Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Big Life Cartoon #1: 12/13/2004

I used to draw cartoons about my life and post them at a blog called The Big Life. I finally took down the web site, since I hadn't updated it in years and it wasn't working anyway. But it was so fun/nostalgic to re-read the old cartoons about these little moments of my daily life, some of which I had completely forgotten about. So I've decided to re-post them (one per day) on this blog, in chronological order, beginning with my very first cartoon from Dec. 13, 2004 (you know it's old because it involves a land line phone! LOL)

I'm a school psychologist!

Well, it's been a while. The good news: I finished my internship in June, graduating with my Certificate of Advanced Standing in school psychology! And it took alllllll summer, but -- I got a full-time job as a school psychologist in an inner city somewhere on the East Coast of the United States (she blogged mysteriously ;).  I had to move suddenly, which was stressful, but so far I like the job. Being a school psychologist is much less stressful than being a teacher. There's stress, but it's more like normal job stress, not nervous breakdown stress. Hats off to all teachers for all they do.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Counseling and uncooked pasta

Last week I brought some uncooked lasagna noodles to my high school counseling group. The lesson was about being flexible in your thinking and in your attitude, so the activity called for using a rubber band to demonstrate flexibility, and an uncooked noodle (which snaps when bent) to demonstrate inflexibility. They enjoyed playing with the rubber band's flexibility, and amazingly didn't even shoot it at each other. But when I brought out the uncooked pasta, they became excited. I took one of the noodles out, dutifully snapping it to show the perils of inflexibility. And then they promptly began eating it. Yes -- eating the uncooked pasta. I said, "Um...I don't know if that's such a good idea...."
"It's good!" one of the boys said.
"Yeah. It tastes like crackers!" said the other boy, chomping away. "You want some?"
"No. No, thanks," I said. I'm no foodie, but generally I do prefer my pasta to be cooked.
Ah, school psychology. Never a dull moment!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Man adopted at age 32

Many people don't know that adults can be adopted, so it's wonderful that this story, about a 32-year-old man who was finally adopted by Lisa Godbold, his former foster mother, is drawing so much attention. This man, Maurice Griffin, lived as a foster child with Ms. Godbold, her husband and their two biological sons for four years, from age 9 to 13, when he was suddenly moved out of their home right before they were going to adopt him. Now Mr. Griffin's dream of becoming his foster mother's real, legal son has finally come true. I'm so happy for him. You're never too old to need and want a family!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Roommate from hell

When I went off to my first year of college, a 7 hour drive away from home, I had the bad luck of getting the roommate from hell. I actually had two roommates. One was nice. The other one, Monica, was nice...for about 5 minutes. She turned out to be a horrible evil bully who decided she hated me and stopped speaking to me, for no reason I could ever discern. I do remember that when my parents helped me move in, Monica, her parents, and her sister were all there, and her sister stared at me. Out and out STARED, as if I had a facial disfigurement. My dad said later he got the feeling the family had money, so maybe she was just a snob. But hello, we were all there at a state college! What the heck did she have to be snobby about!?  She finally drove me out of the room. The stress gave me shingles. Yes, shingles -- at age 18! At least I ended up in a room with a nicer bunch of people. But I was still shy, now with my confidence totally shaken, and I never recovered. I was so lonely, I ended up transferring to a different college after my freshman year. I really enjoyed the school I ended up graduating from...but I'm still angry about the whole thing.

And every few years or so, I go on a tear where I try to find her. I did that today, and I think I found her. She lives in New York City, which annoys me (that's MY city), and is a "lead technology recruiter" at "one of the fastest growing, privately-held business and technology firms in the United States" (barf). She must be earning a good salary, because she seems to have a not-often-updated Twitter account for work where she posted critically about how President Obama allegedly "doesn't think the wealthy are responsible for their own success." Of course a wealthy snob like her would write something like that.

BUT -- she does not seem to be married. Even on sites like WhitePages, which tells you other people who may be related to her, it's all females with her last name, and one male with her last name. I guess it's possible she did convince someone to marry her and made him change HIS name to hers. Or maybe she's a lesbian. Or perhaps she just never wanted to be in a relationship or get married. Nevertheless, I feel great schadenfreude at the possibility that even though she has a lucrative career, she may be very lonely. She certainly made me feel depressed and lonely at an extremely vulnerable time in my life.

