Category Archives: Volunteering

Inglish iz uh Stoopid Langwij

stupidenglish02On Mondays and Wednesdays from 1:00 to 2:00, a handful of moms at our local elementary school volunteer to help some of the 1st graders who are struggling with sight words. For those of you who have been reading English for a while (probably most of you unless Siri’s dictating all your messages) and who are unfamiliar with the term sight words, it means those words that you can’t really sound out but have to memorize. Most readers don’t often stop to think that of should sound like off instead of uv, that is ends with a z sound instead of a snake hiss, and said is pronounced sed instead of some strange double-syllabled word that takes hapless non-readers a good 30 seconds to try and sound out.

English is a stupid language.Tomb Comb Bomb

Three of the 1st grade sight words are though, thought and through. I still have no idea how to explain to these frustrated 6-year olds that ough from each of these words makes the long O, short O and double O sounds respectively. And while I’m trying, it would certainly not be the time to go off on a tangent and explain to them that respectively does not mean polite.

My 16-year old Emily (she calls herself Djaq and pronounces is Jack I’ll explain more in a future blog) just performed in her high school’s production of “The 25th Annual Putnum County Spelling Bee.” She played Olive, an elementary school student whose only friend is her dictionary, which she reads voraciously while on the toilet. Olive muses that if you take the W from answer, the H from ghost, the second A from aardvark, and the T from listen, you get…

spellingbee… Emily/Djaq/Olive silently mouths the word:

“What.”

English is a stupid language.

Emily/Djaq recently recounted an example that she learned from her eclectic 3rd grade teacher Mr. Schultz (quoting from George Bernard Shaw). If you take the GH from laugh, the O from women, and the TI from initiate, you get the word ghoti. However, it is pronounced fish. No kidding.ghoti

English is a stupid language.

If a word starts with a C, it is pronounced K or S. Why? Why did the English connoisseurs even invent a C if it doesn’t have its own sound? Why does G make either the G or J sound when there already is a J? Why is there an X when it actually blends KS, yet it is pronounced Z in nearly every English word with the exception of x-ray?  Why did they invent a Q when it really is just a K blended with a long U? And to make it even more inconvenient, there’s almost always a U piggybacking on Q like a lazy parasite.

stupidenglish04We teach these baffled children that an E at the end of a word is silent and it makes the previous vowel long (as in my son Jake’s name). Like all the other rules of English, this one sounds stupid too, but at least it seems like a somewhat consistent rule. That is, until they get to middle school and based on the silent E rule, they try to pronounce their new vocabulary words epitome and calliope. Oops. Not just an E at the end, but a really long E.

English is a stupid language.

images-1I took two years of Spanish in high school and all the English pronunciation rules I learned during my previous 10 years of education were thrown out the window. Yet once I learned that J makes the H sound and the vowels A, E, I, O and U are pronounced short O, long A, long E, long O, and double O, I found that Spanish doesn’t often break its own pronunciation rules. Jose will not and never will be pronounced Joe’s (unless you meet him in art school). Instead, it’s hose-ay, which written as a pronunciation looks as gringo as Doris Day.

english-diacriticsI think the easiest and smartest solution to the English language dilemma would be to throw out the spelling of all traditional English words and instead spell them with the same pronunciation key used in the dictionary. Of course adding all these long and short vowel sounds, CH, SH and the hard and soft TH, not to mention the accents and the syllable breaks, would make the English alphabet a little bit bigger. Everyone will have to grow their fingernails and file them to a sharp point in order to use the teeny tiny keys on their Smartphones to type:

ˈIŋ-glish iz uh ˈstü-pəd ˈlaŋ-gwij.

Then there’s the schwa (ə), which would probably be the most popular letter in the English language. It sounds like uh, and it is also the most widely used sound these 1st graders make when they’re trying to sound out a word:

“Uhhhhhhhh…”

UhhhDictionary.com calls ə “the mid-central, neutral vowel sound… of a in alone and sofa, e in system, i in easily, o in gallop, u in circus.”

Speaking of circus, you have your full meal of English language funkiness with C sounding like K, C sounding like S, an actual S, a schwa (ə), and even one of those funky colon on its side things whenever an R takes a vowel hostage. Here’s how Dictionary.com, Merriam-Webster, American Heritage, Oxford, Collins, and MacMillan each show their pronunciations of circus:

Dictionary.com

Merriam-Webster

American HeritageOxford

Collins

Macmillan

Yes, English is a very very stupid language.

