Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The House that Built Me - Miranda Lambert

I have no idea how to actually embed this video in a blog post. I wish I did. It's a song a friend sent me after reading my last post, about the sadness of leaving my old house behind. What an absolutely, positively appropriate song for right now. I have listened to it about ten times tonight, and have cried through all ten listens.  Thanks, Steph.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Pear Tree Remains

In the driveway, out in front of the garage, there used to be a big white birch tree. Under that, when the driveway was plowed in the wintertime, there was a huuuuge pile of snow. I used to make tunnels and caves in that pile all winter long.

In the house, in the front hall, there is a closet, an L-shaped closet, with the short end of the L going underneathe the stairs to the upstairs. Once I cleaned out the suitcases and vacuum cleaner parts stored there, it made an awesome hide-away. I spent a lot of hours there, thinking, reading, planning, drawing, writing. I let friends in, sometimes, too. It was also my clubhouse for awhile.

But so was the treehouse in the big apple tree right outside the little screened in porch that my dad built for me. I guess the older kids had had a treehouse in that very same tree, but I don't remember theirs. I will always remember mine. It was so cool. I slept in it many nights, and read so many summer days away in it I can't possibly count them all. You could see the stars through the leaves if you lay on your back. I even taught my dog how to jump up into the tree and would haul her up into the treehouse with me sometimes.

Summer had a certain feel when I lived there. Summer and childhood. They felt different than summer feels now. I can't describe it, but I can still feel it. And Sundays. Sunday had a rhythm and a feel to it. Especially summer Sundays.  Church, then dinner in the oven for after church. My dad read the newspaper, and napped, and watched golf on TV. My Aunt and Uncle came to visit on Sundays. Summer Sundays as a child were quiet, and long, and seemed to last ten times longer than the busier week days. But there was always The Wonderful World of Disney on at 7 pm on Sunday nights. I watched it at the neighbors with a big bowl of buttered popcorn. They raised me too.

The screened in porch off the dining room, I slept there most summer nights when I was little. A cot, a sleeping bag, and it was cool and comfortable. I could hear my parents getting up and around and ready for work inside the house, early, but I would doze on my cot and not get up for awhile after they had gone. Sometimes I slept on the deck, in the open, but the mosquitos often claimed victory those nights. The screened porch was by far the better option.  And I could fall asleep watching the fireflies light up the back yard those nights, flickering in and out of the red currant bushes along the bank.

When I was older, I painted my room bright green, and then used extra paints from the basement to make a big rainbow on one wall, with two big puffy white clouds, one at either end of the rainbow.  That was the room that had the closet in it that I kept my sister's Christmas present in, a kitten, that I picked up on my paper route, because my sister's cat had died, and I thought she would want a new one, but I knew the adults would tell me no, so I kept it hidden in my closet for a couple of nights until I could give it to her. My closet backed up to my parents bedroom wall, and when the kitten would scratch at the litter box, my dad could hear it, and thought it was a mouse in THEIR closet, but the secret held.

Their closet was where my mom would put my Christmas presents that I always snooped for. I always knew what I was getting for Christmas. She wasn't a very good hider of presents. As a working parent, I, too, know now she was probably too tired and too busy to be an ingeniuous hider of presents, but I forgive her.

And the last bedroom I had there, my favorite room ever, was warm, and cozy, and I painted it a dusty rose color, and my mom bought me gorgeous matching curtains which had little tiny pink and mulberry colored flowers on them. I played guitar up there, listened to John Denver over and over and over on the stereo my parents bought me for Christmas and hid in our camper one year (THAT was in ingenious hiding place!), and passed most of my highschool years living in that room. It was even better when I bought a big huge old fashioned bed at an auction for ten bucks and set it up in there. I still love every inch of that warm, cozy, retreat of a room. Looking around at its bare state now does nothing to quell the memories of those years.

