Drills don’t stop after grade schools

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I have a knack for scheduling high school visits on the same days and times as fire drills, tornado drills, attack drills and even drug searches. I’d prefer a knack for something else, but hey, work with the hand we’re dealt, right?

I’m fairly certain I’ve been in the trenches with the students for at least 9 different drills and barely missed one real deal.

Crazy thing is, I had two fire drills at one school, different years–I have that exit route down pat. And I had a fire drill, a tornado drill and a drug search at another school. I’d say I’m pretty set on their safety standards as well.

These drills don’t get any more entertaining with time. In fact, they are worse. One reason is because I have a million other things I’d rather do with my time than crouch in a dirty locker room with my head between my knees while I’m wearing 4-inch pumps and a pencil skirt while worrying my zipper is going to split. Another reason is because I get lost in the shuffle, and the counselor and the students I’m meeting with vanish into the crowd, so I’m the oddball with no one to talk to as we freeze while standing around the flag pole. I spend the next 7 minutes mentally retracing my path from the guidance office, praying I remember my way back.

The fire drill days always seem to be the coldest days as well as the days when I wear my most uncomfortable shoes and fewest warm layers. I don’t think that has changed from grade school either.

Perhaps my most extreme situation in a high school visit was when I missed an actual shooting threat by about five minutes. I had just pulled out of a high school after a lunch visit when I heard sirens as I was merging on the interstate. Sure enough, the cop cars were speeding into the high school parking lot. About an hour later I found out that a student had a gun in his truck in the parking lot and had told another student he was going to get it right after lunch during his study hall because his girlfriend had broken up with him. Fortunately the cops got there just moments before he would have left his classroom and foiled his plans.

As much as these drills, trainings and searches delayed my schedule and interrupt the school days, it’s obvious how necessary they are to keep our schools as safe as possible.

I’m settled–for now

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In my recent blog post, I was living as a squater in an empty apartment, eating cereal for two of my daily meals.

Oh, has life been on the up-swing since then!

I’m living in a house, a house with heated tiles. My feet are NEVER cold anymore! I’m also living with a dog for the first time in my life, and I do enjoy it.

My new roommates are great, but we never really see each other except for the rare evenings when we’re all free. I’ll see them even less starting today since travel season is starting up once again. I am beyond ready to hit the road.

As far as the job goes, things have been pretty standard. I have had two phone calls in the past week, though, that have reiterated the importance of never becoming a helicopter parent. Here goes:

Phone call #1 has been a recurring situation with this one student. I’ve had about 5 calls from her since November, each around 10 a.m. when she should be in class.

She introduces herself as the student, but I am fully aware that it is the mother who is calling. First of all, she has the most mother-toned voice possible, and there is always a toddler talking or crying in the background.

I don’t understand why she thinks it’s necessary to pretend she is her daughter to get her questions answered, and if she really wanted to fool me, she should wait to call outside of school hours. Secondly, these are the most basic of questions. Have the student call herself.

Phone call #2. This is a doozy.

A mother called me two days ago in a complete panic. She started the conversation without a hello or and introduction but rather, “This is all my fault! I don’t even know how this could have happened, but please don’t penalize my boys for this!”

Whoa, slow your roll!

“Okay, ma’am, I’m sure this is nothing we can’t fix. Can you explain to me what happened?” I tried comforting her.

“You don’t understand! I lost their login information for their applications. We turned this house upside down last night looking for the information. I know I wouldn’t throw something like that away. How do we fix this!?!?!” she shouted.

“Well, that is definitely something I can take care of, so no need to worry,” I said.

She repeats, “You don’t understand! I lost their login information for their applications. We turned this house upside down last night looking for the information. I know I wouldn’t throw something like that away. How do we fix this!?!?!”

“Again, ma’am, this isn’t a problem. Have your sons already been admitted? I can look them up on our database and reset their passwords,” I coaxed.

“YES! They’ve been admitted, but I LOST their username and password. I just don’t know what to do at this point. Are they going to get their admission revoked? she shouted again (Uh… FYI you can’t just ‘get your admission revoked’ like that).

“No, no. You haven’t. I promise. Because they actually need to create an entire new password and username once they’re admitted, so the information you may have misplaced is no longer relevant. So, no worries at all!” I affirmed.

She wasn’t getting the picture. I know I like to exaggerate from time to time, but this is no lie; I was on the phone with her for 15 minutes trying to get her settled down and assure her that she did not jeopardize her sons’ futures by losing a slip of paper with irrelevant material on it.

