Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What is success?

In a perfect world, we all want to be great successes in life.  One of the bitter disappointments in my life was not that I was not voted "Most Likely To Succeed," but that I missed receiving that title by 2 votes (thanks Mr. Dillon for telling me--like I really needed to know that).  Or that I was only voted First Runner-Up for Miss Teen New York because I had chosen an out-of-state college.  Had I gone with my second choice, NYU, I would have been granted that title.

But I digress...

I have always thought that I was successful, at least by my standards.  I finished college and had my masters degree by the age of 24.  I got my doctorate when I was 30.  I have been married for over 10 years, and have the two best kids in the world.  I have a low paying job that gets little respect, but makes a world of difference for a lot of people who don't have a lot.  I have a few people that I consider close friends who would probably go out on a limb to help me.  I would go out on a limb to help a lot of people in my life.

From time to time, my husband and I talk about me starting my own business.  While, in theory, it would be great and hopefully profitable, it's a lot more work than I'm willing to put in.  I know realistically, I will not be able to do my job as a pediatric physical therapist for 30 more years before I retire.  It would behoove me to look into something else.  I would like to work as a Committee on Special Education chair or sub-chair, but that would take an administration degree, and I'm not sure I want to go back to school for yet another degree.

So, I have come to realize that success is, much like beauty, in the eye of the beholder.  I feel that I am successful.  I may never own a business.  I may never publish a novel.  I may never become a Clinical Specialist.  But, I can be a help to those I know who will accomplish these things.

Through the great world of social media, I am once again in contact with many former schoolmates of mine who are launching their own businesses.  I first became aware of this while shopping in Target when Jake was a few years old.  I stopped at the music section by the cards (you know with the little buttons to hear the sample music), and saw a Parents Magazine DVD about baby yoga.  As I was reading the blurb on the back, I realized that the woman on the front was a girl that I had gone to PT school with.  I believe I said, "Holy Shit" out loud before I could help myself.

Anyway, I have a number of peers that are in business for themselves.  While this blog is certainly not the most popular out there (hey, but closing in on 1,000 hits!), I'd like to use the forum to help out my former classmates expand their clientele.  I just want to see people I know succeed, so here are some links.  Go ahead, visit them.  If they are a service/product you can use, use them!  Recommend them onto friends.  I'm putting them on here because they are people I know.  I don't specifically have anything to do with their services, so buyer beware.

Personal Trainer in the Boston (Newton) area:  Charles Inniss
If you need to get into shape, especially if you have had prior injuries, Charles is your man!

Pediatric Therapy in San Francisco: Starfish Therapies
Stacy Menz, PT, DPT, PCS is the owner and a great, great therapist.  Follow on FB for great articles and references, so check it out if you are not near San Fran. It is a great resource!

Training for Ice Skaters: Sk8Stong
Lauren Downes, MSPT has a series of training DVD's and programs for off-ice personal training for all levels of ice skaters.  The programs are designed to prevent injuries through proper strengthening, as well as to improve technique.  I was blown away watching the sample videos on YouTube!

These are the three that I can think of right now.  If I come across other people doing good things, I will make sure to share.  It makes me feel like a success as a person to help others!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Part Time

When I try to describe my life, it often comes out something like this: I work part-time.  What that really translates to is:  I get paid to work 3 days each week, but I end up working 4 because I do a lot on my own time.  It also does not mention that, in addition to being a part-time school-based physical therapist, I am also a full time mother (and wife and housekeeper).

My husband often asks me when I am going to work full time.  I usually mumble some response, and then try to distract him by flashing my boobs or lighting something on fire.  Here's the thing.  I don't want to work full time. Because, as stated above, I cannot get my job done in my allotted time, and end up working from home.  If I am working 5 days, then I will have absolutely no time for my kids or my family (or myself).  I like being able to do my grocery shopping mid-morning with only the retirees to fight with.  I like that I can actually schedule a doctor's appointment and go by myself.  Sometimes, I even meet up with a friend for coffee or shopping.  But mostly, it's a morning where I can vacuum uninterrupted, or finish my school work without distractions.

