After missing three weeks of tutoring at the Success School because I was sick, I went back today.  It felt so good!  Everyone said how much they missed me and how Ted asked for me every week and was disappointed that I wasn’t there.  They even sent me a get-well card and everyone signed it.  (The mystery is where it went, because I didn’t get it in the mail.)

Ted and I spent three hours working on his social studies and geometry.  We are a good match and we work well together.  (See January 27.)  Ted seems to catch on to things fairly quickly and can do math in his head, so I asked him why he failed so many courses.  He said he thinks the teachers just went too fast for him.  Isn’t that a shame?  How hard would it be to give the guy a little extra time or a little extra help before he fails the class?

While I was out sick, “my” room, the Blue Lagoon (so called because the outer woodwork is painted blue), was refurnished.  They put in a (very well-used) sofa and a comfy chair.  Unfortunately, they took out the table.  Luckily, there are folding tables in the old shop classroom Ted and I used one week (also January 27), so I got one of those and the learning continued.

My "Blue Lagoon"

My “Blue Lagoon” (actual size)

When we bought my car, we took out a home equity line of credit to pay for it.  We made the final payment six months ago and closed the account.  Or so we thought.  Since December 23, the bank has contacted me 11 times to tell me we have a balance due, including late fees, for the maintenance charge to keep the account open.  Each time, I tell the same story and, each time, I’m told that the issue is resolved and I won’t receive any more bills or calls.  Not true!

Well, the bank picked the wrong person to mess with!  I documented every encounter!  Last week, after “resolving” the issue yet again, I decided that if I was contacted one more time, I was going into action.  I only had to wait two days for the next call.  I politely explained the situation (again!) and said I would be filing complaints with the Federal Reserve and the state attorney general as soon as I hung up.  (I’d already checked online to see if this was a viable thing to do.)

I filed official complaints with both.  The Fed sent a follow-up message today, saying that my complaint has been reviewed and forwarded to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for action.  (Pretty quick action for a federal agency!)  Since nothing strictly illegal has been done and the complaint is basically about harassment, I don’t really expect any action from either agency.  It just gives me satisfaction to file a formal complaint with the legal entities that oversee the bank.

Today, Ted and I each received a letter from the bank (it was only a single account) offering to work with us if our financial circumstances are making it difficult to pay the overdue charges!!!  I decided I’m finished talking to the bank.  Let them take us to court.  But meanwhile, . . .

Next step:  contact Channel 4’s consumer advocate.  (Hey, why not?)  Again, it’s only harassment and we haven’t been cheated out of anything, so I didn’t expect a response.  An hour later, the reporter called, wanting to interview me tomorrow.  I can’t do it tomorrow, so he’s coming to the house the next day.

Hopefully, one of two things will happen:  (1) my stated intention to contact the Fed and the attorney general scared last week’s bank person into doing some paperwork; or (2) a call from the media will embarrass a different bank person into doing some paperwork.  I don’t really want to be on TV.  I just want to close a paid-in-full account.  How hard can that be?

Another record high today:  78 degrees!  Unfortunately, reality returns next week with highs in the mid- and upper 40s, but this was great while it lasted.

We attended yesterday’s travel seminar for two reasons:  (1) We were curious what they’d have to say; and (2) we wondered if we’d really get a major prize without spending any money.  We assumed we’d only get a gift if we signed up for a trip, and we had no intention of spending a dime.  It was a surprise to be handed a folder with the details related to our Caribbean cruise.

Today, Ted looked the company up online–again, out of curiosity, since we have no intention of joining their travel club–and it only took a moment to discover that there is a pending lawsuit against VSA Travel Clubs and its Missouri chapter, Destinations.  The lawsuit requests that the company cease and desist operating in Missouri because of the large number of complaints and lawsuits filed against it.  Here’s how the BBB rates VSA Destinations:

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Ted also read the information we were given about the cruise.  (I’m busy reading a novel, which is more interesting!)  The cruise might be equally scam-like.  Within two weeks, we need to send the $200 and select a date to cruise.  We suspect the $200 cost will turn out to be a deposit on a full-price cruise.  Oh, well, the Caribbean is way down on our travel list anyway–and the $10 in cash we received from the travel folks plus a $4-off coupon from the restaurant bought us lunch today.

We attended a sales pitch seminar for a wholesale travel company today, partly out of curiosity and mostly because we were promised a high-end gift just for attending:  a 50-inch plasma TV, a Caribbean cruise, or an iPad, as well as a possible “bonus” prize of a $100 Wal-Mart gift certificate.  We figured we’d have to sign up for some travel (not a chance!) to get the gift, but we decided to go anyway.

