Wednesday, July 9, 2014

I Have 99 Posts but Another 100 Won't Be a Problem.....

            So this is what a 100th blog post feels like!

Four years ago when I started this blog, I had no idea that I’d have enough to write about to make it this far. It was all an experiment to work on my writing skills and to improve as a story teller.
            I’ve written these posts in many spots. I started out on an antique hallway desk that was leftover from my first attempt at marriage. I’d sat in a refurnished chair my Papa used in his many wheeling and dealings. The table was actually one of those narrow deals better suited for hallway decoration rather than function because I couldn’t afford a real desk so it served the purpose for writing and getting through me my Masters in Special Education.  Due to my own non-compliance, my kidney disease had worsened and I was got pretty bad off. Somewhere through all of this, I got my head out of my own ass and pulled myself out of a very dark and deep hole to find a very bright world that was always there waiting on me.
 I moved on to a very comfy office chair placed next to the “falcon”, my NX stage dialysis cycler. The chair was courtesy of some very silly governmental waste and a very good friend whom I do not see often enough but that becomes the case as we all get older. I wrote on a lap board while hooked up to my cycler in three and half hour periods. It was probably my most productive time because I was a captive audience to my machine.
It was frustrating to sit there because I had begun to return to the land of the living. Being a shut in for a few years left me wanting to leave the house and do things and see people. Through the nudging of my roommate and E-Harmony, I also met a very special lady with two outstanding kids.
            By the time I switched to nocturnal dialysis and had my afternoons back, I was married to that special lady and those awesome kids were running rampant in my very lucky life. The Ol’ Geek Hut was no longer a bachelor pad but a real home for a family. I began to write on my side of the bed in snatches and when I had the time. I also noticed I began to be less frequent in posts.  Between teaching and dealing with dialysis, I had to deal with carlines, drop off/pick up karate, art club, band stuff, summer camps, doctor appmts. Weekends were filled with going to the beach, and picnics at Forsyth. Life was busy and it still remains quite full. I love it.
These books make a lot of sense now. 
            Nowadays I still write a little on my side of the bed but the best days are when I sit on our new living room couch (which is a whole other story involving family homesteads, meth labs and a pet goat that gets kidnapped) while I tap out whatever hits me on my coffee table that was also an old wooden ships door. I have to pick my times carefully because that’s also where the flat screen and my beloved Lucille stays. 
(Lucille is the X-box). Writing in the main family room can be a bit tricky but we seem to work it out.

            It’s become my favorite time because when I write in the living room, I get to zone in my little writing world but I also feel connected to the whole house where my family are doing their own thing.
The 11th Dr. is short.

Jude is either reading a stack of comic book or playing with his massive Lego collection in his room which is sure to leave stray pieces for my bare feet to find later.  My teenage daughter, Roni, has created her own world devoid of adults and our on-going lameness in her room filled with music from Panic at the Disco and her own life sized Dr. Who (Matt Smith).

And then there is Kim, my wife. Kim is the glue that holds all this very lucky life I lead together. At any given point, my wife is whipping something together in the kitchen for us to eat later, working on a story for her reporter job at the paper, or anything left out in front of her that needs doing, fixing, mending, or a hug.
But the very best days of writing on the couch is while I’m trying to figure out some way to tie my post together, I hear the tapping of another key board in the dining room. The kids have been gone all summer with their father so Kim and I have both adopted our own work spaces to work at. While I have staked out the living, room, she’s taken over the kitchen table to work on her book and sometimes her very awesome blog.
See when we met over three years ago we both had just started out on our writing path. From the start, Kim always talked about writing her own book on dealing with her past and overcoming the obstacles. For a while, she had stopped but over the past year, Kim has been working hard revising and adding to it. And it thrills me to no end.
I know this is going to be a great book and it’s not just because I love this woman so much anything she does. She is a very talented and honest writer which is a rare combination in today’s writing market. To make it a trifecta, she is a true storyteller though she refuses to admit to it because Kim is also pretty shy until you get to know her.

