Shh… You’re in the Library!

My oldest son and I carpool back and forth to Gainesville for work and school. This has been the case since we moved out to the middle of nowhere and started our own personal Easter farm, filled with chicks and ducks and bunnies. It’s a long drive, and I’ve put way too many miles on the cars.

One problem with carpooling is that our schedules have not always been the same. For a while, the van was making the fifty mile trip seven days a week, because I was working Saturday through Wednesday but Matt still had to go to school on Thursdays and Fridays. Sometimes we took more than one car when our times were vastly different, but typically one of us would be stuck waiting for the other to finish with work, or school, or activities.

The carpooling is almost at an end. Matthew will be attending University of Florida and living on campus in the dorms, so I will strictly be driving to and from work, and not having many days of being in Gainesville for over twelve hour stretches.

The past few weeks, however, I’ve had to wait after work for hours at a time as Matt completes AP exams, English projects, concert rehearsals and lessons leading up to his last recital. I typically head to the library on campus. Today, we’re both waiting until it is time for him to go to the choral concert (the orchestra is playing… we get to repeat this some time next week for the actual orchestra rehearsal) and perform. So we headed to a branch of the Alachua County Public Library.

Now, Santa Fe College’s library has an actual Starbuck’s inside. So of course, there is a bit of extra traffic, people drinking beverages in designated areas… But one thing has struck me about both libraries – the amount of loud talking and background noise that have become commonplace. Sure, this library where I sit typing at the moment does have a “Quiet Reading Room,” which I am not inside, as I don’t want to annoy anyone with the click of my typing. But the people who work the desk are all talking in normal to loud voices. What ever happened to that quiet sanctity of the Library? When did it become an accepted practice to go ahead and bring screaming toddlers in and let them run around other than in the designated kid’s section?

I’m not complaining… exactly. It’s more that I want to point out that the world has changed in yet another way from the times when I was a kid. Then again, we all went outside to run rampant around the neighborhood with little to no adult supervision, and we could do so without our parents being arrested for child neglect.

The world has changed in so many ways.

Not Amused…

Adam and I have both avoided sharing anything about this on social media since the events of July 13, 2013 occurred, but given what happened this week, we’ve decided to break the silence and share.

In May of 2013, He and I each bought a fun pass to Busch Gardens (Tampa, Florida), as my ex had purchased passes for each of the kids. We went two or three times without any major incident.

Back information: Adam had some injuries. He had a bad disc in his neck, j no neuropathy in his left arm and hand, an injury in his right foot, and an old soccer injury in his left knee. At the time, he also had a handicap parking permit that he has not renewed, though he really DOES need it.w

When I first met him that year, while he had his limits, he was able to get around, and could even very occasionally run in short bursts (like to catch my dog when she got loose…) But on July 13, his knee was acting up, so when we went to Busch Gardens to celebrate my oldest child’s fourteenth birthday, he rented a wheelchair for the second or third time. The form he signed had promises on it that Busch Gardens would do all within their power to assist him during his stay in the park.

We had no problems until we rode the Congo River Rapids ride. It was Adam’s favorite ride prior to that visit, and one he had ridden before without issue.

We took the wheelchair entrance to the ride. We boarded, as did some people who seemed to be from a Scandinavian country who did not speak English, and two little kids who appeared to be under the age of five who were NOT accompanied by their parents. I don’t recall this part, but a flag was placed on the raft before we left the station. While that flag could have been for Adam, it could also have been for the kids. But Busch Gardens thinks this is important information, so I am including it in this account.

I remember thinking that if the boat flipped, I would probably feel compelled to rescue the kids who were riding without their parents, as I knew my kids could swim, but was not sure of them. I felt anxious about them riding unaccompanied.

Shortly after we rounded the first bend, the water jets were turned off. We later discovered this was because someone in a boat ahead of us had jumped off and swam for shore, climbing out and running off before they could catch him. Our boat slowly cruised the remainder of the ride, taking about twenty to thirty minutes. It was not fun.

When we finally reached the end of the river ride, the conveyor belt was already filled with boats. We were dragged by hook to the end of a metal pier. Adam kept saying he didn’t feel safe getting off there, that he hoped they didn’t expect him to get off there and climb the metal stairs. I assured him that it was unlikely  – they knew he had gotten on in a wheelchair – they shouldn’t make him climb a narrow set of stairs. I was thinking more about the stairs at that point. What actually happened took me by surprise.

I also remember feeling just a little queasy by then, and tired of being on the raft.

The foreigners disembarked. Someone came and assisted the little kids off as well. My three kids exited without incident. It was only Adam and I left on the boat. He was in front of me, and I was on the boat and saw what happened.

