Friday, December 31, 2010

In 2011, I RESOLVE to......

THE FOLLOWING IS TAKEN FROM GRETCHEN RUBIN'S Blog, (she of The Happiness Project book)

5 Questions To Help You Make Effective New Year's Resolutions.
Forty-four percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, and I know I always do. I’m more inclined to make resolutions than ever, in fact, because if my happiness project has convinced me of anything, it has convinced me that resolutions – made right – can make a huge difference in boosting happiness.

So how do you resolve well? This is trickier than it sounds. Here are some tips for making your resolutions as effective as possible. Remember, right now, you’re in the planning stage. Don’t feel like you have to do anything yet! Just start thinking about what would make 2011 a happier year.

1. Ask: “What would make me happier?” It might be having more of something good – more fun with friends, more time for a hobby. It might be less of something bad – less yelling at your kids, less nagging of your spouse. It might be fixing something that doesn’t feel right – more time spent volunteering, more time doing something to make someone else happier. Or maybe you need to get an atmosphere of growth in your life by learning something new. (These questions relate to the First Splendid Truth.)

2. Ask: “What is a concrete action that would bring about change?” One common problem is that people make abstract resolutions, which are hard to keep. “Be more optimistic,” “Find more joy in life,” “Enjoy now,” are resolutions that are hard to measure and therefore difficult to keep. Instead, look for a specific, measurable action. “Distract myself with fun music when I’m feeling gloomy,” “Watch at least one movie each week,” “Buy a lovely plant for my desk” are resolutions that will carry you toward those abstract goals.

3. Ask: “Am I a ‘yes’ resolver or a ‘no’ resolver?” Some people resent negative resolutions. They dislike hearing “don’t” or “stop” (even from themselves) or adding to their list of chores. If this describes you, try to find positive resolutions: “Take that dance class,” “Have lunch with a friend once a week.” Or maybe you respond well to “no.” I actually do better with "no" resolutions; this may be related to the abstainer/moderator split. A lot of my resolutions are aimed at getting me to stop doing something, or to do something I don’t really want to do -- such as Don't expect gold stars. There’s no right way to make a resolution, but it’s important to know what works for you. As always, the secret is to know your own nature.

4. Ask: “Am I starting small enough?” Many people make super-ambitious resolutions and then drop them, feeling defeated, before January is over. Start small! We tend to over-estimate what we can do over a short time and under-estimate what we can do over a long time, if we make consistent, small steps. If you’re going to resolve to start exercising (one of the most popular resolutions), don’t resolve to go to the gym for an hour every day before work. Start by going for a ten-minute walk at lunch or marching in place once a day during the commercial breaks in your favorite TV show. Little accomplishments provide energy for bigger challenges. Push yourself too hard and you may screech to a halt.

5. Ask: “How am I going to hold myself accountable?” Accountability is the secret to sticking to resolutions. That’s why groups like AA and Weight Watchers are effective. There are many ways to hold yourself accountable; for example, I keep my Resolutions Chart (if you’d like to see my chart, for inspiration, email me at gretchenrubin1 [at]'t forget the "1"). Accountability is why #2 is so important. If your resolution is too vague, it’s hard to measure whether you’ve been keeping it. A resolution to “Eat healthier” is harder to track than “Eat salad for lunch three times a week.”

This is great food for thought for me, and something I have been thinking about since Wednesday when I read it the first time.I'm not a huge fan of New Years as a holiday, but I DO like to think about ways to "start over," or make things better, at least once a year. I take MAKING "resolutions" pretty seriously, and have been trying to decide how best to go about it this year. I think I have my goals down, pretty well. I'm not going to go huge, I don't think. For starters, these three top my list:
  • Figure out how to be happier at work and not hate my job so much that it makes me absolutely positively miserable
  • Lose the other 30 pounds by the end of June
  • Eat/cook more healthily/responsibly
But then, there are other things that are not as important, that I wonder if I SHOULD make goals for this year, things like make sure to build square foot garden forms and get garden planted this year;  get my elderberry bushes ordered and planted this year, figure out how to work in SOME form of exercise/fitness that I can live with, make the "Courthouse Steps" quilt I've been thinking about, etc. etc.
I guess I'm not sure how far to go with resolutions - what should resolutions actually be? What are resolutions, what are just plans, what are hopes, what is wishful thinking? Are there any differences between them?  Do I throw everything that means anything to me in the pot, or just focus ONLY on the first three I listed above?  And that first one, "figure out how not to be miserable at work" - it is the most critical one for me, and the most abstract. That's the one I'm going to try to focus on for the rest of the weekend, so that when I return on Monday, I can at least begin with that.  Beyond that, I'm just not really sure... I WISH I could resolve cool and fun things, like "Sleep in 4 days a week;"  "adopt more chickens;" " simplify each room in my house," "teach the Border Collie to make my coffee in the morning," but... alas... I think I'm stuck with trying to figure out how to get from now until June without hating my life 7 hours a day, 5 days a week. Oh, I should probably throw in something  about dealing with the financial issues in my life as well. Whew. I have a LOT of work to do in the next two days.
So, I'm curious. Do YOU make resolutions? Do you think a lot about them, or just make ones that seem to be quickly appropriate?  Big ones? Small ones? Do you write them down? Look at them a lot? Check back on your progress? 
I'm not sure exactly what I'm going to do yet, but I know it's important to me to do some of these things. I made some really big changes in my life this past year, changes that have been so, so good for me, that have made me much happier. I want to keep that going, and to continue on that positive path.  I'll resolve to check back in, soon, maybe at the end of the month, at the end of every month, to track my progress this year. THAT's the first step, I guess.
Happy New Year, whatever your resolutions are, or aren't!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The New Roo in Bethlehem

Last year's Christmas present from my my oldest sits underneathe my computer on my desk at school, a molded plastic Border Collie and a couple of chickens and a set of chicks.  They are more than a pleasant reminder of several of my deepest loves; they are also mildly entertaining, in that I sometimes actually move them around and play with them (especially when avoiding correcting papers and/or entering grades on line!)
The other chicken on the left, the rooster? He's not part of the group. He'll show up again, though.

Yeah, THAT rooster, the one who is now sitting in my tiny little Adirondack chair that usually holds my cell phone.  He's some sort of porcelain or ceramic thing, which I purchased for $1.99 at Walmart. NOT to sit on my desk at school with my other crew - nope. They rejected him. Who needs a rooster, the hens both said.

But I thought our creche set needed a rooster.  We have a lot of animals, the requisite goats, sheep, camels, and even a red cow, but I realized as I passed this little guy in the store that there surely must have been hens and roosters in the barn where Jesus was born.  And, given my recent jump into the wonderful world of poultry, I felt I needed to add him this year. So I did. And I waited to see who else would notice. It wasn't too long before one of the kids did, and moved him here:

Apparently, a conversation with a goat was needed?  Not sure what they were talking about, but I felt he was lonely for the manger, so I immediately moved him back. Where he was moved back to the goats again. It was a-war in a manger for a week, but then, baby Jesus came, the rooster crowed, the goats rejoiced, and all was well. He'll be packed away with the rest of the crew now, this week, to hang out and wait for next year. I'll pack him with the goats.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Nollaig Chridheil - Nollaig Shona (Merry Christmas!)

