Friday, June 22, 2012


I'm sitting in the Minneapolis airport right now posting on my iPhone. It's amazing to me how convenient and connected technology has made our lives. One can debate whether it has enriched or detracted from how people used to live. I tend to side with the former part of that debate but, regardless, it is remarkable.

I really don't want to comment on technology today. Rather I want to state that I miss Charlie. I know he is in good hands with our great friends Anna, Russ, their daughter Vivi, and Charlie's canine friends Porter and Ollie.

Charlie has quickly become an integral part of our small family. When my alarm (which is on my iPhone by the way) went off this morning at 4:30, the morning was different because Charlie was not there to leap out of his bed, like he always does when my alarm goes off. I've become accustomed to him, his personality, and his pure devotion to us.

I know he is just a dog, but he is an important part of our life. As we were printing our boarding passes at the Lincoln airport, an option was to add a "special passenger". I commented to Michelle that Charlie would be a great special passenger. Michelle didn't think Charlie would like the plane. I think the opposite. Charlie would be elated with the entire flying experience. Maybe I'm wrong. I would like to think I'm right.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Charlie's first emergency vet visit

Yesterday started off like any ordinary Saturday in the Pernicek household. We were planning on traveling to Central City to spend time with Michelle's family for Father's Day. I like to get up early on the weekend (when I don't work) to spend time relaxing on the couch, the rays of sun entering in the window, with a cup of coffee, and the laptop or a book. Charlie was sleeping next to me for a while until Michelle got up to enjoy our beginning laziness of the day.

Charlie needs serious and regular attention in the grooming department. He has eye ducts that produce a lot of excess discharge and we need to wipe that away for him. He also has a lot of ear buildup so those must be cleaned. Additionally his long hair (which falls out everywhere all the time) needs brushed and often becomes matted. We are not exactly the best human parents when it comes to the grooming department because we certainly do not maintain a regular schedule.

On this particular morning I was distracted. I was engrossed in The National Writing Project's Blog Talk Radio. If you know nothing about the National Writing Project, it is a phenomenal organization that believes teachers are the change agents in education and since teachers are the ones with the knowledge and expertise, they are the ones who are bust suited to improve teaching and learning in schools. This is accomplished in many ways, in various factions, mainly through local sites in states all across the nation. It is the only federally funded program that focuses solely on improving writing. Check out the NWP website to learn more about this wonderful organization.

I had my headphones in, listening to editors and authors of the book What Teaching Means: Stories From America's Classrooms. This book, in which I have an essay, is a unique, honest portrayal of what it means to teach, and my friend Susan Martens was on the show, along with some other authors who I had not met.The conversation had my entire attention when Charlie let out a loud yelp. I looked up briefly and saw that he was OK. Michelle was cutting out matted chunks of hair under Charlie's ears. I quickly went back to Blog Talk Radio.

I don't remember what really happened next, but something pulled me away from the show and I saw Michelle huddled on the floor of the living room, crying, and clutching Charlie close to her. I asked what she was doing and she said that she accidentally cut him. I probably was not very nice in my response, forcefully saying, "You cut him?" I hit pause, pulled out the headphones, and went to investigate. Poor Charlie, had a significant surface level cut underneath his left ear. Charlie was acting fine, but the visit to the vet ended in three staples, some medication, and bit of sympathy and mild scolding from the vet. Charlie loves his vet and he didn't object or make any protests to the staples. He was just happy to be able to see more people than originally planned that day.

After the Vet, we headed on to Central City and continued with rest of our day, where Charlie enjoyed himself like he always does, chasing the other dogs, taking naps, running around the house, and dashing to the refrigerator every time someone went to get ice for their drink.

Friday, June 15, 2012

People Watching from my Lunch Window at Work

My favorite thing to do during work is spend time looking out a window. I know, strange. Let me explain.