They had tied the round boat to the pier with a single rope. When Adam went to step off, the boat listed away from the dock. He lost his balance with the movement of the boat and landed hard on his right side. He lay there, looking like a dead fish.

I remember them giving my daughter a hard time about bringing Adam his cane. I remember it took some time for him to get up. The employees did ask if he wanted to see someone. He was in shock, embarrassed, and said he just wanted to get out of there. He slowly made his way up the stairs and back into the wheelchair, said he wanted to get out of there and smoke a cigarette to calm down. He was still in shock.

By the time we reached the smoking area (a few hundred feet from the ride, behind a gift shop) his right leg had started to swell. I went into the gift store and asked for someone to come help him at that point.

Adam insisted I take the two older kids to ride a roller coaster. I shouldn’t have, but did. William didn’t want to go on the ride – he stayed with Adam.

When I came back, they had bandaged his ankle, but Adam said some young guy from risk management had refused his request to send him to the hospital. According to Adam, the “kid” had said that nobody saw it, nothing had happened, and that if we had our own insurance, Adam could go on his own dime. I took Adam back to the front of the ride and got the name (Susie) of one of the attendants who witnessed the accident.

Adam tried to call risk management (they had given him a card) as we slowly made our way out of the park. We did let the kids go on one more ride, as Adam was trying to make the call, hoping to hear from someone, trying to decide whether to go to the ER for the increasing pain. He was not insured at that time.

We drove back to Gainesville before Adam went to the ER. They did some X-rays, found that he had not broken any bones in his leg, but had some soft tissue damage.

It was a week before he returned, still in pain, having difficulty urinating, unable to stand for any length of time, with pain in his back as well. When he went that following week for the pain, he was admitted to Shands. They initially admitted him because his heart rate and blood pressure were elevated, but they also performed tests and discovered that he had a slipped disc in his back, and he was diagnosed with an inguinal hernia.

Busch Gardens would not return any phone calls, so Adam contacted an attorney and filed suit.

In addition to the pain, he suffered ongoing psychological issues, but because he was impoverished, he was charged little for them.

Over the course of the last three and a half years, we have all gone to depositions that were repeatedly called off and rescheduled at the last minute, causing me to waste time off from my job. The court ordered mediation that was supposed to occur last December was called off at the last minute (all on their end.) This dragged on for almost four years.

The mediation was rescheduled for Monday the 24th. We had some transportation issues making it to Tampa, and by the time I was able to get Adam there, it was the very end.

Busch Gardens offered $5,000. Because he “missed” the mediation, we are responsible for the full costs for the mediator, our attorney, their travel, everything. They further stated that if he did NOT accept their $5,000 settlement (before costs), they would counter sue (for filing a frivolous suit?) and take us to court for all of their costs.

Nobody asked if Adam had ongoing medical costs, and we made the mistake of not offering that information because we weren’t asked, but he does.

Florida DOES limit damages.

But his actual damages are greater than $5,000, and he will be suffering from this accident for the rest of his life. His hernia was one of the factors that prevented him from being able to assist his mother, who died unexpectedly when Adam couldn’t make the drive out to her house in December 2015 because he was having trouble getting out of bed and moving around.

Why am I sharing all of this? Because we do not believe Busch Gardens acted in good faith in any of this. Because we do not appreciate the fact that they are using bullying tactics to attempt to force a settlement. Because none of this is just or right. They claim that the red flag they put on the boat meant they did all they could to keep him safe. Excuse me – was it a magic flag? Because nobody offered to take us up the ramp to where the boat was secure. Nobody offered to help him off the boat. Nobody would even bring him his cane, and they fought my daughter when she did.

Yes, he should have insisted on medical care before he left that ramp. But he was in shock. And this should not have happened.

Yes, he had a bad knee before the incident. His OTHER knee. And Busch Gardens knew he had a handicap before they made him get off an unsecured boat at a location where passengers are not typically asked to disembark.

I watched #Blackfish AFTER the accident, or I probably would never have gone to Busch Gardens that day, as they are owned and operated by Sea World. Sea World has a history of blatant disregard for its employees and guests.

Why am I writing this? Because I want people to know. I want them to share this. I want Sea World and Busch Gardens to stop getting away with this sort of behavior. I don’t want what happened to Adam to happen to someone else. We thought the law suit would help. Now we realize, it won’t. Maybe, just maybe, my words will. It’s all I have.

Fiction Friday – Lost and Found Part 16

 

 

I’ve abandoned Rob, Janeen, Jake, Susie and Hector far too long. Time to return to their long lost story…

The story begins HERE and you can find links to each part HERE.