With a membership in this travel club, we can get unbelievable savings on unlimited upscale travel, including condos, hotels, cruises, air fare, tours, et al.  The cost to join the club is a one-time bargain (?) payment of $12,999 plus a $286 service fee plus a $59 quarterly membership fee.  Apparently, we can save more than that on our first two major trips.  Even better, the membership can be willed to one of our children so that when we die, our child will have these awesome travel deals for the cost of the quarterly $59 fees.  When we said we couldn’t commit to that without time to think it over, the price instantly dropped to $3,499 plus fees if we handed over a credit card immediately.

It was a fairly interesting presentation, but it brought to mind two major financial cautions:  (1) If it seems too good to be true, it probably is; and (2) be suspicious if the price is good only at this moment.  We said we still wanted to think it over, so the “closer” guy came over to talk with us–also unsuccessfully.  Surprisingly, they were very polite and we didn’t feel strong-armed.

A third person then took us to the desk to “sign you out” and we got to draw for the Wal-Mart gift certificate.  We won $10 in cash, but then we also got a Caribbean cruise!  It won’t be free but, at first glance, it looks like it will be only $200 each for a seven-day cruise, which is pretty good for spending two hours at a sales pitch.

Today’s high temperature:  a record high (since 1930) of 77 degrees.  Normal high is 46.  Tomorrow’s forecast high:  72.  I drove with the top down to enjoy the sunshine.  It’s definitely a good day!

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File photo. If only the trees and grass were already this green!

Today I met with John, my mentor, to discuss the teacher trainings in India.  As I expected, John had some good questions, suggestions, and advice.

One of John’s questions was whether I’d ever done any team trainings.  I said I had and that I actually prefer doing team trainings because I believe two personalities contribute to learning and help avoid boredom.  In fact, I told John, I’ve already asked Dr. P. if it would be possible to bring another trainer with me, and he said “yes.”  I told John that I have two people in mind–one of my teachers, who is now retired, and John, if he’d be willing to come with me.

Without missing a beat, John said he’d be happy to go to India with me.  Well, that’s just frosting on my cake!!  Thick frosting!!  With someone of John’s stature and experience at my side, a successful outcome is assured and my nervousness is gone.  John’s area of expertise is adult education; mine is teaching reading comprehension skills–what some people call “teaching kids to think.”  John will be very effective in getting the teachers onboard, while my strength will be teaching the specific skills to be addressed.  What a team we will be!

I asked John if he’d be willing to take the lead role, since this is a new experience for me.  His response was that there is no need for this, since he saw excellent leadership from me when I was president of the state education association (of which he is also a lifetime member), and then he said, “We will lead together.”  What an awesome man he is!  I’m so fortunate to know him and to count him as one of my friends.

I have a follow-up appointment for my wrist with Dr. P. on March 3. Between now and then, I’ll be preparing an outline of what John and I will include in the training and afterward for support.  If Dr. P. likes what he sees (this is the “I think” part, because even though it was Dr. P.’s idea, it still seems unreal to me), I’ll schedule a time for the three of us–John, Dr. P. and me–to meet and discuss the details.

One of my retirement goals was to offer my time and knowledge to help undereducated people in a meaningful way.  I’ve been doing that with my volunteer hours at the Success School.  Now, in addition to that, I have a chance to support education in an exciting way I never dreamed of, and with the best possible partner.  If God spoke to me from a burning bush, I don’t think He could make it more clear that He is guiding (shoving?) me in the way I should go at this time.  I wonder where it will lead, because surely this is not the end.

Pitchers and catchers report for spring training today, so winter is nearly over!  It makes me remember what a good time we had at the Cardinals spring training game in Jupiter, FL last March.  There was snow in St. Louis, but it was in the upper 70s in Jupiter.  Aaahhh.

058 Jupiter batter

I’m working on gathering information so I can give Dr. P. an answer about doing teacher trainings for him in India.  I checked out Dr. P.’s foundation website (http://brightlifefoundation.org) and listened to a one-hour interview with him on You Tube about his foundation and the school.  I also asked another medical doctor about him and received an unconditional character reference, as well as the information that Dr. P. is well-known for his work with his school.  Two days from now, I’m meeting with Dr. John H., my friend and mentor, who has done many educational trainings in 20 countries.  I’m hoping for some expert, solid guidance from him.

