The Tour

Washington State Veterans Home at Retsil

Yesterday, we toured the facility where Mom will spend her final days. It’s a VA home in Retsil, Washington, just outside Port Orchard. We drove up a slight hill past several well-marked buildings. Maintenance. Shop. Storage. Mom brought her walker but her main caregiver, Connie, fetched a wheelchair for maneuverability and a little more speed.

VA home

A sign taped to the door said “This is a no-weapons facility”. It’s very nice, bright and modern, with inverted cup-and-saucer-style light fixtures. It seemed a hybrid of light industrial and Danish modern. Our guide, Rachel, walked us through the main area. Rachel remembered Mom and Connie.

We walked down the hallway. A queen-sized quilt covered the wall, emblazoned with the words “Thank You For Your Service”. It’s because of Mom’s tour in the Navy that we had this tour.

VA home main entry

“This is the PT, OT and speech therapy room,” she said (below). A small white dog ran out to greet us. He barked at us, sizing us up.

OT room

“Oh, that’s Buster, the therapy dog,” she grinned. “He lives here.” Buster ran off with his toy. Several therapy dogs make their home there.

We wandered into what the home calls “neighborhoods”, which translated into wings or units. Each neighborhood has its own mini dining area. The bedrooms are dorm-style, next door to each other with a shared wall between. No actual door separates the room from the main hallway, only a curtain. The restroom is shared as well. Residents receive several staff check-ins per day. Laundry service and medications are included in the monthly fee.

Va home room

“If you want a single room, I would suggest getting on the waiting list now,” Rachel said. Those rooms had actual doors and total privacy, with en suite restrooms. Rachel pointed out the activity calendar. Every day had something to look forward to. They even have a stripped down version of The Nutcracker performance every Christmas season.

“The first resident here, Ray, came from Orting. He travelled by horseback, canoe and on foot. He died in a duel with another resident,” Rachel informed us. Hence the no weapons policy, methinks.

We wandered outside into a great bowl of blue sky and sunshine. We tried to explore the old chapel, but it was locked. We stepped down the path to the original building. It’s slated to be demolished due to asbestos abatement. Past that building is a great view of the sea. A cool breeze reminded us that fall is indeed here. I think it’s only fitting Mom end up next to the ocean, since she served in the Navy.

The dining hall opened at 11:30. The six of us had tickets to eat there. Who says there’s no free lunch? The menu included main dish choices of chili con carne, chef salad and chicken-fried steak. I heard the chili was good. The chicken-fried steak was not. They also offered jello, which all of us skipped. And not because of Bill Cosby.

VA home dining area

Despite all the windows and light wood, the spaces managed to feel intimate. No area felt too large. Nothing felt impersonal. I could appreciate capturing as much natural light as possible since 8 months of the year Washington can expect gray skies. The staff were kind and caring. Most residents self-propelled in wheelchairs or with walkers and seemed well cared for. Unfortunately, Mom is on a waiting list. The majority of veterans are men. The home meets a quota of settling in a certain amount of men first, then they take a woman. It makes sense. But it’s the opposite everywhere else.

Both Jonathon and I have to work and can’t take care of Mom regularly, which has been hard. Connie, Mom’s friend and a former nurse, does the heavy lifting, and will soon have another gal to spell her.  My brother and I plus our families pitch in on scheduled weeknights until a room opens for Mom. I am proud of Mom for serving our country, for serving her tour. Now our country will serve her. This facility, with their kindness and compassion, will help Mom have a better quality of life. She will be surrounded by like-minded peers, interesting activities, natural beauty, and someone else will do the laundry. I am grateful. I trust God to take care of the rest.

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Abide

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So I ran 3 miles today. Not an accident. My foot has healed, slowly but surely. And somehow, I’ve gotten faster. What in the world?? Do I run without stopping? No. I take walk breaks when needed. Because I think I’ve finally gotten the message that walking is not weakness. In fact, work and rest are synergists. One fuels the other. Resting without hard work makes a person feel listless and restless; working without resting opens the door to injuries and burnout.

Between the master’s classes, serving at church, work and family obligations, I felt tapped out. My mom’s losing the battle with Parkinson’s; she is nearly homebound now. We are working to get her into a VA home in Port Orchard soon. I haven’t felt like I could breathe or relax or think. At least not for very long. I snapped at people closest to me. Hope ran low. I found myself responding in cynicism instead of empathy and kindness. I sensed something was wrong. I couldn’t quite get out of the funk. I blamed it on the end of summer, on the difficult classes, on morale at work.

After one particularly bad day, Jonathon heard me out. He looked at me thoughtfully.

“You know, Sue, you’re burned out,” he said.

