Sunday, May 16, 2010

Power Trio

After the Ypsi Pride cleanup, there was a lovely picnic in a park for the volunteers. I took the boys who had helped me (O and L) and we ate well (they ran out of food last year, but the organizers were so on top of it this year and everyone got plenty, even those who worked long and got there late!). While we were lounging on our blanket in the breezy sunshine, we noticed this sight -- A mayor (Ypsi), a city council member (Ypsi), and the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, John Dingell.

Dingell represents our district so it is not a surprise that he showed for this community-wide event (he also provided the cookies, which were quite yummy). I chatted with the boys about who he was, as well as who the others on the bench were -- it made for a nice little lesson in civics when we discussed who of the three we thought it most more important to talk to (O voted for the mayor, but L said "nah, I see him everywhere").

A short time later, when we were leaving, I crossed paths with Dingell in the parking lot and we exchanged pleasantries. As he headed off to his car and a woman called to him saying, "Governor..." He didn't look back (Michigan has a female governor at the moment...).

She looked at me confused, so I said (helpfully), "It's Representative... Representative Dingell").

She said, "oh, I knew he was something." Pause. "Who is he?"

I answered, "he's in the House of Representatives."

She responds, "What is that?"

Wha???? A grown woman just asked me what the House of Representatives is....

Okay, deep breath.

"You know, he is part of the government in Washington, D. C. It is one of the two bodies of Congress..." Schoolhouse Rock, where are you when I need you?

The closing line belongs to the 10 year old: In the car, I told the kids about this exchange. O sympathetically said, "well I don't know that I really know what that is." L responded, "Yeah, that's okay, you're 7, not an ADULT!"

Pride... the weekend.

We finally had weekend worthy weather on a weekend, which was awesome with so much going on. E was sick and hung around the homestead. O, however, ably served as my assistant in the Ypsi Pride cleanup day. Once again, I was the site leader for Recreation Park. We had the EMU basketball team this year (last year it was football) and I was ready, having borrowed extra tools (college students never have tools). O got everyone signed in and took charge of the donuts. Once his friend L arrived, they also joined in on moving wood chips under the play equipment. We also got the gutters of the parking lot cleaned out, the pavilion swept, and the park de-trashed.

The basketball players were awfully nice to O -- calling him by name, listening intently to his stories, letting him help with any job he chose, and making sure the rest of the team did the same. It does make me wonder why. O is certainly a dynamic kid, but they responded to him immediately, even before he'd had a chance to charm them (or produce the donuts). O was dressed in his sporty duds -- last year's baseball team cap and athletic pants -- was it a boy sport connection? Or was he more accessible than me? The players were perfectly polite, but they didn't chat with me and I seriously doubt any of them remembered my name (but they all knew the name of my kid...). Anyway, O enjoyed it and I enjoyed watching him enjoy the attention. Young adults, beyond those we pay to teach them, are often not so attentive to little kids.

For next year, I'm thinking we need to enlist more kids. After the basketball team left, we got a third load of woodchips. I had O, L, and one other volunteer left at that point but we'd all been moving woodchips for a couple of hours. I gathered an armload of shovels and rakes and headed toward the pile, inviting the parents of kids playing on the equipment to lend a hand. None of them budged. Really? Who can watch volunteers work on something you use and not help for ten minutes??? Well, their kids showed them up. They got interested in what we were doing and I offered them the tools and they ALL helped (to the best of their abilities) while we chatted about how cool it was to help take care of "our" park.

Overall, this year seemed to go more smoothly than last and I think we did a good job of putting things in order for the summer. Bike Ypsi launches most rides from here, so we have a special affinity for Rec Park. Between Jeff, O, and myself, I think BY has done right by this park!

A good day to be a professor...

Friday was a strange day, the kind I usually have to fight to not see as a "waste" because none of "my" work could be done...

