Video Wig Review: Drew by Estetica in Color R6LF29

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I am both pleased and pissed about this video. On the plus side, I finally hit upon the right camera settings and white balance to get a fairly clear, accurate representation on camera, and I very much like how this video looks in that regard. The colors could be a little more saturated, but that causes other problems that make the final result a bit too contrasty, so it’s a fair trade. And using a higher ISO helps to eliminate some of the band-y vignetting I was getting at 100. I know, I know, more camera nerd BS, but I guess that’s part of the reason I like doing these videos is working with the visual aspects of it. And I barely know what I’m doing and/or talking about, so I’m also learning new things, which is fun.

Unfortunately, I learned one lesson too late this time: for reasons I don’t yet fully understand, my camera shut off at the twelve minute mark automatically. This has happened once before, but I don’t recall exactly which video it was, which is a bummer because if I could remember when it happened I’d know if this happened as a direct result of the new camera settings I’m using. But I don’t know that, so I’ll have to research it further. Anyway, it’s also possible I rarely film more than 12 minutes at a time so that’s why it hardly ever happens, but I rather doubt that. I mess up a lot, and stop and check an email or two or fix the hair if it’s looking wonky, deal with a dog or cat that’s causing problems, etc. and I never stop filming when I do  that stuff; I just keep the camera rolling and edit all that mess out later.

For whatever reason though, it did switch off again today, which in and of itself isn’t a big deal, except for the fact that I assumed the camera stopped recording when I heard it click, so I walked over to the camera and punched the record button again and went back to filming right where I’d left off. It wasn’t until I was editing the video later that I realized the click I heard was not the recording mechanism stopping; it was the camera going into sleep mode after being non-functional for several minutes – it had actually stopped filming earlier and I didn’t hear it. And where it stopped filming was right as I started showing the sides and back of Drew. Since I didn’t realize at the time of filming that the camera hadn’t caught all of that, when I started recording again I didn’t go back and show the sides and back again, and when I realized I’d missed that I’d already completely dismantled my set and taken my makeup off and well, I just didn’t have time to do all that over. So, long story short – I punted and used some crappy iPhone pics I took of the wig from all angles when I got it in earlier in the week. Sorryboutit.

Anyway, Drew. I think the cap circumference is a little short on me; you can see how Drew wants to slide back on my forehead and you can see a lot of my hairline on the sides – now you know why i don’t like to wear wigs with a hairline that isn’t close in color to my bio hair! I’m always torn about wigs like this. I don’t like it on me, but I don’t think it’s a bad style, so I struggle to straddle that line when I talk about it on camera. In looking at it, it even more so reminds me of Socialite by Gabor; except that I had a bit more freedom with Socialite to cover my forehead than I do with this one. Anyway, here it is – and in spite of the missing footage, please enjoy the improved picture quality I worked so hard to obtain :) .

And by the way, if anyone is interested in this one – I’ve seen it online a few places, and most stores list it at a price of $253. For whatever reason, when I bought it at e-wigs.com it was listed at $165. Pretty big difference and I’m not sure how long it will last, so there you go.

Disclaimer: I bought this with my own money and no one asked me to do this review. Opinions are my own. 

Blase-Dah

Well first, for the not-so-good news:

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Wednesday morning my husband took our dog Penny in to the vet for some routine shots and, long story short, as soon as he got her inside the clinic she had a grand mal seizure. She’s never had one before.

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Fortunately this happened at the vet’s office, so she was right there to see the whole thing. She’s the one who told Doug it was most likely epilepsy and not something else like a brain tumor, just based on how the seizure affected her. It turns out Penny is within the normal age range for first showing signs of it – between ages 1 and 6 is the norm, and Penny is 5 years old. The vet said that aside from bloodwork nothing else was recommended at this point; we just keep an eye on her to see how often this happens, that is, if it ever happens again. Our vet said there was a possibility she never has one again, or has them so infrequently no medication is needed. Stress is one seizure trigger, and we figure Penny had her first on in the animal clinic is because it always stresses her out to be taken there, or much of anywhere really – she’s always been a high-strung, emotional dog.

Obviously we were both upset about this (especially Doug, since he saw it all), but we have read up on it now and are comforted by the fact that canine epilepsy doesn’t have to ruin a dog’s health or quality of life; if the seizures became that frequent and/or severe we would not want her to suffer, but there are medications dogs can take to help control them. They are just quite serious pills so we don’t want to put her on them if we do not have to. For right now, she is fine and dandy and looking great, as if it never happened. To her mind, I’m sure it never did. It will probably take Doug longer to get over it though. Moving on.

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I’m getting bored with editing old photos, but still not ending up with lots of time on weekends for new shoots. So old stuff or no stuff is probably how it will be until school ends in June. The light effects in the shot above came courtesy of Pixlr.

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That’s the only other shot I’ve had time to edit this week; everyone is in love with the necklace but I swear that thing was cheap as hell. In fact, I’m pretty sure it both broke and turned my skin green by the time I took it off. But it did photograph well.

In other news, you’ve probably noticed some wig videos popping back onto the site. That’s right, I’m trying out sharing them again. I’ll be uploading from time to time, so if you’re interested in such a thing you can keep an eye on the “wig videos” section.

