Friday, September 11, 2009

Back to School

I forget, over the summer when I'm not working, how really much I just don't care for spending a ton of time around people, all day, every day. I know, now, that I should have had a career where I was either alone much of the time, or one where I worked with animals. I really enjoy being alone most of the time. I seldom feel lonely. I REALLY enjoy being alone AND with animals. It's a little late for that, at the moment. Teaching has NEVER been a good fit for me. I have literally spent most of my teaching life trying to change careers, but never had the courage, or the ability, to do so. (I did actually take college classes attempting to become a Certified Nurse Midwife, back many years ago, and completed everything except for the "Math for Meds" course that everyone else flew through. Math is so not my friend. I could NOT get the hang of changing grams to drams, or milligrams to teaspoonfuls, or any of that. In fact, I so discouraged the RN who had taught the course for so many years that she asked me to please just drop the course so that she wouldn't have to fail me, because she didn't want the failure on HER record! I would have been her first; a dubious honor) In retrospect, I am pretty sure that would not have been an ideal job for me either: I need a ton of sleep, don't do well when my sleep is interrupted (could we just schedule all babies to be born between 9 and 5 please? Thanks!), and that, too, is a job that, unfortunately, involves people. And people who are often not at their best when in the midst of labor. And patience with cranky people? Also not necessarily always a strength. So, it's probably a good thing that didn't work out. But over the summer, I spend a lot of time alone. I get up, have coffee and often read for a bit, before going out to work in the garden, or clean, or do laundry, or bake. My dogs are in and out, and around. They are good company. And I enjoy the quiet, unhurried pace of most of the summer days. The rain got a bit discouraging this summer, but even a rainy summer at home, alone, is better than nice days teaching school. And I forget, every single year, even though this has to be my 22nd or 23rd year of teaching, how much of a transition it is to go back to work. I am discouraged today, and much of it comes from conflict between people at school. Conflict in my room over one teacher's stress in doing testing, and scheduling, and getting our classes up and running. For some reason, she seems MUCH more focused, and stressed, and uptight this year than any other. I don't know why. I can't figure it out. But it has rubbed off on me. And I don't like it. I don't like that I absorb other people's stress like a sponge. I am NOT a sponge. But I can't shake it off when it hangs heavy in our room, just there, under the new light fixtures, and seemingly as permanent as them, also.
And I am quick to feel not as good as other teachers, like my opinions are not as valued, my knowledge not as in-depth. I often feel more like an aide, than a professional. This year, already in the four days we have had this week, I have had some major self-esteem crises points. I feel like I am not my co-worker's equal, despite the fact that I have been doing this many years, many more than she, actually, but am always keeping up on current research, always willing to go to conferences and workshops and learn about and implement new things and ideas when they seem like they will make things better for the kids. I'm not one of those people who are just hanging around waiting to retire, unwilling to change anything, set in my ways. I also realize this is my issue, not hers, not anyone elses. But, on top of all that, I think the biggest issue simply is that it always takes time for me to readjust to being at work again after two months off. I LIKE my summer vacation. It truly IS one of the best things, for me, about being a teacher. And it hasn't dawned on me, until today when I've really been focused internally on what seems to be wrong, that a lot of my readjustment is NOT about my job, per se, or the kids, or the scheduling hassles, or anything else: it is about change. It is about leaving my quiet, cozy house, and my dogs, who I really do miss terribly during the day, and having to be out and about and among hundreds of people again each day for eight or more hours. I'm not used to having my solitude so intruded upon again yet. I will. I will readjust. I think things in our room will eventually be fine. I think the tension will go away, and my self-esteem issues will resolve themselves in the way that they usually do (i.e. I shrug my shoulders and essentially say, to myself, "who gives a flying fuck that she was asked to go to that CSE meeting instead of me, when I was the one who worked with that particular child all last year - it's one less meeting I have to attend!And I mean it.) . In the end, it will all be fine, and I will make it through another year, not particularly happy in my job, but bringing home a paycheck, and comfortable that I'm really NOT horrible at my job despite the fact that I don't love it, either. For most of my teaching life, I have claimed a particular mantra as my own: "My real life begins at 3:00." That remains true. I just have to make it through the days UNTIL 3:00, which has been hard this week. Maybe next week will be a little easier, and the week after that moreso. Maybe, by the first of October, summer vacation will be just a rainy, drippy memory, I will be used to hooking the dogs out every morning at 7:30, and school will be just routine again. That will be good.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sometimes you have to work to be thankful

