Stanford Doctor Persists, “What do you want to do?”

The medical model that focuses on what I can’t do as far as symptoms, asks me to decide what I want to do. Three November blogs lay the foundation for this continued story. “Art Therapy Depicts Values Poster;” “Can Do Versus Can’t Do;” and “Medical Leave Ends in Permanent Disability.”

Over the next few weeks I compile some coherent thoughts.

The next time my Stanford doctor asks what I want to do, I have some answers. “I could do some research. Maybe I could teach a class somewhere. Or I could do some more speaking for MOPS. Or write some articles. I’d like to develop curriculum for a new child development college degree. Or . . .” And so my unrealistic list drones on.

But my doctor doesn’t like my list. Week after week, she persists, “But what do you want to do?”

I guess she wants me to be more specific. For example, I’d like to get a job as a ____ and ____. But I can’t.

  • First, I keep being reminded that I’m unable to return to work.
  • Second, I don’t have the cognitive skills to function very well even in daily living.
  • And finally, if I ever was well enough, there are many possibilities. I could be an author, speaker, educator, researcher, or advocate. Actually, any combination of these might work. Why limit my nonsensical dreams?

I continue my weekly jaunt to Stanford during my third year on disability and not working. I’m able to begin some new activities. I help weekly in Parker & Khloe’s preschool classes. I begin bike riding to improve my brain. I enroll in a quilt class & make Parker a quilt. I attend Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. And I join the Stanislaus Child Development Local Child Care Planning Council that meets monthly.

One day Rick comes home from work and says, “A Modesto City School’s director called today. They want Youth for Christ to train their staff on the school-to-prison pipeline and restorative justice (RJ). You and Marty will be perfect. Can you meet with them?”

Marty Villa, the Director of Family Concern Counseling and I schedule a meeting with the District representative. After years of floundering, this unanticipated meeting launches a new focus and passion in me.

Graphic source: commons.wikimedia.org

Restorative Practices & Resolving Conflict: Affective Statements

It’s a new year. This is a perfect time to try a new restorative response. Here’s how a Modesto City School teacher at Shackelford used the simplest form of restorative practices.

“When two students had an ongoing issue at recess, we started to resolve the problem using I messages. Although the behavior did not change right away, the students began using I messages on their own. The conflict was not resolved right away, but it was a step in the right direction.”

— By Cohort 2 Site Team Member, Year 3, November 7, 2016

“I” messages provide the foundation of affective statements. This Tier 1 response is the most informal restorative response and can be used with all students. Affective statements are the easiest and most useful tool for building restorative classrooms and relationships.

Simply begin with an “I” statement and provide additional clarification with a feeling and a behavior. It is a personal statement made in response to someone else’s positive or negative behavior. It tells students how their behavior affects you or others.

Below are two examples of common situations and possible affective responses.

Situation #1: Students are rough housing in the hallway

Affective Response: “I want everyone to feel safe here and I can see that what you’re doing is making some of the other kids nervous.”

Situation #2: A student calls another student a name

Affective Response: “That hurt my feelings and it wasn’t even directed at me. I’m wondering how what you just said fits in with the school’s commitment to respect.”

How can you use an affective restorative response today?

 

Sources:

  1. The Restorative Practices Handbook: for Teachers, Disciplinarians and Administrators, Bob Costello, John Wachtel, & Ted Wachtel, International Institute for Restorative Practices, 2009.
  2. Ed White Middle School Restorative Discipline Handbook. www.utexas.edu/research/cswr/rji/pdf/Handbook.docx. Accessed 9/11/2015.
  3. Graphic: Cartoon Speech Bubble Clip Art [ux.stockexchange.com]

Outdated Paper and Pencil Track Record Bike Mileage

At the end of my ride on the Dry Creek Bike Trail in Modesto, I have a friendly conversation with a dad and two boys getting ready to ride.

“Do you keep track of your miles?” the dad asks.

“Oh yeah.”

He inquires, “What do you use?”

“Paper and a pencil,” I respond.

