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Part of Learning Is Speaking the Language.

July 16, 2015



DSC_1263Of all the areas I might choose to write about today, I think I’ll go the route most obvious–and pleasurable–for me. After all, I’m weary of comma splices, usage errors, dangling participles, split infinitives. And it’s summer.

Instead, I’ll put my mind and my pen to writing about one of my later endeavors, playing mandolin.  I’ve always loved music, though my childhood piano lessons could have borne more fruit if I’d applied myself. The background understanding of keys and notes and chords was lying there fallow, but I kept fighting this nagging desire to learn to play the mandolin.  I may have been deceived, thinking its compact size, easy to take along wherever I go, suggested it might be easy to play. Not so. But I loved the sound too–maybe most of all.

I was fifty before I admitted this item on my bucket list not only to myself but aloud.  I feared I had waited too long to start something new, something else.  Then a friend who owned a decent Old Kentucky mandolin but had turned her attention to playing fiddle suggested I might borrow hers and give it a try. I did just that. I picked up a couple of beginners’ books and sat down earnestly to try to play. Plunk-a-plunk.  Every song, according to my husband, sounded like “Yankee Doodle.” So I began lessons, once a week for thirty minutes at the local Music Center.

My teacher, a nice man, a patient teacher, was actually a dobro player, but he took me on.  Each week, he started by tuning my mandolin, and then began to teach me song by song, playing tab, not standard notation. Tablature allowed me to see just where on the fret of each pair of strings I put my fingers.  He also taught me chords, starting with the must common ones–G, with its long stretch, then easier D, C, A.

Using a book a friend gave me for my birthday, he had me study theory, the circle of fifths, for instance. Then our lessons fell into a pattern. One of the first songs I mastered “Angeline the Baker,” we played often. He’d play melody while I chopped chords, then I’d play the melody while he accompanied me with rhythm on his guitar. Eventually, I recognized that I was taking the same lesson every week. Only the song changed.  I took a break. (“It’s not you, it’s me,” I imagined telling him if he asked why I left.

Instead, I found another teacher, the husband of a colleague–both of them friends, both of them talented musicians.  Patrick had recently retired from teaching middle school band–and if that doesn’t qualify a man for sainthood, I don’t know what does. He immediately began to break bad habits, to take me back to basics. He insisted I dispense with tab and learn to read music (or to revive what I knew of reading music and apply it to the mandolin instead of the piano.) He made me learn pick position and proper hand and arm position. He taught me to learn to play by ear, sometimes spending two or three entire lessons picking out one eighteen-second break as played by Sam Bush, stopping the recording, trying to reproduce the notes, starting again.

I learned a whole new language–arpeggios, minor chords, fifths, open strings, cheat chords. I learned the magic of the mandolin–the way a song could easily be moved to a new chord with just a simple move up or down the neck of the mandolin. I learned my songs by heart. I learned that G chords (and A’s, C’s D’s–all of them) can be found up and down the neck of the mandolin.

Best of all, I learned to play with other people, the real pleasure of music. Even when I wanted to sit on the outside of the jam circle, I was beginning to find my place. There’s such a generosity of spirit among those who play.

Finally, at the encouragement of the friend who loaned me–and eventually sold me–my first mandolin, I signed up for the Swannanoa Gathering Old Time Music and Dance Week held each July at Warren Wilson College. For a week, I slept in an un-airconditioned dorm and took three classes a day–Mandolin II, Shape-Note Singing, and Old-Time Music History.  I mixed with people of all levels of ability–professional musicians and rank beginners like me.  Even though I was a little over my head in Mandolin II, I learned much more than I would have in an easier class.

More than simply learning a few new songs–“Old Baldy Kick’em Up,” “Grey Eagle,” “In the Willow Garden,” I found a place in a new community with people of all ages from all over the world.  Each evening after dinner, we could join “jam” sessions led by the faculty, giving even the beginners a pace at which we could play along. We had sing-alongs, concerts, square dances, and Honky Tonk Night.”