And now for a RuPaul’s DragRace update: Pearl is still in the competition! And this week she outdid herself, in my opinion. First of all, they had to walk the runway in a he-she outfit, meaning, one side of them was in male drag and the other was in female drag. This sounded super-weird and I thought it would be one of those challenges that fall flat, but in reality everyone looked pretty amazing, or at least interesting. Pearl, though. PEARRRRRRRRL:

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Need I say more?

Then Pearl upped her adorable factor by describing herself on the runway as “very fla-say-dah,” which the judges speculated was a combination of blase and la-di-dah.

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That’s it for now folks. And in the parting words of RuPaul: If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you gonna love somebody else? 

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Can I get an amen up in here?

Oh, and one last thing, those of you who are on the private blog: I think if you want to receive emails when I upload a post you have to go to the site and click the “follow by email” button. This blog is for friends-only, so if you are someone who can get into it, you know who you are. That’s not to say I wouldn’t ever invite anyone else to it, but I do reserve it for people I feel I know pretty well. Have a fla-say-dah weekend, everyone – I only have three more weekends until summer break!

Changes! Again!

Hello all -moving forward, this will remain my public blog, and I will have another invite-only one for personal posts to share with friends. A lot will still get posted here, but it will focus less on personal stuff and more on photography and reviews of whatever I feel like reviewing. I apologize for all the shifting about, but I think I am going to like this solution. And the other good news is, it was actually quite simple to transfer all the formatting and content of this blog over to maryquantum, so I did not have to do much work on it at all. Everything that is posted here will be there since I’m too lazy to delete the stuff that will be at both places, but moving forward it alone will have the private posts. so, friends who were invited to the private blog before, you’ve been sent an invitation to th

Dragged Out

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I tried to write a blog post I thought was lighthearted and fun about my love of RuPaul’s Drag Race and drag queens in general, but it got derailed by some comments which were frustrating for me to deal with.

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Are you talking to me?
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YES M’AAM

Assumptions that surely drag must create problems for transgendered people and discussions about how much hatred and abuse there is in the world and how much of that drag generates or receives, whether or not RuPaul’s Drag Race perpetuates negative stereotypes or is seen as some form of impediment to others trying to integrate into straight society, what level of responsibility drag or RuPaul should shoulder for the prejudices of others, comparisons of drag to Hee-Haw and blackface…honestly people, I just wanted to share my love of drag and share some pictures I thought were fun.

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Who you callin’ freakish? 

Aside from feeling terribly sad by the perception of drag being revealed in these statements, I started to wonder what it must be like to be part of an oppressed minority that, on top of everything else, is made to feel obligated by the dominant culture to carry all the weight and responsibility for the total perception of their own culture every single second of every day.To have every behavior held up and scrutinized as “too much” this or “not enough” that, by the very people who don’t have to worry about such things at all.

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Do I have to step out into the world and do my thing, all the while worrying about whether or not my every move is contributing to the oppression of white people? No, I do not. So why would I expect RuPaul to do such a thing? Maybe drag is just DRAG, and nothing else. Or maybe I just didn’t feel like having my post turn into another analysis of all the ways people are hateful to each other, and how awful humanity is.

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Here’s how I feel when I write a silly post about my love of drag and people choose to focus on the negative as evidence of how horrible the world is 

Drag to me is all about joy, and strength, and chutzpah, and triumph over adversity; not wallowing in all the problems and staying pissed off all the time. And as a straight woman, I’m certainly not going to tell drag how it should behave. More people in the world need to glue on some damn lashes and lip-sync to a Cher song, in my opinion. I think we’d all be better off.

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Exactly.

And please, if you don’t even understand the basics of drag, can you keep the huge sweeping assumptions to a minimum? I don’t care if it makes me simple-minded or uneducated or whatever – I just can’t with all the bring-downs right now. Trying to stay high on life and not wallow around the muck, ya dig? Kthanksbye.

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I am on the verge of another 4-day weekend, due to both Monday’s holiday and the Tuesday the students earned off as a result of selling enough raffle tickets (which led to the teachers having Tuesday off, too). For me it’s actually a five-day weekend, since I took Friday off to spend with another friend from work who is in desperate need of a mental health day. We were going to zip out of town but that didn’t work out, so we intend to do some lunch and shopping instead.

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I’ve edited a few more plane pics since the  last post, but not many due to time constraints. I seem to be leaning towards a more stylized look to these shots than other plane sets I’ve edited before; not sure why since I usually desire accuracy and detail when working with my airplane photos, but I’m just going with it for now. It could be because with this set I’m seeing the limitations of my cheaper telephoto lens and in an attempt to repair some of the graininess I keep creating this surreal quality anyway so I just keep going with it.

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At some point over my long weekend I hope to throw on a bunch of wild makeup and do some portraits, which I haven’t done in awhile. I also haven’t done any leaping or movement shots in forever, but the truth is that I injured my knee back in December (doing nothing, as usual – just stood up one day and it hurt. Yep, I even once injured my tailbone doing nothing and had to have six weeks of treatment to get it re-aligned; a process that is NOT fun, let me tell you) and I still can’t jump or move much at all if it involves bending my right knee (which pretty much everything does). So I’ll have to settle for portraits, if I have time to do anything at all. With work in high gear I’ve seriously slacked off with the photo-taking, but that always happens.

