I freaked out this morning. I was I lying in bed trying to remember what I had been dreaming about, and I thought of a line I wanted to add to the novel I'm writing.
I started writing on November 1st. My library is sponsoring NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month. If you write 1667 words every day during the month of November, you will have a 50,000 word novel by the end of the month, which is the same size of The Great Gatsby - just to give you an idea of what 50,000 words look like.
Anyway, I went to my computer to add the line that I had been thinking about, and when I opened Word, I couldn't find my novel! I didn't panic at first, because I thought, surely it's backed up somewhere on the hard drive. I could not find it. While I'm frantically scanning everywhere I can think to look, I'm simultaneously thinking how am I going to rewrite all those pages? And to make it worse, the jump drive wasn't showing up on my computer's screen. I've been leaving the jump drive plugged in.
I've used a PC for years, and this is my first Mac, so I'm not as familiar with its machinations. I thought to touch the jump drive which is plugged into the back of the computer screen - it's different on a PC. When I touched it, the jump drive icon lit up on the screen. Oh, thank You, God!
I opened up the files on the jump drive, and there was my novel - all 30 pages of it. Yay!
So I immediately printed them out in order to have a hard copy of it. I will print out every 5 pages I write each day, so just in case, I will have a copy.
I wasn't worried about losing my novel on the computer until today. Unlike with my dissertation, I had copies of it stashed everywhere, in case the house burned down. I gave a copy to Wayne to keep at his office, my typist had a copy at her house, and I had two copies at home. This was in the days of the floppy disc, and I had copies of the disc everywhere, too. The dissertation was the culmination of 10 years of work, and if I lost it, I don't know how I would have coped. Luckily, I did not have to find out because I didn't lose it.
When I first started out as a school social worker, I had a supervisor who lost my statistics that we had to hand in at the end of every month. I loved Robert LeBlanc, and he was a good supervisor, but he did have a tendency to lose things. The first time he told me he lost my statistics, which had taken a long, arduous time to compile, I started making copies of everything I handed in to him. So that's when I started making copies of whatever I was working on and didn't want to lose.
Robert was the person responsible for me getting the job with the Orleans Parish School Board. I had been working as a counselor/probation officer with the District Attorney's Diversionary Program, where first time felony offenders could complete a counseling program, reimburse victims for any monetary loss, and be on probation for a set amount of time. At the end of their probationary period, their arrest record would be expunged. One of the clients who came through the program was deaf, and he was a student at McMain High School, where there was a program for deaf and hearing impaired students attending (deaf and hard-of-hearing). Robert was the school social worker for the deaf and hearing impaired students, and when he came with his client, he told me about the program in Special Education. I had no idea about school social work, but I wanted to be able to communicate with my client. My boss at the time, Bob, agreed that I could attend sign language classes at Delgado Community College four days a week for 8 weeks. The classes were in the morning for about three hours.
In order to become more fluent in sign language, we had to do ten hours of contact with deaf people. One lady in the class suggested finding a deaf church, and I started attending the Canal Street Baptist Deaf Church in New Orleans. It was a small group, but the minister, Donnie Wiltshire, was gifted, and I got so much out of attending there. The deaf people were kind to me, and I was about the only hearing person there, so I had lots of opportunity to practice my sign language skills. It got to the point that I used to talk to myself in sign language. Every time I listened to the radio, I would sign the songs, even when I was stopped at a red light - that would get some looks from other drivers, and when I realized that it looked crazy, I signed below the steering wheel.
I worked at the District Attorney's office as a diversionary counselor for four years. When Robert was going to switch from being a school social worker to working with the Pupil Appraisal Department with the school system, he called me and asked if I would like to take his job. There were only four social workers in the city at that time that were licensed social workers who knew sign language. Would I take the job? He only had to say 3 months summer vacation and all school holidays off - twist my little finger. Yes, I'll take the job.
I started working with New Orleans Public Schools in February of 1982. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Robert LeBlanc, who took me under his arm and mentored me. He not only taught me the school social work duties, but he helped me to learn the streets of New Orleans. I had 17 schools all over the city: Uptown, Central City, Westbank, Garden District, Ninth Ward, Lower Ninth Ward. I loved being the "deaf social worker."
