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Sunday, May 28, 2017

After 20 years, I can say he's my best friend

D and I returned the other day from our 20th anniversary trip to Quebec.

Our wedding date is in November, but with N's field hockey schedule and the busyness of activities in the fall AND the fact that Quebec weather gets cold that time of year, we opted for a May trip.

We had a lovely, lovely time.
It was nice to have uninterrupted conversations with each other.
It was nice to sit and walk in silence with each other.
It was nice to enjoy each other's sense of humor.

On the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City.

We have decided to stay married until November, and then we will reevaluate every year as per our normal.

I have said this before, and I will say it again, but I take great pride in being married for this long.

It is a testament to working through the regular, mundane shit of life, as well as the bigger unfortunate things, like parents dying and illness and unexpected expenses.  All the sickness and health and richer and poorer business.

For many years, I fought against being married.
That sounds funny, especially since I did want to be married.

I fought against the ridiculous societal idea of couplehood in a marriage. I kept my name. I strove to have my own identity separate from D. I resented the notion that as soon as we married we were no longer him and her but a big nebulous mass of "we."

We haven't ever subscribed to that whole "togetherness" idea of doing things we each hate just to make the other person happy. Sometimes I see couples and it seems to me that one of them is just there in misery to keep the other person from lording it over that "you never want to do what I want to do."

D and I have never really done that. In our early days, I never played video games with him just to make him happy. I hate video games.

One time in our very young marriage, we went grocery shopping together, and it was miserable. He hated it, and I hated him being there because he hated being there and drudged along, six feet behind me. That concluded our days of shopping together.

The things we both enjoy we do together. The things the other person doesn't enjoy, we don't ask them to do. It works for us.

I fought against the idea that D was supposed to be my best friend, but I think I can say after 20 years and 3 kids and 2 houses and yadda-yadda that he is my best friend. He has been through everything with me these two decades.

Being my best friend doesn't mean he fulfills every need I have. There is a reason I have my girlfriends, my mentors, my mother.
But he is a very good complement to my personality.
I think that is what a best friend is supposed to be.

On the AML Louis Jolliet, St. Lawrence River

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Trump, hysteria and language/speech

I do not know whether there was actually any collusion with Russia or obstruction of justice in what Trump said to Comey.  I wouldn't say I'm particularly eager to find out because it would be a blow to the republic. In an already much-divided country, it would further divide people. There would be much gloating on one end of the political spectrum and much denying on the other.

What I continue to think about is how much speech and language matter.

Like in the alleged statement Trump made about Mike Flynn to Comey about Flynn being a good guy and letting this go.

Was Trump asking Comey to actually stop investigating Flynn or was he just talking in the Trump way without much consideration to what his words mean and how they are perceived by others?

I don't know, but it matters.

What I think is both fascinating and sad is how what Trump says would not be tolerated in any other professional capacity, and yet it is tolerated in the president.

If a student had done something seriously wrong, worthy of expulsion or criminal charges, and a principal told a teacher that the kid is a good guy and to just let it go, would people perceive this differently than they do what Trump says?  Could the principal get away with saying, "I was just talking in that way I talk; it can't be taken seriously?"

I don't know, but it matters.

If a doctor had done something seriously wrong, worthy of criminal charges, and a hospital administrator told the nurse who had been in the ER when it happened that the doc is a good guy and to just let it go, would people perceive this differently than they do what Trump says?

Speech matters, regardless of what you intend.

Being an outsider and offering a fresh viewpoint can be a very beneficial thing, and in most cases I think it is a good idea. But being an outsider without any skills of observation or pause or restraint is not a good idea.

Being honest does not mean conveying every thought that runs through your consciousness.  When I read the definition of honest, it actually means a lot of things. Free from deception, but sometimes we can be deceived by our own perceptions of the world. Honest means humble and plain, and I don't see much that is humble about 45. Honest means reputable and respectable, and I'm afraid those don't define the president either, at least in my book.

I have never, ever been a fan of people who run off at the mouth.
Even when I appear to run off at the mouth, I know full well what I am saying and the audience to whom I am saying it.