As I’m doing these things, the idea of going to India in an educational capacity is becoming more real and I’m getting a little nervous about it.  I’m not nervous about doing the training (I’ve done a lot of those); I’m nervous about doing it in an unfamiliar culture, where I know nothing about the educational system or about the teachers and their teaching styles.  I’m assuming that, if I agree to do this, Dr. P. will spend the necessary time with me to provide that information.

And then I saw the quotation below, and again had the feeling that maybe I’m being guided to this.

 

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Today I proved that I play nicely in the snow/sandbox.  We had two inches of snow last night, but I’m still too sick to play with my new snowblower.  I shared it with Ted and let him have the fun this time.

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My wrist is healing and I’m down to a smaller bandage.  I guess pretty soon I’ll have to offer to help do the dishes again.

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Teddy isn’t feeling well today, so Ted stayed with him while Kari went to work.  While Ted was busy with something else, Teddy went into his room.  In a little while, he appeared before his grandpa in his latest regalia.

I’ve been feeling crummy for six days now, and there’s no sign I’m getting better.  In fact, my eyes are red, swollen, and draining today, so I decided it’s time to call in the big guns and make a doctor’s appointment.  It’s not flu; my lungs are clear; it’s probably viral; and it’s not what the doctor is seeing in most of his patients these days.  So there!  It’s not “that thing going around.”  I feel too awful to say that makes me feel special.

The prescription:  A cough syrup with codeine in it to stop my nearly constant coughing and Sudafed to clear the congestion he thinks might be backing up from my sinuses into my eyes.

The prognosis:  It might take five more days before I even start to feel better.  As Jeff would write, sigh.

Today I had a follow-up with Dr. P., the hand surgeon, to have the stitches removed from my wrist.  While he pulled and snipped, he chatted with me about the school he built and supports in India through his foundation.

He knows I worked in the educational field and that I’m retired, so he started telling me some of his concerns about the school.  I responded with some simple suggestions, and he moved on to more detail and teacher trainings.  I finally asked what he was really trying to tell me.  (At this point, I catch my breath, my heart rate accelerates, and my eyes widen.)  He wants me to put together a training for his teachers and then go to India to train them, at the expense of his foundation!

I’ve explored some avenues to make a meaningful contribution to education, especially for those who struggle to be educated, but the roads haven’t taken me where I want to go.  Could this be the Lord working in one of his famously mysterious ways?  The more Dr. P. and I talked, the more excited I became.  Sanity did not totally disappear, however, and I asked for time to consider this.  He said there is no hurry.

When I got home, I emailed the person I most respect in education:  Dr. John Henschke–my mentor, advisor, and friend.  I asked him to meet with me to discuss this idea.  John has taught adult education in 20 countries.  I know he will be able to guide me in asking the right questions and in doing the necessary research to verify whether or not I’ve discovered a shining star in my retirement sky.

When Oprah turned 50, she said she knew that her best work was yet to be done.  I always hoped that would be true for me as well.  This may or may not be the direction for me to take, but just think:  What if it is?

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More than three weeks later, we still haven’t finished the puzzle we started on a chilly January night.  In fact, we demoted it to the dining room table two weeks ago and haven’t worked on it since.  I guess we’re not puzzle people.  I rarely give up on a project, and can think of only three that I deliberately quit without finishing.  I’m starting to wonder if I should go for four.

We’ve had three up/down weather cycles in the last ten days (25-35 degree temperature differences in the daytime highs), and that almost always gives me laryngitis.  This time was no exception.  The laryngitis wasn’t bad–one crummy day and then a come-back–but it was followed by something evil that took me downhill for three days.  This is the fourth day and I think I bottomed out yesterday, because I feel a little better today.  I assume that in 7-10 days, I’ll be fine.  Sooner would be good.

Question:  When you get sick in the winter, why does everyone blame it on “that thing that’s going around”?  Does “that thing” ever “go around” in other seasons?

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Bissinger’s is ready for Valentine’s Day!  The superpowers of the beautiful red candy boxes pulled us into the store tonight and made us buy two chocolate-covered cherries apiece.  Yum!  The superpowers of chocolate are awesome!

This morning, I had a giant cell tumor removed from my wrist.  It’s a noncancerous growth of larger-than-normal cells.  It looked like I had inserted a marble under my skin, and I could tell that it was growing over the past few months.  It was getting big enough to become irritated when I repeatedly bumped my wrist on flat surfaces, so it was time to get rid of it.