It's been 40 years, but I can still remember some of the names of the schools:
McDonogh 24, McMain, Livingston, Beauregard, Schwartz, Edna Karr, Robert E. Lee, Fortier, George Washington, Danneel, Carver, Ben Franklin. Navigating my way around the schools was another thing I had to learn. Some of those school buildings were huge. I remember so many of the students and can still see their faces in my mind, and all the different personalities. Just the other day, I ran into one of the teachers from McDonogh 24. What a full life I've had with so many people...
Some of the schools had large numbers of deaf students, and some had only one student who needed assistance. I'd check in with each school weekly, but by the end of two weeks, I went to my supervisor's supervisor, and I said, "If you want to kill the only social worker you have that knows sign language, this is a good way to do it." She realized that 17 schools a week was too much, and she cut the number of schools down to 11. It was still too much, but doable. I always did have a lot of energy.
Lots of the names of the schools have been changed because the people the schools had been named for were slave owners. At the time they decided this, I thought to myself, "Yeah, change the names, but what about changing the environment? The school buildings are falling apart."
The students I worked with had different levels of ability. Some were extremely intelligent, and some were unable to communicate at all, couldn't walk, and some were blind as well as deaf, and some were autistic, blind, deaf, and developmentally delayed. Back in the days I worked with this population, developmentally delayed was "retarded," but that term isn't used any more. When I couldn't work directly with the students who were developmentally delayed in multiple areas, I worked with the teachers and parents of the children.
I was only one social worker with so many students, so I worked in groups with the kids. Most of the time, I was teaching social skills. Their parents hadn't learned sign language, so there were lots of things that were not communicated to their children. I ended up teaching them things that parents should have been teaching. That's where I got the idea for my dissertation topic of family communication patterns and self-esteem in relation to deafness.
The group of students at Danneel Pre-Vocational School were deaf, but didn't know much sign language, as they were developmentally delayed. I communicated with them using art. I would bring art books, and they'd draw what they saw. Some of those kids were talented to the point of being savants.
I brought some figure drawing books, but that stopped when Jeffrey's mom told the teacher, "I don't want him drawing pictures of naked ladies." So we improvised and drew other subjects. That's when I started going to art galleries and getting ideas about things my kids could draw. I would look at the art hung up in galleries, and some of it, I thought to myself, my kids could do better! And the prices! Why would someone pay $4000 for a big canvas painted red?
Well, it's almost noon, and I've only had one cup of coffee, so I'm going to eat breakfast and read the paper. The front page of the Times-Picayune shouts "Obama Triumphs." Gotta read all about it.
This has been a stream of consciousness entry. I never know where this blog will take me.
While I was typing, I saw what I thought was some of Violet's black fur on the carpet, but it turned out to be a huge spider. I screamed and stepped on it, but had to try to kill it three times. It's hard to kill a spider on carpet. Walter came in and would have eaten it, but I yelled, "Leave it!"
Oh, and today's my 59th birthday! The last of my 50's...
We're going to take Walter to the dog park at Bonnabel, and then we're going to Baskin-Robbins for ice cream. Going there is better than buying a gallon of ice cream from Winn-Dixie - we'll just have a little ice cream instead of a gallon. I'm sure our cardiologist would approve....
After we come home from our outing, Walter is getting a bath. And then, if there's time, I'll run to physical therapy and do my fitness routine. At 6:30 tonight, the novel writing group is meeting, and I'm bringing my 30 pages.
I told Wayne I want a telescope for my birthday, so we'll have to go looking. I'm not a stickler for having my present exactly on my birthday. In fact, I still haven't gotten the microscope I wanted for last year's birthday. I guess it's more the idea than actually having it. I'll get it eventually. And eventually we'll go out to eat at the Pelican Club to celebrate my birthday.
I can't remember where I got the idea, but I think around my 30th birthday, I decided I'd celebrate for 30 days, so ever since then, the days I celebrate my birthday have been increasing.
Then for Wayne's 50th birthday, I gave him 50 presents. I remember I got this idea from my friend, Gayle. Maybe she was the one who first gave me 30 presents on my 30th birthday, or was it 40 presents on my 40th?
OK - must end stream of consciousness.
Happy 59th Birthday to me!