Friday, February 16, 2018

School Shootings? Nope.


Normally I shoot to be more polished and amusing but I’m not amused in light of the recent school shootings. As a teacher, I have thoughts and decided to actually try to share them rather than go to Facebook and post a bunch of memes., Though in fairness, I have might have posted a few. These are clearly my opinion and mine alone.

Hire some Vets to be armed guards
Please do not hire anyone to sit in my school with a weapon unless they are a real police officer. It’s a lovely idea in the sense that I am sure there are many vets who’d be more than qualified and happy to so such a service. Yet in what capacity would they serve? If there was an active shooter, wouldn’t they have to stand own anyway?  To me it seems to make more sense to have actual law enforcement on hand who can coordinate better with authorities. Nope.

Arm the Teachers
Have you met most teachers? The way society has singled us out over the years, we are on a disgruntled level that makes post office employees be great Hallmark store greeters. Sorry, but in all seriousness, I do not want this responsibility placed on me and I am guessing many teachers would agree. I have parents trying to get me in trouble with administrators because I won’t take late work from a kid who refused to do it when it was assigned in class. I cannot foresee carrying a weapon would come with any less difficulties. In addition to lesson plans, data review meetings, professional trainings, oh, and actually teaching in class to ensure we have a good graduation rate, now I have to be Dirty Harry? The responsibilities are dense already. I do not feel comfortable with conceal and carry added to that mound. Nope.

I have little faith in any school system to even come up with a way to manage and finance this plan.  It took me three years of begging to get a printer for my classroom that I didn’t have to pay for. I teach Special Ed and have to continuously write IEPS and other forms of governmental paperwork not including all the stuff I have to print out for my class and students. How would money be allocated and where would it come from? Where would this money be allocated from and what already underfunded programs would lose out? Arts in School? Hiring more teachers? Retirement? Nope.

Speaking of which, let’s be frank. I don’t get paid much and that’s fine. I am not here for a paycheck yet we don’t get raises or even a realistic cost of living bump anymore. If I see a bump in my paycheck it’s because I know my healthcare costs are going up. That’s not political it’s just what we teachers are dealing with: conservative and liberals. So now in addition to everything I else I do, I could potentially be trained to carry? Once again, where is this money coming from? And do you really want to arm folks already frustrated and underpaid?  I am not trying to be funny here. Teachers deal with high levels of depression and anxiety already. Nope.

 I’m going to be as honest and I can right here and I am not trying to be dramatic. Every morning right before class, I make sure to lock my classroom door. Some mornings, I just am feeling lazy or enjoying talking to a student and I don’t feel like it but then the reality hits me,” What if this was the day we have an active shooter?” I get off my ass and get that door locked ASAP.

It’s a pretty sobering thought to have but I’ve had it for several years now. I lost a friend and fellow teacher back in 2007 at Virginia Tech. Jamie Bishop and I worked together for a few years at a summer camp and became good friends. He was mowed down by the shooter protecting his students. I know Jamie and his excellent good nature. I have no doubts he did everything he could to disarm the situation but was shot anyway. I ask myself every time, will I be able to be brave like that if I have to square off with an active shooter? It terrifies me because I want to protect my class but I also do not want to be a soundbite like my friend has become when another shooting happens. I have this thought EVERY SINGLE DAY. Nope.

What do we do?
OK, nothing new here but this what I have from the perspective of a teacher with his own kids in High School
I had a nice bit written about removing assault weapons but let’s face it, you’ve already heard it so let’s focus on what you can do directly at home:

Listen to your kids. When I say this I don’t mean to spend 30 mins hearing about what latest YouTube star just ate a Tide pod. I mean listen to what they like, what they do, how they spend their time. If you can’t name one of their friends, START PAYING MORE ATTENTION. 