So as much as I despise Trump's running off at the mouth and the keypad on Twitter, I also am having a hard time with the hysteria of those who keep yelling "impeachment" without, perhaps, a clear understanding of what that requires. I recently heard part of Barbara Jordan's speech at the Nixon impeachment and a discussion about maladministration not being grounds for impeachment. As much as I personally think the Trump administration is a series of dumpster fires of its own making, I withhold judgment on illegal activities until I have definitive proof. There seems to be some running off at the mouth among those who abhor Trump as well.

I can take everyone a lot more seriously if they spend a little more time thinking through their thoughts than just blasting them into the public realm.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

I KNOW lots of other women do it, but

Let's go back....to 1938.

My mom's dad died at age 40, leaving my grandmother with a newborn, a 3-year-old and four other kids.  She had to work, and my mother knew it. But I spent my formative years hearing the story of how my mom loved the days when her mom was off of work because her mom was home when she got in from school.  This experience in my mom's life made her insist on being at home with her kids during their formative years. She worked part-time at my elementary school after my brother started school for many years until her breast cancer diagnosis in 1996. 

If there is any other refrain that still plays in my head, it is my mother saying repeatedly, "I will NOT raise my grandkids." This was part of her badger-your-daughter-to-death-so-she-doesn't-accidentally-get-pregnant" plan.

Fast forward to me.  I didn't even want kids when I married, nor did D, but we adopted my mom's advice to live on one salary from the second we married so that IF we ever had kids, I could stay home with them IF I wanted to.

I didn't think about childcare until I was newly pregnant with N and did some summer portfolio scoring with another newly pregnant teacher who also had an 18-month-old.  It was then that my eyes were opened to the "You mean I have to pay a daycare in the summer even though I'm not working during the summer?" situation.

By the time I told others I was pregnant, I had decided to be a stay-at-home mom. I knew the grandparents would not "raise" my kids, and I knew I didn't trust anyone else besides myself to do it well. 

Being a stay-at-home mom was the best and the suckiest experience of my life. It gifted me years of time with my children and stole years of salary and professional experience from me. 

I have spent this past school year subbing pretty frequently at my former middle school---three days this week--and it has made me miss it terribly.  

But not terribly enough to go back full-time.  

When I am asked about returning full-time (and I am, often), I come out with a comment like,
"I'm still freakishly attached to my children."  And that is true.  This morning, M called my cell phone because he misses me when I sub too many early mornings in a row, and it killed my heart a little bit to know this. 

And subbing is not my only job.  I want to teach at the cottage school because of the freedom I have there.  And I want to write for the magazines because I love to write. And I want the flexibility of being able to visit with my mom, who just turned 79 and will not live forever.

I think I feel like I'm letting someone down, even though I'm not.  Some group of nebulous students who don't know they miss having me as a teacher?  A group of teachers who might like the idea of working with me because I seem pretty great?  Is that why I feel guilt, like I'm letting them down because I am not working with them full-time?  It is stupid to feel guilty for feeling this way, but I think I do.  

Maybe guilt isn't even what I'm feeling.  If that is the case, then I don't know what to call it.  
Maybe longing is the right word.  I feel a longing to do something I left a long time ago but don't want to do full-time, at least not right now. 

When I think about my experience, and I think about what I will tell my own daughter about her own career path and her parenthood path (if she chooses it), I'm not sure what to tell her.

You can have it all, but not all at once?
You can have it all, but you will be freaking tired and feel like you're not giving anything 100%?
You can have most of it, but you will still feel guilt and longing and like you missed out on something even though you wouldn't change it if you could go back again?
Just give up the idea that you can have it all because no one has ever had it all in the history of humankind.  It is a myth?

And I know that LOTS and LOTS of other women have been teachers and have managed to do it, but I haven't managed to do it, which makes me feel like maybe I suck.  Hell, I haven't even tried to do it. I just flat out said, "I'm not even going to try because I think it would be dismal for me and my family because I know how I am." 
(I'm the sub who left sub plans for tomorrow's sub---that is how freakishly organized and anal I am.)
Maybe I'm just a big pussy? Maybe that is what I feel?  Ashamed?  

