Diapers and Dragons

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Holidays and All That Jazz

★˛˚˛*˛°.˛*.˛°˛.*★* Merry *★* 。*˛.
˛°_██_*.。*./ ♥ \ .˛* .˛。.˛.*.★* Christmas *★ 。*
˛. (´• ̮•)*.。*/♫.♫\*˛.* ˛_Π_____.♥Everyone♥ ˛* ˛*
.°( . • . ) ˛°./• '♫ ' •\.˛*./______/~\*. ˛*.。˛* ˛. *。
*(...'•'.. ) *˛╬╬╬╬╬˛°.|田田 |門|╬╬╬╬╬*˚ .˛ *.*

Hey, I know. I totally stole this from Facebook. That's what social networking is FOR!!!

Regardless of any theft plagiarism loan, Merry Christmas to everyone! And a Happy Birthday (however incorrectly celebrated since he was probably born in March) (heh) to Jesus. And ME! Yep. I'm an ancient and decrepit thirty-three years old today.

Now to try to overcome my nausea and go put away leftovers from the massive overindulgence of the day. Oh, and possibly dropkick some overtired, oversugared, overstimulated children into the nearest bed. Yaaaahooooo!

What? I totally need some Silent Night up in here.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Grace Notes

This has been a hard week. You'd think that having two snow days to start out the week would make it Teh Awesome, and it kinda sorta did, but driving on the Worst Ever In People's Memory roads wasn't a great joy, and the last couple of weeks have tended to be full of Stress! Stress! Drama! while quite short on Sleep! Blessed Sleep! Also, imagine the fun of trying to cram five days' worth of work into three before the students flee for a two-week break. Fun Times.

So stomachs have been clenched, muscles have been knotted, and teeth have been gritted. Needless to say, tempers have also been short.

Yesterday, in fact, MTL arrived home in a horrible mood--the worst, he confessed, since we've been together. My mood wasn't sunshine and daisies either. At one point, while trying to convince the %&#()@ cabinet drawer to get back on its runner and slide back in dammit, I slid back against the opposing cabinet, lowered my head to my knees, and let the tears just flow for a little while. It's all just the buildup of everything that has been going on, especially with The Dark One, and work stress, and extended family stress, and reaching a point of Deep Core Stuff in therapy, and....yeah.

Fortunately for those around us, MTL and I are self-aware enough to clamp down on our tongues and do our damnedest to Think before we React when we're highly stressed. I won't say we didn't trip up a bit last night, but there weren't the rages or tempestuous fights or OMG EVERYONE JUST GO AWAY moments that could very well happen at times like that.

Thank God. Which I mean literally, because I believe He helped, even if it was just having our guardian angels lay a finger on our lips from time to time so they didn't open until we'd had a moment to think first. And I'm also thankful that He gave us each other, because being able to debrief with and vent to and comfort each other goes a long way toward making it all survivable.

Today...well, today is a new day. MTL didn't get much sleep again last night, but I did, so at least one of us has some renewed energy to deal with Stuff. And it's the last day of school before Winter Break. And my students are being very sweet.

You know, it tends to be elementary teachers who get the cache of holiday gifts (which reminds me--OOPS) more so than secondary, but sometimes we still get a little something here and there from kids who want to suck up love us. My kids know my weakness. Oh yes, they do. A dear former student who was very sad to discover she would  not have me for honors English 11 this year showed up a couple of days ago with an adorable frosted sugar cookie man. Today another student handed me a heavy gift bag that contains a massive box of fancy European cookies. Yet another gave me a box of six Godiva Truffle Bars and a $10 Godiva gift card. (The girl is GOOD.) And knowing my tenth graders, I'll most likely have another few gifts as the day goes on.

But you know what my favorite gift was today? The handwritten note that accompanied the Godiva. Inside, it reads:
Dear Ms. [TeacherMommy],
So I swear to god, I'm not just kissing ass when I say this, but, thanks for being the first teacher in 5 years to make me love English again.
It used to be my favorite subject and I'm not sure what happened, but I'm actually starting to enjoy it finally.
So thanks.

I really need to start scrapbooking all those kinds of notes and cards and emails and whatnot. That's the sort of thing to pull out on the rough days.

Life is messy and difficult and sometimes overwhelming, but it's the little things that matter. The notes of appreciation from students, the kisses and cuddles and You're so pretty, Mommy! from my kidlets, the teasing from my stepson that says he is comfortable and affectionate with me in his own way, the I love you! on the phone from my younger stepdaughter, walking out to a car scraped off and warming up each morning thanks to MTL, the look in his eyes when he sees me, the words of appreciation and love that he gives me for the things I do to keep this crazy family up and running, laughter around the table while we eat or play UNO...

