Monday, April 21, 2014

10 Random Bits of Happiness

1. Too many cardinals to count, lately. Everywhere. A nesting pair in my back yard even, somewhere. Their song is so nearly constant I ALMOST take it for granted.

2. A nesting pair of Blue Jays in the Forsythia bush right outside my kitchen window. I removed the screen from the inside of the window today while they were gone so that I will be able to take pictures of the eggs and eventual babies in the nest.

3. Meeting, nearly 21 months after his birth, my great-nephew Bowen for the first time. He's every bit as fun and adorable as I have imagined him to be, and I got to spend quite a bit of time with him.

4. Getting to see both my nieces that I have not seen in also at least that long. They have grown from beautiful little girls into beautiful and wonderful women.

5. Spending part of Easter Day with 3 of my four kids, lunch with eldest daughter, early dinner with youngest daughter, and just hang-around time with second son. Eldest son was working too much overtime this weekend to be seen, but will see him tonight for dinner, I imagine.

6. Finally got all 10 of my elderberry bushes that I ordered last fall planted in the ground. All survived the winter on my porch in their shipping box, and still look very healthy.

7. It's been a week plus two weekends plus an extra day on each end of those weekends for spring break, and the weather the past two days here has been BEAUTIFUL. It is going to get crummy again tomorrow, as I head back to work. (yay!) (For crummy weather while at work, not for the 'heading back to work' part)

8.  Speaking of work, I'm in the homestretch now. We are officially in the last quarter, the last ten weeks out of 40, before summer vacation, and that usually is the quickest quarter of the year as well.

9.  I have read/finished two excellent books this week. Love having time to read.

10. We are FINALLY going to be replacing our ugly, beat up floor in the downstairs of our house, and I could not be more excited to finally begin some updating and work on our old, terrible house.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

"We are such stuff As dreams are made on..."