     I've kind of lost my big burst of "Christmas Spirit" the last few days, but it's ok. It's carried me through most of the season this year, and it's been a gift beyond measure.  The three songs that have been my far and away favorites this year, this Christmas, are the three below. I love anything Celtic, and Celtic Women and Celtic Thunder are no exception. I think I like these two songs best because they are NOT traditional for us, but do speak to the thing that is most important to me - being "home" for Christmas.  My children are all home and safe and loved, my dogs have a nice warm home and family who love them, my chickens will have fresh hay, food, water and corn in their "home" tonight - the concept of home is a lot of things to me, probably to us all, and it's not just about a building.  I love that these first two songs are about a bigger "home," - the country, and town, and families that are there waiting for them to return. I love that they carry that concept of "home" in their hearts, wherever they are, and that home is calling to them at Christmas, like it does for all of us. Like the Manger in Bethlehem called to Mary and Joseph so many years ago.
And the Bing Crosby/David Bowie song - I have no real explanation for that, except that I just love the song. It's my all time favorite Christmas song ever, and I think it was pretty cool that when I turned the radio in the car to Christmas songs this year for the first time, the day after Thanksgiving, it was the very first song I heard. I always take things like that as a "sign," although of what I couldn't tell you!
And the Celtic Women version of Silent Night I added because it IS the traditional, classic, gorgeous Christmas song for all of us, world wide, I think, and I especially love the Celtic words. One of my goals this coming year is to finally begin to learn SOME Gaelic, because I think it is a beautiful and storied, romantic language. It just holds something very deep I for me that I can't explain..  Maybe next Christmas I will be able to say "Merry Christmas" in Gaelic without having to first look up the words!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy Christmas, Dad

What changes a year, this year, have brought to your life, to our lives.  We would, as a family, say that none of them have been good, all of them sad, but that's not true. At least this Christmas, I know now that you are getting your medicine regularly, daily, and none of us has to argue with you that you are not taking it when you believed you were. We are no longer making you angry on a daily basis. This Christmas, I know you are getting three meals a day, at least two of them hot and all of them well-balanced, even if you don't eat them all. You are not surviving anymore on peanut butter sandwiches, and Lean Cuisine frozen microwave meals. No more will you break my heart by eating a burger at
McDonalds sitting all by yourself - you are surrounded by people for your meals and your days.  No longer do I have to worry about you driving and hurting yourself, or someone else, or getting lost and not being able to find your way home.  No longer do I worry that something terrible might happen to you in the middle of the night, or the middle of the day, and you can't reach the phone and no one would know for far too long.  I know that living in a nursing home is NOT how you would have wished this year, or any, to be for yourself. It is not how any of us would have wished it, either, Dad. I wanted nothing more than for you to come live with me, and let me take care of you as best as I could, but I also know that nothing was more important to you than holding on to your complete independence as long as you possibly could, and you did.  Right up through the very end of last year. Beginning early last January, this year brought many changes, MOSTof them sad, but not all.  Most of all, this Christmas, I still have you here on earth with me, and that is more important than ANY of the changes that come about from one winter to the next.
Merry Christmas, Dad. I love you.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

And Bear Snores On

You can sure tell it's December.  All I want to do is hibernate, and no matter how much sleep I get, it doesn't ever seem to be enough.  I was laying in bed last night, at, oh, about 8 o'clock, just before falling asleep, thinking about the nap I was going to take after school on the couch TODAY. How sad is that.  And I was mad yesterday, because for the first time ever, I beat my daughter to the couch after school, and got the comfy blanket, AND the remote. SCORE!  (She's been in the habit of coming home after school for the past week or two and snuggling under the blanket on the couch, turning the TV to something RETARDED, like Spongebob,  or something on Disney. The girl is 15 for heaven's sake, not 5! and then falling asleep on top of the remote so no one can change the channel. I totally think the need for hibernation has befallen the household, not just me.)     So yesterday, I purposely beat her there, and since I had been sick most of Sunday, figured it was my due.  Being the nice mom I am, I did let her curl up with me, end to end, although my toes were cold while hers were covered, and I DID keep the remote. We both fell asleep, and I swear it wasn't more than five minutes before the phone rang. I ignored it. Then my cell rang, so I figured it must be important. I tried to make her get up and get it. No deal. I struggled out from the back side of the couch, answered the phone, and then went back to the couch - where she was sound asleep, stretched out, with the whole blanket. I gave up. So the girl got my couch, my blanket and my nap yesterday.  Here it is 6:30 tonight and I'm already thinking constantly of bed. The first time I wondered if it was near enough time to go up to bed for tonight was an hour ago, about 5:30.  I have TRIED to do school work, I'm behind on grades which are due Friday, and I have MUCH Christmas preparing still to do. We don't even have a tree yet. And I want to care about all of that, really I do. But instead, all I can think about is sleep. A warm bed, and sleep. It's cold here - at the moment it is 16, which is probably the high for today, since it started out about zero this morning. It's so cold I didn't let the chickens or the dogs out for the day. Well, I let the dogs out, but didn't leave them out today. I gave them the couches until 3:30...but I hid the remote so there would be no squabbling. 
     And the other part of hibernation, the eating, the stocking up the personal larder,  before hand? Thankfully (really? did I just say that?) a stomach bug is running rampant through school, and got me Sunday, so I have had little appetite for anything other than gingerale and oatmeal, or half a dry bagel.  I guess I'm thankful that it didn't hit me as badly as it is getting the kids. They are flocking to the nurses office like animals for the ark, with garbage pails hugged closely to their little chests. It makes one nauseous just to watch the parade. I guess it is probably due to over-exposure to every little germ that means it is affecting most of the teachers a bit differently. Most of us have not had the vomiting that the kids have. What we HAVE suffered, I'll spare you the details, but it has been unpleasant and appetite-diminishing in it's own ways. I have lost several pounds since Sunday. And logged many more sleep hours. Not nearly as many as I crave, but more than seems remotely necessary in, say, July.
     It's now 6:57, and close enough to call it a night. I just have to go hit the pre-warmer on my electric blanket so that by 7, I can crawl in. Maybe I'll get up early tomorrow and work on my grades. Ha ha ha ha ha ha hahaha. Good night, all!                         

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Gingerbread Men, Matchbox Cars, and M & M's

     Last year, like many, many years before (too many - and this year is the DEFINITE, clear exception to too too many years), my overriding feelings before and about Christmas were akin to that of "The Grinch."  As I mentioned, it isn't because I am not a religious or kind person. It is, in fact, because I simply feel too much pressure to "perform", and am SO afraid of disappointing people. I feel like I am the world's WORST gift giver, that everyone I give gifts to, especially my kids, will be secretly  - or NOT so secretly - disappointed and think, "wow, she really sucks at knowing what I would like," even though every year I try REALLY hard to get it "just right."  I also hate the HUGE expenditure of money, preferring instead the smaller, more meaningful aspects of the season: baking cookies and fudge, watching seasonal Christmas specials together (my favorite? "The Little Drummer Boy." I STILL cry when the donkey gets run over by the cart.), creating handmade or a specially selected gift that has meaning, not just money, behind it. 
     I am not really sure where the biggest change of heart has come from this year, or whether it is maybe more a series of small things, but in thinking about it all, I remember clearly something from last year, that has carried over into this year, two things, really.
     About this time last year, I had posted on my Facebook page a status that was a quote directly from the movie, "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas":    
"The avarice never ends! "I want golf clubs. I want diamonds. I want a pony so I can ride it twice, get bored and sell it to make glue." Look, I don't wanna make waves, but this *whole* Christmas season is (shouts)  stupid, stupid, stupid! "  It generated a lot of comments - people who shared my feelings, people who kidded me about not being in the Christmas spirit quite yet, etc.  But the one comment that really resonated, for some odd reason, was one left by a former classmate from elementary and high school .He mentioned that he remembed that when we were in 5th grade, a matchbox car and a bag of M and M's made me pretty happy.  Must have been a classroom gift exchange all those years ago, and for one thing, I was totally blown away to think he REMEMBERED giving me a Matchbox car all those years ago. Seriously, who remembers what you did when you were ten???  And, I was really warmed by the fact that he did remember that, and that he chose to share the gift of that memory with me. THAT sort of thing is what means a lot to me at Christmas...
So last year, late in the season , I bought a couple of Matchbox cars, and put them on my desk at school, to remind me of the simple things that mean the most to me, and to remind me of the gift of friendship that Mark and I still share, all these years later (hmm, 37 or 38 years later? Instead of making me feel old, I simply feel blessed that I have friendships that have endured so many years)   This year? To repay him for the gift of "saving Christmas" for me last year, and the daily reminder of his gift of friendship over this past year, I am sending him this:

Anonymously. To his school address (he is a teacher, too.) I think he will probably "get" it, but it feels fun to me to do that. I feel a little like an elf.

     In addition, last year, another friend from the past (I used to babysit for him, his little brother and baby sister, and I ADORED them - I spent SO much time at their house with them when they were growing up) sent me an email and mentioned that he had hung the gingerbread ornament that I made for him for Christmas the year he was 9 on his tree again this year.I had no idea what he was talking about, so he took a picture of it and sent it to me:

I have no recollection of having made or given him that, but I do remember my "ceramics phase," so clearly I did!  I decided that since he is now married and has two little girls of his own, I'll send him a new "gingerbread man" ornament every year, also anonymously, also to HIS school, where he is a principal.  I am pretty sure he won't "get it," wont know it's from me, although he might. I thought about putting his name on it with a permanent marker or something, but decided that would be too much of a giveaway, and since I want the ornaments to be for his whole family, I decided to leave it as it is.  I've also decided that, after this year, I will make the ornament every year - felt, painted, whatever. This year, it was just sort of a spur of the moment idea when I saw this one, so...
It will have to do.
Both these things make me feel more giving, more lighthearted, more in the spirit of Christmas. Every year I seem to look hard for the real meaning of Christmas in little things. This year, two simple gifts from last year have carried me through the year, and on into the season this year. THOSE are the gifts that mean the most to me. This year, it's been easy.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


" How is it we find our homes, that sometimes these are the places we are born to and at other times we need to search them out?  How many times have I heard Alaskans say that when they first came to this state (or that mountain-rimmed town or that tucked-away rocky cove) they had the overwhelming sense that they had at last found their home?  I suppose people say this elsewhere, too, perhaps everywhere, though I have a hard time imagining a person entering an eastern city and making this claim with the same heartfelt enthusiasm.
     To me, this sense of homecoming has to do with making very elemental connections, with responding through our senses to something we realize on a visceral level- perhaps only from deep within our DNA.  We come from somewhere else, but we recognize from some remote human memory, by that condition evolutionary biologists have come to call biophilia, the smell of budding cottonwood, the purple brilliance of firewood fields, the snorting of  bears, even the deep silences and the dark of moonless nights:  the constellation of sensory impressions that defines our true home.  We recognize it and we want it - we need it. We need it more than we need what we're born to, the familiar, family.  We may love our people, but we can't stay with them, not in a place that does not touch us on a deep enough level."
     -Nancy Lord  Fish Camp, Life on an Alaskan Shore

I read that last night, just before sleep, and all I could do was breathe an "Amen"  into the darkness as I gratefully closed my eyes. Someone understands, someone more talented than I put beautiful words to my deepest feelings, words that I wish were my own. They're not, but I own the feelings. Those feelings above, those words about Alaska, about home, are MY deepest, most intimate, feelings. Someday.Last night, and every night from now on, I can sleep, knowing someone, somewhere, understands exactly how I feel.
Whereever you are at this time, in this season, I hope you are home. Truly home. And if, like me, you're not, yet, I hope you can make the best of where you are, until you can go home. And I hope home finds you soon. I know where mine is. I'm ok that I can't be there yet, but it waits for me. I know it does. ALaska, I'll be home soon. Please wait for me. Thanks.

All in a Days Work

"Mrs. P, I think I might be going home early today."
"Really, Shane? Why?"
"Well, I either have fleas or lice. If it's lice, I haffta go home."

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Don't Worry, Be Happy

     I'm not quite sure what's going on, but I have been seriously HAPPY for ... hmmm, almost two solid weeks now.  Weird. I don't know why. It's a little bit frightening to me. I'm not generally a "HAPPY" person. Happy enough, but not SO happy that people comment on it, and not SO happy that I actually stop to think about it. I tend to usually be a little bit on the "low" side.  Not depressed, by any means, but just always a little low, a little tired, unmotivated, disinterested at times. Blah., Just blah. And, you have to understand, this time of year, especially, lest you think that is what is making me happy - THIS time of year, is normally cause for a major funk. Christmas is SO not my thing.  I am usually so miserable at the mere mention of Christmas that I can barely function. I feel guilty even thinking about how much of a kill-joy I usually am at this time of year. I've managed to really ruin Christmas for everyone several years. So, what's up this year?  I guess I haven't really had enough time to sit and analyze it yet, to get to the bottom of it, so in the meantime, it's just kind of freaking me out, but in a good way.
     Usually, this time of year, I"m looking for something, anything, to drag myself up out of my morose anti-Christmas pit (it's not Christmas itself I hate - it's the too much money spent, the over commercialism, the desperate fear that my gift choices will be all wrong, or that I won't have enough, that my kids will be disappointed, etc. etc. I just am so consumed by my fears of buying the wrong thing, or worse - forgetting too many things - Christmas, with all that needs to be done, bought, wrapped, baked, mailed, stocking-stuffed, remembered, is serious hell for someone with as serious a case of ADD as I have- is just not fun - it's hard, hard work for me, and so stressful...)ANYWAY...
     One of the things that I try to do that helps is to buy a new Christmas CD every year.  I don't listen to music much anymore,  Another long story for some other day, but I do still listen to Christmas music - either to try to be happier, or, in the case of this year, to extend the happiness on purpose. I've gotten lucky some years, have discovered some really good musicians and some really unique and beautiful Christmas music: Shawn Colvin, for one, and Nettwerk Christmas, Sara McLachlan, Bare Naked Ladies.  Some, not so great. I picked up James Taylor's Christmas album a year or two ago, and HATE it. I used to love JT, but not so much anymore, I guess. (You know you're getting old when the music you like best is "old" music, or a musicians "old stuff." ) Last year, I "discovered" the Christmas music of "Straight, No Chaser" and that was fantastic. I shouldn't say "was" - I still love it, and will get it out soon. But today, I made an intentional purchase of a Christmas CD, and it did nothing but totally boost my already awesome mood, all the way home from a workshop I went to for school today:  Celtic Woman: "A Christmas Celebration."