And above all, the sense that as crazy as life can be, I am Home.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Don't Feel Too Pressured. It's Just A Test Of Your Love.

I am blocked. I have started and stopped, both mentally and typically (I don't think that word means what you think it means! says my inner Inigo Montoya, and he's sort of right--get a sense of vocabulary humor, Inigo!) a half dozen posts and then I look at them (mentally or, well, on the screen) and they fall flatter than a prematurely de-ovenated souffle.

I complained to my friend Rob, and he suggested that I write about playing DnD

(no, not Diapers and Dragons--DUNGEONS and Dragons! Though the confusion is completely logical)

(and yes, I know that my geek quotient just went through the atmosphere with some of you, while others are completely unsurprised--This is the girl who wanted an Elf Ranger outfit for Christmas, you say, and now you know exactly what character I play: her name is Tahlia--pronounced Tuh-LEE-uh--and she's the only Fey in a group of humans, and she kicks ass, of course)

except that I think most of you have already glazed over just at the thought of it and the rest of you, with maybe a couple of exceptions, would join the others if I actually launched into a description of our sessions. Which, really, tend to be pretty raucous and full of hilarious geek culture references, but also involve things like complicated dice and little pewter miniatures and stats sheets and people debating over whether or not a particular attack is likely to have much effect on the target and whether Dexterity or Strength is the base stat for...

And there you go. Come back! I'll stop!

Anyhow.

I'm stumped and feeling a little desperate because I WANT TO BLOG and yet nothing is coming to me on its own. So here's my request: would you? could you? PLEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAASE help me out?

If you're willing to play along, comment on this post with something you'd like to know or always wondered about me or my blog or my life or whatever, or a topic upon which you'd like me to expound, and I will go with it to the best of my ability.

And if you don't comment, I'll know who loves me and who doesn't.

I KID! I KID!!!

(Sort of.)

So....Ready? Set? GO!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

If I Had A Fireplace, This Would Be A Fireside Chat. Does An XBox 360 Count?

I'm sitting on the couch while Many Small Children run about eating toast with various toppings, which makes for interesting food art on their faces, waiting for The Blessed Elixir (otherwise known as coffee) to brew so that my mind can properly prepare for the day ahead. The MSC made it up and downstairs before I dragged myself from my warm, if solitary, bed and into the shower, so the TV shows evidence of The Padawan's adventures with Guitar Hero, and now he's moved on to computer games. When not smearing themselves with jelly, Nutella, and crumbs; DramaBoy, The Widget, and KlutzGirl are clustering around him to watch.

Ahhhh, Saturday mornings with The Dork Squad.

MTL is at work and has been for hours, as is usual for a Saturday morning, so I'm essentially on my own with the kidlets until later today. DMB is in bed still, as his biorhythms are those of the college kid he still is. He won't emerge for hours.

Today looms in a friendly way. Besides the usual loads of laundry, I also plan to take KlutzGirl on a quest to find more jeans at Sally's Boutique*, and all three younger kids are slated to get haircuts. Carnival Cuts at the mall should make that simple. I learned my lesson about trying to cut a child's hair long ago (it's a good thing DramaBoy was too young to care). I've tried to persuade The Padawan that the drapes covering his eyes should also get trimmed, but to no avail.

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*a.k.a. Salvation Army. The one down here is pretty awesome, especially for kids' clothes. Yay for savings and helping the less fortunate all at once!
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Later, when MTL gets home, we're having our family Christmas preparation day. The tree will go up, the decorations will--well, they'll decorate, and I fully intend to have Christmas music playing the entire time. It's two weeks until Christmas: I'm allowed. Cocoa will be made, and we have ambitious plans for a luscious dinner of turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, and stuffing.

Because who said that sort of thing can only happen on holidays themselves?

Later The Padawan has a friend coming to stay the night. This makes me and MTL so very, very happy. He's a shy boy, and we were worried about him at a new school in a new district. We knew he had been making a few friends, but this makes it all very REAL. So when he asked if he could have a friend or two sleep over, we couldn't say yes fast enough.

Ahhh, coffee. I can feel my brain waking up already.

I know I haven't been here much lately. I've written a dozen posts in my head--always when I couldn't get to a computer, of course--and then when I do have my computer I'm blank. So much has been happening lately. Part of my problem is that there is so much I can't put out here, where it's public, because I can't do that to the people involved. Part of my problem is that, unlike a couple of years ago when I first got into this blog, I have outlets elsewhere. There have been times when I've felt that pressure building up that used to lead to a blog post, and instead it gets released in conversation with MTL or DraftQueen or Amy or Heidi or one of my several other beloved friends.

