Wednesday, January 13, 2016

I'm still here. Sorta.

Hi! I just looked back at the posts I've written in 2015 and realized I didn't pop in much at all last year. This isn't really surprising to me considering this post I shared a year and a half ago. Still, though, I like to come in from time to time to share a thought or two, just so those just now joining the blog know that it isn't one of the oodles of abandoned blogs out there. So, here's an update on how things are going:

School

I've just started my final semester at Athens State University. I've started my internship this week, and am on my way toward graduation. The last few years chasing down my education has been some of the hardest years of my life. It has taken more will and determination than I ever thought I possessed, but I'm finally on the home stretch.

In addition to this has been my job as a writing tutor at Northeast State Community College. Over the last few years, I've seen many students pass through toward graduation or higher education, and seeing them push for their futures has helped motivate me to continue my own push.

So here I am, only months away from graduation with probably the hardest semester I've ever had facing me. I told my Facebook friends that my mantra this semester is courtesy of the character of Enid from The Walking Dead: Just Survive Somehow. I'll get through it the same way I've gotten through the last few years of study: by working hard, taking one day at a time, praying often, and understanding that there are just some things that I have no control over.

Back Pain

I could summarize the entire saga of my back pain but I'll pass on that. If you want to read up on it, you can click here and scroll back through my posts on the subject. The last time I updated about this subject was when I got a steroid injection and was doing physical therapy. That was over two years ago. I never went back for another steroid injection. The shot only worked for a few weeks. During the weeks following, I continued physical therapy for the recommended time and after my sessions ended, I kept up those exercises in an effort to keep the pain away. It worked well. I did have days where I hurt more than others, but I was able to recuperate fairly easily by just resting and engaging in general ache and pain relief. Overall, I've had to learn what my new normal was. What doctors don't tell you after a discectomy like mine is that your life will forever change. I was so focused on getting "back to normal" that I didn't realize that I had to find a new normal.

Now to the present. Week before last, I noticed that something was a little "off" about my back. I couldn't explain it and it wasn't really painful. Not at first. Through the course of the week, I went from "Okay, this feels odd," to being in debilitating pain by Friday. I had to make an emergency appointment with the doctor I haven't seen in over two years. A round of oral steroids has helped me function, but now it's just a waiting game. I just had a MRI today and will find out what's going on later.

In the meantime, I guess that's all I have updates on. Nothing much has changed for us. The kids are growing and thriving, and aside from this little stint with my back, I'm very much in love with my life and family. I haven't written any new fiction in a while, but I'm writing research papers so that still counts. :) I promise to come out with some new stuff after May.

Peace, love, and carrying on with life,

Pamela

Friday, September 11, 2015

Never Forget

Only one story of millions. One perspective of 9/11.

Sixteen years ago today, I married my ex-husband. Two years later, I had the day off and we were planning an excursion to Chattanooga to celebrate our anniversary. I emerged from the shower and my then-husband said, "A plane crashed into the Twin Towers."

At the time, I was young and uneducated. All I pretty much did in those days was work, come home, repeat. I didn't generally watch or listen to the news. So when my then-husband told me about the crash, I didn't even know what the Twin Towers were. My brain went somewhere that told me it was a horrible accident and nothing more.

On our drive, we listened to the radio. The news was talking about the crash and had indicated that another plane had crashed. And another at the Pentagon. I was trying to force myself to believe anything other than a terrorist attack. That stuff didn't happen in the United States. However, I knew that three planes crashing into structures within such a small time-frame couldn't be coincidence. But I couldn't, or maybe I was trying to refuse, to make sense of it.

As we muddled through an oddly sparse Chattanooga, I still couldn't bring myself to believe in that type of malice. The memory is hazy and maybe that's how I walked around that day: in a haze, listening to the scared whispers and murmurs of those around me. A older woman at the aquarium caught my eye after saying something about the attack (which I still couldn't process) and I remember the look of anxiousness upon her face as she searched around her for normalcy and comfort. I'm sure when she looked at me, instead of kind eyes and shared panic, she saw a confused young woman.

I began to accept that the United States had been the target of a horrendous attack. The death toll began to sink in and I flipped on the television that night to learn more about what had happened, to try and grasp the concept of what forever would be a changed world for myself and everyone in this nation. I saw footage of people in a country of which I can't remember the name. They were celebrating in their streets: whooping, smiling, laughing, cheering, dancing. The image of an old woman in a black dress and black scarf over her head pumped her fists in the air, and with a huge grin across her dark, wrinkled face, chanted enthusiastically in a language I didn't know. My heart fell and I sobbed as my world shifted. I didn't understand how she or those in that crowd--or anyone anywhere in the world--could be so happy over so many lost lives. I still don't understand.