We now return to the story you’ve long since stopped caring about, if you ever cared in the first place.

Warning: Not suitable for kids.


1546195_10152819929619563_2471903309107189486_n

It was all going according to plan. Rob was growing obsessed with Susie, Janeen was aware of the situation and had started plotting, but couldn’t seem to focus on a strategy. She hadn’t expected Susie to be the less emotional part of the equation. Jake had chosen well.

Women like Janeen thought they knew everything. They thought they understood human nature. And they thought they walked on water. Even now, Janeen believed she could snap her fingers and have Rob chasing her tail again. She had always over estimated her abilities in bed.

And Rob? Rob was just weak. He had always been weak. He hadn’t deserved Becky. But Becky had been the sort of girl who loved too deeply and gave too much. Nurturing, like Susie, but without the emotional filter Susie had.

Becky had been vulnerable after the loss of their parents. She had trusted the wrong people, too.

Jake’s sister and his best friend had gotten together when his sister turned nineteen and went off to college for the first time. Jake should have seen it coming, should have noticed the way Becky followed them around over the years. He had assumed it was just a little sister thing, or something she would grow out of. But then she had grown into a beautiful young woman, and Rob had noticed.

Their mother had started growing ill, and Rob was there, the shoulder for Becky to cry on, as well as Jake’s long time friend. Jake was too caught up in his own world to see, right up until Rob proposed. Their mother had been thrilled, focusing on wedding planning even as she was growing weaker and dying.

Then Becky brought Janeen home one weekend on a visit from college.

Jake had been taken in at first. That blue-black hair. Her porcelain skin. That snarky, sometimes cruel sense of humor that struck a chord with him… And that ambition. There had been something more there, a steel core under what appeared to be vulnerability. It was enchanting.

Jake couldn’t pinpoint when Rob had started falling for Janeen. He had seemed just as attentive to Becky as ever, right up to the day that he walked out on her. And Janeen? She had never said anything. Sure, she might have found more excuses to stop putting out, but she had never cut him off completely. She seemed to be dropping hints about wanting him to propose. Apparently being engaged to Becky didn’t stop Rob from beating Jake to the punch.

The Latest and Greatest

I am sitting on my bed, where a spotted Mini Rex bunny has decided to hop up and join me. We’re not sure if Spotty/Rex/[Insert whatever we’ve decided to call it] is a buck or a doe, though we’ve had the rabbit for several weeks now. The confusion is due to the fact that he/she has exhibited behaviors that could indicate male and female, and rabbits aren’t exactly easy to sex.

spotty

Life has been a series of discoveries and losses over the past year or so. We’ve acquired rabbits through a few purchases, a few trades, a gift or two, and bunnies being bunnies, some of them were pregnant when we acquired them, and others have become pregnant since. We’re planning on selling some French Angora bunnies in a few more weeks.

familyAngoras

french_angora

We’ve lost some rabbits. Our best survival rate was six out of seven – the French Angora litter. We also had a litter of eight English Angoras (some of them were mixed with Flemish giant. Oops.) of which four survived.

Between work, two hours + a day of driving, caring for the animals, and the one class I’ve been taking, I have not been keeping up with blogging. I have, however, started the sequel to Dreams and Hypotheticals, and I am beginning to catch that need to write I have been lacking for a while.

The Object Oriented Programming class has also been going very well. I am on track to make another A, with the one remaining project becoming an extra credit assignment, plus the lowest grade being dropped. This time around, it hasn’t felt as stressful. I’m not sure if that is because C# is easier, because I am not having the same issues with my computer and Microsoft Visual that I had in previous semesters, or if the concepts that seem to repeat with each class are finally beginning to sink in.

Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da, to quote Paul McCartney. Life does go on.

Critique me!

Okay, I’ve started the sequel for the umpteenth time. I’m going to post the first couple of pages here, just to see what folks think.

Some challenges to writing a “sequel”: You have to remind those who read the first book and explain to any potential new readers what is going on without boring those who read the first book, all while capturing enough interest to compel further reading. ACK! It’s hard. Which is why I’ve had many false starts and abandoned beginnings.

Hell, who am I kidding? I’m the queen of abandoned writings. LOL.

Without further ado, the first page or two of the still unnamed sequel to Dreams and Hypotheticals.