Frankly, I chose my field based upon this whole premise.  I guess I always thought I would have kids.  I thought seriously about becoming a doctor, but did not feel that I could be the kind of mother I wanted to be while also being the kind of doctor I wanted to be.  There are times that I wish maybe I had pursued it (like when I have to deal with an especially crappy doctor), but I know in the long run, I made the right decision.

For me, working part time is the perfect balance for me. I know it means a lower salary, and that we are able to do less as a family.  But what I can give to my family by having a day or two off (and when I say "off," I mean as in "not receiving a paycheck"), is priceless.

Today, I am home.  I normally work on Wednesdays, but swapped days this week because I have annual review meetings on Friday.  It works out well, too, because Sophia is home sick.  She has a small cold, but a horrible cough (thank you reactive airway disease).  She sounds like a 3 pack a day smoker.  There are times, I confess, that she has been equally or even more sick that I have still sent her to school or daycare because I did not have any other childcare options (like if she is still sick on Friday).  But I knew I could keep her home and let her rest up today.

Yesterday, I got to go into school and be the mystery reader for Jake's class.  Jake is approaching 8, so I know the day will soon come when it is not cool to like your mother.  But yesterday, he was so excited when he realized the reader was me.  To see the look on his face--it was worth whatever pay reduction I have to take.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Biggest Fear

For about a nanosecond this afternoon, I had my biggest fear realized.  I was talking with Jake, who is in second grade, about his day at school.  Today, the class had a session with the school counselor, who talked about solving problems, and when the problem is big and needs adult intervention.

So, I asked Jake if he is having any problems at school.  And he replied "Yes."

And my heart skipped a beat.  I tried to keep my face still, and said, "Oh really, what?"

And he said, "I get picked on because I'm not popular."

And my heart broke into a thousand pieces.

"Who picks on you?"

"The popular kids."

This is my biggest fear for my son.  I know that there are larger things to fear, like cancer, but this is so much more a of possibility for Jake.  He is diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome (although this may be up for debate, but a different post entirely).  His Asperger-ness essentially translates to being a little nerdy with little understanding of the social workings that run school, and virtually no ability to appropriately problem solve a social dispute.  He is the type of kid that the counselor's lesson is designed for.  He needs to have spelled out for him what is a small problem and what is a large problem.  He needs to be told what to do in specific situations.  Although it is improving, he has little ability to carry-over problem solving techniques from one social situation to another.  He also has pragmatic speech issues, which means he has difficulty expressing his thoughts in a way that is easy for another person (especially a peer) to understand.  He essentially needs a translator (me), but sometimes, it takes even me a while to figure out what he is trying to say.

His first week into first grade at a new school, Jake got off the bus holding his nose.  He had a bloody nose.  The bus driver only noticed it as Jake was getting off the bus.  As I took Jake inside to get it cleaned up, it was apparent that his nose had been bleeding for a while, as it had run down his arms and pooled at his elbows.  I asked him what happened.  He said that the kid who sat with him grabbed and twisted his nose, resulting in the bleeding.  This child had, apparently, hit Jake in the past (now mind you, this is only the first full week of school).  When he went to sit with Jake again, Jake told the child not to hit him this time.  The child responded with the nose grab.  Jake did not tell the bus driver, because the rule is that you cannot get up once the bus is in motion.  And Jake does not break the rules. It is this type of scenario that we fear.  That he is subject to violence, bullying, or ridicule and does not know what to do.

So, trying not to let him see my panic, I began asking him who is picking on him.  Turns out, there is a student in school who annoys Jake, and the child from the bus story continues to sit with Jake and bother him (although there has been no further violence).  I asked him if he thought he was popular or unpopular.  He responded that people call his name for a lot of things, and that the kids in the other classes (2nd grade) know him, so he is somewhat popular.  "Ok," I replied, "then you are medium popular?"  "Well, actually, three-quarters popular" was Jake's reply.