My mom passed away five years ago. My father is living in the nursing home a few miles from me, now, and won't be coming home again. It's time to empty out the house. Some friends of my brothers are going to rent it temporarily, while they search for a place to live of their own. I'm ok with that, really, since I know it is better for a house to have people in it than to sit empty and fall into disrepair. I think the woman might even plant some flowers there, which would be good.  But even though the house is nearly empty now, it isn't. It's full. It's SO full of memories it is hard to keep working at the mundane sometimes. I sort ties, and remember my dad wearing them to work at school. I sort my mom's jewelry, and remember her clipping on those earrings in front of the bathroom mirror while I watched her get ready for wherever she was going. I wander from room to room, touching furniture, brushing my hands over the walls, touching memories, remembering. Just being there for concentrated amounts of time has opened the floodgates of my childhood. Twenty years of my growing up happened there, in that house. The apple tree is gone, the birch, too,  has been cut down, the currants don't grow anymore, the garden has been tilled under. But the pear tree is still there, still bearing fruit in the late summers, and acting as guardian to my childhood memories. My mom canned pears every fall. I can pears in the fall now, still from the same tree. Some things will never change, unless you let them. I hope some day my daughters can pears as well, no matter what  tree the pears come from. And I hope, though I have no idea if it's true for them as well, or not, that they have been creating their own memories, equally as good, equally as potent, in this house here, where they have spent or will have spent the first twenty some years of their lives. Only time will tell, as it has for me. And it's been telling MEsome really good stories the past few days.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

It's Here!

My summer vacation begins NOW!  All the glorious, many days of it. I don't even know how many there are between now and August 31st, because I haven't spoiled it by counting them yet. Right now, on the cusp of summer, keys turned in, it stretches out almost to infinity. Of course, I know from 20+ years of experience that it will be the shortest infinity ever, but right now, today... it's that luxurious, wiggle-your-toes-in-the-sand kind of happiness to be done with another year. Today, right now, is the very BEST part of teaching - or at least the one I can see and feel the clearest right now. TWO MONTHS OFF. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Well, there will be summer school 4 days a week for 4 weeks, beginning July 6th. And there is summer curriculum work to do. And 4 days of workshop work. But none of that matters now. What matters is, tomorrow morning, I am sleeping in. Til 9 at least. It's probably the only day all summer I will attempt to, and I will probably fail at that one attempt even, but it seems like I deserve to sleep in one day. We'll see.
Also on the short list for tomorrow:  go pick up wood for the chicken coop (yay), pick up my new glasses (yay), mow the back yard, make my summer lists (I love list making), and attend graduation (mandatory, without a good excuse, of which I have none, so I guess I will be going. UGH. No kids graduating of my own this year, so...boring, and hot, but, well, the last thing standing between me and TRUE freedom!)  After that, who knows.

I did decide my first BIG thing I want to do for summer vacation is clean my bedroom. It will take a long time, to do it right. But I'm super motivated, and looking forward to having a bedroom I will enjoy spending a summer in. Right now, it's serving as everyone else's storage room, and that is about to come to an end. Then there are those other projects, small ones, I would love to do, like repaint all three bathrooms, steamclean the carpets, clean up the patio, open the pool, fix the fences, work on my flower beds, write a novel or two, make 27 batches of jam - you know, all the usual things people want to do in the summer. We'll see.

Today did not end well. It was a day full of high drama in my room/hallway/wing at school - someone lost their job and was notified only by email on Tuesday night, a small going away party was hastily thrown together yesterday for today, the woman's daughter, my remaining "room-sharer" who also works there, was not notified til today because she is the CAUSE of much drama and spent all day yesterday crying over her mom losing her job in the first place (which really IS a terrible shame - she should not have, and someone should have had the decency to give her a call to tell her, not an email) , much accusing, yelling, crying, and then non-speaking ensued on the daughter's part because she was not in the loop - and all in all, a pretty disasterous day, for which I totally stayed on the outside of it as much as I could, thinking, perhaps I should rethink my decision to not move rooms next year. I am constantly amazed at how some people just seem to LIVE for as much drama as they can create, or be in the middle of, while I would like nothing better than to pass through my days on one level. Just level. I'd like my life to be happy, but level. Leave me OUT of the drama, please.
But hey, my vacation has started, so, you know what? I'm over it. SHE probably isn't, but I am, so... hmmm, who will have more happy days this summer? ME! YAY for happy summer days. YAY for summer vacations. YAY for mornings that start with coffee and a couple of chapters on my front porch and no stress or drama before 8 am (as long as my neighbor, the drama QUEEN, chicken-hating QUEEN, drinks HER coffee indoors and leaves me alone to drink mine, undisturbed.) And, I even have a plan for that - if she opens her door before my second cup of coffee, I will immediately retreat to my BACK porch, to drink the rest of my coffee and read another chapter before facing the world each day. Ahhhhhhhhh, summer, how I love thee.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Good News/Bad News

