Friday, December 31, 2010

Mutually Beneficial

Since GameTeen started at his current school, the Director and I have had many conversations about the goals of the school, her personal goals (she is ABD on her PhD.) and my goals beyond the Master's Degree. She's been great about helping me to refine my purpose and to a lesser extent, I've been doing that for her.

My goal with projects in the grad program is, whenever possible, my assignments benefit the school. It will be more meaningful to me to create something that can be used instead of just for credit. We've discussed this and have plans to sit down to create a 'wish list' of things the school needs.

Today, she pinged me on Facebook with a question. What she needs is a relational database to catalog and easily retrieve student information. I'm well versed in making flat file databases, but have yet to work with relational. It is something I do need to learn, because I will need to catalog my research data.

We conversed for a while, spelling out her exact needs and how she'll need to access or sort data. While I can't start on it right away, it is something that if I devote a few hours a week to creating something, we can have something together by the end of the school year (her goal).

As a parent, I know what I want to see from my son's experience in school and the teacher's objectives are similar. On a macro level, the school has to easily prove what they're doing is educating students to the standards established by the state.

If I create this for them now, then when I start doing research for the PhD., my framework is there. In a sense, I'm starting to see what others have said, that the Master's and the PhD. are easier because you are more focused in your efforts.

And if GameTeen's school is going to refine my focus more, who am I to complain?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ringing in the New Year

Yesterday, I reminded a FB friend about his informative Tweets a few years ago about the proper undergarments to ring in the new year. This piqued the interest of another of his friends and seeing that we had about 15 friends in common, she sent me a friend request. She also asked a question:

What's the deal with the yellow underwear?
I sent her the link and I got the coolest complement, in that she said she was laminating it and putting that post up on her mantle.

However, as it is nearly New Year's Eve, you may be considering the things you desire in the coming year. To refresh your memory, yellow underwear is good for financial prosperity, red for romance, and black is very bad.

Plan your undergarments accordingly.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Hip Bone's Connected to the Headache

Femoral Neck Fracture.

Partial Hip Replacement.

That's what we gleaned from Jane's doctor yesterday. He asked where she lives, and I told him she lives in an apartment that she tells people is assisted living, but the property manager points out that they're not. Her doctor didn't seem too concerned.

However, he told us that she's got about 2 months of rehabilitation ahead,with x rays every two weeks. He doesn't know Jane-we do. I kept my mouth shut, because frankly, if she doesn't care enough about doing whatever it takes to get better, why should we?

She's supposed to be released from the hospital tomorrow, but to where, we don't know. Nor do we know for how long, as it depends on how much effort she'll put into walking again. The big concerns with hip injuries are that reduced mobility increases her risk of blood clots or pneumonia due to increased fluid in the lungs. She's already on Plavix for elevated clot risk, and she is supposed to follow a low fluid diet because she has had many episodes of congestive heart failure.

It's hard to back away when you know what can (and probably will) happen, but she needs to make this effort on her own. We're done talking, she has to start working on this herself.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tower Prep

Usually, I'm an innocent bystander in the selection of television viewing in this house. We've had the current TV since April, and I still don't know how to work the remote. (That's what kids are for when you don't choose much on your own)

A few months ago, Chef started watching the live action original programming, namely Unnatural History. The show took historical events and wove them into a fictional series about two cousins who at first dislike each other, but later realize that they need each other to solve mysteries.

So, in October, when a new program started up, he was in. We didn't see every episode, but if it was Tuesday night and we were home, Tower Prep was going to be watched. The difference was that this show (like Unnatural History) wasn't a dumbed down storyline. It had appeal for both me and Chef.

Basically, Ian wakes up and finds himself in Tower Prep, a boarding school where the students all have special abilities. He has no clue how he got there, but Ian has the ability to see things before they happen. Ian soon makes friends with three other students, CJ (an empath), Suki (a mimic) and Gabe (a charismatic persuader) who all tell what they know of the school-and their desire to get out.

So the main goal of the foursome is to figure out how to get out, but there are a lot of secrets. Basically, students get there and can't leave. Mystery and supernatural elements geared towards the teen set. However, the writing was good enough that I wanted to see what would happen, too.

The only down side was that Cartoon Network has only shown the programs on Tuesday nights, no repeats or chance to catch what you missed. Fortunately, Chef and I made sure to watch the season finale tonight, where several bombs were dropped and the four students achieved their goal of escape. That wasn't the end, but another beginning.

I want to know when the next season starts and this time? It's getting DVRed, because I am hooked.

If you get a chance to find this in repeats (of CN decides to replay them), check it out. It's intelligent viewing that is kid friendly, but prevents them from checking their brains at the door.

Thanks, Cartoon Network!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Global Warming, My Tucchus!

It is 29 degrees outside right now. TWENTY NINE! In Florida!

So, I did what any other rational person does when faced with cold, winter weather: I cooked. Then I baked, and then I baked some more. First, one of my favorite winter meals that Mom would make, loin of pork with roasted potatoes and pan dripping gravy. The difference is that I seasoned it like I was making Pernil instead of Mom's salt, pepper and garlic.

Then, I made a boat load and a half of cookies. Chocolate chip, oatmeal cranberry, peanut butter, then peanut butter cookie cups with Reece's peanut butter cups inside. My friend Meghan's mom, Betty, offered some pumpkin bread in exchange for cookies and that sounded good. So did a nice dinner, so they dined with us tonight. On a cold night, it's good to have company and lively conversation to keep you warm.

Now, I'm relaxing in my flannel USF jammies and enjoying the idea that my fridge has plenty of leftovers for the rest of the week. Yum!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

When, Not If

Those three words describe Jane to a T. It's never a case of 'if she goes into the hospital, but WHEN will she go into the hospital again.' In the time that I've known her, these things happen with stunning regularity and seem to happen most often when an event will be disrupted.

For that reason, I withheld information about my graduation. Ed and Betsy agreed with my logic and we all kept silent about that event, even though my husband told me that he would not miss watching me walk across the stage for anything.

Still, we knew something would happen-and it did.