Reading anything Kim writes not only makes me proud but it also spurs me on because I get it.  Writing is not something to be done to pass the time, or to entertain, or even to get digs in someone who has wronged you or your family. It’s just something that is inside that has to get out.
See everybody has something in them that has to get out. For people like my father-in-law, it’s a painting or a drawing. For my buddy, Dave, it’s music. But for people like Kim and myself, it’s a story where writing is the medium we’ve chosen.
It makes me happy to hear my wife tapping away on her worn laptop because I know she is getting closer to her goal of getting that story out and sharing it with the world. She doesn’t write because she wants to. She writes because she has to.
Kim is lucky because she has figured out what it is that she has to say. I’m not there yet but I know it’s coming because it’s something I dwell upon almost every single day. Until then I write and keep at it until I get my ideas refined into whatever story that I need to tell. The one thing I’ve learned about this blog is that I have the freedom to do whatever I please and I find relevant. So pop in your favorite mix tape, sit back relax and let’s hit the road and see where we end up

I’m up for another 100. How about you?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

It's Good to be the Robby

This whole bit started when NXStage, the good people who provide with my all my dialysis necessities, asked me to write about what independence means to me. This should have been a cinch but in spite of numerous attempts to get this blog rolling, everything sounded like something Ralphie the Christmas Story kid would write for a grade school assignment.  

See, not only do I teach the occasional high school Lit class but I also write my own blog about the life of a school teacher/tour-guide/pirate wannabe learning how to live as newly found step dad and all the adventures that come with that. Should have been a piece of cake but it wasn’t.
I went back through my blog to see what I had written before. Many of the older posts had been written to pass the three and half hour treatment times of when I was hooked up to my NX Stage Cycler. The funny thing is that other than a few passing references to living with kidney disease, I had not spent any amount of time discussing what it’s like to be on home hemo dialysis in over three years. Why is that?
I had started off with peritoneal dialysis but it wasn’t the right fit for me. PD was great because I did it in my own home and around my own schedule but it wasn’t enough dialysis for me. I’m a big guy coming in at 6’4”.Within two years, my health began to decline. I looked horrible with very pale skin and huge bags under my eyes. I felt even worse and literally shuffled everywhere I went with a constant fear of tripping and not being able to get back up (which actually happened one day at school).
Even with kidney disease, I worked full time, went to grad school, and even had a part time job being a ghost tour guide for a pub crawls here in Savannah, GA.  Eventually, it got so bad that I had to quit my tour guiding (which I loved and got me out of the house). It was all I could do to stand an eight hour day then online classes for my Masters. The disease was winning and I knew it.  
My doctor and nurse convinced to get over my enormous fear of needles and switch over to home hemo dialysis. It was a challenging transition but well worth it in the long run. It took about two months but I began to feel something I hadn’t felt in some time. I felt like a regular person.
As I write this, I realize I could expound on and on about how using the NX Stage Cycler gives me the independence to control my own treatments. How being independent allows me to be treated as Robby that guy who’s a teacher and tour guide rather than that poor bastard who has kidney disease. I could talk about how being independent also affords me to look at myself not as a victim but just as some guy who has a pretty cool life.
The Tybee Flotilla last Sunday
All of those points are important in creating the sum of my whole but it doesn’t quite hit the nail on the head for me. I’ve come to understand the independence I’ve gained from becoming a home hemo patient was the puzzle piece I needed to begin living my life. It’s just pretty much as routine to me and my family as brushing my teeth. It’s just part of the day.
NX Stage asked about what independence means to me? It means I can live my life with all the risks and chances. I have been able to grow and find new opportunities. Somewhere along the way, I discovered my soul mate and two outstanding kids.  Home hemo has allowed me to live with so much going on that my life now is actually even better than before my kidneys failed.

 It means I can be normal and in the long run, that is what anybody would want. 

