Saturday, February 22, 2014

Roof Raking

So, we had a snow storm scheduled to hit Thursday night. Predictions were for 8-12", though some forecast models said up to 15". I was freaking out a little because I already have about 1.5 feet of snow on my roof. And I was worried much more would bury my chimney, which would mean my furnace wouldn't work and I would freeze to death. (Me? Over dramatic? Pshaw.) I was also starting to worry about the snow piled up on the awning at the front of my house. It was time to do something to make sure my awning didn't come crashing down from the weight of the snow!

I started by purchasing a roof rake. A roof rake looks like this

And you use it like this

So I started calling hardware stores in EC. Nearly every person laughed when I asked if they had any roof rakes in stock, because apparently everyone is a procrastinator like me. But Thompson's True Value Hardware had just gotten some in stock, and better yet, they would hold one for me until I finished teaching and could get there to pick it up!

At 11, I finished teaching and headed to pick up my shiny new $60 roof rake. I bought what was, literally, the last one in Eau Claire! Once home, I piled on long johns, jeans, 2 pairs of socks, 3 layered shirts, hat and wool gloves . . . I looked a bit like this
and I headed out to the adventure of roof raking. Once put together, the roof rake is 16 feet long, so manipulating it takes some practice. My goal quickly switched from removing snow to removing snow without taking out a window! I started with the front awning. Once I got the hang of it, it was kind of cool. I was pulling huge chunks of snow off the awning, creating a substantial pile on the walkway. Once I was done with the awning, I needed to head around back to get snow off the chimney area. Here's where it got interesting. See, there is about 3-4 feet of snow piled up in my front yard. As I started breaking a trail in the snow, I quickly realized this was going to be the hardest part of roof raking. I sort of looked like this
Only not nearly that cute. And with snow nearly as high as my waist in places, it took about 10 minutes just to get to the other side of the house! Plus, I was dragging a 16 foot window-breaking-ice-removing-tool. Once I got around to the back, it was tricky figuring out exactly where the chimney was. Getting the snow off the back of the house was a bit trickier as it was a bigger reach with the roof rake. Finally, I was finished. My legs were frozen, my gloves were sopping wet and I was actually sweating from the hard work. I was exhausted!

Then, it dawned on me I had to make my way back to the front of the house. I was ready to lay down and take a nap in the snow. As I started the arduous trek back, I realized the road was a lot closer than trudging all the way around the house through the snow. So, I made a bee-line for the road.

And then I got stuck. I took a step and sunk in snow up to my waist. I was literally stuck - couldn't move forward, couldn't move backward. I realized my error was forgetting that the snow piled at the edge of the road was 5+ feet. I'm 5'4". As my legs grew more numb with every passing second, I formulated a plan . . . I earthworm-crawled onto my belly so I was laying on top of the snow. And then I rolled to the edge of the snow pile. I remember hoping that no-one was watching my awkward roll to freedom. Or filming it. Next time, I need to remember to borrow some snow-shoes.

I am happy to report that we only got 8" of snow, but it was very dense, wet, heavy snow. Getting my roof raking done was a good choice, because just 2 streets down from me, this happened
The victim is just fine, but I couldn't help but be grateful that it wasn't me!

It stopped snowing in the wee hours of Friday morning, and my neighbors snow-blowed my drive. (Gosh, they are amazing!) I had to go in to do some coaching Friday afternoon, and found this on the other side of the garage.
That's right, huge tree branches that came within inches of taking out my garage.
I'm counting myself extremely lucky that my garage and car were spared. Any more snow, and my house might be completely buried.
I am quite ready for snow and cold weather (we are back in the teens and single digits, with below zero temps in the coming week) to be done! Though I have to admit, it sure is pretty.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


In the days since my last post, the following things have happened:

Feb 14th: I drove my forensics team to Ripon, Wisconsin to compete in the state forensics tournament. I also ran the tournament, which meant I was feeling stressed.