So--here are the Cliff Notes on what's been going on :
  • I'm back in therapy for old, old stuff: it's going well, but it's hard work, and I'm finding it almost impossible to be around certain people until I work out things in my head. My therapist says it's wisest right now to be silent, until I know what words can and should be said--if at all--to those people.
  • I love my students this year--well, except for some of the lazier seniors, but I'm working on kicking their asses into gear. My two sophomore classes are absolutely my favorite of all time, and I've had some amazing classes before. I feel like I'm finally succeeding in blending the personal with the academic, and I love that part of my job.
  • I hate politics. I especially hate the politics that affect my job, and boy, do they affect my job right now. And that's all I even want to say, because the slightest THOUGHT of it makes my blood pressure rise.
  • Things are....not good with The Dark One. It's not just me, or even mainly me, although she has to a certain extent decided to cast me in the role of Evil Stepmother. I suppose that makes me part of the matched set of Evil Mother, Evil Father, and Evil Stepfather, among others. I can't really talk about what's going on here, to protect all involved, but let's just say that her many deep issues are now being made everyone's issues. Fun Times. You won't be hearing about her much on this blog for a very long time.
  • The Widget is going to be seeing a child therapist in order to deal with some of his emotional and attachment issues. It's a massive blog post of its own, that, and maybe I'll write it someday. He's not in crisis, but MTL and I have been concerned for some time about certain things, and The Ex agreed, and we decided that it would be better to deal with it now than later. Hopefully we'll come out of it with some better tools for helping him ourselves, and hopefully he'll also have some tools for self-expression.

So...stress.

Despite all that...life with MTL is so full and deep and rich with love and laughter. I find myself amazed, on a very frequent basis, that I am so incredibly blessed. And because it is, I'm finding myself less involved in my virtual life.

But I still love this blog and, of course, you. So that's why I'm sitting here on this Saturday morning in the hours before the day becomes crazy, having a bit of a chat.

I've missed you guys.

So. What's going on with you?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Checking Myself

I stood in the Self Check Out lane for far too long, growing increasingly impatient with the fumbling idiots who apparently couldn't handle a process that a monkey could figure out. Why do so many seniors choose that lane and then demand the undivided attention of the lane monitor to help them lift each item and scan it through? Don't they realize that completely negates the purpose of SELF Check Out?

I was fuming by the time I stepped up to a scanner to run through my five grocery items. As I quickly and competently sped through the process, I noticed that the woman at the scanner next to me had run into an issue. She had run through a dozen cans of Pringles under a misunderstanding about the sale price and wanted to void them out--but, as the monitor tried to explain several times with little success, could no longer void them because she had already run through her card as well.

Around this time I noticed that, having run my own debit card through, the machine was stalled in a "Please Wait..." status. I growled and jabbed the "Call for Assistance" button. Some use that would be, with Ms. Don't Know How To Understand Basic Explanations still mumbling about the Pringles over there. Why does this sort of technical snafu always happen when I'm in a hurry? And when someone else is monopolizing the monitor? The day was just getting worse and worse. It had been bad enough navigating the treacherous traffic getting there, since the roads were filled with idiot drivers who needed to lose their licenses. The store hadn't had the meat I needed for dinner in a couple of days. It had been a crazy day following a crazy weekend. My feet were killing me. Now this.

I tapped my feet, impatient, huffing just loudly enough to let the monitor know I was waiting. She glanced at me, then focused again on convincing the other shopper to let her void the entire purchase and just run everything through again.

Finally, she succeeded with Ms. What Do You Mean I Can't Do That? and came over to me. She was an older woman with short, curling grey hair. She showed no sign of impatience or exasperation, and instead greeted me with a pleasant smile and an apology for my wait. I curtly explained my problem, and she glanced at the screen.

Oh, well, have you pressed the End Order and Pay button yet, dear? You ran your card through, but it won't complete everything until you press that. She smiled at me again, no trace of sarcasm or impatience to be found in her voice or face.

My face flushed. I meekly extended my finger, pressed the button, and watched as the machine finished the process and spit out my receipt.

There you go, dear. I know, sometimes it's a little confusing! I'm sorry again you had to wait. Thank you for your patience! She patted me affectionately on my shoulders and moved toward her monitoring station.

I quietly picked up my bags and left the store, mumbling a sheepish Thank you! as I passed her.

You're welcome. Merry Christmas! she replied.

I've been bitching lately about the lack of basic human decency in the world around me, about all these ungrateful, impatient, rude people I encounter every day.

It took a trip to the grocery store to make me realize that I'm part of the problem.