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Filed under Anxiety, Humor, Kids, Public Education, Volunteering

For “Giving Tuesday,” Can I Give Back All My Free Address Labels?

Black Friday – the biggest shopping day of the year for the brick & mortar establishments – is followed three days later by Cyber Monday – the most popular online shopping day. And since you already have your credit cards out and are floating on that high that only comes from the combination of spending a lot of money and getting a really great deal, some brilliant philanthropists (and of course some savvy marketers) came up with today’s Giving Tuesday. They figure that we have one day for giving thanks and two for getting deals, so why not balance it out and create another day for giving back? And by “giving back,” they don’t mean the return line at Wal-Mart after you’ve developed buyer’s remorse.

I think Giving Tuesday is a great idea and I hope it catches on like wildfire. Especially for those people who don’t really think about charities until the end of the year tax write-off, I think it’s a wonderful way to initiate the recognition of worthy charities and hopefully start instilling a desire to help those in need, without expecting a fancy meal and a door prize in return.

Even though I completely encourage Giving Tuesday, today won’t necessarily be a special day for me. I try to be a giver year-round, not just on some new cyber-Hallmark holiday akin to Secretary’s Day. My kids will probably joke that I like to give them crap (although they wouldn’t actually the word “crap” or I’d really give them crap), but I wouldn’t hesitate a second to donate a kidney, a lung, or even half a brain if I could spare it. I enjoy volunteering my time in the community, and I even get a kick out of donating blood. And I don’t do it for the free carbs and a sticker.

I’ve never had a garage sale. I prefer to donate my gently-used items to charities, although one organization that I’ll just call Charity-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named came to pick up my bags of goods one day and instead left a note that said “Landfills are expensive.” Apparently the jacket good enough for me to wear the day before was unfit for a homeless person living in a box on a freeway offramp.

Ever since I started making enough money to eat something more extravagant than air-popped popcorn and off-brand macaroni and cheese, I’ve been giving to charities. Whether it was a Girl Scout selling over-priced cookies outside the market, a friend participating in a walk, jog, run or jump-a-thon, or some tear-jerker infomercial, my checkbook was always out. In the early 1990’s I was doing quite well financially and probably donated to 40 different charities annually. I’d send $25 to anything that came in the mail and more if the request was solicited by a friend.

But for the past few years we have been in financial dire straits, and I now have to be more choosey about charities.

The problem is, like pesky gum on your shoe that you just can’t scrape off, I seem to be in these charity databases for life. To them I’m still a potential donor left over from previous flush years, and I still might have sympathy and disposable income left to burn.

They don’t just send a form letter. What really irks me are the gilt-ridden gifts I don’t need or ask for that are smuggled along with the letter. I receive glossy photos of a malnourished child in Africa, a sad-eyed pup that’s about to be euthanized, or baby seals stuck in muck. They send calendars filled with 12 months of those plighted children, puppies, and baby seals. I get incredibly cheap-looking Christmas or greeting cards that I just pass on to some other charity. And if I had a dime for every time I got a dime from the March of Dimes… wait! I do have a lot of dimes!

Even though they may be attempting to stretch that donated dollar as tightly as possible by paying bargain basement prices on these presents, I’m concerned that they might be manufacturing these gifts in 3rd World Countries with the same horrible conditions they’re hoping to wipe out from the lives of plighted children, puppies, and baby seals.

But the most prevalent gifts are the ubiquitous address labels. I have probably received a billion of them in a variety of “Miss,” “Ms.” and “Mrs.,” “Cathy” or “Catherine,” and even some with the married names I never took.

Even though I didn’t ask for them, I’ll keep the labels and these days I probably won’t end up donating to their charity. I used to feel guilty about it, but it’s not like anyone else has any use for them. I can’t fill up a donation box of “Cathy Flynn – Valley Village, CA” labels for Charity-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and hope that Mr. Homeless Man in a Box can find them constructive, with the exception of using them to tape up leaky holes in his habitat.

I like to use the labels for as my contact information on charity raffle tickets rather than handwrite the same lines 100 times. The money may not be going to the optimistic organization that printed and mailed those address labels, but at least it’s still going to a good cause.