A couple of years ago, just by chance, I caught a Celtic Woman special , live on PBS,  Christmas Eve evening, and it was just plain magical. It was at a castle, I think,  and the lights, and their beautiful wispy scarves, their gorgeous dresses and their voices, their movements, everything, just sort of came together to be so ethereal, so beautiful. How I forgot about it, I have no idea, and why I happened to remember it, to remember their music, this year, I also have no idea. But I'm glad I did. Walmart. $10.00.  I put it on in the truck today, and it is every bit as beautiful as it was live on TV. Worth every penny. It would make me happy if I were feeling miserable, I know it would.  But since I am NOT miserable, since I am mysteriously, weirdly, boyantly HAPPY, it was even better. I can't wait to put it on at school tomorrow, on my computer, and make my roomie at work deliriously happy as well!!  :)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

I Fell in Love Friday

Normally, when I get a chance to go to Starbucks, which is rare because of the distance from me ( 1 1/2 hours, any direction I choose), I get a Cinnamon Dolce Latte. But then, a few weeks back, I happened to check the number of calories in one of those, and holyschmoley, decided I wouldn't be getting those, however rare an occasion it might be..Granted, had I thought to order it with nonfat milk (or soy, which I prefer, though it has more calories) and remembered to tell them NOT to put whipped cream on it, I could have drastically reduced the calories, but the syrups are not sugar free, so I can't make it a no-calorie drink, there...)  And my new love, discovered Friday, was definitely not sugar free either, but, that's the best part - I can now make them , easily, at home, sugar free (almost) and I can indulge myself to my heart's content!

I don't know what possessed me to order, or even ask my daughter about, a Chai Tea Latte, especially since I don't even really LIKE tea, and,  I had no idea that Chai tea was spicy, which I love, but somehow, it just seemed like the right thing to order. And boy, am I glad I did. I LOVED it. I triple, superduper, ADORED it. Something about the flavors, the right kinds of spices, soy milk - hot. Yummmm.  It will never replace coffee, any kind of coffee, as my favorite beverage, but as a low-cal, sugar free hot drink for the winter nights ahead, I'm SO glad I "discovered" this drink. Oh, wait, I got ahead of myself. How can I possibly drink this at home, and how can I make it sugar free, when there is no Starbucks near me?  Because after my daughter realized how much I loved this drink, she told me about, and then bought me, this:

from Walmart!  Sugar free. All I have to do is pour half a mug full, add soy milk to the other half, nuke it for a minute 30 seconds, and ta dah!  Hot Chai Latte at home. And it's sooooo good. I'm in love.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I Really Want this Dog...

...but I know I can't have him. Not only can I not add another dog to my family - I have 4 large dogs already - but they probably would not allow me to adopt him anyway, because like my other four, he would be hookd out to a run M-F from 8 am until 3 pm, and although my dogs have each other for companionship, ample runs which allow them to get plenty of exercise during the day, and sturdy, tight dog houses with small doors and fresh straw all winter long, I'm sure to someplace looking to adopt him out, that would not be deemed good enough.
Which is really too bad, because I know, deep in my heart, I could provide for this little guy pretty much everything he needs for his life. (Wait, I just looked it up, and it IS ok to be gone more than 4 hours IF you have another animal for companionship. How about 4 other dogs? Would that count? Maybe!)
The ad reads like this:

MUTLEY: A 14 month old Border Collie, possibly Aussie m...ix, Mutley is the sweetest guy, super friendly and easy going. He is a doll and everyone who meets him, agrees...he is one very special boy. Mutley loves taking walks and loves to play with other dogs, too. An all around wonderful dog, he is need of a special home where someone is not gone many hours. Mutley has under-sized kidneys that mean he has to go outside often and while he is totally housetrained, he can't hold his urine for long stretches. He would do great with a doggie-door or with someone around since he gives the perfect cue to go out. Mutley has lived in one home since a puppy but now, both guardians work too long outside the home so are hoping he can find a new life better suited to his situation. They will provide $250 toward his medical care as well as his current meds which help his kidneys work better. Mutley's vet would also be happy to provide the medications to any new family and would be happy to explain his situation further. He will not have a long life since his kidneys are congenitally deformed but he sure could have a happy life with someone who is up for all the fun he has to offer! Mutley is about 45 pounds and good with cats. He lives with a 6 yr old child now and is very tolerant of all the hugging!"
By:Glen Highland Farm  (Great site if you are a BC lover )

I have a Border Collie, Bramble, who is the love of my life. I waited more than 22 years to get a Border Collie, wanted one ever since I saw a shepherd and his border collie in a Dewar's ad in a Newsweek that many years ago.