This is a video I made on my animoto account that might sum of all the above a little better.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Happy Anniversary to My Amazing Wife and some Belated Thank Yous

Two days from our second anniversary and I stumbled across this pic. It never struck me until today that this pic describes hows it's supposed to be as a husband and a parent.
Kim and I are looking down at the path to make sure where we lead Roni and Jude will be safe. Meanwhile the kids are free to enjoy the ride. That's what it means to be a husband and a father and it's something I treasure every day.
Almost weekly, I always thank you, Kim, for this amazing life but I realize I've never stopped to thank the other part of the Richardson-Wade-Yancey Clan.
Thanks, Roni, for finding a way to let me in. I know it was hard and I love you even more for your tenaciousness and ability to care about those you love. You're becoming an amazing woman but that appears to be a Wade family trait (along with beauty)
Jude, since the start you've always been my buddy. I 've always believed the reason I held on to all that crazy geek knowledge was for my your AuntMary, but I've come to realize I was waiting on you. You're becoming quite the young man with personality, smarts, and loads of talent (also another Wade family trait)
Both of you are growing up too fast for me but you both will always be my kids and one of the reasons I smile so damn much.
Thank you Roni. Jude, and Kim. The past two years have been the best a guy could ever ask for.
I love all of you.
Robert "Big Daddy" Richardson

The Crew.....

Monday, March 17, 2014

All I Ever Wanted To Do Was Wear my Sandals...

          I subscribe to a Facebook page called Badass Teachers and I love it. I've actually found a group of teachers who are more militant than myself. A few days ago I came across a contest about hwy you became a teacher. The prize was a $700 Amazon gift card so how could I say no? 
          This is my entry which as usual I wrote on the fly. While I am not expecting to win in the least (my competition is pretty good), I am kinda psyched that I've entered my first writing contest. "First step in a larger world and all that, hopefully. 
           Anyway, while I watch the St Patrick's day Parade on the TV, Roni, Jude and I are loungin" about enjoying our last day of Spring Break. This might be the most productive result of that. 