But finally, after I accidentally chuckled while explaining to her that this was no big deal, she must have understood that all really was okay and it really was a laughing matter. Thank goodness.

These twins are probably counting the days until they move into their dorm room. I don’t blame them.

The elimination diet

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Remember when I choked on that piece of pulled pork? If you missed it, refer to this post: Small blessings and a big race

In case you’re interested, I’ll update you on what has been going on with my digestive system since. I believe I ended that post stating I wasn’t eating meat and didn’t know when or if I would be able to again. I also mentioned I was eating very slowly. I regret having to admit I’ve returned to my old bad habit of eating pretty hastily, but I am still meat-free. I’ve tried to eat different meats on a few occasions, but I just can’t get myself to go through with it. In fact, meat doesn’t even appeal to me yet. Maybe it never will.

Anyway, I’ve had a few follow-up doctor appointments soon to find out what’s going on with my esophagus. To give you some background information, I’ve had reflux/regurgitation issues (Sorry if that’s more information than you wanted to hear.) since I was a sophomore in college when I had a tear in my esophagus. My doctor at the ER on the date of the choking incident encouraged me to get a barium swallow x-ray a few days after. The test, which is fairly tortuous and nauseating, confirmed I did indeed have reflux issues and a small hiatal hernia. The hernia will probably have little effect, if any, on me, fortunately. After the barium swallow, the doctor told me to see an esophageal doctor, so I did.

My nurse, Brame from Croatia, gave me a picture of my heart after the barium swallow.

My nurse, Brame from Croatia, gave me a picture of my heart after the barium swallow.

My new doctor gave me a few different potential diagnoses and scheduled an endoscopy that would take place right before Christmas. In the meantime, I was not eating meat, and I tried to avoid foods that usually caused my reflux problems like ice cream and greasy foods. It was nothing too extreme, but I’ve been getting quite a bit of grief for not eating meat. Listen ya’ll, I’m not forcing my meatless ways on you. Choke on a chunk of pork, and then get back to me about wanting to eat meat again.

I’m hesitant to declare myself a “vegetarian” because that makes it seem like a lifestyle. It’s not. And I may eat meat again some day; I just choose to avoid it now. I do eat fish, but that’s as far as it goes.

Before the elimination diet, I thought I was doing well making homemade pizza with pesto sauce.

Before the elimination diet, I thought I was doing well making homemade pizza with pesto sauce.

A few weeks before Christmas, I have my endoscopy. I didn’t really know what to expect with this, but it really was no big deal. I must give Barnes-Jewish and Washington University hospitals a shout-out for how friendly and easy-going their nurses and doctors are because they seriously have been great since I started dealing with them in the ER in September. My nurses for the endoscopy were spectacular, and I’m not quite sure what I talked to them about since I was under anesthetic, but they said I gave them some laughs. I’m sure I did… I do remember waking up telling them to give me more drugs because I could feel everything; I couldn’t. I also asked them when they dressed me in my Patriots jersey because I didn’t remember bringing it; I was not wearing the jersey…

The results from the endoscopy were about as good as they could be–no structural damage, just an allergy on my esophagus. Great results, but it also meant I was going to be passed onto another doctor. Adios Dr. Murad, hello Dr. Kau.

I met with Dr. Kau, an allergist doctor, this past Monday. He tested me for a few food allergies and environmental allergies. I told him before the tests that other than slight allergies in the spring and fall, I didn’t think my allergies were too bad. Turns out I was wrong.

“Holy cow!” Dr. Kau said when he saw the bumps on my back. An allergy test basically is comprised of being stuck in the back with little prongs that have the allergy on them and then laying for 15 minutes while the allergy goes into your skin and raises hive-like bumps if you are allergic to the substances. They tested 48 different allergies on me across my back.

“I thought you said you didn’t have many allergies! You’re allergic to nearly everything!” He finished.

Apparently I’m allergic to most trees, many types of grass, ragweed and every other bacteria and cats in the environmental allergies. Foodwise I have allergies from egg yolks, soy, lobster, peanuts and some tree nuts. You learn something new every day, I guess.

Dr. Kau told me I probably wouldn’t have to avoid these foods forever, but in the meantime, I needed to take some steps to reduce the allergy on my esophagus. These steps are nothing less than drastic. Thanks, Dr. Kau.

