Unmitigated Gall

October 30, 2008

When I got home from the chiropractor’s office yesterday, there were two messages on my answering machine from my sister, Michele.  I knew something was wrong because, for one thing, she was supposed to be at work.  Also, in the second message, she said that she sat in my driveway for 40 minutes, waiting for me to get home from work.  She didn’t know that I go to the chiropractor on Wednesdays.

I called her right away and she told me that our mother is in the hospital.  Mom called her at 7:00 am yesterday to say she was really sick (diarrhea, vomiting green bile, excruciating pain in the abdomen and lower back), and was going to call an ambulance.   Michele offered to drive her to the hospital, but mom wanted to take an ambulance because she felt that it would assure that she would be seen immediately once she arrived at the Emergency Room.  Good thinking.

After a variety of tests, it was determined that my mother has gallstones. I don’t know much more than that because she was out of it when I spoke to her last evening, and she had to hang up abruptly when they came to take her for more tests.  Apparently, she is going to have a procedure in which the gallstones are crushed.  If that doesn’t work, she will have to have surgery.   I’ll get more information today.

In other news, my union president called me yesterday.  She said she spoke to the Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources, and the woman told her that she didn’t get any of my paperwork until just now.  That’s a bald-faced lie.  I’ve sent everything directly to her attention, and the initial correspondence goes back to early September.  Oh well, at least she knows that the union is involved now.

Please keep a good thought for my mother, and for me.

Song of the Day:  Unmitigated Gall by Pam Tillis

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Whole Lotta Fun

October 25, 2008

I actually went out last night!  Me, the person who is almost always in bed by 8:30.  We didn’t get in until 2:00 am, which is only a few hours earlier than the time I usually get up.

Of course, I am paying the piper today.  But, I don’t care.   I had a good time.

Daniel and I went to see my brother and his Led Zeppelin tribute band.  The place where they performed is located in “The Boondocks,” an hour away from where we live.  It was worth it, though.  The music brought me back to my youth, and I was very proud of my guitar virtuoso brother.   Highlights were a blistering version of “Achilles Last Stand,” and their tour de force encore, “Whole Lotta Love. ”

Rock on, little brother.

Another thing I’d like to talk about is money, or the lack thereof.  As I mentioned in a previous entry, I am feeling pretty stressed out over financial matters.  Things are really tight.

Last year, Leigh attended a community college where the tuition was dirt cheap.  This year, she’s away at school, so our financial burden is greatly increased.  Incredibly, the only state aid we get for each of my daughters is a paltry $250.  That barely covers a couple of textbooks.

We live pretty simply.  Much of our furniture has been handed down from family members or purchased at yard sales.  The few pieces that we bought new were “assembly required,” in order to keep costs down.  We don’t have credit card debt.  In fact, I don’t even have a credit card.

My clothes are bought off clearance racks and from thrift shops.  Our grocery list is created according to what’s on sale that week.  Daniel brings leftovers to work for lunch.  I bring a granola bar and fruit or a peanut butter sandwich.

Because of our financial situation, we’ve been living with some pretty shabby pieces of furniture.  One was the loveseat in the living room.  Our darling dogs destroyed it.  The cushions were stained, and there was a spot that had been chewed all the way down to the frame.   I covered that spot with an afghan, but there was nothing I could do about the stains.  They wouldn’t come out, no matter what I tried.

Another ruined piece of furniture was the sofa in the family room.  This was a hand-me-down from my sister, who bought it at a yard sale, so it was pretty well worn.  The foam padding was visible through the rips on one of the cushions (on both sides).

Also in the family room is a chair that was given to me by a co-worker when her boyfriend moved out of his apartment and in with her. The chair was pretty beat up, but beggars can’t be choosers.   I put a slipcover on it, but it wasn’t a good fit, and constantly had to be re-tucked.  It looked sloppy.

These unsightly pieces of furniture were really bringing me down.  I had to do something, but couldn’t afford a new sofa, loveseat and armchair.  Thanks to a half price sale at Pier One, I was able to buy these two chairs to replace the loveseat.

Stretch slipcovers worked wonders on the family room sofa and chair.

Now I just have to train the dogs to stay off the furniture…  Sigh.

Song of the Day:  Achilles Last Stand by Led Zeppelin

A Female Dog

October 24, 2008

Like LA, workers in service fields almost always take a shine to me.  For some reason, they want to tell me their life stories.  My sisters and daughters can’t get over it, and often say that they feel invisible when we are out together.  It’s definitely a weird thing.

