Thursday, June 29, 2006


Very recently a certain smart-ass copy editor referenced this site as the "Wannabe Corral". While it is true that I am a native Texan, I would like to make clear that it's been many, many years since I've set foot in a corral. (The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo counts, I guess, so we'll call it 1992).

Much to my parents' dismay, I moved from Texas to "might-as-well-be-a-Yankee-land" in 1998. My argument that Maryland is still south of the Mason-Dixon Line didn't impress. Nor did referencing Virginia as "The South" and saying Texas is really more "Southwest." Oh, no, that one was definitely not well-received. How dare I lump Texas, Our Texas with such paltry states as Arizona or New Mexico? (No offense, ya'll Southwesterners).

The rest of my immediate family still resides within 20 miles of my childhood home in a rather rural area east of Houston. Please, wipe away that mental image of longhorn cattle and oil derricks. Rural does not equal stereotypical. But it is rural: there isn't really any public transportation, the nearest honest-to-God mall is about 45 minutes away, and it was a big deal when McDonald's came to town. Okay? Small town. It's the kind of town where dogs sometimes trot leashless on the residential streets, and the annual county fair means no school for two days (the FFA kids have to show their pigs and calves, you know.)

In this environment, stray cats can also occasionally appear. Now, my momma likes cats nearly as much as I like dogs. Over the years, she has fed many a cat that appeared on her doorstep. A choice few were invited into the home with the associated privileges of litter box use, smelly canned cat food, and all the lap sitting and petting a cat could want. Others ate once or twice and then disappeared again. Most, however, became regular "outdoor" cats: cats that were not affectionate enough to be a housecat, but visited the doorstep at least twice daily for meals.

Such is life at MommaWhit's in Smalltown, Texas. I imagine it's not a bad life for the cats, as long as they are wise to the ways of neighborhood traffic. There are lots of birds and squirrels for entertainment. And armadillos, of course. I specifically did NOT remove armadillos from that stereotypical mental image, because there are armadillos aplenty in my momma's neck of the woods (despite the fact that Suzanne has yet to see one in a form other than roadkill).

FYI, nothing makes yappy dachshunds bark more than a nest of armadillos under the house. Except, perhaps, raccoons eating the catfood on the doorstep - along with the cats.

I say "perhaps" because my parents no longer have dachshunds.

Obviously, there is no corral.


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Superstars Superseding Sleep

I woke up a few nights ago and was unable to promptly return to sleep. As is the case at least 95% of the time, the television was still on because Suzanne likes to fall asleep watching "Law & Order" or the Food Network. I don't recall which choice she made that night, but at 3am the staple broadcasts of most cable networks are supplanted by "paid programming", otherwise known as infomercials. Typically, I have no problem ignoring "Set it and forget it!" rotisserie hawkers or whatever the newest miracle diet pill might be. On the night in question, however, the infomercial unequivocally commanded my attention. Kenny Rogers (now sporting a mustache and goatee rather than the beard of my youth) was hosting yet another Time Life collection of compact discs: Superstars of Country Music.

What a bargain: "the grandaddy of country-hits collections---150 of your all-time favorite songs from the '60s, '70s, and '80s!"** for a mere $119.96 (plus tax and shipping, of course). That's TEN discs, folks. All digitally remastered, I'm sure. Even Kenny looked impressed.

As a child, I was certainly influenced by my parents' taste in music. Hank Williams, Freddy Fender, the Statler Brothers, Elvis, the Carpenters, Anne Murray, Johnny Cash, Conway Twitty, the freaking Perry Como Singers... I wonder how many other folks my age know all the lyrics to Jim Reeves' "He'll Have to Go" or Johnny Horton's "North to Alaska"? Well, I do. (As an aside, growing up in a house where Ace Cannon and Boots Randolph 8-tracks were also common makes it not such a mystery that my brothers and I chose to play the saxophone, wouldn't you agree? Well, if you had ever heard of Ace or Boots, you would.)

That night, I watched - and thoroughly enjoyed - the entire infomercial. It was truly a walk down memory lane, condensed into a nice half-hour nutshell.

All that was missing was "Music Box Dancer" by Frank Mills.