Before the surgery, the prep nurse asked if I had any questions.  I asked how long I have to wait to put pressure on my wrist and to return to Pilates.  (Answer:  Two weeks for pressure;  OK for Pilates as long as I don’t do any moves that put stress on my wrist.)

This was an outpatient procedure, so the “rooms” were divided by curtains like an emergency room.  That meant I could hear other patients’ conversations.  When asked if he had any questions before his procedure, the man on the other side of my curtain said, “Just one.  When can I drink alcohol?”  (Answer:  Not while you’re taking pain medication.)  Obviously, his priorities are different from mine.

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Those who know me well know that I believe spring begins on the day following the winter solstice.  Holding the thought that the days are getting longer keeps me from whining about winter, my least favorite season.  This week, I discovered a literary soulmate.

One of the characters in the book I’m currently reading was walking outdoors “into the blustery cold” of February in New York.  She asks, “Why is there February? . . . February should be eliminated altogether for the good of mankind.”

Time moves on in the story and it becomes March.  At this point, the same character notes that, “Seeing it’s March, it’s practically April, so it’s almost summer if you think about it.”  Yes!  I get that!

 

P.S.  There was a small flock of robins in the front yard this morning.  It must be nearly summer!

While driving today, I passed a store that specializes in selling alcoholic beverages.  The store’s roadside sign advertised a “Liquer Sale.”  Raise your hand if you agree that people ought to know how to spell what they do for a living.

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Since the Christmas break, I’ve been spending most of my weekly tutoring time helping Ted with algebra and geometry.  Ted is 17 and has failed a number of classes, so he’s working on them in the Success School, as well as working at a job.

Ted told me he intends to study hard to achieve his high school diploma.  The classroom teacher told me Ted likes working with me and he feels like he’s finally “getting it.”  Today, he scored 100 percent on a chapter test, making this a very good day for Ted.

. . . And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why teachers teach.

A Fox news reporter told us last night that three offenders escaped from a California prison.  According to the reporter, they used power tools to access a drop point, then tied bedsheets together and repelled their way down.  I assume the repelling force kept them from hitting the side of the building as they rapelled to the ground.

Today, another teacher was using the closet-size room in which I usually tutor students, so I was put in the former “shop” classroom.  It’s a large room with a bare concrete floor, a high ceiling that includes ceiling-mounted electrical outlets for power tools, and a few amenities such as a desk, a table, and large plants under some of the windows.

It addition to other activities, the room is apparently used as a storage space, as evidenced by two dozen computer towers, extra folded tables, and a rolling rack filled with folding chairs.  Some of the more unusual items in the room included an antique large-screen classroom TV; an also-antique set of bound World Book encyclopedias; and scattered pieces of exercise equipment (a Nordictrack-type thing, a treadmill, a recumbent bike, and a yoga mat).

Even more unusual were the two gas grills and the washer/dryer–complete with detergent and the original energy use sticker.  You never know when you’ll want to fire up the grill and/or do your laundry between classes!

Treadmill and gas grills

Treadmill and gas grills

 

Washer and dryer

Washer and dryer–with energy sticker!

As a bona fide grammar nerd, I regularly read the “Grammarly” blog.  This week’s blog had some entertaining sentences, one of which was:

“The man the professor the student has studies Rome.”

This sentence conveys that the student has a male professor who studies ancient Rome.  The embedded information in the center of the sentence is grammatically correct, but confusing.  Given the fact that this is a grammar blog, I couldn’t help groaning at a reader’s comment that asked, “Haven’t you heard about comas?”

What makes English grammar fun?  The fact that the following sentence makes sense!

“All the faith he had had had had no effect on the outcome of his life.”

What do you give to a man who has everything?  An M&Ms sculpture, of course!  This was a birthday gift to Ted from Jeff’s family.

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It’s only two inches of snow, but that’s enough to finally try out the new snowblower I got last year.  Good news:  it works!

From a TV ad:  “I used to hate being called ‘Grandma.’  Now I love it.  Especially when it comes from my grandkids.”

Question:  Who else would have called her “Grandma”?

The heroine of the book I’m reading inherited a sapphire and diamond necklace with a “big, round, deep blue sapphire in the center” and (get this!) “two other smaller, but equally huge, diamond-surrounded sapphires flanking it on each side.”  Well, are the flanking sapphires smaller than the center stone, or are they equally huge?  They can’t be both.  And where else would they “flank” the center stone except on each side?  Nonsensical stuff like this drives me crazy!