It turns out, other than the bus kid, no one is picking on Jake.  He gets along fairly well with most kids.  Upon further questioning, it has been determined that he is NOT having problems at school.  He has difficulty telling the difference between someone who is annoying him and someone who is purposefully being mean to him.  This is where the whole social difficulty thing comes in.  We have to specifically analyze with him what one kid is doing to help him determine if the action is directed at Jake, is mean, is hurtful, or just bothersome.  When we do this, more often than not, Jake is able to see that the kids that he thinks are mean are more annoying to him.  I think, with all the education about bullying, etc, Jake maybe thought that this was the answer I was looking for.  I am elated that he is not yet having problems.  I know that he will.  Elementary school can be brutal.  Kids are mean and everyone gets picked on for something.  I am still scarred by the meanness of my peers in grade school (and high school as well).  I am sure there is someone out there scarred by my meanness.

I know that things could be a lot worse.  I have many friends with children with serious health problems, or who have lost children.  I am so immersed in that life on a daily basis through work that I try not to think about it in terms of my own children.  But I do worry that the cruelness of other children will snuff out the bright light that is glowing within my beautiful son.  I worry that it will lead to self-doubt, depression and anxiety.

But for tonight at least, his light still glows strong.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Books and Movie Adaptations

I was having a discussion today about books and their movie adaptations.  For those who may not know me well, I am a reader.  I have been ever since I can remember.  A critical piece of furniture in my room has always been my bookcase.  While in school and when I went back to get my doctorate, my reading for "fun" took a serious nose-dive.  When I finally finished school (hopefully for the last time), I went to the Sage bookstore (while ordering my cap and gown) and promptly bought 3 "non-school" books.  With the addition of a second child, reading again fell by the wayside.  My husband gave me a nook almost 2 years ago when they first came out, and I have been reading voraciously since.

I like a lot of the popular books.  And inevitably, if it is a good book, someone gets the idea that it should be made into a movie.  Usually, this does not go well.  I have never, ever read a book, and then seen the movie and thought the movie was better.  Only on rare occasions have I even thought that the movie was as good as the book (The Help).  Sometimes, I like the movie because I liked the book, but that does not mean that the movie was actually any good.  For example, Twilight.  The book is easily in my top ten favorites of all time.  The movie is actually pretty painful (but, thankfully, each movie in the series does get better and better).  Reading the Twilight books caused visceral reactions that I just did not experience with the movies.

I don't understand why, when you have a successful novel, would you change a major plot point or ending, such as in "My Sister's Keeper."  Once the ending of the movie was leaked, I didn't even bother going to see it.

Sometimes, I like that a movie has been made, so I can use that actor to picture the characters.  However, when they do not cast as I think they should, I automatically dislike the movie (Jurassic Park--Sam Neil was all wrong).

I love the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich.  I have read it (up to book 17, have yet to start 18) at least twice.  The first book, 'One for the Money,' is due out in theaters on January 27.  Of course, I will go see it.  I am already skeptical about the casting (Jason O'Mara as Morelli?  Morelli is 100% Italian, and Jason O'Mara is Irish for Pete's sake!).  I hope they have not ruined it.  Movie talks for this book have been around for years.  Rumor has it that Janet Evanovich squashed original movie talks because they had Reese Witherspoon slated to play Stephanie.  I hope that Katharine Heigl is a better choice.

I will finish reading 'The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest' tonight.  I've really enjoyed the whole series.  I hope the legal crap gets resolved and the fourth book will someday (soon) get published (tangent here, but same thought for 'Midnight Sun').  It bums me out that the idea was for a 10 book series, but Steig Larsson died before completing the fourth.  I would have liked to see how those characters unfolded.  I would like to watch the original movies.  We did go to see the current version of 'Dragon Tattoo' a few weeks ago.  It was a scaled back version of the book, but an adequate adaptation.  Rooney Mara was a great casting choice.  Still on the fence about Daniel Craig.