**Disclaimer: assertions, choice of hyphenation and spelling of certain quoted text is solely at the discretion of Time Life. Wannabe assumes no responsibility as to the veracity of such claims, nor for any grammatical idiosyncrasies


Sunday, June 25, 2006

"Battle of the Beltways"

As a fan of Major League Baseball, I enjoy a good rivalry. The Yankees and Red Sox are a good example: two strong teams, in the same division, with a long history of antipathy and upsets. Such contests are made more entertaining when a "stud" player leaves Team A to go play for Team B. In the case of the Yanks and Sox, the Babe Ruth trade is infamous to those who follow baseball. And just this year Johnny Damon did the same thing, leaving Red Sox fans bitter. Bitter. They boo when Damon bats. They cheer if he happens to strike out. And they bring all sorts of signs to convey their feelings. Yeah, they're bitter. Excellent fodder for nourishing a rivalry.

In recent years, the MLB has attempted to increase interest in the games by introducing (reintroducing?) "interleague" play. For a couple of weeks each season, teams in the National League and the American League play one another (something that typically does not occur until the World Series). For folks like me, it is fun. They create regional rivalries: the Houston Astros play the Texas Rangers. The New York Yankees play the New York Mets. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim play the Los Angeles Dodgers. Ditto the Chicago Cubs and White Sox. And the Toronto Blue Jays play the Montreal Expos. Well, they did. Back before the Montreal franchise moved to Washington DC.

The former Expos are now the Washington Nationals, located less than an hour from Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles. And so, those couple of weeks each year when the Os and Nats play one another, the media has dubbed the rivalry the Battle of the Beltways. (See, there's the 695 loop around Baltimore called the Beltway, and the 495 loop around DC also called the Beltway. It's sorta like the "Bay Series" between San Francisco and Oakland, or the "Subway Series" between the Yankees and Mets. Battle of the Beltways. Get it? Good.)

Now like I said, I'm all for a good rivalry. I do enjoy when the Os and Nats play each other because I know all of the players. And it's efficient television-viewing, as I'll see both of "my" teams play in the span of about three hours - without channel-hopping. My problem is this. Going into this weekend's Battle, the season record for the two teams was:

Nats: 32-42
Os: 33-41

That's right. Both well below .500. Both within two losses of being at the bottom of their division.

I guess "Meeting of the Mediocre" or "Discord of the Deficient" don't carry the same media appeal.


Saturday, June 24, 2006

Parental Reading

My mother read her first fiction novel (as an adult) when she was 69 years old. Seriously. I threw in the parenthetical "as an adult" because I hope she at least read common fiction as a young girl in the 1940s and '50s. Nancy Drew, or Catcher in the Rye, or even Twilight Lust. Well, something, anyway. Whether she did back then or not, for as far back as I can remember her reading material has been limited to non-fiction. Both as a genealogist and an oh-so-proud native Texan, my momma had plenty of factual, historical reference reading to do. Family histories, cemetery archives, census records, birth, death, and marriage certificates, and compendia of roadside markers were the minutiae of my mother’s genealogical pursuits. As for Texas history, well, the Alamo is simply the tip of the cow patty, ya'll.

In the meantime, I devoured books. Both of my parents encouraged my brothers and me to read, and thankfully Daddy recognized that fiction was not a waste of time. He read everything from J. R. R. Tolkien to Clive Barker to Agatha Christie to Louis L'Amour. He often recommended books to me and we still share preferred authors to this day. And although she did not read the same books I did, my mother always obliged when I asked to go to the library and we'd spend hours there together. Well, not together. I'd be perusing the fiction stacks and she'd be looking at microfiche of newspapers from the 1840s. She also always seemed genuinely pleased when I would share observations, opinions, or even excerpts from whatever I was reading. Maybe she showed more interest in the exploits of Frank and Joe Hardy than the adventures involving elves, dwarves, and dragons, but she did show interest. Her interest just never extended to actually reading any of the fiction herself.

So imagine my surprise when, roughly two years ago, my mother told me she was reading and enjoying The Da Vinci Code. Then she joined a reading group (wtf?) and now compliantly reads the book of the month or whatever it's called. Now 71, my mother must have at least a dozen fiction books under her belt. She acknowledges enjoying them. I wonder if she regrets not exploring fiction for a good 50 years or so. I know I regret that she'll never appreciate a good dragon-slaying like my dad and I do. Still, she's finally reading fiction.