Please note that I said almost always.  There are occasional exceptions to that rule.  A couple of weeks ago, I experienced a doozy of an exception.  My sister and I were shopping in Dress Barn.   I picked out a shirt from the clearance rack, and a sweater from a 30% off rack. The sweater had a large tag on the hanger that said, “take an additional 50% off.”

While checking out, the sales clerk was getting on my nerves because she kept calling me “honey,” and not in a nice Vietnamese nail salon sort of way.  She was very condescending.  Still, I let it go.

After paying for my purchases, it struck me that the amount was higher than I had expected, so I looked at the receipt and saw that the additional 50% hadn’t been deducted from the sweater.   I pointed this out to the sales clerk, and she said that I needed to buy a full price item in order to get the “buy one get 50% off,” as was being promoted throughout the store.   I patiently explained that this sweater wasn’t part of the buy one get one half off promotion.  It had a special tag on the hanger advertising an additional 50% off after the 30% discount.

The sales clerk had the audacity to tell me that there was no such tag on the hanger.  I assured her that there was, and told her to check the hanger from which she had taken the sweater.    She would not.  So, I went back to the rack and pulled off another sweater with the tag.  When I brought it back to her, she said, “I had no way of knowing about the extra 50% off.”  I told her all she had to do was look at the tag that was on the hanger my sweater was on.

She again insisted that there was no tag on the hanger and I again insisted that there was.   She started to say, “Look, honey,”  and that’s when I lost my cool.  I told her to stop calling me honey because I found it offensive.

She then turned to the woman next to her at the counter (I gathered that she was a manager), and asked her to handle the refund.  I had to explain the whole thing to this woman, but she didn’t seem to be grasping what I was saying.  She treated me as if I was trying to pull a fast one.

Not trusting the tag on the second sweater I brought over to prove my point, Ms. Manager went over to the rack to see for herself.  I watched from the checkout counter, and saw her remove all the sweaters with special tags and place them in another employee’s arms.    Fearing that they were trying to hide the evidence, I walked over to them and asked (nicely, I might add), “Do you see what I’ve been trying to explain about the tag on the hanger?”  She responded, “Yes, this is our mistake, and we will honor it.”

I was happy with the outcome until I heard the manager say to the employee holding the sweaters, “What a nasty bitch.”

Oh yes she did.

Since when is it nasty or bitchy to ask that an advertised price be honored?

For the record, I was very polite to this second woman.  But, when I heard her remark, I said “I wasn’t nasty to you, but I will be now.  Your little comment is an issue that will need to be addressed by corporate headquarters.”  I then took a pen and piece of paper from my purse, and made note of her name.  (Thank goodness for nametags.)

Before I left the store, I stepped behind the counter and pulled out the hanger my sweater had been on.  Lo and behold!  There was the nonexistent “take an extra 50% off” tag!

Dress Barn can bite me.

Song of the Day:  The Bitch is Back by Elton John

The Roaring Twenties

October 20, 2008

This year’s Big Read festivities came to an end with a closing reception at Locust Grove.  Here are a couple of high school students dressed up as The Great Gatsby’s Tom and Daisy Buchanan.

Those of us in attendance were treated to a lesson in the Charleston.

A co-worker/friend and her partner wore masks for the occasion.

This event also featured an announcement of our area’s Big Read selection for 2009, and the first 100 people to arrive (including me!) were given a free copy of the book, which is Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston.  I read the book years ago, and look forward to reading it again.

And now for something completely different…

Some of the comments for my last entry made me pause to reflect on how insecure I am about my looks.   This has a great deal to do with the fact that I was a chubby teenager.  I was extremely self-conscious about it, and having a thin beauty for a best friend back then didn’t do much to improve my self-esteem.  Even after I lost the weight, I struggled with body image, and continue to do so to this day.  I’m not grossly overweight, but could stand to lose a good twenty pounds.

Anyway, it does take me by surprise when people comment favorably about my appearance.  I do know that I don’t look my age (at least I don’t think I do), but I certainly don’t feel beautiful.  On an especially good (but increasingly rare) day, I might feel fairly attractive.  On the other hand, there are plenty of times when I feel downright ugly.  At any rate, it’s been a mighty long time since I felt confident about my physical appearance.    Still, it’s nice to receive compliments, and they are always gratefully received.

Now you’ve got me wondering how YOU feel about your appearance.  Please let me know in the comments section.