The next year I was back–same time, same place.

This Sunday I leave for my fifth Gathering, taking my granddaughter Avery along this time. She has a purple fiddle she’s ready to learn to play. We’ll be roommates, and I’ll have to come in at night earlier than I am accustomed. I have my tuner, a box of picks, copies of favorite songs and lyrics. I’ll be playing “Waterbound,” and “Cripple Creek,” “Cluck Old Hen,” and “Sail Away, Ladies.”

It’s going to feel like Old Home Week.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. sandyyoung75 permalink
    July 16, 2015 7:48 pm

    Do we have one or two more weeks? Will you find a way to squeeze Gathering news into our assignment? I hope so! I love to hear about your mandolin experiences, and I loved hearing you play when you visited us! What a treat to have Avery with you!!

  2. July 16, 2015 8:28 pm

    Two more weeks:
    July 20 Chapter 9 From “Private I” to “Public Eye”
    July 27 Chapter 10 If Writing Becomes Your Heart

    I will definitely give updates on the Gathering! Not only do I get to look forward to seeing my old friends, but I’ll have my sweet Avery with me. It doesn’t get much better than that!

    • sandyyoung75 permalink
      July 16, 2015 10:39 pm

      I know you’re so excited about having Avery with you! I think I’ve told you that I love the whole name of the event. I was president of Swannanoa Social Tribe at Mississippi College. Sort of like a sorority, only much better!

  3. Kathy permalink
    July 17, 2015 1:23 pm

    okay, here goes, and remember you asked for it haha

    Part II: Inside Information – the jargon in the medical arena is probably the largest in the world. And a lot of the terms are specialty specific, as is the case in wound ostomy continence nursing. These aren’t words you would hear, say, in the Cardiac Cath Lab. Starting with the designation of Wound Ostomy Continence Nurse, WOCN (pronouncing each letter as in “I’m a W O C N”) or “WOC” (pronounced like a wok cooking pan) Nurse or the outdated label of Enterostomal Therapist, or ET Nurse … most people don’t even know what that means, and most people don’t want to! Other important divisions in the field are Inpatient Acute Care versus Outpatient Wound Center, “L” TAC or Subacute Rehab versus Inpatient Rehab. Describing wounds is a somewhat “comparison” language, including terms like full thickness v. partial thickness, blanchable v. nonblanchable, Pressure Ulcer Stage I, II, III, IV, unstageable, or suspected Deep Tissue Injury, or DTI. You can tell the age of a doctor or nurse if they still call it a “decubitus” ulcer. How about POA v. HAC? Interesting that we say the letters “P O A, but the latter is pronounced like “hack”. That’s important info … was it “present on admission” or a “hospital acquired condition?” Turning surface and bony prominence also important, as are anatomical landmarks, sacral, ischial, trocanteric. Does the wound have any necrosis, dry eschar, adherent slough or soft slough. Is the wound “bed” dry and crusted or pink and moist? Biofilm? Granulation Tissue? Resurfacing and reepithelialization? Undermining or tunneling? And what about the “periwound?” Is there erythema, induration, fluctuance, exudate, or malodor? Is there exudate? Is it serosanguinous, purulent, or an odd color? Does nonviable tissue to be debrided? Do we use an enzymatic debrider or conservative sharp wound debridement? Negative pressure wound therapy. Advanced wound therapy. Wet to Dry. Wound cleanser. Skin barrier. 4×4, 2×2, ABD, Kerlix, rolled gauze, Nugauze. Calcium Alginate. Silver dressing. Honey dressing. Occlusive dressing, adhesive dressing, nonadherant dressing, surface bacteria, bacterial burden. VAC, granufoam, versafoam, drape, TRAC pad, bridging, offloading ….. And most wound care supplies have a generic name as well as multiple brand names that many nurses use interchangeably. They might call it a “Duoderm” which is the most popular form of hydrocolloid dressing, but the competing companies don’t like it when you call their product by someone elses’ name. (Sort of like all tissues are called Kleenex). When I enter wound care orders for nurses to follow I have to make sure I know what they call a product so they know what to use. To make it more confusing, most hospitals change vendors annually so the names change everytime.