Now it's me looking pleased when she shares observations, opinions, and even excerpts of whatever she's reading.


Friday, June 23, 2006

Doggie Dilemma

I may be "Polisher of the Nails" in our relationship, but Suzanne is most definitely "Trimmer of the Nails". No silly, not mine. The dogs'. I guess she would more accurately be termed "Trimmer of the Claws." And thank God she is willing to wear that mantle, because I cannot.

I. Cannot. Do. It. Period.

I'm absolutely, positively terrified of cutting the claws too close and causing the poor puppers to bleed to death... or at the very least, yelp in agony and then leave little spots of blood with every step while I find the stupid styptic powder made for just such abuse accidents. Yes, I'm speaking from experience. And the betrayal and reproach in the dog's eyes is that much worse because you know you deserve it.

Dudley, the world's most perfect basset hound, is actually quite patient with having his claws trimmed. Sure, he'll cast a doleful look or two at you... but he's a basset and such looks are part of his charm. Pixie, the world's most manic boxer/greyhound/min pin/terrier/whatever the hell else she might be, will simply not tolerate it. We know almost nothing of her life experience prior to when we adopted her, but somewhere, somehow, our little Pixie developed a serious aversion to being restrained.

From the moment Suzanne first attempted to hold her paw (simply as a gentle, steadying guide in preparation of applying the trimmers), Pixie went apeshit. Me trying to hold her made it worse, not better. So, time goes by and Pixie's claws continue to grow. Because she is such a dainty (read: skinny) thing, her claws could substitute for razorblades. The habitual enthusiasm with which she greets us after work has literally drawn blood. (Well, not just us.)

A vet we once spoke with suggested purchasing all-natural Ultra Calm Biscuits from Doctors Foster & Smith. She assured us it was safe and effective, saying it made dogs look "a little stoned." Hell, I think she even used the word "nonchalant." She swore by it. Woohoo! Pixie being safely, all naturally nonchalant about having her nails trimmed is just what the doctor ordered. And therefore what we ordered.

First we gave her a trial run of one biscuit, although her weight calls for 2 to 4 biscuits. She ate it like any other treat... then seemed depressed as hell for the rest of the night. Not "stoned." Not "nonchalant." Depressed. Sad, lacking in appetite and affect, apathetic. Call me crazy, but I don't consider "apathetic" and "nonchalant" synonyms. We were disappointed to say the least. And borderline horrified that we had destroyed our sweet little girl's personality. She rebounded the next day, of course, back to the barking, bounding brat that scratches the FUCK out of our arms and legs on a regular basis.


When Suzanne went to her mother's for a week, I thought I would try again. I mean, if Pixie had to be a depressed, apathetic creature for an evening it would be better if Suzanne didn't have to experience it. So I gave her two biscuits this time, mentally apologizing as she chomped her "treats", and waited for the slump. And waited. And waited some more. Yet she didn't slump. If anything, she was a little more hyper than normal - like when you give Ritalin to a kid that doesn't have ADHD. Trimming her nails was out of the question.

So, the claws grow on. We're afraid to take Pixie to our vet to let her do the trimming. I can't imagine our vet (wonderful lesbian that she is) being successful without using extra staff and restraints, with the consequence that Pixie would be even more resistant the next time. I suppose the vet could drug her, but now I'm scared of that option, too. Scared of how Pixie will react to the medication, and scared of the expense of office visits and procedures for something as basic as claw-trimming for the duration of Pixie's life.

So far, the most success we've experienced in dealing with Pixie's Nightmare on Elm Street imitation is deterring her from jumping up when we come through the door. It's not doing much for the minute scratches on our leather sofa, but at least our arms are healing.


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Good artists copy. Great artists steal ~ Picasso & eb

Two years ago, Suzanne and I took on the challenge of remodeling one of the bathrooms in our newly-purchased-and-in-desperate-need-of- such-remodeling home. Everything about the bathroom was hideous, from the circa 1950s vanity to the chipped sky-blue floor tile to the holes in the drywall and ceiling.

