Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Rosh Hashanah

Happy New Year. 5769, according to the Jewish calendar. During Rosh Hashanah, it is traditional to eat apples dipped in honey, to symbolize our hopes for a "sweet" new year. I was in the natural food store getting some things, and saw native McCoun apples, which are my favorite, but I passed them up fearing I could not taste their goodness and delectable flavor. So got Annie's boxed shells and cheese, and ate that for dinner with some steamed broccoli and carrots. Mild flavor, but not offensive, as fruit has been when I've tried to eat it.

Talked to sis on the phone yesterday and today after her surgery. She is pretty out of it, but complained that her med lines shut down today for some reason and it took way too long to get them hooked up again, so she was in considerable pain. I hate that, and feel for her. She said the physical therapist already had her up out of bed today, which freaks me out completely, but I guess that's the protocol. She did say her hospital had soy milk on the menu, unlike the one I was in. I guess they're hipper in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Anyway, I wish I was with her. But her hubby is there and I know he will take good care of her.

Mutt Strutt was kind of lame, cause it was so wet and kind of drizzly. But we went for an hour, and did the Parade of Rescues, and Bindi had her photo taken a couple of times by people who thought she was just the cutest. We got doggie/human free five minute massages, which was nice. I held still more than my doggie.

Ok, so I'm worried about my 401K and stuff. Have an appt. with the TIAA-CREF people next month to get some advice.

Mosquitos have been nastily abundant with all the rain. Did you ever try Buzz Off? Works pretty well, and all natural, or so it says.

Bindi's pal R.J. across the street has been feeling poorly. We hope he recovers soon.

I bore myself with my blog.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Letter to the World

That's what blogs are, right?

Had what for me was a very interesting follow-up appointment with Dr. Kerr, the naturopath who prescribed the homeopathic remedy that I took about a month ago. We talked about the changes that may have taken place, but the most fascinating thing she told me what the theory that electromagnetic fields, the geologic rock foundations, and the ions in a particular region are thought to work against some people's chemical and vibrational makeup. I just looked at her as if I had been given a piece of the puzzle long overdue, and this information resonated with me profoundly. It felt RIGHT. Whether you believe in these "alternative," or merely under researched, theories, I found this notion affirming to the max, and remembered my visit to Florida in March and how happy I was for those two weeks. And how a therapist told me long ago that I belonged in California because it fit who I am better. The coasts. The oceans. The salt water. The sun.

Visited a colleague and her family yesterday afternoon, with the Bindster. The kids are about ten I guess, twins, the girl totally into Bindi, the boy playing on the computer. They had the healthiest tomato plants in their garden that I've seen anywhere this summer, certainly better than anything at the community garden. Unfortunately, it's been a cold wet summer for tomatoes, so some are just ripening now as we move into fall, but still, it's such a pleasure to see a gardener do so well.

Mutt Strutt will likely be postponed from tomorrow till Sunday, if it stops raining. We're supposed to get like four days in a row of rain. Mutt Strutt is the fundraising event for the shelter where I got Bindi, and it's totally fun and dog-centered. And outside. We went once before and it was great fun, but I remember it being hot and my having a bit of a meltdown. (Well, I was gonna include a link, but can't figure out how to do it.)

Had dinner with M & S on Tuesday, and M told me about two more people in our circle who have come down with cancer. One with spinal cancer and the other breast cancer. Both people about my age. We will no longer be surprised when we hear this news about anyone else.

Watched "Charlie Wilson's War" on dvd last night. It was ok. Maybe I was too tired to really appreciate it or maybe it just wasn't that stellar. I did like Julia Roberts playing against type. I like her more the older she gets.

Scored nicely at a consignment shop earlier in the week on some clothes that fit me better, including a couple of designer labels.

It's time to spray the outside plants that need to come in for the winter with insecticide, as the nights are just starting to flirt with the 40s, temperature wise. I'm cutting back on the plants I'm bringing in, as I was overwhelmed last year. I'll just keep my most special ones.

I liked this post from today's New York Times:

September 25, 2008, 9:12 pm
The Cross-Cultural Classroom
By Christina Shunnarah

In my previous post, “Student in a Strange Land,” I mentioned briefly that our school, the International Community School (I.C.S.), works with a very diverse population of students and families. I.C.S. represents over 40 different countries and 50 languages. One of the communities we serve is Clarkston, Ga., which is home to about 26,000 refugees. It is often said that Clarkston is one of the most diverse square miles in the United States. A community as diverse as this presents a complex challenge: In a place with so many different values and belief systems, what role should an educator play?