Song of the Day:  I’d Rather Charleston by George Gershwin

Have You Any Wool

October 19, 2008

Even though I’m in a lot of pain, I’m trying to make sure to have some life in my life, so I went to the Sheep and Wool festival in Rhinebeck yesterday.   We left at 9:30 a.m. and didn’t get home until 8:30 p.m.  My back is killing me, and my legs are cramping from all that walking and standing but it was well worth it.  I just love that festival.  In fact, I might go back today.

I’ve never seen rabbits like this before.  They look like huge puffballs.

This llama is named My Sweet Prince, and I can see why.  He was very friendly, and even a bit flirtatious, if you can imagine such a thing.

This sheep was trying to climb over its enclosure to get in with his or her neighbors.

I bought some deeply discounted yarn, which made me pretty happy.   The lighter blue is a mohair blend, and will be knit into a cowl hood/scarf.  The darker blue is for my first pair of socks.

I also picked up a couple of felted gourds to go with the felted pumpkin I got at last year’s festival.

Another thing I’d like to mention is today’s Simple Abundance essay.  It begins with this quote from Oscar Wilde:  Nowadays we are all of us so hard up that the only pleasant things to pay are compliments.

Sarah Ban Breathnach writes:  “All women need more compliments in their lives… We need to hear more of them, even if we have to give them to ourselves.  But, most of all, we need to bask in them… It’s interesting that the first dictionary definition of a compliment is ‘an expression of esteem.’  Perhaps we have a difficult time accepting compliments because deep down we don’t believe we deserve them… Today, be receptive.  Start with the assumption that you’re beautiful, dazzling, absolutely fabulous… Every time someone pays you a compliment, accept it as if an angel had just whispered Spirit’s appreciation… We’re all so fragile, especially when we put on a brave face.  A sincere compliment can penetrate beneath even the most sophisticated masks to soothe troubled souls.”

I was struck by the timeliness of this essay because I’ve been receiving an unusually high number of compliments lately.   One day this past week, a girl came into the computer lab and was writing her name on the sign-in sheet next to my desk.  I heard her say “You’re pretty,” and looked behind me to see who she was talking to.   I was truly shocked when I realized she was talking to me.  (This is not something a fifty-four year old expects to hear, especially from a teenager.)  I thanked her with a big smile, and told her how gorgeous she is.   The next day, a young male substitute Teaching Assistant (who is in the process of writing a book – for which he already has an agent and publisher –  about having Asperger’s Syndrome, combined with his experiences on the Appalachian Trail)  asked me if I had any daughters.  When I acknowledged that I have two, he said, “They must be very beautiful, just like their mother.”  I was absolutely floored.

At the Sheep and Wool festival, I was amazed and pleased by all the compliments I received about my “sharf.”   My cousin, Kathy, was as delighted for me as I was for myself.

Sarah Ban Breathnach is right when she says “Just as words can hurt, words can heal.”   I’ve been so down lately, these compliments couldn’t have come at a better time.  The kindness that has been coming my way really does help to offset some of the stress I’ve been under.  And, much of that kindness has come from you, my attractive, smart, compassionate, wonderful readers.  Pass on a compliment today.

Song of the Day:  Sheep by Pink Floyd

In reference to my last entry, LA asked if  “any of the people actually IN your building ie: principal, etc, would they stop you if you just took your lunch last period as you always have and just left? Has anyone officially said you COULDN’T?”  Unfortunately, yes, the principal has made it known that I cannot leave the building before the dismissal bell until this accommodation issue is resolved.  The thing that really gets my goat about this is that my schedule already indicates ninth period as my lunch break, so I’m just sitting around waiting for the last bell to ring.  It doesn’t make any sense.

As many of you have pointed out, I am not asking for anything extraordinary, and this accommodation has been approved before.  Because of what the District is putting me through, I wish I HAD asked for a bariatric chamber, or, at the very least, some of the other accommodations available for people with physical problems similar to mine, such as: provide sensitivity training to coworkers, allow time off for medical treatment, reduce or eliminate physical exertion and workplace stress, schedule periodic rest breaks away from the workstation, allow a flexible work schedule and flexible use of leave time, allow a self-paced workload, implement ergonomic workstation design, e.g., ergonomic chair and adjustable workstation to alternate between sitting and standing, reduce repetitive tasks or interrupt the tasks with other duties, modify work-site temperature, minimize distractions, etc. (These examples of accommodations were taken from the Job Accommodations Network.)