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That’s a close-up of the little lock on one of my Vuitton bags – I love my macro lens! Speaking of Vuittons, my obsession with the bags has slacked off a little, but I’m still acquiring them here or there when a good deal pops up. I have one on the way as I type from Fashionphile, and another one on layaway over there. I also quite accidentally donated one to the school’s silent auction gala – I brought my little refurbished Papillon up to the school just to see if the women organizing the gala thought it might sell for a decent amount, and they immediately whisked it off to take photos and do a write-up for the auction’s program, so yeah, I donated it. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to, but they had taken it and claimed it before I had to a chance to object, and I would have felt like a heel asking for it back after that. It sold for about $300, which isn’t bad considering I paid $180 for it to start with.

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Took this one through the car window with my iPhone

In other shopping news, Stitch Fix has really upped their game, and I’ve liked a lot out of the last two fixes they sent me. In fact, the Fix I got for February was so good I kept the entire thing. So I guess even when the shipments get disappointing it’s a good idea to stick with them. The most you’re out is twenty bucks for the styling fee, so why not? I’ve not been doing a lot of clothes shopping lately anyway, so getting a few new things in once a month is a nice way to supplement the wardrobe without leaving the house. And speaking of clothes – I recently had to buy several new pairs of pants because since the last time I bought a bunch of them, which was during the Black Friday online sales, I have dropped another size and none of those fit anymore. I am now a size ZERO – which I haven’t been in probably ten years. I’d been noticing my size 2s being loose on me for a few weeks now, and finally on Monday someone at work said something about my pants being too big, so I knew it was time to bite the bullet and buy some more.

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Sprocket is much better now and seems to have recovered from whatever illness he had about a month ago. And my father-in-law has also managed to stay out of the hospital for almost a month, so that’s good too. And as you can see in the phone pic above, my perm is pretty much done – the curls are still there, but the layers have grown out and new growth has come in flat so the shape is pretty off – and my now-straight hair has finally hit my shoulders. You can see how much the dye has grown out too; I’m surprised by how little gray I’m seeing as my natural color comes in – the gray is there, but not nearly as pronounced as I thought it would be. I still have some layers to grow out,  but they are long enough to at least look decent.

I think that about gets me up to date, so here’s hoping I have more shots to share next time instead of all this rambling.

Thoughts

I have not had much time to edit photos or write blog posts, but I would like to pop in and get some opinions from readers about something that, unfortunately, I am going to be rather vague about here. So, feel free to give me vague opinions if you are so inclined to say anything at all.

Last week I decided to try seeing a counselor about one specific issue that I would like to work on. I’m not going to mention the issue because, well, I don’t want to. So there. Anyway, I made an appointment to speak with a psychologist; this is a new person for me, because my last “real” counselor was quite a distance from where I live and work and I’ve decided I don’t want to make the long drive anymore to work on this. So, this was our first meeting. We met Saturday, she was very nice and even though she was a bit younger than my previous counselors and perhaps has not been in practice as long as they have, she seemed to know what she was doing. So that was all fine.

But. She asked me a load of questions about my past and my childhood and my home life growing up, etc. and made many observations about the dysfunction and even some of the abuse that occurred. It was obvious to me that in moving forward she intends to work on these past issues and integrate them, somehow, into this current situation I want to improve. There were also times when I was talking about things going on in my life currently and she “corrected’ me in a way – or rather, she pointed out ways in which I was behaving or thinking that she clearly felt were not the most productive or even – I don’t know – strong? I was left with the feeling that she sees some real flaws with the way I conduct myself around others, ways in which I have major defenses up and at the same time might be really passive in a manner that, according to her at least, does not serve me well.

I left feeling pretty down and in a fog, as if my life choices had been judged and found wanting. I don’t mean that she was negative or rude, but I did get the impression that she perceived my life as having serious problems, when really I just wanted to focus on one thing. For example, she kept repeating these little mantras to me while we talked, one of which was “we teach people how to treat us,” and I mean, yeah, I know that already, you know? And also, is there some way people are treating me that is so bad I should be concerned? Because I really didn’t think that until I walked out her door after our session. Ever since then I’ve felt out of sorts and bothered, questioning my relationships and interactions with others as if seeing them through this woman’s eyes – wow, am I really being mistreated by others because I haven’t “taught” them how to treat me properly?

I’ve done counseling many times in my life, which I know I’ve mentioned here before, but I can honestly say I’ve never felt flat-out depressed after leaving a session, and certainly not my first one with somebody (I’ve had two others). I’ve always left feeling better about my situation after talking about things. But I left this time feeling like shit, quite honestly. Of course, at the same time, all the literature says things usually get worse before they get better when someone enters counseling, so just because I’ve never experienced this before doesn’t mean I won’t go through that this time. Perhaps my low mood is just that idea put into action? Maybe I’m supposed to feel this way, and question my relationships in this manner?