(This ad is one from the same series that I saw back in about 1987 that had a shepherd in a tweed coat and cap, walking across a Scottish glen or field with sheep and a Border Collie. I have searched the past few years and can find this, and others from that ad series, but not the exact ad that I remember. It was that one specific ad that lit the match of desire in me to someday own my own BC)
 She is a high, high, high energy dog, and seriously deranged when it comes to "resting."  She doesn't "get" resting. It is a challenge, and admittedly a huge pain in the ass even, sometimes, to keep her busy. She gets a Kong toy filled, several times a day, just to keep her busy for a few minutes emptying it out. She gets a bone, or occasionally a rawhide chew, though I don't like them much, every day to keep her busy chewing for awhile. We play tug of war inside with dog rope things. We play tug of war outside with large chunks of branches, sometimes even a piece of firewood she tries to run around with. I throw a ball for her over and over and over. I chase her. She chases me. She chases and plays with the husky sometimes, but not as often as I would wish. The husky annoys her, because while Annie is chasing and tackling her, her main goal is to get away from Annie so that she can get back to ME, to continue playing with ME.  Annie would prefer to play with another dog - Bramble prefers to play with me. 24/7. 
     One of the things that has been difficult for me to deal with, with Bramble, though, is her incessant need to pee, constantly, it seems.   Housebreaking her was NOT an easy task, and I can't even say that she IS completely housebroken. She is fairly trustworthy IF I follow a strict and unvarying schedule. This includes making sure that she sleeps upstairs with us at night, and putting a baby gate across the top of the stairs. If she can't get downstairs when she has to go out, she will come to my side of the bed and give a muffled half of a "woof" to let me know she has to go out. Most nights it is twice, usually early-ish around 11:30, (I go to bed on the early side, and would go even earlier to read, and possibly to sleep really early some nights, if it weren't for trying to stay up later for the dogs' sake) and then again between 2 and 3:30 sometime. Then she will bark around 6:30 if we are not up, on weekends, because that is usually when ALL the dogs go out in the morning.My other three dogs could easily go out at 8 pm, and then be fine until 6:30 or 7 every morning, so it baffles me that Bramble needs to go so often, still.  And it's not just a "habit" as it has been said that I have "indulged" her in, because if she sleeps downstairs in her chair, which she actually prefers, she leaves several wet spots on the rug letting me know that she truly DOES have to go out at night. Letting her sleep downstairs gives me my beauty sleep, but ruins the carpet, so I'm just used to getting up to let her out every night. I also happened to hear from another BC owner today, randomly, who saw my post of Muttley's ad on my FB page, and she said her BC has the same kidney issue as Muttley. NOW I'm beginning to wonder if that might not be Bramble's problem, too. Maybe it is a breed tendency that I wasn't aware of. I need to talk to my vet about this at some point.
     Now, before you question why ANYONE would feel it necessary to write an entire post on the urination habits of a dog, let me just say, it's the WHOLE reason, or most of it, for feeling so deeply pulled by Muttley's plight.  I feel like "hey, I'm up anyway a couple times a night. I bet he doesn't have to pee anymore frequently than Bramble does, so if I'm up with her, why not get up with him, too?"  As opposed to someone else taking him in, and then getting annoyed to have their sleep interrupted in ways that they aren't used to, or weren't necessarily planning on. I don't want someone to get disgusted with him, and since I've been doing this for a year and a half now, I am used to it, and wouldn't mind adding one more to the mix. Bramble exhausts me, and I know I was not prepared for her energy level, and I know I often let her down. I feel like getting her was a bad thing for her, like she got a bad deal in me, because I don't have sheep for her to herd, and I'm not even very reliable about taking her for a long walk every day. Granted, she does have the back yard to race and tear around in after I get home for work, and I do TRY to make sure she has an outlet every day for some of her energy, both mental and physical, but I KNOW I fall short, and that makes me feel so very guilty. So why would I even dream of taking in another Border Collie? I. DON'T. KNOW.
     I wish I could explain it. I wasn't looking for another dog. I don't even skim rescue sites, or Petfinder, or Craig's List EVER, because I am at my limit with 4 large dogs. My children do not love the fact that we, I, have a house full of animals. They LOVE the animals, but do NOT love the hair, the noise, the chaos, the mess. Our house is a difficult one to bring friends home to for, say, movie watching, or hanging out - because the dogs just make this house always feel so ... full. They are just always there, in your way, at your feet, in the same room. I do feel a bit guilty for shortchanging the kids a bit, too, in this regard, although they do, as I say, love the individual dogs and cats.  Adding one more would not only be a bad idea but would make them pretty unhappy, I think. (Though I do only have 2 left at home for another 8 months, and then only 1 for a year and 8 months, and after that, none)  I have less time left at home for my kids than the life expectancy of this new dog, however limited.
     Which brings me to another thought I've had. If his life expectancy is shortened due to the kidney issues, then it wouldn't really be like taking on the lifetime responsibility for another dog with a normal lifespan. It wouldn't be like adding the responsibility of another 12-15 years of dog care to our life. It seems as though his life span might be more in line with that of my older three dogs, who, at the moment, are about 8 or 9,  7, and about 5.I think it is likely, if Bramble DOESN"T have this same kidney issue, but is just a peeing kind of girl, that her life span could reasonably and far exceed that of the other three, and Muttley, too. I just feel this deep, nearly inexplicable need to take in Muttley, love him, care for him, maybe have Bramble as a playmate, and take as good care of him as I can for the lifetime he does have.
     But I don't DARE bring it up around here. I just KNOW it wouldn't fly, and it makes me sad, because this isn't a dog I want for ME, but because I could be good for HIM. I could be Muttley's best chance. If someone else could give him an even better home, I would be ecstatic. I don't need the stress and hassle of another dog, just for the fun of it. But I would be more than willing to take him in and do the right thing for him because I know I could. And he's adorable. Who could not love that face?  A Border Collie's face is one of it's most endearing qualities. Those eyes.  Sigh. I love and adore BC's.
     The other thing that always worries me, though, too, is that I wonder when you reach that actual "animal hoarder" stage, where you think you're doing the right thing, and you truly love the animals  you take in, but your intentions are very misguided.  I don't know when you get there, and I'm pretty sure that you don't recognize it in yourself, but I think it's pretty clear to other people. I don't think 5 dogs (and 7 cats -indoor/outdoor, and  a dozen chickens - NOT house pets...) qualifies me just yet, but I do worry. I think you have to be unable or unwilling to provide proper medical care, proper food, etc. and live in kinda gross conditions, and that 's not me. Given enough warning, I'd still invite almost anyone to my house... but then, like I said, maybe you just think you're normal and the way you live is normal, still, and so maybe adding another dog, even out of the best of intentions, would put me more into that hoarder category? Or, maybe if you're worried about it, then it CAN"T be you (much like when I was having panic attacks, and was deathly afraid I was going crazy, but was reassured that if you are truly "going crazy" you're usually not worrying about it, and if you're really worried that you are losing your mind, you're not...)  SO does that mean that if I'm worried that I might be an animal hoarder, then I'm really not, and I COULD adopt Muttley?
     I really wish I didn't feel these compulsions, these convictions, to SAVE everything under the sun. I spend a lot of time wondering what my life will be like when I can get back down to ONE dog and ONE cat, you know, a NORMAL kind of life. But then, I sort of chuckle, because I really don't think that's probably ever likely to happen, for real. A girl can dream, can't she? Of both fewer animals in this house, and, perhaps, one more - a dog who really needs her.
Gosh, I want this dog.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

What I Want to be when I Grow Up

 Lately, I have decided that I want to be a princess....
but find that I am still a frog. Sigh.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

VETERANS DAY - November 11, 2010

This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave." -Elmer Davis

“They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old.   Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning    We will remember them.” - Laurence Binyon


“We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.” George Orwell

 I can not even begin to put into words the deep and profound gratitude I feel for the men and women of our military who voluntarily leave their families, their friends, their beds, their wives, husbands, children, their home, towns, country, to serve our country. I never take their service for granted, never forget to pray for them, and could not be more proud of every single one of them than I am. There is something deep within my soul  so deeply grateful for the freedom they bring me, the freedom they protect for me.  For every one who has served this country, who has protected me, kept me safe, allowed me to be free, thank you. There is just no way for me to ever repay the debt, but I want you to know, every single veteran - those still living, and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, that I appreciate it, appreciate what you do, what you have done, every single day of my life. Thank you.

" A Veteran is someone, who at one point in their life, wrote a blank check

payable to the United States of America for an amount up to, and
including, their life. That is beyond honor, and there are way too many
people in this country who no longer remember that fact.
If you are a Veteran, know a Veteran, love a Veteran - remember them today. And every day."

Thank you, Brett - USMC.  Thank you, David - US Army.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

THANKS, Matt!!! - You Rock!

So, I have friends. Yeah, really, I do. Honest. Real friends that I can go horseback riding with, and walking with, and can call up if I feel like it (which I don't, because I have a general phone phobia and really HATE talking on the phone, except sometimes to my sister, with whom I can pass an hour or more before I know it, but yeah, she's about the only one I ever call or answer on purpose. No one who REALLY knows me takes it personally - I'm just afraid I sound dumb, or won't be able to carry on any witty reparte, and if you WANT something, ok, call me, but if you just want to pass the time... yeah, I'm not so good with that) SO, anyhoo, I really do have friends. But I don't spend a lot of time with them, because in general, I PREFER solitude, and I'm not a terribly social person. I love to read, and write, and think and just "BE." It's hard to do those things in tandem with someone else. But I also have "blog friends," and sometimes I think those friends are actually better, closer, friends than the people here in my life. No, they are actually just EASIER friends - that's really it, I think. Not better. That's not fair. The expectations are less. That's easier. And we share similar characteristics, or at least with the few blogs I follow regularly, I feel like I have something in common with each person behind the blog. Some more than others, that's true enough, but enough of something important to me to keep me coming back.And, luckily, thankfully, I feel like I have some really good friends in cool places these days. ANYWAY (god, does it take ANYONE longer to get to the point than it does me???) - one of these good friends (thanks, Matt!!!) fed my coffee (cup) addiction, and sent me this awesome, awesome Denver coffee mug. It is now my mug of choice at my desk every morning before classes. I get to slink off into my Rocky Mountain reverie, and think of a good, good friend at the same time, AND stoke up on my favorite hot,caffieinated beverage in a sweet mountainy mug before facing my horde of monsters class of delightful students.

Again, thank you friend.
Along with my coffee, I finished the first book in the Suzanne Collins trilogy, Hunger Games, this morning. (And THAT would be why I have to spend this upcoming weekend correcting a month's worth of ELA papers and noteboks - I am the QUEEN of procrastination, always choosing a good book over correcting papers, until the weekend before report cards are due...)  But it really WAS a good book. Can't wait to dig into the second  and third volumes, except I've heard the third is just so-so.  But it will have to wait a couple of days...