OK, so the good news first: 

I have come to terms with my change for next year, and I knew I would. I almost HATE that I knew I would, and that I have, but really, it's just so much more stressful for me if I continue to fight it. Also, I don't have to teach history by way of teaching novels AND science AND ELA. NOW, I only have to teach ELA (2 sections) and Science (two sections) thus bringing my preps down one, which is good. AND, I LOVE teaching ELA. AND I still get to teach the new novel I just purchased for next year, which is awesome - we'll just WRITE about it instead of delving into it for comprehension objectives.

(Awesome book - the one I can't wait to share with my kids next year. If you get a chance to look it up and read it, put it on your list for summer!)

AND they put all 4 classes back to back in the morning, so I will be "upstairs" from 9-12, and back to my little corner of my real room by noon every day. It's not ideal, but it's ok. I can live with it. I don't have to move, and have decided not to. I can create another classroom that's warm and inviting for the kids upstairs, and keep my little safe haven downstairs (and I can continue to grow sunflowers on my windowsill). AND I only have to teach 6th graders, who are a good bunch of kids, and I don't really mind spending another year with them, AND my class sizes are small - two classes of 12 kids each. So how's THAT for looking on the bright side? And I did it all while fighting a really, really, really bad case of pms (actually it's pmdd, but that's probably TMI, huh?)

Now, the bad news?  A friendship broke this week over the whole moving room/not moving room deal, and I'm sad, and mad, and suffering, but I am not going to try to fix it, because I was told that it was "my problem," which means that perhaps I have been viewing this "friend" through rose colored glasses. Deep inside, I have known that she tends to be a much more SELF-centric person than I, and deep inside I have known that we have huge differences, and I have known other relationships, close ones, that she has had, that have imploded over the years, but I have convinced myself that I was different, that our friendship was real, and would last. But, I've been burned this week, and all the things that I was ignoring have come to light, and I can't ignore them anymore, so I think it's best to cut my losses, and move on. Seriously, it sounds like a dating relationship, not an adult women's frienship, but I guess there might be similarities. We are too different to maintain. In time, I will be ok with that too, and who knows, maybe I AM at fault. I do know that my interpersonal relationships do suffer at certain times...
But it IS making for an awkward last few days in the room this year.

Someone asked me the other day what I'm going to do FIRST this summer, when school is out. What an odd question to have plagued me so this week. I can't stop thinking about it. What WILL I do first? What will I do next, after whatever it is I choose to do first?  So many thoughts, possibilities, options are swirling about. It's made even worse when I LOOK about me. The front flower beds need to be weeded, and planted with SOMETHING this summer. The sidewalk weeds need to be killed.
 The chickens need a new coop. Or two or three.  I have to get my Bantams back

 and put the teenage chicks outside, but right now I only have ONE coop, a little one, and three different sized chickens and I don't know what to do with them all (I might be in a little over my head, but too many chickens is, in my opinion, a GOOD problem to have).  And then there are all those INSIDE things I want to do - cleaning, laundry, steam cleaning the carpet, sewing, crocheting, soap making, jam making, etc. etc.
I guess I need to just make a list. That's good - I LOVE lists.

What is on YOUR list to accomplish this summer, for fun, or because you need to? Or both. Two lists are better than one!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

When You're Going Through Hell, Keep Going........

Change is the only constant
Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.
The key to success is often the ability to adapt
 Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts.

