Brian's Ramblings

My thoughts in text, photo, and video form

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Mama Said There'd Be Days Like This...

T-minus 2 weeks and counting until the Fall 2004 semester starts. I'm excited about getting things started up again in terms of making progress towards earning my Masters in Education from Counseling & Guidance (with a Vocational Rehabilitation emphasis), but there is still that little boy in me who wishes summer would never end!

This past week, I would sum up as blah. "Blah" is a word defined by Webster's Dictionary, but the way I use the term means that the week won't be one that I'll be quick to remember when reflecting back on my summer.

It started off fair enough though. On Tuesday, I met with my VR counselors to discuss my upcoming employment during the fall and making a plan to allow me to keep my benefits as a person with a disability, while earning income from work. There's a common thought among the disability community that disability benefits (SSI, Medicaid, etc) are set up in such a way that makes one feel like it would put them at a DISadvantage to actually work and make a go at it. This is a complicated matter, and one I won't discuss in-depth at this time. Essentially, the argument is such that, "Why should I work X amount of hours to earn Y amount of income, when I can earn more than Y amount by simply living (and not working). On top of that, should I earn more than Z amount, I could lose my Y amount all together, and simply living off of the earned income would place me at a distinct disadvantage." I probably didn't explain it clearly, but you get the's a messy issue to deal with, but one that holds serious implications.

Getting back to my Tuesday meeting, I had arranged it a few days prior, and it was such a neat feeling to be able to say/state, "Perhaps, we could meet at my office." Of course, being that I haven't fully adjusted to having this situation of actually having a space I can call "home" away from home, I cleared it with Dr. Skouge (Jim), who is THE actual office "owner." Jim quickly said something to the effect of sure, that's no problem at all and there's really no need to ask since it's your office, too. This, perhaps, was when the light bulb went off in my head that, "Wow, I actually have a space on campus!" I suppose after being a campus dweller for 8+ years, one could almost have a space by default...I did/do not think that way. I see every opportunity as being earned, NOTHING is given to you in life...if there's anything that has stuck with me throughout my life, it is this.

Prior to this, I guess my home away from home on campus that I felt most comfortable and welcomed would have been the grass fields of Lower Campus, where the University of Hawaii Warrior Football team practices and works out throughout the year. I've been extremely lucky to be one of the few "outsiders," who has been taken in (accepted) by the team each season and have been a part of all the highs and lows that a season brings. Coach June Jones, from his arrival in 1999 to this very day, has been so welcoming and embracing of my presence around the team. You know someone really cares about you when they take the time to ask you, "How's school going? You passing all your courses, right?!" Why do I bring up football? This week officially begins the Warrior football season, as fall camp begins. Fall camp provides the team to practice as a unit under the direction of coaches (there's a "down" time, where players/coaches can't have any contact related to football instruction) and it is an opportunity for the team to bond. Players will see no one other than their teammates for the next 2 weeks straight, they'll live together under the same roof...wake up, eat breakfast, attend meetings, practice/workout, eat lunch, attend more meetings, practice, eat dinner, attend even more meetings, and then call it a day all as ONE unit. It's really a neat process to watch and absorb; players will create friendships with one another that will far exceed their days as teammates on a football team; there will be mini-battles during practices, where one might want to knock the snot out of another, but once practice ends, those same two players can be seen sharing a laugh over a meal; players will pull pranks on one another, and then the rest of camp will become a test of who can out prank whom...really great stuff!

In any case, my meeting with my VR counselors went over quite well. I expressed my feelings clearly, and we made sure that we (my counselors and I) were on the same page. Jim came in at one point during the meeting and provided even more words of support on my behalf, which he's done so many times since we've reconnected. This fall will make one-year since we've been developing our relationship, after being disconnected for some time. I truly appreciate all of the support, guidance, and encouragement he has and is providing me.

On Wednesday, I woke up with a migraine headache as I chronicled in my last entry. That night, I went to bed, excited to wake up refreshed and feeling good. Again, as I've mentioned, things don't always pan out the way you hope.

