Saturday, July 24, 2010


As of today, I finished the work for my fourth class! Hooray!

When I step back, one thing I find interesting about this program is that it doesn't necessarily practice what it preaches. For one thing, we get very little feedback on our work, if any at all. I know that's partly due to the accelerated time frame; the longest we've spent with any one professor is eight sessions (which was still 32 hours). Still, I could count on one hand the number of things I've submitted that have been returned to me, and of those, every one was a minor in-class assessment. In one class, ironically one of the longer ones, we got NOTHING back. Zero. Zilch. The professor, who was great, even took our addresses so he could send us back our journals with comments. They've never arrived, and it's been over a month. I see that I got an A in the class, so I assume that I was on the right track, but I'm a person who really values that input. Work that we do online might as well have been thrown into an abyss, for all I know. I hate that! I know, as a grad student, I shouldn't need a lot of hand holding, but for heaven's sake, not one returned project? Even our 40min presentations went ungraded! Surely there was something that could have used improvement, some area where I was on the money, and a few extra things I could be thinking about for next time? The program stresses 'give feedback to your students, be interactive with your students, don't just talk at them all the time'. The time we spent with my last professor, all we did was sit in our seats and get information crammed down our throats as fast as she could say it, from 5-9:30, with a seven minute break each night to gasp for air (literally, 7 minutes, I don't know what that was about). I just saw that the soon-to-be-replaced program director (who still appears to be teaching one of our courses in the fall, unfortunately - she's the one who was completely unresponsive about all of my admissions paperwork being messed up) will be using straight-out testing based on chapters in a book on instructing math. We have been told countless times in the last two months NOT to evaluate students based solely on standard tests, but apparently that's what we're going to be subjected to - rote learning and regurgitation. Interesting. On the one hand, we're grad students, adults (some much younger than others), and we should be able to force ourselves to learn without as much light and magic as we'll use with our elementary students, but on the other, if brain-based-learning research has shown that people remember concepts much more clearly when they're connected to meaningful discourse and emotional reactions, *and* at the grad level we should be more than capable of higher thinking, shouldn't these professors be modeling what we should be doing ourselves instead of providing a catalog of do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do?

Also, I heard a lovely gem from the diversity professor the other night. She told us that on her first job, the principal walked into the staff room on the first day and commented that she loved walking into a room of lovely teachers, and because of that she didn't hire ugly women. The prof said that they all just looked around the room at each other, not knowing what to say. THEN she told us that this person is still a principal in our county! So, on top of everything else, bad job market, tightening budgets, schools closing or being consolidated, NOW I have to be pretty?! I'm sorry, people, but I am not pretty. I can be occasionally cute, and charming, but pretty is not on my list. I've had two kids, I'm pushing 40, and my ass isn't getting any smaller. Nope. Plus, and I know she's right about this, men get hired for teaching positions almost before they apply, because there's such a shortage of male figures in schools. I can't pull that one off, either, due to a serious (thankful) shortage in the penis department. So... I'm going to be teaching myself hypnosis to use in job interviews. It'll be my ace in the less-attractive, decidedly penis-less hole.

My one good piece of news is that the people at the board of ed know who I am, through almost no action of my own. Last year, when I wasn't getting many calls to sub, I talked a few times to Melanie, the woman in charge of the system, and she was really nice. The other day, I called in to RSVP for the annual sub training, and out of the blue she said, 'I didn't know you were getting your MAT - the woman in charge of clearances came down yesterday to check who was on my list as already having one, and I saw your name!' I was really excited. She remembered me! That has to be a good thing, right?