            I got into to teaching for two reasons: 1. I was burned out in my current job and wanted to do something new  2. The person who talked me into it convinced me that I’d get to wear my beloved sandals to work every day.
            The person who shared this tidbit was Robyn Rice. Robyn and I were working at an Adults w/ Disabilities Program. Working directly with the guys was awesome but I had grown very tired of the program director and the politics involved in running the program. It was time for a change.
            Robyn was working alongside me as she finished her Masters in special education. She often tried to tell me how much happier I’d be in a classroom and how awesome I’d be with the kids. As much as I enjoyed having my ego stroked, I kept resisting. Looking back, I knew I was afraid. I knew teaching was a serious commitment and I just wasn’t sure I had it in me.
            But Robyn was relentless and eventually I caved. When I had spare time during the summer of 2002, I canvassed the Atlanta area trying to get my foot in the door. I figured I’d be able to start off as a parapro and work my way up. Nobody was hiring.
            By some stroke of luck I ended up in an interview through several strands of friends of friends. It was a middle school in Gwinnett County. I assumed I was there for the para pro job but in reality the principal, Ms. Malone, l was interviewing me for a Special Ed resource teacher.
            I have never been a religious man but higher forces were at work because I was hired after a 30 min interview to be a classroom sped teacher. Without a teaching certificate. This was a fact I was very upfront about but Ms. Malone explained there were in dire need and my background made me more than qualified. Besides GA had an accelerated teaching certificate program and she could get me in. A certificate would be about a year away with a little hard work. I walked into that middle school hoping to be a parapro. I walked out a 7th grade Geography sped resource teacher.
            My father always told me the story of how his father taught him how to swim. It involved being tossed into the river and hoping for the best. My first year was a lot like this but somehow I adapted and found that I liked being a teacher. I’d spent years working with a variety of adults dealing with their disabilities in day-today life. Switching over to children had its moments but also provided so many rewards.
   My imagination was on fire trying to get these kids fired up about World Geography. Through the use of duct tape, discarded household items, and loads of imagination, I took my class on an archaeological dig in China, made up a class song when we built Africa drums out of coffee cans, and even created our own Egyptian burial chambers complete with Hieroglyphics describing our lives,. My favorite was the kid who had Spider-Man and Wolverine duking it over his kingdom.
            Education isn’t just what I did as a teacher, I quickly discovered. I also had other roles. I was a traffic director during bus call. Police negotiator during conflicts in the hall with class dismissal. Curriculum expert as I sorted through the textbooks to figure out how to scaffold my lessons. Testing expert at the end of the year when we doled out all the standardized tests. And I also learned I had to listen.
            Middle school is a rough time for a kid’s self-esteem. Being a sped student almost doubles that. Student feel singled sharing some classes then having to switch. We spent almost as much time processing that as learning about the economies of certain countries.
            Over time my time my classroom, which my students nicknamed “The Hobbit Hole”, gelled and my confidence in being called a teacher began to grow. I figure I made plenty of mistakes but I also felt like I learned from them. I wish I could say that every student I had in my seven periods of World Geography passed but they didn’t. I do believe they left my class at the end of May knowing they were just as valid as regular ed students and had the coping skills to be just as successful.
            Ms. Malone was good on her word and got me hooked up with that accelerated teaching program. Unfortunately, my math skills were badly out of practice and I didn’t score high enough on the Praxis Math portion to obtain a provisional certificate. My contract was not renewed even though I missed passing by one point.
            It was a bitter pill to swallow and I spent a few months upset with the world. Eventually that bitterness turned into something positive and I found myself studying harder than I ever had before and passing the Math portion of the Praxis. With my provisional in hand I eventually got hired at another middle school and went right back to work.
            The next few years would be a series of ups and downs as I tried to find a school which would be the right fit for me ideologically. I got married, divorced, and discovered I had end stage kidney disease but somehow got through all that and finally got my teaching certificate in 2009 when I earned my Masters in Special Education.  
            I am happy to report that I’ve spent the past 8 years teaching at the same high school my parents went to and even met at. I co-teach social studies and Literature and have never been happier. Even with all the controversy in merit pay and Common Core Curriculum, I look still enjoy this second career and still swell with pride when people asked me what I did for a living.

            I’m a special ed teacher. And I’ve still never worked at a school that would let me wear my sandals to work. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Making Choices, Seeing New Paths, and Philosophy of Thomas Magnum, P.I.