    And what about the Ostomy care? Continent diversion or incontinent diversion? Fecal diversion or urinary diversion? Does it use a little of both as an ileal conduit? Pick a pouch! Do you want a one piece or two piece? What kind of wafer, skin prep, skin barrier, paste or Eakin ring, clamp or roll closure, filter, opaque or transparent, cut to fit, pre cut, or moldable? Is it an ileostomy, colostomy, or urostomy? How is the stoma? Is there retraction, mucocutaneous separation, or necrosis? Does it have a straight or “Y” support rod? And what about the parastomal area? Are there creases or folds or a flat pouching surface (hope so).
    I always tell my patients that picking out a pouch is like picking out your shoes, everybody has to try on a lot and decide what fits them best. I think it’s a great analogy but rarely gets a smile.

    The setting involved is usually a hospital room, which is so interesting to me. You’ve got the OCD patient (that would be me) with everything organized and tidy on their bedside table and trays, you’ve got the diabetic patient who “can’t understand” why his blood sugars are so high! (but he has a gallon of sweet tea brought from home on his tray, and he’s had 3 visits from a diabetic educator). You see flowers and balloons, and sometimes photos. And then there’s one of my pet peeves, the tray tables with wound care supplies sitting next to the food and beverages (earlier this week I had a patient who had put her hair scrunchy around the bottle of wound cleaner – ewww!) One habit I’ve brought to my current job is taking a new bath basin and writing “Wound Care Supplies” on it, then placing it away from the patient’s personal belongings. The scenery is as varied going into a patient’s room as it would be walking into their home. Thankfully most hospitals have all private rooms these days.

    • sandyyoung75 permalink
      July 17, 2015 5:09 pm

      Oh, my, Kathy! I’ve always known that you are smart, but now I know that you’re brilliant!! My head is swimming from this vocabulary lesson, and I surely am glad that there won’t be a test for me, darlin’! I’m so very much impressed with your job, Kathy. All of the education and training that you’ve had is amazing to an old Engish teacher, who just had to take courses in Shakespeare, Milton, Chaucer, grammar and composition, etc. My education was so simple in comparison to yours.

      I’m getting started on my sales rep job description, but I don’t think you’ll encounter any new words. I loved reading your piece, Kathy, and would take delight in reading ALL of your contribution to this week’s assignment!

      Great big hugs! Are you at Sacred Heart? West Florida? Another?

  4. sandyyoung75 permalink
    July 17, 2015 10:11 pm

    Here ’tis. This is long with lots of typos and other kinds of errors, but I just couldn’t read it one more time. It’s disjointed, but maybe you’ll get an idea of how I began my second career.

    On the Road Again!
    (With apologies to Willie)

    As I sat at a table in a remote part of a fancy schmancy Chicago hotel, the name of which I can’t remember, one morning in mid-August 1996, I wondered if I really wanted to put my signature on a contract that would change my life forever. It had taken the higher up’s at McDougal Littell Publishing Company three years to decide that I would make a decent sales representative. I was having to retire from a thirty-two-year teaching career to take on a job that I didn’t even know how to do and didn’t see good prospects of having much training before being shoved out the door to make my living.

    I paused, pen in hand, and heard Frank’s voice. “Of course, you can be a sales rep. You’ve been selling high school seniors on English literature, grammar, and composition for all these years. Surely you can sell some textbooks.” So I signed, feeling ever so nervous but excited about beginning a new career.

    Actually, I almost didn’t make it to the contract-signing stage of the meeting. After a horrendous first-ever-flight-by-myself morning a couple of days before, I had arrived at the hotel just in time to go to the first meeting of the Summer Sales Meeting. And what did I sit through? About four hours of a consultant raving about the new math programs, especially the brand new calculus book. What? I was an English teacher. How could I ever sell calculus books? Besides, it was the most boring four hours of my life!