What I've had to eat since starting my elimination diet :(

What I’ve had to eat since starting my elimination diet :(

Just kidding. I've been eating stuff like this--vegetable paella from BARcelona in Clayton. Go there right now. Most delicious food outside of Spain.

Just kidding. I’ve been eating stuff like this–vegetable paella from BARcelona in Clayton. Go there right now. Most delicious food outside of Spain.

I've also cooked things like this. Tilapia with black beans and rice and vegetables. Also delicious

I’ve also cooked things like this. Tilapia with black beans and rice and vegetables. Also delicious

He gave me my treatment instructions for the next two months: an inhaler steroid to be taken twice daily and an elimination diet. This elimination is no joke. For the next two months I cannot eat meat, wheat product, soy products, tree nuts, peanuts, eggs or milk. I’ll keep you updated on how it goes. So far it’s not too difficult, but wish me luck!

Taking “gypsy” to the next level

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When I began this blog, naming it Collegiate Gypsy, I did so to refer to how much I would be traveling for my job, having to spend nights in different hotels each day during travel season. I didn’t think it would eventually hold true for my actual lifestyle, but here we are, and it does.

I lived a pretty stable home life the first two years after graduating, living in the same apartment in Beantown during that time. Beantown, however, (not actually Boston, just what I called my neighborhood) made a turn for the worse and gradually became somewhat dangerous. When a man was hit across the face with a baseball bat in a random attack on my parking lot, I decided enough was enough and chose to move in with my ex-coworker but current friend.

I moved in with Alyssa at the end of August, days before travel season began. She had already furnished the apartment, so I brought only bedroom furniture, clothes and a few kitchen appliances. From my move-in day to the middle of November, I spent a grand total of nine nights in the apartment.

Right before Christmas, Alyssa was offered a great job back in St. Louis, and wanting to return home, she jumped at the opportunity. I am definitely bummed that I lost her as a roommate and coworker (It just won’t be the same without her; we did everything together), but fortunately we’ll be able to catch up whenever I’m in St. Louis, which is pretty often. I didn’t want to stay in a two-person apartment and pay the rent myself, so I scrounged for a new place to live.

Halloween-Jellyfish and a minion

Halloween-Jellyfish and a minion

Alyssa's farewell fiesta

Alyssa’s farewell fiesta

Last home football game

Last home football game

Homecoming Copperdome Dinner

Homecoming Copperdome Dinner

We really do everything together

We really do everything together

Luckily one of my brother’s friends, who was also my former boss at the aquatic center at the University, owns a house and has room to spare. He generously offered me a room in his house, so next week, I’ll move in with him, his girlfriend and his dog. I also lucked out because he is currently remodeling his house and will finish next week before I move in, but that also means I will stay in my current apartment for the next week until it is ready. Other than my bed and my clothes, the apartment is bare–no kitchen appliances or dishes, no couch or chairs, nothing. So basically I’ll live as a squater for the next week, minimalist living.

I’m hoping this is the last time I move before moving to a new city. It’s getting old, and I’ve found out I have too much stuff. Each time I move I throw a little away and bring more to my parents’ house to store in their basement. I’m completely grateful they’ve allowed me to take up a chunk of their basement with boxes and boxes of my life and that they’ve helped out with heavy lifting at each move.

In my seven years here, I’ve lived in seven places and have had fourteen different roommates, 13 people and a dog, if you include the four months I spent in Spain. And I wouldn’t change a thing about my gypsy life.

Scholarship essays may be the death of me

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Get ready to hear about the outrageous essays I received for our University’s most competitive academic scholarship. These applications, keep in mind, are from the some of the brightest students in nearby high schools–valedictorians. And they left me thinking, “Holy cow, how the standards have dropped since I was in high school.”

Fortunately we don’t have an essay portion for our admission application, so the only essays we see are for scholarships. For the scholarship program that I head, we have anywhere from 30 to 60 applications. This week I got the joy of reading some gems.

The topic of the essay was broad; what are your plans and career aspirations for the future? I read no fewer than 10 essays that began in some variation of this:

“Ever since I was a young girl, people have asked me what I want to do when I grow up. My answer changed almost every year. I wanted to be a teacher, an astronaut, a doctor.” And so on. You know, I feel bad for these kids because they were just writing what they thought we want to hear, and I’m sure they thought their essays were original. Where are their counselors who should say, “Actually, I just had five other students in here last week who began their essays just like that for other scholarships. Let’s try something else.”?