Two weeks ago I donated about 20 bags of clothing to the Superstorm Sandy victims, and then gave literally a truckload of household items to our local public middle school during their Goodwill drive. We have a monthly credit card payment to our public elementary school as well as my local public radio station since I’d be a complete thief to listen to NPR as often as I do without paying something for it. And since I don’t really know today how I’m going to pay for those credit card charges next month, I’m praying that even if I’m a contributor this year, it won’t tip me over the financial cliff so far that I’ll be one of those charity recipients next year.

I guess the bright side is – if we lose the house I won’t need to worry about what to do with all those return address labels. I doubt those charities will be able to find me at my new home next door to the Homeless Guy in a Box.

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Filed under Anxiety, Debt, Financial Insecurity, Fundraising, Humor, Public Schools, Volunteering

Volunteerism – It’s Not Just a Job; It’s a Job Without a Paycheck.

At about 3:45 pm on Tuesday, I dropped by the dubbing stage on the Disney lot, where Erik the recordist downloaded my conformed dialogue tracks. By 4:00 pm I was waving goodbye to my supervisor, my boss, the mixers and the producer of “Once Upon a Time.” I probably won’t see any of them again until season 2 begins next September.

I love my job as the dialogue editor on the show, but with only 22 episodes a year, it leaves a very long hiatus.

So on Wednesday morning I woke up and started my new job. I love this job too – probably even more than I love working on a hit show. And my new job pays nothing.

When I say “nothing,” I don’t mean that it’s something close to nothing like minimum wage at McDonald’s. My new job pays nothing because for the next month I’ll be working as a volunteer.

Since 2001 I have been a parent at Colfax Charter Elementary School in Valley Village. Back then, most families in the neighborhood sent their kids to private schools. They didn’t really know much about our little public school. So in 1998 when my daughter turned 2, I started volunteering at Colfax in an effort to infiltrate the school and see first hand what it was like.

They placed me in a 1st grade class with a teacher named Paige Gage, and I fell in love. Besides having a name that rhymed (something every 1st grade teacher should have) she was engaging, fun, and she genuinely seemed to enjoy being there everyday with the kids. It turns out she was a parent there years ago and became a teacher later. Her children are now grown and she’s still at Colfax and teaching 2nd grade now. And I’m still in love with her.

There are countless parents and members of the community who consistently devote a truckload of time to help this little gem of a school. Throughout the work season I participate in little ways as a room parent and in PTA, but when I’m on hiatus, I have the opportunity to really dive in. It is an incredibly rewarding experience to work with other volunteers to make our wonderful school even better and be able to interact with the kids. Here are some of the really fun things I can look forward to doing for the next 6 weeks of the school year:

Kindergarten violins

On Mondays and Wednesdays at 12:30 I get to help my son Jake and his classmates place their feet correctly on the Arthur Murray-like foot positions on the floor and keep the boys from having sword fights with the bows. The kindergarten recital is May 24. For that day I’ll probably work as a kid wrangler and try to keep them from messing up their white button-down shirts. Good thing the recital is first thing in the morning or after recess I’d be racing home and washing a large load of white button-down shirts.

Helping in the classroom

Today I helped the kids paint sunflowers. I let a girl named Emma make a second one after I totally screwed hers up by suggesting she fix a part of it. She was doing way better without my help.

Beautification

This Saturday, May 12th we’re all bringing our gardening gloves, rakes and creaking backs to the campus to sweep, clean and plant. It’s scheduled right between Jake’s baseball game and my niece’s baby shower in Yucaipa, so I can just spare an hour. That’s how long it should take to clean up 10 square yards of an area covered in juice box straw wrappers. Damn Juicy Juice.

PTA/PACE Elections

May 17th I get to see who’s going to be Co-VP of Communications with me. The term will be up for my current partner Joanne, which is really scary since she’s the one who takes the great photos and sends out the Constant Contact email messages to the whole school. I’m crossing my fingers that the new Co-VP is artistic and tech-savvy. Otherwise I’ll need to learn how to take photos where people actually have their eyes open.