 

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We just got home from walking in the falling snow.  It’s 20 degrees, but not windy, so it was a good, invigorating walk.  The forecast is for 3-4 inches of snow in the next 12 hours.  Maybe I’ll finally get to use my new snowblower!  ⛄

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The forecast was right:  it’s cold!  But it’s sunny, and not windy, so we decided to walk outside instead of on the treadmill.  As the saying goes, “There is no bad weather; only bad clothing.”  We put on the good clothing (base layer, heavy socks, down jackets, etc.) and headed out.  It wasn’t bad at all, and we felt refreshed and invigorated when we got home–much more than we would have on our treadmill walks.  It was strange not to see any other walkers, runners, or bikers, and only a few cars.  That surely gives us bragging rights for today.

After 60+ degrees on Thursday, the cold front has arrived and the next few days will be very cold.  We had a cozy evening with a fire in the fireplace while we worked on a 1000-piece puzzle.  125 pieces connected; 875 to go.

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I was invited to attend the City of St. Charles School Board meeting tonight to be recognized for my volunteer service at the Success H.S.  I’m always uncomfortable with public recognition, but I’m glad I accepted the invitation.  When I was at the school Tuesday, the teachers asked me if I would be at the meeting, and they were very happy when I said “yes.”  It made me think that if I’d said “no,” I would have disappointed them in their desire to thank me.

Five other people from two schools were also recognized and it was enjoyable to hear the stories from the principals describing the wonderful things they had done.  I still don’t feel I deserve recognition for doing something I’m enjoying so much, but it’s always nice to be thanked.  Best of all, as a result of the story about one of the other honorees, I went home with a wonderful idea for a way that Ted and I can do some meaningful charitable work through the school district.

For Christmas, Thom and Katie gave each of us (Ted and me and the other three kids) tea towels they bought in New Zealand on their honeymoon.  I decided to hang mine on a wall where I can enjoy it, rather than putting it out of sight in the dishtowel drawer.  A dowel, a coat of stain, two coats of varnish, and a seam across the top edge of the towel, then voilà!–a wall hanging from New Zealand!  Thanks, Thom and Katie!

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Tonight, both The Daily Show and The Nightly Show spoofed a prisoner in “Ma-‘nit-o-woc” County in WI.  Ah, that would be ” ‘Man-i-to-woc” County.  One of my big pet peeves is the version of English used in broadcasting.  Maybe those money-making networks could hire an underling to call the county court house for the purpose of checking the pronunciations of unfamiliar place names.

P.S.  When reporting on the St. Louis area, newly hired newscasters should verify ” ‘Flor-is-sant” before going on air and saying “Flor-‘iss-ant.”

For some time, the drywall tape on the garage ceiling has been coming loose.  In October, we hired a contractor to re-tape the ceiling to improve the trashy look of the garage.  That, of course, led to re-painting the garage ceiling and walls, which we just painted circa 1980.  (I’d be lying if I said it seems like yesterday.)  To complete the fresh, new look, we bought new blinds for the windows.

The garage windows are six feet tall, and the window tops are eight feet from the floor.  The six-foot long blinds we bought came with whopping 20-inch wands to open and close them.

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We have our bikes in front of the windows, and I couldn’t reach the wands, so it was Home Depot to the rescue.  I bought two 42-inch dowels, some cup hooks, and a mini can of glossy white paint, then headed for the basement.

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Now the paint is dry, the dowels are hung, and I can adjust the blinds whenever I want to.  It doesn’t take much to make me happy.  Does anyone need a 20-inch wand?IMG_20160111_142943

 

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We had our first snowfall of the season yesterday–about two inches.  It was the fifth latest measurable snowfall on record for the area.  Unbelievably, a snowplow cleared our street when it had an inch of slush on it!  An hour later, all the neighborhood driveways were clear due to melting.  I guess the plowing overtime is too good to resist!  The down side:  I still haven’t had a chance to use the new snowblower I got last winter.

A few months ago, Thom suggested that I write a travel blog.  I haven’t journaled or kept a diary since I was in seventh grade, so I told Thom he was very funny and that wouldn’t be happening.  In spite of my best efforts, Thom’s suggestion stayed in my mind.  I enjoy reading Jeff’s blog, and it makes me feel more connected with what’s happening in his life.  Sometimes it even makes me want to contribute something from my own life in response.

I asked Jeff for some help in getting started, and (as always) he was very generous in sharing his computer expertise with me.  So here I go–living on the edge and trying something new.  I’m started.

 

Ship photo 1 Diane