There are all kinds of great quotes about change. I've googled them this week, trying to find SOME words of wisdom I can cling to. Often, I find a good quote to be just the inspiration I need in whatever situation I find myself, good or bad.  Unfortunately, none of the quotes I've found have been helpful, because these are all about changes that are more, I don't know, positive? Inevitable? What if you don't WANT the change? What if everything in your being is railing AGAINST the change? What if you don't want to BE changed?  What if the change doesn't HAVE to happen, but someone is making it happen anyway? Maybe I'm just being too stubborn about the situation to grasp that those messages ARE for me, but right now, I just want to come up with a new quote that fits my situation. Unfortunately, it would be something like, "Change sucks, and I'd rather not have any more of them, thanks very much."

I think I remember mentioning back in September last year when I went BACK to school, that I don't react to change well. Ever. SOMETIMES not even to GOOD changes. I guess the best that can be said is that I usually am able to resign myself to them, if I don't necessarily accept them. But I also have become such a passive version of my former self (thank you, Paxil) (unless I am pms'ing and screaming obscenities at bullies...but then, THAT story's already been told...) that I sometimes wonder if resigning myself to change that I don't want isn't maybe a factor in why so many changes happen to me. Maybe people figure, "oh she'll bluster and blow, but eventually she'll settle down and just do what we want her to do."  How do I know when TO fight back, for real?

My teaching position is being changed again, for next year.  It's a long story. My teaching career has literally spanned every grade from preschool to freshmen in college. Some grades, ages, levels, subjects, I have liked better than others. But I have spent most of my life doing Remedial - in one form or another.  When I left the high school level remedial, I switched to elementary classroom teaching at the third and fourth grade levels. I really enjoyed classroom teaching, when it was a self-contained classroom of my own students.  When our school student population started to decline, fairly drastically, and our classrooms were cut from, for example, 1 3rd grade classroom, 1 4th grade classroom (both self-contained) to 3 teachers per two gradelevels, with three multiage (3rd and 4th mixed) classrooms, I began to hate it. I had to work with other teachers as part of a team. Now, before you think "Oh, she's not a team player" - i AM. And I can be. And I don't MIND being a team player. But, it makes my weaknesses SO much more visible. I am pretty severely ADD. I have a hard time keeping track of papers all in one place. I don't get correcting done on a regular

schedule, but instead, tend to spend a couple Saturdays or Sundays with a pot of coffee, curled up in my chair, correcting all day. These kinds of things tend to drive other, more organized, teachers, crazy. They want grades a week EARLIER than they are due? Well, in my world, I still have a weekend between me and grades, and so mine won't be done until the last minute. Yep, they'll be done and in on time, if I have to stay up half the night doing it. It's the price I pay for ADD, and I'm ok with that. And it WAS ok when I was on my own. But becoming part of a team demanded too much more of me, stresswise, so I wasn't enjoying it like I was when it was just my classroom and my kids. And I knew my habits and characteristics, although they don't affect the kids and make me a spontaneous, good, teacher in so many ways, were driving the other teachers, who are also my friends as well as colleagues, nuts. So, when a remedial position opened up a few years back, it seemed like a good time to return to that. The pace is slower, the groups small, I enjoy the work, and the kids. I'm good at it. Remedial tends to be a bit boring, at times, as it is much repetition of the basics, and I do thrive on NOT being bored, but it seemed a good trade off. After a few years of too much "excitement" in classroom teaching to not have EVER been bored, going back to remedial just seemed right. And I've grown SO much. I've learned SO much more about Dyslexia, and have been a key player in getting a new program in our school for dyslexic students. It's been a good few years. BUT, the population at our school just keeps dwindling. Most classes (as in, the whole GRADE level) tend to now have about 25 students in them. My 6th grade class this year is down to a total of 17 kids. And thus, things continue to change. Classroom teaching needs change. I was asked to teach a couple of sections of 6th grade reading and ELA last year, in addition to the remedial the rest of the day. It was ok. I was on my own, so my paper issues didn't really bother anyone, and we did fine. This year, I was asked to teach 3 classes of 5th AND 6th grade Reading..... well, ok. One more class than last year. The other half of the day remedial.