"Christmas" came to me at school today, again via my wonderful librarian!  The first four books, out of another pile I asked her to  inter-library loan for me, arrived. This batch is the perfect mix.  The Hundred Dollar Holiday (my distaste for what Christmas is these days, and distaste is putting it mildly, could fill a hundred blog entries in and of itself...and probably will, the closer I get to the dreaded holiday) will hopefully give me some ideas of how to DE-emphasize the commercialism of Christmas in order to allow me to regain some joy in the holiday.  A Writer's Notebook I ordered to get some ideas for how better to have my students use and keep THEIR writing notebooks. Angels in the Wilderness, which I started last evening and will likely finish tonight, is a quick read about a woman hiking alone in the Siera Nevadas who fell and broke both legs, a hip, etc. in a remote, untraveled area, and her unlikely rescue. And last, Sew What! Fleece,  a sewing book with super easy patterns for things like mittens, hats, vests, etc. made out of fleece. It's not awesome, so I'm glad I didn't buy it, but does have a couple quick patterns I will copy and hang on to for future use.  It really does always feel like Christmas to me, the BEST part of Christmas, not the commercialism and grinchy parts, when the librarian dumps a new pile of books on my desk that I am allowed to read, and absorb, and use, but didn't have to purchase.
And tomorrow is a day off, so I can spend it with my hot coffee, new coffee mug, and new books. Ahhhhhhh. THANK you, Matt!  :)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

What Dreams May Come

     Everyone dreams.  I know I always have, but it is only this past year and a half that I am remembering  far more of my dreams than ever before, because my sleep has been interrupted once, twice, or used to be early on, even three times a night.  The Border Collie in my life either has a very weak bladder, or, more likely, just too much energy to sleep through the night, and when she barks, I get up and let her out. Interrupting my sleep in the middle of dreams means that I am remembering them more clearly. And I know telling someone about a vivid dream as soon as I wake up cements it in my conscious world for days.  I didn't really start paying attention to what my dreams are, or what they might mean, in earnest, until I realized, just recently, that I have been having a recurring dream. That kind of made me stop, and wonder about it., about dreams in general, and about my own, specifically.
     The one that STILL sticks with me, even though I dreamed it probably three weeks or more ago now, was SO strange. I even tried to sketch out a picture of it when I awoke.  Basically the dream involved my parents' back yard/garden.  It was a large square patch of dirt between our house and the neighbor's house, and in its last few years as a garden, before it was turned back into lawn, my parents let my neighbors plant whatever they wanted in it, too. It was too big for my parents (my dad was never the gardener - just plowed and tilled it for my mom, who loved the idea of gardening, more than she did the weeding and upkeep, I think). Well, in my dream, these neighbors hauled in this HUGE wooden structure that my parents had apparently told them they could put over top of their part of the garden, but it was SO big that it covered the garden diagonally, which covered much of our part of the garden.  It had some sort of green tank hooked to the underneath part of it, which was over my head, shaded the whole garden, and there was a room the full length of the top, which you had to get to by wide steps that were angled, like deck steps. It was like a large open-sided, roof covered second floor deck, over the garden.  This, in itself, is strange enough.  I have no idea what the structure itself was for, or why you would want something to completely shade your garden. But the strangest part of the dream was my reaction to it. Within my parent's house, where I was watching this structure be hauled up the bank and into our yard, I was filled with rage. Not anger, not irritation, just pure, absolute, burning RAGE, the likes of which I have NEVER seen in myself, and had no idea I was even capable of. I screamed and screamed at my parents to stop this, I yelled the "F" word over and over out the porch door at the neighbors, who are really good people ( reality, seldom use the "F" word - my daughter commented recently she has only ever heard me use it 3 x in her life, which I think is good. Obviously it would be better if she could claim to have NEVER heard it, but... then there IS reality...)  In my dream, I actually threw myself on the floor, and rolled around in rage and an all-out five year old temper tantrum. I have no idea how the dream ended - I'm guessing it probably ended abruptly when I was awaked by a "yip, yip, grumbleyip" in my ear.  But still, even at this point three or four weeks later, I am still STUNNED by the ferocity of my anger toward something totally weird and bizarre in that dream. I've never been angry at my neighbors in my life. Clearly, the dream was SOME sort of symbol, and I think I might KIND of get the idea of repressed anger.  I didn't give it a lot of heed til this week.
     THIS week is when I realized I am having a recurring dream. I have had it AT LEAST four times now that I can remember. It deals with an upper floor in a a building, some sort of barn, usually, although this last time it was like an attic floor.  The floor is unsafe, and has places where you can't step, can't walk, because it is soft, unsupported, dangerous. In the dream, I am terrified to step out, to walk, because I know I can easily fall through. The last time, in the attic, I was directing someone else those unsafe places, worried that they were walking around, unaware. I was scared to step out, scared to walk to the other rooms up there. 
     My biggest question this past week, before I afforded my dreams any more thought  (other than to toss it out at work as to what the scary floor might mean) was to wonder if dreams really DO mean anything, or if they should really be lumped into the same category as astrological readings, horoscopes and palm readings. I guess the difference is, those are things people tell you ABOUT you, but a dream is actually FROM you, so I had a suspicion that a dream might mean more than what being an Aquarius is all about. A friend, who knows far more about the psyche than I do, confirmed this. It's really pretty interesting. In a nutshell, I guess your brain has to sort of make sense of daytime events and emotions and responses while you're sleeping to make sure you are healthy and ready to face the next day.  That makes sense to me. Like, the example she gave me is, if you were to get in an accident, and were angry about it, it wouldn't really be an appropriate response to take out your tire iron and use it to dissipate your anger upon the person who caused the accident, but that anger emotion that flared up needs to "go" someplace to be used up,  so that it can be called up again when it is needed.  Therefore  you might dream about being in a fight or something else that uses it up, in your dream, and then it's there, again, in real life, when you might need it. That makes perfect sense to me.
     So, I have no real idea where the rage over a nonexistent gardening issue from my childhood comes from. I do have things in my life that I am angry about, deep down and long-lasting anger, and because I have learned, been taught, over my adult lifetime, that anger does not serve me well (i.e. don't bother arguing, because you won't "win") and therefore have come to run away from ANY sort of confrontation, I'm sure I DO have bottled up anger. And I am smart enough to realize that not every aspect of every dream is a metaphor for something in real life.  I simply could not pin what the large, snake-like wooden structure with a long, green water tank  underneath, covering up my parents garden plot could possibly be in real life. Nor do I think the rage in my dream, which was directed at my neighbors, was really and truly directed at my neighbors. No one could ask for nicer people, and I can't imagine I would ever be mad at them for anything, horticultually related or othewise. 
     The unsafe floor? Yeah, I now have a pretty good idea what that's about in my life. I'm A) pretty instrospective to begin with, so I'm relatively in-touch with what goes on in the underworld of my life and B) not "going there," as that would simply require confrontation and all, and yeah, well, that's just not going to happen. So, I guess I will be dreaming about shaky, unsafe floors the rest of my life. I wonder what the consequences are for refusing to deal with the issues in your dreams? ARE there consequenses? Does that mean I will fall through next time? Will I break a leg in my dream?  Maybe the garden structure will somehow come into play in the next installment?  Better than all of those suppositions, perhaps the Border Collie will somehow develop a bladder and a need to sleep 9 or 10 hours in a row, so I can go back to NOT remembering my dreams!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Good Kids