     This year has been my worst EVER year of teaching in the 25+ years I have been in the classroom. Common Core is SO discouraging, so boring, so wrong. I hate it, and the kids hate it, and it is just plain bad teaching. And NYS's high stakes testing is also wrong, and makes me sick, on behalf of my kids. We have  just finished my subject's portion of that last week, and it was bad. But worst of all, or maybe just most visible of all, is this year's group of students. Never have I had a group like them.  Never in my life have I had a group that has caused me more stress, literally Every. Single. Day. There is no relief from it. Every day is just as bad as the one before. Thankfully (?), it is not just me... this group has caused the same stress to the other grade-level teacher who shares them with me, and to their "specials" teachers as well. One of those other teachers, who only has to deal with them for 40 minutes 3x a week, as opposed to all day every day, looked at me last week and said, "What is WRONG with this group of kids?"  I wish I knew. More importantly, I wish I knew how to fix it, for their sake, and for mine. The stress is adding up, and I although I only have one more quarter of the year to go til summer vacation,  it's winning. (Plus, I will have this exact same group NEXT year too - oh yippee. Talk about not excited to return from summer vacation next September...)
     The signs are there. I've been ignoring them. I've tried very hard to convince myself that it really isn't all that bad, that I'm fine, that I'm just making a big deal out of nothing, and that I should just continue to try to shrug it off. And, in fact, that all may well be true. But my body has a way of getting my attention, no matter how much I try to pretend. I internalize stress to the nth degree.  Two weeks ago my neck and shoulders and back were SO knotted up and tight and painful, I thought about seeking treatment. I always carry stress in my neck and shoulder area anyway, but this was notably worse. Then, last week, there was a burning sensation all week right in the middle of my back, like a muscle spasm. This weekend, I'm back to the knotted and painful neck and shoulder muscles. Grrr. I'm honestly not even sure a good massage could work out all the tightness.
     Somewhere, a week or two ago, I had a disturbing dream along in there as well, about my classroom kids, where I actually saw my real students and used their real names. Normally, in my dreams, I can tell what I'm dreaming about, but the people aren't actually the real ones, or have different faces, or different names; the places are different, not necessarily real, or not real for the situation. I might dream I am in school, but the school isn't recognizable as MY school, it might actually look like a shopping mall or a church but somehow, in my dream, I know I'm in school. But last week, and then again last night, I had school dreams that were way too realistic. They were my students, in name and face and actions, and I was yelling at them for their behaviors. SCREAMING at them in frustration. I never do that in real life, though every single day I feel like it. In both dreams, I was soooooo frustrated, just screaming and yelling and trying to get them to do what they were supposed to, and they would not. I woke up more stressed than I was when I went to sleep.
     It's not really a surprise. I'm smart enough to know that what I don't deal with in my waking world, my subconscious will try desperately to work out in my dream world. Earlier, I discovered, that when I was very worried about money, I would often dream about floors with holes in them I had to step over, or step around, worried about falling through. I had so many unsafe floor dreams it was crazy - I can even remember at least ten different unsafe floors - in a barn, in a log cabin loft, in several different vacation rental homes, etc. Once I figured out what the issue was, and dealt with it, the dreams quit. Now, clearly, these school dreams are not so cryptic. Clearly I am frustrated in my daily life to the point of wanting to scream, but knowing that is an unacceptable method of dealing with students, I sublimate it. Apparently it isn't even enough for me to be so stressed my back and neck and shoulders are hunched up like a troll. I need to vent in my dreams as well.
      The real problem, besides hating the smell of Tiger Balm muscle rub, is that I'm beginning to take my SCHOOL stress out on other relationships in my life. Because I can't seem to deal with the kids, or Common Core, or State testing, in any way that alleviates the stress, I yell at other people for what I feel, in the moment, are legitimate issues, only to realize later when I've calmed down, that, normally, I would have just let THOSE things roll off my back. I understand it, but the other people in my life don't. I don't blame them. "Sorry, honey, I created WW3 in our home last night over "that" - it's not you, it's that I'm stressed at work."  Yeah, I wouldn't buy it from another adult either. While it might be true, it IS completely unacceptable adult behavior.
     So, where does that leave me? Besides sleepless and in pain and frustrated?  Looking for solutions. I can't retire for 4 more years, so that's not one. My bathtub drain doesn't hold water, so a hot bubble bath isn't in the cards. I'm not much of a drinker, so drowning my sorrows is out. I don't have much time after work so a lengthy wander through the fields and forests, although soothing-sounding, isn't realistic. (nor do I have fields and forests at my disposal, so there's that, too, I guess, as a downside).And I no longer eat sugar, so I can't even binge on chocolate or ice cream and justify it as a stress reliever! Binging on broccoli just doesn't have the same allure.  I don't know. I don't KNOW what the solution is, or solutions are. No matter what I've tried, all the same shit is just there waiting for me the next day, so any solution is only temporary. I've always been really good at just "adjusting my attitude," and I guess I thought I was still managing to do that, but apparently my back, and my dreams, say otherwise.
    
    

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Boo

 
to winter's last gasp. Friday was nice enough to go outside for recess and enjoy the warmth of the spring air. Today, we awoke to 5 or 6 inches of new, wet, heavy snow. The forecast for Tuesday this week is a high in the 60's. Mother Nature certainly is a fickle bitch.
 
 

I love winter. For the first few months. And in Alaska, especially. Here? In New York? When it is a day away from April? Yeah, I'm over it.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Hooray...

for weather warm enough to FINALLY go outdoors for recess. These kids need to get outside almost as much as I need them to get outside!  It was about 57 degrees today, after a M, T, W, Th this week  STILL in the 20's.  It has been a long, very, very, very cold winter, and today, it finally broke. We are due for snow again Saturday night. Of course. But at least today, we spent 25 minutes outside instead of cooped up in the gym like we've been since, oh, about October. Maybe November. Grey skies, but warmer air. I'll take it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Looking for Cardinals