Make sure your kids are aware of their surroundings. They are actually in the schools. If someone is saying violent stuff, mention it to a teacher or a counselor and you, as the parent, follow up (with email to create paper trail) . Keep it within reason what is reported because remember teens do weird stuff but if your kid is talking about a student proudly proclaiming he is a sociopath or likes to hurt small animals, might be the time to say something. Better to be safe than sorry, it quite literally my mantra at school now. It’s much easier to apologize to a student and their parents rather than have to live with the guilt of knowing I could stop something horrible.

Tell them you love them and yes, this is not normal.
 I don’t get any of this nor do I understand any of it and why nothing is being done. About that I am very upfront with my kids. It’s not right. It’s a school not Beirut. My wife is great at getting our kids to open up and share their fears. From this we have usually a pretty good discussion about all this.  
It’s not an easy problem to solve with no easy solutions. The worst is that so much of this is dependent on factors out of our reach. Be loud. Make your voice heard. The squeaky wheel gets the grease and most all, vote out these a-holes getting gun lobby money from office.

I am going to put up with this anymore? Nope. 




Friday, January 5, 2018

Comcast Xfinity Made Me Break My New Year's Resolution....

            Never being a fan of mathematics, I recently re-learned the importance of just how serious a decimal can be. On Thursday, while all of Savannah was out making snowmen and finding ways in enjoying our 2nd snow day in decades, I was fighting off a panic attack.
"Calm you will remain on this Snow Day in Savannah."
Nope. 

            For years, I have used the online billpay through my school’s credit union. While checking my balance because I was debating on surprising everyone by grilling steaks if the roads got clear and I got get to Publix, I noticed I was at zero and my savings account was much lower. My first thought was maybe the school system didn’t get my check deposited due to weather but that didn’t make sense. We got paid through two hurricanes so there had be another answer.
            Looking through what had cleared I found the culprit. Instead of paying Comcast $153.40. I had accidently put in $1534.And Comcast happily accepted it.
Shit.
Before I go any further I want to be clear and fully admit this is my mistake. I screwed up because I didn’t go back and double check before submitting. I do stupid things constantly. It’s practically the basis for most of my humor. Yet when it’s money, I freak out. And freak out, I did with plenty of dizzy spells and words only my grandfather could use with mastery. And my Pop could swear with the mastery of Shakespearean poet. “He quoteth fuckingly”
            Kim came in with words of comfort and sage advice. Just call your bank and Comcast if you have to. Yet the bank wasn’t open because remember, Snow Day? So I had to deal with Comcast and thus began the follies.
            8Am.    I started by using the customer service number. My first two calls were frustrating but pretty much what I expected. The first rep said because it was a check there was nothing she could do so I needed to call my bank.
Sigh, let the game of ping pong begin.


            8:20Am.    Even though the bank was closed the online Billpay folks had an 800 number and they were pretty helpful. The online Billpay rep said that this happens frequently but because the bill is now in pending meaning the money had left my bank and was in the process of being accepted as payment by Comcast. All I needed to do was speak with a Comcast Rep and have them refuse payment.
            8:40Am   Armed with this nugget of info, I called back Comcast and got a brand new story. A refund ticket can be written up on this problem because it is an electronic check and not the same as a regular check. If that was the case, how about just refuse payment as suggested by my online billpay rep? The 2nd Comcast rep assured me that was not how it worked and they never did that. Even though it’s an electronic check, it still has a signature like a credit card so she’d need an expiration date to proceed.
What?
No worries though,  my 2nd Comcast rep assured me she had my number and would call back when the banks opened later that day and we would straighten this out altogether. She would call back just after 9am. She had my bank’s number and could easily get this resolved.
At this point, I knew better than to believe yet I really wanted to believe her. For every 12 Comcast reps I have dealt with in the past I occasionally got lucky and found someone who was honest and helpful. Even a clock is right twice a day so some odds have got to be coming my way.
As I type this, it is 10:31 am and no phone call has been received. Who would have thought a Comcast rep would lie to me?
Shocker.