Also, counseling is expensive, quite honestly, and this woman wants to see me once a week at $115 a pop (she doesn’t take insurance, which is more and more common nowadays than it was when I first started going back in the 90’s). I mean, dang, that’s a lot of scratch each month just to feel crappier than I did before I started. I did make two appointments with two different therapists, with the idea that if I liked the first one I’d cancel the other, and the other one isn’t until this coming Monday – maybe I should hold off on going back to this woman and see how the other one does? Or maybe I should just blow the whole counseling thing off and go buy some books and work through the issue myself. As I’ve said many times in relation to my recent depression, I’ve talked about my childhood and my dysfunctional family in counselors’ offices enough over the years, and part of me does think that if all that talking was going to work it would have done so already, and at this age I am truly not interesting in dredging it all up again.

But here’s where I’m asking you for your opinion (and I realize this may be too difficult to answer without knowing my specific issue, but I’m going to try anyway): is the only way to fix a current problem digging back into the past and opening up old wounds? I know there are counseling philosophies that would say no, and that’s more of what I was hoping to find this time. But what do you think? And also, if you went to a counselor for an initial consultation and left feeling as depressed and “wrong” as I felt when I met with this woman, would you say that’s a sign the person isn’t the right counselor for me, or is she the right one and she just managed to hone in on some real problems I really need to fix?

I realize those are huge questions I’m asking you without much information for you to go on, but please weigh in if you can. I know some of you can’t ever get your comments to post here so feel free to email or message me wherever we keep in touch. Thanks!

Sprocket Drama

Many people have asked about Sprocket, and while he is feeling better and no longer running a fever, we still do not know what is, or was, wrong with him. All of the tests the specialist originally ran have come back negative, so all former conjectures as to the problem are off. He’s had no fever for days, but is still moving about a little tenderly so we are continuing him on pain medication for now.

I am inserting photos of current and former pets into this post, so you’ll have to excuse the picture quality, because most of these were taken before I knew (or cared to know) anything about photography. But first, Sprocket:

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At our last trip to the dog neurologist, she pressed on his joints and said he no longer appeared to be in pain anywhere but around his tailbone, so I don’t know what to do with that. Last time she was sure he had this virus that causes all-over inflammation in the joints but the test was negative. She ran more bloodwork (third time  since this started) then told us Sprocket needs to see another specialist at the center, because now they’re thinking it’s a bone marrow infection. Oooookay. We called our regular vet out of frustration over all this, and he encouraged us to go ahead and meet with the next specialist, see what he has to say, then stop looking for answers if whatever that one recommends doesn’t work. Once we reach that point, he says we should just keep an eye on him, monitor his pain level, help him be comfortable, and hope whatever it is passes. The positive thing is that other than some random pain that seems to be moving around, he is behaving as he always has; he is bright-eyed and friendly, and eating a ridiculous amount of food. So, no one is concerned he’s going to die anytime soon- except Doug and I of course. But so far no one is seeing anything to cause alarm in that regard, and he’s certainly had every test known to man by now, including x-rays and ultrasounds. So we’re trying to reassure ourselves and stay calm.

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Ramone – after he died we adopted Simon

In fact, the two of us got to talking last night, and we realized that throughout our pet-owning years this very thing has happened more often than going to a vet, taking tests, and getting definitive answers. This is the third mystery illness Sprocket has had alone. We had one cat, Yoshimi, who only lived five years and was constantly sick – every test in the world was administered and no cause ever found. We are coming to accept that we are unusual pet owners in two ways: 1) we take our pets in at the first sign something is amiss, while most people wait longer. While this is probably what saved Sprocket’s life when he had distemper as a pup, for the most part it only costs us money and creates confusion, because it’s simply too early in the game to know what’s going on; and 2) we push things farther than most people, and continue to look for an answer long after others would have stopped. In short, we simply are expecting much more from these veterinarians than they are able to provide; probably because we think of our pets as our children and expect them to be treated as such when they are sick. But the service providers just don’t have the capability – not even the so-called specialists. Moving on.

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Penny with Bickley; he got cancer and had to be put down. Sprocket came next.

I must tell you about out latest billing experience though, because it’s another winner. Doug had noticed that in the past the receptionist waited to ring us up until after we had out dog back in our possession, which led to distraction and getting overcharged. So, when the person checking us out this time said we needed to wait until we got our dog to pay, we insisted that they “ring us up” first. What that consists of here is the front desk person looking at the computer, typing in a name, and reading off a total to the customer. What was recited to us was $1482 and some change, then a hand was outstretched to take our debit card. Instead of paying, Doug asked for a printed statement, and when we got it, we saw we’d been charged for the ultrasound they performed on Sprocket twice, so we asked that one of them be removed. At this point the receptionist was very confused, as if she’d never had to do this before, so she called back to the administrative offices for assistance. As soon as she said our last name, there was all sorts of commotion on the other end of that phone – remember, we’ve raised a ruckus over charges here before, to the point of calling the owner of the company (who laughed at us and dared us to call the BBB).

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Yoshimi, our sickly kitty.

Long story short? At the end of that frantic phone conversation we received a new bill – for FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS. That’s right – a few simple questions for clarification of our charges resulting in them lopping almost a thousand dollars off our bill. Now, I’m sorry people, but whether or not vets can make a decent living, this is not the way to get around it. To routinely overcharge by that amount is pure scumbaggery, even if it’s not illegal (according to the owner). After we left, we were so pissed we did not keep the original printout with the $1500 total so we could show the comparison to our vet, or to anyone who doesn’t want to believe that this place is as bad as we say it is. But we forgot to get it back from them before we left.

