Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Passing of a Legend

My apologies for my absence. My father took a turn for the worse, and I left in a hurry for Lancaster, KY. I was able to spend nearly two days with him before he passed away, primarily from complications due to contracting MRSA in the hospital.

His funeral was Monday. It was very bittersweet - I got to see family I hadn't seen in years. My sister, Stacy, I hadn't seen in probably 15. But at what cost? My father was so full of life. So inquisitive. So ready to examine everything - there was nothing that didn't interest him or pique his interest. One of my relatives (forgive me, as I don't remember who said it first) made the extremely accurate comment that now, he finally knew all the answers.

The weather sucked. It was cold, windy, and rainy. And Dad would have loved it. In fact, he probably would think it funny that we were going through everything on his account in that weather. But, he also loved weather like that. Dad was an outdoorsman. He hunted, fished, hiked, camped, name it. He will be missed.

Throughout the emotionally exhausting week, I had Sydney with me. We were fortunate in that we kept to his schedule, for the most part, but he still had quite a bit of adjusting to do. And in the midst of coping with the emotional tidal wave (babies and children are exceedingly perceptive...), he was also teething, still. He cut his first tooth the day Dad died. My little Snickerdoodle is still growing so quickly!! And he did so well - so many strangers, so many new faces, smells, and disruptions. I am so proud of him and hope I can continue to foster his willingness to experience new situations.

I have more to discuss, but am still recovering from our nighttime drives (we drove the 7 hours at night to keep Sydney on schedule). Therefore, I will say goodnight for now, and return later to relate some of the more humorous and, dare I tempt Kristi, creepy stories of the week.

Goodbye, Dad. I love you.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


I am a writer. I think. Or, at least, I used to be. Every time I get in touch with Dr. Lou Gallo at Radford University, he asks if I'm still writing. I guess that means I'm a writer, right? Unfortunately, as I've already expressed in an earlier blog, I feel as though all my creative juices are used on lesson plans and instruction. Any other energy I have is sucked away by grading and a plethora of other duties that are unknown to most but other teachers. My creativity has atrophied.

But I like to still consider myself a writer. I've been published in the past. I never fully persued publication, but it has happened a few times. Once again, though, unfortunately, most items I've had published were in the college's literary and arts magazine, Exit 109. Does that still make me a writer, if it was in the school's magazine and not a more public venue? Can I call myself a writer if I haven't actively written in over 5 years? When am I no longer allowed to wear the hat called "Writer"?

I came upon a realization this week. I am attempting to complete poetry with my 12 AP students, and some of the poems we're reading (remember, I'm taking the class over completely next year; ergo, I'm shadowing the current [and successful, I might add] teacher, which means I do not attempt input at this time, but follow along blindly, feeling my way so I can maybe, possibly, do a tepidly decent job for my current students, who, by the way, are all such wonderful young adults. I really enjoy this class, but feel as though I'm letting them down. But that's another blog...) I've either never read before, or I haven't read in years, which means I feel as though I've got tunnel vision when it comes to teaching this class. Poetry has certain things you can specifically discuss and analyze, but ultimately, isn't it more subjective? Isn't it based on the author's perceptions with a sometime hint of unconscious? Can we ever truly know what the author's purpose was, unless the author is still alive and able to answer questions regarding his/her work? I struggle with just reading/discussing poetry, and I worry that it is a failure of mine.

Why, you may ask. Or you may just be tired of reading my diarrhea of the brain. But my answer is that what I wrote, when I wrote, was mostly poetry. Some of it was very successful, but was that through talent and skill, or by accident? Did I hide behind the defense that it was subjective and therefore refrain from other creative genres? How can I consider myself a writer if what I write is what I have trouble delving in to from others? Or is all of this difficulty I'm facing a direct result of my creative atrophy? My exhaustion? My feelings of inadequate preparation for a class I've never taught before and have big shoes to fill? My concerns that I'm letting my class down? How much of it is my own failings, and how much is a result of external forces?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Blood Donation

Yesterday, I attempted to donate blood for the first time since we found out we were pregnant. It was unsuccessful, to the point where I have a two inch bruise running across my elbow from where the phlebotomists wiggled the needle in my arm. I got approximately half of my pint out before the blood flow stopped. It's disappointing, as I've been a relatively consistent donator since high school. Besides, I'm special! :-) I have B negative blood (only 2 out of 100) as well as CMV negative blood (some virus that we're all born with - doesn't cause a problem unless you are a high-risk person like a preemie or cancer patient...basically how it was explained to me). And the need for blood donors is so high, right now. Oh well...maybe in June...

