Sunday, October 3, 2010

Going Back In Time

I ran into a journal that I had to keep for a class called Administration of Pupil Services in Elementary and Secondary Schools. The date of the journel entries in 1994. As I read this journel, I am amazed at how it captures the essence of "ME". I am going to share these writing in this blog because this is my place afterall!

The first one is entitled "Autobiography of Jane Peschel" - 9/8/1994

I came screaming into the world on November 1, 1950, eighteen months after my brother (or one of my brothers, I should say). There were six of us - three boys and three girls. I was number four. Stories about my early days were less than complimentary. I apparently had a strong will. I would turn blue if I wasn't fed on time. It was not something that pleased my mother very much and I think that she, in some ways always remained angry about that. My mother and I were never very close.

My dad died when I was in seventh grade. I liked him. It was always "safe" at home when he was there. I remember him as a "fun-loving", happy person. It is the way I like to think of myself today. I don't turn blue anymore when I don't get my way. I have an easy-going personality. That was my dad. I wish I would have had the chance to know him.

I became interested in college during my junior year in high school. I think it was honestly because I did not want to start a lifetime of working yet. When I told my mother, she said that college was nonsense for "a girl". I should be a secretary. That paid well enough...I went to college anyway! I was thankful for my dad's social security. It helped to pay the way!

It was in my second year at UW-Whitewater that I found Special Education. The coursework sounded interesting and I thought I might enjoy it. I did enjoy the courses but before student teaching, I quit and got married! Do you believe it? You see there was something about me that I did not understand until years later. I found that inside me was a very insecure person. I did not see myself as being smart nor did I see myself as being someone who would be loved by another. I think that I enjoyed special education because I saw the possibility of someone needing me and I got married for the same reason. My husband had been drafted into the army and was homesick. I could make him happy, so I quit school.

This next part, is written exactly the way I wrote it in 1994 but since then I identify a child as first being a student and then as having a specific disability as opposed to the other way around. Also, fortunately, I have been in education long enough to see the terms "trainable" and "educable" mentally retarded disappear from our identifying labels.

A year and a half later, I went back to Whitewater and finished. Upon graduation, I got a job as an aide in a "trainable" classroom. It was there that I found out that I could do a good job. I felt like I had an intuitive nature about kids and although I empathized with their handicapping conditions, I did not coddle them. They loved me for that. I felt empowered to apply for a teaching job. The feeling must have shown through because I did get a job teaching in Oregon, Wisconsin with "educable" students ages 5-10. It was supposed to be for one year only but it was a foot in the door, so to speak. At the end of the year, I was asked to stay. I have been there ever since.

The field of special education changed over the years and in Oregon, the number of mentally retarded students was on the decline. The special education director encouraged me to go back to school to get further certification. I had two little girls at home and a husband who liked me helping out at his retail store as much as possible, but I loved teaching and did not want to watch my job disappear. So it was back to Whitewater again. I went into the Masters program not at all sure if I would complete it but I would get a new certification area - Learning Disabilities. I took one class a semester going one night a week and studying on weekends early in the morning and when the girls took naps. Because I was working towards certification in LD, I was given a multi-categorical classroom (MR/LD) and held temporary certification for three years. In the end, I wrote the Masters exam which is an experience that I will never forget! I finally proved to myself that I was smart! (At least temporarily)

After nineteen years of marriage, I asked for a divorce. I was tired of the "I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never never forget he's a man" lifestyle! Now I have long, long discussions with my daughters about sailing your own vessel. I am in no way becoming an independent entity but instead finally seeing that I can love and be loved without being used!

It is because of my divorce that I am back in school. You see, over the years of being married, I have seen the power that one person can have to build or tear down, to criticize or congratulate, to humiliate or honor. Through teaching, I created a climate that I have wanted to have for myself. I wanted to be accepted as being an individual with individual skills and talents. I wanted my special education students accepted in the same way. I have become involved in actively promoting inclusion of special needs students in my classroom and in developing curriculum that has as its premise that all students can succeed. I work with teachers in our district now to continue the development of this curriculum and to promote acceptance of change.