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My beloved first pet, Wiley – little rat terrier found in a ditch when he was a pup. He held on to age 17 and I was heartbroken when we finally had to put him down.

We are going to go back to this clinic one more time, to see whatever specialist can determine if there’s a problem with his bone marrow. But then we are good and done – at least with this place. And I seriously doubt they will try to overcharge us this time. If nothing else, it’s clear they know our name and don’t want to even deal with us anymore, so most likely they’ll suck it up and charge one of their customers fairly!

And last but not least, let’s not forget:

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Simon!

(P)up-date

Lots has gone in the past week, and even though I’m in the midst of a four-day weekend, it hasn’t been very relaxing. But, I’ll update you anyway, and throw in a bunch of random pictures I’ve managed to edit over this crazy week. Haven’t had time for any new photos, but I did take a ton over Christmas break (and as you can see I still have a ton to edit from my airshow set back in November) so let’s get to it.

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Sprocket started behaving strangely Wednesday afternoon; he was moving about gingerly, especially when going to sit or lie down. Sometimes he leaps about too much and temporarily pops a knee out of joint, but it manages to pop back in quickly (gross I know) so at first that’s all we thought was going on and he’d be back to his usual sprightly self in no time. But by Thursday Doug was growing concerned, and he texted me to say he was taking the dog in to vet that afternoon. Turned out Sprocket’s temperature was quite high (106) and he appeared to be in pain around the spine. The vet recommended we bring the dog back in Friday morning for some tests that he would send to a specialist for analysis, and based on that we would decide what to do next.

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I’ll keep the details brief because it all became a blur anyway, but it was late Friday afternoon before the specialist called us back and recommended we take Sprocket in for the night to be monitored and have more tests run. We rushed him up there around 5 PM, and after spending some time with the dog, the specialist (a veterinary neurologist) said she believed he had an infection that had manifested itself in his joints, and that he was basically in pain all over. Poor thing! She thought there was a slight chance of Lyme disease and tested for that too, but we don’t have the results yet and are fairly certain that’s not what he has (he’s never outside long enough to get anything like that). Anyway, the upshot of all this was that whatever he had was treatable, and he was not in any danger of dying, which of course was our concern. Sprocket stayed with the vet overnight and was back in our care by Saturday morning, but he was on a fair amount of pills, some of which made him goofy. By Sunday he was more bright-eyed, and his temperature has stayed down, but he still requires a lot of attention and care, and he’s taken up a lot of our time this weekend.

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Without getting too much into it, though, I have to discuss this specialists’ clinic where we took the dog Thursday. I’ve dealt with them  before – they are the ones that nursed Sprocket through his distemper, as well as taking one cat there when she fell ill to be put down, and a few other specialty treatments over the years, one for a dog who had cancer, and another for Sprocket when we were concerned about his knee problems and thought he might need surgery (we decided against it because the specialist and our vet could not agree on a diagnosis about why he kept limping). Every time I’ve dealt with this place, I’ve come away from it feeling like I got mistreated and overcharged; they are terrible at communication to an extent that it feels it must be intentional, and I always get the feeling I’m being scammed and/or given a runaround. In fact, every time I do deal with them I end up swearing to never go there again, but there’s a catch: they have a load of specialists in their facility and they are basically the only game in town for specialist treatment for our pets (with the exception of driving over an hour through heavy traffic to another specialist clinic across town). Since they didn’t even bother to call us back until late Friday, we really didn’t have a choice but to use them – something I suspect was intentional. They basically called us at 4:30 and said they could take Sprocket, as long as we got him there by 5 PM. So, what were we going to do? We had to take the chance.

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And, they were still shady. We knew enough to demand proper service from the beginning, and at least we got that although we had to sit around for about two hours to make it happen (the people in charge at this place are very good at never being available to sit down and talk to you – they prefer you talk to a lab assistant who takes notes and then delivers those to the vet, whom you only speak to briefly). We finally got to speak directly to the vet, who at least appeared intelligent and confident, but when we starting asking pointed questions about how many times we could expect to get an update on our dog and when exactly she would have an answer regarding a pick-up time for Sprocket the next day, she got visibly nervous. You could tell she wasn’t used to people doing anything other than bringing in a pet and leaving it in the hands of what they believed to be trustworthy veterinarians. But we were very clear that we hadn’t always gotten good service from the place, and wanted to be sure we got it this time. We did get good service, in fact, and our dog got a lot of attention – but that is only because we demanded it.

Now for the really shady part: after talking to us for awhile, the neurologist sent in her assistant to show us the estimate for Sprocket’s stay. We were given a “high” and a “low” estimate, then told we would be paying the “middle” between these two costs that day, before they’d done any work on Sprocket at all, and before we even knew whether or not they’d be able to help him. Out of curiosity, we asked the assistant what the clinic would do if we refused to pay upfront and said we wanted to pay after services were rendered, and of course she didn’t really want to respond with the answer, which was clearly yes. Now to me, demanding payment upfront when your clientele is pet owners who are, in many cases, beside themselves with worry over the health of their pet, is bad enough; to refuse to treat a sick animal because it’s owners won’t (or can’t) allow themselves to be forced into paying in advance is unethical as hell. Our “middle” estimate was three thousand dollars, which after much arguing and grumbling we paid; I get how people do not want to haggle like this when it comes to their pet’s life, but at the same time, this practice seems vile to me, and well, someone has to point it out to them rather than just doing whatever they say.