So, we gutted it. We tore out every shred of the tile tub-surround and we ripped out the ceiling (and the nasty-ass blown-in insulation that was resting on the ceiling). In truth, we made quite a mess. Such is the product of bathroom demolition:

Recently I read a blog entry regarding theft of an original drawing. Oh, I'm sorry - it was an Art Journal entry. The blogger - I mean Art Journalist - seemed somewhat miffed by the unlicensed duplication of her work.

Just days later, hi-ever, this same Art Journalist shared her own efforts at bathroom demolition. An interesting coincidence, don't you agree?

In actuality, eb's pictorial demolition journey prompted Suzanne and I to revisit our own photos of bathroom destruction two years ago. Ah, the good old days. Our bathroom is a finished product now, of course. We installed a nice shiny new vapor barrier and perfectly-fitted cement board and drywall. We replaced the window, the vanity, and the fixtures. We installed nifty little niches for our collection of toiletries. We had the tub cleaned and re-surfaced. And we tiled, and tiled, and tiled. And taped. And mudded. And sanded. And painted.

And sometime in the next few months, we're going to motivate to tackle the other bathroom in our house. By then, maybe eb will be done and she can laugh at us.


Karamel Sutra

Ben and Jerry are asshats. That's right, I said it. For years while eating every grain of salt I could find, I at least didn't partake much of foodstuffs of the "sweet" variety. Nope, no sweet-tooth here. I wasn't one to indulge much in chocolate, or candy, or cookies... or ice cream. I was happy with my bag of chips (and even happier if I also had salsa). Mmm, saltalicious!

A few months ago, though, my I-don't-care-much-for-sweets wall came tumbling down. It started with PMS (I wonder just how many womanly vices can be attributed to the hell that is PMS?) Anyway, I had a craving for ice cream. As it happened, I was in a 7-11 so I had a decent selection of Haagen-Dazs and B&J's from which to choose. As I do not particularly enjoy nuts in my food, several options were quickly scratched (no Chunky Monkey for me!) I do enjoy caramel, though, and thought a pint of "A Core of Soft Caramel Encircled by Chocolate & Caramel Ice Creams & Fudge Chips" sounded pretty good. Oh yes, a core of caramel. Are you familiar with this particular evil spawned by Ben & Jerry's? Apparently they have a whole line of "Core Concoctions." And, like so many other evils, Karamel Sutra is good.

I ate that first pint in one sitting. What's that? That "first" pint? Why yes. First indicating the existence of a second, and a third, and a - oh, hell, I've lost count. It'd probably be easier to count in gallons. And trust me, if good ol' B&J marketed this stuff in gallons, I'd buy it. I'm addicted.

I like to eat the caramel ice cream for a few bites, then switch to the chocolate side with the delightful little fudge chips. I very carefully do not eat the caramel core at first. Much like my first kiss with Suzanne, the anticipation is part of the pleasure. And while I will not say that the caramel core is as sweet as my woman's lips, I must repeat: it is good.

So beware of this temptation, oh ye with the teeth for sweets. And don't be fooled by the cutesy name. Karamel Sutra is the product of an asshat conspiracy of mamoth proportions.


Monday, June 19, 2006

Sharp Memory

So this past weekend, Suzanne and I hosted her mother. The weekend before that, however, we went to a Nationals game with her boss on Saturday and then to the DC Capital Pride festival on Sunday. The weather was fantastic both days, as was the socialization. Her boss and his wife are extremely nice people, as are the lezzies we hung out with on Sunday. I'm also happy to report that her boss did not catch us girl-watching this time around.

We attended both of these events in lieu of an invitation from another friend to go to the local county festival. This year, Collective Soul, Sister Hazel, Sugar Ray and .38 Special performed. One of our friends is beyond a groupie for Sister Hazel (I don't understand it either, but she's a great friend.) Like I said, we didn't go - but we have in the past.

A couple of years ago, we were there with this same friend to see Sister Hazel and Pat Benetar. Because the aforementioned friend is such a "Hazelnut", we wanted to be at the very front of the stage and therefore watched the act before Sister Hazel. Bree Sharp. Yeah, that was really her name. She appeared to be twenty-something and had great stage presence. Strong voice, decent lyrics, good sense of humor. Really, her incredibly tight abs and the way she slid her hand across her stomach when singing sexy lyrics had nothing to do with why I now possess an autographed Bree Sharp cd. Or why I ordered the subsequent cd when it was released. Or why I'm contemplating buying her third release now.