Wednesday, the five of us were slated to visit Betsy and family for an early Christmas celebration for nine. Ed got a phone call fairly early in the morning. Jane requested that he bring the manual wheelchair because she'd fallen in her apartment and banged up her hip. He went to the storage unit and picked it up, only to get a call about 20 minutes before we were to get her that she was in too much pain.

The evening was a pleasant one and we discussed Jane's current situation of choosing an independent living arrangement when she needed more supervision, the Thanksgiving evening request made of me to cough up some of my painkillers since she'd used up her own and the fact that the fall probably occurred because she uses the damn Jazzy rather than walk the five steps into her kitchen.

Thursday, I called her to find out what happened. "I fell." She did not want to share details, but with repeated requests, explained that she tripped over the carpet and landed on her hip. She'd been xrayed, but the results weren't back yet. She'd been given another dose of painkillers.

Christmas morning, Ed's phone rang several times, but not Jane's ring tone. He checked messages and found it was the hospital, calling to say that Jane had broken her hip, was in there care and resting. From my studies with two gerontology professors, I knew this was not good news. The prognosis and mortality rates are scary.

This morning, way too early, Jane called Ed. She was loopy and incoherent. A fifteen minute phone conversation ensued, in which she alternated between telling Ed she was getting xrays or surgery, that the doctor looked at her xrays and told her she messed herself up severely and that she was having surgery. Betsy later got a phone call from her in which she was even more loopy and explained that they were wheeling her into surgery. "Please call Ed and let him know what's going on." Apparently, she'd forgotten she had a conversation with him already.

Based on what she's said, this is probably pretty extensive and extremely worrisome. She barely walks now, only leaving the Jazzy to use the bathroom, even though she's had a lot of physical therapy to get her to walk more. While in rehab in October, she was told she needs to spend as much time as possible walking, but she twisted those instructions around to 'I shouldn't walk so much because it hurts.'

Complications of hip fractures are extensive and there's some risks that, when combined with her existing health issues, are downright scary. The other concern is that with either type of fracture, medical protocol recommends an extended stay in skilled care.

Exactly where we were trying to get her to move back in October. Exactly what she resisted because she didn't want anyone else calling the shots.

This is going to be interesting, to say the least.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Raise Up Cups of Christmas Cheer

I think this song has the right idea. A nice, low key Christmas is what we needed this year.

It's not quiet, as the kids are playing various video games, but it's been perfect.

To you and yours, I hope the day has been with those you love and exactly what you wanted.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Dear Abby Axiom

From a very young age, I was a regular reader of "Dear Abby." Actually, Newsday, the Long Island daily, carried her sister Ann Landers for a long time before Abby arrived on the scene, so I honestly started reading Ann first.

Anyway, I was surrounded by adults in my life who provided plenty of common sense advice, but Abby filled in a lot of things that were unspoken. One thing that stuck with me from all those years ago was this one thing that she'd repeat many times over and over to letters asking Abby's opinion of something that sounded outrageous:

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

This comes to mind because a couple of days ago, I paid the cell phone bill and realized that it was 30 bucks more than usual, so I looked through the itemized detail of all four phones on the account. Mine, Ed's and Chef's all looked the same (Chef had all of 17 minutes usage, all calls to me), but Jane's had some unusual activity.

9.99 for a Daily Astrology Report
9.99 for a Daily News Predictor Quiz (she's not all that interested in news)
and 7.00 for an App Organizer (which iTunes provides free of charge with all i Products)

So, I texted her. She didn't remember the first two and said she bought the app-and I explained that her iTunes does the same thing. A quick call to AT&T and they removed the charges, but told me they weren't going to do it again. "Would you like us to shut off the data plan to that phone?" Yes, I'd love that-but I'll give her one more shot.

Then I thought about it. None of the apps or things she had on the first phone when it took a swim were ported over to the new phone, so she started from scratch. I called her and asked "Did you sign up for free ring tones from anywhere?"

"Yes, from two different sites. Why?"

I explained that anything that says it's free, and asks you to put in your cell phone number will NOT be free. "They're not?" She wanted something different on her phone, she said. I explained that she should buy her ringtones from iTunes or AT&T or ask me to make them for her-anyone touting free stuff for the phone that isn't through the two sites mentioned will charge large sums of money for 'free' items.

She apparently never heard the 'Dear Abby Rule."

From now on, I inspect the bill every month to make sure she doesn't succumb to another too good be true deal.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Careful What You Wish For

Because it might be very, very scary!

Witness the cat and his desire for the string from one of my party balloons:

Once he actually got hold of the string, the mylar bouncing along the wall made a HUGE sound that you can't hear on the video and he ran to the other side of the room and looked at the string nervously. If I showed the full video, you would hear me and Ed laughing hysterically for about 10 seconds. He tried grabbing it earlier, but I must have distracted him when I reached into my purse to get the Flip.

Next time, I've got to make sure I'm on the other side of the room so I can show this comedy in all its glory!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Tub of Goodness

The rest of my house is a case in point that Martha Stewart does not live here, but my pantry is another story.

It's a lot smaller than I'd like, and it's overflowing with provisions, but there's a strong sense of order. Namely, these tubs like pictured above. My spices and baking goods are all stored in them, so I can pull out what I need at a moment's notice.

For instance, the baking tub has baking powder, baking soda, various chips, extracts, cocoa powder and vanilla. This way, if the urge to bake strikes, I have all I need in a matter of seconds instead of spending a half hour rooting through all the spices for a stray ingredient.

Hey, it works for us. And it's why there are now 8 dozen chocolate cookies (with pb chips, Reece's pieces or dried cherries in them) and a double batch of sugar cookie dough in the fridge.

There's only one thing missing from the tub, and that's because Hershey's stopped making them. My specialty for years were Chocolate Raspberry chip cookies, something that friends and family came to expect. Ed told me tonight that it doesn't feel like Christmas without them.

I tried making similar cookies last year with extracts, but they don't taste quite the same.

Somehow, I think the rest of the yummy confections will soften the blow...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Head Scratcher

To graduate my fine University, you have to fill out several "Application for Graduation" forms. One is a PDF form that can only be completed and submitted online that I've been trying to submit for over a month.

This morning, I called the Financial Aid office, as this one is what allows me to see funding for my graduate studies. I explained to the young lady who answered the phone that I've been trying to submit this form but have been unsuccessful, is there someone I can email it to?