Forget waiting for the New Year for a change of attitude. It's time to start now.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

thanksgiving rain

i'll sit here a while
and breathe
patter of rain on sodden ground
window streaked
not yet chill enough for snow

i feel the miles tonight
between me and those for whom
i yearn
and still
cannot break through this barrier of silence
my words lie dormant
winter seeds untouched by autumn rain

holidays are mixed
always
joy and pain
love and loss
what is and what was and
what never shall be again

i would not go back
even to do childhood over again
i would not change
what led me to my now

and yet
and yet

i turn from the window
blink away my rain
and walk toward warmth
and love
and gratitude

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Updates: Because I Know You Were Wondering

1. Why yes, I am feeling better! And here's the absolutely AMAZING thing: all it took was for me to STOP TAKING THE MEDICINE. Oh yes. You have that right. After multiple trips to the doctor and an ultrasound for my bladder and kidneys, all I really had to do was stop taking the damn Macrobid, keep drinking lots of water, and do my back stretches just a little more thoroughly. And HEY PRESTO! I don't feel like I'm dragging my body across a desert wasteland, my back feels mostly okay (considering it's my back), and my nether regions feel a little less like they've been channeling a little piece of the netherworld.

I'm still going to the urologist next week, though. I'm also still chugging water (and running for the bathroom) on a regular basis. Lesson: learned (hopefully).

2. In case you were wondering, I DID in fact get both a hug (more than one, actually) and a Date Night with MTL last week. Although we may have been so tired that we settled for a visit to our favorite Mexican restaurant and then snuggling on the couch to watch a movie. WITH NO ONE ELSE AROUND. Just maybe. And really? That was good. Very good.

3. On Saturday we drove down to Detroit and hauled my brother and his things back up to my house. He's been having a bit of a rough time living down there lately, what with the loneliness and the lack of available jobs and transportation issues and whatnot, and when he crashed my parents' car...well, he need some TLC. So we brought him up to our place for not quite two weeks, and it worked very well and he fit in perfectly and when he left--well, we kind of wanted him back. So we invited him to come live with us at least until my parents come back in March, and he said yes, and now we are Eight. Since the Dark One has stayed only one night at our place since she left in September (because God forbid she be away from her troll boyfriend for any length of time), we moved my brother into that room instead.

For the sake of this blog, he shall henceforth be known as "DMB", which is short for "DorkMaster B". Trust me, it fits. And he approves.

4. Thursday is DramaBoy's fifth birthday. FIFTH. This is bizarre. It's also Thanksgiving, here in these American parts, so we're sort of combining them but also tentatively planning a separate party in a couple of weeks and once again I am reminded that holiday birthdays are kind of annoying. Even though they are easier to remember. Considering that seven out of the eight of us (I'm including DMB here) have birthdays either on or right around holidays, it's a family Thing now.

Me: Christmas Day
MTL: Valentine's Day
DMB: Just before Halloween
The Dark One: American Independence Day
KlutzGirl: Often around Easter (this year, it's on Good Friday)
DramaBoy: Right around (or, this year, on) American Thanksgiving
The Widget: Often around Easter (a little earlier than KlutzGirl)

So the only one who isn't is The Padawan. Poor boy. Or lucky one, considering he gets his very own day without a holiday mucking up the process.

5. On the side of Evil triumphing over Good, two very evil things have occurred this week: first, someone(s) broke into my parents' house on Monday (fortunately while the renter was out), smashing a window and breaking down some interior doors. My brother's things were gone, of course, and my parents' were packed away, so only the poor renter suffered loss. His laptop and some other things were stolen. It all makes me very angry: most likely someone saw us moving my brother out and figured there would be less monitoring of the house. At least the (very active) house alarm limited the time and damage. And yet: SIGH.

The second and more evil of the events is that one of my stepson's teachers was arrested on suspicion of child molestation--not at school and not one of the students, but OMG ANYWAYS. This sort of thing makes me so very angry on so many levels: that the evil of molestation happens, that child molesters exist at all, that it was one of my stepson's teachers (!!!!), and that once again it is one of these cases where the evil individual will cast a shadow over the entire educational system. I know it's all alleged right now, and that guilt and innocence must wait for the trial and all that....but still.

This week has not been strong for the side of Good.

6. Except for the case of my school's annual Canned Food Drive. We nearly missed our goal, but a flurry of last-minute cash donations edged us over, and as of this morning we have collected the equivalent of over 60,000 cans in food and cash donations for a local food bank. It's one of the reasons I love this school: the staff and students here regularly reach astonishing levels of generosity for a wide variety of charitable causes. The Food Drive is one; next week the annual Gift Drive for an impoverished elementary school in Detroit takes place; other drives occur frequently to help charities and individual students and families stricken by illness and accident. Last year alone my school raised over $84,000 in charitable donations. That's not the district; that's not the county; that was ONE SCHOOL ALONE. In one year. And while we do have wealthy students and families here, we also have the very, very poor. It's a very diverse school both ethnically and socio-economically.