I've noticed that florescent lighting has a negative effect on me. It's not like I immediately react to it by feeling extremely ill. But I do feel overanxious, or stressed, or hyperactive. When I was a teacher, my classroom was lit entirely by florescent lighting, aside from one small window in the corner. I enjoyed nothing more than turning out the lights in the room before or after school to grade papers by the window with a lamp on for extra softer light. It calmed me. I felt more productive. Because I noticed such a change in myself, I choose one year to turn off a row of florescent lights and bring in extra lamps for lighting for my students. I have no conclusive evidence they were more engaged or that their learning was enhanced. In fact, most days there was no detectable difference between florescent lighting and dim lamps. Someone should study that though.

I have read before (and I wish that I could remember where so I could cite the original piece) that natural outdoor lighting is good for people. I hope I'm not making this up, but I think it stated that those who work with a window in their office, or who make a point to look outside the window are happier and more productive (or something to that effect). Again, I'm not going to go any further without being able to back any of this up. To add some credibility to what I'm saying, here is a website I like that speaks to the importance of natural light for people: Beat the Wintertime Blues with Natural Light.

The point is, although I'm currently not teaching, I still work in a place with florescent lighting. I hate it. Additionally, my office is in the corner with no windows, which I equally despise. So when I have a particularly hectic day, I eat my lunch in a room at work with windows. I turn off the lights, sit at a table that faces the window and eat my lunch. I have a spectacular view of the busy street and intersection, along with the parking lot of the retail store where I work.

Gazing out the window not only rejuvenates me, it also provides an opportunity for great people watching. I must admit, people watching is one of my most favorite pass-times. It allows me to quietly let go and observe the ordinary moments of others' days: near collisions about to happen before either driver notices a potential for danger, a rushed mother balancing her recently purchased items and her three children, the elderly person who struggles to put one foot before the other, the casual person making a short pit-stop in work-out clothing, or the inquisitive child who takes off running across the parking lot with no sense of fear or imminent danger.

Today I had a late 4:00 lunch, a time when a shift-change takes place at our store. One after another, people, alike in their dress-code, make the trek in from employee parking at the far end of the lot. As I watched each person head toward the building, I realized I hired almost all of them. I had some part in their work, their life that day, their employment. I shaped their training, which in turn, influences how well they do their job. I stopped eating and smiled to myself. I was a little proud in that moment, excited for what each person's shift might bring that day. I sent positive thoughts their way, hoping that they would actually reach them.

Soon my lunch was no longer in front of me. I wanted to stay at the window, yet somehow managed the motivation to gather up the empty reusable containers and finish the rest of my day.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Charlie is a dog that struggles with patience. He is very excitable and when he wants something, he wants it immediately.

Charlie desires nothing more than to please his human owners. He needs to be wherever we are at all times. If he gets left alone in a room of our small 800 square foot house (which we have lovingly dubbed "the castle") he will saunter over to where we are. It is awfully common for him to pitter-patter behind our heals as we move about. His inability to be content while alone can be one of the most infuriating things about him. However, his loyalty is the most endearing.

We have a short, nine foot, space between the back door of the castle and the gate to the back yard. When Charlie spends time outside he is initially thrilled until he realizes that we are not there with him. From the house it is common to hear him pawing at the chain-link fence. The rattling of it, as it jangles back and forth, can be heard through the entire castle. Charlie will impatiently, with increasingly persistence, make the metal fence ring with fierce sound until we come to open the gate and let him re-join us in the house.

Today at work, the internet was maddeningly slow. Waiting for what was probably only minutes seemed several times that. That moment made me realize how impatient I am and how much I take for granted. I remember a day when people tolerated a website taking time to load because that was how the internet worked. Today, a slow connection or peak usage times make me annoyed. I think I have become so accustomed to the quickness of everything around me. If I need to tell someone something I can shoot off a quick text message. When I need to verify something, I can quickly reference Google and find my answer.

I'm not blaming my impatience on technology--although I think our technological lifestyles may contribute to my inability to be patient--because I've always been somewhat restless. By nature, I know that I'm anxiously future-oriented. I always am ready to move on. I'm a planner. When something is not going the way I want it, I want it to be corrected immediately. When a task is completed I move on to what is next. Waiting makes me uneasy.

Embracing the here and now requires a certain calmness. A state of mind. A way of being.