Restaurant Fundraisers

Lisa and Abbe are a couple of energetic go-getters, and I work with them on Restaurant Fundraisers where Colfax gets 20% back. I have the task of counting out the exact number of flyers for each classroom and placing them in the teachers’ boxes so they’ll go home in the students’ backpacks. We have fundraisers at Menchie’s on May 18th and a combo Cold Stone Creamery / Green Apple China Bistro on June 5th. The teachers scoop the ice cream at Cold Stone, and there’s always a line out the door of students who ask, “Mrs. Tepper…  can I have another sample?”

Teacher Appreciation Lunch

I’ve signed up to bring lasagna. I used to make an amazing lasagna before I had kids.  Now every year I sign up to bring a lasagna to the Teacher Appreciation Lunch with the intention of making a homemade one, and every year I realize that an amazing lasagna takes about half a day to prepare. I’m thinking of just cooking a Stouffer’s in one of my Corningware trays so it looks like I actually spent more time on it than merely turning an oven dial.

Vaudeville

Every year, that same teacher I volunteered for back in 1998 puts on a Vaudeville Show. Starting in January, Paige Gage has rehearsals every Wednesday afternoon not only for her 2nd grade class, but she also offers it to every 2nd grader in the school and any older student who wants to help with the show. I’m the gal who gets to press “play” on the iPod. The kids sing songs like Jimmy Durante’s Inka Dinka Doo, perform magic tricks, and tell really corny jokes. I’ll hear the words “knock knock… who’s there?” more than any sane person should hear in a lifetime.

School Site Council

There’s a governance meeting once a month where we get to discuss the school charter, curriculum, budgets, and other topics that would make a kindergartner’s eyes glaze over. This is the time I get to act like a grownup and try to act like I really understand all that “I second it” and “I’d like to make a motion” stuff. Because it’s elementary school, I’d love to call it “Me too” and “Whatcha think if…?”

Career Day

I have the opportunity to make three 20-30 minute presentations on what a sound editor does for a living. After I explain that I work from home and wear headphones all day, the kids who will decide to pursue this career when they grow up will either be sound aficionados or anti-social shut-ins.

Tribute Songs

During the very last PTA/PACE meeting of the year we have a presentation to say goodbye to all the 5th grade parents who have gone above and beyond in volunteering for the school. I have the dream-of-a-lifetime job of writing a bunch of parodies and having some of the 5th graders perform it that night. My goal is to make the parents simultaneously roar with laughter and weep like babies. (Have some fun and check out last year’s karaoke version at Colfax 5th Grade Tribute 2011 on Youtube).

Colfax World Fair Marketing

This is the Big Kahuna of my volunteer activities, which is fitting since one of the things I get to hype is the Big Kahuna – a huge water slide at the Colfax World Fair on June 2nd. Last year about 7,000 guests attended this event which made $140,000 in a single day. My job is to get the news out about the fair by any means possible and to make enough money to keep all of Colfax’s extracurricular (and curricular) programs alive. I have a great team of volunteers working with me this year who will be spreading the word with Facebook, Twitter, Patch, emails, banners, posters, car magnets, flyers, postcards, lawn signs, newspapers, magazines, radio, online or just good old fashioned word of mouth. By June 2nd, if you haven’t heard of the Colfax World Fair, it means you’ve been in a coma under a rock on a desert island.

Finally…

Tuesday, June 19th is the last day of the 2011-2012 year for this little LAUSD school. So at 1:30 pm I’ll be clocking out.

By then I’ll need a nap.

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Filed under Family, Humor, Kids, Multitasking, Music, Parenting, Public Education, Public Schools, Volunteering

My year as a Neighborhood Council Valley Village Board Member

Neighborhood Council Valley Village is made up of 15 dedicated volunteers who work tirelessly for their community. Please take a look at Communications Chair Steven Stokes’ open letter to Valley Village and president Tony Braswell’s list of accomplishments for 2011 by clicking here. It definitely takes a village.

It’s been nearly a year since I was elected to the board of Neighborhood Council Valley Village (NCVV), and I can’t believe what a rewarding experience it has been. Board president Tony Braswell recently listed NCVV’s accomplishments for 2011, and the total is quite impressive.

A year ago, I didn’t know much about local politics, and I wasn’t even sure exactly what neighborhood councils were. I’ve since found that neighborhood councils started forming nearly ten years ago when the San Fernando Valley threatened to secede from Los Angeles. Instead, neighborhood councils were formed across the city of LA to form a bridge between the mayor’s office and their local communities. These volunteers give and receive input about matters like the budget, as well as programs and issues that are important to their community.

