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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

When You Can't Read

Laurie, the education coordinator at Hope Ministries in South Bend, asked me last spring about recommendations for an adult with dyslexia who wanted a tutor.  I volunteered myself.  Laurie had the three of us meet so we could see if we wanted to work together.  We said, "Let's give it a try."

M is not homeless.  She is a very attractive young lady who has a full time job in the RV industry.  She and her boyfriend enjoy spending weekends on their dirt bikes in full regalia.  She loves to cook and she is very helpful to her parents.  

M really could not read.  She tested at an early primary grade level.  I noted that she seemed to stop the test after doing about half the items.  She said that she just knew she couldn't read the longer paragraphs.  She wants badly to learn to read.  She has career goals beyond  factory work.   She wants to be able to read to the children she would like to have some day.

She said that an ex-boyfriend had a two-year-old who wanted her to read to him.  She would tell him that she had to cook or do the dishes or try to distract him by playing something else with him.

We have met once a week for the last several months.  She is always on time and if she has to work late, she lets me know.  It has not been easy for her to work through our lessons.  At one point, I realized she was listening to a phonics lesson online in the car--but not following visually.  That doesn't help much!

We have worked through Megawords, a book published by EPS, which uses six types of syllables in multisyllable words.   We started with closed syllables, went on to silent e syllables,  open syllables, and r-controlled syllables.  We are now working on vowel digraphs.  She is learning to break down words into syllables.  The English language doesn't always cooperate.  Yesterday she analyzed "re-cog-ni-tion" breaking it down as taught without success.   And there are so many other tricky words that don't follow rules such as "built",  " unique" , and "opinion"--all words that she missed yesterday.

However, yesterday was a day for celebration!  I brought along "The Very Hungry Caterpillar' and "Curious George" and she read them well enough to entertain any toddler.  She chose an article to read in a dirt bike magazine highlighting celebrities in the field--many of whom she knew.  We used "authentic" materials!

 And yesterday she retested on the TABE (Test of Adult Basic Education)-a requirement of the literacy program.  I did insist that she finish the test no matter how frustrating it was--and to guess if needed--usually good test-taking skills.  She read the test aloud and I didn't object.  Her score was improved by three grade levels!  We were both very pleased and so was Laurie at Hope Ministries.

I texted her this morning that we have lots more work to do and she said she can't wait until Thursday, our next lesson.  She has another dirt bike magazine for us to read.  Success will mean more success for her as she gains confidence in her reading ability.  She says she is reading signs and billboards more and is relying on her iphone's audio abilities less.

I feel priviliged and thankful that I can work with M.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Thousand Year Rain

Our South Bend mayor referred to the downpour of last Monday as our 1000 year storm.  I am not sure how one can know that but it is true that we had record rainfall on that day--probably an inch more than ever before recorded in our area.  At 11:30, just as we were almost asleep, Jim's phone beeped with a text about flash flood warnings.  We should have checked the basement at that point but alas, we didn't.

Books on floor pre-flooding
At 6 am Tuesday,  Jim went downstairs to shower and found himself walking in water throughout almost the whole basement.  When I woke up later, he said, "Mary, we have a problem and it's beyond what we can handle."   We googled basement flooding and came up with a number to call.  Eventually, our call was returned with a promise to come by evening.

We have had small amounts of water in the basement before and have mopped it up with our wet vacuum.  When Chem-Dry's Ed and Mike came at 7:30 pm, they began "extracting" and took out 200 gallons.  They didn't have all the equipment they needed because others were ahead of us in line--and others had it far worse.  There was no opportunity to compare shopping.  We were just glad to have them begin the work as soon as possible.

Equipment on its way out
Either Ed or Mike has been by every day and will continue to monitor the situation until all is dry.  Ed is "thrilled" with the progress.  I am tired of the noise of humidifiers and fans and the heat emerging from their running in the basement.  At one point, there may have been a dozen machines going hard.

What have we lost?  Not a lot.   Fortunately, Jim had just put almost all of his recently moved and unpacked books on shelves or there would have been a great loss.  There were some large volumes on the floor that he thought were too weighty to go on shelves.  There were others that he was undecided about--and now the decision is made to get rid of them!

Emails and other memorabilia drying out
The saddest part for me was finding a very waterlogged  box of clippings and programs and old emails from Laura and Dan.   Jeff's box was on top and suffered no damage.  I have been drying out papers all week, throwing out items such as bank statements and parent handbooks, but saving many wonderful emails, programs, news clippings and grade reports.  It has brought back many memories, some good and some not so good.  Texts and phone calls do not leave these wonderful records.

What can we do to prevent this from ever happening again?  Ed, our Chem Dry man, says just don't ever have another 8 inch rainstorm.  However, we are looking into some landscaping improvments and a sump pump installation which may help.  In any case, the basement carpet, which is original to the house and will be cleaned as the last step of the process, may be in better shape than it has been for years.

Once again there is much to be thankful about.  We had minimal damage and we have the financial resources to pay for the restoration.