     On the way to "the big city" where I go a few times a year for real shopping, or to one of the bigger towns in between here and there, where I occasionally go for groceries or to meet my sister halfway, there is  a choice of roads to take. Most people I know take the main, well-paved highway. I seldom choose that. I almost always choose the back road, the "cardinal road."  It's a "paved" road most of the way, if you don't count the potholes big enough to lose your entire truck in this time of year, and a few stretches where either it isn't paved for some unknown reason, or the paving has worn away to dirt. But it's a road that has a lot of scrubby brush and taller bushes along the way, on both sides of the road. It's a perfect haven for cardinals, and so many times I've seen them dipping and bobbing across the road, as they do, from one pile of brush to another.  I don't always see them, but have often enough in the past that I now always take that road when I'm by myself to look for them.  I met my sister for dinner last night, and took the road both going there and coming home, looking for cardinals.
     I didn't see any, but I wasn't disappointed. I got a good look at  a huge turkey vulture feasting unabashedly on a deer carcass on the side of the road. On my way past him, he flew up and off a little ways. On my way home, he never moved, and just gave me the stink eye as I passed by. I got a good look at him. A beautifully ugly creature.
       I also lost count of the number of young deer that leapfrogged each other across the road in the waning light of day. Skittish beauties, all of them. The fields are brown, and silent, still with patches of snow here and there that will be gone by the end of this week. The sunset was truly a wonder, pale pink at first under the edge of leftover white puffed up clouds, then a riot of oranges and deep pinks, finally red and fiery, it sank, and left the sky watercolored and soft. It looked more like a summer sunset than a spring one, and belied the cold that the air still holds.
     I think looking for cardinals is a worthwhile pursuit, even when you don't see any. Going that road doesn't really take any longer than going the main road, but it is a conscious choice I had to make at that junction, to turn left and brave the potholes and perhaps see a bright flash of red, or to just continue on the paved road through towns, past houses aplenty, without much hope of seeing anything out of the ordinary. My frequent choice to pursue the cardinals makes me realize that it is similar to the way I've tried to live my life the past year or two - a metaphor in the making. 
     I try to find the good in every day, even when it most seems like it is not there. Work is overwhelmingly frustrating much of the time, there are always family issues of one sort or another, it seems, and there is never enough money or time to do what needs to be done. If it isn't one thing, it is ALWAYS another. But... that is where LOOKING for the good, searching for those "cardinals," has made the most difference in my life. I have found that so much of the time, for me, it is about attitude, and perspective and choosing to count my blessings, like that of seeing a brilliant flash of red streak across the road in front of me, instead of dwelling on the negative, or, even just "taking the main road" without thought. Live with intention? Seek out the bits of flash in your day, or your life. Who knows. Maybe all you'll see is a really ugly Turkey Vulture, feasting on a dead deer. Or maybe, you'll get lucky, and see a cardinal or two, or five or six, in a scarlet flash across the road. Seeing a cardinal, on an otherwise ordinary day, always makes the day become extraordinary, I think.
    

Monday, March 24, 2014

Chickens in the Dining Room

Doesn't everyone bring chickens up from the basement and let them hang out on their dining room table on a Sunday afternoon, just for amusement purposes? Really? They don't? Well, they should. Chickens are fun. And funny.
 
When most people say they have chicken in their lunch pails,
this is probably NOT what they mean?
 

Laurel and Hardy? Actually, Thelma and Louise, since they both better be females!