9:47Am     I take a different route and use the online chat from the Xfinity Facebook page. I had used this a few times in the past with great success so I had high hopes which would soon be dashed like a carton of eggs.
Apparently, when using an online chatroom, the Reps go from being called that to the preferred nomenclature of “Billing Analyst”. I had the pleasure of speaking with Ruth. Ruth being my third Comcast rep, whoops Billing Analyst. Three Comcast folks means, you guessed it, a third new story! Fortunately, because it's alive chat, I now can have some form of recorded evidence. 
Hers goes like this: She can’t do a refund ticket because payment is pending. Once it goes through, no problem. Just check back later and the money can be returned. OK, fine. I’ll just check back in a few hours. Between being iced in Savannah and broke, it’s not like I can afford to go anywhere anyway. 
1:40Pm   Our fourth Billing Analyst means our fourth tale in this sage of redemption and refund. I also begin to make the correlation between “analyst” and “anal” because this is largely becoming a pain in my ass.
Analyst number is four is Gagandeep. He is a nice young man who enjoys long walks on the moonlight beach and also making promises for Comcast in which he’ll never keep to customers.
Our transaction basically came down to my payment has cleared and he could pull up a refund ticket which will take some time. All of this will be confirmed to me via text and also an email of my choice.  .  Don’t take my words for it, let’s look at how it went down via my awesome screen shot ability. I’m like Wolverine but instead of SNIKT,  I left click….Yeah, that was bad by even my standards. Sorry, but I’m slowly losing my mind here.



            Needless to say it’s a little past 11Am a day later as I type this yet no e-mail or any form of confirmations has occurred. I was hoping for the best, thinking a ticket may actually exist w/ hopefully some resolution would be coming within 5-7 business days. I am such an optimist posing as a pessimist. 

            4:06Pm.   The roads to Publix have melted enough for us to trek down for a quick grocery and wine run. While in route my messenger chimes. I had forgotten about my message to Xfinity from 9:30 earlier that morning.
            Ally brings me my fifth and final story. Much like the Ghost of Christmas future, Ally’s news was about as cheerful. And foreboding. Curious to see if Gagandeep’s story would match, I went along with Ally and discovered many new things. According to her, my payment is still pending so there is nothing she can do. Have you tried calling your bank? There is no record of ticket but do not worry, if a customer rep from Comcast said they are doing something, it’s going to happen. My mind flashes to Last Crusade with Indiana Jones on the zeppelin.


            At this point, my awesome wife, Kim, stepped in and set me straight. My money situation with Comcast was doing nothing but making me lose my mind. Just wait until tomorrow when my bank is open and they’ll help.
            Kim was right, as she usually is.  I had let the day get away from me with nothing to show for it. With the exception of my half of the mortgage, all my bills were covered with overdrafts from savings so I’m ok for the next few days. I wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of using my credit cards to get gas and basic stuff but I’m frugal so we’ll be fine.
            I turned the rest of my day around seeing that I couldn’t fix anything. Kim and I drank some cocktails and sat with the kids. Kim made her amazing pasta with chicken sausage & sundried tomato cream sauce. We went to bed early snuggled up warm and cozy.
            Kim gets up for the Morning shift early so I usually wake up after she leaves, read a bit, grab some water, check my texts, then go back and crash for a few hours. This was waiting for me on my messenger.
In my defense, I never used profanity....


Wow.
            There is a certain amount of skill that goes into doing a job poorly while at the same time having enough hubris about that poor performance to solicit reviews expecting praise. Now I know how it feels to work in the White House Press Corps. Odds are high that Sarah Sanders could get a pretty swank job with Comcast Xfinity.
On the bright side, while I am frustrated. I never totally lost it. Sure, I got a tad snarky but the old Robby would have come out with a profanity laced sarcastic response. Instead I went just went with terse and biting. Its days like this where I switch to Wrath of Khan Kirk mode and fight the “No-win” scenario.
In closing I go back to a phrase my Pop was fond of when pointing out how useless something is. If my grandfather was dealing with Comcast, my Pop would just shake his head and mutter,”They’re about as useful as tits on a boar, son.”
Yep, sorry that I reverted back to Old Robby right there for a moment but hey, Comcast made me break my New Year’s Resolution……