Monday, August 15, 2016

Predictions for the Future

Many years ago when I first began a Master's program at NCSU, a professor asked us to record on index cards what we planned to be doing in five years.   I was stuck.  Up to that point, our lives had been year to year.  I really had no five year goals or plans.

That memory has come back to me as the various financial planners we have been working with try to have us set goals for the next ten years or twenty years.  How much money will we need?  What will we want to spend it on?

And then the talk about our legacy--and how it is not just money.   We are being encouraged to spend.  It's our "behavior pattern" of saving which concerns a particular planner.  I truly think, however, that we spend what we want to spend.   However,  extravagance is not a part of who we are.  We should give more away and make that a bigger part of our "legacy."

The first shocker was when one planner figured out what our house would be worth in 2036.   What an exercise in futility!  I can't imagine we would be in this house 20 years from now and in charge of selling it.  I hope the house will still be here even if we are not.  Sadly the house we left in 1991 in Raleigh, North Carolina was struck by lightning and was a total loss.

The next sobering thought was when another financial planner told us that my life expectancy is 93 years but Jim's is only 91.  I said that at that point we would probably both be in "assisted living."  Jim contributed the thought that he was looking for me to "assist" his living! Mavve I already do!

Yesterday a Facebook friend posted the story of a Dutch couple in Platte, South Dakota, who were married for over 63 years and died within 20 minutes of each other in the nursing home room they shared.  Now that seems like a good way to go!


Friday, August 12, 2016

Nine Days at the Big Lake

This post is my way of recording our travels and vacations--and will end up in my Blog2Print at the end of the year. It's an easy way to make a photo album or a scrapbook of the year.

20 minutes after sunset
We rented Number 301 225 North Shore again--a front unit on the third floor with a great view of Lake Michigan.  It is always wonderful to look out at the "Big Lake"--early morning with its silvery sheen, afternoon with blue skies and a deeper blue lake, and evening with the sun making a rosy path on the lake and then lighting up the entire sky--even for quite a while afterwards.  We went out on the deck every night with all the other residents to watch the magnificent Lake Michigan sunsets--one after another.

A reunion golf match

A 5 mile round trip down 74th Avenue



Jim golfed a bit, I rode my bike several times, and we both did a lot of walking.   We ate at the Thirsty Perch and the Idler and got a pizza to go from the Vineyard.  We made our annual jaunt to Captain Lou's with John and Lois where we had a late lunch while watching the boats go along the Black River.  We were happy to see the return of Bunde's Bakery after a few years' absence so we could get an occasional morning sweet.

Water garden at Montgomery Inn
After packing up on Sunday morning, we drove to the Marsden's cottage near Montague where we met with the Svelmoes and the VanderZees.  Jim golfed with his old golfing buddies and we enjoyed one of Lucie's wonderful meals of BBQ ribs, corn and potatoes.  We reserved the next two nights at the Montgomery Inn  so we were able to spend Monday as well with the Marsdens. A dinner overlooking the Thoroughbred Golf Course ended our vacation.

Monday, August 1, 2016

A Cloudy Day (Saturday)

All day long I felt as if there was a cloud over me and I couldn't shake it off.  I had trouble getting to sleep last night--maybe because I read my Raymond Chandler-Robert Parker mystery too late.  My dear husband was snoring so I went upstairs to sleep and it was hot up there and I couldn't get comfortable. .   A cup of sleepytime tea at 1 am helped and I slept at least five hours.

I often don't sleep well and still feel cheerful enough but not today. We got groceries, I did three loads of wash, I made pesto and a blueberry coffee cake and fixed a good supper.  I watched the Cubs for a while.  But everything was done with effort.

At eight o'clock I went for another walk with about 2500 steps needed to get my 10,000 steps for the day. While I walked, I prayed that the cloud would lift.  I thought about the sadness in a young friend's life as he learned yesterday that his scan still showed some problematic spots and he will have to continue chemotherapy for his very rare and dangerous kind of cancer.  How much we hoped the scan would show "NED" which we have learned is "no evidence of disease."  But it didn't and he and his loved ones have to go on somehow and face more treatments. I am very sad for them.

And then there are the daily reports of Donald Trump's continued insults and self-centered comments that get reported in the news and argued over on Facebook.  I check Facebook far too often.  I am alone a lot and it is a bit of  people contact in my day.  But I find it impossible to understand how so many can defend his comments and tweets.   I should limit my Facebook checking--maybe to once a day. The political climate means that we cannot talk to relatives about the conventions or the candidates.  I don't want to know who might possibly be voting for Mr. Trump because I believe he appeals to the worst in folks.  And he says he alone is the one who can save us from all evil.  This situation makes me very sad as well. There are reasons for sadness.

So it was a cloudy day in some ways.  But as I walked, I was suddenly aware of a very bright sun just beyond the clouds in the western sky.  It was breathtakingly beautiful and I got tears in my eyes.  Was it a sign for me as an answer to my prayer?  Maybe it was.  I know I felt better--and I got my 10,000 steps!