For me personally, there were some very satisfying moments:

I'm the 4th from the right

I donned a hard hat and shovel and posed with Councilmember Paul Krekorian for the Valley Village Park improvement groundbreaking ceremony.

I worked hard to try to get shade structures installed over the playground at Valley Village Park, and although there were a few neighbors across the street from the park who were pretty angry (they felt that the park was already too crowded), during Christmas week when the temperature hit the high 80’s my son Jake was able to play without getting heat stroke.

I fought the good fight trying to drum up a letter writing campaign to convince the state Citizens Redistricting Commission (CRC) not to split Valley Village in two. We were unsuccessful, but not for lack of trying.

I was able to chat with Councilmember Paul Krekorian and State Assemblyman Mike Feuer numerous times. Although I had barely heard their names before I joined the board, by the time I met and shook hands with them, I was pretty star-struck.

I'm on the left, waving like Miss America

After marching with my neighbors in the Valley Village 4th of July parade for a decade, this year I was able to wave from a convertible with my fellow board members.

I had a great time volunteering at events like the Pet Adoption Fair, Paul Krekorian’s Inaugural Celebration, National Night Out, Neighborhood Watch, adding information to the NCVV website, promoting events on Patch, attending conventions and seminars like the 2011 LA Congress of Neighborhoods, ethics training, and the Neighborhood Council Green Practices & Projects Workshop, enjoying the Police Activity League Supporter (PALS) Luncheon and Awards and chatting with Officer of the Year Bill Lantz, and working with some very knowledgeable and devoted members on the projects and communications committees.

At the East Valley Police Activity League Supporter (PALS) Luncheon and Awards with Officer of the Year Bill Lantz and felllow NCVV board members Ginny Hatfield and Suzanne Lewis

By getting involved in NCVV, I was able to provide firsthand information regarding the notorious fence with the commissioned graffiti, the continued closing of the two tunnels under the 170 Freeway, additional park improvements, Neighborhood Watch, specific crimes in our neighborhood, and the events at National Night Out.

I admit the meetings can be a little dull and they don’t attract a lot of people. But there was a particular purpose I wanted to serve. I figured that like me, there are hundreds of other parents of young children who live in Valley Village. During our board meetings they are busy working late or making dinner or helping the kids with their homework or giving them a bath… They probably want to know what’s going on in their community, but they’re busy with their daily lives. I figured that since I interact with a lot of them, I could tell them firsthand what’s going on.

This year I look forward to adding more information to the Neighborhood Council Valley Village website (myvalleyvillage.com) and working on and promoting events like our upcoming blood drive (April 10th at Colfax Charter Elementary School), the Virtual Garden Tour, the Pet Adoption Fair,

NCVV logo

the Valley Village Park Refurbishment Celebration, and the online business directory.

I encourage anyone who lives in the Valley Village area to participate by attending our meetings at Colfax Charter Elementary School at 7:00 pm on the 4th Wednesday of each month, or join one of NCVV’s committees, which also meet monthly. You can devote as little or as much time as you like. You too can experience the rewards of volunteering and being more involved in your community.

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Filed under Multitasking, Parenting, Volunteering

From Pageant Contestant to Judge: What I Wish I Knew 30 Years Ago

Here I am as a contestant in the 1982 Miss Brea Pageant

Thirty years ago, I was a contestant in the Miss Brea Pageant, the local preliminary that leads to the Miss America Pageant. I fancied myself as a songwriter, and I had this grand idea that if I could climb my way to a televised performance at the state or national level, millions of people would hear my song and some popular singer like Sheena Easton or Olivia Newton-John would turn it into a huge hit.

Forget the fact that I just had a so-so singing voice or that my song was a terribly depressing ballad about time running away from me (funny how I still keep singing that same tune as a very busy mom). But it definitely was not in the vein of those Miss America standards New York, New York or Don’t Rain on My Parade. There was also the big stumbling block that I had zero self esteem, poor communication skills, and to top it off, another contestant bought my same evening gown in a better color.

No, I didn’t win. I wasn’t even one of the runner ups. However, I did win Miss Congeniality, a title for which I am extremely proud, although that sounds like a contradiction since one would expect Miss Congeniality to be a little more humble.