            The Big Guy and rarely agreed on television viewing preferences but due to the unofficial Richardson Family Hierarchy, my voice normally didn’t matter. One show we did agree on was Magnum P.I. Looking back; I wouldn’t be surprised to find out the Big Guy set his work schedule around 8pm on Thursday nights on CBS. I couldn’t blame him. The show sucked me right in too. Private investigator solving crimes in Hawaii with shirts that obviously influence my wardrobe choices? I’m in.  
  Toward the end of the series, the writers came up with this cliffhanger where Magnum had been shot and spent the whole episode in a limbo style paradise with his old, long dead side-kick, Mack. As Magnum tries to figure out the limbo process, Mack plays the guide role. At one point Mack eats a jelly doughnut, seemingly out of nowhere. When Magnum asks about where the doughnut came from, Mack replies, “Time has little to do with infinity and Jelly doughnuts.” Shortly after, we watch Thomas Magnum stroll without a care in the world, through some bad 80s blue-screen as he walks off to heaven. Season cliffhanger! Will he return?
            Being a TV and movie junkie, there are many lines that take up room in my head that probably should have gone to something useful like algebra. I didn’t write much in those days but I guess my subconscious could recognize something good and store it away for later.  That line has resonated with me for some reason since I first heard it in the bottom of Sharp Hall in 1987.
            Other than it was just a clever line to move along a script, it never held any meaning until the other night. It was Tuesday morning around 3 am after I had pulled my needles from my nightly treatments. Usually I roll over to sleep like a baby but not that night. It was my first night back from my unexpected hospital trip. I was home next to Kim in our bed in our room. It smelled the same and felt the same. Kim had straightened up our room a bit but everything was safe and familiar.
            That was when I started crying. I have never broken down like that before. I was crying because I was happy to be here next to my wife who I love more than anything. Yet, a few minutes later I‘d start crying again because I was scared. I had just come the closest I ever have to dying and never get to be around my wife and children. I kept remembering what the doctor said right before he said they had to restart my heart with the paddles.
            He tried to smile to reassure me, “It’s going to hurt like hell but you have to have this if you want to see your family again.”
            I just nodded because I had already decided in the ambulance, no matter what, I was staying with Kim and the kids. The jolt felt like I was kicked by a few mules but it worked and my heart slowed down from the 278 beats per minute to a normal rhythm.
            For the next few hours that Tuesday morning, I would cry for a bit and then just sit there and think about everything that had just happened to me. No disrespect to the ladies but I honestly felt like I had the male version of a period for a short bit, I ran all the major emotions. I’d be thankful then get angry because I wish I’d gone to the doctor. I’d turn sad because I knew I scared Kim badly. The worst was remembering how scared I had been after the doctor shocked me and then I remembered.
            I was lying on the stretcher and I could finally breathe. Everything was settling down and I had been just starting to feel like I was in the clear. Everyone was back in the room including Kim. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her and she kept smiling at me.
            Around that time, I began to feel something but I couldn’t see it. I can’t explain why I know this but I just knew that if I looked at the door to my room where there was a large window to look in, I’d see my Dad.
I knew he’d be there in his blue short sleeve shirt with all the pens in the pocket, Mary and I saw him wear to work a zillion times. I knew I’d see his red hair which was getting peppered with gray. I knew Dad was there on the other side of that door and if I looked at him, he’d tell me it was time to go.
I wanted to see him so bad. I miss Dad so damn much it hurts. Over the past few years, I often wish I had just one more chance to talk to him and ask him questions about being a father and a good husband. I wanted to bury my face in his gigantic chest one last time and fell that bear hug no one can replicate and hear him tell me that it’s all ok. But I also knew that if I acknowledged him that was it. I talk fast but I could never talk my Dad out of something when he was on a mission.
So I didn’t look at the door and I just looked at Kim and focused on her.
And he left.
Fortunately, I had a therapy appointment yesterday and we talked at great lengths about this. My therapist, Kim (wild coincidence, huh?) said sometimes when we are that close, people tend to visualize the next step as a place or in my case as a person. I visualized heaven as my Dad. I have no idea how true this is but it makes sense to me and I feel satisfied with leaving it that way. I do want to see the Big Guy again badly and when we do, it’s going to be a lot of laughing and hugging. Just not anytime soon.
With the exception of my immediate family, I have three individuals that I value more dearly than myself. I plan on being around for a long, long time. There are too many stories left to write and to tell. There are too many hugs and kisses to be shared and too much laughter for me to miss out on with Kim, Roni, and Jude.
Season 8 was the final season on Magnum P.I. and it picked right up where the finale ended. Magnum was headed off to heaven when he realized he had unfinished business and came back. For the first half of the episode Thomas was a bit comatose and refused to acknowledge Rick, TC, or Higgins. At the 27 minute mark, , Magnum broke his silence and just said,” Time has little to do with infinity and jelly doughnuts.”  Cue car chase….
The past couple of weeks have gotten under my skin both personally and professionally. That’s on me for letting the idiots get under my skin. The past few weeks, my emotions have controlled me rather than the other way around. I think that jolt did more than restart my ticker; it shocked a little sense back into me. I am going to spend a little more time focusing on those around me and being the best Dad and husband I can be and a little less on letting those whose opinions don’t matter affect my family.
 I don’t think I want to leave teaching as planned but rather work towards being a better teacher and maybe even trying to find a way to become an advocate. The past few weeks have got me excited about my profession and the realization that maybe I can do something about the rut GA seems to be stuck in.
I didn’t find Jesus or Allah or give the Richardson Family Mint fortune to that tele-evangelist in Texas but I feel like I have figured out myself enough to know what I want to accomplish for the next few years. For the first time a very long time, my path feels very concrete and in front of me rather than the muddled mess I often find myself in. I am very excited about the future and what it will bring as I get to be around a bit longer to watch my kids grow up and my wife just keep getting more beautiful.
This is where I am going to be for a very long time....
As far as much how time I left before the Big Guy comes back for me, I have no idea nor am I going to dwell on this anymore. There’s a lot of living left to do and I plan to be around for a very long time for Roni and Jude, and Kim. Besides, if I’ve learned anything from Magnum, P.I.,  “Time has little to do with infinity and jelly doughnuts.”