Also, on our estimate, not one line item was an even dollar amount, yet when we got our “adjustment” on Saturday before paying the bill, we were told that our refund amount was four hundred dollars even. We pointed out that was odd, given that none of the charges on our estimate were an even number, and asked to see exactly what it was that they removed from it. Not surprisingly, no one was able to explain what they’d taken off, and then, as we were still haggling with them over this, another guy came to get his pet out of the clinic, and they adjusted his bill as well – by four hundred dollars. So, I’m guessing they just overcharge everyone who walks through the door, then refund them four hundred bucks and hope no one questions it. Well, question it we did, but we were never able to get anything straight and were given a phone number to the manager of the clinic, who of course was not available on weekends. We are definitely going to be calling that person, and deciding what to do next with what we experienced. It isn’t right to fleece people who are trying to be responsible pet owners and take emergency care of them, and even though the treatment these animals receive is, in the end, successful, that simply doesn’t justify behaving kinda like scumbags when it comes to the cost.

On top of all that, I’ve injured my knee again doing nothing much whatsoever, so I had to go to the doctor for that (also Wednesday) and then had a mix-up over what medication the doc was to call in for me. First he called in the one anti-inflammatory med that makes me sick, so I had to call him again to get him to prescribe a new one, and that took me two days to straighten out; when I went to pick up the second prescription, I had once again received the wrong one (!), so I spent two more days trying to get that changed again. And, this is my second round of anti-inflammatories overall  and so far nothing is making much difference, so I’ll probably end up at an orthopedic specialist getting MRIs or x-rays at the end of all this. Sheesh! What a week.

Monday I go see another doctor, then run errands. Then, it’s back to work for another week. There’s been drama there as well, but at least it’s not directly related to me this time. Perhaps I can talk about it at some point, but for now I’m staying mum. Let’s see how things go this week!

Ladybug Funeral Blues

Last night I spied a ladybug in our house, which my husband said was good luck. I scrambled to get my camera together before I lost her, and when I rushed back to the endtable where she’d been with what I thought was my macro lens attached to my Canon, I realized after trying without success to focus it that I’d put my telephoto on it instead. Needless to say, by the time I got the lens switched to the proper one and rushed back to the appropriate piece of furniture, the ladybug had vanished. But Simon was hanging around, so I took pictures of him instead.

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I don’t know how I feel about that ladybug, and if it was good luck or not. The next day was a weird one – we buried my 91-year-old grandfather Thursday morning, and it was an odd experience for me. I have not felt particularly close to my family in many years, and I’m not entirely sure why, but I think it has more to do with me and my emotional detachment in general than anything in particular they may or may not have done. Plus, alcoholism. It is not rampant in my family, but it is definitely present, and the ones with that particular disease have it pretty bad (my grandfather was not one of them, by the way). And lately – they are really going downhill. One was so bad at Christmas Eve it was shocking to me; makeup slid all over the face and slurring words by 8 PM, that kind of bad. There was a time when these people could at least hold it together long enough to get home from the family gatherings, but those times are in the past. Several of them were drunk upon arrival at the funeral this morning, which began at 11 AM.

My two loves
My grandfather holding my mother

Then my husband and I fought in the car on the way to the wake – he feeling cranky over the reminder, I am sure, of his father and his failing health, and me feeling out of sorts about being surrounded by so many family members from whom I feel oddly disconnected – so when we arrived there we were not speaking, which is always so easy to hide from others, isn’t it? I was already feeling strangely awkward and out of place among my own family, and then had to try and pretend (and fail) not to be pissed at my significant other, which made me all the more sullen and distant. We got tired of trying to ignore each other eventually, but it soured what little sweetness there might have otherwise been in the day (there are some family members I usually enjoy seeing and talking to, but not this time; I just couldn’t muster up a fake smile and some casual chatter until the meal was done and we both got over our anger).

Papa and Betty
My grandfather with his sister, Betty, who died long before I was born

The truth is I am not sure how to describe my grandfather. He was, I suppose, a simple man, as most people in my family are. He fought in WWII, came home, got a job in the shipyard where he worked until retirement, married my grandmother and had two kids. After he retired, he took up residence in a brown reclining chair in a corner of his den, and that’s pretty much where he stayed until my grandmother died. He was always sitting, and watching television, and occasionally cooking chili or taking trips with Granny to visit my aunt, who lived out of town. He was surly and a little scary, especially when I was a kid, and he had a sarcastic sense of humor with more than a touch of a mean streak to it. I am sure there is more to him than this, but as I moved into young adulthood I pulled farther away from my family in general, and never really reconnected to either him or my grandmother. After my granny died two years ago, what was left of his old mind finally snapped entirely, and he spent his last remaining days in a home, confused and frustrated by his fate.

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I don’t know what to say about this one. Probably an odd choice to include it here. But as a photo, it’s kind of cool.