I often wonder how a little patience could improve the livelihood of everyone. Although,we first must learn to be patient with ourselves--our failures, insecurities, dreams, and uncertainties. I'm not sure what that would look like, but I bet it would require a different process for everyone. That inner-patience would probably make us better people. We would listen longer, enough to really understand others. If we first gave ourselves a little credit, we would be more content with not only ourselves but with what we have. We would be more grateful. In turn, we would treat others better because we would be patient enough to have tolerance for those unlike ourselves.

I'm going to work on becoming more patient in all aspects of my life. While working on that goal, I wonder what changes I will experience.

Monday, June 11, 2012


Today, at work, I did something that no one ever wants to do. I went to visit a co-worker who was just diagnosed with cancer. Being ill is never a good thing but the "c"-word seems to carry with it a certain understanding that we are all mortal. Sometime, someday, we will have to face the reality of what we choose (or chose) to deem as important in life.

I've watched Laura regularly. My office sits at the end of the long hallway all employees travel down at least twice a day--once to punch in and once to punch out on the time clock. My view from the office window grants me the perspective into these two moments of their day. For the early birds, I see their determination, positive energy, and potential they are ready to encounter that day. For others, their hurried stress, minds elsewhere on what comes next, or a frustrated defeatedness, an all-knowingly prediction of the work before them. Still others make the dazed casual saunter on the way in, no urgency beyond any movement. All these workers have a story. Sometimes I get to engage in brief conversation with them. Oftentimes it is a ritualistic exchange of pleasantries, "hellos", "good-mornings", and "how are yous" that don't stand a chance of delving beyond the surface. Nevertheless, I can identify with all of those countless forms of walks down the hallway.

Laura's walk has progressively changed the past few months. Her pace has slowed and so has her spirit. Her gait has become shorter. She used to smile before she punched in. Sometimes she would stop to talk. Lately, taking the extra few steps over to the office door after entering her number into the time clock have required such energy that she barely smiles an acknowledgement that I'm there. Her walk had turned into a limp, a hobble, a slow painstakingly effort-filled job that should require little thought.

Friday I didn't see her walk toward me to punch in. I saw her at the other end of the hallway, ready to round the corner toward the exit. She had stopped at an office doorway. Even though I didn't see her face, I knew she was upset. Crying.

Soon I learned she had already left for the day, even though it was still morning. I heard that she was headed to the hospital. Doctors had been running some tests. The news was not good.

That was Friday. This morning, the second-hand knowledge I had was that Laura had bone cancer. So I circulated a "we're thinking of you" card and arranged to have a bouquet made. Then later in the afternoon I drove to the hospital where I knew she was staying for further testing.

I arrived at the hospital to a closed door and empty bed. She was having an MRI done on her brain. But when Laura returned she was in good spirits given her situation. She tried not to cry, though a few tears were able to get through. The prognosis was not as bad as previously thought. Rather than bone cancer, a carcinoma was discovered in her left hip. How one cancer can be perceived as good news over another is amazing. Within the span of a couple of days, one's view of what is favorable can be shaped so dramatically.

Laura stated she had been doing a lot of crying lately. She is using a week of vacation instead of short-term disability because she needs the full-weeks pay for bills--loans, house payments, the daily living obligations we're all required to meet. Her daughter who is working on completing a doctoral dissertation left, reluctantly, to prepare for her final stages at school. Laura is still-future oriented, wanting the best for the daughter she has raised, urging her to go back to what is best for her. Her sacrificial love for her daughter reminded me of the spry woman with the loud laugh who used to excitedly walk down the hallway at work every morning.

I hugged Laura before I left her room. The lights in the hallway were dimmed, and I walked quickly remembering how much I dislike hospitals. They remind me of people--those I know and those whom are strangers--and the realities they all must face because they are there.

I will check in on Laura regularly while she is away from work and when she returns, simultaneously undergoing chemotherapy.

Her day has made an impact on my day. It has reminded me of that ever-so-cliche-saying: don't take a day for granted.

As I walked out of the garage to enter my home today after work, Charlie (and his friend Ollie who is visiting our house) was excitedly anticipating my return home. Charlie never takes my existence for granted. He is always excited to see me.