But this that I am doing, this cottage school teaching and this minimal subbing and this freelance writing, is as close to having it all as I can figure out at the moment.  

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Talking out both sides of my mouth: The state-test letter

It's that time again....state-testing time!

The time when the conscientious kids wind themselves into balls of anxiety, reminding their parents to feed them high-protein breakfasts and put them to bed early.

The time when the kids who don't give a shit continue to not give a shit.

The time when the kids who care and just don't get it continue to care, just not get it, and then have whatever pittance of self-esteem they still possess dashed.  Again.

The time when parents are encouraged and/or instructed to write their 3rd graders letters of encouragement.

I did this with N, and I did it with G, and I still don't think I'm doing it correctly.
Am I supposed to say that this test is important?
Because it is within the window of right this second.............
......and it is totally unimportant within the window of the entire rest of their lives.

Like the unimportance of my ACT, my SAT, my GRE, and my PRAXIS.
Completely irrelevant in this moment.
There are times I wish I could sprinkle a little dash of magic fairy perspective on my children's heads so they wouldn't wind themselves into fetal balls of fretfulness.




Sunday, April 23, 2017

I'm not trying not to be supportive

I am a natural-born skeptic.
The older I get, the more skeptical I become.
Whether you believe humans have been around for hundreds of thousands of years or three thousand years, I suspect that if there was a simple answer to things, we would have already figured them out.

As Trump has discovered about health care and North Korea/China---it's all complicated.

Ultimately, I think people have to do what is right for them regardless of what I think.

But sometimes I find it difficult to support them in the things they do because I inherently disagree.

Like diets.

I do not "diet."

The word connotes a temporary, strict way of eating that in many cases cannot (and possibly should not) be applied to one's entire life.

I don't care what the "diet" is, but I am always suspect of diets that eliminate certain types of food unless there is a diagnosed medical condition under the guidance of a physician that makes such elimination necessary.

A diet that cuts out whole grains is suspect.
A diet that cuts out nuts is suspect.
A diet that cuts out legumes is suspect.
A diet that cuts out potatoes and carrots is suspect.
A diet that urges you to eat loads of one particular food group is suspect. The all-kale diet is a bad idea, even if kale is a superfood.

Diets often make us feel that foods are either good or bad, and mixing emotions and judgment with food choices is often a very dicey mix.

I am also not a proponent of out-and-out denial because that backfires, and I know this from experience.

When I was pregnant with N and developed gestational diabetes, I was put on a strict diet and I followed it to the letter.  I weighed my food. I did not eat anything with sugar, including cake at my own freakin' baby shower.  I walked 45 minutes every night on the treadmill from week 28-41.

Between my 28th week of pregnancy and my 41st, I lost 7 pounds of the 18 I had gained.  I should have been allowed to gain 20-25 lbs, but I only had 11 extra pounds of weight on me when I delivered.  N weighed 7.5.

My strict adherence to their "DO NOT EAT SUGAR" dictate resulted in me gorging on sweets for a very long time after delivery.  I stuffed so much sugar into my mouth it was ridiculous, and I don't see how that was healthy.

So what I learned from this experience is that for me, being an obsessive person, following a diet that restricts my food choices is a bad idea.  I really need to strive for a balance. Eat as much fruit, vegetables, healthful meat, whole grains, legumes and nuts as possible but don't freak out if I want a handful of chips.

I had a very poor experience with a "diet" and so it makes it difficult (if not impossible) for me to get on-board with friends and family who adopt "diets," especially if those diets are super strict or restrict certain food groups.

I support my friends and family in their efforts to be healthy, to reduce eating out, to exercise more, to eat as much whole foods as possible and cut back on processed foods.

But if your diet begins to rule your life or make you a little bonkers about food, then it probably isn't sustainable to your life and your mental health.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Adventures in subbing

I have been re-employed by the district for a year now as a substitute teacher.

What began as deep-set fear walking into a new school has become a more comfortable "I can probably handle today" feeling.

What began as a "how in the heck am I going to find jobs?" feeling is now a pretty consistent buzz of my phone with people asking me to sub.