She asks if I've checked both of the boxes in the certification portion. Yes, I reply, then she asks "You have a Mac, don't you?" When I reply in the affirmative, she tells me that this form doesn't work on a Mac. "We get a lot of phone calls about that?'

I made an offhand comment that perhaps the form or the instructions that accompany the form should state this, as I could have submitted this thing weeks ago from a computer on campus. I was brushed off, and thought "hey, whatever, if you don't mind all those phone calls, I guess it's okay."

Later, I made a trek to the campus to return my rented textbooks and to meet up with someone about my CLEP score not posting to my transcript. Since I was there, I walked into the Financial Aid office to ask some questions about what happens if I get a Graduate Assistant job after accepting or receiving financial aid funds.

The lady I spoke with was very helpful and answered those questions, then I asked how long it will take to see the aid information on my web page, as I'd just submitted the form. She was stunned, then I explained that I have a Mac and the form says nothing about the incompatibility issue.

She wrote down the information and agreed that it would cut down on their workload, so her boss might add the verbage so other students don't do the same thing.

Even though the semester's over, I learned a lesson today: if something doesn't work on the University website, get on a PC and see if it's a compatibility issue.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I Should Be Studying

The post semester guilt trip.

After a week or so of catching up on all the things that haven't been attended to during the semester, there comes the time where I can sit and relax and take it easy.

Without fail, after a couple of hours of this, I feel guilty that I should really be studying. There has to be a paper, a test, a quiz, a something that is due in the coming week.

This nagging feeling that I have to do something follows me until about two days before the new semester begins.

Isn't it wonderful?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Kitty

The cat is annoyed at me.

Yesterday, I was cleaning and rearranging things in preparation for a small graduation party. He was miffed, because some of his perches within the house were moved.

Then today, we spent most of the day cleaning in preparation and he was spooked. He hid in GameTeen's room, a place he rarely goes. While we had guests, he didn't want to be out-in fact, he hid. As my bedroom was closed off, he couldn't go to his favorite hiding place, under my bed. Instead, he chose a spot in GameTeen's room where nobody would find him

Now, almost two hours after the last guest has departed, he's still in there. I tried to bring him out, but he was having nothing to do with me. However, he did something he's never done before-curled up next to GameTeen on the bed.

He's never had this many people in the house with him before. I guess he doesn't like it.

He'll need to work on his hiding places, though!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Teacher Gifts

At GameTeen's school, everyone helps out with the students. As a result, I didn't want to go wit the traditional buy a gift for the one teacher,' because that would leave out so many people who have an impact on his day to day instruction.

Instead, I did something I used to do for his school in Maryland: I made lunch for all the faculty and staff!

The menu was a well-received brined and grilled Chicken, rosemary roasted potatoes and a large salad loaded with craisins, pecans, pineapples and feta cheese.

When I went to pick up Game Teen this afternoon, when I went to get the serving platters and bowls, there was still a lot of food left (I tend to over cook). It must have been a hit, because when I asked if anyone wanted to take leftovers home, within two minutes, EVERYTHING was gone! (Which really was my goal) What better way for a few people to start Christmas break than to have a night where they don't have to cook?

When I said that I was trying to figure out what to make for the end of the year meal, the response was three people saying "make this again, please!"

I guess we did good!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Finding Treasures

There are quite a few boxes that have been moved with us from Maryland that have not been opened. Many of those are just because we didn't have any place to put them.

However, today a friend was looking for sheet music for "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" that included the obligato part that our high school choir performed along with the four part harmonies. It's a very pretty addition to a wonderful advent song.

I had noticed that one of the boxes was labeled music and set about opening it to see if it was sheet music from the piano bench (regrettably, the bench fell apart many years ago). I did find the dittos of the old standards we performed, and as I suspected, the descant was not written in. There was a holiday treasure trove, 'Christmas in Song' and I filched one of those my senior year, because it was the most comprehensive sheet music of Christmas carols you could find (and it is small, too)

Opening that box, I found many goodies: sheet music, concert programs and my DSM IV (that I bought long before I was to become a Psychology major). Another box was also labeled music, so I opened that-and found an envelope of my essays from Comp 1 & 2, along with many of my textbooks from College 1.0.

It was a pleasant find. I read my papers, composed quickly during class after the professor would say "Okay, today you're going to write about a pet peeve/My Last Dutchess/What change would I like at the college/Oedipus Rex" and the words would flow from my pen in a bubbly script so common to teenage girls. And yes, I was a teenager when I took those classes.

The feedback from these two professors was nice to read, 25 years later. One emphatically commented "You can WRITE! This is well thought out, not like the drivel of your classmates," while challenging me to continue writing out my thoughts beyond the classroom assignment. It was a snapshot of a very different person, one who was very idealistic.

Some people open boxes and hope to find new baubles or gadgets, but opening those boxes today brought me more happiness and good thoughts than anything you could buy from a store...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What Psych Classes Did You Take?

One thing that seems to be universal, no matter what college or what major you take is this: other students in your major want to know what classes you took, which ones you recommend and which professors to take-or avoid.

There's, but the site has a few drawbacks. First, you're limited to 250 characters, which isn't enough to give an accurate appraisal of any course or professor. Second, students who expect A's for just showing up to class can write a nasty review-or a person who didn't even take a class can write something up to boost an instructor's rating.

It's one barometer, but not the only one to use. That said, if I'd known about the site before I took my Art History class, I probably would have (rightfully) avoided that professor for that class. That's why the feedback for classmates is so important-especially students you know have similar expectation.

For instance, there's a professor on my campus who is a wonderful person, very astute-but teaches in a very dry manner, akin to the Ben Stein economics teacher in 'Ferris Buehler's Day Off'. Nice person, but not a teaching style that works for me, which is why I ended up taking some classes in Tampa

As important as who is teaching it is the content of the class. If the goal of the student is a career in the behavioral sciences, then the B.A is not their terminal degree. The courses taken should concentrate in their ultimate field, whether it's research, counseling or human resources.

While my goal was to take Industrial psychology classes as a foundation for my Master's, none of those classes seemed to fit in with my schedule. Instead, I took a few courses that I probably never would have considered-and really enjoyed.