I didn’t like his analysis at first. I mulled it over. Could it be? He explained how he had reached that point not too long ago and stepped back from some responsibilities for a time to focus on receiving refreshing and vision. He came back to tasks ready to serve and engage again.

Yeah. His diagnosis of my mindset was right on. I guess after 27 years of marriage he *does* know me.

I’m learning at my advanced age that it’s okay to stop and rest. It’s okay to take breaks. You have not lost if you step back for a season. It is not a defeat. It is not a concession, merely a pause. You can take a moment to regroup and restrategize, come at it all again with renewed vigor and drive.

I am learning to lean even more on Jesus, the True Vine. Gonna spend some time abiding. He truly knows where I’ve been and where I’m going. So I’m taking 6 months off from worship team, the only place I can really ramp down. That starts October 1. I dearly wish I could take 6 months off work. However, since I’m the only one employed at the moment, probably not a good idea.

I fully expect resting to chafe. I like being busy and feeling like what I do contributes, even if in a small way. I like doing stuff. Just like it did with running, I hope to find that resting brings unique benefits that checking boxes, although sexy, does not.
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing…” – John 15:5

Summer’s End

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The silver curtain has fallen. Summer is over in Shelton. Outside resembles a November storm. Temps won’t even hit 60 today. Leaves fall and the light has shifted. Plus, pumpkin spice. So, yeah. Summer, we barely knew ye! Please come again.

But there is good news. The summer term of Capella’s master’s program is over. It officially ended last Friday (the 13th). The infamous Dr. P of Ethics in the Public Sector sent out several emails. Wanting to finish early, I turned in the last of my work for that class on Saturday, September 7. Every time I got email, my heart would leap. It leapt very high when he created a new running calculator in Blackboard based on all the class assignments, not just on the ones that were graded. In other words, taking points earned divided by total points possible. That put me at a 69.9% in his new category called “final grade”. My heart plummeted into my socks. Still not sure why he did that, since Blackboard, the grading system, runs a current tally all the time based on submitted work, not all the assignments for the class. I did not respond to this email either, because his creating that category seemed unnecessary busywork and would cause more problems than solutions.

Maybe the emails would stop? But alas. “You should consider taking this FEMA training” with 14 paragraphs on how non-emergency management personnel needed the free seminar. Or “Capella offers these writing classes focusing on different areas”. Delete. And of course, “the class ends September 13. Here is every policy in the world Capella has for courses and grades”. Delete. Next up, “just touching base with everyone. Do you need anything from me?” Sigh. Maybe grade something?! Delete. Lastly, “here’s my personal email. I’m available outside the courseroom”. I emailed him a thank you because that needed a response. Not quite lastly, I guess, since 2 more emails came extending due dates because of Capella’s website conking out on folks.

Then nothing for 3 days. The last assignment for week 10 counted as 30% of my grade. It could still tank my GPA. I waited. I stalked the gradebook several times a day. Crickets.

Then last night, another email. “An attempt has been graded for 10A1”. Eek! I clicked and clicked to get to the grade. I got a….drumroll, please…99! I about fainted. Then I danced awkwardly because I could and it was dark. His feedback said the work was “outstanding” and “well thought out”. Yippee!

I breathed a sigh of great relief. Thank you, Lord. Let the break begin! Can we rewind summer?!

 

 

Academic Honesty, Part 2

keep-calm-and-get-good-grades

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By now, this short history is well known.

Here’s the update.

Turns out I hadn’t emailed my professor about he week 4 paper, only my advisor. Either the email never went through, or I only thought about doing it. The advisor, MJ, asked if I would like her to email him. Yes! Please.

Still nothing. That was Monday of this week.

Then I called MJ on Tuesday. She wasn’t available, so I got someone else. That someone told me Dr. P had 72 hours to respond to my email. I needed to give him time. I said I understood. Yet…

“But it’s been 3 weeks,” I said.

She put me on a hold and spoke to MJ, who confirmed she too had emailed Dr. P. She agreed with the latest advisor that I should chill and wait to hear back.

Don’t wanna.

I was not happy. See, Dr. P had also deducted 10 points on a late post from week 6. I had asked for APA advice, since he’s the guru. He responded late. I asked if I should still go and revise the reference, even though the due date was past. He said yes. So, I did. Good thing I still had the entire email stream. I forwarded it to him. He quickly altered my grade, but still had issues with my post. Whatever. Am I supposed to babysit professors?

Then, I got an email later Tuesday from Dr. P.

Susan: 

Thanks for reaching out. You need to upload the work again (the plagiarism issue was resolved, but that was tied to the first submission). The assignment must be uploaded into the assignment area to be graded. The original date/time will be honored. Sorry if that was unclear before.

Um. Yeah.