The next common theme of the essays is that they use words that they don’t understand to make their essays sound more intelligent. Sorry, but you’re doing it wrong. Stick with the words you know. I guarantee they type their Word document and then right-click for every larger synonym they can find (Like, seriously, who uses a thesaurus anymore? – sarcasm). Sometimes, however, they accidentally choose the antonym. Whoops.

They also love to maximize cliches in their essays. They don’t stop at just one. They put two or three in one SENTENCE! These motivating phrases may seem like they’d be well-received, but please, just avoid ‘em because your sentences turn out to sound quite foolish and look something like this:

“As I embark on my college journey, I intend for my high standards of success to guide me impeccably through my years of academia, making increasingly meaningful contributions at each rung on the ladder of success, and as I climb that ladder, I will stay true to my morals and amass experience and technical knowledge so I can leave the University better than it was when I arrived.”

There are many things about that outrageously long sentence that make me want to say, “Stop. Just stop. Go back into your high school cafeteria and repeat that sentence in words you would actually use. And while you’re at it, wipe the brown off your nose.”

And their grammar. Oh, their grammar! If they don’t know how to write complete sentences and avoid run-on sentences by the time they’re in high school, they shouldn’t have made it there. And if they haven’t mastered sentence structure, then it’s a guarantee they’ll haphazardly insert commas or just leave them out altogether. Also, stop ending your sentences with prepositions. Dangling modifiers, forget it!

Grammar aside, the most entertaining part of reading these essays is what the students actually write about despite the prompt we provide. In this year’s batch, we had two that were particularly intriguing.

One girl wrote about the two most influential people in her life: her mother and Steve Irwin and continued on about her passion for Tasmanian devils and their endangered status. She boasted that she hypothesized in the 6th grade that the common facial disease that affects the species is genetic. I admit that I was intrigued, but sweetie, follow the directions.

This next essay, though, takes the cake. Easily.

“Sashaying down the dimly lit street as my skintight black leggings hug my thighs, I shiver as I pull my hand out of my pocket to rub scarlet red lip gloss across my lips.”

WHAT KIND OF ESSAY IS THIS? I was scared to continue reading. In fact, I was starting to blush. The essay continues to describe a city woman dressed to the nines, ready to take on the world before there’s a twist! This woman is not the narrator. Oh, no. The narrator has abandoned this aspiration to be a b0mb shell and has instead made the immense decision to remain natural in her hair and makeup styling. And that’s it. Best of luck to you in all of your endeavors…

I definitely had a few good laughs as I read through the applications, and we did get a handful of excellent applications from outstanding students, but I genuinely am concerned about the quality of communication we may endure in the not-so-distant future. Lord help us. And the grammar of our youth.

Sometime between 2007 and now, high schools must have eliminated grammar from the curriculum. I know there’s been a big fuss recently about the common core. Well, does common core include language arts or writing? It doesn’t appear so in the scholarship essays I’ve been reading lately. Math and science are great, but if a high school student doesn’t know the difference between whether and weather and doesn’t have the sense to proofread a scholarship essay, then we should all be scared about how our businesses will be run in 20 years.

We all make grammar errors from time to time; some people more frequently than others, but there is no room for mistakes when you’re trying to sell yourself to a scholarship committee, especially for a prestigious academic scholarship. Students are missing out on the fundamentals of communication, and no matter what their jobs may be in the future, they will all have one common responsibility, and that is to communicate effectively. Right now, pretty many aren’t doing such a hot job of it.

I found Frankenstein

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Last fall as I drove to Chamois, MO, I passed a sign that said “Frankenstein 3 ->”  Unfortunately I was already running late to my visit to Chamois High School and had packed my schedule after the visit, too, so I had no time to take the three-mile trip down the road to see Frankenstein.

I told so many people about Frankenstein, which sits about 30 miles east of Jefferson City, and it killed me that when they asked, “Well, what’s there?! What is it like?” I had to answer, “Beats me.”  

All summer long I hoped it would work out in my travel schedule to visit Chamois again so I could finally see what Frankenstein is all about.  In fact, Chamois was then one of the first schools I scheduled.  

I didn’t even think about it when I put it on my calendar, but I ended up making the trip toward Frankenstein the week before Halloween. Perfect!  

I had anticipated this trip so long, and it was finally here!  