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Firewood, the Big Guy, and a Poem

            The Big Guy has been heavy in my head of late. Over the past decade, I’ve gotten very comfortable with hearing his words bellow out of my mouth. The wincing has stopped and most of the time I am either chuckling or actually agreeing whole heartedly with whatever wisdom I have shared on the behalf of the Big Guy.
            Every now and then though, an instance or a moment passes where I swear somehow he’s pulling the strings to remind me of his lumberjack presence. It happened today during my 2nd block Brit Lit class with Elizabeth Henderson.
            I’ll come back to that but first let me backtrack to the beginning.
            Last Tues as the snows came to settle on GA, I had raced home to purchase a trunkful of wood from Mr. Ricky. My only concern about all the potential weather would be bad icing and power outages. The infamous Xmas Ice Storm of ’81 holds special reckoning in the Richardson Histories due to the 3 days without heat or power. So long as we had some wood, I knew Kim and the kids would be fine.
            As I pull into the driveway, I can tell the temp has dropped about 5-10 degrees and the wind has picked up. It’s not nice outside but the wood has to go from the trunk to the front porch. Suddenly, I am reminded inside is another set of small hands that need to be helping. Jude was not amused.
            The next twenty minutes is a series of hemming and hawing back and forth. Jude is throwing every excuse at me to be excused. He has sniffles, there are bugs in the wood, and it’s too cold. My replies grow curt and angrier at each comment. Finally I snap and then the Big Guy comes out.
            “Son, we have to get this unloaded. We need this wood. Your mother and sister need this wood so they don’t freeze if we lose power. I am just as cold and tired as you but we don’t go in until this chore is done.”
            Jude and I worked mostly in silence but it we got the job done. He did a good job with stacking the wood once I showed him how and was helpful running out to bring in more as the next few days passed.
            It’s a week later and I am still fixated on that whole interchange. My We-Need-Wood Speech actually cracks me up at this point. It hit me a few hours later during my defrost mode why all those words came so easily to me.
I had heard them before.
            This whole interchange between Jude and myself had happened numerous times before up in Young Harris during the early 80s only it was a six foot seven inch librarian/wood cutter having it out with his thirteen year old artistic son/free labor. History is all a circle.
            Bear with me while I explain how Ms. Henderson ties into my Brit Lit class. As much as I love teaching Literature, I hate, hate, and hate poetry. It just doesn’t make connections in my brain.  
            Fortunately, I am co-teaching with Elizabeth Henderson. This lady is the real deal when it comes to understanding Lit and I have learned so much working with her. She is also great for suggesting new bands and authors so I am digging my 2nd block with her. I just wish our students would appreciate it. Lol
            We are working our way through the Romantic Poets which is such a snooze fest for me. Ms. Henderson shared a poem out the Brit Lit book about chimney sweeps which led me to share about the most dreaded day of the year at my house where the Big Guy and I had to sweep out the chimney. I am not even sure if my students believed me but I had fun going over a forgotten memory.
            Afterwards, Henderson and I started talking more about the joys of wood heat and laughing. Always the Lit Teacher, she recommended a poem by Robert Hayden. I politely listened out of respect to Henderson but its poetry so, you know. She was kind enough to print me a copy and I am very thankful she did. This may be the first time I have actually connected to a piece of poetry. Here it is

Those Winter Sundays
  by Robert Hayden

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?