A brief summary of some of these classes, in the hope that a little more information than what's provided in a course catalog (from a student perspective) might be useful to others trying to pick from 100+ classes on their spring schedule. I'm leaving out core requirements (Intro to Psychology, Psychology Statistics and Research Methods in Psychology) because everyone has to take some variant of these courses if they're majoring in this curriculum. No, I'm telling you about the other courses I took beyond those.

Tests and Measures This is one of those classes that every student can gain useful information. The main goal of the course is to learn and understand test validity and reliability, what constitutes a good test (and test questions), explore standardized tests and learn how norms are established. It also goes into the history of testing and creating the tests we use today across the business, psychological and educational spectrums.

The best thing about this class (besides a great instructor) is that I now know how to pick apart test questions, which is useful when you've got two questions that might be correct.

Developmental Psychology
This class explores human development from a psychological perspective from birth to death. The main theories of development ( from Erikson and Piaget) are explored in great detail.

This was an online class that had a great professor and she chose a fantastic text. Side note: John Cavanaugh writes some great Psychology textbooks.

Abnormal PsychologyThis was my second time through this course, as I'd had a lower level AbPsych class many years ago. This class explored Anxiety and Mood disorders, Gender issues, Schizophrenia, Body image and so much more. (The only reason why we didn't cover Autism is that the Professor also teaches a class on it, so he skipped the chapter in our book.) Understanding how people think is a main objective of Psychology curriculums, and this class sheds a lot of light on those whose behavior and thinking falls outside societal norms.

I had the benefit of taking the course from the professor who wrote the textbook. He writes a great book and was a wonderful lecturer.

Motivation This class sounds like it'd be easy-but it's not. In motivation, students explore the mental processes involved in motivation, biochemical processes and various theories of motivation. I really expected something different out of the class, like HOW to actually motivate people, but it's more of a dissection of how motivation occurs.

Probably the one class that I really was excited about and ultimately was underwhelmed by the content.

Psychology of Learning
The course content called to me, as it combined elements of both my undergrad and graduate curriculums. The theories of Pavlov, Skinner, Thorndyke (and to a lesser extent, Erickson) and more are studied. If you're anti-behaviorist approach, this class will be torture for you (one of my good friends HATED the class) because it's all about.

The professor was great, the book wasn't, but it's a great class that can be beneficial to those seeking clinical and HR careers.

Social Psychology
This class gave me a LOT of food for thought because it is essentially the psychology of everyday life. We all interact with others every day, so what is learned here is directly observable. This was probably the class that gave me the most insight into GameTeen's Asperger's Syndrome, because it helped me pinpoint societal norms as compared to him. At my school it is one of five course that students choose two from to fulfill a degree requirement, but my opinion is that it should be required for all psych majors because it is a fantastic building block for everything else.

The professor was great, and the textbook (Aronson and Aronson) used a lot of news events to relate the chapter topics (Kitty Genovese and the bystander effect, for instance)

Cognitive Psychology
I was dreading this class, because identifying brain parts, chemicals and what they do was not my idea of fun. I am not a scientist, I don't play one on television and I was convinced I was going to bomb this class. However, a great professor makes all the difference in the world. If you're not a science geek, and need this or Physiological for your degree, wait until your last semester, if possible. Then you can apply what you already know to this course content and it definitely helps.

This class was the one that drove home the point that if you're taking a class you think you'll do horribly in, chose the professor who is passionate about the topic and you'll do better than expected. Hey, it happened in Biology over the summer, so there must be something to it. If I could take every class this professor teaches, I would-even if they all are about neurotransmitters! (No amygdala, no fear)

**Cool thing-When Ed and I went to the Tony Attwood seminar, a lot of what I'd learned in this class (and social psych) made me write out tons of questions all day long. He addressed a couple of questions I had at the end of the day, the main one being that Aspies have been proven to have 10-15% larger amygdalas and much less white matter than neurotypical people.

Psychology of Aging If left to my own devices, I never would have taken this class. I was all set to take Industrial Psych, but the feedback about the professor for that online course was not encouraging (similar to the other professor with the droll lecture style). However, the professor who taught this course encouraged me to follow her over to Tampa and take the class. I'm glad she did.

I saw the title and thought it would be all about 'old people', but it wasn't. Instead, this course covered development from maturation until death, with a focus on issues of an aging population. The professor's focus was on how students (95% of the class was freshman and sophomores) can form habits now to age better and healthier.

There were two pluses to the class: A professor who I was familiar with and enjoyed her teaching style and yet another Cavanaugh textbook that was well written. I'm kind of bummed I rented it, because I found the book extremely useful in many ways.

Ultimately, the advice I have for students in any major is that they should seek out professors who are passionate about the topic they're teaching. I was very fortunate that each class, the professor teaching the class did their dissertations in the subject area they taught. It can make the difference in a class that does not play to your strengths.

When choosing your classes, get the feedback from peers who you feel approach school in the same way. Ask your professors who they'd recommend you take courses with-because they see what kind of student you are and will make suggestions of other instructors whose teaching style works with you.

Finally, don't be afraid to email a prospective instructor with the questions you may have. I did that with one of the classes I took before I enrolled and I'm glad I did-the course was fantastic.

I hope this information helps others who need to make decisions about what courses to take. If I can find the same information about my graduate courses, boy, will I be a happy camper!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

One Down, Two to Go

Twenty six years and three months after I entered college, I finally earned a degree. Last night, I joined 70 of my peers and participated in graduation.

It was weird to be there and only have one of my friends graduating at the same time (and I sat with him for the ceremony). In some respects, it was good- I didn't have anyone giving me a hard time about the moments where I got a little verklempt during the evening!

Some of the speakers echoed my thoughts about the ceremony. One asked the audience to rise so that the graduates could honor them. I would not be there last night without the support of Ed and the boys, because they've made sacrifices in the effort to get this B.A.

The second spoke of finishing that bachelor's degree and getting her first job, thinking her goal was just to be the best teacher she could be. Ten years later, she had a PhD, because being the best meant more education. I'm a little different, I got to that decision before finishing the first degree. :)

My friend Jenn came up to me after the ceremony and said she knew that I was sitting in that audience, listening to those speakers and thinking "this is only the beginning, I've got more work to do here." She knows me well. Then again, I've made a bunch of friends while at school who share similar goals.