            

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Living with Kidney Disease Like You're Judd Nelson



My new pulmonary doctor is located at the Lewis Cancer Research Pavilion off of Reynolds. After
my doctor’s appointment I was walking out to my car when I saw this in the lobby and it grabbed my attention. I read the placard and was moved by what it said:

Ring this bell                 
Three times all’s well
 It’s toll to clearly say
My Treatments done
Or a milestone won
And I am on my way 


            I don’t have cancer and somehow felt like it wasn’t my place to even consider ringing this bell. I wanted to show respect to the people who had fought and earned that right because I can sympathize. I did take that picture because I knew I’d want to remember this moment.
As I walked out to my car I remembered the past eleven years of living with kidney disease and dialysis. The number of ways it’s impacted my life to trying to just live normally overwhelmed me:  Lugging that damn cycler on vacations and trips for NxStage, not being able to camp for more than two nights. having to stick myself with damn buttonhole needles nightly, the pain from that, not being able to make love to wife when the urge hits us while hooked to my dialysis machine, labs, fatigue, maintaining a fulltime teaching gig, missing tour guiding were just a few of the thought going through my head as I fumbled for my keys to unlock the Falcon.
The key was in my hand when that line hit me. “Or a milestone won”
Getting on the Transplant List for a kidney has got to count for something and it's a milestone for me. ......
I walked back and rang the hell out of that bell and I walked out like Judd Nelson at the end of The Breakfast Club.
Screw you, kidney disease

Cue Simple Minds song....

March is National Kidney Month. Love your kidneys. Trust me, it's a divorce you don't want....



Back To That Ideas Thing...


            A few musings ago I wrote about how I am awesome at coming up with ideas but my Follow -through leaves much to be desired. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. Everyone says they have great ideas but I feel like I have had some winners.
            Back in my geet-tar playing days, Jeff Doke and I came up with an idea for a song that revolving around the idea of it always being five o’ clock somewhere in the word so it doesn’t matter
when you pop a top on that adult beverage, just enjoy. Yet somehow in our best intentions we never  got around to it and was unpleasantly surprised in 2003 when Alan Jackson released a duet with Buffett called….”It’s Five o’ Clock Somewhere.”  
             I hate that song.   
            Ok, I hate my inability to follow thru. It’s not the first time and I know it’s not the last.
            Take that new show on NBS called Powerless which comes on Thursday night after Superstore. The show feature an office at an offshoot of Wayne Industries with an R & D crew of misfits making gadgets for people who have to deal with a world filled with super powers, heroes, and villains. It’s gotten some mixed reviews but I am enjoying it plus it has Ron Funches who always cracks me up and Alan Tudyk as Bruce Wayne’s spoiled cousin. Tudyk is a brilliant character actor but plays whiny jerk the best.
These 3 guys are geniuses together. Hate this show is not doing better.

            It also reminds me of a great idea I had back in my Snellville days living with Tim Stoklas. It would be a short film revolving around where did super heroes get all those wonderful toys? Yes, I just went there.
            The idea would be framed by two well-meaning but brilliant engineer brothers who would discuss the variety of products they have been commissioned yet difficulties would always ensue. Working on Wonder Woman’s Invisible Plane is great honor but what do you do when you lose the keys? How do you keep up with the backlog on all those batarangs for Batman?
            The one that always made me laugh was a Green Lantern bit we came up with over a bunch of Coronas. Green Lantern had commissioned some special weapon for the two brothers to create. They were having the big unveiling and Green Lantern was less than satisfied. It went something like this:


Green Lantern:  Are you guys even the least bit aware how my powers work?
Bro1:   Of course, you received a cosmic ring from a dying alien and was then commissioned as an officer of the Green Lantern Corps, an interstellar law enforcement agency overseen by the Guardians of the Universe. You protect all from the forces of evil so long as you keep your ring charged, which is why we created this high impact Lantern Carrier from Amazonian gold, GL.
(Bro 1 was the salesman speaker of the duo. We had planned he would refer to the Supes, his term for the heroes, with colorful fast talking nicknames. Think the Business-guy from Die Hard that Hans Gruber shot but less swarmy but likeable)
GL:  (seething at the two)  Do I have any weakness that say, something like a cosmic power ring might not work on?
Bro2:  (happy to help out) Oh yeah, the cosmic ring works on everything but……Ohhhhhh (realizing the mistake)
 (Bro2 was actually the smarter of the two but not the talker. He tended to say things as they were and not very abstract)
Bro1:  (almost shouting the answer like he’s won a trivia question)  Yellow! Ohhhhhhh! (it hits him the mistake)
GL:  Yellow!” (as GL points to the Yellow Shaped Lantern Case)
Bro2:  We did bad…..


       
     I realize all our bit was very visual but it never failed to make me laugh as Tim would act this out over many beers and I know it wasn’t just funny to us because others would break into laughter as
well. Just ask Jeff Doke.
            So why didn’t it ever happen? Lots of reasons. We had no idea how to make a short movies and what it would entail. Ideas on movies are great but we had no background for how to create them other than Kevin Smith flicks. I’d also like to add that with no money to hire actors, we’d have to enlist our friends to play the parts and while I have awesome friends I don’t have many with the Ryan Reynolds physiques and I am including myself in that statement. My six pack abs came from actual six packs.
It also came down to where I was at in those days. In the early 2000s, I talked about writing and I wanted to. It’s been my dream since I was 9. The abilities were there but not the confidence in which I would type anything anybody would want to read. Most of all, I didn’t have any confidence where I could create anything I wanted to hear from myself. The late 90s and early 2000s, I was dealing with more self-hate and depression than I am comfortable with admitting about myself.
I don’t hate myself anymore. Age has brought some wisdom that so long as I am creating for myself, screw what people think. I am working on my follow -through though I still spill out too many ideas to keep up with.
There’s that tour guide app that I got tons of notes on. I am still trying to write that horror graphic novel where John Trotter will illustrate. Oh, I have that Elvis story I’ve been running through my head since ’97. There is also this new idea I had the other day and its super cool about WWII Jewish refugees on the run where the mother…. Sigh.
Ok, let me get back to you. I still have some work to do.
One story at a time……





Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Return of the Wookie?




            OK, so I feel fairly comfortable that I can sell a good bit of tees by tapping into all the circles I run within. Pretty sure those guys can help me out but after that it’s done. And I do not want to keep hitting my friends up for help. That’s just rude and flat out annoying.
            Like I said previously, I need to cast a larger net. I’ve had an idea where I might enlist Holiday Wookie. Basically, I am pondering on dressing Wookie up in the nearest holiday, have him say something positive and amusing and see if it catches on. If it doesn’t, no harm done. I had fun and move on to the next big idea I’ll not follow through on.
            If it does though.
            If it does, I can use Holiday Wookie to help me sell shirts. Getting some exposure to the issue and using that for some good and not just for me to maybe spread some awareness of how hard it is to do the whole transplant thing. I don’t know.


I’m making this up as I go …..    

A Poem. (Joe Milford Has Nothing to Worry About)

I always tell my students I hate poetry but secretly I am jealous.
Some of it is very cool and mesmerizes me
By being able to tell a story  in a few words about
Hot water corn bread or making grits with your grandpa
I only did bad haikus because they were assigned in class
I am older now and I appreciate things more.
Like NPR and watching the news
SO now I want to write poetry
I want to express feelings
My thoughts
And do it In fewer words
Plus I like to talk about myself.

#Isthispretentious?

Doubts? Oh, I've Got a Few.