My problem was, I was in it for me – my fame and a chance for people to look at me and tell me I was pretty. I wanted my moment. And although that seems to be the goal of every reality show star these days, that hedonistic attitude runs completely counter to the ideal of Miss America.

Here it is 30 years later, and today (yes… today: Saturday, January 7, 2012) I have the honor of  being one of the judges at the Miss Placentia/Miss Yorba Linda Outstanding Teen Pageant, the younger version of the pageant I was in. Located in Northeast Orange County, both these cities were my home from age 11 to 18, so it is heartwarming to return to a place that holds so many memories.

Now that I’m older, I wish I could tell my younger self that the pageant wasn’t supposed to be about chasing fame and compliments. Although some people mistakenly refer to it as a beauty contest, it is actually a scholarship pageant, and the world’s largest provider of scholarship assistance for young women. The winners are ambassadors of their communities, and as such they are poised, intelligent, good conversationalists, altruistic, and of course beautiful and talented.

A few weeks ago, I received a packet of information about each of the 13 candidates, and without having met them yet, they already blow my socks off.

The girls are all great students who have won a variety of awards for academics and talent. But the most impressive aspect of today’s Miss Teen Pageant is that contestants must choose a philanthropic platform in which they would focus their efforts if they win the title. Some of theirs include animal cruelty, teen addiction, dyslexia, homelessness, and the Red Cross. They all seem passionate in their convictions and have dedicated themselves to causes that are close to their hearts.

I don’t remember having a charitable platform in 1982. I think it would be another decade before I would regularly donate to a charity.

The bios also include a marketing plan to promote their platform, and a description of what they would want their legacy to be if chosen. I am amazed that girls aged 13 to 17 are capable of putting such lofty aspirations into words. I don’t recall having to write such a testimonial, but if I had when I was a 19-year old contestant, it verbally would have sounded like: “Uh… uhuh… uhuhuh…”

Like many young girls who grew up watching the Miss America Pageant, I only dreamed of being the winner, yet there are more than 12,000 young women who are contestants, and nearly all of them walk away without the bouquet of roses in their arms. Those who do win at their local level will compete for their state, and 99 percent of them will come home with new experiences, but not the title. However, they will be very busy finishing their reign by serving as ambassadors: promoting their charitable platforms, appearing at the openings of new businesses, visiting children’s hospitals, and generally helping to serve the needs of their communities.

It was a wonderful experience to participate in the pageant as a contestant 30 years ago, but I was naïve, selfish and insecure. It has taken me three decades to develop just some of the traits required of the teens I will be meeting today. I am looking forward to spending time with these beautiful young ladies who I know will be able to teach me a thing or two.

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Filed under Anxiety, Humor, Volunteering

Shingles! – More Painful Than Childbirth

My boss is kind enough to be one of my regular blog readers, so he took pity on me two weeks ago when I posted 10 Luxuries I Can Now Afford Since Once Upon a Time Got Picked Up for a Full Season and threw me another bone: four days of extra work on the TNT series Perception, starring Eric McCormick from Will & Grace, premiering summer 2012, but dubbing this week.

I could really use the cash and immediately started canceling some commitments, rearranging others and basically increasing my mega dose of caffeine. I had already written and was ready to post my next blog My Ex Husband is Getting Married Today for Friday 11-11-11. I threw on my cape, readied myself for a good night’s sleep sometime the next week, and started forging ahead. I’ve pulled this kind of task off many times before. But I was suddenly lambasted by a foe I had never before encountered.

Shingles.

I’ve had my share of pain in my life. I’ve broken my leg, cracked my coccyx, champed out stitches and suffered three experiences of childbirth ranging from all natural, to give me the epidural now!, to what the hell do you mean it’s too late for the f#%*ing epidural?

But nothing so far has prepared me for the sheer agony of shingles.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this ailment (myself included), it’s a painful rash caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox and is usually initiated by stress or a weakened immune system – which I guess is proof that I was unable to retain my Super-working-volunteer-mom status solely on a diet of Zipfizz and zero carb Monster energy drinks.