Also in the good department - after this coming week, I get most of the month of August off!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Not-so-Straight Poop

Yea and verily, there was much rejoicing at my house this morning, for there is no break in my pipe!!!! The city got here at around 7:30 this morning to scope out the sewer (again, amazingly prompt and courteous service, I have never experienced such anything like it) with their cameras, and came all the way into our yard up to our back stoop. All they found was that there's some nastiness caked onto the pipes in at least one spot, and that our main line looks like a bunch of macaroni noodles strung together. There are enough bends and turns in that thing to make a poop slalom, but other than that we're fine. Eventually, we will probably want to have it taken up and replaced with a straighter line, but that's WAAAAAY down the road for us financially. The city suggested that we have a special cleaning treatment that uses basically a water-blaster come through and scour our line, which I had done this afternoon, and he said that when he was finished, he went out to the city sewer line and listened, and he could hear his water line emptying into the city's pipe. He said that although our line will probably need to be replaced eventually because there is one "belly" in it where water collects, we should be fine for a long time. For the moment, we'll be keeping it to using tp that's extremely biodegradable (which I'm not thrilled about as far as my behind is concerned, but if it's going to save me a few grand, I'll suffer) and not flushing ANYTHING, EVER. No "toilet-friendly" butt wipes (which he said were the worst thing ever invented as far as your pipes, BTW), no tampons, no nothing.

There's a little voice in my head that's still worried that this hasn't really done it, that somehow something will still be wrong, in that way that things can still mysteriously be broken even when by all rights they should be perfect, like when you go to the doctor and they pronounce you physically well, and say it's all in your head. I guess I'm concerned that my pipe could still have some kind of neurosis, especially after yesterday's horrible scare. The roto-rooter guy today also told me that unless something's changed, the city is responsible for anything under the road, which directly contradicts what the city guy told my plumber yesterday, so I don't know where all that would have really wound up had we had to go that far, but I don't want to even think about it. I *am* a little annoyed that I have to pay the guy who was here yesterday a pile of money when all he did was scrape and scope over and over again and ended up making no contribution whatsoever to the actual fix, but he was a nice guy, and I'm assuming the main problem is that he'd never seen bendy pipes, so he assumed it was water that was making everything so dark rather than the twisting angles. He wasn't trying to screw me, or else he wouldn't have told me to call the city at all. He did leave a lot of his stuff here, though, in anticipation of needing to come back later on in the week, so I guess I'll be seeing him again soon and we can figure out what I owe him then. Sigh. Still, we spent way less than we would have had we gone ahead and relined the pipes, and certainly thousands less than the worst-case scenario, so I'm still grateful. Funny how you can feel relieved that something was, in the end, "only" about $1k to fix.

So, we have a crooked, but well-cleaned, geriatric poop chute. Owning an old house is a lot like being old yourself - you find yourself openly discussing the grossest things with other people like it was everyday polite conversation. Think of me as Grandma Astarte, sharing my personal woes with you during Thanksgiving dinner - it's gross at the time, but the info might just come in handy someday.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Scared, but Not Crapless

Well, the pipe liner guy (who clears out pipes, and then inserts stuff inside them that hardens into a pipe liner, effectively a new pipe) was here all day, and we are no better off than we were before he got here. In fact, the water is more backed up than it was when I got up this morning. He said that it will trickle down through the main line, that it got filled with water when he ran the pipe cleaner machine because he ran water down while he was cleaning the pipe in hopes it would rinse away the block when he came to it. Since he didn't manage to clear what's blocked, or even find the main blockage, all the water he ran down there has to trickle out into the city pipe past whatever is beyond what he's found.

At one point during the day, he said that we should call the city, because he was starting to think that it wasn't in our pipe at all, but in the city sewer somehow, so I did, and - the only bright point of my day - they were here in TEN MINUTES. It was astonishing, and I'm so grateful that they came right away. They flushed out the city pipe from the manhole area near our house, and said that tomorrow they'll be back to use a camera and see if they can see what's going on on their end, in case it *is* them, and they'll be able to see into our line as well.

Here's the scary part - the guy painted a line from our pipe into the middle of the street, where it connects to the city pipe. He said that if, for some reason, our pipe under the road has to be dug up, we have to pay for it. I don't know how much money that means, but I'm guessing it's a LOT, like $10-15k. I'm terrified. That would only happen if the pipe under there is smashed up so badly that the liner guy can't get the liner through it *at all*. Still, the fact that it's an option scares the bejesus out of me, it really does. We don't have that kind of money, and even to put it on credit would probably strain our finances to the breaking point. I literally don't know what we'd do. I still have ten months of grad school where I will be unable to bring in money, plus even if I'm fortunate enough to get hired to a job right away, my pay won't start coming in until the school year starts, so we're over a year away from me bringing in a paycheck. Technically, I can max out my student loans and get the money from that, but if I don't get a job right away, it'll only delay the problem while building interest.