On Thursday, I awoke to a lingering pain in my head. I suppose I could have waved my little white flag and surrendered to what my body was telling me...I needed to rest...but I quickly threw that idea out, as I knew we would be having an important teleconference regarding the project that Dr. David Leake is spearheading. And being that he has the confidence in Jim's belief that I would be a good candidate to participate in this, and take on a Graduate Assistant position, I felt I had no choice but to attend. So, I took 3 Advils, and off to work I went. I didn't take 4, only because I felt a little better than the day before and I didn't want to take more medicine than I really needed. This began what would become a day filled with blunders and mistakes.

I arrived on campus before 7am, and already I felt less than 100%. I was going to make the most of this day, regardless. Task one involved duplicating a DVD for Jim's colleague, Dr. Rhonda Black. Did I really know how to go about doing this? Honestly, no. Was I eager to explore and try? Most certainly. Thus, I began my process of learning by trial..and hopefully minimal error. I did a test run, using a "cheaper" DVD disc. A click here, a click there, and voila, it seemed to be doing it! Now came the true test...playing the DVD in another machine...did it work? Yes! It was a mixture of accomplishment and relief. So, I proceeded to create another copy using a high-quality disc. DVD duplication is a process of time, waiting, and patience. So, I prepared to get myself mentally ready for this teleconference, really not knowing what to expect.

I arrived back at the office from a visit to KOKUA and the restroom, to find Jim already engaged in conversation with Dr. Leake. This was a brief conversation, mainly to get us in the loop as to what was to unfold. After concluding this preliminary conversation with Dr. Leake, Jim and I exchanged pleasantries and what not. I told him that I wasn't feeling my best due the effects of my migraine, but that I would do my best. Jim commented, "I knew something was wrong as soon as you came in the door." Little comments like this help to confirm the fact that, yes, indeed a relationship is being forged here. "Don't push yourself too hard," Jim commented to me.

Our teleconference was very helpful, at least for myself, since I got to hear where everyone else was from/coming from in terms of approaches to this project. I won't get into details about our conference, but my concluding statement to the group was something to the effect of, "It was nice meeting you all and I'd like to stress the importance of having fun with this project!" It's probably a natural reaction to get caught up in one's work involving research and almost take on a mechanical approach to one's task. In order to do the very best on anything, the person doing the task needs to find some way to connect themselves to it and have fun! It's okay to have fun while working! I get to experience this first-hand each and every time I go into work at Jim's office. Case studies...this term reminds me of people who are deceased and no longer with us. Our project is NOT dealing with people who have passed on, but rather with people who are here and living in this very moment! Let's enable these individuals to share their stories in such a way that will be just as empowering and meaningful to them, as the results of their shared stories will be valuable for the benefactors of this project, namely Special Education transition teachers/specialists and other educators.

Teleconferencing with other professionals was a whole new ballgame for me; I didn't want to say anything that would make me look silly, for I know I'm essentially representing the University of Hawaii in the broader picture, and I always want to have the University be seen in as positive a light as possible. During this meeting, I'd jot down notes for Dr. Skouge, and one note read, "Remember, we need to maintain our integrity!" when it appeared Jim was about to embark on a tangent that was of another universal plane. I think his actions were great in retrospect, as it probably made the rest of the group loosen up to some degree and see that, yes, this must be fun!

After the conference, Jim and I took a moment to discuss what had transpired. It's good to always have a moment of debriefing.

Once we had finished exchanging thoughts and feelings, Jim suggested that I proceed with making the CD's of media that needed to go out for his 445 course. He wanted me to learn about the concept of making disc images, and showed me how to create them and then transfer them to CD. I proceeded to tackle this task, knowing that the CD's had to be mailed ASAP since students are across the state of Hawaii. I completed, what I thought were, original CD's that were ready to be burned.