Watch this space in another 18 months for another graduation...

Monday, December 13, 2010

We Interrupt Tonight's Scheduled Post About Graduation to Bring You This Important Message


I got a hit to my blog today from your site. Apparently, one of your readers searched your site for college, read one of MY posts on your site, and then came to my blog from your site. Imagine my surprise when I found that I am a CONTRIBUTOR to your site, when until I saw the hit on my sitemeter, I'd never even heard of Disney Detectives

Your site states that you are "Discovering Disney news, one site at a time." I'd like to know what Disney news you found in this post on my site: to warrant its placement on your site as this:

My biggest issue with finding several of my posts on your site is that they're all there without so much as a request from someone at your site asking if I would like to become a contributor or perhaps write original content for you (as I have on other sites in the past). Instead, you've tagged my original content 'posted by Suzanne in uncategorized,' as if I've given my okay for it to be there. I have not.

Yes, I write about Disney, but that has nothing to do with a good 90% of my blog. Even if I do happen to write about Disney, I have not given you permission to post them on your site.

Thank you so very much. Tonight's post was supposed to be all about the culmination of my undergraduate experience in college. However, I'm wondering if that, too, will show up on your site-even when it has absolutely nothing to do with Disney.

Would you please explain to me how my posts have shown up on your site without permission?


Suzanne from Suzanne Calling

**And no, I did not graduate Disney University, so that hardly makes my college posts relevant to Disney news.***

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Guess it is a good thing I made a big pot of chicken noodle soup today...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

R and R

So, yesterday we went to Epcot. I over did it. Massively.

The lesson learned: if I don't have a scooter to use or the walker handy, I can't handle it. It's still hard to accept that my leg will not tolerate it.

Today was spent recovering, either with medication, a nap or a soak in the tub. I haven't done much of anything, even though there's a Spanish final to take and complete by Tuesday.

Ahh, there's tomorrow and Monday to work on it...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Thursday, December 09, 2010

A Letter to Dad

Dear Dad,

It's been almost twenty years. Yeah, I know, a long time. Lately, I've been thinking about you a lot more than usual.

I wonder what things you and the kids would be getting into, whether you and Chef would have been to a Broadway show, a hike or a hundred or whether you'd be debating the merits of various musicians. With Game Teen, you'd probably be pulling that literary storehouse out of the boy and had a lot of patience with his obsessions.

The main reason you've been on my mind is that you valued education above all else. It took a long time, but I realize that my passion for books came from you. Your thirst for knowledge was impressive, and you stressed the importance of a good education to me and Giggles.

You were so proud of both of us attending college and disappointed when I 'took a semester off' that stretched a lot longer than one semester. Right after you passed away, I returned to school to get those 12 credits done, but I got sidetracked by life once more.

The first day back at college, I could hear you whispering in my ear "keep going, Suzie, you can do this." With every good grade, a part of me wished you were here to see the fruits of my hard work. You'd be reveling in the fact that I am so very happy in school.

As I entered this semester, a bit of melancholy crept in. I'd be finishing my time with some great friends and fantastic professors, but starting on a new educational journey. I think a part of the feeling is because I wish you were here to see it.

Monday night, I walk across the stage. I will be getting that bachelor's degree. If you were here, I know how proud you would be to say "BOTH of my daughters are college graduates."

Just as I know that at the end of this educational journey, it would tickle you to no end to say "my daughter, the PhD."

One step at a time, Dad. But I'll get there.

Better late than never.

I just wish you were here to see it.



Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Thirty Years

John Lennon's death was one of those flashbulb memory moments of my youth. Sitting at the dining room table at my moms, her little television tuned to Monday Night Football (no idea who was playing, but it probably was the Jets or the Giants) while she cut and pinned together one of her holiday sewing projects.

Yes, I heard Howard Cosell's emotional announcement.

In August, while in Manhattan, we happened to visit this location. Not intentionally, but after leaving the Museum of Natural History, we strolled along the outer perimeter of Central Park in an effort to find a subway station to get us to Times Square.

Strangely, while the rest of the city was active and full of the sounds of city life, this corner was quiet, muted and just had a very somber vibe. It was as if it was in a little bubble of its own.

For me, what stuck with me the most about John Lennon was that he knew he was not perfect and never seemed to be full of himself with fame and fortune. Quite the opposite.

Like the man or not, he made a difference.

I don't know what impact he would have had in the past thirty years, had he lived. Based on his past, I'm sure he would have still been speaking out through song.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Saved by the Bell

This morning, I had a large presentation for Spanish about the videos from "Spain...on the Road Again" I had to write 60 sentences en español, speak another 60 or so off the cuff and it's worth 200 points.

The instructions had this information, but just on the rubric. As a result, I was about 12 sentences short. Oops.

However, I was the only one to present today, because the other students were unclear on what day they were supposed to do theirs. We chose these dates over a month ago and I honestly didn't remember that we'd chosen dates, either. So, I was the only one to present.

However, I was about four slides in and time ran out on the day. Profesora asked me if I would finish mine Thursday.

Good, now I can add those twelve sentences!

Monday, December 06, 2010

Working on a Powerpoint for Spanish

This semester's big project is a powerpoint about several episodes of the PBS series "Spain...on the Road Again." The series features food, culture and history while four erstwhile travelers consume lots of wine during their sojourn.

What could be bad about a series with Mario Batali, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mark Bittman (of the NY Times) and Claudia Bassols? Not much, in my opinion

Well, there was this bed music they used throughout the series that was evocative of Carlos Santana. Some digging netted this musician from Miami and that song:

The artist's name is Monterosa and the song is 'Me Lo Robo'

Then I went to his website and listened to samples of the rest of the tracks on the featured album. Me gusta!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

A Parting Gift

Earlier this week, I picked up my cap and gown. (It's still sitting in the bag, because the cat will make sure to deposit many fawn colored hairs on that black gown as possible.) The university asks all students to fill out a survey before receiving these items, so I did my part.