Michael suggests that, in my next letter I “mention the ADA (and the district’s responsibilities under it) about six times. (And write the one after that in ALL CAPS.)”  There won’t be a next letter from me.  All future contact will be with JAN, ADA, EEOC, ODEP, and my union.

By the way, I received a response to the complaint I filed with JAN, but it was frustratingly unhelpful.  This is how I replied:

Thank you for your quick reply.  Unfortunately, it does not address my issue.  I am already familiar with the information you provided, and have sent copies of some of it to my employer, along with my accommodation request and doctor’s recommendation.  What I need to know is what I should do next, since my employer has failed to respond to my accommodation request after six weeks.

This is really getting to me.  I’m under enough stress as it is because of financial matters (having two kids in college is killing us), so I sure as hell don’t need to add work crap to the mix.

I’m in so much pain I can’t stand it.

Song of the Day:  Help by The Beatles

Going Under

October 16, 2008

This is a copy of my most recent letter to the Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources.  I included a copy of the information I found on the Job Accommodation Network about how unnecessary delays in responding or implementing an accommodation can result in a violation of the ADA, and, finally, I filed a complaint through their website.

Dear Dr. ********

I am bewildered by the continuing lack of response to my request for a health-related accommodation.  It has now been six weeks since the initial submission, dated September 5, 2008.  As I mentioned in my last letter, dated October 7, 2008, this situation is very stressful for me, and the pain and fatigue that are associated with my condition are exacerbated by stress.  (Thanks, Kathy, but this doesn’t appear to be working as well for me as it did for your father.)

This is wreaking havoc on my body.  Worst of all, it has brought on the intractable headaches that have been the bane of my existence for over thirty years.  Prior to this current situation, I had been headache-free for eleven months, and had dared to hope that I was rid of this particular agony that has plagued me for so much of my life.  Needless to say, the resurgence of these headaches is extremely distressing.

Along with the stress, I also attribute the recurrence of these headaches to the increased sleep disturbances I have been experiencing while waiting for a response to my accommodation request.  In addition to the resumption of these headaches, I am also experiencing a dramatic increase in pain throughout the Fibromyalgia tender point areas.  On Wednesday, October 15, 2008, my chiropractor, while working on my neck, remarked that he could feel the increased tension.  This led him to ask if I am presently under an unusually high amount of stress.  Indeed I am.

It just doesn’t seem right that an accommodation I requested to reduce my pain and enhance the quality of my life has instead resulted in an increase in pain and is having an adverse effect on my home life.  I am not only suffering physically, but emotionally, as well.  I now find myself fighting the depression that is not uncommon for people who live with chronic pain.

Many employees of the BLANK School District leave during their lunch period.  Some of them go home.  This is essentially all I am asking for.

Song of the Day:  Going Under by Evanescence

Spirits In the Night

October 9, 2008

Our high school has been celebrating Spirit Week, which will culminate in the Homecoming Game and Dance on Saturday.  The festivities kicked off on Monday with “Decades Day.”  I already did my part for the Twenties, so I decided to wear something more comfortable this time.  I chose 1990 grunge.  My outfit consisted of ripped jeans and a flannel shirt over a Nirvana tee.

Tuesday was  Mismatch Day.  I wore green and white checked seersucker pants, a pink and white striped tank top under a patchwork shirt, one black boot and one brown boot.

Wednesday was Twin Day.  My Friend and I wore jean skirts, black boots, off-white tank tops and our identical corduroy jackets.   (Hers has been worn and washed more than mine so it’s a bit faded.)

We’re off today for Yom Kippur. I have an appointment with a pain management doctor this afternoon, and, for once, the appointment coincides with a full-blown flare-up. The stress of waiting for a response to my request for a health-related accommodation has exacerbated my symptoms, and I’m in terrible pain.

By the way, I was looking online for information about how quickly an employer should respond to an accommodation request, and found that employers should respond “expeditiously.”  Furthermore, “Unnecessary delays in responding or implementing an accommodation can result in a violation of the ADA.”  The EEOC provides an example in which an employee submitted two requests (I have submitted four).  “Yet, two months after the initial request, nothing has been done. Although the supervisor never definitively denies the request, the lack of action under these circumstances amounts to a denial, and thus violates the ADA.”

Tomorrow is School Colors Day (blue and white), but I’m taking the day off to have Sacroiliac Injections..  Again, the timing is uncharacteristically good.  My back has been killing me the last several days.