            Change out Sunday to Saturday and you have how the wood gathering, splitting and hauling process went at 5 Old Bald Mountain Road, Young Harris GA 301582.
As I folded up the poem to put in my pocket, it hit me what day it is.
I have been so absorbed in dealing with all the stupidity from my wife’s crazy ex, trying to keep one of my students from dropping out with four months left, and all the other noise in my life, I forgot about today.   It snuck right up on me.
I miss you, Old Man. Doesn’t feel like 15 years and it’s still not fair. It may not hurt as much but your absence is still noted. I tell your grandkids about you daily and they love to giggle at how you kept Mary and me on the run.
Thanks for making me get up all those mornings to learn my lesson of how to keep my family warm even at my own discomfort. Thanks for not letting me get away with any the strange maladies I seemed to come down with right before going out to cut a load of wood. But I think the biggest thanks goes to using (of all the ways to reach out to me today) a goddamned poem to remind me that you are gone but you are always looking over my shoulder.
15 years and you are still teaching me. The poem is awesome


Saturday, January 18, 2014

It's Time For a MONTAGE!!!!!! How the TRAGIC Movement Relates to Every Mid 80s Action Movie

            By the time the mid 8os hit, I was deep into my formative high school years and the advent of the greatest movie plot device known to man. I am speaking of the Montage.  Rocky IV, The Karate Kid, and Revenge of the Nerds taught me the valuable lesson of how I can accomplish any heroic task like David and Goliath if I just huddle with my friends and work hard all while set to anthem style 80s music with quick editing cuts, flashbacks and parachute pants.

            This past week feels like that first few minutes in a montage as I have started to battle against my new HRA insurance plan from Blue Cross Blue Shield courtesy of the State Health Benefit Plan folks. I won’t waste your time in backtracking and explaining the current healthcare situation, if you are new to this then click on this link to explain:
            To continue my movie metaphor in this blog, it’s felt much like the third reel in any movie where I set out to accomplish my task , fail miserably, then find that inspiration  go on swinging as I take on the Bad Guy who I am obviously out matched with no chance to win. My Bad Guy is the insurance empire of Blue Cross Blue Shield.
            My issue is two-fold.
                1)   Not only am I in serious financial peril because under their insurance plan BCBS won’t pick up any costs until I meet my $1500 deductible. (I picked the Gold Tier which is the highest. Had I gone Bronze, it would $3000, but wait because it gets better for my case) This means anyone under the new state health plan doesn’t have a co-pay and has to pay out-of-pocket to their doctor until the deductible is met. Oh, prescriptions do not count either. People are reporting on our web page how they’ve gone from $50 co-pays to up to $300 for visits. Everyone under this plan is screwed especially folks living with chronic illness like me.
2)      2)          DSI, Savannah doesn’t have a contract with BCBS under the HRA plan. DSI also happens to be the only place in the region which offers my form of treatment, nocturnal home hemo dialysis. It’s a wordy way to say I do all my own dialysis treatments in my own home as I sleep six times a week. Do I really need this? Take a look at the before and after pics of me especially my color and the bags under my eyes then decide.

