trees, not far from a river and in a modern and newly equipped building.

There was only one entanglement and that was a girl I was dating back home. I was in love with Sue then and wanted to marry her, but had not asked her yet. Timing wasn’t right and all that. So, on the phone, I asked her what she thought about coming up to Oregon if I asked her to. She said she wasn’t sure what she would do–and couldn’t make that choice until she and I made plans about our lives together. She was in school at the time and not quite finished with her Registered Dietitian’s certificate. If she had been, I’d have asked her right there to marry me and then to move to Beaverton–actually, Hillsborough.

But it wasn’t meant to be. I don’t have regrets, per se. I don’t sit and pine over the missed opportunity. I do, however, often think it would be rather cool to get my writing career built so that I could take my girls to Oregon, show them around and see what they think. I am fairly certain they would fall in love with it as I did, and if that happened–I’d move. I think. Speculation is always easy at 10:30 at night when the house is quiet and you’re dreaming.

No matter, really. The choices I’ve made have paid off quite well and the most important thing in my life are my girls–including my sister-in-law, who lives near us.  Our lives are good here. No major complaints.

Sometimes, though, in a quiet night with the line between sleep and waking blurred, I look northward and wonder just a little bit–of what might have been. It’s not the way to live life, looking through the rearview mirror. But every once in a while, it helps to look at what’s behind you just so you know where you’ve been–and can concentrate more on what’s in front of you.


Picking Blackberries

It was a better day-much better. Still some angst, but not the kind I had yesterday. Today’s angst was more about my Blackberry’s recent phase of acting up wherein it decides intermittently to take e-mails or not. Thing is, I’m a freelance writer. The Blackberry is my lifeline to editors and to quick responses to messages sent–so there can be no intermittent. It is, as we say in the real world of work, an unacceptable situation that must be resolved.

In education and in the schools, they’d ask some teachers to form a committee, then a few administrators would join in. There’d be a meeting where all would vie over how much say they have in the situation, too. Then, the administrators would accept a recommendation from the teachers but only after it has been redrawn to meet the admin’s needs. It would then go to the district office where the Superintendent would bring it to the board. At that point, the board would vote for immediate action. What action? An Assistant Superintendent of Communication Technology would be hired at a six-figure salary. He would promptly hire a supervisor at almost a six-figure salary and then they would work to get the “problem solved.” It’d take about two years and then, they’d hold a meeting to let the teachers know what they decided. By then-the technology would be outdated and the district would buy more than a hundred units of it at a discounted rate.

Not that I’m cynical…

So, I got online chat going with Yahoo since Blackberry and T-mobile couldn’t help–at least, not completely. They tried and occasionally, it’d work. But it would always turn off again. Now, tonight–it works. But all e-mails show up under the text message icon along with…well…text messages. So, it works. Sort of.

I’ll take it for now.


Late now and I’ve another big day tomorrow. These days are actually quite cool and I love it. I’m pretty happy being this busy and count myself fortunate to be so.



There is little giving me energy this evening. The combination of a full Monday schedule combined with yesterday’s jaunt down to Disneyland, have left me tired, cranky and irritable. Add to this mix a visit to the vet to check on Scoop’s disease and a 9-year old determined to have anyone but her do her homework, the volatile brew blew up. I’m spent.

It’s nearly a black dog day, as Lileks used the term. The only thing keeping it from being that is that it’s now after 9 pm and I’m essentially an optimist. Tomorrow will be better. For all of today’s lack of progress on a human scale, tomorrow can and will be better.

Disneyland was an escape, as always. It was a chance to revisit and reconnect as a family, but it had a downside that Sue and I have been discussing along with Aunt Laurie. The three of us are Disney fanatics and our love of the place simply grows with each visit. But Peanut has gone in the other direction, as 9-year olds will sometimes do. She looks at Disneyland as an entitlement, a thing she gets to do every so often just because. And there is that level of grace involved, to some level. Sometimes we go just to go. But in the process, the park seems to be losing its wonder for her and when we get on the tram to come home, she is sad over the things that she didn’t get to do rather than pleased and excited about the day.