    That evening, we all went to a reception. Glory hallelujah, at last I’d get something to eat. I hadn’t been able to get breakfast in the Dallas airport, and I had arrived at the hotel just in time to miss lunch. The reception was a disaster for me. I knew exactly four people at the gathering, and all they did was acknowledge my presence and head off to join their sales rep and consultant friends whom they had known for years. I went back to my room, crawled into my lonely bed, and prayed: “Lord, if I don’t hear something about the new literature program by noon tomorrow, I’m going home. I still have a perfectly good teaching job waiting for me in Pensacola, and I’m going home to do lesson plans and to look forward to grading papers!” I slept fitfully my first night away from home all by myself.

    The next morning, I ate breakfast with friendly folks and then headed for the room where some of the regions would meet, including ours, the Gulf Coast Region. That same man was in charge. More math! I tried to absorb as much as I could, but months later, when I was doing well in my job, my manager informed me that a language arts consultant who was also in the room, told him that I had a “deer in headlights” look and wondered if I’d make it as a sales rep.

    I was beginning to wonder whether or not I’d have to make my flight change during lunch because of the long “lesson” that we were getting. Just before noon, though, the math consultant said, dejectedly, “Well, I hate to inform you that you’re going to have to listen to a presentation of The Language of Literature (the new program!) after lunch. Hope you’ll survive.” I almost jumped up and shouted, “Hurray! It’s about time!” I felt better immediately and thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the days at my first sales meeting. By the way, Tim Trapp, the math consultant, became my good friend through the ensuing years, and I delighted in telling my story to him and to others when he was present. He’s a great guy . . . and still knows his math! I never told Carolyn O’Connell, the tattle-tale consultant, that I knew what she had told my manager. We, too, became very close friends through the years. She came many times to my territory to do presentations and inservice meetings for me.

    In just about one week after I went home, Frank and I drove to Tallahassee to meet my manager and to get my van. The company furnished every sales rep with a van, usually a brand new one. Mine was a dark green, slightly used Ford van. I loved it immediately and didn’t care that it didn’t have some of the neat things that I had on later vehicles . . . like sliding doors on both sides in the back so that I could retrieve books more easily when I drove up to schools.

    Gerry Dameron, my manager, gave me the four things that he thought I needed to become a sales rep: a van, the keys to the van, all the literature books that he had in his storage area, and the Florida MDR for 1996. Since McDougal Littell didn’t furnish reps with computers back then, the MDR, a listing of all the schools with their addresses, plus lots of other information that I soon learned how to use, was invaluable. It was always in the front seat with me as I traveled.

    Florida has 67 counties, and my territory was comprised of 28 of those counties, about 42% of the state. Most of them were small counties with only one or two middle schools and high schools in them. At that time, there were six of us reps, so you can see that my territory was the largest, with the least possibility of making quota each year.

    I know that this is a long introduction to my second career, found at the tender age of 56, but I wanted you to know a little background. And even more background before I get to my job: Before beginning to work for McDougal Littell, I had never flown on an airplane by myself, never stayed in a hotel alone, seldom eaten in a restaurant without someone with me, never found my way to a school in a strange town or city (no iPhones with Maps back then!), never approached a secretary in a school and tried to get to see a teacher, never bought refreshments for an English Department (hoping I was buying something that they liked), and ever so many more “nevers.”

    Let’s just pretend that the destination for this week is Pasco County and that I’m due there for a meeting with a teacher on Wednesday morning. It’s about 450 miles from my house to the school that I’d be visiting, a long way for someone who isn’t used to driving distances alone. So before I leave on Monday morning, I have to plan my route, stopping at as many schools as possible on my way. Back in the early days, I didn’t always make reservations ahead of time and usually didn’t have any trouble finding a place to stay. During my first year, I located favorite motels and always stayed at those places when I traveled. Another thing that I did “back in the day” was to ask for “down and out” rooms, rooms on the first floor, ones that opened out on my parking space so that I could easily take all of the materials that I needed for the night in preparation for meeting with teachers the next day. I’d take in the grade levels that the teachers taught and mark pages so that I’d be able to easily turn to whatever I wanted to emphasize: a particular selection, vocabulary, grammar . . . whatever I felt that teachers would want to see in making decisions in the adoption process.