After completing the task, I was given a little bag with some parting gifts. In with the little trinkets was this little guy:

"Oh how cute, I've got a bull of my own!" Rocky stayed in my handbag, because the cat is also partial to gnawing on plastic and/or rubber objects. Wednesday night, I pulled him out to show a friend in class and felt something on the bottom. See:

Not only did I get a bull of my own to signify my graduation from USFP, I got an anatomically correct bull.

What else would you expect from a research institution?

Now I know why Rocky the Bull is clothed at all school events!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Es Posible Que

Yo soy comprender mas de español!

This semester has been one where I have not been diligent about my Spanish studies. There just hasn't been the time to practice, as I've carved out in the prior two semesters.

Fortunately, while this semester's class did introduce new vocab, new verb conjugations (futuro, pasado progressivo, pasado perfecto, etc.) and new grammatical ideas (mandatos), the work focused a lot more on la cultura españa y sudamerica.

Fortunately, this meant that while I haven't been writing or speaking cada dia, it does mean that what would have earned me a C or D in the past may squeak a B. I'm fine on culture, I'm learning a lot on that front. Another saving grace is being a grammar freak, so while I'm no expert by any means, I have made progress.

The past couple of classes and today's Charlas drove that point home.

In other classes, if I've got something to say that's relevant, I'll speak up. The focus on culture and history, including current events, calls for students to express their own opinions. And boy, once I start off with 'yo creo que,' it's amazing how much comes out of my mouth-and how far three semesters in una otra lengua has taken me.

Instead of being down on myself for not being an A student in this class, I'm embracing the knowledge that I can hold my own in a conversation that doesn't focus on what my name is or what I am studying.

A mí me gusta.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Two Down, Two to Go

Psych of Aging final-done. I won't get the grade until probably next Friday, because the professor gave the class the option of taking the final in the last class session or the designated final exam time slot. I'm of the mind to get things done.

This morning, I took my Cognitive Psych final. The class is taught by the most beloved professor on campus and I've kicked myself all along that I couldn't take one of her classes until my final semester there. It was worth it. By the time I got home from picking Game Teen up from school, my grade was up.

In typical Suzanne fashion, I continued the 'so close I can touch it' grade streak. My overall average in the class is a 92.69- and 93 is an A. I'm hoping for rounding up!

With two off my plate, the ability to focus my studying on Tuesday's oral exam, Wednesday's final and then next Tuesday's final will be a lot easier to manage.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Refining and Encouraging, All at the Same Time

When I went to pick up GameTeen at school today, the Director asked to speak with me. We already have plans for meeting tomorrow to discuss a behavioral intervention plan for him, because he's having some difficulties behaviorally. The difference here, as opposed to public school, is that all the staff knows how to deal with him.

As my future plans heavily include research in curriculums for autism spectrum disorders, she and I talk regularly about those ideas of mine. I pick her brain about what I see and she gladly says "Yeah! Did you think about..." and points out a facet that OMG, that's really important.

For instance, today, the advice was to narrow down my focus to just Aspergers Syndrome, because these are kids who typically at the top end of the intelligence scale and very technologically savvy. Then, we talked about Temple Grandin's accounts of 'thinking in pictures' and it brought an aHA! moment of geez, no wonder why our kids get frustrated in school-they don't know how to filter down one hundred pictures to one that's relevant. But, if a computer based curriculum featured graphic elements, it would give the student one picture to focus on.

**Can you imagine life if someone said to think of a boat, and you visualized the first boat you ever saw, then the Titanic, then the QE2, then the Disney Wonder, then the SS Minnow, the Love Boat, the Edmund Fitzgerald, the Blue Nose, the Mayflower, the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria-all in rapid succession? And it happened to you all day, every day? Wouldn't you be just the tiniest bit frustrated with those darn neurotypicals who expected you to keep moving onto other tasks when you were still sorting?**

I asked for and got agreement that it might be a good idea to sit down with her faculty and get a 'wish list' of computer based curriculum ideas they each have in working with the students. It'll give me more of an idea of what it's like in the classroom, what needs are greatest.

Talking with the director is always enjoyable, she's so devoted to the students (and says she has 'many children,' because those students are hers.

Today, though, I got to share some of the advice I got from my mentors with regards to her educational focus. Asking her 'what would you want your legacy to be if...' based on our conversation helped her in a decision she has struggled with. It felt good to give something back.

We later joked that by the time I walk into my first doctoral class in two years, I'll be so focused that that PhD will be a cakewalk, and she fired back that if it was going to be that easy, I can do hers while I'm at it.

I like that kind of challenge. (but no, I'm not doing her dissertation, lol!)

It was supposed to be the right educational placement for GameTeen, but I'm learning from his school, too...

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

An Era Ends

I took my last undergrad class on my campus tonight. Heck, I didn't even realize that it was the last until there were only three of us left in the classroom.

This afternoon, I also took the first of my four finals. That went well, there's hope of pulling out an A-, possibly even an A in the class. We'll see how that goes.

It is just a little surreal, like I'm going to wake up and find out I haven't finished all the work...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Kitteh is Mad

He's annoyed that I am studying instead of scratching behind his ears...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Is it Too Early?

I think not. It's after Thanksgiving, everywhere you go, you hear Christmas carols on the Muzak. That means it's time for my favorite modern-era Christmas song:

Of course, this means I'm listening to it instead of studying Spanish. What can I say, the horn section is too good not to enjoy at least once tonight.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Have you heard of brainlifts?

It's a procedure that I have mixed feelings about. Basically, a neurosurgeon implants wires into the various lobes of the brain, along with a battery, and it stimulates your brain to a higher level of functioning.

Currently, the procedure is one that can be obtained by those who have money for cash-only neurosurgery practices as a way to be on their A game in whatever their field is. The article I read was about a lawyer who wanted to return to practice after six years away and didn't want her colleagues to think she wasn't as sharp.

To me, there are great possibilities and great pitfalls. On the great side, what if it helped those with cognitive delays, such as Down syndrome or mild retardation to 'catch up' to normal levels of intelligence. On the down side, if this is only a procedure that the rich can get, would it widen the socioeconomic divide?

Where do you draw the line? Do you have to make two standardized tests for students, brainlifted and average?

Your thoughts?

