Friday, July 08, 2022

Nothing to See Here

 I find it so hard to believe I used to have so much to say. Every hike with Mabel was a freaking adventure... she was always into something! But between my abject depression over the work situation and the fact I have the best hiking buddy in the world, there is nothing to see or talk about.

Our creek has dried up and we've resorted to going to sketchy areas in search of swims.

We were meeting friends for a "late" morning hike 2 weeks ago... 8:30 am! Plans got changed and Maizy and I went alone on the mountain trail shortly before 9. It was so blazing hot and the water was in the car! We had to negotiate from shade puddle to shade puddle.  We were both so drained from the heat, I was afraid one or both of us wouldn't make it off the mountain! You could see my heart beat outside my t-shirt even when I was standing still!

 "I swear the next shade puddle is right around that bend!"

It was so hot... I've never seen MT simply refuse to keep moving! It was scary and I have to never do anything that stupid again! The heat just gets to me way more than it did when I was younger.

But now that my beloved job is over and the reality that I may never have it so good ever again is setting's too hard to make myself do anything but rest. I'm trying to be gentle with myself. Transitions are hard but getting harder. And, I have only taken 9 1/2 hours of vacation in a year and 9 months. 

MT and I hope everyone is having a wonderful summer!

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

I Don't NEED Words!

Canine communication really is a wonderful thing. When you spend lots of time with your dog (MT and I are together 24/7 every day but Mondays when I run errands and see doctors.), if you have the most basic of observation skills, you begin to understand what your pup is "saying." 

It's no secret that I've been frustrated with Maizy True's progress using her AAC device. We do have amazing moments with it. I gave her "yes / no" buttons last Saturday and was modeling. "Coffee / no," "Water / yes." I got the bright idea to model with her toy. I picked it up and was teasing Maizy and saying "play / yes." Then I laid the toy down and said "play / no." 

She seemed interested, taking it all in. I got more animated, tickling her with her toy as I pressed "play / yes." Then, I threw the toy down, pressed "play / no" and walked toward the kitchen. 

While my back was turned, she pressed, "hike / yes!" I begged nooooo. Hike later. Too hot. But, she was up and out the door! So we took the hottest hike ever and I nearly died all because I wanted to reward her for using a brand new button minutes after getting it!

The other day, I had to call my cable company. It's one of those frustrating robo "press this / press that / confirm your account / I'm sorry I didn't get that" situations. (I seriously think every CEO should have to attempt to reach her company's customer service on a monthly basis as part of her job!) I usually end up screaming into the phone. Maizy often moves far away from me as soon as she realizes I'm on the phone with a recording. She jumped off the sofa. I thought she was going to get in her bed. But she walked over her board, pausing on her bed and with her BACK FOOT, pressed "outside" and stood by the door. Our first back foot press!!! 

But it was no button press at all that astounded me today! We had slept late and it was almost time for her normal breakfast. I keep trying to find ways to give her choices in hopes she will interact with me on the board more. So, I asked "Maizy / eat" now or "Maizy / hike" now? I waited. I could see her thinking... She turned and walked to the closet where her neighborhood walking tack is stored and looked at the door! She was very clearly telling me she wanted to stick with her usual routine of exercise first / eat after...even if breakfast would be late! 

It's a good reminder to communicate in whatever form it comes in!

Wednesday, June 08, 2022


You're probably wondering if I've disappeared again... and I admit I have not been great about posting. I thought Maizy's talking skills would give me oodles to talk about...but she's slow learner and not talkative. And that's OK. But I feel like the bottom has fallen out of my world. I've lost the only job I ever loved!


I realize most of you probably have no idea what I've been up to. I lost my high school teaching job due to COVID. They wanted to return all their teacher specialists to the classrooms (which no longer existed). I worked so much harder during those first months of COVID, trying desperately to engage the disengaged was exhausting. Still, I managed to realize two of my favorite kiddos were suicidal and get them help... all while working over zoom and google classroom. 

But when it was over, I really didn't care! I made feeble attempts at looking for another teaching position but, something inside me told me it would not be a safe environment for me. Not with COVID out there. I am diabetic and not at my ideal weight; I have asthma. And I never knew if I would have to dash off to Louisiana to see about Mom. I was terrified of her dying of that crap! It didn't help that a sorority sister of mine died from it the second week we were on lock-down. (I've since lost an older hiking buddy to it as well.) 

By late summer, I knew I needed a better plan. I started thinking about the pandemic and realized contact tracing was an "at home" job. So I started applying and got hired... terrified I had to drive to West L.A. to fill out paperwork in some office! But, while there, they sized me up as "leadership material" and I found myself a middle management job leading a team of contact tracers in the ever-changing world of pandemic driven public health. 