He looks at me as if he’s never heard of these ancient items.

“What do you use?”

“Strava.”

Yes, I know there are many other more technical methods, like Strava, Map My Ride, Garmin, and apps for iphones. Some riders calculate their annual mileage using the basics for free on the bikejournal.com.

Three years later, I still use the same method. Where else can I note, “Way to go girl!!!” “Finished 40 mile Blossom Trail Ride!! Woo hoo!” “Two minutes faster.” “Stopped at Cold Stone for chocolate lava meltdown.” “Fed ducks today.” “Took photos at pumpkin patch.” Yes, the paper and pencil method works fine for me.

Chocolate Lava Meltdown @ Cold Stone

Periodically I tear off pages from my 5” x 7” spiral bound notepad and enter the data into my Excel spread sheet titled Bike Ride Log. I’m actually not the only one to use this method. I discovered a number of riders on roadbikereview.com who also use Excel.

I enter the date, day of week, location or route, mileage, average MPH, maximum speed, ride time, and notes. The notes column helps me remember milestones and special times on my rides. Or not so special times, “April 5, 2016 Bike Accident. Truck backed up on me.”

With the New Year, I finish entering my data from October through December. Not a huge number of entries to make. For the first time, I add the total annual mileage I rode in 2016. I was so surprised that my total was 608 miles.

Curious, I did likewise for 2013, 2014, and 2015. With the increase in miles, I wondered how many times I rode my bike each year. So I added them as well. I made a table so I could see my progress.

Year 2013 2014 2015 2016
# of Rides 42 46 62 82
Annual Mileage 428 331 510 608

I’m pretty proud of my miles and that I’m riding my bike more often. I appreciate each of you who encourage me in my riding endeavors, ride with me on SCBC (Stanislaus County Bike Club) rides, and those I meet along the way.

Today’s paper and pencil entry: Jan. 14, 2017, Sat.; MJC bike routes; 11.5 mi; 9.6 ave.; 14.6 max. 41-43 degrees. Feet cold. Chocolate lava meltdown @ Cold Stone.

 

Medical Leave Ends in Permanent Disability

The 2011-2012 school year on medical leave passes by. merced-collegeDespite extensive hospitalization and classes, I’m unable to return to my job as a college professor at Merced College. I’m now on permanent disability.

All my friends are returning to work in August, except me. I’m devastated. Sad. Angry. Depressed. Alone. And incompetent.

I spend most days roaming around the house aimlessly. I’m unable to function and complete daily living skills. I don’t remember to look at a to-do list. I forget to eat. Just getting ready takes hours. I can’t read a book because I lack comprehension skills. I still pull the weeds. One may think my lawn would be weed-free by now, but what I can do is slower than a snail’s pace.

After six years of symptoms, Stanford Hospital finally diagnoses me in the fall of 2012. I begin a two-year weekly program to learn skills to manage my symptoms so they don’t overtake my life. I do a little writing.

I attend a few Youth for Christ events. I spend time with my grandchildren,  Parker & Khloe, who are now four and two. Plus I’m blessed with my new four-month old granddaughter, Kylie Ann. But mostly I pull weeds. It requires little thought and gets me outside which I enjoy.

I run on empty, trying to focus. What I loved to do is gone. I reach out to God over and over, but He doesn’t seem to answer. What do I do now?

Logo source: Merced College [careers.insidehighered.com]

 

Wrong Station Turns to Thankfulness

Don’t cry. It will ruin your make-up. You don’t have time to re-do it, I remind myself. It took forever to put make-up on this morning between tears trickling down my sagging face.

At that moment I hear the Lord’s voice in my head. “Where are you driving to?” He asks softly?

To Oakdale, I acknowledge.

“That’s right. Carry on,” He whispers with a nudge.

How did I not realize what path I was on? I know who’s behind this.

My conversation turns to the liar of all lies, Satan. This is your undoing. Go away. I have a Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) group waiting for me at The River in Oakdale.