(Yes, I do love the way that my classes inspire thought!)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Friday, November 26, 2010

In the Thick of Things

This coming week is the last week of the semester, my last as an undergrad. On tap for me:

1 final (on Wednesday)
1 paper
1 quiz
7 chapters

Then the following week is finals for USF. I have two scheduled at the exact same time, the result of one of those classes occurring in Tampa and the other in Lakeland. Both professors have kindly offered to allow me alternative times to take their tests.

The day after that, I have a HUGE presentation on Spain for class (en español). The following week (after graduation) is finals week for the school where I take that course.

In amidst all of that is further interviewing and meetings for the committee I'm on.

So, the homestretch of this semester feels more like a gauntlet.

You'll all understand if the blog is heavy on short posts, right?

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Our Thanksgiving tradition for years has been ham. Yes, we've done a turkey here or there, but Ed's not a big fan. If I brine it, he'll eat it. However, the call of a ham that's been slathered in mustard, coated in ginger snap crumbs and basted with bourbon is usually too much to pass up.

Then we got the grill.

I'm not sure who suggested it first, but Ed definitely was up for a grilled and smoked turkey. He went and visited our GMG dealer to see what he suggested, and Ed arrived home with a big container of greek rub and directions to cook at 275. However, the message I got is that it'll take a while, so I started that bird at 9:30am.

Yeah, I should have called Ron and found out how big a bird he tends to do. It was done in just under three hours. It was sooooo pretty.

However, Jane was planning on us arriving at 5pm, so we waited on carving.

Our patience was rewarded, as it was tasty and tender. It still had great turkey flavor, a hint of smoke and it was moist and flavorful from that rub.

Now I'm wondering if we should do one for Christmas, too.

And lamenting the fact that I didn't get an 18 pound bird...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Big Bucket of Brine

The above bucket was purchased in 1999 from a little family-run food companyright by our house in Frederick, Maryland. They made the best apple butter you could buy in a store, and also made other jellies, preserves, pickles, relishes and chow chow. Their products are sold all over the area.

On one of the trips to the little shop beside their small factory, I noticed these pails outside with a sign that said they were a buck each. My first thought was 'hey, I've got a brining bucket, and a few weeks later, I made Alton Brown's turkey brine in it.

The bucket is a little piece of the place I called home, called into action whenever I need to brine. Yes, at 4 gallon size, it does get used for other things, but first and foremost is transforming a bird from boring to delicious.

While it is working its magic, I look at that pail and think of the little company it came from and the little city that was a great place to live.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Sum is Greater Than the Parts

While I knew that participating in the selection committee would involve a lot of work, I really had no idea that the rewards would be so plentiful.

First up, I am making connections with people who can help me in my future educational endeavors. Then, you have people who have gladly given me advice about the best direction to take in those studies.

Today, I had to complete reference checks with another committee member (State law dictates that at least two selection committee members interview the references, so we were adhering to the rules).

My partner and I got to talking about the path I've decided upon and why it is important to me. She revealed that she also has a child on the spectrum and we talked about the state of education for children with autism. There are great teachers who click with our kids, but in the public school setting, they're limited in what they can and cannot do.

I shared that while my plans and future research won't directly help Game Teen, he inspires me to make sure the path is easier for other children like him. I told her my belief that getting a diagnosis for many issues sets you on a clear road, but for parents with children on the autism spectrum, it's like we're plopped down in a maze, blindfolded, and expected to make it out of that maze without any tools to get us there.

Without realizing it, she helped me crystallize my purpose in the PhD. pursuit. I knew the topic I had in mind, but hadn't really considered the macro level result if what I suspect is accurate.

Kind of like this whole selection committee process.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Crunch Time

My presentation about Salvador Dalí for my Spanish class is due in the morning. I know what I want to say, but I have to go about writing it 'en español.' Apparently, I've picked up a lot more spanish this semester than I realized. This is where having a musical ear must be paying off. I notice when things don't sound right.

This doesn't mean I know what to say in place of the incorrect things yet!

Once this is done, I've got an interview for Psychology of Aging tomorrow, some reference checking for the selection committee, several paragraphs about spanish dance styles and four chapters to read by next Monday for a final.

Yes, a final. NEXT WEEK!

Back to the grind.

(Maybe I'll share the finished product about Dalí when I'm done)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Next Iron Chef, Season 3

Of course, if Food Network has a reality based competition show that isn't about making fanciful cakes or confectionary sculptures, I'm watching it. Which is how I got sucked into Next Iron Chef Season 3.

No, I didn't blog about it, like I enjoy doing with NFNS, because it's just too much to keep track of that stuff while studying. Instead, from the beginning, I had a favorite, and a few that I thought would be cool to see in Kitchen Statium on a regular basis. Ming Tsai was my front runner, because, well, he IS old school Food Network to me. Bryan Caswell and Marc Forgione just exuded calm competence and cooking chops. Dusty Estes and Marco Canora annoyed me from Week One, and I wanted them gone.

Dusty's arrogance was her downfall somewhere around week four, but Canora made it to the final. In the whole competition, he took every opportunity to knock Chef Tsai's efforts while puffing his chest about how he was truer to whatever the week's theme was.

Last week, he was running around the kitchen, freaking out because he couldn't find the parchment paper. That is not something people want to see if they're watching Iron Chef. Hissy fits over something that small don't play well with the judges.

However, this was the competition to be selected, and this happened out of sight of the three judges. When the dust settled in the double elimination week, it was Marc Forgione and Marco Canora headed to the Kitchen Stadium showdown.

Tonight's battle was Honor, the ingredients focused on Thanksgiving and the proteins placed before them were Venison, Duck, Turkey and Lobster. Forgione went traditional and mentioned that the first Thanksgiving (really the "Harvest Festival") did not have turkey on the menu, so he used venison, duck and lobster.

Canora kept harping on Forgione's lack of turkey as not being traditional, while he puffed up his chest once again that HE had the traditional turkey on his menu. Enough already!

Through the judging, it looked like it was very close. The only thing I thought might tip it towards Forgione was the fact that there are already two Iron Chefs serving Mediterranean foods. A comment here and there indicated that Forgione's risk taking all season long was what a true Iron Chef does.

Ultimately, the three judges and two other Iron Chefs on the selection committee made their pick:

Marc Forgione!