            Anybody who knows me will tell you I am a veritable fountain of ideas but always have a hard time following through. It’s something I have really tried hard to work on over the past few years. So much in fact, that I haven’t even mentioned to anyone I am writing daily as my form of Lent. Frankly, I am worried I’ll stop in about a week or so. (I already missed Fri so I’m trying to make up with three posts today. This is the make up one) But I am really trying to focus and do this. I want to write and discipline is the key. My dozens of short stories, novellas, and graphic novels fighting for my attention on my hard drive are the proof I need to work harder.
            I am working on ideas constantly. It’s looking like we are narrowing it down to getting Luke to do a show out in Fort Worth, something up in YHC, and the tee shirts. I’d  really love to focus here in Savannah but the money just isn’t here. Kim covers dozens of articles weekly in her freelance career regarding fundraisers but they just don’t pull in the type of bucks I’m going to need. Savannah is the epitome of the model for the 1% and I just don’t see that circle helping a teacher/tour-giude  out.
So I got to figure out to get the biggest bang for my buck. One thing I learned from my days as social chairman for my frat was the bigger the net, the larger batch of fishes that come to the party. The American Kidney fund will match me up to twenty thousand dollars so that is my goal. 20 gs. I’d break that down further into the “how many quarters, dimes, and nickels but I suck at math.
Twenty thousand is nearly half my yearly pay and for some reason I honestly have this notion that I’ve got this. It’s comparable to the sword and the stone and I am the young Arthur. It’s overwhelming. It’s daunting and there is absolutely no reason whatsoever that I can do this. Others have attempted to pull the proverbial sword form the stone so why do I think I can raise “Excalibur?” I have no idea except for this:
There are a handful of lessons I’ve learned over the years and the biggest is to listen to my inner voice. It’s that little nudging I’ve cultivated from a whisper to a more conversational tone since my younger years. And you know what? My little voice is saying to me in very calm voice, “Robby, you’ve got this.”
I can assure you there is no swagger in any of this like in my Baby Rich college days. That voice is not arrogant and I’ve come to realize it’s not even mine but it’s that of the Big Guy’s trying to reassure me.
Now let me get this straight before we go any further. I do not honestly believe the voice of my long dead father is speaking to me from the Great Beyond. I am not lucky enough to have my Dad be my own personal Obi Wan Kenobi.
I just feel like when my subconscious wants be to take things seriously, it knows to speak to me I the tone of the Big Guy. It never failed to get my attention in the past so why wouldn’t my brain know to use this to drive point home?
The Big Guy taught me and my sister that in order to be successful, you’ve got to have a plan and that involves preparation. It’s the beginning stages but I am prepping like crazy. This week I am meeting with my social worker with a list of questions in hand. I’ve reached out to Harvey who is my friend from NxStage who has been through all this. Harv is working on a list to let me know everything he wished he knew going into this. Timelines are being formulated for me to start setting and meeting goals to get that kidney. And I have a secret weapon:
Kim.
My personal bias on the abilities of my wife knows no bounds but I also am well aware I am married to not only a professional writer but someone who is an expert in public relations, has a background in fundraising from her army wife days, and next to my sister, is the best person in the world who can keep my off-the-wall ideas in check with some sense of reality in mind.
Then I look a little further among my friends and family and it’s insane at the number of talented and resourceful people I’ve got to be able to beg and borrow from. There’s librarians, DJs, nurses, salespeople, artists, musicians, scientists, comedians, teachers, actors, preachers, camp counselors, computer people, and just a general gaggle of amazing people I’ve gotten to know and become friends with over the years.
So when I have these moments, and trust me, they happen several times daily when I begin to sweat how I’m giving up six months of my life to recover. Six months where I can’t draw a paycheck form teaching. Six months where I won’t be able to drive the back and forth from Savannah to Atlanta for weekly doctor checkups at Piedmont. Thirty-six months where afterwards Medicare will no longer pay for the immunity suppressant meds that cost over a grand a month. A swirl of how will I pay for this? How can I support my family? How can keep from being a burden on Kim?
“Stop.” I hear myself say firmly inside of my head. “Take a deep breath. Breathe in, breathe out.”
An overwhelming feeling of peace washes over me and it’s as if I feel that giant hand slowly grasp my shoulder which recognize since childhood and I hear it.
“You’ve got this.”

Damn straight I do. Let’s get a kidney. Who’s with me?