So that? That makes me proud. And it gives me hope, a little light in the darkness, that sometimes, just perhaps, Good can in fact overcome the many forces of Evil.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Problem With Being Tagged Online Is That You Can't Really Run Away. Not That I'd Be Able To Run Very Quickly Right Now Anyway. Oh Well. At Least I'm Writing. Right?

I haven't done a meme in ever so long, but fellow Michigander (and yes, I am of that party--no Michiganians, okay??? Even Blogger spelling says that's the wrong one!) Katie over at No Missed Opportunities tagged me, and since I haven't been posting up a storm lately and the nagging and gradually increasing pain in my kidney region is interfering with my thought/posting processes lately, tally ho and all that.

(And yes, I am being good and looking into this kidney issue further. I'm scheduled for an ultrasound this afternoon. Also: drinking water nonstop. Also: running for the bathroom every half hour. These last two may be related.)

So. The Meme: A bit about me-me. I'm feeling a little lightheaded from, well, I'm not quite sure what. The blood dilution from drinking so much water? The poisonous little bastards bacteria partying in my body? Lack of restful sleep due to strange dreams I suspect are triggered by my top-level antibiotics? The sheer frustration from the whole stupid illness? The strangeness of actually posting something only a couple days after a previous post????

Anyhow, whatever it is, I'm lightheaded. So we'll see what kind of wackadoodle responses I come up with in response to the meme questions.

Here are the rules:
1. Link to the person who tagged you.

2. Paste these rules on your blog post.

3. Respond to the following prompts (in bold).

4. Add a prompt of your own and answer it.

5. Tag a few other bloggers at the bottom of the post.

6. Leave "Tagged You" notices on their blog/Facebook.

7. Let the person who tagged you know when you've written the post.
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1) The best investment you ever made:
My health. Oh wait! That's the best investment I WISH I had ever made. Or perhaps at least buying stock in pharmaceuticals.

Um. No frickin' idea. My Tax Sheltered Annuities are doing pretty well, which is amazing in this economy, so maybe those.

And I suppose I could be all mommyblogger and say My kids! [insert rainbows and flowers and fairy dust here] but I have to say, so far it seems like there's a whole lot more investment and not a whole lot of return interest. I mean, sure, kisses and cuddles are nice, but where's my MONEY, yo??? You think those shoes and haircuts and snacks and clothing grow on trees? CUZ THEY DON'T!!!

Of course, I am stockpiling stories and pictures and whatnot with which to blackmail and embarrass them one day, so I suppose that's an investment. I'm just waiting for my returns, people.

2) If you could’ve written any book, directed any movie, and composed any song, which three would you pick:
Seriously? I have to pick something like this? Like I'm all, Hey, I could have done that! Or jealous or whatever? I'm changing it up, because y'all, I'm not those other people. So here's what I would pick to write/direct/compose:

The book that proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that sports are, in fact, overrated and unnecessary and that other things such as the arts should prevail. Readers would close it reverently, cancel their tickets to the Sunday game, and change the channel from ESPN to SyFy (which would stop showing wrestling, of course, even though that's more theatre than sport.) Athletes would demand a cut in pay. Huge quantities of money would suddenly divert from all things athletic to theaters and concert halls. The geeky kids would be picked first. For everything.

The movie that costs about $2000 to make and rakes in $900,000,000. Because I want the money, that's why.

The song that instantly makes anyone who hears it smile, even if it's the shittiest day of their lives. And never gets old.

In other words, the impossible.

3) Weirdest quirk:
Only one? But I have so many! I even asked MTL, who was astonishingly unhelpful. I would have thought this was right up his alley, but NO. He was all IDK and then Hair twirling? which is an obsession quirk I have, true, but isn't all that WEIRD really, especially since I do it to my hair rather than other people's which would be weirder, and so I told him he sucks and then he said You're just not weird to me and so I melted.

I do also wiggle my ears. Especially when I'm reading and very focused. So I guess I'm kind of weird when I read, since I'll sit there and twirl my hair with one hand while wiggling my ears (handsfree, of course) and also sometimes stick my tongue between my teeth, kind of like a cat. I only know these things because more than one person has observed and commented upon them.