I am busy but I feel good about myself and I am thankful that I did not follow the road my mother wanted for me. I am much to hyperactive to be a good secretary!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Life's Journey - Part 3

The Love's of My Life

There is something far greater than yourself and your dreams! There is something even greater than a marriage. There is the ultimate sharing of your life with children. Children truly need you like no one else ever does. And I find that the need to be needed has been a huge part of my life's focus. It's how I seem to define "love".

Erin was born in 1977. I was 27 years old...and ready to be a mom. I had my Dr. Spock book along with a book called "The First Twelve Months". I had dreams, actually nightmare kinds of dreams about forgetting that I had a baby and leaving her home while I went off to a movie! That never happened for real! I was a very conscientious parent.

Erin cried alot but according to Dr. Spock, a parent was not to spoil a child by picking them up every time they cried so I often let her cry! Today, I would pick her up! I'm sure she knew that I loved her though. She had a pacifier that was just a bottle top. When she sucked on it, it sqeaked. It became a happy sound that I could hear from her bedroom into many rooms on the first floor. When she got older, she always seemed to need some kind of noise to go to sleep by. A Mickey Mouse song album was a favorite that was played over and over again!

When Katie was born in 1979, Erin was only two. She was still my baby but now looked so big compared to new baby Katie. She called her Kay-a-We-a, short for Katie Marie. Katie didn't cry as much. I seemed to have gotten down the "stay calm mom" stuff. She also didn't have a pacifier but she sucked on the nose of a little rubber giraffe until the whole thing fell apart. Katie and Erin shared so many things and Katie followed Erin's every move sometimes giving up things too early because Erin had outgrown it. They shared the same bedroom and I could hear them every night talking through different events - planning out the first days of school, deciding what they would be for halloween. From the time Katie was able to cross the street, she could be found over at Janie's, a neighbor ladies house. Janie was the one who did a better job of handling cuts and stings. Witch hazel was some kind of magic potion that cured everything along with oversized bandages.

Erin and Katie have been my morning and sun and stars! They have taught me what real love means. Love did not exist in my childhood. My childhood was about obedience and fear! Love existed in my marriage, in the beginning, but I realized that the love there was more one sided. The love from Erin and Katie has always been two way. They have given me as much and many times more love than I have been able to return. The memories, too numerous to list fill my heart with complete satisfaction. Life's Journey - Part 3 has been the ultimate joy!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Life's Journey - Part 2

So, if it's about making the journey your's, why did I drop out of college to get married one semester before completing my BA?

I think that everyone wants someone to love them. I think that is true! I think that we all have a need to be needed. Life isn't about being alone in it, I don't think. So my senior year in college, I was one year from being done and my boyfriend ended up being drafted into the army! He had gotten his BA in May of that year. In October, he was shipped off to basic training in Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri. In December of that year, we were married! He was terribly homesick. I loved the fact that he needed me! Everyone at school said,
"Don't do it! Finish school first. You will never come back if you stop now!"
His need for me was more powerful! In less than two months, I planned a wedding complete with sitdown dinner, flowers, and champagne! On January 1 of that year, I was a married lady living in a trailer outside of an army base! My mother never said it but I knew that she felt confirmed in the fact that girls don't need to go to college. They just end up getting married and having kids anyway!

I had gone from being independent of my mother to being dependent on a husband. We had only one car that he took daily to work unless I needed it to go to the laundramat. On those days, I would go to the PX for groceries and buy craft materials to fill my time in the trailer. Then one day, one of his army buddies said,
"Aren't you going to do anything besides sit in this trailer every day? Aren't
you going to get a job or something?"
After months of crafting everything I could with the craft talent that I had, I got a job as an educational assistant at an elementary school in Waynesville MO. We had moved to a different mobile home with neighbors who worked on base so the car was mine now every day.

Working at a school for that year only encouraged me to want to go back to finish what I had started with my college degree. Before our tour of duty with the army ended, I had reapplied to enter school again to student teach when we returned to Wisconsin. We had grown to like the extra money that a second income brought in and with one more semester, I could graduate with a degree and ability to find a job as a teacher.

