Sunday, September 25, 2011

Band, Buckwheat Festival, and Half Time

     I ended up being too busy this summer, so this is my first blog in a while.  Since this week is Buckwheat Festival week, I thought i would share a few of my favorite memories from back in the day.  For any young people, back in the day for me means back in the 80's LOL.
        One of my favorite memories was always being in the band and marching in the Buckwheat Festival.  I first did this with the Central Preston Junior High Cherokee Band under the direction of John Wills.  We would practice for weeks around the Honor Roll in Tunnelton, making sure we turned corners correctly, had straight ranks, and sounded great.  It was so exciting to be in a parade I had only watched for years before.  That thrill continued on as I entered high school and became part of the Central Preston High School Cavalier Marching Band (the orange crush  as Mr. Kurilko started calling it-- our school colors were orange and black, so we had orange tops with black pants with big black cavalier hats with orange plumes).  It was always thrilling to be in the parade, even though most of the time we were last being the home town band (unless Queen Ceres or King Buckwheat came from our school).  It was just such a blast and band was fun.  
        This leads me up to my second favorite memory - football season and half time shows.  I never was really big into sports, but loved band and being able to perform.  I never really paid much attention to the actual game but had fun sitting in the stands with my fellow bandmates.  I usually brought a big tub of popcorn and we would eat and laugh and carry on, and occasionally watch the game LOL.  I have to say our halftime shows were pretty cool (as were pre game shows now that I think about it).  One of my most favorite things was Mr. Kurilko having each one of us bring a flashlight to use in the shows.  We would either make the outline of WV or spell out CPHS, turn on our flashlights and lay them on the ground in front of us.  Then the field lights would be turned out, and we would play in the dark with our lights making the shapes.  I can remember that always brought thunderous applause and cheers from the crowds.  It was just sooo cool.  I don't if anyone else has ever done that since.  At any rate, I continued with band through my college years, becoming a member of the Fairmont State Falcon band.  I have made a lot of friends in that band and have fond memories of good times, which I won't go into because it would incriminate both me and my college friends LOL.   
      My final favorite memories are of the Buckwheat Festival and all the things you could do.  As a kid, I always loved riding the rides and had a blast.  Buckwheat Cakes however were a taste i had to acquire as i hated them as a kid.  Its funny how you hate some things as a kid but grow to love them as an adult.  Other favorites included the art exhibits, corn dogs from Love Chapel, cotton candy, and time with family and friends.  Buckwheat Festival always seems to be about coming home, and that is truly a great experience for those who have long since moved away.   
      This Buckwheat Festival is going to be extra special as I get to celebrate my 25th high school reunion with old classmates who have become really good friends in adulthood.   We have a weekend filled with fun, old times, and new beginnings.  Its been great to reconnect with classmates i haven't seen in 20 years on Facebook.  Let the good times roll and everyone have a wonderful festival week!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Midlife and Career Changes

So here I am today thinking about my teaching career.  What brings this on in the middle of summer you ask?  Its because time is quickly going by and soon it will be time to go back.  I've spent the past few days reflecting on my career.  The break down of my career is as follows.

I will be beginning my 19th year of teaching this coming year.  Not a significant number i know, as most people reach the milestone of 20 years.  However, I am close to that.  Over the past 18 years, I have taught mostly special education, with the exception of three grading periods, in which I was a 5th grade teacher (i think this was my 5th year).  I started out in the Severe/Profound/Multiple Handicaps program, working with students who had very profound disabilities and impairments.  I did this program for 3 years, then moved into an Severe Profound Handicaps/ Mental Impairments program.  This program ended up having three students with Autism and two other students.  I did this program for 1 year and 1 grading period.  When the opportunity for a 5th grade position came open, I decided that I wanted to try the regular education classroom.  After all, my undergraduate degree is in Elementary Education.  So I changed jobs. 

Being a 5th grade teacher was such a wonderful experience.  I had nice coworkers and my stress was so reduced, that I lost 50 lbs in the time I was there.  However at the end of the year, they only needed 3 5th grade teachers and being the low man on the totem pole, I got RIFed (Reduction in Force).  I then moved back into special education at Central Preston in another self contained program. The students in that program were a lot of fun and I really enjoyed teaching them.  Other opportunities presented themselves at Central, and I moved into a resource position, and that's where I have been ever since, with the exception of one year back in a self contained classroom.  I have had wonderful experiences with my students over the years.  I've worked with students who were deaf-blind, students who were nonverbal, students who had Asperger's Syndrome and such.  Yes there have been trials and tribulations, but I love working with kids.  I have also been blessed over the years to have enjoyed working with a wonderful staff.  I have also worked with some of the most awesome parents over the years.  I think that's the difference in being a special education teacher -- that is -- you work with families as well as students more closely,  I have become friends with a few parents over the years and that is pretty special.

At any rate, 18 years of teaching passes quickly, and it seems more quickly as the years go on.  I have come to the realization that I am approximately halfway through my teaching career -- WOW!!! it really has impact now that I've said it aloud.  I guess to get to my point, I've been thinking a lot about my career lately and have come to the realization that I have a degree I have really used very little (my elementary education degree).  I find myself wondering what it would be like to teach in the regular education setting again and whether or not I could do it after so many years of teaching special education.  Don't get me wrong, I love being at Central Preston, however, there is no way I can teach in the regular education setting there, as I don't have a specialized middle school certification (I would have to go back to school - don't even get me started on the lack of cooperation I have gotten from local colleges and universities about working with an old veteran teacher to expand his horizon).