The liner guy said that the next step for him will be to hear what the city scoping guys say tomorrow, and if they don't find anything on their end, he'll bring in a guy that does cleaning with some kind of jet, like the city uses, that should dislodge anything in its path and completely clear out anything in a way that the spinner thing can't.

The thing is, if the street-dig ends up being our only option, why is it that the city can take ten feet of our property for public works - take our entire HOME if it's in the way, like they did with our last house, and force us out - but if we have a problem in a pipe that's under a city street, WE have to pay for it, even if the pipe isn't on our property, because it connects to our house? Why is it always this way? And why is it that things always seem to go from bad to worse? Please, please, can't we catch a break (and I don't mean one in our pipe), just this one time?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Playing Hookey

How can you tell when a child was homesick?

She comes home with presents for her BROTHER! And then gives him huge HUGS! :) Ah, it warmed the heart. Funny thing was, he wasn't anywhere near as excited to see her, which made me laugh a little since it's usually him that's hugging her and not getting much of a reaction, not the other way around. She was so sweet, though, and brought him a t-shirt and some shark teeth. Also, she only bought presents for him, which I thought was interesting. I didn't want her to buy things for me, obviously, but I thought it was funny that the only person she got stuff for was the one who annoys her the most. :)

She had a great time, and since she was supposed to get home a lot later than she actually did (she was home by 9:30 versus the after-midnight we had been told to expect), I had already told my SIL Kathy that it would only be DH and Patrick at my niece's 20th birthday party yesterday afternoon. I figured, why ruin a good thing?! We still didn't go. I felt a tad bit guilty, but really, it saved me a loooooooong afternoon with people (ie her parents) who make me so nervous that I end up sick to my stomach, and it's not like my niece cared who was there; DH said that all her friends were there so she didn't hang out with the family, anyway. She didn't even open the presents before people needed to get going! Honestly, I keep thinking that at some point, the girl might develop some manners, but it's not looking too likely. Last year, for the first time, we didn't get her anything at all other than a card that we sent down, because there wasn't a family get-together and we have never once gotten any appreciation for anything we've ever bought for her. This year, since there was a party, we had to bring something, but I lucked out because last week Office Max was having a promotion where if you spent $100 in printer supplies, you got a $25 iTunes gift card free, so I did, and that's what she got. We needed new ink in every color, anyway, so I just bought two combo packs so I'll have more on hand rather than going to the store again next time. Done, and done.

So, while DH and Patrick were off at the Event, Josie and I stayed home, snuggled on the couch, and watched To Kill A Mockingbird, and then we made homemade mac and cheese. It was lovely. No nutty relatives, no stress, and no bugs, just me and my girl and our various furry pets. It was lovely. I have missed only *maybe* one other family event in the last thirteen years, and frankly, it may be time to start missing a few more.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Most Embarrassing Thing EVER

So. Today I have been kicking ass and not even taking the time to ask any names. Josie is away, and Patrick has day camp this week (Lego Robot Modeling Camp, where they use computer software to design robots and then use Legos to build said bots! How cool is THAT?!), so I am on my own for the first time in over a month. Does that translate into a spa day for mommy? Where I kick off my sandals, grab the organic cheese poofs, and watch a marathon of House Hunters International?

Duh. It means I'm cleaning the house like a madwoman. Hello.

The first thing I did was, of course, call Roto-Rooter, who said they'd be out between 11-2, and the main line repair guy, who said he'd be here on Thursday. Check and double-check. Since then, I've vacuumed the entire house, dusted the whole main level, cleaned the organ and reorganized the sun porch area, organized the cleaning and pet shelves in the pantry, etc etc etc. The RR guy showed up at noon, just after I finished vacuuming, so I got to listen to the drain gurgling and belching for over an hour as I did the other stuff, periodically running over to the sink to make sure nothing had actually erupted out of it. Thank God, nothing did, because I would have FREAKED.