Feb 15th: My team won the Wisconsin Collegiate Forensics Association State Tournament for the 22nd consecutive year. HELL YEA!!! We also drove home on roads that were total crap due to snow.

Feb 16th: Because every person I know has been going on and on about how freaking great "House of Cards" is, I decided to watch an episode. Damn it. It really is that good. So I spent the rest of Sunday binge-watching the entire first season. I am still recovering, emotionally.

Feb 17th: Still suffering a bit from tournament (and House of Cards) hangover, I was trying to figure out how to have enough energy to teach class. Then I remembered I was giving a test, and I did a happy dance. But just a little dance, because my knee is giving me problems. I had an appointment with my rheumatologist, who agreed I needed a cortisone shot in my knee. (Ouch!) He also had me get X-rays of my tailbone, because that pain just won't quit.

Feb 18th: Knee was pain free for the first time in weeks! Coached for 8,000 hours. Got a call from my rheumatologist with X-ray results . . . It's not arthritis, nor is it a fractured tailbone. I have coccydynia, which sounds like an STD but is actually inflammation in the tailbone. This can occur from a fall (which I've NOT done) or simply spontaneously, with no known reason. Yea. I ordered a coccyx pillow to sit on - yes, that's a real thing. If the pain doesn't go away, the next step is physical therapy. At home, I used a freeze-off wart remover for the first time on a plantar wart on the bottom of my foot. I've never had a wart before (icky-grody) and I'm hoping this treatment will make it magically go away.

Feb 19th: Had to go to the dentist. Not a big deal for most people. I am not most people, and have a severe, serious phobia of the dentist. Luckily, I have a dentist (Dr. Meer with Maple Ridge Dental in EC) who is amazingly kind and sensitive to my irrational fear. He is not phased to find me crying when he walks into the exam room - in fact, I don't think he'd recognize me without puffy eyes. The good thing is he slaps the nitrous mask on me just as fast as he can. He also has some magic technique of administering Novocain that hardly hurts at all. Two hours later, I had a cavity filled and a temporary crown on another tooth. I rewarded myself with a mint-mocha shake, but then discovered my mouth was so numb I couldn't feel the straw. Still waiting for feeling to return to my mouth.

We are scheduled to get hit by a snowstorm tomorrow. If we get hit by the 10-12 inches predicted, I may find my chimney buried, which means my furnace won't work, which means I will freeze to death. I'm crossing my fingers my neighbor still has a roof rake I can borrow, if needed. Though I have no idea how I would actually get to the back yard as there is 4-5 feet of snow piled up in the back yard. Oh well, guess I'll cross that bridge if I need to. Any tall people want to come rake the snow off my roof?

Thursday, February 13, 2014


So, today is apparently the day I'm going to cry about EVERYTHING. Read a Valentine and cried. Watched a student speech and cried. Had a minor disagreement and cried. Watched a cat video and cried.

What. The. Fuck?

I'm NOT a person who cries a lot. Sure, I'll cry when it really matters - but not over little stuff. I think this is just one of the signs that my head is screwed up.

How am I feeling today? Very wet. And snotty.

I'm also a little stressed about running the state forensics tournament this weekend.

I'm a little excited to go to the tournament with this group of students.

I'm a little frustrated at the thought of having to defend my single-ness tomorrow, on the biggest couples day of the year.

I'm a little homesick.

I'm a little tired of trying to figure out what I'm going to wear this weekend to the tournament.

Tonks just crawled up into my lap, looked me in the eye, and tapped my face with her paw. This was so adorable I had to pause in typing this entry, because, you know - it made me cry.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Baby steps

This isn't my first rodeo. I've sought out counseling several times in the past. The most memorable, was after my divorce, when depression pulled me so far into it's cave I didn't know if I would ever know light again. It's odd, but I don't remember how hard it was to fight my way back to the surface, I just remember that I did.