Dr. P.:

No, that was not communicated. I’ve uploaded it now. 

He thanked me and then proceeded to grade week 7’s assignment. Um, what? Week 4 still sits, and it’s Thursday. Now my grade sits at 68%. Which is still failing, in Capella’s eyes.

By Friday, after getting yet another “hang in there!” phone call from MJ, I had had it. Seriously, dude? How passive-aggressive are you? Why are you doing this?? Why can’t anything be done here? I was angry.

 

It hurt. It took some forgiving, let me tell you, because it felt so personal. And not just Dr. P.

This morning, I logged into the courseroom, disgusted and determined to finish the final 2 weeks of ethics class assignments as quickly as possible and move on. I saw this message on the home page:

Displaying +/- 7 Days

  • [u04a1] Unit 4 Assignment 1 has been graded.

What?? When? Eek! I steeled myself. A cold sweat formed on my forehead. What would it be? It’s taken 5 weeks.

I got a 92. He dinged me on APA – again – but both Jonathon and I discovered we had old information. Dr. P put up a PowerPoint outlining how page headings and paper headings should look. So, Dr. Isham and I both learned something. According to the 6th edition of the APA manual,  all of my paper headings and titles for the last 3 classes used incorrect formatting. Go figure. The template I used was provided by the other instructor I have this quarter. He doesn’t know, either. Dr. P said in his comments that I could resubmit the paper. Not sure it’s worth it. I’d like to move on.

Thanks be to God.

 

Last Word

gun

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Not this. 

Now that I have your attention…

So I still don’t have a grade for that week 4 paper that got me accused of plagiarism.

It’s now nearing the end of week 8.

I have tried to be patient. I emailed the instructor and my advisor, seeking guidance. Dr. P, the teacher, sent out an email to the class over the weekend: “I’m catching up on grading everything from weeks 1-6 and should be done by end of day Sunday, August 25. As a reminder, the last day to drop a class is Monday, August 26. Please message me if you have questions or concerns over your grades.”

I tried not to make it feel too pointed. Because ever since week 4, my class percentage for PUAD 7025, Ethics in the Public Sector, has hovered at a whopping 49%. Oh, sometimes it goes up and down a few hundredths of a decimal point, depending on the week’s discussion grades, but still, any way you slice it it’s an F.

I have checked in on the week 4 assignment now and then, to visit, and see if it got graded in stealth mode and maybe I didn’t receive one of Capella’s funky emails. But those emails always come, saying “an attempt has been graded in blah blah class”. An attempt, meaning a submitted assignment of some sort. Great vote of confidence, that.

Every time I check it, I see the 0. But it’s not just a 0, folks. It’s a -0. As if to say, “Well, you got a zero, but in case you were blasé or ambivalent about what that score means, now it has a minus attached to it. So there!” The great 0 paper of week 4 sucked my grade down into an enormous, swirling black hole of failure.

“Sue, you need to stop picking at that scab,” Jonathon admonished me. “You can’t do anything more.”

He is right, of course. I have to surrender and be patient; it’s the only place of peace. Capella doesn’t get to decide I’m a failure. And all I can think of are the words that came to mind last Sunday during worship: last word. Jesus has the last word over my life and circumstances. Not some prestigious online university. Not my employers past or present. Not friends and not family. Only Jesus. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. It ain’t over yet. He gets the last word.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God. “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come—the Almighty One.” Revelation 1:8-10

 

 

Academic Honesty?

While on bereavement leave, I requested extra time on the work for the 2 classes I’m taking. One professor (Ethics) gave me an extra week; the other (Theories and Practices of Public Administration) said to take all the time I needed. This helped me prioritize time. I did the Ethics class work first, turning the 4-page paper in a day early.

Imagine my surprise when it came back as a 0. Goose egg. Zip.

What?! I looked at the scoring rubric, where he had marked each category as “non-performing”. What the heck?! Jonathon reads my paper for sanity and APA. It was fine. Wasn’t it? The teacher’s message to me was very vague, saying he would communicate via the classroom messaging system. Maybe someone was caught cheating, or the system was down? Every assignment submitted to Capella has to be vetted through a software, SafeAssign, designed to detect any published sources. I waited.

The next morning at 6:30 a.m. I received a form email about academic honesty. For my Ethics class. My blood ran cold. It said I had plagiarized on the assignment and would be allowed a conference call with Dr. P., reviewing my report. I could revise and resubmit my assignment for 20 points off. Great. I felt humiliated, sad and frustrated. I did not plagiarize. Did I?

Dr. P. and I held our conference call a week ago, Thursday afternoon. He was very gracious and matter-of-fact as we reviewed my report. He talked me through how SafeAssign flags all references and citations. That’s normal. He said a lot of factual statements get caught, too, like “water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit”. Can’t change that, it is what it is. But he pointed out 2 highlighted areas in my paper.