I often hear remarks from teachers that I am a very good sub, which a part of me finds perplexing until I see other subs.

I have worked with subs who really should be retired or possibly in their graves (stroke victims who walk with canes and/or walkers and are basically seen as the lame impala to the hungry lions of middle school).  I have worked with subs who are young enough to be my child, who have never taught, who are ignored by the kids and who cry, which is like being the lame impala to the hungry lions of middle school.

Subbing has reminded me that middle schoolers are some of the biggest jerks on the planet. They are also some of the neediest, most fragile human beings on the planet.

Subbing has reminded me that middle school kids often take a day to warm up to you.  The first day subbing may be a bloodbath, but if they see you again on day two, they are suddenly more respectful.  Unfortunately, sometimes day one is so bad subs don't return for day two.

Subbing has reminded me that kids want you to engage with them, and if you do, they are more willing to offer up that respect on day two. That doesn't mean they are going to do exactly what you want on day two, but you will see more respect out of them.  As long as you engage.

And by engaging, I don't mean complimenting their clothes or hair.  I have seen subs do this, and I don't understand it.  I suspect it is an attempt to develop camaraderie with the kids, but I have only witnessed it fail miserably.  Kids can smell b.s. in adults from a mile out.

I am a big proponent of getting the lay of the land because nothing is going to get you attitude more than yelling at kids...as their regular teachers might...when you have been in the building all of 15 minutes.  I can't blame the kids. If someone walked into my house and started yelling at me about how to write my freelancing article, I'd get up in their face, too.

I have found that quiet and close gets me a lot further.
But not freakishly close.
Middle schoolers don't like that either.

I strive to be helpful in the classroom if I am in as a resource teacher, and that doesn't mean holding up the wall.  If a teacher begins to pass out papers, I go up and grab some to assist.  I walk around the classroom, peeking over shoulders, asking "Do you need help?"  If someone is losing focus, I quietly try to refocus them.  I do not do this because I want teachers to tell me what a great sub I am.  I do this because I could not sit there or stand there and do nothing the entire day.

If I have a classroom unto myself, I always introduce myself and apologize in advance for mispronouncing the students' names....noting that I understand getting a name mispronounced because of my own 3-syllable last name.  Students are often amazed that I get their names correct.  I don't know if this is a result of having taught before or being a linguistic phenom.

I then lay out the expectations and assignment, making note that I understand that having a sub in the room is not normal and generally sucks.  I get it.  They are usually given busy-work, and I hate busy-work myself so I can totally sympathize.

If I am in an elementary class, and sometimes middle if I have been with the students before, I try to work in my favorite game, Stump the Chumps, which is me asking them questions about what we read or discussed.  Listening to Car Talk frequently has been good for something.

I never, ever sit down when I sub, unless I'm in a resource capacity working with individual students.   I probably get 10,000 steps because I am on my feet the entire time, walking around, checking how they are, not giving them much of an opportunity to do anything ridiculous.

When I taught full-time, I really felt like I built a special rapport with my kids, and subbing has reminded me that I still "got it."

I mean, when I walk back into places I've subbed and middle schoolers I don't really know hug me.
That is some serious props.  

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Another stage of the grieving

Last weekend we went to see Papaw's house again, for what will probably be the very last time.  My MIL and niece met us there.

It is all cleaned out and has a contract on it.

M took his "Papaw pillow."  If Papaw is with us in spirit, he goes considerably more places than he had been in the past 5 years.

My sensitive G boy....well, I think this picture pretty much summed up what it was like for him until after he'd had a good cry.


The kids needed it, and I think D probably needed it.  That is the longest residence he has ever known.  For his entire life, a grandparent lived in that house.

The kids sat in Papaw's truck for the first time ever.  G was still upset, and I was very proud of N for helping to comfort him.

We snapped some photos of the kids with the Papaw pillow---
and by this time, G had perked up a bit.

I really love this photo.

The kids on Papaw's front steps.


The kids on the inside steps.


The kids "skating" around in the upstairs bedroom.

Mamaw and her four grandkids on the screened in porch. 


We miss you Papaw.