When my students or children ask me hard questions about why some people do the horrible things they do, I can only shake my head and tell them I don't know. That's the answer I learned that day. I just don't know. I understand that people will exhibit behaviors that I don't understand. We can reason with ourselves and say, oh, it's the way they were raised, or they were betrayed and hurt by their parents or family, or they have a physiological or behavioral disorder, but it doesn't do anything to quell the sadness and loss, especially when so many people out there are bent on hurting others with a wave of people behind them ready to cheer them on.

But the flip-side to this is that I saw so many more people stepping up and binding together to rebuild, to comfort, and to give of themselves. What others do is beyond our control. What we can control is our reaction to what those others do. What I can do as an individual is try to maintain positivity in all aspects of my life. I can do for others. I can retain my empathy for those around me. I can love. I can help when I see a need.

That is the rest of the response I have when those hard questions come: I don't know what makes some people do the terrible things they do, but I can react in a positive way.

Peace, love, and never forget,

Pamela

Thursday, July 23, 2015

It's all about perspective

I get so irritated when I see politicians bring up a decision or stance that someone made 5 years ago, 10 years ago, or even longer. "We should all hate Candidate Doe because he was for legalizing wild bobcats as pets 20 years ago!" Think about it. We see these claims ALL THE TIME now, especially since the presidential election is coming up. Is it not plausible or acceptable for people to regret decisions they've once made or change their minds on issues or situations after having a little perspective? Can you say that you would make the same decisions now that you did when you were younger? Changing one's mind, changing one's stance, changing one's perception... it's all part of human growth.

I think about this concept more now as I creep closer to graduation. As I read some of the things I wrote even as close as two years ago, I'm amazed at some of my decisions and stances then. Education has truly changed me. I am not the same person I was and it's hard to look at some of my old posts and not consider deleting them; I fear that someone might see those posts and think that what I posted then aligns with my thought process now. But I resist that urge only because I want to remember where I was then and how much I've grown.

One such post came across my TimeHop app recently. Apparently, I'd just been told that I was about to have to pay $100 for my childrens' "free" educations. Understandably, I was upset. Not unlike many families, we struggle financially. I questioned the purpose of us paying $50 a piece for supply fees for our kids when I could have gotten all the supplies both children needed for school for less than $50. I was certain that what I was paying for was not only supplies for my child, but supplies for the children whose parents weren't able (or willing) to pay. Why was it my responsibility to provide for those children?

In response to the post, I can now tell Former Me some things about education and schools that she didn't know or didn't really think about then.

"Hey, I get that you're upset. I understand your point, but I think that you should first take into account those workbooks. Do you remember when you were a kid and had to wait in line at a local store to buy workbooks and how expensive they were? Now consider that these materials are going through the school. Yay! No more waiting in line and hoping you got the right workbook! Considering this, $50 doesn't seem like a whole heckuva lot now, does it?

"Also consider how fantastic it is not to have to wedge your way into the back-to-school section at Wal-Mart and hope that you can get every exact specification on the list. You'll like that plan when Zachary goes into the 4th grade and you have a list of precise supplies to buy. Oh, so you don't understand why a kid would specifically need a green folder and a yellow folder? Why can't it be just any color, you ask? Well, it's easier for a teacher to say to 30 young students, 'Get out your yellow folders.' This allows for smoother transitions between subjects and allows more time for teaching. You'll come to realize that in teaching, every second counts!

"Finally, I know that there will always be those parents who honestly can't afford to pay the fees for their children. I also know that there will always be those parents who will refuse to pay the fees, whether they can really afford to or not. In either case, you have enough problems, right? Why should you have to pay for supplies for those other kids, especially if you don't know which kind of kids are getting the waivers? On that point, forgive me, but I have to say, GET OVER YOURSELF.  It isn't the child's fault when parents can't or won't pay their fees. If you have serious money issues, talk to the teacher and work out some sort of payment plan, otherwise, pay it and stop worrying and whining. Do you realize just how much money teachers take out of their own pockets to pay for things so your children can be comfortable and happy and ready to learn? No, you don't know it, yet. You will soon, though. Point is, it is not the teacher's fault and it isn't any of the kids' faults. Don't take out your frustrations on them."

So, yeah. I would have given Former Me a good swift kick and reminded her to remember the importance of giving and doing what we can for the betterment of society. Being on the other side of things has provided me with a perspective I never once considered before.

On that note, I must get back to business. I finished my last exam for the summer semester yesterday and am gearing up for the Praxis exams in less than a month. The kids will go back to school in two weeks. This summer (and the year!) has totally flown by. It's hard to believe that by this time next year, I will be finished with this part of my education. I told you, dear reader, that I wouldn't see much of you in the interim and I apologize for that. When I emerge, I will be ready with new stories and new experiences to share! Until then...

Peace, Love, and Teaching,

Pamela