It is important for me as an educator to have a cultural awareness of the students’ lives and backgrounds. Without this awareness, my sensitivity and compassion for each child would not be able to develop. My studies in anthropology have helped me view life through a cultural lens. But what is culture?

I often think of culture in terms of the “iceberg concept” commonly used in educational studies, with its small visible tip and huge mass below the surface. Most people tend to view only the surface aspects of culture — observable behavior — sometimes known as the five F’s: food, fashion, festivals, folklore, and flags. But of course culture goes deeper than that. It is the other 95 percent below the surface of which we need to be aware.

Deep culture (below the surface) includes elements such as child-raising beliefs, concepts of self, beauty and personal space, religious rituals and perspectives, eating habits, facial expressions, eye contact, work ethic, approaches to problem solving and interpersonal relationships, moral values, cosmology, world views and personal discipline — to name (more than) a few.

The children that come into my classroom each year have such a variety of life paths. Looking at their cultural backgrounds with the “iceberg concept” in mind has helped to keep me aware of the aspects of their lives that are not in plain view. And the more I work with the students at I.C.S., the more my awareness of these subtle realms increase.

Developing cultural competence is a process of inner growth. In order for me to be as effective as possible with the students I work with, I must continuously engage in a process of self-reflection. To be able to know others, especially diverse others, one must know the self. So the growth of a culturally competent educator starts there. We must look within for a deeper understanding of who we are before we can adequately address the needs of our students.
This investigation should include our core beliefs, hidden biases and our religious perspectives. Developing cultural competence is also a process that comes with experience and engagement, and with sometimes painful lessons that highlight our limitations and prejudices. To learn about the backgrounds of the students in my class takes time and effort; it involves reading about their countries of origin, visiting their homes and meeting family members, connecting with parents, developing relationships with community members and organizations, and going to cultural and religious festivals. By learning about my students’ lives outside the classroom, I am more prepared to work with them in the classroom.

Schools don’t exist in vacuums; they are situated within communities. Community involvement helps me understand the socio-cultural backgrounds of my students’ lives and build bridges between the home and school. This exposure helps challenge my own perspectives and biases.

An example that comes up quite frequently is the issue of religion. Children at I.C.S. come from a myriad of religious traditions, including Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Hinduism, and the Baha’i faith. Children are usually very open to discussing their beliefs, prayers, places of worship, dances and values with their friends. They excitedly exclaim that “God lives in the sky” or “God lives in us” or “Allah lives on a cloud near the moon.” Their discussions about their religious beliefs are usually cheerful, lighthearted and innocent.
But sometimes these kindergarteners get into heated debates. I usually remain in the background and allow them to express their opinions in a safe place. One day, during one of these debates, I was caught off guard. I was moving around the classroom checking students’ writing when a question popped up out of nowhere. One of my American students, David, called out, “Ms. Shunnarah, can an elephant be a god?”

I froze. This was one of those moments when the cultural iceberg was tapped, challenging my Judeo-Christian upbringing. I remembered from my studies of Hinduism in college that there is a religious entity known as Ganesh, who takes the form of an elephant. Ganesh is one of the most worshipped deities in the Hindu pantheon. His image is found throughout India. He is widely known as the “remover of obstacles” and “lord of beginnings” and is associated with creativity, the arts and sciences, intellect and wisdom.

This information about Ganesh came to me quickly and I am glad that it did, because I could have carelessly dismissed David’s comment as silly. Instead, I told him yes, and described Ganesh and his place in the Hindu religion. After I said this, I noticed that one of my students from India, Abhra, pulled out his own drawings of Ganesh from his backpack. He had been discussing his beliefs with David, when David had called out the question. This small bit of knowledge I had retained turned out to be important. After my response, Abhra smiled; his religious beliefs and identity were acknowledged. This is just a small example of the kind of cross-cultural interaction that goes on every day in our class.
Later Abhra’s mother came to me and said that I had made her son happy because I knew about Ganesh. What would have been the unintended consequence if I were not aware of Ganesh? What if I had responded from my own personal biases and religious perspective? What would have been the outcome for my student Abhra? Would he have been ashamed? Would he have kept his pictures hidden, damaging his sense of self?

This journey of establishing a multicultural learning community in my classroom with a foundation of respect for all cultures is ever changing and evolving. Children bring to the classroom rich cultural life experiences, so why not tap into it? This involves a continuous process of research about the lives of the children in my classroom, as well as of my own interpretations and perspectives. The varied nuances of culture are complex and continually changing, but it makes our classroom a natural place to learn.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Early Fall

A nice day at the community garden picking veggies, herbs, and flowers for the Sunday in the Park fair tomorrow. Weather is supposed to be cooperative. I've got my eye on a "squirrel proof" thistle seed bird feeder waiting to be bought at the White Elephant Sale in the Carriage House. Will get there early in hopes I can grab it for a song, bird song preferably.