Here I am again, back on the proverbial psych couch, but this time it's not depression, but anxiety that has me held down in claws of panic. I know I need help finding my way back to a calm place, a peaceful place, a happy place. But I forgot how much work it takes.

I'm not comfortable putting a lot of the details of this experience out into the open. Perhaps because I find it embarrassing that I can't simply reason my way out of it. I've tried. My counselor, B, has told me we will work on taking baby steps to a better place. I told her I'd like a magic pill so that *poof* I'd be "better." Judging from B's laughter, I'm not the only person who would like a quick fix.

Unfortunately, I'm going to have to go about this the hard way. Taking baby steps. B wants me to learn to ask myself "How am I feeling?" Because my anxiety is so pervasive, I've fallen into the habit of always feeling stressed, but B says I have to re-learn to recognize the other feelings that are also present.

So . . . right at this moment, I feel vulnerable, ashamed, stressed and helpless. And frustrated that I can't call B up and tell her this is a dumb assignment.

Baby steps . . . Baby steps . . . Baby steps . . .

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Olympics!

It's time!! The Olympics are here! WOO-HOOOOO!!! Granted, the opening ceremony has yet to happen, but there is already ice skating and some kind of scary snowboard/skateboard/somebodyisgoingtodie event happening on my TV.

I love the Olympics. I find them . . .

(Oh dang. The American male skater fell. Get up! Fake it till you make it!!)

I find the Olympics inspiring. And scary. And exhilarating. I find myself cheering for athletes, though only the cats can hear me. The personal stories spun by the talented producers at NBC make me teary. And usually, the history and stories told of the host city make me want to visit.

But this year, I have conflicting emotions. I'm super excited for the athletic competition, but I'm super sad at the attitude of the host country toward some cultural groups. I have friends who are boycotting watching the Olympics in order to protest the Russian governments horrifically violent treatment of LGBTQ people. I agree that the treatment of LGBTQ people in Russia is appalling, but I don't quite understand how boycotting watching the games has any effect on the issue. For me, watching the Olympics is about supporting and cheering for individual athletes, and not watching the games wouldn't allow me to do that. If I'm not careful, I will allow myself to feel guilty for watching the games.

I'm also already tired of the media's obsessive Schadenfreude lens that they are going to frame the games through.

Per Mirriam-Webster: Schadenfreude is "a feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing or hearing about the troubles of other people."

There are already numerous social media sites being flooded with stories of how horrible the accommodations are, that many venues and tourist areas are still being built, that some of the skiing venues have poor snow quality - the complaints go on and on. These Olympics are quickly becoming an event where the media encourages us to make fun of the inept Russian government infrastructure. Schadenfreude. And in my opinion, this desire to laugh at the host is rooted in the dislike that the US has for Russia in general. The Russians are just making it easy to poke fun. But I have to be honest - I'm already tired of it.

I really want an Olympics that focuses on the athletes. I hope the moments that take my breath away create such a roar of joy that they drown out the media nit-picking about Russia not being ready to host the games.

I also hope my cheering doesn't freak the cats out too much.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


In honor of the nearly excruciating pain my tailbone is causing (arthritis flare - no clue why, but DAMN) I'm going to list 10 things I'm grateful for. Because I need happy thoughts in my head to distract me.

10. My mum and sister are visiting me for spring break. They will be here in 38 days!!

9. We are hosting our annual forensics tournament this weekend and I will get to see so many friends!

8. Really happy my pipes have not frozen again.

7. Eau Claire has gotten a lot of snow, but not as much as areas south of here. I'm grateful our snow is still "manageable."

6. So happy I had a recorded power point lecture I could put online for my afternoon class, which meant we didn't have to meet in the classroom, and I could come home and take pain meds.