My students say my obsession with written letters being completely closed is my weirdest quirk. When I or someone else writes on the board, for example, and doesn't completely connect the lines in, say, an "o" or an "a" or a "p", I CANNOT ignore it. I have to close it. I think it's perfectly logical, but they think it's hilarious and will sometimes NOT close things on purpose just to drive me crazy, the sadistic little buggers.

Is that weird enough?

4) One wish immediately granted:
HEALTH. Seriously. And maybe a hug to go along with it. And a date night.

Oh wait. One...okay. HEALTH. The others I probably don't need to wish for in order to get. Right, MTL? RIGHT????

5) Most expensive hobby:
Does reading count as a hobby? I think it's more of an essential part of life for me. So...cross stitching. Because the project I'm working on now cost me over $70 in supplies, will cost a ton to frame, and also "costs" increasing woman-hours of work. Especially considering all the mistakes I made at the beginning that required me to rip out literally hundreds, maybe thousands, of stitches. In one case, twice. I'M JUST THAT AWESOME.

6) An inexhaustible gift-card at which store:
Borders. DUH.

7) In another lifetime, you’d be:
A cat. A pampered indoor one, obviously. Seriously, have you seen what their lives are like? With all the sleeping and the eating and the sleeping and the playing and the sleeping and the cuddling and the sleeping and the purring and THE SLEEPING. AWESOME.

8) The most famous/interesting member of your family tree:
Good lord. Again, with the choosing. One of my Issues, actually, is trying to live up to the ridiculously Accomplished and Interesting Family in which I was raised. Extended family on my mother's side, really, where I have grandparents with medals of honor (not American, but still) framed on their wall; and a great-great-aunt who was the first woman to earn a degree in Architecture from the University of Michigan; and family members scattered hither and yon Doing Great Things For Other People; and a cousin who lived in Jerusalem for years and now teaches Hebrew to children in California and whose wife is studying to become a rabbi; and a father who is a Knight--yes really, an actually Knight knighted by the (oddly enough, non-monarchical) government of the country where I grew up and he still works.

Also on that side, I have an indirect ancestor (a many times great-uncle or cousin or whatever) in the American history books as the Founder of the American Industrial Revolution, because he memorized the blueprints to the industrial cotton mill and immigrated to the colonies and started things up, back when the British didn't allow that sort of thing to be taken to the colonies. So, you know, a smuggler and criminal. But on the winning side, which makes all the difference.

Gah. Now I'm feeling all small and insignificant again, thankyouverymuch.

9) What would you say to your teenage self?
GET THERAPY. Also, stop perming your damn hair.

10) What do you want to be when you grow up?
Just like the little old lady I spotted the other day. She was driving a smallish SUV with this stick-figure family decal on the back window:


She is officially the most awesome little old lady I've ever seen.

11) Proudest moment?
Um. I'm bad at remembering these ones. I'm better at remembering all the very many, many humiliating ones I've had.

I think I'll have to be sappy for a minute and say it would be a collage or montage or whatever of the various times students have told me I made a difference in their lives. Those are my proudest moments.

And if my sons tell me someday that I didn't mess them up TOO much, that will be my new one.

12) Best decision ever made?
To risk everything and fall head over heels in love with MTL. Haven't regretted it one bit.

All these years of forgetting to drink water all day, on the other hand....regret that. SO MUCH. Damn kidneys.


Oh, and I have to tag people? (grumble grumble) FINE. I'll tag other people who have been struggling with posting lately as well. Cuz I know how it feels, people.

I tag Kathleen over at Treasured Chapters, because routine can be a blog-killer;

and the lovely and FINALLY no longer preggers (wee Sam decided to stop hiding from his big brothers, that's why) Pants over at Pants With Names, because maybe this is a post she can handle with one hand;

and MomZombie over at Mom Zombie, because we're both struggling with silence and what happens within it;

and Angelique over at The Hyggelig In Me, not because she's struggling with posting (she's not), but because she's my real life friend and fellow Michigander who just started blogging a cozy little blog and I feel like tagging her.

So there! You're welcome.

Monday, November 15, 2010

So Much To Do, So Much To Say...*

'Cos here we have been standing for a long, long time
Can't see the light
Treading trodden trails for a long, long time...*

I haven't been writing much of anything anywhere lately. It's not due to being silent; in some ways, actually, it's due to speaking a great deal elsewhere. I'm back in therapy, focusing on deep root issues that have spread their tendrils throughout almost every area of my mind and life. It's very much like after facing down depression and divorce and those dragons, others wormed their way up from the depths and waved. Hello, still here. Wanna play?

They don't play nicely.