The Shingles started in my eye, and after being diagnosed with a migraine, a lacerated cornea and an ulcerated eyeball, the unbearable pain swirled through my eye and entire left side of my head, screaming for doctors to just murder me, because even though they wanted me to rate my pain level between 0 and 10, it had already zoomed past 12 on the agony Richter scale.

This cacophony of torment kept me incapacitated and hospitalized for a week and a half. I floated in and out of pain, sleep, and delusional pain meds for nearly a week, with an oozing eye covered in blisters and too swollen to see through. I resembled Sylvester Stallone in the first Rocky film when he begs his trainer to “Cut me, Mick!”

Still in a lot of pain, but definitely on the mend, it looks like I’ll be released from the hospital sometime tomorrow. I’ve got some vein bruising from my IV, so I can’t use my left hand. But my husband brought my laptop and reading glasses to the hospital today, so as I groggily hunt and peck the keyboard with one hand, I have composed:

10 Things I Learned From Having Shingles:
1. I am capable of lying in my own urine all night without realizing it. That’s how out-of-it I can be.

2. I can go 10 days without a bowel movement. My record was broken today after just five minutes experiencing my first-ever enema.

3. Hospital food isn’t that bad, particularly when you have no appetite. However, I realize that I actually like Jell-O.

4. I am eternally grateful for having good medical insurance. I don’t know yet what my out-of-pocket bills will ultimately be, but without insurance, that fear of living in an IKEA box could be a reality.

5. Without paying for Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig (both wonderful weight loss systems from what I hear) I managed to lose 8 lbs. in a week. This shingles weight loss method however is not recommended.

6. My lily-white mind-altering-chemical-free head makes me a very bad candidate for pain meds. I’ve never been into recreational drugs and haven’t had any alcohol in over 16 years (I seem to have more than made up for it with my insane caffeine intake), so Demerol, Dilaudid and Vicodin all gave me the dry heaves, and narcotics that helped the pain gave me weird and vividly real nightmares where cats and rats were chasing me, or that I was the star of my own Fellini film.

7. Commercials ultimately pay my salary, but I am oh so grateful to Dish TV for not forcing me to watch them. Because St. Joseph’s Hospital doesn’t have the luxury of Dish or TiVo, I was bombarded by not only the worst choices of daytime programming, but I was also forced to sit through the identical dozen or so lame commercials every 15 minutes. On the plus side, I was usually too incoherent to pay much attention.

8. I am officially burnt out on Law & Order SVU. I used to be a fan, but after finally getting some of my mind back, I was treated to an entire Sunday with SVU marathons on two different channels so I could switch back and forth whenever there was a commercial. I happened to catch a long stream of episodes where chest-beating outsiders came in for pissing contests with the regulars. And frankly, you can only see so many rapes in one day before you start feeling like Malcolm McDowell being sickened by ultra-violence in A Clockwork Orange. I finally turned it off for good with a bad case of the heebie jeebies and the uneasy feeling that no woman is ever completely safe.

9. No, the clock hasn’t stopped. It just feels that way because pain time moves so much slower than real time.

10. No one is indispensable – even me. I enjoy being a very VERY busy mom, and have a certain amount of narcissist pride that I can pull off anything if I set my mind to it. After my shingles experience, I know I can’t always do that. I missed my kids’ nighttime prayers and school activities, yet another one of my son Jake’s basketball practices, my daughter Mary Belle’s 11th birthday, and whatever teen angst my daughter Emily was going through this week. I dropped volunteer commitments that I take very seriously and social engagements with friends who may never be reunited again. I bailed on my husband, just as he was turning in the comps for his Ph.D., which was incredibly bad timing. My ego might tell me that I’m the best dang dialogue editor in the whole freakin’ universe, but when it came time for me to abruptly bail on not one but two shows, my boss found a couple of equally talented freakin’ great dialogue editors to step in at a moment’s notice to make sure they didn’t miss their dub date.

Yes, I can disappear for a week and a half (and I may still be out of commission for a few weeks) but the world keeps spinning on its axis. Others pitch in and save the day.

It will take me a long time to thank them all.

But I’m going to try.

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Filed under Anxiety, Career, Debt, Financial Insecurity, Friends, Humor, Husband, Multitasking, Parenting, Surgery, Teenagers, Volunteering

Lucky to be Working Again?

Taking a break

First of all, let me tell you how grateful I am to have a job. Every morning I wake up to NPR, and by the time I get out the door there’s always a story about the unemployed.