I looked out the living room window the other evening, wondering if my boy was in the yard working on his truck so I could call him in for dinner. He wasn't, but these guys were. All just hanging out, talking, checking out the high powered dirt bike that one of them had unloaded off the back of his truck. Our yard, and one of his friend's yards just around the corner, have become total "hang-outs" the past year or two for boys in the neighborhood and from school. A scene like this one is not unusual. The kids are a variety of ages, and from a variety of backgrounds, but they all have in common a love for working on cars and motors and riding fast bikes and four wheelers and snowmobiles and talking motors and trucks and cars, ripping things apart and putting them back together. My yard is a mess. It's full of tires, and old cars and trailers and all kinds of projects I would LOVE to have gone. I really would love my lawn to be a lawn, not the front yard of a chop shop, or in need of a fence to hide the car parts from the poor neighbors across the street.   However, when I looked out at these guys, I knew every one of them, and know that ANY one of them would give you the shirt off his back if you were in need of one. They are all good. kids. They carry in my groceries when I come home from the store if they are here. They help themselves to a bowl of stew if it's on the stove and they're hungry. The chase my dogs and bring them back when they get out. They don't use bad language around me. When my boy goes off to college next summer, I'm going to miss having my lawn back.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Do You Know This Man?

Do you know this man? Funny story. I didn't. Not at all. A friend emailed me a picture of himself, standing next to a large, lfe-size cut-out of this guy. I thought to myself, "Who IS that man? He SEEMS familiar. I feel like I know him, but I can't quite put my finger on it. Is he a famous actor?"  Two different friends came in to my room at school while I was puzzling over it, and I asked them. Neither of them knew. One said, " Sean Connery?"  The other immediately said no to that, but couldn't come up with a name, either. I sent it on to my best friend who teaches at another school, and she immediately emailed back and said, "Oh, that's the Most Interesting Man in the World." 
Really? What makes him that, I had to ask. So she sent me a link to Wikipedia, and from there, after reading about him, and the Dos Equis beer ad campaign (VERY successful and smart advertising, I think), I came home and watched Youtube videos of the guy. I have never once seen ANY of these ads on TV, or heard of him, or seen anything about him. (Maybe because there is never anything on in our house except Fox News? And I'm thinking beer adverstising is probably not a big deal on that channel?) What a shame, because suddenly, this guy, and his created "persona" gave me all kinds of great, imaginative ideas for my life.
The premise is, this guy, who is no one famous at all in real life, just a bit-part actor in lots of past shows like Dallas, and old crime dramas, is, in each of these ads, "the world's most interesting man" !  He leads a life so full of adventures that he does things like have "an awkward moment once, just to see what it felt like," and is so interesting, "sharks have a week dedicated to him."  I think it's very funny.
And, it's made me decide that I'm free to, in my mind, create "the most interesting woman in the world" persona for myself. Imagine the adventures I "could" have, if all I had to do to have them is to create them!
I can become the first woman to dogsled across Siberia in deepest winter. I can be so talented I can build my own cabin in the Rockies by felling and stripping my own trees, or could brew the most award-winning  beer in the world by using the coldest, freshest springwater from the deepest, coldest lake in interior Alaska, which I hike to, in a short period of time, because I am so physically fit that, well, you know - I've won multiple triathalons and marathons and all...
The list in my imagination is endless. And who's to know?
He closes most of the ads with the catchphrase: "Stay thirsty, my friends," which I assume is meant to a be a double entendre - since he IS adverstising Dos Equis Beer, he would want you to be thirsty for this beer, but since he is ALSO the most interesting man in the world, with multiple adventures under his belt, I would think he is telling you to "stay thirsty" for the adventures life holds as well?
I have no problem endorsing the latter. I LOVE adventures, and would love nothing more than to live a life half as exciting as his.
However, I hate the taste of beer. I'm wondering if Maxwell House or Folgers would be interested in sponsoring MY ad campaign? I could run much farther and faster, leap much higher, with caffeine pulsing through my veins, than beer.
From now on, when I post my "interesting adventures" here ('cause yeah, there are oh- so-many of them), you'll never know if they are real, or just fodder for my own race to become "the most interesting woman in the world."

"Go for the bold, my friends - in coffee, in life."  I need to work on my slogan.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Have I Ever Mentioned, I'm Not Much of a People Person?

I had an epiphany today. It was a really good one, as epiphanies go, and even more welcome because I haven't had one in a long while.

 An epiphany (from the ancient Greek ἐπιφάνεια, epiphaneia, "manifestation, striking appearance") is the sudden realization or comprehension of the (larger) essence or meaning of something. The term is used in either a philosophical or literal sense to signify that the claimant has "found the last piece of the puzzle and now sees the whole picture," (Thank you, Wikipedia)