Here is it! Frankenstein, MO

Here is it! Frankenstein, MO

I drove a few blocks, and there it went.  So small it doesn’t list a population.  

Frankenstein wasn’t exactly what I had built up in my mind, but it was worth the drive to finally be able to say I made it to Frankenstein, MO!

There is a Catholic church, but that's about it.

There is a Catholic church, but that’s about it.

This alone made my trip worthwhile

This alone made my trip worthwhile

Not a bad view.

Not a bad view.

Leaving Frankenstein. It wasn't much, but it was nice to look at.

Leaving Frankenstein. It wasn’t much, but it was nice to look at.

 

View from the Jeep

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I made it my mission this travel season to see as much of my territory as possible during the stretches of drives from one high school in the middle of nowhere to another even deeper in the country.  I was not disappointed. Mostly.

Somehow I planned my travel just perfectly that I was in the countryland of northern Missouri just as the leaves started changing until they left their trees bare.  Fall in northern Missouri is surprisingly majestic, and I was happy to witness it.

I know I am very guilty of getting road rage when I follow cars going 5 below the speed limit, but I was that driver plenty of times this travel season–having 60 minutes to get to my next school and only needing 30 to get there.  Not to mention I’d often flick on the blinker where there was no road to turn onto just to pull over an take a picture of the foliage or another cow. I had A LOT of time to kill.  What else was I to do in a land of hills, farms, fences, Casey’s General stores and little more?

Do you know where Chamois, MO is? Or how about Tuscumbia? Maybe Plattsburg? Or Palmyra?  These were my destinations.  While I know I would not be able to live in any of these villages (too small to be coined towns), I’m so glad to say my travels brought me there and that I could get a taste for what the country life is really like.

How a lot of my afternoons were spent. Sitting on a parking lot calling students.

How a lot of my afternoons were spent. Sitting on a parking lot calling students.

One of the oldest preserved general stores in the USA in Ten Mile, MO.

One of the oldest preserved general stores in the USA in Ten Mile, MO.

Nicest old men in Ten Mile.

Nicest old men in Ten Mile.

Lake outside Macon, MO. Who knew?

Lake outside Macon, MO. Who knew?

Mixing a little city life into my travel season.

Mixing a little city life into my travel season.

Miguel and Lefty... a match that can only be made in Plattsburg.

Miguel and Lefty… a match that can only be made in Plattsburg.

Plattsburg HS football field

Plattsburg HS football field

Little stretch between St. Joseph and Plattsburg

Little stretch between St. Joseph and Plattsburg

I couldn't begin to count the number of rustic barns I saw the past two months

I couldn’t begin to count the number of rustic barns I saw the past two months

Chillicothe--Home of sliced bread

Chillicothe–Home of sliced bread

Pathway on the way to Wellsville

Pathway on the way to Wellsville

Off Hwy 54 toward Tuscumbia

Off Hwy 54 toward Tuscumbia

This town. Worth the 12 mile drive off 54 on the way to the Ozarks.

This town. Worth the 12 mile drive off 54 on the way to the Ozarks.

This seriously is a school

This seriously is a school

Also in Tuscumbia, which is the county seat.  This may be the only building in the town that has been built/renovated since 1950

Also in Tuscumbia, which is the county seat. This may be the only building in the town that has been built/renovated since 1950

These houses have clearly not been renovated in this century.  But they have character!

These houses have clearly not been renovated in this century. But they have character!

Little charmer on the way to Chamois

Little charmer on the way to Chamois

Chamois High School.  The principal's office is in the shed to the right.

Chamois High School. The principal’s office is in the shed to the right.

One of my favorite river towns--after Cape G, of course

One of my favorite river towns–after Cape G, of course

Hwy W is the most beautiful road in Missouri.  Seriously.  I love this drive to Clopton HS

Hwy W is the most beautiful road in Missouri. Seriously. I love this drive to Clopton HS

Three Barn Farm outside Elsberry, MO.  Love it.

Three Barn Farm outside Elsberry, MO. Love it.

Silex is proud.

Silex is proud.

They got in the Halloween spirit.

They got in the Halloween spirit.

This was a road to a high school

This was a road to a high school

And then you run into scenes like this. Beautiful.

And then you run into scenes like this. Beautiful.

Or this. Ozarks of Illinois outside Valmeyer.

Or this. Ozarks of Illinois outside Valmeyer.