Anyway, the guy came around front and knocked on the door when he was done, and I went out on the front porch to talk to him. He was very nice, and quietly told me that he had cleared out the clog, and there had been a LOT of tampons in there that he got out.

Hear that cracking sound? That's me, falling through the front porch because it caught on fire due to the fact that I was in FLAMES OF MORTIFICATION. I'm standing on my porch, listening to a stranger discuss how he fished my used tampons out of our sewer line. Oh. My. God. Have I mentioned that I'm actually dead right now, and am writing because I came back to life as a HORRIFIED ZOMBIE?

I tried to maintain my composure. I apologized for how awful that must have been, cleared my throat about fifteen times, and asked him if he would like some ice water or some tea in what was probably a very squeaky voice. He said that he had Gatorade in the car, but I'm sure what he was thinking was, 'Are you kidding me? I just fished your Red Tide Canoes out of your drain! I never want to see you again!'

I can't say I blame him.

He also said that our pipe doesn't appear to be broken, but it does look like it has a sagging spot. I don't know what that will mean for the guy who's coming on Thursday, but I'm hoping it doesn't mean that we'll have to have the yard dug up and the whole pipe replaced rather than relined. Cross your fingers that we're OK on that front.

Also, send brains. That's what we zombies eat, right? And my own brain has probably exploded.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Money Down the Drain

It's baa-aaack. That noise in our sinks every time we flush a toilet. Oh, no.

In case you don't remember, about a year ago, we had a similar sound, which led within weeks to sewage backing up into the downstairs shower. Back then, we went through American Home Shield, who referred a plumbing outfit to us that first said that we had a root problem in the main line, which AHS doesn't cover, and then amended their opinion to say that it was a problem with a collapsed pipe (our house is old, so we have clay pipes) in the foundation, for which they wanted to charge us the exact same amount. Now, digging up the back yard and laying new pipe doesn't seem to me to be at the same level as simply fixing a pipe that was supposedly busted less than a foot down in the foundation, but by this time we were over a barrel because we couldn't use any of the bathrooms, so we had to pay them to get us back to functional.

Of course, a year later, here we are again, because obviously it *was* roots, but they blew those out with the initial scope and it's taken a year or so for them to grow back; they basically did the least amount of work possible to get us working again and then drove off down the road, probably laughing. Since then, we've amended our coverage with AHS, covering only electrical, because our 100yo home has ancient wiring, plaster walls and I'm sure lead paint. We pay $15/mo, which works for me, and basically know that we'll only go through them if there's a major horror show emergency, like a life insurance policy you hope you never have to use.

Anyhow, the other week the gurgling began again, and a friend referred me to a plumber, who very kindly referred me to someone else who he thought would be able to help me more, a guy who does main-line re-surfacing (it's basically a balloon thing they put in your old pipe, inflate, and allow to dry into a new pipe) that's impermeable to roots, etc, and best of all, your yard doesn't get dug up. THAT guy, Matt, was relocating his business and so was tied up for a week, so he suggested that we call Roto-Rooter to blow out anything in the line, which would buy at least a few weeks, and then call him back to schedule the re-do. Well, after Roto-Rooter came, things were working so well, we crossed our fingers that we might get another year out of things, at which time maybe I would be working and we'd have more money, so I didn't call Matt back.

Of course, it's a holiday weekend, and last night, literally as we were on our way out the door to the fireworks, the downstairs toilet flushed, gave a mighty belch, and everything that had just gone down came floating back up. It finally went back down, and a few hours later when I tried to flush it (empty, obviously) it worked OK, but we haven't used it since, and are trying not to use water-return things in the house today - the dishwasher, washing machine, showers - in an effort to limp through until I can call RR back tomorrow. We're still in the 30-day window when they'll come back out for free, thankfully. Then, my next call will be to Matt, to see when he can get out here and fix our main line pipe.

