Eighth Grade Math

Saturday, April 26, 2008 3 comments

The jocks in eighth grade math class made fun of me when I broke my finger playing basketball. The injury seemed, to them, to indicate some sort of weakness. The finger I broke was just my pinky, an unworthy choice for a sports injury. It was stabilized with a strip of plaster cast wrapped with an Ace, not with a cool full cast that people could sign. With this sort of injury I didn't look like a sports hero, I just looked clumsy.

But the jocks weren’t there to see my badly dislocated fracture that forced my finger to point out the side of my hand. They weren’t there to see the coach grab it and yank it back into position with the comment that, “It’s not broken or that would have hurt a lot more.” They weren’t there to see me suck up the pain again two days later when I finally went to the doctor who had to reduce the fracture a second time.

Although I would have appreciated their approval and sympathy, I hardly paid any attention to the snickering and whispers of the eighth grade jocks. Self-reliance and independence were some of the earliest lessons I learned in life. Independence was in my nature. I insisted on tying my own shoes before I could manage a knot. This tendency was reinforced by early life experiences, and the combination of nature and nurture resulted in harmonic frequencies that resonated in my soul, teaching me early on that I could “go it alone” when I had to. And for the most part these lessons have served me well. I am nothing today if not independent.

I started kindergarten at an earlier age than most kids in 1968. It was an all-day kindergarten, which was useful since there were no adults at home to watch me during the day. Because of the age difference between my peers and me the teacher segregated me during recess, preferring to let me spend the hour in a closet instead of playing with blocks or reading Dick And Jane books with the other kids. I wasn’t offended by this treatment. I simply used the time to make up solitary games or sneak outside to explore the neighborhood. I always got back before I was discovered and was careful not to lock myself out.

I learned to get myself off to school as soon as I could set the timer on the kitchen stove. After school I’d walk back home, get a snack, watch cartoons and do my homework. I had no regrets for this independence. I was comfortable being alone and throwing more people into the mix of my life just made things more complicated.

Things did get more complicated before I graduated middle school. My schoolwork started suffering. I started spending time in the hallway, banished from class for reasons I can’t recall. I was vulnerable, and the one friend I had became a bad influence. But at least this same friend was a popular athlete and was also a classmate in 8th grade math, which kept the other jocks from being too vocal about my broken pinky.

Our Math teacher was a colleague of my friend’s dad, who taught 8th grade science. So my friend was pretty close with him, and started inviting me to participate in after-school activities that he sponsored. I wasn’t any good at dodge ball, but I played despite the humiliation of getting hit by balls while Mr. Math bit his bearded lower lip and laughed with a loud girlish squeal at my attempts to dodge the balls. Somehow I earned his approval without being a natural dodge-baller, and he moved my desk close to his own along with the jocks whose talent and good looks I normally found too discomforting to approach.

The invitations soon extended to camping trips at a location closed to the public but open to Mr. Math because he had a key and permission to use the land. Those camping trips provided him with the private opportunities he needed to molest adolescent boys. At the end of the weekend he would continue his assaults in his own home before sending us back to our own homes with the instructions to keep quiet.

My reaction to the abuse was the one that came most naturally to me, which was to isolate myself. Keeping quiet was easy. I ditched the only friend I had, who was a victim more frequently than I was myself. I stopped playing dodge ball and refused the invitations to camping trips. I turned myself around and my grades improved. In high school I had few friends, but I was accepted onto the honor roll.

I never told another person about those experiences until one day, 5 or 6 years later, when Mr. Math turned up on the television news for his arrest on pornography charges when I was home from college. I’ve told the story to only a couple of people in my entire life. I’m telling this story now because the easiest lessons aren’t always the most sustaining ones. I may be independent and self-reliant, but I am no island. The adult lessons of Trust may have been harder to learn than my youthful lessons of Independence, but the care of family and community sustain me in ways that complete independence cannot. And that’s a lesson worth nurturing.

5Point Film Festival

, Friday, April 18, 2008 2 comments

Wow, too bad I don't live closer to Carbondale, Colorado. This looks like a great film festival.

Key West - Final Days

, Wednesday, April 16, 2008 0 comments

Day 7
Okay, so where was I? Oh yeah, the rest of the Key West trip. Friday was the last day of the conference. In the afternoon we walked back downtown and ate lunch at Blue Heaven Restaurant. We had to wait a half-hour, but that was fine. The restaurant felt like it was built right into the woods. Existing trees were used to hold up some of the structures and lights were strung amongst the branches. Roosters and cats were scratching around for scraps under the tables. I felt like I should order some moonshine.