I'm talking, yes. Talking and wringing hands and, apparently, digging my nails into my skin until the morass of red crescents becomes raw enough to realize what I'm doing. It's hard work, this therapy. Then when I leave the War Room of my therapist's office, I dive into processing and digging deeper in my own mind. And talking some more: with MTL and with my dear friends J and A and H, spread out from coast to coast of the country though they are. Thank God for email and g-chat and phones, I say.

Elsewhere, with other people, however, I find myself silent. There are ideas I have to process, issues I have to solve, emotions I have to face before I can open my mouth and speak. My therapist agrees, by the way, with this instinct. And I find myself thinking of the words of Solomon, who wrote in his time of struggle, facing dragons of his own:

1 For everything there is a season,
      a time for every activity under heaven.
2 A time to be born and a time to die.
      A time to plant and a time to harvest.
3 A time to kill and a time to heal.
      A time to tear down and a time to build up.
4 A time to cry and a time to laugh.
      A time to grieve and a time to dance.
5 A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
      A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
6 A time to search and a time to quit searching.
      A time to keep and a time to throw away.
7 A time to tear and a time to mend.
      A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
8 A time to love and a time to hate.
      A time for war and a time for peace. 
--Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (New Living Translation, emphasis added)

For now, in some ways, it is a season to be quiet, to be silent, to be "mindful," as my therapist says.

But oh, Dear Readers, how tired I am!

Add to all this hard work of the mind the busy-ness of the end of the Marking Period, and Parent Teacher Conferences last week, and fighting off my fifth? sixth? seventh? urinary tract infection of the year...Oh yes, I know that's not a good thing at all. And I'm sorry if it's a bit TMI, but hello, I Have A Problem. I'm scheduled to see a urologist on December 1st, because when someone (aka ME) is averaging between six and ten UTIs per year for three years straight, something is going on.

Granted, I don't take care of myself terribly well. I've been working on that recently: drinking water much more throughout the day, even at work; heading to the bathroom much more often; avoiding an overabundance of sugary junk at work instead of real food. Hopefully that will also help.

But I seem to have reached the ceiling, so to speak, with the heavy-duty antibiotics. My body is building resistance. I've been on Cipro for almost a full week, with no missed doses, and I'm still developing fevers and experiencing discomfort--including, the last couple days, an ache in my lower back that makes me nervous about my kidneys.

So I'm headed back to the doctor this afternoon, and I'm dragging myself somehow through the day and trying not to think too longingly of my bed (oh lovely bed with your soft pillows and fluffy comforter) when I'm supposed to be teaching kids about sonnet forms and the consequences of overweening ambition as shown in Macbeth and the abuse of authority as demonstrated in Oedipus Rex and dramatic irony and the emptiness of the American Dream when lacking solid foundations as shown in The Great Gatsby and oh yes, the historical context for all of those texts and let's not forget vocabulary and grammar and dear God what was I thinking when I said I'd take on three preps this year? Oh right, helping out the department because we were losing teachers.

Also, I'm trying very hard to be grateful for having a job when so many others do not, trying hard not to be bitterly cynical about politics (and losing that battle rapidly, may I say), and trying exceedingly hard not to panic about the upcoming contract negotiations which, hey, may become moot anyhow if The Powers That Newly Be in this state have anything to say about it.

I will say this, though: I'm deeply--bone deeply, really--grateful for having friends with whom I can talk so rawly and honestly; for a partner who is my best friend, and who loves me even when I'm dragged down by it all and being infuriating, and who loves me more because of than in spite of my moments of batshit crazy; for the strength to even face this all in the first place. Even when, on days like this, I feel like doing nothing more than crawling into my very own padded room and staying there for a while.

Or taking a holiday from my Self. Just for a little while.

I find sometimes it's easy to be myself
Sometimes I find it's better to be someone else...*

-----------------------------------------
*From Dave Matthews Band "So Much To Say":

Thursday, November 4, 2010

This Is Why I Should Probably Just Go Back To Bed. And Perhaps Organize My Shoes.

You may have picked up a hint or two that I am overtired and overstressed lately. Just a smidge. I hadn't realized just how much my mental processes have been affected, however, until I was standing up from giving the kidlets hugs at daycare this morning and spotted this:


Oh yes. Those are, indeed, shoes from two different sets of black boots. Please note that they fit my feet quite differently. What you can't spot from this angle is that the right boot's heel is about half an inch higher than the left, which means that I had been limping--yes, LIMPING--around for the previous half hour and hadn't even noticed. This is, as you can imagine, SO VERY GOOD for my back.

So here's what I'm wearing now:


It's a very good thing that I've become so comfortable with my not-so-inner Dork.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Sinking

Today I'm discouraged. Deeply, deeply discouraged. As much as I try to focus on the positives of my career, as much as I try to focus on the great kids and the joy of those wonderful discussions and discoveries and moments in teaching that make my day, as much as I try to listen to the messages I get from former students saying I made a difference in their lives: today I just want to quit.