In reality, I never thought the cd lived up to the live performance - the vocals sound much more nasal on the recorded version. Despite that, I still listen to both cds periodically. Yes, her body was that hot. Pictures just don't do her justice, because they don't capture the way she moves.

Fortunately, she moves just fine in my memory.


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Make Up

The English language often fascinates me. Take homynyms, for example - words that sound alike but have different meanings: brake, break; to, two, too; nose, knows; cast, caste; foul, fowl; bass, base. Sometimes they even sound alike and are spelled alike, but have different meanings: "bass" can be a musical term or a type of fish. And it doesn't help that pronunciation "rules" are so damned inconsistent. Why do "mood" and "food" sound differently than "good" and "wood"? Ditto "touch" and "couch", "work" and "dork", "forth" and "worth", "bear" and "gear". You get the idea. I'm sure you can think of your own examples. Feel free to share.

But I digress. My particular fascination this evening is with multiple definitions of a given word. For example, "cast" could be a noun representing the participants in a production, the plaster around a broken arm, or the mold form for reproducing an image; or a verb meaning "to throw" or to assign a person a role in a production (one could cast a cast). And probably some other definitions I'm too lazy to research. Anyhoo, my offering to you now is a two-word phrase: Make up.

Which of the following best resembles the first thought that came to your mind?
  1. I think make up is ridiculously expensive.
  2. I wish you would make up your mind.
  3. Joe has to take a make up exam due to his absence.
  4. I make up the bed every morning (not).
  5. I can make up a story.
  6. I want to make up with my friend.
  7. Ten years make up a decade.
One could argue that numbers 4 and 6 have similar meanings (to restore). Still, isn't it fascinating? Make up your mind already!


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Fantasy Baseball Sucks

Or at least the players on MY fantasy baseball team do.

The evidence? 1-17, 0.059 BA, 2 BB, CS

Those are the statistics accrued by the players on my fantasy baseball team last night. For you not-so-into-statistics-or-sports-in-general, allow me translate:
ONE batter got ONE hit out of the SEVENTEEN appearances my players had at the plate. This equates to the 0.059 batting average. The two walks would be okay, except I'm in a dumbass rotisserie league that doesn't count walks. And the CS means "caught stealing." Stealing bases does count in my dumbass rotisserie league, but getting caught just don't cut the mustard.
One for seventeen? Are you kidding me? I know that in baseball being able to hit three for ten is considered a good average, but one for seventeen???? These guys are supposed to be pros, damnit. Where are the runs, the home runs, the RBIs? Where are my points???

Of course, it would be okay if one of my pitchers was responsible for the suckass hitting stats, but wait, I didn't have any pitchers last night.

I can't wait until fantasy football starts.


Confession Number 1

I am a Fantasy Sports Dork.

I play Fantasy Baseball. I play Fantasy Football - for cash.

I obsess over roster moves and free agent options. I click from network to network when multiple games are on in hopes of seeing one of my fantasy players earn me a point or two. I yell info to Suzanne from that handy little statline crawling across the bottom of the screen. I rail against God, Mother Nature, and the Republican Party when one of my players gets hurt. I sometimes even secretly root for one of my players when they are opposing one of the teams I support in "real life".

So far this year, I could post Confession Number 1.5 as: I suck at Fantasy Baseball. I'm in two leagues, and just sucking ass in both. Always too slow to pick up the new stud, or too quick to pick up the flavor-of-the-week just in time for his return to mediocrity. I'm currently testing the theory that, in order for the Baltimore Orioles to get a win, I must start the opposing pitcher. Seriously, the formula has worked on multiple occasions.

So why do I torture myself this way?

Maybe the fact that I won $400 in fantasy football two years ago has something to do with it.

At least the fantasy baseball is free.


Monday, June 12, 2006

I Did it on a Whim

I liked the results for my relationship so much that I'm sharing it with you.