From May through September, that would be me, as I mentioned in last week’s blog The Show Biz Hiatus Dance.

I’ve now been back to work for three weeks and have received two glorious paychecks. I’m not scrambling to grab another balance transfer on a 0% interest credit card to pay for the DWP bill, yet knowing that the temperature has to reach triple digits in my house before I turn on the air conditioner.

Because I am a very VERY busy mom, my calendar is always chock full of commitments, most of which I try to fulfill, and because I work from home, my schedule is flexible enough that I can usually pull it off.

Here was my extracurricular schedule this week:

Saturday:

8:30 am – 5:30 pm Models of Pride conference with Emily

6:00 pm – 8:00 pm Going away dinner for my neighbor

8:00 pm – 12:00 pm Colfax Charter Elementary Parents Social

Sunday:

8:00 am – 1:00 pm AIDS Walk LA

Monday:

9:00 am – 10:00 am Meeting

6:00 pm – 8:30 pm Colfax Annual Giving Telethon

Tuesday:

7:30 pm – 8:30 pm Meeting

Wednesday:

4:30 pm – 5:15 pm First basketball practice for Jake

7:00 pm – 9:00 pm Valley Village Homeowners Association Meeting

Thursday:

10:20 am –? Great California Shakeout

7:00 – 8:30 pm Take Mary Belle to Turning Pages volunteer group

Friday:

9:00 – 10:00 Celebrate my friend Lisa’s birthday

This doesn’t include car pools, daily community reading in my son’s kindergarten class, family dinner, chores, helping my kids with homework, or obvious things like taking a shower or sleep.

This was a tough week. I’m a dialogue editor working from home on the new ABC show Once Upon a Time, and frankly, the production sound sucks. There are probably a lot of variables of which I am unaware, but there should never be a reason why I should be cleaning 5000 microphone zaps out of a show. A job that typically takes me 50 to 60 hours this week took close to 80.

Where did I get those 80 hours? I made it to Jake’s first basketball practice, but otherwise everything after Monday was a wash, including the car pool, reading, dinner, chores, and even eventually the shower. And sleep. On Wednesday and Thursday I crawled out of bed, parked my butt in my Herman Miller Aeron desk chair and stayed there until the wee hours, leaving only to make a smoothie or use the bathroom.

Thursday morning, I got a call from the dub stage saying my tracks sounded like crap (ok, they didn’t use the word “crap,” but it was the same implication).

What? No one has ever accused my tracks of sounding like crap. My boss told me that they were trying to move along with the mix, but that I would need to recut the problem areas, which apparently were across the entire show.

While I was on the phone with my boss, I got another call with the caller ID from my daughter’s high school. Emily wasn’t feeling well and wanted me to pick her up. The school is 20 miles away, and I realized at that moment that there was no earthly way for me to finish my show by Friday.

I started to cry. Not just cry, but bawl my head off, heaving and jerking around like some daytime soap star. It was the hardest and longest crying fit I’ve had probably since puberty. My 15-year old was still on the other end of the line.

“Breathe, mom. Breathe. It’s ok. I’ll just lie down in the nurse’s office and wait til school gets out.”

I barely heard her as I cried some more and dripped tears and runny snot all over my bed. I wanted to take a nap. I wanted to die.

I sobbed a little longer, and then started working again.

My husband Tom came home from work, made dinner, and read to Jake. Mary Belle helped Jake with his crafty project (don’t get me started – those crafty projects will soon be getting an angry blog of their own). Emily took the school bus home and said she felt better by the end of the day.

I kept working.

I started to make better time.

It turned out that there was a technical glitch on the stage, and my tracks were actually not crap. Oops. I started to reclaim a small portion of my fractured self image.

I worked again until after midnight, then drove to Disney at 7:00 am with four more minutes of material to cut. I brought my laptop, MBox and drive and finished cutting on the stage, managing to stay just one step ahead of what they needed.

I left the Disney lot just after 1:00.

And now I’m on to the next episode.

I’m going to start early erasing some of my calendar for next week. And I’m thinking of turning on the air conditioner tonight, just to remind myself how lucky I am to have a job.

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Filed under Anxiety, Career, Debt, Financial Insecurity, Humor, Multitasking, Parenting, Volunteering