This one was SO mouthy. Holy cow, if there is any such thing as a
screaming chicken, this girl is it.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

     Yesterday morning, Saturday, instead of sleeping in, waking with the sun, taking my quiet time with coffee like I like to do on a weekend, I got up to the alarm and rushed around like I do on a weekday morning, and left the house earlier than I have to for work. I was feeling very out of sorts, to not be able to follow my normal, desired, slower, weekend rhythms.  Out of sorts is actually kind of an understatement. I was really grumpy to have to give up an entire day of my down time to go sit at an Emergency Medical Services conference all day long. I had already spent my Friday night there, and now, another whole day, a Saturday. I need the continuing medical education hours in order to keep my EMT certification, so I really had no choice. Not this weekend. Not unless I decide to give up being an EMT altogether.
     That thought has crossed my mind a lot of times, for many different reasons. Monday night at dinner a friend of ours, who is retired, mentioned how busy we are all the time. It seemed like a sort of revelation. I don't know why. I guess because we just live our daily lives without a lot of time for sitting around thinking about living; we all just follow our normal routines, busy or not, without much thought. So I started wondering this week about the things I do that might  make me seem busier that some people, wondering if there are things I do that I could drop so I wasn't so busy and stressed feeling as often as I am.
      Being an EMT is one of those things. It doesn't require HUGE amounts of times, and I can sometimes pick and choose when to respond and when not to. But then, there are other times when it does take up large amounts of time, and requires me to do stupid things I'd really rather not have to do at all, like instead of filling out paperwork on ambulance calls, we are going to have to learn to do it all on computers. My brain rebels against that: "No, I don't WANT to learn how to do that. It will take too much time and effort. No, no, no."  And then there's the amount of time we spend responding to stupid calls for a toothache, a bumped shin, a twinge of back pain. Don't get me wrong. There are many completely legitimate calls you don't mind making. But there is a mentality that is all too prevalent that took me by surprise after becoming an EMT,  that the ambulance is simply a transport service for people who don't really need emergency services, but call anyway. It was very... enlightening. And discouraging. There are way too many of those calls. Those ARE a complete waste of time. And then, there are these conferences that I have to sit at a few weekends a year. I felt frustrated yesterday morning, thinking about this use of my time, wondering if the "waste" of a Saturday was really worth it in the overall scheme of my apparently too- busy life.
     Last night, after returning home, I was getting ready to call it a day and head up to bed. Let the dogs out, took my medicine, fed and watered the baby chickens in my basement. I had started turning out the lights when our ambulance tones went off:  Incoming 72 year old patient to our fire hall, cardiac arrest.  With no thought to the time of night, the hours the call would take, or what else might have needed doing, or the sleep that would be lost, I flew out the door and down the street to the fire hall. From first call to my response was probably two minutes. My 21 year old son, who is also an EMT, was already there, doing CPR, and continued CPR all the way to the hospital, a 30 minute trip. The other responders, far more experienced and knowledgeable than I, worked together like an orchestrated team. It was a tough call for me, multiple and unimportant reasons, but one which reminded me that my day at the conference had not been wasted at all,  and that, no matter how busy I am, I need to look for other things to let go of, not that. Apparently, becoming an EMT is more of a calling than I realized, or gave myself credit for while I was so busy grumbling over losing a Saturday.While I get thoroughly annoyed that a "difficulty breathing" call really means sometimes "I have a chest cold and should just go to a doctor, but I don't have a car and didn't bother to make a doctor visit during business hours and don't want to give up my two-pack a day habit so I will drag three of you out of bed at 2 am to take me to the hospital where they can administer an inhaler that I could have used at home," SOMETIMES a call like last night's is a wake up call to me that I really DO have a purpose at times and can be of some good to others. That's important to me. And it would be silly to let go of something that's important to me so that I can say I am "less busy."  I would like to have more time, be less busy, but maybe having a very full life and being "too busy" right now, at my age, is not necessarily a bad thing.
(And, I did learn how to give mouth-to-snout rescue breathing to a dog yesterday. 2 breaths per 30 compressions, 1/3 to 1/2 inch deep, under it's left front leg while laying on its side, unless it is a boxer or bulldog type of dog with a massive chest, in which case you can turn the dog over on its back... but don't forget to open its mouth and pull its tongue out first. Who says the day was wasted?!  Not I!)