Love by ruby mae
Your name
Your partner
You two areMeant for eachother
Your meeting was byChoice
They are yourSoulmate
You are theirOne and only
Your love willBe the epitome of what true love is
Quiz created with MemeGen!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Something in the Water?

So, I work for a small agency providing vocational and case management supports to adults with disabilities. Actually, my “agency” is one department of a larger private non-profit company that includes a school for students with special needs, a day care, and audiology, speech and language, occupational therapy, and tutoring services. My department consists of nineteen staff; the overall agency employs more like 200. Of these 200, the vast majority is women – a fairly typical phenomenon of any “human services” environment. My point, you ask? Take a gander at this photo:

All seven of those women work for my 200-employee agency. It’s just an odd coincidence that three of them work for my 19-employee department. And just my darned good luck that two of them work directly for me. One is due August 10th, the other August 20th. Oh sure, we typically begin serving a dozen or so new clients every July… and we’re due for a licensing visit in July… and an accreditation visit in September. Why would I need all of my direct-care staff for that? I could learn to hate the Family Medical Leave Act, were it not for the fact that my private non-profit employees are far-too underpaid to consider taking off the entire twelve weeks for which they are eligible under FMLA.

Oh, and those seven ladies present for that picture? There were two others who weren’t able to attend the shower that day (well, one was there but had not yet disclosed her “condition”.) That’s right: nine pregos at the same time. Makes you wonder what’s in the private non-profit water, doesn’t it? Or maybe if there was some mass failure of birth control. I'm not going to suggest any wartime/power outage/holiday baby boomer event is responsible, as their due dates range from early May to September.

Whatever the reason for the flood of fertility in my place of employment, I feel confident that The Boy will remain an only child. While the odds might be against such a high percentage of concurrently pregnant women, I don’t think anything on the scale of an immaculate conception is indicated.


Of Capitalization, Punctuation, and Grammar

Sometime back, Suzanne-the-smoochable shared a doggie case note written by one of my staff. Said staff person is one of my best hires; the quality of her writing is indicative of the overall contribution she makes to our program. I am thankful to have her as an employee. In contrast, allow me to share an email received just this afternoon from an employee that thankfully does NOT report to me:

OK Folks I have completed a Job Bank Book that is now on the table with the newspapers , inside of this book are job openings separated into 14 Different Sections each tabbed. Pleaseeeeeeeee if you take book return it back to the table if you need to make copies please do so and return posting back in book. I will continue to keep these jobs also posted on the boards above the Xerox machine and the table where the newspapers are. (Black Book)

Also, I almost done with the Labor Market Book just need to get a few updated items in there it should be done within a week and this too will be on the Table (Maroon Book) The other book that I am working on and it is taking a while to complete it is a book of job applications from area businesses and stores in the area. So please see me for this book since it will be kept in my office .

I know, I know... you could make all kinds of jokes here about how you didn't realize that when I said I worked with people with disabilities, I really meant I work with people with disabilities. All I can say in response is that this staff person did not include a diagnosis on his resume.


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Give that Courtesy Clerk a Tip, Damnit!

Oh sure, working with people with disabilities (PWDs) can be challenging.

Since I first entered the field of Mental Health/Mental Retardation /Rehabilitation/Developmental Disabilities Services in 1989, I've done time with an incredibly diverse scope of disabilities: from people with profound mental retardation trapped in a wheelchair and unable to eat or toilet independently... to people with traumatic brain injuries who could no longer remember what happened five minutes ago but had PERFECT recall of who they were prior to their accident (and were consequently depressed as hell when they weren't busy having a seizure, picking a fight, or trying to get into the pants of everyone in sight)... to those who "heard" God talking to them through the television... to the guy who's been stuck loading groceries into cars at just about every grocery store in the country. Yeah, him. You know the one I'm talking about.