NOW, next year, they want me to teach:  Social Studies via reading. Really? I'm going to be able to cover an entire year's social studies curriculum by teaching historical novels? I'm going to teach the deep structures of reading while covering the content of ancient Egypt? Well, ok, I suppose, if you say so. Oh, and immediately following THOSE 40 minutes, I will be teaching ELA to one HALF of the 6th graders (while one of the other teachers across the hall is teaching the same stuff to the OTHER half of the 6th graders. There are 23 of them all together- we seriously can not put them in ONE CLASS??? I understand the benefits of small class sizes, but while that is critical at K and 1, and maybe 2, when kids are learning to read, I don't think a class of 12 students is all that necessary at 6th grade. Buck up, teachers and administrators. It is not impossible, not even a BAD idea, to teach a class of 23 students.) Oh, and did I mention that following THOSE 80 minutes of class, they now insist that I teach 6th grade SCIENCE. And then come back upstairs for another period in the afternoon to teach the OTHER class of 6th grade SCIENCE. Yeah, because THAT's my forte, all right. Two degrees in English, and elementary, and I'm supposed to be thrilled to be required to teach SCIENCE? It isn't even LIFE science, for crying out loud. Yes, I CAN do it. I'm not stupid. I can. But I don't WANT to.

Not only is this going to go back to being a disaster for me, as organizationally challenged as I am, but it is going to be a nightmare for the other two 5/6 team members to work with me. AND, I'm not exaggerating when I say NO ONE wants to work with them. They have chased the past three teachers out of there, well, one of them has, because of their personality. I don't want to fight. I don't want to move upstairs. I don't want to go back to being a classroom teacher. Especially not of science. AND - the kicker is, because our State decided to change the cut off levels for State Testing this year, we are expecting an influx of remedial students who are not really remedial, but will now be required to get remedial services. When I asked what the plan was for servicing them, since I was being pretty much taken out of the mix, I was told, "I don't really know yet. I don't really have a plan yet. I'll have to wait and see."  So this is what I get by being GOOD at what I do, even when I don't like it?  This is what I get for having been the one person who has survived two years "upstairs" with "those teachers" that no one else can work with? I don't WANT to leave my classroom downstairs. I love my little corner of the room. I've got big windowsills with flowers growing. Upstairs, there are no windowsills, and the windows open out onto the roof where the vents from the cafeteria and the boiler room make noise and smells all day. I don't want to leave the students I am finally able to teach to read. I don't WANT to teach about the solar system. I HATE the solar system. I like reading, and books, and writing, and laid back days with laid back students, and minimal grading and minimal lesson plans, and no stress at grade times. I like not pissing other teachers off because I'm scatterbrained, and spontaneous, and not quiet, and sedate, and organized. I LIKE my desk area. I LIKE not having to climb to the second floor every day. I LIKE the teachers in my hallway I work with now. If I go up there, I will be alone, and lonely, and I will hate it again.

CAN I do it? Sure. Will I be good at it? Yep. But do I want to put all that effort and time into it that it will take? Not really. I've been doing this for many years. I'm not done yet. I'm not one of those teachers who SHOULD have retired by now (I'm only 47, for heaven's sake) but hasn't, and is just getting by. But I have found where my strenths lie, and where my stress levls are at their lowest, and classroom teaching is so not it.
I don't WANT this change. There are others who could be put up there in that position besides me. I will admit in a small school our size, the options are limited, and I know that I should be grateful that I still have a job, when many others in nearby schools have been let go this year. And I am. I'm just tired of change. I don't WANT to change again. Want to know a secret? I don't LOVE teaching. It was never my dream job. I don't honestly know what would have been, all those years ago. I do know, now, that something with animals instead of people and paperwork, would have been a better fit for me, personally. I like kids. I like having a tool, finally, whereby I can teach ANYONE how to read, even kids with severe dyslexia. That's a good feeling. But still - it's an awkward fit for me. I've been the square peg in the round hole for many years, and only have 9 left before I can become a Veterinary Technician for 9 dollars and hour, and feel like a round peg in a round hole, at long last, money and retirement system be damned. I feel like I could make it IF they left me where I was. I promise not to stagnate. I promise to keep learning new things. I promise to be cheerful and relatively ungrumbly and plant sunflowers on my windowsill, if only they would not force this change on me. I CAN"T retire for at least 9 more years - I just would prefer that they not be 9 years of paperwork misery.
When in Rome.....
I don't know what it is the Romans DO, though, so I guess the next best thing is the other quote, "When you're going through hell.....
Teaching 5/6, upstairs, with THEM, and those subjects, well, maybe it's not hell. But it sure isn't Rome, either.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Kids - Expensive and Priceless