On the one hand, I'm glad it will be done, because I've had a feeling that the plumbers from last year screwed up in not replacing the line. It will be nice to get it over with and know that it's not on the table anymore.

On the other, I'm so sick of things coming up like this all the time. It never fails. I had a surplus from my student loans, about $3k, that I put towards credit card debt. We're so close to being paid off. (Yes, I'm using loan surplus money to pay off debt, because we're allowed to take some out for living expenses, and I figure our credit debt is less than a year living on-campus, and it's trading "bad debt" for permanent-low-fixed-rate good debt that I can claim on my taxes. It's fair, especially considering a bunch of what's on my card is the cost of the community college classes from last year, which I got no aid for.) OK, so $3k I used to pay off some debt. Guess what a new main line costs? About $3k. Yes, yes, I see the glass half-full side, but I'm TIRED of that side. This has happened every time I've gotten any money from anywhere, my entire life. Tax returns year after year have gone to car problems, house problems, Josie's spacer/retainer. Every year. The closer we get to paying things off, the more aggressive the cosmos seems to be in throwing things at us. This is two years in a row of massive plumbing expense. Why can't I just once have a windfall without an emergency situation coming up? We've tried so hard for YEARS to get out of debt that we've had since we got married, and every time I see light at the end of the tunnel something happens and we get screwed back to where we were, if not a little further down. I swear, if I didn't know better, I'd think there were gnomes working for credit card companies following us around and vandalizing our lives.

Sigh. Cross your fingers that nothing explodes out of my downstairs bathroom before I can call someone in to start the repair process. Again.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Missing One

Josie is finishing up a week of karate day camp today. She's worked really hard on her kata, and is testing for three stripes today. Ordinarily, such an achievement would lead to our taking her out to dinner or at least for an ice cream, but today when we pick her up, we'll be taking her straight to her friend H's house, along with a suitcase, instead. She's been invited to go with H (who is an only child other than a few grown step-siblings) and her family to Myrtle Beach, SC, for the next week. They're leaving at around 3am tomorrow in hopes of getting past DC and well into VA before the real traffic of the weekend begins. I'm not sure how long it will take them to get there, but I imagine it will be until evening.

This isn't the first time we've let her go away with another family - when she was 7 we let her to go Disney with her best friend's family for a week because her friend was, again, the only young child, and we knew we weren't going to be able to afford to go anytime soon, if ever. We're also completely comfortable with the family she's going away with - H is a very nice, polite child and her parents are extremely involved, and if anything H is overprotected, so I'm not worried about their ability to care for Josie for a week. Plus, Josie is a smart girl, and isn't a source of trouble for anyone no matter who she's with, so I'm confident to let her be with other families.

Still, now that the moment's here, I'm freaking out a little. I know things will probably be fine, and she will stay safe, and there's nothing for me to worry about. That's the rational me. The irrational me has been trying very hard not to think about car pileups and middle-of-the-night phone calls and kidnappings and drownings. I know this all links back to my nephew's death. Before Ryan died so suddenly, and in such a freak-accident way, I wasn't really a person who imagined the nearly-unimaginable, but now that the unimaginable has happened I find myself frightened of the smallest things where the kids are concerned. It took me a long time after he died to feel comfortable with them out of my sight overnight. I was basically OK last year when she went with a friend's family to a local commercial camping ground for a week, because there was almost no driving, and it was close enough that I could get there easily if anything happened. MB, though, is a long ways away if anything should happen, and a very long drive on a holiday weekend when thousands of other people will be traveling as well.

Still, in with the good air and out with the bad air. I know I need to let her do things, and she's so fearless. I don't want to pass on my worries to her. She's getting older, and I want to encourage her sense of freedom and adventure, both because I think it's good for her and because deep down, I hope giving her more room will cause her to rebel less violently later. I was so constricted as a child, and I want something completely different for her. Even if I will miss her beyond words (especially after barely seeing her this week because of camp), and might need to practice my deep breathing with a paper bag. She's so amazing, and I want to let her fly.