On a completely different note, how much do you love The Tudors?? I have enjoyed the show from the second season on, and find it to be extremely accurate to what history we have recorded from the 1500s. I would recommend anyone even remotely interested in Henry the VIIIth and his 6 wives borrow, rent, or buy the dvds. Just keep in mind that it is shown on Showtime; ergo, the show is completely inappropriate for children.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

An Apology; Growth Spurts

My freshmen year of college, I took a public speaking class. My instructor slowly introduced us to the horrifying world of speaking in front of a large group of strangers by giving us smaller assignments. One of the assignments really stuck with me - it was more an introductory assignment, a 'getting to know you' bit. We were supposed to bring in the object that impacted our lives the most.

I wracked my brain for a week. I had the stuffed animal from the boy I was dating. I had the sweater I'd had for YEARS. I had knick-knacks, cds...think of the typical college dorm. But I couldn't decide which item most impacted my life. I came up with an idea. It wasn't what she wanted, but I hoped it would work for my assignment.

I borrowed a crystal necklace from a dorm-mate. The day of my presentation, I stood up, nervous and terrified that I'd fail the assignment. I held up the necklace, explained that it wasn't even mine, and then told the class that the reason I borrowed the necklace was that, like the crystal, I was multi-faceted, and could not be boiled down in to one item, one explanation for who I was. I had as many, if not more, facets to me, to my personality, than could possibly be expounded on in the time allotted for me.

I did well on the assignment.

My point to this story is to explain that we all have more to us than 99% of the world sees at one sitting. The only people who can get a better picture (widescreen, anyone?) are those we are in very close contact with on a consistent basis - spouses, child-hood friends, perhaps a co-worker who shares the cubicle next to you. Other than that, anyone you see only in passing will never know everything you are experiencing or handling (attempting to handle?) daily. The worries, concerns, excitements, plans, ideas, contemplations are lost on them.

And, I have a point to this, as well. In my recent life, I've been truly trying to hold true to my Panglossian pledge. I've been slipping, though. Stress, exhaustion, life in general (SOLs are next month, my father is still recuperating, Sydney's teething has YET to result in a tooth, and much more...), has caused me to slide and return to behavior of which I am not proud, including judging others in retaliation for feeling like I've lost control of my life (see above list).

I want to apologize to anyone I've judged. If you feel I have behaved so, I am sorry. I am in no place to judge others, especially when I know so little about what is occurring in your life. I have my plate full, and would rather focus on my meals and be there to support you when you need it than put up the defensive and judge. I don't enjoy the feeling it give me, often as though I've disconnected with my body - just sit there floating above myself telling myself to stop without the ability to actually voice it. Ugh. No thank you. That's not who I am. Please forgive me.

On another note, Sydney has been going through a growth spurt this week. I've been concerned about him because, though he rolled from his back to his tummy quite a while ago (5 months? I'd have to check...), he still had not rolled from his tummy to his back; and he HATES being on his tummy. Perhaps that is why - he would get too frustrated to really work on pushing up or rolling and instead would sit there and scream. Well, in addition to eating nearly twice as much at dinner all week, he has hit so many milestones recently.

He awoke one night this week. I turned on some music for him and he fussed, but eventually went back to sleep. So, we didn't check on him again until we went to bed. As you can see, one reason why he was fussing was that he was on his stomach. But this is the first time he'd actually fallen back to sleep while on his stomach. He also has begun to imitate us when we play with him (I tickle his face with my hair, shaking my head back and forth, and he giggles before shaking his head). He took his first 'big boy bath,' not even hesitating at being in the full tub before playing with his toys. And this morning, he was fussing a bit when he woke up. I went in to get him and he was on his stomach, again, legs sticking out through the slats in his crib. I said hello and turned my back to turn off his monitor and when I turned around, he was on his back! It's just like learning his someone flipped a switch and he does it. He rolled over several times today while playing, too! He's going to be crawling before we're ready...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Updates and Monkey Britches Photos

My dad is doing much better. They moved him into a rehabilitation center today, and he will be working closely with a physical therapist, a speech therapist, and an occupational therapist for the next stage in his recovery. He is also rather close to home, which makes it much easier for the family to visit. Thank goodness everything is working out.