I transferred people from wheelchairs to toilets; I wiped asses and changed diapers; I fed baby food one spoonful at a time. I conducted mock interviews and facilitated working interviews. I found jobs and provided on-the-job training, often performing the task myself. I assessed and evaluated. I trained and taught. I mowed yards with a crew of guys with mental retardation and laughingly pointed out when they left "mow-hawks" in the grass. I monitored medications, implemented physical therapy protocols and behavior modification plans, and balanced budgets. I called 911 when seizures lasted too long. I strongarmed dumbshit employers with the Americans with Disabilities Act and sucked up to other employers in order to get "one more chance" for my clients/customers/consumers/participants /persons-served/individuals. I found affordable housing and completed countless applications for "community supports." I conducted trainings on goal-writing and created templates and spreadsheets to increase staff efficiency. And once, I had my nose broken by an angry young man who had been a triathlete "pre-morbid" (that's technical-talk for "prior to onset"; in other words, before his injury). He got hit by a car while riding his bicycle - one day after his bike helmet (that just might have prevented the 13-day coma and four months in a rehab hospital) had been lost out of the back of a pickup truck. He was also the same guy who called me "Sam." I never knew why. He couldn't remember names for shit, but I was always "Sam." Challenging.

Over the years, I've become accustomed to certain "challenges." I can spew the politically correct, socially acceptable terminology like nobody's business: communication skills; person-directed planning; community integration; facilitation; verbal, gestural, and physical prompts; "fading out"; age-appropriate socialization; "can" language; quality assurance; productivity; individualized services; "people-first" language; networking; collaboration; teamwork; time studies; interpersonal interactions; strategic planning; med-compliance; etiology unknown; human rights; confidentiality; resource coordination; cognitive remediation; MODAPTS; independent living skills; assistive devices; executive functioning; attention-seeking behaviors; psychosomatic illness; best practices; reasonable accommodations; behavioral disregulation; "not otherwise specified"; and individual choice, choice, choice.

I can write an eight-page case note without once referring to myself or my agency in casual first-person language (those charts are legal documents and "I" and "we" just won't do, dontchaknow.) I can also write individualized, person-directed, measurable, achievable goals. I adhere to, and enforce, HIPAA regulations, State regulations, and accreditation standards. I access the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and the Physician's Desk Reference with relative competence. I recognize, and can correctly spell, the generic names of many medications - particularly anti-convulsants.

And lately, I literally lose sleep wondering what the State of Maryland is going to do next to screw with my agency's funding. A challenge indeed.

Typically when I tell someone what I do the response is, "Oh, that must be so rewarding." And it has always been so for me, though folks don't seem to realize that when working with PWDs, victories are often few and far between. Maybe that's why "simple" accomplishments are so meaningful - they don't come easily for PWDs. Whether it's learning to tie a shoe... or running a commercial floor buffer... or signing a name legibly... or passing the driver's exam at the MVA, all of the PWDs with whom I've worked have truly worked for everything they've accomplished. Little comes easily for them, and one cannot help but recognize just how much the rest of us able-bodied, cognitively superior folks take for granted. And then I realize just how subjective my so-called "challenges" are.

And so yes, when a person with a disability finally meets his goal to differentiate yellow from blue (the first step in the supposed long-term goal of being able to self-medicate) after a full year, it is rewarding. Rewarding to know I played a part in his success, certainly. But even more meaningful is the opportunity to bask in the glow of his victory - to witness the joy and satisfaction he feels in his accomplishment. I suspect parents may relate to what I'm describing, but I'm not sure it's the same. With children, there is the expectation of growth, of success. With PWDs, success cannot always be predicted... or assumed. With some PWDs, even the most basic of "goals" might not ultimately be achievable. And maybe to most able-bodied, cognitively superior folks, being able to "correctly identify the color yellow four of five trials independently for ten consecutive sessions" isn't that significant. But I've learned differently. With PWDs, every accomplishment is significant. And believe me, the gift of sharing in the accomplishments and the accompanying joy is very rewarding indeed.

So, challenge yourself, Mr. or Ms. Able-Bodied, Cognitively Superior Person: the next time one of those "special" people puts your canned goods on top of your bread - recognize that he's in the process of becoming the best bagger he can be. And give that "slow" guy who puts your groceries in your car a tip, or at least a smile.

You don't know just how much of a reward it might be to him.


Tuesday, June 06, 2006


Intimacy is good. Way good. Martha-Stewart-"it's-a-good-thing"-good.

Sometimes, more IS better.

And sometimes, there's just no such thing as "too much of a good thing."

And sometimes - just every once in a while - you CAN always get what you want.

Ya'll keep that in mind.