Of course, the fact that I dwell on this every few years is not something I'm proud of. I'm certainly not hurting her...only myself. So I end up getting angry at myself for obsessing about this, and then I put it out of my mind for the next few years.

I'll tell you one thing, though. If something like that happened to me today, I'D be the one driving HER out of the room. I don't take sh*t like that anymore. It took me a while, but I did finally learn that I have to stand up for myself. We all do. Because if we don't, who will?

Saturday, March 9, 2013


Snow day yesterday! It actually started out as a delayed opening. When I got back up to start getting ready for school at 8:30, I thought, “It looks snowier out than it did two hours ago, and it’s still snowing -- I wish they’d just make it a full snow day.” Then I checked my phone and had a text that school was now closed for the day. They read my mind.  :)
Last night as the sun was setting I went out to clear off my car. It was 40 degrees outside, so I decided to go for a walk. I was never that good at building snowmen, but this was good packing snow, so I picked some up as I walked and made a snowball.  It was so smooth and cold, it felt like marble. I tossed it up and down in my hand like a tennis ball as I walked, thinking about playing in the snow as a kid. I thought about my dad, who died three years ago today. What was going on in the world then…it was a couple of months after the earthquake in Haiti, a month before the big BP oil spill. In some ways it feels longer ago; in other ways it doesn’t seem like it’s been three years ago. I read an article in a women’s magazine in the gym a few days ago about a woman who had a massive stroke at the age of 41. Amazingly, she survived and got better with only a few minor ill effects. But for months she had to move back in with her parents. I paused on the exercise bike, wondering uneasily what I would do if that happened to me? When we were little, on Valentine’s Day my sister and I would wake up to piles of gifts and Whitman’s chocolates covering the dining room table – from the “Valentine frog,” my parents always said with a wink. Santa and the Easter Bunny had us fooled for a long time, but we always knew the Valentine Frog was my dad. One time my sister spilled her entire box of Whitman’s all over the floor, and my dad drove to four different stores until he finally found one that had a box left for her.
Wherever he and Mom were, that was home.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

"What's his drag name?"

Today at my internship at the high school, I returned to my desk in time to hear one of the other interns and the practicum student, P., discussing Saturday night. “What are you doing Saturday night?” the administrative assistant, A., asked.
“Oh, my friend is performing in a drag show at this club in Albany,” P. said.
The other intern and I started laughing, but A.’s eyes lit up. “Oh, my daughter (who’s 26) LOVES drag shows!” she said. “I’ll tell her about it.”
When school ended, A. said good-bye to all of us and headed out. Five minutes later, the phone on the other intern’s desk rang. “It’s for you. It’s A,” she said, handing the phone to P.
P. took the phone and had the following conversation: “Hi, A...What’s his drag name? 'Penny Larceny'….Okay…we’ll look for her.” She hung up and said sheepishly, “Well, that was a weird conversation to have while sitting in a high school.” She grinned. “But A.’s daughter is coming.”
Then P. asked me if I wanted to go, and…I kind of DO! I’ve never been to a drag show before. What do I wear?? Here at the end of winter, it’s been so long since I’ve worn a dress (brrr!) that if I wear one on Saturday, *I’ll* feel like a drag queen.  ;O

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Our first gay President?

Did you know many historians think President James Buchanan (1857-1861), our only lifelong-bachelor President, was gay!? I never knew this! Apparently he was not far into the closet, either. See The love of his life is thought to be former Vice Preident and Senator William Rufus King, whom he lived with. Very interesting.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The patience of Job

Today I did an observation of a student who was extremely difficult to deal with -- and he's only in kindergarten (!). When I walked in to the kindergarten classroom, he was standing in the back of the room wailing, taking off his shoes and socks, throwing them at the teacher aide and yelling, "YOU'RE STUPID!" And that was pretty much his M.O. for the rest of the hour. Yes, HOUR. It's a good thing the aides and the kindergarten teacher have the patience of saints. I don't know how they do it. It got me thinking about the crazy charter school where I taught three years ago, how we had students who acted like that but didn't have the staffing, programs or resources to deal with them, so they ended up corralled in the principal's or vice principal's office and were handled punitively. (Not that punishing them really worked.) This kid has pretty serious speech/language issues -- he's almost seven and still mixes up his pronouns, etc. Children with speech/language issues often have behavioral problems because they get so frustrated trying to understand what others are saying and trying to express themselves. My supervisor said, "I wonder if his saying 'no!' so often is a way he's learned to buy time to process what adults are saying to him."