Before I completed the originals, I messaged my mom using Yahoo Messenger that I needed Advil. She replied, "I'll come by with the Advil!" Jim mentioned that he was headed out to get some food, as he was hungry, so I asked if he'd pick-up something for me since I knew I'd need to fill my stomach with substance to avoid having the Advil cause me irritation. Now, an important fact to set-up this story is that I've NEVER asked for food or have eaten anything offered to me at Jim's office. I usually block out my hunger and focus on my assignment for the day. So, the fact that I asked for food concerned Jim, as he then knew even more that I was NOT feeling good at all. By chance, my mom came by just as he was leaving so he saw that I had food; he wouldn't need to worry about getting anything. I decided to request Advil in a liquid-gel form since I thought it might work faster. Normally I'm able to take up to 4 Advils (of the regular tab variety, when my headaches are severe, and not feel any ill-effects), so I figured I'd take 3 of these gel pills. I finished my food (a hamburger and fries) and resumed my work.

Once Jim returned, I went to the CRC (the Education department's library and technology resource center) to make mass duplicates of our CD's. I brought a new spindle of CD's with me, and began to burn copies. After the completing the second set of CD's (each disc required 7 copies), I thought I'd test out some of these copies just to make sure they work. That was smart. I realized that the original source CD that I made was not created properly. I immediately halted any further duplicating and went back to the office. I informed Jim that I had goofed, and asked for help as to how to create the original disc properly. Admitting that you don't know how to do something is extremely key in any learning opportunity. Instead of chastising me for wasting a bunch of CD's, Jim said, "Don't worry, we're learning here!" I really needed to hear that, for I felt bad for wasting so many CD's and just messing up so much.

Without dragging the story out further, the positive in all of this comedy of errors is that I got the job done! I successfully created the sets, organized each set into separate bags, and had them ready to go out the next day with Effie's help. I also created sets of CD's that would go out to each project site for Dr. Leake's grant. One CD has the documentary that a classmate had produced with assistance from the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR); Mark Yap and Doug Hamasaki were the producers. The other CD contained the piece that Dr. Skouge had produced just last year where he interviewed me one day at the KOKUA office.

So, it would be a fair statement that my Thursday was not a great day at all. And as my title for this entry states, mama said there'd be days like this, my mama said...but she also said that I had to overcome them, regardless of how bad they might be. I came home and crashed for a good 3 hours. That helped a lot.

Would that be the end of my woes for the week? Not at all! On Friday, I stayed home and rested, enjoying the company of my sisters. A much needed day of rest. My grandparents would fly in from the Big Island (Hawaii) later in the afternoon for a visit. It was nice to have them come.

On Saturday, my bowling league resumed after about a month's break. I was eager to get back to bowling. I take my bowling very seriously and expect to do my very best each time I bowl. My average hovers around 145, I think that could improve a bit. My idea of a decent bowling average is 150+. I bowled absolutely of the very worst bowling performances I've ever eats at me inside when I do terribly.

I quickly had to squash any frustration lingering in my being as I was headed to Jim's office to "interview" my sisters for our project. Jim had other ideas, however, and viewed it as an opportunity to "talk story" and aim for another date on which interviews would be conducted. This turned out to be a wise, wise decision..I have much confidence and trust in what Jim says and does. Our "talk story" session was 2 hours of great discussion amongst my sisters, mom, Jim, and I. More concrete plans/ideas will evolve from this meeting as Jim and I engage in dialogue this week.

A few random pictures for your enjoyment (and mine as well!):

Look at what movie I actually
went (paid!) to see!

Jim in his mode of controlled chaos as he teaches his
SPED 445 course!


  • At 6:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hey Brian. Enjoyed your blog. I'm an old friend of Jim's who is living on the mainland now - working on a doctorate in special education at Indiana University focusing in on assistive technology, using video and multimedia tools for empowerment, self-determination... those kinds of issues. ...

    I hear you about that conflicting emotion about summer ending and school starting. I always get a pit in my stomach come the end of the summer..yet I still always end up going back to school :>.

    Have a great fall semester...your masters program sounds exciting.

    - Mary


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