I wonder if it is because I enjoy the medium of book over the medium of movie?  I get lost in the books, which take days to read.  Movies miss so much of the back story, the detail.  They tend to go for the obvious, the lowest common denominator.

Any thoughts?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's Day

Last night I posted about my adventures on New Year's Eves of the past.  Today, I'm in a totally different frame of mind.  While last night, I recognized that the present was, by far, a better time than the past, today I am stuck in the past.

I am writing this blog while cooking the traditional New Year's dinner--ham.  This year, while it is very much the same, it is very different.

When I was a child, we went over to my grandmother and grandfather's house for New Year's dinner.  It was only fair--my mom cooked for Christmas, so Mimere cooked for New Year's.  We always dressed up, usually wearing the new outfit that Mimere and Pipere had given us a week prior for Christmas.  And dinner was always a canned ham.  My grandfather was, to put it mildly, a picky eater, and ham was one of the few approved dishes.  We would gather in their small flat, Pipere making the world's best mashed potatoes in the "Mixmaster."  To this day, I have had none better.  Mimere would expand her enamel top table, and put a Christmas vinyl table cloth on.  A card table was set up in the corner of the kitchen with dessert trays filled with all the goodies Mimere had made.

The ham was canned and it was prepared with whole cloves on it.  When I got old enough, it became my job to put the cloves in the ham.  I liked to use a lot, much more than Mimere or my mom did.  I discovered that the ham was just big enough to spell out "KATE" in cloves.  In addition to the potatoes, there was also corn, Friehoffer's brown and serve rolls, fresh cut tomatoes and pickles.  Mimere had a set of dishes (that we just realized were Mikasa) that were full of chips.  My brother Dan hated to get a plate with chips.  When she was down to just one plate without chips (probably around 1985), Mimere received a replacement Correll set.  That set had no chips, and lasted for the rest of her life.

For some reason, Mimere pronounced 'potatoes' as 'ba-day-da's.'  I don't know why.

As the years went on, and after Pipere passed, Mimere needed more and more help with the New Year's dinner.  My brother Chris took over the mashed potatoes, and came close to how Pipere made them.

Eventually, we began having New Year's dinner at either my house or my mom's house.  We graduated to spiral cut hams and never looked back.  We evolved from brown and serve rolls to crescent rolls, and now to Sister Schubet's yeast rolls. And we realized that Mimere loved scalloped potatoes.  I think my mom probably always knew it.  But, since Pipere did not like them, Mimere never cooked them.  I began attempting scalloped potatoes, trying out various recipes (and just to clarify, they are technically au gratin potatoes because they have cheese on them, but we have always called them scalloped).  They are a tremendous amount of work and can go horribly wrong.  Some years, the slicing of the potatoes resulted in quasi-serious injuries.  However, my mom received a definitely serious injury from opening a ham can one Easter, but I digress...

And every year, when Mimere realized that there were scalloped potatoes, she would tell us that they were her favorite.   She was observed to eat a hearty portion, and always wanted left overs.  In short, New Year's dinner made her happy.

So this year, it's different.  We have no Mimere.  She did not live to see 2012.  My mom is in Florida with my brother, so she's not here either.  We are having dinner at normal dinner time, rather than mid-afternoon. Mimere didn't like to eat late or be out late, which was why we always had holiday dinners around 2 pm.  I'm certainly not dressed up.

But, if for no other reason than to honor Mimere, we are having scalloped badaydas.

Mimere and my mom, January 1, 2011.  It was her last New Year's Day.

Jake with his grandmother and great-grandmother.  You can see that dinner was a good tablecloth and china kind of affair.