Camilla had her expensive thyroid test and is indeed hyperthyroid, as was suspected by her symptoms. Another pill every day, or the one time, very expensive, radioative seed implant that I had done to one of my deceased cats, Maisie, when she got the same thing. The pills costs about $20/month, which is $240 a year, and the radioactive implant is about $1000, so if the kitty lives another five years, and I see no reason why she shouldn't (she's only about 12) it comes out to be about the same, without the hassle of giving a pill every day.

Had a long talk with sis last night, who will have double knee replacement in about a week. She gave me all the gory details, which are not pretty, but I need to know them since I am next on the list. Saw a knee doctor last week who said he would do my knees early next year, which is good, although I won't use him. I'm going to someone more experienced. Also saw the social security doctor on Thursday. A cursory physical exam, more questions asked of the type I have answered at least four times before in this process, and I think he was slightly encouraging, although I really couldn't tell. But glad to get that over with.

Funny aside: sis likes all things squirrel, and is taking one of her faves to the hospital with her. She said her husband was in the basement making a hanger wire walker for her squirrel! Cause she has to use a walker when her knees are healing , get it? Precious.

Almost two weeks since the last radiation treatment. Mouth is still breaking out inside with small fluid filled blisters, and my tastebuds are still gone. But I feel better overall.

Got a card from Yas in Australia, with a photo of the Tasmanian Devil on the front, and information about how an infectious facial cancer is wiping the animals out. They are highly endangered at this point, with little known about this strange cancer. Web photos of the cancer are very sad to see, so I've included a photo of some young healthy ones. Why is there so much cancer?

S. in Naples sent me a 30% off coupon for Ralph Lauren stores thru October 6. He is working for them now, and he said he read my blog entry where I talked about my clothes not fitting, and thought he'd help me out. How sweet is that?

My friend B. from Northampton stayed over on Wednesday night, which was really pleasant. We played Scrabble, helping one another and not keeping score, which is quite civilized.

After some internet research, bought at Agway a combination peppermint/spearmint concoction which is supposed to repel mice. We'll see. The landlord is going to put d-con in the attic and cellar. In the meantime, felines do your thing.

Monday, September 15, 2008


Uh oh. The radiation treatments are over, thankfully, but now my daily structure is gone. I still have clients that I am seeing, and the usual weekly doctors' appointments, but that daily appointment at the same time with the cancer family at the cancer center has been kind of a grounding focus for me for the past two months, and I'm feeling a bit at loose ends. I need to find a gym, so perhaps I'll go visit the ones closest to me and check them out. I need to go thru my three filing cabinets filled with tons of useless paper I have been collecting for the past 40 years, but that's hard to do alone. I'm not done with the social security process yet, have to see their doc this week, and that's hanging over my head. I'm pretty sure I will be approved, but who knows. My appt. with the new knee doc isn't till the beginning of November, so I don't know what's up with possible surgery. I will be looking into some volunteer work and some classes of some sort, but I have to be careful not to overwhelm myself. Just take it one day at a time, and do what I can. I'm not a morning person, I get up around 9 or so usually, and it takes me a while to feel awake. I have to learn to tolerate the CPAP machine to see if that will help my energy, but I DON'T WANT TO. Today I just want to sit out in the sun and wind with the doggie-do, and maybe go to Agway and get more dog food. No, I WILL go to Agway to get more dog food, because I need it, and Bindi needs it.

I had a busy weekend. Thursday, I met an old friend, KH, for dinner at 116 to celebrate the end of my radiation treatments. I knew her decades ago, but we had fallen out of touch, till I reached out to her recently, for which she was supremely receptive. She has a little girl dog named Elvy. Friday M & S came over for dinner. I made S's faves: cauliflower, potatoes, and chicken tenders. M loved my Waldorf salad, the one my mom used to make, except I use yogurt instead of mayonnaise, and currants instead of raisins. Saturday I had dinner with my friend Peter, here from London for an academic thingie, and we had such a good time. What a stellar human. Sunday I went to my favorite bakery and hung out with the regulars and drank coffee (which still doesn't taste right to me) and ate a blueberry danish (also tasted weird) and read the New York Times. Then over to KH's for a visit, the first get together for Elvy and Bindi. We had them both on leashes but when they got close enough to one another, a fracas ensued, the leashes got entangled, lots of barking growling jumping till we separated them. By the end of the visit, things were better. Elvy was cautious, Bindi just wanted to play with her, so perhaps in time they will become more friendly. After all, my backdoor neighbors were so sure their dog would not take to Bindi, and after several gentle attempts at visiting Pudge, they can now hang out quite civilly with one another. It's Little Dude, the black and white cat, who patrols the territory and keeps Bindi in line.