I am alway envious when someone says they "love" their job, and conversely, have always felt guilty that I DON"T love teaching. Teaching is supposed to be a calling, right? Teachers who don't love their jobs are bad teachers that we don't want in the classroom, working with OUR children, right? And yet, yet, those things are NOT me. Oddly, I am GOOD at teaching. I really am. I know what I'm good at, and what I'm not, and I DO know, I'm a good teacher. I care beyond measure about my students as individuals. I care what kind of a home life they have, and how that impacts my ability to teach them, and their ability to learn, or even care about learning. I am constantly striving to learn new things, teach new lessons, become more creative, to be more centered, reach out and add new things to my plans that I seem to have not been as strong on in the past. I go to relevant conferences, I read professional books and research, blah blah blah.  SO, I know I'm GOOD at what I do, but yet, I don't like it.
     Even that is a conundrum for me, because I LIKE my students, LIKE creating lesson plans, LIKE teaching the material. So, what DON"T I like? What makes me feel like I don't like teaching?  Well, I've always been clear that I hate correcting papers. I HATE having to give up every evening of my life to correct papers, enter grades, plan lessons, etc. THAT part makes me really mad, because there are so many people who get to just come home at 5:00 and have a life from 5-10. I don't, and if I do, it means I'm shirking my work and that leaves more for the weekends. Oh, and did I mention that I HATE having to do school work on weekends? EVERY weekend? I spent from 9 am to 3 pm in my room on Saturday, spent all day Sunday sitting here correcting, and still have a backlog of work to do. I either do school work every single day, OR, I have hours and hours to do when I get around to catching up on it. Either way sucks.
     But my epiphany today led me to understand WHY I hate teaching, and it's so clear I can't believe I haven't realized it in all these years. I've always said it just isn't a job that "fits" me, but never really examined what that meant to me. Today, I GET IT!  I hate people. Really, I do. Well, ok, not really HATE people, but in general, I really am not a "people person."  And every day, I have to leave my quiet, calm, dark, peaceful home to go to a place that is lit very brightly, is noisy, and FULL of people.  My classroom, for the first two periods of my day, has at times, 33 people in it. 29 students, and 4 adults. And four of my students get up and leave my class for the first thirty minutes, and when they come back in, another student leaves for 30 minutes, and the speech teacher is in there trying to work on speech with 4 other students while I am teaching, and the Special Ed teacher is trying to work with her 6 students, and the teacher's aide is trying to help the Special Ed teacher, and oh, then there are the students who leave in the middle or come back in the middle of those two periods for band, piano, guitar or voice lessons.  It's NOISY. It's CHAOS that is beyond my control. It is FULL of people, little and big. And then, the bells ring, and the halls are full of people, noisy people, and can I just say... I don't deal well with noise, with chaos, with having to keep tight control of things that so often feel totally beyond my control, with people.  It stresses me out. And then, omg, throw in a fire drill during my prep period (a period which is not even quiet and calm in an empty classroom because, remember, I SHARE a classroom, so when it COULD be quiet, even for those 32 minutes, it's not because SHE has noisy kids) - I can't even begin to describe the inhuman sound of the fire alarm at school. Sort of like an old air raid drill noise? Or a grating,honking, buzzery noise? It's awful. Truly. AND, it means I have to leave my noisy-ish room to walk through the hall with MANY noisyish children and go stand on the playground with HALF THE SCHOOL. (Did I mention that I'm really not much of a people person?) Having to play the ROLE of a people person is VERY stressful to me.  
     Now, I am NOT complaining, even though I sound like I am. I really am not. Complaining at this stage of the game would be ridiculous, with only a few more years of this to go. Thankfully, the majority of my career years in this misplaced field are under my belt. AND, complaining is not my "thing."  I am seriously and appropriately trying very hard to be positive in all things this year. A good attitude really does pay off, much of the time, and it certainly makes me a better, easier person to be around. Most days I can even stand myself!
     All I am saying is, this epiphany, this realization, that came to me today, makes so much sense. It ISN"T the kids I dislike, it ISN"T the job itself of teaching I dislike, even though there are things about it that seriously annoy me. It is the circumstances, the physical circumstances, that do not mesh with my personality - my need - my craving -  for peace, for quiet, for calm, for low lights and quiet voices and no bells ringing and no alarms cranking in my ears, and my huge, huge, huge desire to be alone, or to at least have limited contact for limited amounts of time with a limited number of people. YES. THOSE are the things that make me watch the clock slowly, torturously slowly, creep it's way to 3:08 every day, as though 3:08 is my time of salvation. It is. And it isn't to be away from kids I don't like, or to be away from a job that is horrible - it is to zip home - to where peace and quiet and a roomful of 4 dogs replaces a roomful of 29 noisy, happy, exuberant children. At home, I can think. And today, when I literally had to roll the stress of school off my shoulders as I left, that's when I realized what it is that actually causes teaching to just be not my thing, to be so stressful for me. How sad, that we come to these life-changing , epiphanies a little too late sometimes, but how lucky I am to finally realize where the issues lie. It eases a lot of the guilt I have felt for many years, and... with some quiet time at home to think about things, I might be able to restructure SOME of the things that SEEM out of my control. Maybe not all of them are, and maybe I CAN fix a few of them to de-stress a little bit of my physical surroundings. 
      I think I might need to take a sick day to sit here quietly and think about it all though. Tomorrow is sounding really, really good for that. Cough, cough. Oh look, I even have a slight tickle in my throat. I MUST be coming down with SOMETHING that will require a sick day...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Random Question

Why is it that the people who have the LEAST amount of disposable income have the biggest, most elaborate, most commercial, most expensive, holiday displays? 

Corollaries to this:
  • I did not even buy a PUMPKIN to put on my front steps this year, as I can't really justify the five bucks just for something I'm going to throw out, or have smashed, for decorating purposes when I don't really care about it. When my kids were little, and it mattered to THEM, then absolutely. We had not just one, but at least 4, jack-o-lanterns every year, and scarecrows, and corn stalks, and HOME MADE tombstones in the front yard, and even a full-fledged haunted house in the bottom of our barn that was so legitimately good grown up kids STILL talk about it today.  But we didn't spend a lot of money on our decorations.
  • For the record, I'm talking those huge, blow-up, decorations that cost anywhere from 50-100 bucks or more, have to be tethered to the ground, and these people have, like, 10 of them in their front yard.  And lights.  More orange and purple and black lights than I OWN in related Christmas lights. Oh, and it seems like every singing, musical, bouncing, electronic item known to man, is hanging from their front porches. I go around from room to room turning off the lights in ANY room in my house that no one is in. Who can afford the extra electric bills? 
  • If I cared enough about this random question, I would actually post pictures from my town to show you what I mean. And of the 5 places that come immediately to mind, may I just say, all 5 families with these lavish holiday displays have children in school who are on free and reduced lunches, AND three of the five families could, in good conscience, spend a little more on weather appropriate clothing for their children.  I'm not complaining about the free lunches. I just don't know why you don't have enough money to pay full price for lunch, but you can spend hundreds of dollars to decorate your yard? For real?  Hello? Priorities?
  • I hope this does not come off sounding elitist - it is a serious, and legitimate question - I honestly  do not understand why people who qualify as low enough income to need assistance spend their "extra" money on something as silly (in MY opinion) as huge, commercial holiday decorations -  why not buy a couple more outfits for your children, or a set of snow pants to plan ahead, or some extra food for your cupboard?  But then, maybe the answer is, this is simply my opinion, and despite the fact that I have this unattractive tendency to believe that my opinions should always be that of the majority, maybe there is some other way to look at this that I'm not able to see at the moment. Hmmm.
  • This being said, I love this time of year - I have enough Celtic stirrings in my soul to know not to call my children's names out loud on Halloween night, and to circle my house three times that eve asking a blessing on all within, to bake Soul Cakes for the following day, to understand how thin the veil is that evening between this world and the other. That night sets my imaginative and creative self on fire - even without spending a dime on a pumpkin for my porch or a blow up purple witch with a green cornucopiea of warts on her gigantically large nose, tethered to my front yard.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


This morning : Sunday morning. The house was quiet and  very peaceful when I got up. No one else was up, no TV noise on, no one talking.  I let the dogs out, flicked the switch to turn the coffee on, and cut up the big Cortland apples I had left from a bushel I bought a week ago, and put them on the stove with some sugar, water and cinnamon to cook down for applesauce.  Then whipped together another apple cake, this one for my neighbor who is always baking and doing for us.  I poured myself a cup of hot Green Mountain Pumpkin Spice coffee, and went to check on the dogs. The air was crisp, and chill, and the scent of someones' wood smoke drifted across my back yard. The sun was just coming up through the trees behind the fence on the eastern side of my lawn.  I just stood, with a hot cup of coffee in my hands, and drank it in for a few moments. This is the very essence of Autumn, I realized.  In fact, isn't this the very essence of life? To drink it in, savor it, realize what a gift it is to us EVERY day?  I used to HATE fall, because of the chilly temperatures, the cold rains that dropped the colored leaves and left the world grey and dreary, and because it meant the coming of winter. How I came to love winter, instead of hating and dreading it, is another long story in itself, but I guess the point is, as I get older, I appreciate or TRY to, every day, every season. Sometimes it is easier than others. Today, it is easy to appreciate the colors and scents and tastes of fall. I'm in my glory with cinnamon, pumpkin, and apples and wood smoke. But wood smoke smells even better when it is carried on frosty winter air too, and I need to remember that. And if the world is grey and dreary outside, in November, then I need to remember that I have a warm, cozy house and crocheting projects I started last winter to work on inside, and appreciate the time a dreary world outside gives us to work on inside things. This morning is a reminder of all that is good in my life, and a reminder to live cognizant of all that is good in my life EVERY day, even when it doesn't stand out as clearly, even when the Pumpkin Spice coffee has been replaced by plain old Maxwell House or the right coffee mug for the day is in the dishwasher.
My favorite book right now is called, simply, Life is a Verb. And it is, so get up early, savor the coffee, appreciate the cool air on your face as you look to the sun, and live it today.