Today is one of those days that I feel ...hmmm, poopy. That's it. Not bad, not good, not sad, not grumpy, just Poopy. Ever have those days? I'm just out of sorts. School started this week, and I'm tired. My throat is sore from talking too much, my head hurts from trying to schedule children who are impossible to schedule because everyone else wants to schedule them, too, and we had a big argument in my room today, the other two teachers and I, over Obama and health care and politics. As a rule, I NEVER discuss politics, because I don't know enough or care enough about it to be able to hold my own. I hate arguing, I hate confrontation, and I hate politics, especially. I broke my rule today, and paid for it because it turned into a real argument, where I feel like I was being ridiculed for my beliefs, and at the same time, felt one of the other's beliefs were very naive and the other one's beliefs WERE ridiculous, even to me. (She is worried they are going to put old people on ice floes and send them out to sea, theoretically speaking, I guess. Wow.) Whatever. Thus, tonight, I am poopyish.
So...I decided it would be a good night to look for the good. I haven't done that for awhile. I may have to sit here for a bit, but if I sit quietly, and wait, and think, I will come up with things to be grateful for. Wait for it, wait...wait...
Ah..1) .the farmer's market in Angelica on Saturdays. I love it. I don't know why, because sometimes there are only a handful of vendors. But I like the IDEA of it, anyway. I do wish it were bigger. But I got great blueberries a couple weeks ago, last week I got "Bright Lights" swiss chard, which really was every bit as pretty as the package picture I saw this spring, and I am hoping that the one lady might have more elderberries if I go back a couple more times. She said she might, and I really want to make elderberry syrup this year. 2) Cathy's photos of Alaska on her blog. Those make me REALLY happy. ( Many of the places she photographs, I've been, with her and thanks to her, but she sees them in different lights, and in different seasons, and I never fail to feel "homesick" for Alaska through her eyes. But it's a good homesick. 3) Autumn is coming, and I have a new appreciation for it this year. Long story, but usually I don't look forward to it, and this year, I am. So, that's good, I guess? And then, winter. Winter I used to hate, but that was before dogsledding, and the Iditarod, and the Yukon Quest, and the Can-Am in Allegany State Park, and the Kobuk 440, which some year I hope I will get to, so I no longer dread winter either. 4) Family. My two oldest are now at college, both of them 5 hours away, and I miss them. But missing them makes me appreciate the two who are left at home even more, and so, today, I am grateful that I do still have two left at home. Four years from now, I won't have any kids left here, so today, the fact that I still have two, is good.
All right, I guess I'm just really having to work for gratitude tonight, which is silly, so perhaps tomorrow it will just be easier. Tomorrow is Friday, and Fridays are not allowed to be poopy days, right? AND it's my youngest's birthday - so a Friday worth REALLY celebrating!

I Love My Chickens!

Thor, the mighty rooster
Chickens in the flower bedsWell, hello - welcome to my front porch!