I felt it more deeply when my grandmother died, because even though we were no longer close, she had been a major figure in my childhood. But my grandfather’s death felt more like an inevitable conclusion than the end of an era, like Granny’s did. And I feel pretty bad about that. I was always a fairly detached person, even as a kid, and I guess because he was big and occasionally mean and sometimes scary, I shut him out early on and stayed disconnected. He’s not the only person to whom I have done this. I know we can’t possibly feel close to all of our relatives, and we all have our favorites as well as the ones with whom we never really bond, but the experience of sitting in front of his coffin surrounded by family members whom I rarely speak to or see, listening to them sniffle while inside I still felt distant and removed from it to a degree, was disconcerting and disorienting, nonetheless. I’d like to believe I possess that depth of love we are always told we will automatically feel for the people to whom we are related by blood, that bond my parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles repeatedly told me exists, but the truth is I always questioned it. It seemed to me more was required to feel love for another person than just accidentally being related to them. It was as if to them love was a magical thing that just happened when you were born – sort of like how my mother described sex to me when I was a child (you meet someone and feel something special, then you get married, then SOMETHING HAPPENS and you have a baby – OK, later she did give me a book that explained it better, but still). I guess it’s thoughts like this which explain why I was such a detached child; questioning things like why I should love this or that relative is probably not the typical ten-year-old’s inner dialogue, but it sure was mine. It’s not that I didn’t love my grandfather, it’s more likely I just decided at some point that he wasn’t as lovable as Granny and we weren’t as close and never would be, and left it at that without ever trying harder, not even when I was an adult and he was dying. I’m a bit disappointed in myself, that I never reevaluated impressions I made while still in grade school about a man whose role could have been a bigger one in my life, but there it is. That’s how it was, and that’s what I did.

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I’ll sum this ramble up by sharing that in the midst of the wake, surrounded by strangeness and still feeling very disoriented and distant, I went to the ladies’ room and locked myself in a stall, pressed my head against the cold door, and suddenly thought of Simon. I wanted nothing more than to be at home, so I could press my face into his warm fur and hear him purr and feel comfortable again. I’m not sure what this says about me, either. That I can feel more love for my pets than for my own family? Maybe that’s not so unusual after all. Simple relationships and all that. Or maybe I am just more like my grandfather than I know, and I prefer to keep things simple, to stay home and sit in a chair and savor the comfort of doing nothing. He was always the one who stayed silent at family gatherings, watching and listening rather than playing any big part, and with every passing year I do more of that myself whenever I am around them. In fact, I took on that very role today. I sat, and I watched, and I stayed silent, and I felt a little overwhelmed by it all, and I was relieved when it was time to get away. Who knows – maybe I understood my grandfather too much instead of not enough. Maybe we were too similar, rather than too different, to ever connect.

Anyway, for what it is worth, rest in peace, dear grandfather. I am glad the unpleasantness of your last few years are over. I am glad you died in your sleep, and it was peaceful. I’m glad you left your flag to my poor lost soul of a nephew, and I hope it strengthens him in a manner that helps him, at twenty-three, to finally grow up. I hope my grandmother was waiting for you, and I hope you are, and were, happy. The truth is, I could never really tell. But maybe that is just your generation, one that, as the military chaplain pointed out, is rapidly dying out. At ninety-one, I guess it was your time. I’m sorry I never got to know you better, but I hope I got to know as much about you as you wanted me to know.

Moving on.

 

Leader of the Banned

I have to pop in and share this article I read today at washingtonpost.com:

This year, I resolve to ban laptops from my classroom

I haven’t talked much about my intentions for the coming semester, because I feel it’s probably pretty boring for most people. But when I read this article, I felt a big old YES about it, because it accurately sums up the problem I’ve been having. As I may have mentioned before, a lot has changed in the five years since I was last a classroom teacher, and the presence of laptops and cell phones is one of the biggest. Technology may be, in fact, the only change that’s occurred, actually; it’s just so huge it feels like 99 problems when it’s really only one (unavoidable joke, sorry).

I struggled all semester with the laptop/cell phone/internet problem, and until i had the chance a week ago to talk it out with a friend, I could not hit upon a solution. Were I simply teaching an English class, the solution would be simple: no cell phones in the classroom, for sure, and even though we are not allowed to ban laptops, I would have my classroom set up in such a way that I could see what they were doing on them most, if not all, of the time (had to do that in the past when I taught in a computer lab, and it’s quite doable in a normal classroom with desks you can arrange).

However, I am in this special program that does not have a content area, and one of the major accommodations our students with learning differences receive is the allowance of laptops in classrooms – primarily for note taking. So, I can’t exactly ban them outright when they are with me for their study hall. Furthermore, one of the things we want for the center is for it to be a more relaxed and open environment than a regular classroom, so I allowed students to have their phones out at all times, to listen to music while they studied, for example. The problem is, even when students did use the technologies available to them, they still ended up distracted by Twitter or Pinterest or YouTube more often than they actually studied. And the texting was non-stop (and was often coming from their parents!).

You’d think these things would be easy enough to control in a classroom of six students or less. But the truth is, these kids are incredibly skilled at appearing to be working when they are not (put a few books on the table, hold a pen in your hand, and look very serious). And even though I only have six students per class, I am often working closely with one or a few of them, and as soon as I am occupied, they’re off-task.