“We know 99% of plagiarism is unintentional,” Dr. P. said.

Gulp. I appreciated the vote of confidence.

Back to the report.

“See #4? Click on it?” he directed.

You can click on it? You can open it up and see what’s there? Inconceivable! I didn’t know that.

Once I did, it looked as if I’d copied my information verbatim from another student’s paper. Note to self: SafeAssign doesn’t care if you said it if someone else said it the same way first. Clicking #7, the other offending item, revealed that I had quoted a source, listed in the references, almost word for word.

OK. So I don’t know everything. I can learn. We chatted a bit more and I said I didn’t want to appeal it through a committee, which was an option. I would revise and resubmit and take the 20-point hit. I signed off and opened my paper, determined to take care of it right away.

Wait a minute. Both of the suspicious items were long quotes in my paper, cited correctly. Now what? I felt vindicated. But maybe my APA was off? I single-spaced them and indented them as taught. What if the software flagged them in error? Suddenly, I felt better. I wasn’t sleep walking and eating a bowl of cereal, or a sleepwalking serial killer. I emailed my paper to Dr. P., explaining what I’d found.

I waited. I worked on all the other assignments for both classes. I stalked email. Dr. P. acknowledged the email but nothing more. I checked the Ethics class page to see an updated grade for week 4’s assignment, something. Nothing. A week went by. I struggled to let God handle it, for surely He would vindicate me. Wouldn’t He? Meanwhile, my confidence plummeted. Could I even do this work? Did I belong in the program? I had to take those thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). I could not afford to let them spiral me down.

Yesterday, I emailed Dr. P. to inquire on status. Almost immediately, he copied me on an email to Learner Affairs, telling them to “close out” the report on me. He also pointed out this was a “new issue” when migrating from the former plagiarism software to this one. I love to be on the cutting edge!  I confess I did cry a little. Thank you, Jesus!

I do belong in this program. That’s the truth. I have what it takes, leaning heavily on Jesus. Academic honesty goes both ways.

Batarang!

Last night, I woke up past 11:00 p.m. Somehow the room had gotten warm, and I was sweaty. I looked up at the ceiling fan, ticking away. Something was flying around. A large insect, mayhaps?

No.

baby bat flying

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“Is that… a bat?” I asked Jonathon, nudging him awake. Because we have had bat visitations 2 other times. As in, twice, once in Portland and once in our previous house in Shelton.

“Looks like it,” he said. We dragged ourselves out of bed and onto the floor. I shoved my glasses on to see better in the dark. We knew the drill. We sat with our backs to the bedroom door and watched the fledgling bat follow the ceiling fan around and around, maniacally orbiting the air-splitter. All I could think was, Again??

“Maybe if we opened the door it would find its way out,” I suggested. We have a small deck off the master bedroom. Jonathon crawled over the threw the door open. There! But the bat continued to circle and circle, oblivious.

After about 15 minutes, Jonathon advised me to head downstairs.

“He’s swooping lower and lower as he gets tired,” he said.

I brought a pillow down to the living room couch, away from Zac tickety-ticketying on the computer keyboard and Dakota’s bedroom in the rotunda. I laid down and waited for sleep to claim me again. Overhead, I could hear Jonathon trying to escort the bat out. Unfortunately, it sounded like a lot of thumping at irregular intervals, aka a ballerina on steroids.

After an interminable amount of time, I heard him descend the stairs. He walked over to Zac and explained his mission. I know this because I heard Zac say, “What??” Then Jonathon walked over and closed a pocket door to keep it quieter for me.

“Is it gone?” I asked from the couch.

“No,” he said, “just getting more tools.” Then he headed to the basement.

Moving to my office seemed the best solution. I pulled out a fuzzy blanket and situated myself on the plush carpet, ignoring the pine needles and dog hair. I didn’t think I would sleep. But I did. Having a door to close made all the difference against a potential bat invasion and extra noise.

In the morning, Jonathon told me it was a baby bat, and he’s pretty sure (!) it escaped our room. Infant bats fledge in August. They start learning to fly, and use their echolocation to guide them. The poor little guy upstairs would stop flying and attempt to land on the wall, only to slide off and have to fly again. He is a work in progress.

The only way Jonathon was able to lure it out was to close all the windows and leave the door open. Only one way out, just like a lot of humans. Block every exit and maybe, finally, we get the hint. Doors opening and closing make all the difference. They shape our potential. Changing our perspective allows for new directions; noticing when doors are shut against us makes us search for another opening, often helping us find the one we were meant for all along. Friends, we are all works in progress.

Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends...” – Revelation 3:20