It's funny how many posts have run through my head for the past couple of weeks, just things I feel or think about that I want to get down. But I have been having camera issues, with just my little Kodak, and I had other pictures that were on my phone that I couldn't get from the phone to the computer. And I took pictures to GO with my posts. And, I am just a little bit lazy, too. Yeah, there's that. It's easier to sit down at the computer and skim through other people's blogs, or read posts on Facebook, or delete spam on email than it is to actually WRITE a post. I finally figured out why - yeah, lazy AND slow, did we say? Because writing is WORK. Work I enjoy, as much as I enjoy any sort of work, but then, when one is lazy, work is work, and well, too much of the time, I'd really prefer not to have to work at all. Drinking coffee and reading is about as much work as I like. But, then, some of the thoughts I just can't shake, so I guess I need to work on the whole self-discipline thing. Like this post about chickens.
I have had my chickens since the end of April, and have gone through many phases of their little feathered lives with them in that amount of time, from fuzzy peeping chicks, to gawky teenage chickens who were too big for the box in the bathroom anymore, to the first egg from one of them a week ago. I really love my chickens, and I know that is very strange, and I know most people find that rather odd. Oh well. I guess in general, I just really love animals, and these chickens have become another form of pet for me. Not that I will have any real issues eating them when they stop laying in a few years, and when one was eaten by a dog a month or two ago, I didn't cry any tears, because, in the end, well, they are just chickens. I am raising them for eggs, and eventually chicken stew in the pot, and they are easily replaced, But while I have them, I appreciate their personalities and qualities. They are really a very comical, and gentle-souled animal. Bird. Whatever.
Initially I kept them in their coop and little run. It's not very big, though, and I felt kind of bad for them. Like, I really WANTED them to be able to be "free-range" chickens, and not have to wait for me to throw green grass in there, and to be able to scratch around and dig for worms and eat bugs, etc. But, we live in town, and I have neighbors close-by on one side at least, and I have a bunch of cats who own the place, and four dogs, two of whom I don't think would show any particular love and devotion to a small flock of lunchmeat, and so, cooped they were. For some reason, I started letting them out into a little bit larger wire enclosure that wasn't secured, but opened up their world a little. That made them happier. And, they didn't escape, or fly away, or get eaten, ,or dig under the fence, or, or, or...they were just good chickens. THEN, I opened that up, and let them out in the driveway, and watched them carefully. Finally, I realized that these chickens just weren't going anywhere. Yeah, they'd range around the driveway, over to the barn, over to the yard, and yesterday, they finally ventured into my flower beds in the front yard (I looked out the front door and there was an Auracauna on my front steps...Now THAT was a first, I'm sure, for the history of this house) So, my chickens are happier, and I'm happier for them. I don't feel so cruel keep thing all "cooped up" anymore. And the best part of this is, for some reason the three little girls, the ones that were new in April (the two Auracaunas are older, and were gifts from a friend's dad so I would have a couple who were laying already, while I waited for mine to begin laying this fall. I've had two green eggs a day from them ever since), have started going to roost on top of their coop at night, instead of going inside it. The rooster and the two older ladies roost inside the pen, but not in their coop. So, I go out as soon as it gets dark, and scoop up my three gentle hens, one at a time, and carry them around to the door to the pen, and gently set them down inside, where they then scurry up the walkway into their coop. Then, after a couple of nights of having to practically shove the rooster, Thor, and the two older ladies in there, they now follow the younger girls. They really are smarter than people give them credit for, although I would never personally vote for chickens as being a particularly bright form of animal life. But the whole point to this is, this new ritual of having to put the chickens to bed at night, after a summer of just letting them roost outside their coop (but in their pen), is really sort of a comforting, soothing nighttime ritual. The birds are soft, and calm, and sleepy, and let me pick them up and stroke them, and talk to them, and then put them to bed with little or no fuss. After the coop is closed up, and I latch the door for the night, the day just seems somehow a little more complete. Calm. Restful. And I come in, from the cool nights which are quickly moving into autumn now, ready for sleep. I sleep better after having put the chickens to bed. I don't know why, but I just do. I know it's weird. I know liking chickens is weird. And I know that finding comfort in a ritual of my own making, of talking to birds and tucking them in for the night is probably, by far, one of the strangest things about me, currently. But, I'm really ok with that. I like my chickens.
Gracie the cat, trotting over to investigate the chickens in the front yard. None of them was terribly impressed with her, nor she with them. Live and let live, I guess.