Here is a depressing article on how the sequestration (budget cuts) will affect people receiving unemployment benefits: The article states: "According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, about 3.8 million long-term unemployed workers with federally funded benefits will see about an 11% cut in those weekly benefits."  :(  I'm counting my blessings that I was able to get unemployment as long as I did, unaffected by budget cuts. It was a huge help when I was on it, but it was not enough to live on -- an 11% cut would've made it even worse.

Friday, March 1, 2013


How is it March already!? I'm still accidentally writing "2012" on my checks ;O Heard on the radio that today is a palindrome date: 3/1/13 is the same forwards and backwards. I like palindromes.

I took my very first class ever at the gym. It's called "Chisel," and it involves strength and flexibility training. I picked it because the blurb described it as "perfect for soon-to-be moms," and I thought, if it's gentle enough for pregnant women, that's definitely my speed! I texted that to my sister, and she wrote back, "Ha ha ha! Well, you ARE planning on adopting." Which is true -- once I find a job this fall and get settled, I hope to start the process of adopting an older child from the foster care system. So I am, in fact, a soon-to-be mom. :)


Thursday, February 28, 2013

"I could never be a high school student today."

At the beginning of December, four local high school students (two couples) were driving home from attending a college basketball game when they got into a bad car accident, thanks an aggressive driver who had been drinking. Two of them died, and the boy and the girl who lived were seriously injured. The boy had to be told that his girlfriend and his best friend had died, and the girl had to be told that her boyfriend and her best friend had died. It was horrible. The only positive part was how the community rallied around them, holding fundraisers and benefits to raise money for their medical expenses and for scholarships in honor of the students who had died.

The girl has been posting on Twitter about her insomnia and how much she misses her boyfriend and her best friend. While most people have been very supportive, apparently a few kids have to be assholes about it -- popping up online saying it's too much, she should "get over it" and stop being an "attention whore." Isn't that awful? Then when she went to a game over the weekend, apparently some students from another school were saying rude things to her because of her missing teeth (she lost five teeth in the accident, and if you know anything about losing teeth, you know that the implant and replacement process has to be done in stages and takes forever). One of my colleagues said she heard on the radio this morning that they figured out the names of the students who were harassing her and that charges will be filed, though I couldn't find anything about that online. The girl's friends have been great, posting supportive messages on Twitter like "Better to have no teeth than no class."  I don't understand people -- if you don't like the girl's Twitter feed, don't read it! I've heard that her parents want to pull her off social media. But that's the way so many kids and even adults are these days -- they live their feelings online.

One on-line commenter said, "I could never be a high school student today," and I know what s/he means. On the one hand, I feel like having Twitter and Facebook back in school might have actually helped me in some ways. I was shy but loved to write, so maybe I would've made more friends, and done so more easily, if I could have done it partially through writing. On the other hand, to actually see people write nasty things about you in black and white, like this girl is going through, would have made me want to curl up into a little ball and die.  ;(  The only way they could do that to me when I was in school was to buy boosters (ironic name) in the back of the high school yearbook making fun of me. I always wondered who were the kids who thought I was such a joke that they actually PAID MONEY to have messages mocking me printed in the yearbook. They were cloaked messages (nothing as obvious as "Her Artichoke Heart is ugly" or anything like that) but I knew. A few years after that they actually had to discontinue the boosters section because they were getting so many messages that were so offensive they couldn't be printed. I guess some things never change....

