Monthly Archives: September 2010

A rough class

Last night, I had my second session with my 5th grade CCD class.  So far, this hasn’t been a lot of fun. The “little darlin’s” are beating the crap out of me. They are excessively “chatty,” and there are a bunch of them. I had seven new students come in last night, bringing the class size to 24.

It was difficult to get control of the group from the beginning because those new students kept coming in after we had begun. They needed seats, books, etc. Although it was the third week of CCD, there are still families who are just now bringing their kids around to get registered.

On top of everything else, there are only 17 desks in the classroom, so I had to keep hunting around for additional chairs, stools, etc.

Just before class started, one boy wandered in sucking on a MacDonald’s milkshake. He casually ambled through the room and looked around with a weird smile on his face. When I called to him asking who he was and if he belonged there, he glanced at me and then turned away. I really thought he was just messing with me. I figured he was a friend of some of the other kids in the class and came in to visit and screw with the teacher. It was particularly strange that he was very non-responsive to me, even when I walked over to him and looked him in the eye. Eventually, I got out of him that he was a 5th grader and that he was a new student last night.

About that time, I looked over and saw his mother looking in the door, apparently checking on him. I went over and she asked me if everything was OK. I told her that I thought he was messing with me and described his actions.

“Oh, he has Aspergers, so sometimes he will act that way.”

Oh great. Thanks for the warning, mom!

And he is one of two autism kids in the class. Oy vey!

After class, I talked with another mother who said she would be willing to come help out. That’s great, because I’m going to need it.

Bye, bye, Berta!

Yesterday was a difficult day around Casa Poolman.

After consulting with the veterinarian, we decided it was time to put-down Berta the Timid. She was only three years old, but the results of the lab work indicated that her liver was past the point of no return. She was a real sweetheart and Mrs. Poolman’s “baby.”

You were a good cat, Bert!

Why blame God?

I had conversations with two women recently, who both expressed the same question in nearly the exact same words.

“What did I ever do to make God so mad that I deserve all this?”

Both women have had their share of tragedies and difficulties and are facing more now.

Julie lost her husband two years ago after a year-long fight with cancer. He was in his 60’s. Now, her 89-year old father just died, while, at the same time daughter delivered a pre-mature baby.

Sharon’s son (early 20s) was killed in a traffic accident three years ago. Now her husband has just been diagnosed with ALS.

My heart goes out to both of them. They both have taken and continue to take some hard hits. I would not want to trade places with either of them.

However, I cannot agree that they should be blaming God and themselves for their problems. A loving God does not punish someone by causing suffering to their loved ones. Sometimes things just happen. Diseases like cancer and ALS are tragic, as are fatal traffic accidents. However, they are not part of some sinister plot by God to inflict pain on the victim’s families.

It is a common religious belief, one to which I do not subscribe, that God has some sinister plan, and that everything that happens to a person is because of that plan. You frequently hear people say, “Everything happens for a reason.”

In the extreme, people see God meddling in the details of their life. This was a common theme among the ancient Greeks. The epics of Homer and the plays of Sophocles and Euripides were filled with the Greek Gods messing around and manipulating the mortals. To one degree or another, it remains a common theme among some religious groups today.

Some bad things that have known and tangible causes. A life-long smoker need not question the metaphysical source of his lung cancer, just as a drunk driver need not examine the reason behind his car becoming wrapped around a tree.

In other cases, like a brain tumor, a pre-mature birth or ALS, things happen without any reason, at least none we can fathom. Those breaks are not evenly or fairly distributed among us. Nothing guarantees that life is just. So there is no benefit to torturing yourself by asking what you did to deserve your fate. The answer may be “nothing” or “everything,” but your loving God doesn’t use your past actions to punish or reward you, at least not in this life. Sometimes stuff just happens. That’s life.

A sick kitty

We have been dealing with a crisis in the animal kingdom at Casa Poolman this past week.

Berta in happier times

Our youngest cat, Berta the Timid, has been ill for several weeks.

  • Loss of appetite.
  • Weight loss.
  • Lethargic.
  • Hiding out.