Well, my last poo blog entry sure brought out the comments! I guess it's one of the universals that everyone can relate to, and esp. more if you have cats/dogs other pets and/or human babies, or a system of elimination yourself! Ha ha!

Watched Helen Mirren in "Elizabeth I," which I liked very much. She's an extraordinary actor.

Also, check out Cate Blanchett in "Elizabeth: The Golden Years." The costumes alone are worth the view.

My trip to California is all planned and booked, and I have accommodations for Bindi with my dog trainer while I'm away. I'm looking forward to the trip.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Mouse Poo

Mouse poo? Mouse poo?!?!?! Mouse friggin' poo on my computer table!! No no no, no more poo, I am pooed out!!! I will not allow any more poo any other place than where it is supposed to be. I WILL NOT ALLOW IT!! I can't take one more turd from a non human creature crapping up my space. That's it!! I'm getting corks for all the poo orifices of any animal entering my domain. DOGS/CATS/MICE BE WARNED! This is not a joke! You think I'm kidding? You think I'm kidding? Just wait, just you wait. Just try me. I can find mouse sized orifice corks. I CAN FIND ANYTHING ON THE INTERNET!! And don't give me that lame excuse that you can't read. You better bloody well learn to read asap, cause this is your first and only warning. Ask my friends -- you don't wanna mess with me.

And I just got back from the vet with a bill for $407 for Camilla, the supreme poop queen of the castle. And she might have some kind of thyroid problem. She's losing weight, she is scratching her face, and the vet thought he felt a nodule on her thyroid gland, and an arhythmia in her heartbeat. I like this vet a lot but $407? That's just nuts!

Good news: yesterday was my last radiation treatment.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

My Boring So-Called Life

I'll try to keep the cynicism at a minimum. Slept not too badly last night after massive amounts of drugs consumed. Accidently took twice the amount of Atavan before yesterday's radiation treatment, because the day before I went there, got strapped down, and then the table wouldn't work so they sent me home. And the day before that I forgot the Atavan and freaked when they locked my head down in the mask, immediately couldn't breathe and felt trapped, and had to tell them to take it off. One of the staff bent over the table, took my hand, and kissed me repeatedly on the cheek telling me how brave I was as I was crying. Brave? Huh. So then saw the shrink of Thursday, who adjusted again the med levels, and my mouth was hurting last night so I took some tylenol with codeine, and the chemical soup lulled me into settled rest. That is, until around 6.30 am, I awoke to the smell of cat poop, and realized Camilla had taken a huge dump on the bed and the surrounding floor. I got up, stripped everything off the bed, remade it, and went back to sleep. We're going back to the vet on Wednesday for blood work; she's got to be picking up my anxiety and distress; how could she not? And if I forget for one day to give her the xanax she's on, she won't use the litter box to poo. It's like a friggin' pharmacy around here; I need a personal assistant just to help me remember to take what when, and for whom!

Social security now wants me to go get a physical with one of their docs. I guess after all the reports they've requested from my doctors, and my own statement, and the fact that I've been approved by the university's long term disability insurance company, they still don't believe me. So that's on the 18th. Still dragging this process out interminably.

Had dinner with C & D last night at a casual Italian place near us, where none of us had been before. It was decent, and inexpensive. They gave a complimentary glass of wine, and man, was it bad! I could sort of taste my dinner, but only half way. Did some shopping at Target afterwards. All of my clothes are too big, so I needed some new things. Am trying to only buy inexpensive/on sale clothes, since I might gain the weight back, but hope not. I really really hate these ruffled, shirred, gathered styles they have for women's tops these days. What are we, baby dolls?!?! Please. Let's get back to some elegant, well cut, flattering styles. Oh. That's the expensive stuff. Sorry. Forgot.

It's wet and muggy here today, August weather, although it's now well into September. Think I'll take Bindi to the dog park and we'll get our paws muddy. It's already three in the afternoon, since I just got up a couple of hours ago. But I managed to do a load of laundry, take a shower, and feed the animals. Don't you think that's enough work for one day?

Am trying to plan a trip to Oakland/Berkeley for Thanksgiving. Need to find someone to care for Bindi while I'm gone. My usual person will have her twins by then, so she won't be available. I hate to leave Bindi behind, but it is such a long trip, and both places I will be staying would prefer she not come. That'll just mean I'll make my trip shorter, which is probably ok. I can't remember the last time I was in California. Maybe 10 years ago? Friends are already lobbying me to move there.