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Trying to help

Today one of the teacher aides brought one of my elementary school counseling students to me, saying the student was upset. He certainly looked upset. He sat at the table in the school psych office, not talking, his head in his hands. I asked if he was angry or sad. “Both,” he said emphatically. He was quiet for a few minutes, but after I asked him a few more questions it finally came out: the problem was HOMEWORK (“I have so much to do, and I don’t know how to do any of it!”). I was relieved – homework is one problem I definitely have the skills to help with! He seemed very organized and took out each assignment (one for English, one for math, one for social studies). The social studies one was very short, and he was able to do it right away. When he reread the directions for math, he realized that because he’s a resource room student, he only had one page to do (with only three questions), not two, and he looked visibly relieved. Then it was dismissal time and his bus arrived, so he had to leave. He said after he comes in to homeroom in the mornings he goes to the resource room if he has any questions about his homework, so I reminded him he should do that tomorrow if he had trouble finishing the math and English at home tonight. I was glad I could help, and VERY glad I’m interning in a school district that offers so much support for special education students. Even knowing he has the terrific resource room teacher to help him, he still had an overwhelmed, panicky moment – imagine if he were a student at the bad charter school where I taught for a year. That was such a depressing job because there was just not nearly enough support for kids who needed extra help. We were supposed to do “team teaching” and were not supposed to pull kids out of the regular class – the “push-in” model. But I’m sorry, when you have an 11-year-old kid who’s reading at a third grade level, so amount of “pushing in” is going to be enough to help him access material written at the sixth grade level. A kid like that needs major curriculum and homework modifications and adaptations (along with direct instruction in reading, of course). At this school we have teacher aides, multiple remedial reading and remedial math teachers, multiple staff members in general that we just didn’t have at that charter school. It frustrates me that every kid in the country doesn’t have access to all these extremely helpful services. I really appreciate interning in a good school where every day I see an excellent model of how things are SUPPOSED to work.

Two days ago I was scrolling through my daily e-mail that alerts me to school psychologist job openings when I stopped cold: there was an ad for a school psychologist needed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut (“start date negotiable”). Mary Sherlach was the school psychologist who died in the massacre there on Dec. 14, 2012. I remember on the day it happened, I went to B.’s after work and we quietly watched CNN together. As soon as the CNN reporter started talking about Mary Sherlach, I said, “Wait – the school psychologist died??” B. looked down and admitted, “I didn’t want to tell you.” I was actually going to apply, but that night I had bad dreams – nothing graphic, nothing I can even remember, but I woke up with a distinct sense of uneasiness and fear. They definitely need a school psychologist with far more experience than I have, anyway. My only recent traumatic experience was this morning when Izzie ( jumped off the windowsill onto my face. Now I have a scratch on my nose.
Tonight I’m going to a reading in Albany by Ann Hood ( ), one of my favorite fiction writers! *Excited*

Monday, February 25, 2013

I want to be a school psychologist!

My first blog post in a year and 5 months! What’s “gnu”? Well, I’m now more than halfway through my year-long school psychology internship in the Albany, NY area, and am already starting to apply for school psychologist jobs for this fall. I think I’ll really like being a school psychologist – I only wish I’d realized it ten years ago! Oh well – better late than never. Where am I applying for jobs? I’m hoping to stay here in the northeast (preferably near a Metro-North or NJ Transit train station so I can easily visit my beloved New York City), but this is where jobs are tightest. So far I’ve gotten two calls: one from a placement agency that’s looking for leave replacements right now but said to contact them again in June; and one from a school district in Wilmington, Delaware that needed someone immediately. It’s reassuring that at least my resume is getting read. Many of these jobs ads ask for two or even three letters of recommendation, which I dread asking for, but I e-mailed one of my professors last night to ask if she would write one for me. I haven’t heard back yet. I think letters of recommendation are kind of dumb – asking someone who you’re 99% sure will write nice things about you to write nice things about you.

Today I got out the Woodcock-Johnson cognitive assessment at my school for the first time, opened the book – and realized it was AUTOGRAPHED. Yes! My former supervisor apparently had gotten WOODCOCK HIMSELF to autograph our copy of the test! I love it! :)
I was on hold for it at the library for months, but Andrew Solomon’s new book, “Far From the Tree,” finally came in for me (here’s a review: He spent years interviewing parents about what it’s like to raise children with significant differences -- everything from severe and profound disabilities, to Down Syndrome, to dwarfism, to prodigies, to criminals (he extensively interviewed the parents of Dylan Klebold, one of the Columbine killers). It’s FASCINATING. Which is why I stayed up until 1:30 AM last night (this morning) reading it.  I can’t help it if it’s that good!
I am typing this as my cat (she blogs at , by the way) sleeps all comfy on my lap. Purr. <3 o:p="">