Emma looked around the cinder block bedroom of her top story apartment. It wasn’t a great place to live, but it would have to do. It was certainly close to campus. Closer than Cash Hall, the dorm her mother had called the “Ted Bundy Suite” when she and Celia had gone to summer music camp back in their high school days. Hopefully, there would be less roommate drama than she had experienced in the sublease she rented over the summer. So far, the worst thing about Nellie was her collection of stuffed cats. Some of them weren’t bad, but the ones in floral dresses with sunbonnets triggered bad memories of childhood trips to Hee Haw Village.

Emma thought back to moving day just the year before. How different, and yet the same it all seemed. The Tallahassee heat and humidity were unchanging. The sense of new adventures to come was still there, though perhaps not as intense in her sophomore year.

There were still so many questions in the air.

When she entered her freshman year at Florida State University, there was that impending sense that the precognitive dreams she had been having were leading up to something. But when the dreams were realized, life had become no less cryptic. Why even have precognitive dreams about someone if your brain doesn’t allow you to make the connection between dream person and real life person until you are in over your head? When she met Robert, she had known there was something about him that put her on edge.

It still seemed so odd that the dream in question happened the night she met Owen, when she was attending summer music camp, back in her high school days. The threads were too tangled to make sense.

Over the past summer, she had had too much time on her hands. Time to write pages of a book she wasn’t sure she would ever finish, time to realize that she was uncertain of her major in music, time to listen to Rachmaninoff and Brahms and pretend she was trying to forget Robert.

Somehow, she couldn’t. It didn’t help that Owen would talk about Robert every time they met. And the odd, trance-like behavior had continued over the summer. It had started in the spring – Owen would go silent, then he would start talking in a voice that was just different. All of that could be written off as Owen being Owen – he was always an odd one. Except that when it had started last spring, he had somehow known things he

Was it just coincidence? Owen touching her in the exact same spot Robert had, with just the same amount of pressure… Owen talking about police lights the night that Robert was in Atlanta almost getting arrested… Weird things that she could and would have written off, had the entire affair with Robert not been so bizarre to begin with.

They met in Robert’s dorm room, the fall of their freshman year. James had goaded Emma into asking Robert her “hypothetical question.”

“This is a hypothetical question, not an offer, would you sleep with me?”

“It would depend on how many beers I had.”

It was not the worst answer she had ever received. Emma had been asking the question for over a year before that night, and had never felt the inexplicable reaction she felt to Robert’s response.

She tried to write him off that night, only to keep running into him in the coming weeks, and, despite any intentions she had to the contrary, feeling somehow drawn to him.

It had ended in the spring, and in such a way that Emma should have moved on by now.

Except for Owen and his prodding. Owen, and the fact that she still somehow struggled to let go.

I’m thinking in circles. I need to figure out, once and for all, if it was real or some product of my over active imagination.

She had a plan. She just needed a few days worth of classes to arm herself with the necessary information to perform the test.

Unpacking a few personal items, Emma placed a stuffed animal of her own next to the cat Nellie called “Road Kill.” Nutsy, a stuffed vulture from Disney’s Robin Hood, gazed at the squashed looking animal. Much better, she thought.

Hello World!

I’m back in Object Oriented Programming I, and came so close to deciding to drop it again this semester, even though it’s the only class I’m taking. I wanted to focus solely on this, and get it right, after the fiasco of Winter Semester 2016.

My luck hasn’t really changed, in some ways. When I scheduled the class, I was under the mistaken belief that the text book being used was the same text book that I already had, the one I purchased for a prior programming class. I was under that mistaken belief because that was the book listed by the bookstore. They were wrong, I was wrong, the class has changed, mostly for the better, by now using C#.

This meant, of course, that I needed to scrounge around for $160 for a text book. A paperback textbook. Damn you, Pearson…

Laptop, paperback text, box of ginger candies, sunglasses on a table by the window looking into the woods.
This is $160 worth of text book!

The bookstore did not have the book on order. I had to wait a couple of days, because I didn’t have funds until… (story of my life these days) and then Amazon and ALL THE OTHER ONLINE AND LOCAL SELLERS did not have the text book either. The professor extended the deadline, knowing that most of us could not purchase the book until they arrived. I ordered mine when I could, but didn’t receive the notice that the book was in until AFTER the bookstore had closed for the weekend that the first assignment was due. I attempted the first assignment, failing, but turning it in eight minutes late. Which meant it was not accepted, because the professor, while VERY fair, has a strict policy, about which she is very clear.

Now, the lowest grade DOES get dropped, but this means that I have absolutely no wiggle room if I want to maintain my 4.0! Because my dropped grade needs to be the zero.

I thought about withdrawing, but we only get three attempts at a class, and this counts as my second attempt. Without this class, I can’t continue as a Programming and Analysis major, because it is the back bone of so many things to come, and a prerequisite for the rest.