All morning I’d been listening to the wrong station. I was tuned into lies. The downward spiral went something like this. “If God really loved you, you’d still have a real job.”

“If you were working, you’d have more important things to do than talk to moms and yard duty staff.”

“No one really cares what you have to say anyways? Exactly how many followers are on your Facebook site?”

“If God made you well, you could have one of those important jobs you dream about.”

How did I get here so fast? I ask. Just last week the Lord used key values I identified six years ago. Those values fit exactly where He has me today. I wrote several journal entries that clearly showed God’s purpose and plan in my life and for His change in my plans. Removing me from the community college professor sandbox to a very small sandbox of my own. The author, speaker, trainer sandbox.

With Satan’s channel turned off, I eagerly drive towards my destination. Actually, I’m driving towards the destination God asked me to do months ago on this very day. I gently remind myself, I did my editing. I’ve prayed for the moms and myself. I sent the handouts over a week ago. I practiced. My make-up is intact. I’m prepared.

I arrive happy and joyful for the opportunity the Lord arranged just for me and each of the MOPS moms attending today. The energy in the room increases my joy.

A number of moms interact with me after my talk, from “I was friends with your daughter,” to more serious parenting challenges. I don’t want to be anywhere else. This is God’s call and God’s plan. I’m thankful.img_0781

After I’m done, the MOPS coordinator hands me an envelope and a check for mileage. “We also made this for you last month.” She hands me a 4” by 24” sign that says, “THANKFUL.” I almost cry. I’m overcome with the timeliness of the gift.

The sign is already hung up featuring two turkey hands created by my two oldest grandchildren. “Lord, I am thankful.”

 

Can Do Versus Can’t Do

Another year passes. It’s now the 2013-2014 school year. flashback-youtube-comI’ve now been off work two long years. I beg daily for God’s direction, but don’t hear from Him. It doesn’t help that my neurologist at Stanford keeps asking me, “What do you want to do?”

“What do you mean, ‘What do I want to do?’ I want to go back to work. But I can’t. I’m on permanent disability.'” I’m angry and tired of her unrealistic question.

One of the biggest challenges in overcoming my major life change is the constant focus on my symptoms. My deficits. What I can’t do. All 35 identified symptoms. Not only do medical experts continually document my deficiencies, I’m expected to document these daily as well.

Every week I maintain charts of symptoms and rate the degree to which they’ve affected me. I also check the skills I’ve applied. The hope is that the number and degree of symptoms will decrease showing that the skills I’m learning are helping me.

And then in the next breath the physician dares to state, “You need to focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do.” How am I supposed to focus on what I can do when  you require me to focus on what I can’t do? This medical deficit model isn’t working if you want my focus to be on what I can do.

Lord, I know you’re here with me, but your voice is silent. It’s been several years and I still have no direction from You. Lord, I’m still waiting.

Logo source: Flashback [youtube.com]

 

Art Therapy Directs Values Poster

“What are your values? What’s most important to you?” asks the art therapist. This is just one of 100_0697the many classes I attended in June 2011 looking for any glimmer of hope or diagnosis of my brain impairment.

I wonder – does it really matter? I can barely function. What difference will it make if I create my values on a poster? I’m on medical leave from the college.

I remind myself that I’m here to get help. I plan to return to my position as a college child development professor in a year. If there’s a small chance this can help, I’m in.

Typically I enjoy the directed art projects, so I begin to think. Commitment is extremely important to me. This includes my commitment to God, my husband, my daughters & their spouses, my two grandchildren, my career, to teaching, my friends, to volunteering at the food bank, and helping others. Yes, commitment is the overarching principal that covers everything most important to me.

I finish the not-so-artistic project with six key values decorated with a few squiggly lines in colors I like. The 18” x 24” poster features: Trust God, Adventure, Inclusion, Family, Creativity, and Flexible. I hang the poster in my vacant and hollow office. I rarely see it these days, but somehow it seems important enough to keep visible. Some days I need to be reminded of my important values.