Mind you, this is not abhorrent behavior in a 9-year old. But, it is behavior that needs adjusting. The only way we can see adjusting it is to stop going as often and give Peanut a chance to appreciate it again. She’ll squawk, I suppose, when she learns we may not go back for sometime. But that may be preferable to a child who thinks it is her right to go there. When Disneyland loses its wonder, it’s time to walk away for a while.

Meanwhile, gentles, I have miles to go before I sleep. I bid you a pleasant evening.



A rare Saturday evening post, gentles, and really only because I have not posted since earlier this week…

Scoop is not quite himself. Whether the disease or the prednisone, I’m unsure. I get a gut feeling that he’s not long for this world and while it makes me sad, very sad, I’ve resigned myself to it as a powerful lesson in the transient nature of life and in the power of love.

But there are other things going on, too. This next week is a busy one with many interviews, at least one every day, and stories to go with them. While I’m at it, I’m still pitching articles to various publications. Keeps me busy, keeps me hopeful.

We had dinner last night with our friends the Perez family at their house. They cooked, we brought wine and dessert and for the first time in a long time, I drank too much. In fact, normally on a Saturday night, wine is part of the menu–just so. Not tonight–not for me. Body needed a break and so did my brain. So, water–and a lot of it.

I seem to get wanderlust in the fall, which is really not a good time for it. I have a desire to go a few places and see a few things and I can’t, of course. I’m teaching and Peanut’s in school and the routine is what it is and walking away from it means walking away from obligations of the kind that make up our lives. The key to life is to love your routine. You can–and should–question it, always. But you also need to love it. If you don’t, that’s when things fall apart.

And I do love my routine, but I am questioning it just now. This is my 20th year of teaching and there’s more of it behind me now than there is in front of me. I’m not going to teach for another 20 years. If things go the way I want them to, I’m probably going to teach no more than five more years. But all remains to be seen, of course, and I am open to the mysteries God has in store for me. I can live with those and revel in the thought of them.

But, perhaps a trip somewhere. I don’t know when–but maybe the family wants to visit somewhere–driving is fine. No need to break the bank on a plane trip. Just a drive up the coast–or out to the desert. We’ll see.

Well, I’m plum out of anything constructive to say. These next few weeks will see me post frequently, but there may be times when I’m distracted-like tonight-by Scoop and his condition. These posts will be instructive to me and to Peanut especially down the road. When you bring a dog into your life to love, it is unlike anything else. When you prepare to lose a dog you love, it too is unlike anything else. There is grief, hope and prayer and there is sadness, despair and eventually, rejoicing that you had the opportunity.

And I’ve been going through every one of these emotions daily for the past week.


Doubts and Dreams

There are other things occupying my mind, but the most important of them revolve around Scoop. I am actually quite blocked at this point in writing about him. What I have to say is said below. He’s with me again tonight, lying on the couch next to me. He’s tired and looks a bit worn out. There is only so much we can do now.

So, I’ve been praying–for a dog. And that’s an odd thing to do because in the grand scheme of things, there are more pressing matters deserving of prayer. But, while I pray about those things, too–my 11 year old friend is slowly fading. And I’m sad.

My faith life had been lacking recently. I’ve been in one of my doubting periods and it hit hard when Scoop was diagnosed. But then a few things happened, one of which was very unlikely. I met a Rabbi who I had to interview for a story I wrote for the paper. Rabbi Lang is an orthodox Jew and a leader of the local Chabad Community. He’s an affable and talkative guy and so my interview with him went well past the normal half hour or so I need in such situations. And we didn’t address doubt much in our conversation, but we did address faith. Combined with a recent conversation with Jason, I am beginning to rise out of doubt, but not in the way I would have expected.

Doubt is, it seems to me, an integral part of faith in God. Without doubt, really, faith can’t exist. If there are no doubts, then faith is knowledge and God doesn’t give us that. That’s something we earn for ourselves and perhaps, something we esteem too highly. I’ll have more to say on this, but for now–I’m still processing it. I’m still processing a lot.