One thing I like about the article linked above is that it doesn’t shame or blame the students for this behavior – in fact, the author admits that he struggles just as much to stay focused when surrounded by technology as they do. My weakness in teaching has always been my ability to empathize with my students to the point of being lax, and I definitely fell down in this regard again in the fall. And, in all honesty, there were times when I myself got distracted by the Internet and caught myself sitting at my desk reading some article when I was supposed to be helping students! I don’t think your average kid engages in this off-task behavior on purpose, any more than I do – I think we all get called away from our purpose by virtual distractions before we even realize it’s happening; it’s not a conscious decision we make to check out of whatever it is we’re supposed to be doing (although I have a few students who are doing it decisively, but that’s another story). I’d like to be able to trust the students overall and give them the freedom to utilize whatever technology they need, whenever they need it, but it puts me in the position of being a constant “technology cop,” forever looking over individual shoulders and getting into conflicts with kids I catch off-task. I do not have the time nor the constitution for this approach. It’s too much work and too stressful and it puts me in the position of having to directly confront students on a regular basis, which is not my style.

But what do I do if I cannot ban technology entirely from my classroom? It’s true that for some of my students, listening to music may help them study. And certainly many of them are allowed to use laptops – it’s in their documentation. There’s also all sorts of assistive technology and apps they theoretically could be using to help them meet their educational needs (although to be honest, I’ve yet to see any app that’s all that helpful or impressive). My friend helped me come up with a few ideas:

1. Ban cell phones for a certain amount of classroom time. Classes at my school are an hour and half due to block scheduling (which I loathe, but subject for another time). So, at first, I decided they would be able to get out the phones and use them for the last 20 minutes of class in whatever way they see fit – including play a game or look at Twitter if they need a break. But then I read this article about taking small “tech breaks” throughout a class period to reduce the anxiety our social-media addictions create in us (I say “us” because I have it, too). I think this might work better, but I’ve just hit upon this research so I need to think through how do it realistically, in a manner that won’t get cumbersome for me to monitor. Bottom line is, they can use their phones to check social media or texts- at some point during the period. But not for the entire class. The truth is, they are simply not dedicated enough on their own to steer clear of the numerous distractions, and their work is suffering as a result. I think that’s what finally became clear to me – I actually have an obligation to keep them away from the distractions and assist them in learning how to focus without all that crap. I thought I was doing my job by allowing these things, but in reality I was doing them a disservice by allowing them to engage in sub-standard study practices.

2. Laptop use is allowed at designated areas of the room only. I’m not sure I can pull this one off this year, because I only have one big, jerry-rigged, makeshift room to work with and designated areas are hard to create at this point as the space is stuffed (remember August, when we didn’t even have desks or walls? Well yeah, that’s changed just a little – see the picture below as a reference). My friend suggested a few places, but it all seems a bit too forced to me to pull off, so what I may say instead is that any student on a laptop MUST have their back to me, so I can see what they are doing. What they do now is sit facing me – easy to do since we have those wonderful, inviting round tables that have turned out to be a bit of a pain in this regard – and then they incorporate way too much Netflix and Twitter into their study time while I can’t see the screen. It is not my desire to constantly pace around the room policing their laptop comings and goings, so if they sit with their backs to my desk (which is where I normally am) I can easily look up and see what they are doing. Much easier, and still little confrontation and conflict involved. Next year, we actually will have two rooms to work with (and two teachers instead of just me!), and I can be sure to create a ‘laptop friendly’ area where the use of them will be allowed while all other spaces are ‘technology-free’ zones.

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I promise, we’re really studying! On our PHONES!

I have a few other ideas for how to be of better assistance to the students this year, but they aren’t technology-related and this post is probably already boring as hell. But it’s been on my mind since my break started, and I feel like I finally have solutions to the issues I had last semester. I do feel badly that I let the kids, and their parents, down in this regard: I left them to police themselves in an area where I should have been enforcing better habits. We even had a few kids fail classes, and while I know that’s always going to happen, I do feel that a few of those kids would have worked harder if I’d monitored them more – and yes, even forced them to work when on their own they allowed the distractions to get them off-task. But in my defense, I’ve never dealt with technology in a classroom before, as when I was a teacher it just wasn’t allowed, plus I was trying so hard to create a unique, comfortable, and trusting environment that I hesitated to put a stop to it when I saw it becoming a problem (plus, I just didn’t have enough time away from the situation to catch a breath and come up with a workable solution).

So them’s my new rules, and I’m sticking to ’em. I’ve actually written whole posts about this subject several times but always deleted them because they felt too work-specific to be interesting. But that article inspired me – interesting to hear what difficulty even colleges face when it comes to the subject of laptops and cell phones. By the way, I’ve certainly yet to see any way in which all these bells and whistles have added much of anything to the field of education –  I know it’s probably sacrilege to say such a thing, but one of the reasons I left teaching was because I got so sick of being sent to training after training chasing the next big technological advance only to once again have it fall short. Hell, I was still using a good old overhead projector when I left five years ago – never saw where a “smart board” did anything more than my overheads could do…and don’t get me started on the abject failure of all that “every kid must have an iPad” crap schools were all over a few years ago, mine included. I’ve never ONCE seen a student use an iPad for an educational purpose; I even tried to get my students to use ours to study and they chose to use pen and paper instead. Grrrrrrr – Kids these days! Get off my lawn!

Now, I swear I’m going to share all these photos I keep talking about in my next post. I just keep getting sidetracked.