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Archive for September, 2019

Oxygen Tank


The thing about teaching CPR – there’s so much equipment to lug around!  Mannequins, face shields, AEDs, and paperwork, paperwork, paperwork.  It’s a full-body workout by the time I close up shop for the day.  This class was for healthcare personnel, so I got to leave everything in the classroom but this backpack.

Wanna know why it’s so heavy?  Oxygen cylinder.  Gives you appreciation for people who have to tote around oxygen everywhere they go.  Now you appreciate that little cart.

So anyway, here I am going down the steps to the subway.  Typical rush hour crowd, smell of urine, flaking tiles, intermittent lights.  I get on the uptown train and stand for the first three stops until the old lady with her dog clears out of the seats by the back door.  I drop myself into the window seat and carefully lower the backpack to the floor.

Next stop, this guy sits down, crosses a Ked sneaker over his corduroy knee and ignores me.  Cause that’s what we do here.  We are passing Madison when the train starts to shiver and then jerks to a stop.  Bump-bump-bump, you know?  Not unusual, but then an alarm starts ringing, and everyone looks up. You can see the concern on their faces, you know?  Everyone hoping it’s just a little thing that’s gonna clear up in a minute and we can get on home to dinner, right?

It’s not.

The alarm keeps ringing and ringing, and then the lights go out.  We’re sitting in a box in the dark three stories underground in a little black tunnel with wires running down the walls.  It’s hot.  Everyone lights up their phones and start calling, “What’s happening?  What’s happening?”

Then the car starts to rock, and we think, earthquake?  Here?  This is like, the unseismic capital of the world.  Then the noise comes.  It’s a noise, but it more like a wave of violent sound that shakes the train and spills us on the floor like a bunch of beans in a box.

In the dark, the screams are scary.  People frantically lever the doors, force them open, and when they do, the gas comes in.

You can’t smell it, but you sure can taste it.  Bitter.  Nauseating.  Dries the throat instantly, rips at your lungs just for taking a breath.  I hear retching.

It must be instinct, like looking down at the scene of a cardiac arrest and finding you’re already doing chest compressions on the guy.  I look down, and I’m cranking the regulator on my oxygen bottle and digging in the pack for a tube.

The screaming is over.  Now it’s coughing and gagging, but that is dying out.  So are the passengers.  I’m holding my breath, attaching the tube to the bottle. Now I’m hooking the tube to the mask.  I don’t take time to fill the reservoir bag, I just suck in a breath of O2.  Then another.  The guy in the next seat is kicking me.  Not me, I realize as my brain clears.  He’s seizing.  His brain is hypoxic.  He’s dying.

I have to close my eyes because they sting.  The smell is coming in through my eyes, into my throat, so I squeeze them shut and ignore the pain.  I dig in my pack for another mask.  And another tube.  I’m about to hook them onto the other port on my tank.  I’m about to feel around frantically for the guy on the floor where he’s fallen.

And then I think about my chances if there’s two of us sucking on the same tank.

Punny Jokes from my Kids


Original jokes from my kids that gave us a good laugh:


Q: What do you call it when a bunch of military officers agree on something?

A: A general consensus!

(By L, who is nine)


“The Maine School of Masonry?  Is that a brick and mortar school?”

(By J, who is 14)

Homeschooling Like A Small Plane

Part of my flight to the North Woods involved a “short hop” from Boston to Maine.  Short hop translates to “small plane” in air travel parlance and traveling in one is very different from a trip in a massive transoceanic aircraft.

For one thing, when I checked in, they asked for my weight and assigned me a seat accordingly, for balance.  Secondly, the gate involved a set of stairs down to the tarmac and an escort to the side of the plane.  After tugging on the door, he waved me to clamber up and duck through a low door into the passenger compartment.

Once I resigned myself to the pilot holding her window open to stay cool, it was fun to see the towering planes around us as our flight took its place in line for take off.  She was still holding it open as we lifted into the sky.

Cruising altitude in these little nine-seaters, where I sat knee-to-knee with the other slightly pop-eyed passengers, is only about two thousand feet.  On a nice day – what a view!

The pilot turned the propellers toward our destination, and the plane surged forward.  Freakily, it also moved side-to-side as well as up-and-down.  No straight, smooth shot, this flight was subject to wind and air temperature changes that made for a bumpy, indirect ride.  Forget technology.  Judging by the way she peered over the dashboard, I think our pilot made her way north by following the silvery river north from the sea.

An hour after take-off, the co-pilot pointed out an airfield on the horizon.  A few moments later, we bumped to earth and pulled up in front of the tiniest terminal I’ve ever seen –  an eight-seat waiting room and a few bored TSA agents.  Off I went to the next phase of my journey.

It’s the movement of the little plane that makes me think of homeschooling.  If you’re coming from a traditional school setting, you’re used to a multi-engine juggernaut that launches and thunders straight toward the destination.  Homeschool?  Well, our goal is out there, but we’re following the river of our children’s changing academic needs.

That’s homeschooling.

You think, if I buy these books and this curriculum, follow these rules and do this paperwork, my child will fly right through school.  And they probably will.  Just be prepared for an indirect route. More progress one week than another.  More attention to academics one season than another.  More satisfaction with the process sometimes than others.  Up and down.  Side to side.  It’s okay.  Don’t worry.  Don’t buy more supplemental workbooks.  Don’t lay awake at night.  Propellers toward the destination, eyes on the landmarks, you’ll get them there.

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