I took mental health day today and stayed home, sans Sydney, to grade. It was so nice, a silent house, papers and laptop spread out before me. I spent a solid 5 hours, broken by a pumping session and lunch, grading unit tests, timed writings, and discussion questions. All I have left to catch up on is my juniors' research papers and unit tests. Midpoint is two weeks away, and I plan on forcing Steve to bug me to grade even just one research paper a night so I'm done by midpoint. The unit tests are online, so it won't take long to get that finished...if I can just get going. But, my seniors are doing another timed writing tomorrow, so I think that will be grading time...

And last, Monkey Britches...those of you who followed me when I was on FB knew I called Sydney that after he first came home. He was so tiny, and several of his receiving blankets had monkeys on them, so I took to calling him Monkey Butt, or Monkey Britches. It seems the self-fulfilling prophecy has hit again...

I don't know if this is "normal" behavior or not. Sydney has taken to playing with two objects at the same time - one with his hands, and the other with his feet. Take a look at these photos, and pay attention to his appendages:

He truly looks like a little monkey when he plays. He did it again this evening - he was playing with blocks with Daddy. I have pictures of him playing, but not of his feet. We thought, prior to this new development, that he would be a lefty. He seems to favor his left side while playing. And Pop-pop is ambidextrous/lefty, so there is a possibility Sydney will be as well. But we never thought he would be multi-dextrous!! I'll keep you posted as we see how this development...develops. Hey, I've got my off-days, too...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


About a year after earning my Master's Degree in English, I applied for a position at a local community college. The Campus Director and I sat down to interview. Mr. Bishop welcomed me to the school, settled into his chair, and asked, "So, who is Dionne?"

I was dumbfounded. Who was I? How do I answer this question?

I looked him straight in the eye and answered, "I don't know."

At the time, I was a daughter, a sister, a girlfriend/fiance. But primarily, I had spent the past two years as a graduate student. I was also a graduate teaching fellow, meaning all my time was taken up with my own homework, or planning my classes and grading my students' writing. And then, I graduated, earning my place in society, and losing sight of who I was at the same time.

How often do we have to search to understand who we are? Why does it seem that, as soon as we know who we are, what we stand for and believe in, and what stands we will take for our convictions, we get comfortable and WHAM! something changes and we have to redefine ourselves.

Changes occur constantly, and we expect that big changes will cause us to reexamine our lives. But sometimes it's the small ones, seemingly insignificant, that sneak up on us to the point where we don't even realize why we're feeling disconcerted, disoriented, discombobulated. And then, we have no choice but to dig out that metaphoric magnifying glass. I find that a glass of wine sometimes helps. I find, personally, often, that quiet time helps. But I know myself well enough to understand that as an introvert, I won't ever feel centered or be able to discern what is wrong if I'm perpetually surrounded by people and noise.

Regardless, our efforts to define who we are is never-ending, constantly altering. My most recent shift still has me going in circles at times - balance is still an issue - unrelenting. It probably won't slack off until the school year ends, but then I'll shift again, becoming "merely" a homemaker for the summer. Please note the quotations. But I want to send out a request and a comment - for any of my readers/friends/relatives who find themselves struggling with their identity due to changes big and small - it sometimes helps to talk. I am, by nature, a rather contemplative creature. And though I won't necessarily volunteer to talk with someone - at least not until I've sifted first, I do find it helps to talk. So, if any of you ever feel a need to just vent, spout, vomit your emotions, as a neutral party, I'm here for you.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

No Further Updates, and our New Carbon Footprint

Dad is doing well, but last I heard, he still hadn't been moved out of the ICU. That is, thankfully, only because the hospital didn't have an empty bed (not good for anyone else in the Lexington region of Kentucky, but I'll take it...). He started therapy yesterday and, from what I understand, did well, but was worn out by the end. I'll keep you posted as to his progress.