I had taken her to the vet early in the month, before we went on our cruise. They chocked it up to a change in her diet and suggested we watch her closely, and bring her back if there is no improvement. She seemed to be doing OK, so we went on vacation. When we returned she had regressed.

Another trip to the vet produced a diagnosis of “lipidosis.” Essentially, if a cat becomes anorexic, the liver functions get all out of wack. The treatment is to make sure they eat. Have you ever tried to get a cat to eat?

This has been very stressful on Mrs. Poolman, because she considers Berta her “baby.” We have been trying everything we or the vet can think of. One day last week, Mrs. P decided to use her skills as an ICU nurse and try a feeding tube. While, I held Berta (firmly wrapped in a towel), Mrs. P got a small tube down her throat with surprising (to me any way) ease. She attached a syringe with emulsified canned cat food and got about half of it in the cat before the syringe became disengaged from the feeding tube. I ended up with a spray of liquefied tuna in my face. Yuk!

As of this weekend, Berta does not appear to be in any severe discomfort. She hangs out under a chair in our bedroom. She comes out when someone comes into the room and purrs when you pet her. But she still isn’t eating much.

So I’m taking her back the vet in the morning. We’ll see how it goes.

Back to class

We kicked off the 2010-11 CCD season last night. I have a large class of 5th graders, 21 of the little darlin’s. It looks like I’ll be teaching solo this year.

Oh my, if last night was any indication, this group has a large number whose ritalin wore off at 3 o’clock and then spent the rest of the afternoon chugging espresso. Too many of them have difficulty sitting relatively still and not chatting with the child in the next seat. Attention span for some – about 10 seconds. Next week should be interesting. I’m going to have to sit on them pretty hard to get and keep them under control. It is a lot easier to start off as the hard-guy and then ease up once we reach an understanding. It is very difficult to start soft and then try to get tough.

I met many of the parents last night. In our new system of dismissal, the parents will be coming to the classroom to pick up their kids, rather than us taking the kids to the parking lot. This will give me a chance to have a quiet word with the parents of any chronic miscreants.

Typically, after a few weeks, the class gets to know me and vice versa, and we settle into an understanding. It’s just the first couple of weeks can be tough.

I understand the children’s issue. Going to their regular school is their full-time job. CCD on Wednesday nights is “overtime.” And we are seriously cutting into the time they would much more like to spend laying in front of the TV, playing on their X-box or whatever. That’s life.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

A cruisin’ vacation

I’ve been off the grid for the last week, but for a good reason. Mrs. Poolman and I joined a bunch of family members on a cruise vacation.

The whole idea originated last winter with our son, Poolboy, who wanted to organize a family vacation. He picked the cruise, the destinations, the dates, etc. and then called us to see if we wanted to go along. We had a good group, including daughter (Writer Princess), Son-in-Law (SIL), SIL’s brother and wife, Mrs. P’s sister, her son and daughter and their significant others, and a couple more friends of theirs. All told we had 16 people in our group, all adults. Since booked last winter, we had a great price.

We drove to Tampa last Sunday and spent the night at the Candlewood Suites in Clearwater. Once again, were very satisfied with our stay at this relatively little-known chain. Primarily designed as an extended-stay hotel, they offer great facilities for a ridiculously low price. We had what was essentially a one-bedroom apartment with kitchen, living room, bedroom, two TVs, etc for $66/night including all taxes. We upgraded to the suite because Mrs. P’s sister stayed with us and it advertised a sofa-bed. We didn’t realize it was actually a small apartment until we got there, and were very pleasantly surprised.

On Monday, we boarded the Carnival Inspiration bound for Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Mexico and two days at sea.

The Inspiration (left) at the dock in Cozumel with the Carnival Triumph

We are not exactly novices when it comes to cruising. This was my tenth cruise and Mrs. P’s twelfth. (She took two cruises with her father and sisters in the 90s.) Of my ten cruises, seven of them have been on Carnival. I guess we like it because we do keep coming back. Our biggest adventure came when Writer Princess graduated from high school. We and two other families organized a “graduation cruise,” essentially the same cruise we originally planned for our trip last week. The group grew and grew to eventually reach 10 adults and 18 teenagers. We had an absolute blast. Ten years later, the kids are still talking about the afternoon at Carlos and Charlie’s in Cozumel.