I'm looking forward to seeing what his battles look like soon.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Girl Time

When you live in a house with three males (four if you count the cat), you either give in or life is not pleasant. For the most part, I fit in better with the guys, but every once in a while, I need girl time.

Fortunately, I got some of that today. Meghan texted me after I'd gone to bed last night "wanna meet for lunch?" Heck, yeah, especially since it involved checking out one of the local Vera Bradley retailers that was in the same shopping center as the preferred lunch destination.

Also on tap was some shopping. Meghan has lost nearly 50 pounds on Weight Watchers and that means that clothing items are too big. I kept her company while she perused at a few stores. We somehow made it through Books a Million by just walking down the main aisle. I can't explain that one.

My schoolwork called me away, but it was good to just kibbitz for a few hours.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Mother's Intuition

Today, Game Teen's school had a Thanksgiving luncheon for all students and their families. The school provided turkey and drinks, and we were asked to bring a side or dessert. (I was quite pleased to see that the entire huge pan of macs and cheese I brought was demolished)

As we're relatively new to the school, I didn't know where to sit, and Chef decided for us, choosing a table with two moms and a gaggle of adorable young ladies and a little brother who was quite charming.

Something nice about having a school (or even an ESE program within a school) is that the parents usually lack the clique mentality you might find when the kids are in a normal environment. Such was the case today.

In less than five minutes, the conversation among we three moms was going like we'd known each other for ages. We talked about what ASD diagnosis our children had and where our child was in treatment approach. What we all had in common, despite our kids having different challenges?

Without fail, all three of us were insisting to our pediatricians that something wasn't right with our child. We couldn't pinpoint exactly what was different, but we knew they weren't like the other children their age when put in an environment with them. In Game Teen's case, he was hitting the Denver Scale milestones early-but that doesn't do more than scratch the surface of social interaction.

We introduced each other by name, but by the end of the meal, we were 'K's mom, S's mom and G's mom,' because we knew that's how our kids would recognize us. We were the last table to leave, too intent on hearing each other's stories. Even though our exact situations were unique, there were enough common threads to make each of us feel as though we'd known each other for a while.

In addition, another mom came up to me while Game Teen and I were in line for our food. "Excuse me, I'm A's mom," and a boy a little older than my son waved at me. "I noticed your son's legs have the same scabs as mine. Does he have a diagnosis for that? No one seems to know what the heck A has-his doctor insists its bug bites."

In fact, two months ago, the supervising Psychiatrist to Game Teen's doctor threw a name of a syndrome. My son met all the criteria but one, so they didn't pursue the diagnosis, but I shared what I knew with the other mom. I asked for her email so I could send her the information I'd gathered.

When you've got a child on the spectrum, many times, you feel adrift without the school based connections the neurotypical parents enjoy. Today, I got connections with others who got it. Not only did we understand each other, we could provide a little support and advice of what works and what doesn't with our kids.

You know, because for years, it was just us who knew something was different. We stored all that information away, knowing that someday, someone else would need that information.

Mother's intuition, you know.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

After a Long Wait

Some of my friends are sitting in movie theatres across the country, waiting for part one of the last Harry Potter installment.

We have a local movie theatre that just added an IMAX screen, and Deathly Hallows is only the second movie they'll be showing.

So now, the dilemma. Do I take the kids to the drive in to see it over the weekend, or do I wait for Ed's day off next week, so we can all go?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Say What?

Last night, I was too wiped out from my duties on the selection committee to study for a test I would be taking tonight.

So, this morning, prior to the day's classes, I got about 1.5 hours study time, and then another half hour tonight. Not terribly much, but the material was overlapped in my other two psych classes this semester. I figured I'd take my lumps and get about an 80 out of the test.

(I have an extra credit opportunity AND I was running about a 90 heading into this exam)

I didn't do an 80, I got a 72. However, others in the class who DID spend a lot of time studying got lower grades. Much lower grades, to the point that the professor will be spending the day tomorrow reviewing the tests and graphing the questions that many of us got wrong.

She stated there will be a curve, and the grades will be corrected by the weekend.

So, if I did better than many of my peers without studying, perhaps it was a good thing I didn't study?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Very Unique Experience in Applied Learning

The light post yesterday and the very late post tonight are the result of a wonderful opportunity I was given through my school. I am the student representative on a committee to select an important leader for the University.

To say the experience was incredible really doesn't do the whole process justice. There was so much I've observed, learned and gained from this opportunity that I could write for weeks and not get everything in print.

First up, seeing a major recruiting firm coordinate the process, seeking candidates out and advertising in targeted publications was great. In all my years of retail, most jobs we had available weren't even advertised. Seeing great candidates from all over the country says that the school is well regarded, but more importantly, gave us a glimpse into how similar academic institutions all around the country operate.

Then, the candidates. While I can't speak about who is considered in this role, I can say that the way they all processed and answered the same questions is a great way for me to use the two years of studying, specifically motivation and social psych principles. The questions they asked said so much more than what was on the surface.

At the end of two days of interviewing, two candidates asked me for input as a student on campus. This impressed me, not just because I am a student. The last few weeks on this campus have me reflecting on what made my time there so fulfilling and it boils down to the passion the faculty and staff have for the Poly model and for genuinely assisting the students. That two people wanted to know this information tells me those candidates would fit in well with those already serving the students.

Outside the interviewing, I've spent the past several weeks pondering a major decision regarding exactly how far I'll go in my educational pursuits. Last week was spent polling my current instructors about my dissertation concept, whether it would be better suited for my current path, or should I return to Psychology for this area of study. (It'd do well in either arena).

Their answer was to throw questions back at me, and as a result, I've decided to apply to the doctoral program in Instructional Technology once I finish the master's. As part of the selection committee, I was able to use some of the down time of the past two days to poll some of the many PhD.'s about their experiences and what advice they had.

They all had kind words and excellent advice which made me see that what I was charged with doing right now will serve me in good stead as I embark on research and writing in a few short years. Asking the questions of candidates serves an important need for the University, to find the right fit for the school's future.

However, at the same time, it was a way for me to apply what I already learned in the classroom. More importantly, sitting at that table was probably similar to what defending a dissertation must be like.

Ultimately, in serving the school, they've served me something quite amazing-a glimpse into what lies ahead for me.