A large part of me feels that its time for a change of pace, for something different; yet there is a large part of me who is afraid (yes afraid) as I would be leaving my comfort zone.  Parts of me feel that I'm just not effective as a special ed teacher anymore and that acknowledging that feeling, means that its time to move on.  Most special ed teachers last in a position 3 years before burnout happens and here I am going into my 19th year.  I'm at a crossroads and am just not quite sure what to do.  A couple of opportunities have arisen, and I'm seriously considering making a change.  All my adult life I've put my needs on the back burner to take care of others.  Part of me feels its time to put ME first for once.  Change is scary, big, and sometimes necessary for growth to continue.   Now if I can just get past the scary part.....

Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Life with Diabetes

     5 years ago in February (2006), I received the diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes.   Around Christmas time, I knew there was something wrong with me.  I couldn't get enough to drink.  I literally drank constantly-- all day long and most of the night too.  Along with that were the extremely frequent trips to the bathroom -- every half an hour to 45 minutes to be exact -- again all day long and all night long.  I was exhausted, thirsty, and scared.  At the end of January 2006, I made an appointment to have a Hemoglobin A1C test done.  This is a test that measures the average levels of sugar over time.  It is a fasting test, meaning that you cannot eat for 12 hours prior to having your blood drawn.  So I had the test, and when the results came in, I was notified that my A1C was 10.5.  At the time, I was told that normal A1C levels should be 6.5 or below.  I was also told that I would need to make an appointment with my primary care physician in order to get treatment started as soon as possible.  I made my appointment, made a plan for treatment with my doctor, got my supplies and medications, and began.  The doctors did say that I was fortunate enough to get the diagnosis early.

     I can't begin to tell you how overwhelmed and scared  I was at this point.  When i did my first fingerstick and my blood sugar that morning was 400, I was terrified.  I had done research into the disease, and knew that sugar levels this high were dangerous.  I could have collapsed into a diabetic coma or even worse.  It took a few months and several adjustments to treatment and diet to get my sugars to normal levels.  The change in diet was very difficult.  No more coca cola.  I had to switch to diet soda, which i hated for a long time.  Then there was the cutting out of foods that I loved that I could no longer have because of the carbs in them that would raise my sugar (fries, chips, etc).  This adjustment was very difficult to make at first and I must admit that to this day, I still have issues with my diet at times.  I was very strict with my diet the very first year of diagnosis and had very little in the way of carbs.  I ate a lot of salads, vegetables, and lean meats.  I ended up hating it and back slid for a long time.

     Scariest of all was the changes to my vision.  One of the first things my doctor told me was that I would have to see an eye doctor once my sugar levels were consistently lowered.  I was told that this would take a few months before I could see the eye doctor, due to the fact that fluid in my eyes were full of sugar crystals and it would take at least 3 months to get those crystals out through medications.  During that time, my vision was constantly changing.  I went through a period of time when I could not read anything.  This made it hard to grade papers, read a book, write, etc.  I wondered if I was ever going to be able to read again.  Luckily over the 5 years that I have been a diabetic that my eyes are healthy and I am able to read and do things as I used to.  The only changes are now that I must see an eye doctor once a year.  He has stated that my eyes have changed very little over the years and that things look good.

     Diabetes medications have a drastic toll on people when first beginning treatment.  I was no exception.  The medications wreaked havoc on my digestive tract.  I had horrible bouts of diarrhea (sp?) 7 - 8 times a day, especially during the school day.  Thank god, Tina (the teacher in the classroom next door) was understanding and supportive.  When I had to go, I gave her a code and she knew to watch my class until I could return.  There were many times that running to the bathroom (which for faculty was in a different building) meant running downstairs, across the parking lot to the building behind the band building --- many times praying that I could hold it till getting to the bathroom and also praying that no one would be in said bathroom.  To this day, I still have the occasional bout of this, especially if I have been drinking alot of liquids.  The other aspect in regards to medications are the possible dangerous side effects they have.  One medication in particular that i was on until this past March - Avandia is linked to significant cardiatric events (heart attacks) due to extreme fluid retention, etc.

     Fast forward 5 years.  I have changed up things.  I have to say that my family doctor -- Doctor Keefe-- has been very supportive.  He spends a lot of time with me during my appointments and we talk about a lot of things.  One of my biggest battles is weight loss.  I know that I need to lose weight, but its so hard to do.  I seem to be just too busy with teaching, civic organizations, etc., to have the time needed to engage in an effective program.  I'm trying to change that.  I've gotten out of a couple of organizations because I've realized that my health and well being has to come first.  I know there are people out there who don't like that I'm not involved, but I don't care.  Its time to take care of me-- I have to put me first.  I do have to say that i have lost some weight (I am currently around 280-- which is better than the 300 pounds I was a couple of years ago).  I just need to make a dedicated and sincere effort.

     I hope that by telling my personal story with my diabetes diagnosis, that this will help others.  The best advice I can give is if you find yourself with an unquenchable thirst and overly frequent bathroom use, that you get yourself checked for diabetes ASAP.  Diabetes is a chronic illness.  It forces you to make choices you normally don't have to in regards to what and when you eat.  I have had to make major changes to my life, but have learned to live with the changes for the most part.  However, the damage from untreated and uncontrolled diabetes can kill you.  Please don't wait.

First Blog Entry

Ok, so here it goes.  My first blog entry. I have had a couple of friends tell me (one of them being Debra Morell) that writing is good therapy.  After much debate, I've decided to give it a shot.  I don't really consider myself much of a writer, but I suppose I can get past that issue (hopefully), but know people who write wonderfully (Debra Morell and Scott DeWitt).  Anyway, This first one is going to be short (I'm afraid most of them are going to be short).  I can't fathom the thought that anyone will be interested in what I have to say, but who knows LOL.