    In my progress down to Pasco County, I’d stop to make school calls in Santa Rosa, Walton, Jackson, and Gadsden Counties on my way to Tallahassee, where I’d stay on Monday night. On Tuesday morning, I’d see some teachers in Leon County (Tallahassee), Levy, Citrus, and Hernando Counties on my way to Pasco County, where I’d stay at the Holiday Inn Express in Port Richey. I’d get up early on Wednesday and head for Land O’Lakes, FL, where I’d have my meeting with an English teacher, or perhaps the whole English Department, at 8:00 AM. For the rest of the day, I’d visit as many middle and high schools in Pasco County as I could, either with or without appointments, make my way back to my motel with a stop somewhere for dinner, get notes of the day organized, and hit the hay as early as I could so that I could get on the road early as possible on Thursday, making my way back to Pensacola, again with some school stops, maybe staying overnight again in Tallahassee, but maybe just hightailing it home, though most of the time I’d be gone until Friday evening, my mouth watering all the way because Frank would have a delicious dinner waiting for me. (That’s a really long sentence, isn’t it? Take a breath!)

    The description of the evening spent in preparation for visiting teachers was not one of every evening before school calls. Sometimes I didn’t have appointments, so I just “flew by the seat of my pants,” hoping that I’d be able to turn to sections that teachers wanted to see. In my territory, many times I could get in to see teachers easily without making appointments ahead of time because they were small schools, and other reps didn’t see the need to visit them because there wasn’t that much revenue in them. My manager told me early on that my little schools could make my quota for me each year if I won enough of those small adoptions. He was right! He also taught me that once I won an adoption, it was very likely that they’d consider me THEIR sales rep and adopt our books in math and social studies, too. He was right in that respect, too!

    If I wanted to be sure to get in to see teachers, I usually spent time on the phone for several days before heading south, especially for large counties like Leon, Pasco, and Pinellas. No matter how many goodies I took to secretaries, they wouldn’t let me talk to teachers without appointments unless I showed up right at the time for class change, and then they might let me go to a teacher’s room for a minute or two. Sometimes teachers would say, “Oh, come on in. The students are reading a story silently, and I have time to visit.” I learned very soon in my new career to take candy for both secretaries and teachers. To this day, I still have little bags of candy with me with a fluorescent label that says “Candy from Sandy” on it. Works like a charm with even grumpy office personnel.

    Someday I may write a book about my experiences in the publishing business. I’m still working for the same company in a way. McDougal Littell was the secondary portion of Houghton Mifflin. Today the company is Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and new books don’t carry the name of McDougal Littell. What a shame! But since I’ve been around so long, I still see the influence of MY company in literature and social studies books. Eventually, the influence won’t be there, but maybe I’ll be gone by then.

    Teaching is still my favorite career, but sales repping and consulting are very similar. Now I teach teachers. I’ll have to tell you, though, that kids are much easier to work with. Do I miss those high school students? You betcha! I even miss grading some of the long assignments that I gave them. And do I miss repping? Oh, yes. But I still get to go “On the Road Again” from time to time. And that’s a good thing!

    (I have just scratched the surface of sales repping. I’d love to tell you about the wonderful people that I met in Florida and New Mexico, teachers who became friends and still are friends . . . other reps and consultants who are still friends. But I’ll stop for now. Thanks for reading. By the way, I bolded and italicized a few words that I thought might be considered rep jargon, but they won’t show up when I post.)

  5. sandyyoung75 permalink
    July 17, 2015 11:24 pm

    So sorry, but the paragraph beginning “Let’s just pretend . . .” is very much confusing, I’m afraid. I didn’t notice until I had already posted.

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