The Inspiration and the Triumph at Cozumel

We had only one disappointment on this cruise. Our first stop was to be Grand Cayman where we had plans for “Stingray City.” Unfortunately, one of our fellow passengers burst an appendix the first night of the cruise, so we diverted to Key West for a medical evacuation. Key West became our replacement port. It was OK, but we would have much preferred Grand Cayman. Oh well, no point crying over what you can’t control.

Key West

The rest of the cruise went just great. In retrospect, once our shore excursion in Grand Cayman was cancelled, we should have gone ahead and booked something in Cozumel. If you don’t book some sort of organized activity, there isn’t much else to do there. We got off and took a cab into town and wandered around some. But after awhile, one gift shop looks pretty much like the last one. And we’re not big shoppers.

The shopping strip in San Miguel, Cozumel

The non-stop attention from the Mexican “barkers” trying to get you into their store gets to be annoying.

One thing that is never a disappointment is the food. Supposedly, Carnival is not known for gourmet cuisine, but you’ll get no complaints from our crowd. At times it seemed like everything else on the cruise was just there to fill the time between meals. We found we actually had to pace ourselves, by not eating too much early and filling up too soon.

Early on in our cruising days, our family established the custom of meeting each night for dinner in the dining room. (A casual buffet is the alternative.) When we started this, it was Poolboy and Writer Princess who objected. These days, it was the two of them who were telling the cruising neophytes of the benefits of this custom. And since the dining room is where you find the prime rib, rack of lamb, lobster tails, etc, it’s not a real hardship.

Now, we are back to dry land and life-as-normal — no one to make the bed and serve us great food every night. Life’s a bitch, ain’t it?

College football arrives and a couple of good books

College football is finally here. Yea!

My Gators won today, but their offense was so inept they were embarrassing. I think Urban has his work cut out for him this week. Meanwhile…

I finished two decent books lately, and am reading another.

The last real book I read was “The Last Stand” by Nathaniel Philbrick. As you can probably tell by the title, it’s about George Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Philbrick does a very good job analyzing the week leading up to the battle and the climax on June 25, 1876.

He extracts information from both the “white” and the “Indian” side of the conflict, and presents a pretty decent hypothesis of what the last hour or two must have been like for the men of Custer’s battalion.

What amazed me were the deep seated issues and problems that were a long standing part of the 7th Cavalry Regiment. The low standards of training and leadership were eye opening. The jealousies and personal feuds among the regiments top officers combined with the nepotism and favoritism that were prevalent in the regiment  set the stage for a disaster before Custer saw his first Sioux . When you top that off with the incredible series of tactical blunders on the day of the battle, it’s no surprise how it turned out.

If you don’t like military history, this will probably bore you. However, if you are drawn to this kind of subject matter, this is a very good account of the battle.

I had a road-trip last week. I usually try to pick up an audio book to keep me alert and awake. For this trip, I picked up “Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World” by Vicki Myron. This is not a great piece of literature, but it is a cute story. You probably already know the story. A small town librarian (the author) rescues a tiny kitten from their overnight book drop on a freezing winter night. She names the kitten, “Dewey and raises him as a library cat. Dewey turns out to be a pretty cool cat who becomes the life of the library.

I currently share a residence with two cats, neither one of whom would meet Dewey’s standards of people-loving sociability. I just can’t imagine Sid the Tailless allowing himself to be carried around, upside down, by a toddler. I can’t imagine Berta the Timid allowing herself to be in the same room with a toddler.

So I appreciated the author’s story of her cat. Myron does a good job painting a portrait of an amazing pet.

Because the author was also Dewey’s owner for the 19 years of his life, I’ll forgive some of the over-the-top sentimentality and excessive anthropomorphism. The story is good but the cat-love can be a little annoying. All the same, it is an entertaining story, and worth the effort.

I’m currently reading “The Big Short” by Michael Lewis. I’ll give you a report when I’m finished.