Margaret had a headache and went back to the hotel while the rest of us walked to Fort Zachary Taylor State Park to swim at the beach. It felt like a pretty long walk into the middle of nowhere. Key West doesn't have any natural sand beaches, so sand was hauled in for the sunbathers at this park. That's fine for soaking up the rays, but isn't so great when you want to get in for a swim. We wished we had reef shoes because the sand ended at the water's edge, leaving painful gravel and stone.

We walked back into town when we were finished at the beach and picked up some pizza that Margaret pre-ordered. She also called a cab to bring us back to the hotel.

Day 8
Saturday was the day we scheduled our "Ultimate Adventure" with Fury Water Adventures. I had come to think of this activities as our Ultimate ADD Adventure because they pack so many activities into 6 hours; snorkeling, jetskiing, parasailing, kayaking and swimming with water toys like a giant inflatable iceberg that gets carried away in storms. The water temperature hadn't warmed up too much so early in the year and we were nervous about being comfortable after swimming in cold water the day before. But the day was sunny and fun. The highlight was watching a shark patrol the reef 20 feet below us while we were snorkeling.

Heading Home
We rented another car one-way to get back to Miami. Going one-way from Miami to Key West costs about $150/day. Going back from Key West to Miami is only $40. Hertz doesn't like people to leave cars in Key West, I guess. When we got to Miami I wanted to take a tour of the Art Deco district in Miami Beach, but the crowds were so huge for a Latin American festival that all we could do was drive through bumper-to-bumper traffic and watch out the windows.

On Monday we took an early flight to Chicago, where we were supposed to connect for a flight to Rochester, MN. Our flight out of Chicago was canceled, though and they rebooked us for a morning flight. That didn't work for us, so we rented another car and drove home from Chicago. This time we rented from Budget, who must not want cars to go one-way to Rochester, because again we had to pay $150/day. Luckily American Airlines reimbursed us $400 for our canceled tickets, even though weather was the reason for delay.

All-in-all, it was a great trip!

Key West - Day 5 and 6

, Saturday, April 12, 2008 0 comments

Day 5

During the morning break from the anesthesia conference I headed back to the hotel room to hang out with my buds. They were relaxing in a cheerful room with the sounds of the ocean coming in the windows. It was quiet and peaceful. I took a few pictures and heard about their plan to take a tour on the Conch tram. The tour would end about the same time as my conference, so our plan was to meet on Duval for lunch.

Margaret was enjoying the coffee maker in the hotel room each morning, but wished that the cleaning service would resupply the coffee when they made up the room.

I don't remember where we ate lunch that day. But I do remember the highlight of the afternoon, which was the Key West Butterfly And Nature Conservatory. In the conservatory we walked slowly along an indoor path with hundreds of butterflies floating all around us and sometimes landing on us (good luck) while new age music played in the background. It was really pretty nice.

We ate italian food for dinner at a restaurant close to the hotel. The service was poor (again), but we sat outdoors underneath an awning and we had plenty of time to relax and watch people play under the setting sun.

Day 6
Morning was, of course, more of the same. For that matter, so was the afternoon. We at lunch at El Siboney Restaurant and hung around downtown, picking up a couple pair of Kai Kai sandals and generally kicking back until it was time to check in at the Fury booth for our sunset cruise.

Key West - Day 4

, Wednesday, April 9, 2008 2 comments

Day 4


By Tuesday we slipped into a morning routine. I went to my conference and the 3 girls had a leisurely wake-up. They had plenty of time to stroll the beach as I listened to lectures about malpractice, CRNAs and the American Legal System, Fire Safety in the Operating Room and Chemotherapy. It was actually a really good morning for all of us.



At lunchtime we were tired of eating sandwiches from our own supply of deli meat, so we ate sandwiches at Camille's Restaurant instead. Margaret had done her research and found good reviews. We thought the service was slow and  poor.

We spent the rest of the afternoon walking the strip. Our destination was Historic Seaport, and we took our time getting there. Along the way we stopped by an interesting market to pick up some fresh ginger root. Apparently old sea dogs recommend it for seasickness. The word is that you can slice off a chunk of the root and the smell alone will chase away the nausea. We wanted some with us when we went out on the catamaran, but as it turns out we would never need to test the remedy.