My GPA can go wherever it goes.

I turned in the second project a day early, and made a 95.

I came down with the flu two nights before the third project was due. A really nasty flu. Like H1N1.

I was too sick to go to work. But little by little that Saturday morning I completed assignment three and turned it in, again, the day before it was due. I made a 100. Woo hoo!

I still have the flu, though MOST of the symptoms have passed. All but the nasty cramps and diarrhea… Yeah, TMI. Sorry.

Then the first quiz…

Have I bitched lately about the satellite internet “service” we have in our house? Satellite. Don’t do it unless the only alternative is dial up or nothing.

So, to be safe, and ensure that I could finish the test in the allotted time, I trekked to the nearest library to use their internet. Guess what? They are closed until August. Seriously?

Another ten to fifteen mile drive to the library “in town” and I was able to take the exam with only a little background of babies crying and people talking.

I made a 96.

When it was C++, everything was in lines or ASCII at best. Now, with C#, we have forms, can insert pictures, and have graphic user interface built into the programs we are designing. So it is more fun, though Microsoft Visual is still not without its glitches and tiny aggravations. But for the most part, I’m making it work. But one thing that didn’t change? The first program in the text book was a program to display the phrase “Hello World.” It wasn’t our first assignment, that had us labeling and mislabeling the stars of the Orion Constellation. (It put the wrong label on Bellatrix. Guess Pearson Publishing is not as versed in star names as J.K. Rowling?) But it was there, in the text book.

Hello, World. I am still here.

(Heading home before the diarrhea rares up again…)

Chickens and the Natural Order

We’ve been raising chickens since last spring. My husband is trying to breed specialty breeds to sell in Swap Meets, and I’m a bit worried that this is never going to pay off. Why? Two factors:  1. “I need this chicken so I can make that chick, but we need another coop to keep them exclusively a breeding pair” and 2. Chick mortality.

In addition to the chickens, we have some peafowl (also lovingly referred to as “Pip-Squawks” and “Velociraptors”) and five ducklings. Most of our birds were adopted as babies, though we did pick up some adult birds here and there. We name our birds, pet our birds, and they are all convinced they are really parrots.


Chicks need to be kept warm until their full feathers come in, so we’ve kept them first in brooding bins, then in an unfinished part of what was once the garage until they are old enough to be moved outside to one of the coops. 

Our biggest coop was dubbed “Gen-Pop,” and we have a Polish coop (Auschwitz?) that also holds some chickens that couldn’t get along in Gen-Pop, and a Serama coop that holds nothing but cute little seramas. Prince should, by rights, be in that coop, but he fights with the other tiny Roos, so he’s in Gen-Pop, because he has friends there and has learned NOT to tangle with the bigger Roos.

Walking into the back aviary room one evening, I had to call Adam to see what had happened. The chickens and ducklings were “properly sorted.” The five ducklings were all lined up, the white Leghorns were clustered together, Cochins were in groups of like-colored Cochins, Mottled Java chicks were in another area, and our two adult Buff/Red silkies sat somewhere in the middle of the room. None of this was orchestrated by human intervention. It was done by the birds themselves.

It occurred to me that chickens share some of the personality flaws of human beings.

  • Chickens can be racist. They tend to pick on chickens that look different, whether that difference is color or size.
  • Chickens tend to starve out the weak when the going gets tough. Hey – why waste resources on a bird that is less likely to survive anyway? 
  • There is a pecking order that favors the strongest, but weaklings can survive and even thrive by making nice with stronger chickens.

Chickens also share some of our better qualities.

  • Chickens are inquisitive. They like to investigate things.
  • Chickens show genuine affection to other chickens and even other animals. Our chickens have befriended the duck, pig, the dog (somewhat) and the bunnies. They can’t be friends with the peafowl, because the peafowl tried to eat a couple of young silkies (and killed one) when they managed to get to the wrong side of a divide. They also can’t be friends with the button quail, because they believe button quail are food. We’ve seen chickens appear to mourn the deaths of other chickens.
  • They have a language system that sounds complicated. We’ve learned what some of the sounds mean. They also sing Babaloo. And each rooster has a distinctive crow.

Two of our funny looking Roos were adopted from the county shelter. The man who caught them and boxed them for us thought they were mean. When we got them home and held them, they became big snuggle-birds. Well, at least one of them did, the other tolerates us, but tends to evade being touched very often.




I suppose things like forming cliques and pecking orders are a natural means of survival and order. But we can all look beyond our fear-driven ways and cohabitate peacefully when we try.