Was that a weekend that I just endured had? I'm not really sure, because it seems like just a few moments ago I was doing the "Yay - it's Friday" happy dance, and suddenly, it is already Sunday evening. I hate Sundays for 40 weeks of the year, because it means the next day is Monday. On the other hand, I seriously love Sundays more than the average person during vacations, because knowing that Sunday DOESN"T mean Monday-work makes Sunday extra great. Anyway, I digress.
Last week was a short week - no school Monday because of Memorial Day, and then I had to take Wednesday and Thursday off because my daughter fell on the steps at work and broke a bone in her hand and had to have surgery Thursday (and pre-surgery stuff on Weds. A two day work week - sweet!

But then, this weekend was PROM weekend. For my youngest, who is only 14.5   Our school is sooooo very small, that the prom is open to everyone in 9-12th grades. If they had the traditional Jr-Sr. Prom, as many schools do, there would not be enough people in attendance. As it is, with all 4 grades, there probably are not more than maybe 100 people. Well, I should remember well enough that the FIRST prom is a Big. Deal. And especially to my youngest, who is VERY girly sometimes. And I'm so not. It's totally difficult for me to relate to the excitement of spending 2 1/2 hours getting your hair, makeup and nails done. And PAYING for it. (I did, on the other hand, spend the 2 1/2 hours waiting, being very productive in grading my papers I am way behind on.) It's very hard for me to relate to spending an evening shopping for shoes, jewelry, makeup, etc.  And putting on fake toenails. My fingers and toes are always in the dirt, and therefore, I keep them short. Very short. And they are usually stained from gardening, cutting berries, etc. I can't be bothered with anything other than shorts or jeans, and a tshirt/sweatshirt, or flip flops. I just HATEHATEHATE dressing up. HATE it.  Haven't worn a dress in literally I don't know how many years. Ugh. Also, I think that because this poor girl is my 4th, I might be winding down a bit in terms of excitement over these things. I have already sent three other kids to prom. Whoopdedoo?  But, I try hard to remind myself that it is not HER fault she was born last, and so I try very hard to fake it! I drove her around to three different places for pictures with friends, came to the Prom Court crowning, etc. and took her to an after prom party at her "date's" house at 11:30.  All in all, the biggest sacrifice this weekend? Sleep. But, as they say, a picture of the girl in her prom dress? Priceless. She was - IS - a beautiful girl, who, most of the time, has a sunny personality to match her good looks and brains. I am lucky she is mine!

She's the one on the far right, in the reddish pink dress. Her date is just a really, really cool friend from school. I love him because he is such a good friend. They had a blast!  And that's what counts. Not that I am grumbly because I was up too late, and up too early to help the broken-handed girl wash her hair. (And PLEASE do NOT ask me about the boy in HER picture. I am trying hard to forget that HE exists!)

Oh, and I DO have two other kids - guess they should at least get a picture of their own?  This dirty, grubby, filthy boy is mine. And that is the way he looks most of the time. He earns that dirt: under cars, working on a farm, fixing engines. The kid is AMAZINGLY talented at working with his hands. The girl with him? One of my younger girl's friends, a neighbor, and on-again, off-again girlfriend of the boy. HE refused to go to prom with her, with anyone. He is as allergic to formal occasions and formal wear as I am.

And this guy? He's the oldest, the 21 year old college senior (I am NOT that old - I do not know how he can be mine. Oh wait, I was 7 when I had him. I keep forgetting that medical miracle...) He's, in the words of one of my friend's son, "A really cool hippy pirate dude"  Which is appropriate, because his biggest goal in life? To either be a pirate, or to own a laid- back restaurant on the beach some day.  Jimmy Buffett rules his world!
And all four of these guys rule mine.  Despite the fact that somehow, because of them, I seem to have misplaced my weekend somewhere. If you find it, could you let me know before too long? I guess there's another one around someplace, though. Oh well.