At the seaport we bought some ice cream, toured a turtle museum, watched the pelicans, browsed through shops and learned about sunken ships.

Eventually we wandered back to Casa Marina where we kicked back, read our books and watched Dancing With The Stars.

Key West - Day 3

, Tuesday, April 8, 2008 0 comments

Monday was the start of my anesthesia conference. It was a good conference, with good presenters and the meetings lasted from 8am to 12:30pm. That gave Margaret and the girls time to have a leisurely morning and scope out the day's activities. Since we had returned the rental car, the island was explored strictly by foot. It may have been nice to rent bicycles, but walking worked just fine.

The 3 girls used Monday morning to get a good feel for the place. They walked out to the Southernmost point for the picture that everybody comes home with. They saw Ernest Hemingway's home and took a picture for me since I was reading one of his books. By the time I got out of my conference they already knew the island pretty well, and were ready to relax awhile. They had picked up some groceries at a cuban grocery store a couple of blocks away, so we had a picnic and lounged on the beach at the resort for a couple of hours.

When we'd had enough of the beach we walked the length of Duval Street, stopping at the Fury booth to sign up for activities later in the week. For Saturday we signed up for the cruise they call the Ultimate Adventure which is a 6-hour catamaran cruise that includes breakfast, lunch, snorkeling, jet skiing, parasailing, kayaking, and playing on various water toys. From the registration booth we went immediately to Upper Crust Pizza to start carbo loading.

We made it to Mallory Square just in time for the sunset celebration where we watched a few acts before walking back to the hotel where we kicked back and watched a little TV.

Key West - Day 1 and 2

, Sunday, April 6, 2008 0 comments

Day 1

Day 1 was, of course, a travel day. We left snowy Minnesota behind and flew to Miami with a connection in Chicago. Rain greeted us in Miami, making it hard to navigate the roads around the airport. Our hotel was supposed to be a 10-minute drive from the airport, but we took something like an hour and-a-half.

Day 2

Easter Sunday dawned bright and clear like Florida is supposed to do. We planned to attend a church in Coral Gables called St. James Evangelical Lutheran Church. Margaret found it on the internet. When we were in Washington DC over Easter a couple of years ago she had us attend services at the National Cathedral which turned out to be pretty interesting. That place was so large and well attended that we had to secure tickets ahead of time.

The Coral Gables church didn't have the same fanfare, but was again pretty interesting. Pastor Carroll took over responsibilities of the church less than a year ago, at which time the building was in disrepair and the congregation had dwindled to about 10. Fortunately for us there were about 80 people there on Easter. The service was Spanish/English bilingual, and felt dynamic and alive. We met a fellow Jayhawk (Go KU!) and got directions to Key West via "the flyover."

On the way to Key West we stopped in Homestead at a Buddhist temple. We almost gave up trying to find it amongst the surrounding orchards, but a final effort put us at the gates. This time we were alone, and we thought we'd have to continue on after looking around by ourselves. But a monk walked out of his apartment just as a big crack of thunder ripped through the sky; he's either pretty powerful or has good timing! We lit some incense and he escorted us into the temple where we sat on our knees and had a few lessons in Buddhism. When we left he gave us some prayer beads and a kind farewell.

After our visit at the monastery we continued on down highway 1. It's a long drive, which was made longer by bridge construction. There are an amazing number of "keys" (low islands)
 heading down to Key West, and more beyond. At the start of the famous "7-mile bridge" there is an historic island that was used as a base for Henry Morrison Flagler's construction workers for the seven years it took to build his "impossible" bridge which extended his railroad into Key West. The town of Marathon gets its name from the "marathon" construction project. The original bridge is now for pedestrians only. The island can be toured, but we motored on down the highway.

We rented a convertible thinking that we'd have fun with the top down our entire drive, but we hit heavy storms and kept the top up instead. The trunk of convertibles is pretty small, and we had to trade in our first one for a bigger one when we picked up the car at the Miami airport. All-in-all it sounded more fun to have a convertible that in actually ended up being. Cars aren't really necessary in Key West, so we returned our car when we got there, after a brief top-down tour around the island.

We checked into the beautiful Casa Marina Resort and soaked up some nice Florida sunshine into our pasty Minnesota skin.

Back From Key West

, Tuesday, April 1, 2008 0 comments

Sorry no posts for awhile. I've been in Key West chillin' with my buds. I'll tell ya all about it soon.