Learning at RP International Conference in Historic Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

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Most workshops are held at Hotel Bethlehem but some are at the iirp classrooms on Main Street

I’m in the beautiful historic city Bethlehem, Pennsylvania for the International Conference on Restorative Practices sponsored by the International Institute of Restorative Practices (iiirp). Today’s been a great start to the conference.

I began the day attending the workshop Students Lead: Developing a RP Student Leadership Team. This is a missing component in the training we do. I’m excited to share more about this during Year 2 and 3 trainings. I also learned a new way to teach the Social Discipline Window. Tons of great ideas.

The second workshop was RP: Transforming School Climate From the Inside Out. It was a good reminder that RP is not a program or curriculum. To get educators with initiative fatigue to engage they need to know what’s in it for them.

I gained a much better understanding of “Community.” He defines this as any organization that works with or has contact with students after school, such as law enforcement or boys/girls club. This really helps as I make final edits to year 3 training, Continuity, Collaboration and Community on November 7th.

After lunch I participated in Circle Up! Using the Framework of RP to Facilitate Diversity Dialogue. The presenter gave us three doorways to enter to begin this conversation. With my child development background, the Intercultural Competence is the “door” I’m most likely to use in engaging advanced cohorts in this hot topic.

The last workshop was Engaging Adult Learners. As a trainer, I’m always looking for new ideas and strategies. They gave us three extensive examples of time line planning by school sites. Its way more detailed than what we currently do. It’s definitely something I’ll think about, but I’m kind of partial to what we do.

We also got a great list of prompts for content learning circles. For junior and senior high educators, this is the only type of classroom circles most will consider implementing. We’re doing content circles in Year 3 so I’m happy for more prompts.

All the workshops were great, but meeting people from all over is an important component. I prayed specifically that I’d meet some people from California to network with. I’m happy that I’ve met several already. So thankful I can be here and learn from experts.

 

Reluctant Rider Gets New Bike

img_5955By Dr. Marian Fritzemeier, Ed.D. ©2016

Most of my mild injuries from my April 5th bike accident were gone in a few weeks. Eventually it’s determined I hit my head so I purchase a new helmet. However, the back pain lingers.

I am blessed that the driver’s insurance will cover the cost of a new bike. I just have to choose it.

About a week after the accident I reluctantly stopped at World of Wheels. Eric, the sales clerk, clearly explains the differences between the two bikes similar to my wrecked bike.

“I like the coral color better.” I know color won’t be a deciding factor. I’ve ridden enough miles to recognize I want the features I had on my old bike. “I’m going to get the fluorescent yellow one.”

“It has to be ordered,” he says. “We don’t have your size.”

“That’s okay. I need to wait for the insurance check anyway.”

Five days later the phone rings. “I’m calling from World of Wheels. Your bike came in today. When would you like to pick it up?”

Silence. How did it come in so fast? “Ummm. When will it be ready?”

“By the end of today.”

“Okay.” I thought I’d have longer. I’m not ready to actually pick-up the bike yet.

Then I remember a delay tactic. “Eric said, If you bring in your old bike, we’ll transfer your GPS, pedals and seat to your new bike.” A sigh of relief. I don’t have to get it yet.

My husband asks, “Do you want me to pick up the bike for you?”

I’ll get it when I’m ready. It’s paid for. It can just sit there a while. “No. I need to get it myself.” I know actually picking up my bike is part of the healing process. But you can take in my old bike tomorrow so they can transfer the stuff.” That will buy me more time.

On Saturday, Rick totes the mangled bike to the bike store. While he’s there he tells Eric, “Marian’s pretty scared. She’s only riding a little bit in our neighborhood on her old bike.”

Another voice pipes up. “Hi, I’m Brian. I work in the back. We’ll have your wife’s bike ready in an hour. I overheard your conversation. I live out in the country. I’ve helped other riders after an accident. Your wife can ride with me and other riders on Monday and Tuesday mornings. There’s almost no traffic so she’ll be safe.”