On another note, the Nichols' clan has not had very good luck with yard equipment over the past few years. Our mower that we had for only a couple of years died halfway through the season last year. We bought a cheap one "just to finish the summer" and that, too, died before the season was over.

With the spring showers and recent sunshine, our lawn pullulated at an unbelievable rate. We intended to wait until we got our tax return and then actually spend some money on a mower. But instead, after doing a brief bit of research on the internet, we decided to obtain a push mower. Yes - we're falling back to retro lawn care. Lowe's had a 20 inch mower on sale for the same price as a 16 inch. We picked it up, Steve put it together, and he tackled the dandelions and crab grass (yeah...I know. We're not polluting, but have never been able to gain control over the weeds...).

Those of you who know our house and yard know we don't have a tremendous amount of yard. We own a flat lot, too, so it was unnecessary to purchase a gas or electric powered mower. We're saving money on gas, creating a healthier lawn for Sydney to play on, and Steve gets a really good work out. It's win, win, win!

Last, and this is a late addendum, if anyone ever wants a REALLY BAD movie to watch and laugh at...check out Blue Demon. I cannot express how much Steve and I loved/hated this movie. It had horrible acting, the special effects were atrocious (a steel fence that bends...please!), and one liners that are worse than what you hear in a high school. But, again, if you were to play a drinking game, or if you're just sleep-addled, like Steve and I are, this is FUNNY!!! Steve made the comment that he can't believe he's paying 46.95 a month for this...AWESOME - we just read the reviews and I'm surprised we didn't waken Sydney with our laughter! What gets me is that the movie got 4 and 5 stars from people just because it was so much fun to laugh at!! Even more fun are the reviews from the people DEFENDING this ridiculous waste of film. Seriously...check it out! If nothing else, just read the reviews.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Last Saturday, my father suffered a major stroke. He was rushed to the hospital where he received fantastic attention and his life was saved by the care of the doctors in the emergency room and ICU of Lexington, Kentucky's Chandler Hospital. Tuesday, after making great strides in his recovery, he suffered a major heart attack. Thankfully, he was still connected to the machines in the ICU, and therefore, the infarction, too, was caught early and his life was saved, again, by the doctors. My heartfelt thanks goes to the staff of the ICU at Chandler Hospital.

He is doing much better - he is talking now, moving some limbs, and today, started to feel, again, on his cheek, which had previously been entirely numb. Tomorrow, he moves to a regular hospital room where he will stay for two weeks. He also begins therapy tomorrow to begin achieving what movement he's lost since his stroke.

Unfortunately, the doctors think he may, also, have sleep apnea. But he's received such excellent care already that I have to think they'll monitor that and do what they can to help him rectify the situation. Regardless, it has been a tenuous week for my family. We appreciate everyone's thoughts and prayers. Please keep them up.

On another note, Sydney has been in rough shape these past few days, as well. He wasn't feeling well by Tuesday of last week. Steve and I thought he had merely reached a new plateau in his teething. He was irritable and his nose was runny. He also was pulling on his ear. Then, he wouldn't smile at Daddy when Steve got home from work. Something was wrong. We made an appointment, thinking it was another ear infection.

The doctor looked, said his ears were fine, then looked at his throat. A common ailment, I find out, but Sydney was diagnosed with hand/foot/mouth disease - a virus that causes blisters/ulcers to form on the throat, hands, etc. He had blisters in his throat, which explains why he didn't want any 'solid' food. We were told to keep giving him Tylenol, keep the fluids up, and to do what we could to keep him entertained. He ran a fever for two days, but today finally started to act like our Snickerdoodle. I think we're out of the woods on this one. He also finally showed some interest in 'solid' food. Spring break came right on time.

And, on more personal and happy news, I finally got all my laundry done and put away for the first time since Sydney came! I also am fitting into shorts I haven't worn for two years. Nursing is a fabulous, fabulous, tedious, pain-in-the-tookus thing. I'll be in touch!