Stress at work is not the only factor that is wreaking havoc with my body.  The 20th of this month will mark the 2nd anniversary of my brother’s death.   Tuesday evening, Leigh left a hysterical message on my answering machine.  I was sleeping, and didn’t hear the message until yesterday morning, just before I left the house.  It sent me off to work in quite a state.

The message had something to do with a medium who visited her campus, and a question Leigh asked about Mark.  She was crying so hard it was difficult to understand what she was saying.  I called her yesterday afternoon to get the whole story.

Paranormal Investigator, Chris Moon, uses “Frank’s Box,” a device that allegedly can communicate with the dead.  Of course, I am skeptical of such things, and so is Leigh.  Others in attendance at the college event were quite skeptical, as well.  One young man challenged the voice coming through Frank’s Box to tell him his nickname.  It did.  Then a girl who wanted to contact her grandfather asked the voice what he died of.  The voice answered, “Disease.”  She pressed it to tell her what kind of disease.  The voice responded, “Lung.”  Her grandfather died of lung cancer.  The girl sobbed.

Leigh asked, “Is Mark P**** there?”

Voice:  “Yes.”

Leigh:  “Is there anything you want to say to my mother?”

Voice:  “I’m sorry.  I… (unintelligible).”

Now I know that some of you are rolling your eyes, and, as I said, I too am a skeptic when it comes to these things.  Still, “I’m sorry” strikes me as a rather strange response.  I would expect something more along the lines of “I’m okay,” which is what you typically hear during these episodes.

Regardless of whether this is real or fake, it shook me up because it caused me to relive what we went through two years ago.  It slammed the fact that my brother is not with us anymore right smack in my face.  It ripped my heart wide open again.

I’m sorry, too, Mark.  I’m so sorry you are gone.

Song of the Day:  Spirits in the Night by Bruce Springsteen

My Mind Is On The Blink

October 2, 2008

In response to my last entry, Michael left this comment: “Sounds like the school system has instituted a new level of buck passing. What in the world could be the objection at the district level, as long as the principal is okay with it? I mean, even without the ADA on your side. Sheesh.”

Sheesh, indeed.

I finally heard from the Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources.  The response came in the form of a of a letter requesting that I grant permission for the School District and their physician to speak to my physician regarding my request for “disability-related accommodations.”

By the way, the letter indicated that I should respond by September 26th.  The envelope was postmarked September 29th, and I received it on the 30th.  Incredible.

Anyway, this is something new.  In the past, the building Principal made the decision.  Once, when we had an interim Principal, approval was given by the Superintendent.  I don’t know why this has suddenly become such a complicated issue.

I must emphasize how much this accommodation has improved the quality of my life.  Leaving at 2:00 rather than 2:40 might not seem like a big deal, but it is to me.  Those 40 minutes at home allow me to prepare dinner and take care of other household chores that I am too tired and in too much pain to tackle when I leave work at 2:40.

Also, getting out at 2:00 allows me to see my doctors.  Because of my physical problems, I have been deemed eligible for the county’s Dial-A-Ride service.  Unfortunately, they will not schedule pick-ups after 2:30.  If I work until 2:40, I am unable to take advantage of this service, and, therefore, cannot see my doctors unless I take time off from work.  So, that is another way this accommodation benefits my health.

There is no doubt that Fibromyalgia substantially limits some of my major life activities, so it does qualify as a disability.  As I mentioned above, pain and fatigue have a tremendous effect on whether or not I am able to perform manual tasks, such as cooking dinner and cleaning the house.  In addition, I can’t walk or stand for longer than ten minutes at a time without experiencing discomfort, and “fibro fog” has a negative effect on my memory and ability to concentrate.

Furthermore, I have difficulty sleeping.  Consequently, I have to make sure I am in bed by 8:00 p.m. to ensure that I get enough sleep.  Even so, my sleep is frequently disrupted, and fatigue starts to overwhelm me very early in the afternoon.  Obviously, this is not a normal lifestyle.

I am not asking the School District to give me extra time off.  I will still be working eight periods, just like everybody else.  All I am asking is that they approve this simple accommodation that will greatly enhance the quality of my life.

I should also mention that my schedule already indicates ninth period as my lunch.  At present, I am sitting around, in pain, waiting for the dismissal bell to ring, and, when I get home, I am so deeply fatigued and in so much pain, I can barely speak.

Please keep your fingers crossed that this accommodation request will be settled as soon as possible, or that I will at least be given temporary permission to leave work ninth period until this issue is resolved.

Song of the Day:  I’m So Tired by The Beatles