Rick relays the offer to me. A safe place to ride my bike. Riding with someone else. Away from traffic. That could work. God had intervened. It wasn’t a coincidence that Rick’s conversation was overheard and a solution was offered.

But if I am going to ride on Monday, I want to ride my new bike.

Late Sunday afternoon, Rick drives me to the bike store. I’m pretty nervous. I’m not sure how I’ll respond when I see my bike. I imagine myself bursting into tears. I wander cautiously towards the back of the store.

Then I see it. I grin. That’s my new neon yellow bike. The clerk holds my bike while I awkwardly climb on. Then he adjusts the seat height. “Do you want to ride it?”

“No. Not today. I’m going to ride tomorrow morning with Brian and Josh.”

That was on April 18, 2016.

You can read about the bike accident in my blog, 81 Days to Victory.

 

81 Days to Victory

By Dr. Marian Fritzemeier, Ed.D. ©2016

Today, June 25th, is a day to celebrate. It has been 81 days since I rode my bike on one of my regular 10 to 12 mile routes. For weeks I’ve only been riding on neighborhood streets. Then onto busier streets. A 3 mile loop finally ends at home.

Then a few weeks ago, I ventured a little further. I rode through ¼ of the roundabout on Coffee and Clarabelle. I’d been holding my breath hoping for no cars. Then unexpected tears. Tears of both relief and joy. You made it through part of the roundabout. You go girl!

I miss this. Being outside around nature and riding . . . fast. A few more tears of gratefulness and I’m safely home again, this time after 8 miles.

Today I ride 12 miles through ½ the roundabout, across Kiernan towards Highway 108, past the Kohl’s shopping center, and back home. A day like today needs a worthy celebration. A chocolate lava meltdown from Cold Stone is perfect for this occasion.

Why am I celebrating today? On March 5th I finished the 40-mile Blossom Trail Ride in Reedley. Exactly a month later I was in a bike accident. That accident was 81 days ago.

I was riding my bike to my nail appointment. A young truck driver got tired of waiting for the drivers in front of him to turn left onto busy Sylvan Road. He began backing up. I was behind him and yelled. All I remember is my bike going under the truck and being thrown off my bike.IMG_8515

Two ladies arrived to help. They took photos and obtained pertinent information. One called my husband. When my scared husband showed up, he was relieved to see me standing.

That night I wrote in my journal. “Lord, I’m thankful. It could have been much worse. I hurt my shoulder and bruised my elbow. Tonight my lower back started hurting. I feel lousy.”

But before I finished my journal my thankfulness turned to anger. “Lord, could you just give me a break? It’s hard enough dealing with my brain impairment. How much suffering do I need, to learn more about You? I could have left one minute earlier or later and not been hit.”

I didn’t tell very many people about the accident. I didn’t post it on Face book. I spent most of my time talking or I should say venting to one person – God.

Four days later I wrote, “I’m upset that I had another trial come my way. Some people are grateful and say, ‘It could have been worse.’ Well, it also could NOT have happened at all. I’m tired of trying day after day.”

“Why did this happen? Why would God make something I did to get better, now become a source of fear? It makes no sense. Why is life so continually hard?”

Before the accident I viewed bike riding as fun. It brought me great joy. Oh, and I got exercise too. Being outside in God’s world is the most peaceful activity I do.

It’s easy to view bike riding as an extreme sport only for thrill seekers. Riding is certainly not for older women. Or anyone else who isn’t crazy.

I still wish the accident hadn’t happened, but it did. My choice was how I’d respond to God and my accident.

I’m not mad at God anymore. I healed mentally and emotionally. My arm and shoulder are fine but my back still hurts. I had more residual strength than I realized and got back on track quicker than I anticipated. I got back on my bike and kept talking to God. My joy of riding gradually returned.

My daughter reminded me of the hundreds of miles I’d ridden when God protected me. God protected me the day of the accident too. At the time, however, I just didn’t see it.

I’m not a thrill seeker or crazy; however I am an older woman. I just want to ride . . . and I am. Right along with God at my side.