2009 Before Nocturnal Home Hemo Dilalysis  At Pirate's House w/ my best buddy

Fall 2013  First day of School  3 years of NHH Dialysis Treatment

My BCBS rep told me on Tues that I had 60 days to find a new center in their networks. After a nerve wracking conference call on Thursday, I found that BCBS will grant me out-of-network benefits so I can stay but my deductible is now $3000 instead of the Gold Plan which I  signed up for. What frustrates me is that is not much for BCBS to have to cover. I am eligible for medicaid due to teh kidney disease diagnosis. This means BCBS only has to cover 20% of the expense. Greedy much? So much for taking my family on a summer vacation up to the North GA Mountains where I grew up to bore them about the good ol’ days…
Read the Tragic Facebook page or the webpage. My story is not unusual. Many of my colleagues are having horrible issues to where they have to choose whether to go to the doctor or pay their bills. Some of us are in a bad way. I cried yesterday when I read about a teacher that was months away from getting her kidney under our former healthcare plan. She has yet to hear anything form BCBS.
A 5 month pregnant teacher posted that her weekly doctor visits have shot up from $40 to $360. This doesn’t include blood work, imaging, etc. She will be close to $5000 before the baby even comes and then she has the hospital bill. Mid wives stand to make a bundle this year in GA.
The word is getting out. Melissa McCoy is a fellow teacher with me here in Savannah. Click on WSAV to see when we were interviewed at WSAV on this situation.  Melissa has been a great advocate for the cause and an eloquent speaker even though she is quite shy and reserved in real life. My long standing respect for her has grown in leaps and bounds over the past week. She has rocked it.
      Working with Melissa on the TRAGIC campaign also leads me to my next point of this not a conservative versus liberal thing. Obamacare and the ACA have nothing to do with our current state health benefit problem.
It’s about working in a state where the many of our elected representatives including Governor Nathan Deal have continuously made billions of cuts in education over the past six years. Ironically, when it comes to the political spectrum, Melissa and I are so far away from each other on that line. I’m the liberal to Melissa’s card caring Libertarian yet somehow we both can see the non-partisan ship of this issue. If only our Congress could work like this.
The amount of finger pointing and placing of blame has been outstanding to the point of comical. Of, course out Governor, man of the people, has said United Health Care is to blame for getting the teachers riled up. (They lost the contract for this year in GA). I do hold Governor Deal accountable because “The Buck Stops Here.”  Yet I look around for accountability and see another guilty party.
      Even though I didn’t vote for Deal, I honestly have not made my voice of what I expect from my representatives. With the exception of one e-mail to Jack Kingston regarding student loan forgiveness, I have never contacted any of my representatives nor seriously read up on them to see what they are about until this past week.
 I am a bit ashamed of myself because I teach U.S. Government to my students but really haven’t followed the process as much as I should have. Even though I vote religiously, I don’t read about each issue and every candidate like I should. Let me assure you, this is about to change.
courtesy of
The past several years have made it quite unappealing to go into teaching. Frankly, I am rearranging my 10 year plan because I just don’t see lasting much longer if current circumstances continue. The sad thing is that I love working with my fellow teachers and students It’s a powerful moment to watch the kids when the lesson finally hits home. Sadly, the past years have made it hard for teachers to not only do their jobs but now it’s just coming down to basic cost effectiveness.
 I already hold two jobs to make ends meet on top of all my health issues and being with my family. How much farther can I be spread out?  How many teachers are starting to ask themselves the same question? My guess is quite a bit more than in past years.

It’s been an exciting few weeks being a teacher for me. Up until the start of 2014, complacency had set in and I didn’t do much except complain about my current job situation. Lately, I honestly do hear some of those old 80s soundtracks (I was a soundtrack junkie in my younger years musically) in the background as I contact ally my state reps and local news media sources. Gotta admit it’s been great because it’s been sometime since I’ve dusted off my Rocky IV soundtrack and tormented my kids during car-line.
Some folks have been asking me if I honestly believe whether the TRAGIC movement can make a difference. Is it possible for a special ed teacher in Savannah, GA with bum kidneys to actually get a major insurance company and a Red State legislature headed up by a Governor with more than a few ethics violations to take note?
Oh, it is very possible. Because it's is not just me. There is 8,999 other teachers including other state employees who can’t afford to maintain their current health plans. And we are growing, and writing, and speaking out. I believe The Dude said it best in The Big Lebowski with, “This will not stand” 
So if you will be so kind as to excuse me, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Governor Deal. Both of your pictures are taped to my bathroom mirror and there’s a large ass cart of rocks to work on lifting. Let the montage continue…….