In the morning I drove to Dearborn to meet up with my Women in Learning and Leadership (WILL) students and the girls they mentor at school in SW Detroit. I wasn't actually supposed to do anything other than be there when the girls came on this field trip to the university, but I enjoyed meeting the girls and had a lovely chat with them as I tagged along with to the Environmental Interpretative Center on the grounds of the old Henry Ford Estate. Only two of the nine girls who were supposed to come had made it -- sickness and a lack of permission slips kept the others away. This was a great disappointment to my students, but they powered through (the only option!). They had arranged a great day for the girls and obviously had put much effort into making the program work over the last term. I had a great time doing the pond study (cool critters living in there!) and I was mighty proud of my people!

Task number two was to hop in the car and drive to UM-Flint in time to see a student from my Urban and Regional Studies seminar this fall present the work her team had done with the Fair Housing Center of Metro Detroit. Even though this was just an undergraduate research conference, she was beyond nervous. I'd tried to talk her down via e-mail in the days leading up to it, but she called me an hour before the presentation in a full-on panic. For half an hour, I went through it with her again and reminded her that she knew her material, that she had the presentation, that she could do this. She was with another student of mine who is in WILL and was also in the seminar, so I knew she had some immediate moral support, but that support was coming from a woman who is, herself, terrified of public speaking (I learned this two weeks ago when she melted down at the Women and Gender Studies luncheon -- we'll be working on that next year...). Anyway, I got there, walked her around, helped her load her powerpoint, and tried to keep her calm. When it was her turn to talk, I was the nervous one. I really didn't know if she would be able to pull it off or if her nerves would get the better of her.

Once up there, she fluffed for a moment, then looked at the audience, smiled genuinely, introduced herself... and then talked (not read!) a wonderful presentation. She paused in a couple of places as she processed where to go next, but always came back quickly and on target. It was wonderful. Her passion on the issue (that only really developed through her research) came through and she won over some key audience members... including the dean of our college. She did a great job with the questions too and I managed to hold my tongue other than to offer her one prompt (she seemed greatly relieved). I'm proud of her and, more importantly, she was proud of herself. See that smile on her face as she gets a certificate from the panel moderator?

Oh yes, it was a good day that made the stress of two particularly stressful parts of my job from the last year (teaching a community-based research seminar for the first time and directing the WILL program) very much worth it.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Rain, rain go away

couple of people suggested something that hadn't even occurred to me: the weather might be impacting my pain levels.

As I recently posted, I've a had 3 or so weeks of feeling pretty damn good considering what had come before. Granted, I've been on the nerve calming medicine all along, but still, I was sleeping and functioning and not thinking about pain 90% of my waking hours.

But then, on Tuesday, that lovely trend came to a crashing halt. I woke up to pain and it got worse over the course of the day until I was a quivering mess by nighttime -- even with narcotics and heaping helpings of ibuprofen. Some of my melt down was undoubtedly triggered by the baggage the last 9 months of pain has left in me -- I wasn't just feeling the pain of the moment, I was feeling the energy- and spirit-zapping effects of months of pain. And hopeless, yes, I was feeling hopeless.

A cyst in my spine just doesn't seem like the kind of thing that would respond to changes in weather, but this latest turn did coincide with the rain rolling in... And it is pouring today, and I do feel rotten. So, I will track the weather along with the pain, because what else is there to do?

On the medical front, I have another appointment with a surgeon who is giving me a second opinion. It was quite a tortured path to get my medical records to him, but they are there and I'll see him next week. I also ran an all too familiar routine yesterday, calling the pharmacy, the doctor's office, the insurance company, and then the doctor's office again. I walked the office manager of my doctor's office through all the ways her staff had fucked this up. I think that prompted her to get involved and get the right form filled out. She tried to cover and blame the insurance company but I had names and dates to contradict the story she had been fed by employees covering their asses. We shall see.... I *might* be able to start new drugs tomorrow (4 1/2 weeks after they were prescribed!) but it will take 1-2 weeks to tell if they are going to make any difference. Whatever. There doesn't seem to be much I can do to change this ride.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

This time...

I want to go here. I didn't make it last time.

I'm really going to do research in the GLBT Historical Society, but the archives are only open a few hours here and there, so there will be time for playing as well.

Women's Bldg., SF -- one of the topics I'll be researching!