5. I love that there are libraries and I can check out movies for FREE!

4. Thank you Crystal Light for creating your lemonade. I adore it.

3. So excited to see many, many forensics alumni this weekend.

2. There are few things as comforting as chai tea.

1. Except for electric blankets. But an electric blanket + chai tea = comfort bliss!

On a side note, I've been watching some Oscar movies while laying on my stomach in bed (which is where I am writing this from) because that's the only way I get some pain relief. I can check Argo (which I liked more than I thought I would) and Midnight Cowboy (uhm . . . not a fan) off my list.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Teachable Moments

Yes, the Super Bowl was Super Boring (what game starts with a safety? I mean, seriously?) but, surprisingly, so were the commercials! Even so, I managed to find some that fit perfectly into class discussions - so I guess I didn't completely waste time watching the game. 

In my public speaking class today, we were talking about cultural diversity. I always start with a discussion on the concept of white privilege. Given that 99% of my students are white, this discussion is always interesting. Many students get defensive at the words, they equate "white privilege" with "racist." I work very hard to guide them to an understanding that they do have advantages because of their ethnic makeup, but those advantages can be used for "good" or for "evil" - kind of like superpowers.

After seeing the Coca-Cola "America the Beautiful" commercial (which you can see here) during the Super Bowl, I knew it was the perfect commercial to play during our class discussion. Then I caught some of the comments being posted online about the commercial . . .

"Being a coke fan over pepsi, after seeing your superbowl ad, I will no longer support coke products. Lost the true meaning of an American. Very sad."
"That ad was downright disturbing. Disturbing enough to make me stay away from Coke and it's products."
"So was Coca-Cola saying America is beautiful because new immigrants don't learn to speak English?"

"Coca Cola is the official soft drink of illegals crossing the border. "

"Nice to see that coke likes to sing an AMERICAN song in the terrorist's language. Way to go coke. You can leave America,"

These postings on Twitter, Facebook and other social media just broke my heart. How can people post such hateful things? How can people believe such things? I felt like I could make this a teachable moment in class. So, in I jumped . . .

After about 20 minutes of discussing how we define culture and how our white privilege can affect our perception of a cultural group, it was time to play the commercial. After watching it, I explained the types of negative comments that were being posted on social media sites. Several students had observations they shared. And then the most unexpected, unimaginable thing happened . . .

A 19 year old white male, whom I will call "F", raised his hand. I motioned for him to speak and he said, "I'm sorry, but if they are going to live here they need to speak our language." (This is a direct quote, I can't make this shit up.)

I was stunned. It was a moment that time froze, except my brain was scrambling into high drive trying to figure out how to respond. Had there been a recording device running, I think you would have heard the collective intake of breath that came from every other student in the classroom, would have seen the slow motion movement of students looking at me for my reaction, heard the scrape of chairs as those sitting close to F reflexively tried to distance themselves.

It was a teachable moment, but not the teaching moment I expected. How do you respond when someone says something so vile and ignorant and racist in your class? Knowing that your response is going to have a lasting impact? Knowing that you have no clue what the "right" response is supposed to be?

That ever-so-long-ever-so-short moment ended with 4 students talking all at once, seeming to "yell" at F. I wanted to join them. I wanted to scream at him that he was a horrible person. I wanted to tell him to leave my classroom and never come back.

But I didn't.

I told the students to calm down, reminded them that everyone in my classroom had the right to their opinion. I told F that I thought his response was an interesting one, and I asked how that opinion was formed. He said he'd worked "with 2 Mexican dudes" and they didn't know English so it was hard to "order them around." (Again - I can't make this shit up.) I asked him if his white privilege of knowing the commonly spoke language may have affected his perception of his co-workers. His response? He rolled his eyes.

When I read the hate-filled comments on Coca-Cola's Facebook page, I couldn't imagine that people could be so filled with bigotry. I had a hard time believing they were real people with real ignorance. And then one of them was in my class.

The teachable moment wasn't just for my students today. I was taught a lesson today as well. I'm just trying to figure out exactly what it was.