I returned to Madison one month prior to Mike's return. We had found an apartment on a bus line so there was easy access to the school that I was assigned to for student teaching. For that one month, I went about doing the work that I needed to do but was anxious for Mike to join me. Infact, I was a little nervous and jealous of what he might be doing with a bunch of single guys back at Ft. Leonard Wood. I became worried that he would stop needing me now that his time in the army was almost done.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Life's Journeys - Part 1

How is it that we become the person that we are? What makes up the "being" part of human?

I spend more time these days reflecting on life in general but more and more about the path that I have taken in this journey. Every once in awhile, there will be something that triggers a thought and it's amazing how that thought, which could be a memory from 40 or 50 years ago, still leaves you with feeling of joy, saddness, or anger even today.

This week, I had a thought about the stress that I caused my mother and ultimately the stress that she caused me! I have told my kids about how stories about me as a baby were not really flattering. I screamed and cried, turned blue and even passed out when I didn't get my way! So, who couldn't love that?
As I grew older, I had a fear of my mom that I couldn't really explain but found out from my brothers that she used to get very angry with me and her anger always included physical punishment. I know of times, when I was older, how she would use whatever was handy to strike out at one of us - fly swatters, yard sticks, boards - she was often angry!
When I went to college, something she thought silly for a woman to do, I came home every weekend out of duty until I got up the nerve to stay at school one weekend. I had so much work to do, I told my mom. I needed the weekend to just get caught up! It was the beginning of my real independence! That one weekend was a symbol of me taking charge of myself! Over the first months in college, I struggled with feeling incompetent. I failed a math class because I didn't know how to drop it! I got C's in everything else because I had signed up for 18 credits! Who does that their first semester? But I didn't quit - partially because I didn't want to move home to my mother!
I stayed on for another semester and effectively turned it around! I again took charge of my life. Afterall, that's what it's really about isn't it? It's not about blaming other's for your fate or expecting others to make you happy. It's about making it your journey!
To be continued...

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Closing the Door

House of Wisconsin Cheese closed it's doors on State Street this week. It had been a Peschel family business until Mike Peschel, Erin and Katie's dad died in 1995. Before that, it had belonged to their grandpa, Jim Peschel, Sr.

The girls grew up playing in the upstairs of the old store but they also learned how to cut and wrap cheese and make gift boxes and party cheese trays. Most importantly, they learned how to wait on customers. They could answer any question related to cheese, ring up sales and make change by the time they were 8 years old. They didn't understand why people would smile but not really take them seriously. Being nice to people was absolutely necessary because the business needed them to survive. In the old store, their grandpa had sold toilet paper and cat food along with cheese gift products...because that's what people bought! When Mike took it over, he pulled all of those products off the shelves and moved to a more streamlined speciality store. Yet, making a living was not possible without adding something other than cheese so he added deli sandwiches. Then the girls learned how to do the daily prep necessary for such a venture.

Every day was a challenge. What will sell? What needs to go? It was a journey like any other that had it's moments of celebration and moments of utter despair. In the end, the girl's dad left parting words that said "No matter what you do with your life, don't go into retail." It was too hard to make it successful!

15 years ago, another person bought the business with confidence and a dream. He believed that he had the right mix and could make the House of Wisconsin Cheese a success. For 15 years he battled with the same demons...What will sell? What should go? He felt that Mike's spirit lived in the store. But this week, without official notification, he closed the door and walked away!

Erin and Katie and I had the chance to walk through the store one last time. With saddness we looked at abandoned memories. We had always thought that perhaps Mike's spirit lingered in the store. Perhaps he helped it to survive for 15 more years. Now it is a picture of random clutter. For 15 years, each of us would periodically visit, holding on to the spirit perhaps! We have come to believe that everything happens for a reason. We look for the lesson in each occurance. What is the lesson here?

For 15 years, the three of us have moved on but also battled with thoughts of why their dad chose to leave. Still for 15 years, all three of us have taken our turn at calling out to his spirit to help with something. The clutter of the store feels now like the clutter of our thoughts trying to work through tough times in our lives. Perhaps we are supposed to realize that Mike Peschel does not have the answer nor does he now, in his spirit world, have some super power that he didn't possess here on earth! Perhaps he has been trying to tell us that. Perhaps we are supposed to let him go so that he can move on. Perhaps the message that we are supposed to carry away from our journey back to this store is...

It's time to close the door!