It was a 3 month job I started in September of 2020. I thought by January of 2021, I'd take a midyear sub job and return to teaching "when COVID is over."  I'll wait while you finish laughing................

That December, my contract was bought out by a company with longer term ties to public health...same job, different employer of record. That contact was for a few months, then a year, then 10 more months. It was supposed to end in October. But with the surge we are in now and the one predicted this winter... with our superintendent of schools not requiring vaccines for children until next fall (!!!!!!)... with Monkey pox, AIDS, hepatitis flares.... and every health agency I meet with saying that contact tracing needs to be a permanent part of public health...I fully expected the contract to be extended again (and again. )

But three weeks ago, I woke up in a panic attack. I was freaking out about finding a new job in a new career at my age! I just assumed I was thinking of October. In truth, my Pisces spidey senses were being triggered. A week ago, as our work week started there was suddenly a company wide meeting. And I knew... My employees tried to stay so positive. It was announced a 50% work force reduction was coming. I met with my team and told them any of us could could be me. They scoffed. I fill in for my boss when she's out. They thought that somehow made me immune. The next day, when the letters were to come out, I was headed to oral surgery. My boss sent me lovely text...something she's never done in the three previous oral surgeries I've had since working there. And I knew for certain, I was on the list. I had my letter right after surgery was over. Every one in my position in my division was cut. All but one of contact tracers was cut. 

This is all happening due to the loss of federal funding. The Repulican'ts won't pass the COVID bill...sigh. 

It's weird...I've never MET these people. But I love them! And I love my job! That's something I've never said in 44 years of work. I have felt valued and appreciated. I know my team has saved lives. It's been such a great ride! 

And here I am, starting over again and no idea where to go.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

And Three Steps Back

 From the time I added new words (Coffee, Help and hike), Maizy has seemed a bit overwhelmed and I wonder if she'll ever get it. As a teacher, I know that learning is never linear... just some upward line. That line has a lot of peaks and valleys. But I swear, we have more valleys than peaks! 

If you are following online on my data keeping, you probably wonder if I remember to write it all down or just skip days. Truth be told, I do NOT! She has days on end with no words! It's so frustrating. 

I know Maizy is smart. She's almost "Mabel-smart" (hey, Mabel could triangulate math!). She takes to things so quickly and I guess that makes this journey all the more frustrating. 

I'm sticking to the advice of waiting a week or so before adding new buttons, even if she is not interacting with them. Keep modeling - I'm so freaking tired of announcing my exits and dining habits. Keep target training. 

I thought I had an original idea the other night. Maizy loves to watch tv. I've never had a dog give a flip about television. The bad part is: There cannot be a dog on tv... Maizy barks her freaking head off. Jeez, she's loud for a little dog! But I put Bunny, Bastian & Stella videos (google those names with "talking dog" if you want to be amazed!) on tv while I was getting ready for bed. 

After one of our videos played on accident, Maizy was scream barking at herself! I was kinda dreading what was next. To my surprise, she watched intently!!! The next day, we had a record breaking FIVE button presses! Turns out, watching other dogs interact with their buttons is a recommended training technique. I'm not so smart after all! 

Since that day, we've had one a day and NONE today... and yes, we got new buttons yesterday! We are up to 12 now. So I guess today's regression is expected. But is sure is disheartening to deal with.

Wednesday, May 04, 2022

The Sweetest Request

 Eight days after giving Maizy her buttons, she FLOORED ME with a request. 

First a little backstory. My knee is a hot mess....worker's comp issue from teaching emotional disturbance. It really slows us down on our morning neighborhood walks. We used to get home early enough for both of us to have a leisurely breakfast and time left over for me to drink coffee on the back porch.  Maizy True loves to sit next to me as I drink coffee... She's hoping for the dregs of my cup and the scritches make it all the better. 

But with my knee acting up, most days for the last few months, I've walked the door and had to start work immediately. I don't have time for coffee, much less food and MT has to wait until I can take a quick break for her breakfast.

But we had gotten an early start that Saturday about 10 days ago. I fed Maizy and decided I had time to put my leg up while I drank coffee. I was standing by the sofa, cup in hand, trying to make sure I wasn't about to sit on the remote. Maizy had been finishing her breakfast and I wasn't really paying attention to where she was. She pressed her WATER button! I looked at her bowls... she had water. 

It slowly started to dawn on me that you drink water and you drink coffee... Could Maizy be generalizing?  No sooner did I decide she was making some reference to my coffee, she pressed OUTSIDE and looked out the door! 

Was Maizy asking for coffee on the porch?? I pressed WATER and OUTSIDE and headed out the door, followed by a very happy Maizy True! 

I was so excited. She was not only engaging with the buttons, she was applying meaning! 

And naturally, I had to mess it all up.