I just want to be done. Walk away, leave behind all the crap, all the heartache, all the apathy. I just want to leave behind the parents who don't understand the importance of their children's educations and who think that teachers are the Enemy rather than their allies. I just want to leave behind the political red tape and bullshit. I just want to leave behind the pervasive attitude that somehow my education and professionalism and experience mean nothing, just like that of all my many, many, many dedicated and amazing colleagues. I even want to walk away from all the students, former and current, who Need so much from me, above and beyond the parameters of academic education.

I definitely want to walk away from the pile of papers to grade and the overwhelming list of things I have to do, which grows every day.

I feel drained. It's as though I've been plugged in, but in reverse, so all the energy is being drained away from me rather than into me. I'm tired. Deeply bone-tired. I could barely move this weekend to do the bare minimum of what the weekend required, much less do much of anything productive or useful. And of course that means I have even more to do this week because I've procrastinated.

I just want to crawl into bed and sleep for twelve hours, then get up and read or work on my cross stitch project or actually exercise for once or do one of the many other things that are infinitely more attractive to me than what I actually have to do. Preferably in the company of MTL.

But I can't. I have to finish grading all these papers and quizzes and tests, and make tests, and prepare for the onslaught of project presentations, and finish grades, and somewhere in there I should probably work on cleaning a house that became absolutely trashed over Halloween weekend.

I feel like crying.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Why Papercuts Are A Very Real Job Hazard

I did the math.

I rather wish I hadn't. But what's done is done.

I added up the average of essays that I assign, taking the low side of page numbers per essay, added in a guesstimate of essays from tests, the pages of writing on projects as well as essays, and multiplied by the number of students I have per year (around 150--this year I have 148). I did NOT include the other kinds of grading I do, including objective quizzes and tests, "checked in" notes and vocabulary logs and graphic organizers and the like, and presentations.

According to my calculations, I grade a rough average of 16,000 pages worth of writing per year.

SIXTEEN THOUSAND PAGES.

PER YEAR.

On a not-unrelated note, the first marking period ends next Friday.

Any wonder why I'm not posting much lately?

And, uh, anyone want to come help me wade out of this paperlanche that seems to have fallen on me?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Sappy And Semi-Coherent Post (Sometimes I Just Can't Help Myself)

Today marks the eight-month anniversary of my first date with MTL and the first time I met him face-to-face, although we had been communicating through e-mail and text and phone conversations for a little while before.

Eight months. I know: I feel a little silly keeping track of each month's anniversary, and it's not like we're doing some big shindig for it (though I think we'll do something special for the one year mark), but I did notice the date this morning and its significance popped into my head and I said something about it to MTL.

(No, I didn't make him try to guess its significance, although he's pretty good at remembering these things anyhow, because those games feel too manipulative to me. I'm nice that way. Not in many other ways, but that way.)

Honestly, it always comes as a little surprise to me that it's only been that long, since it feels like we've known each other for years instead of months. It's all very sappy and mushy and I'm honestly a little embarrassed about it even though I shouldn't be.

Anywho, I've been feeling sentimental and I tried to write a poem and apparently the path between my brain and fingers/mouth is corrupted today because I can barely put one coherent sentence together, verbally or written. But there is a poem by the ever marvelous e. e. cummings that fits (and oh I wish I could write like him and Carl Sandburg and Ann Lamott and a host of other amazing people, but I'll just have to settle for what I have) and so here you go:

"I carry your heart"

I carry your heart
I carry your heart with me (I carry it in
my heart) I am never without it (anywhere
I go you go, my dear ;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)

I fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) I want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart)

--e. e. cummings

I love you, MTL. Always will. Thank you for entrusting your heart with me. You know you have mine.

Friday, October 15, 2010

If Wishes Were Horses, I'd Totally Sell The Horses And Get This Stuff Instead. Forget Black Beauty. I'll Take Black Boots.

There is an increasingly large gap growing between what I WANT for Christmas and my birthday (which are totally the same day so it's convenient for gift-giving, but it's NOT okay to just make one present work for both unless it's a REALLY BIG PRESENT) (just sayin') and what I NEED for Christmas and my birthday. This is one of the sadder parts of becoming terminally adult.

Well, that and all the joint creaking. You should hear me when I get up from bed or the couch or, well, pretty much any position in which my joints have to move from one angle to another. I sound like a really big bowl of Rice Krispies, or possibly a bag of microwaveable popcorn. Plus I often have to hoist myself up and then put my hand on my lower back because my back, it's lopsided and stuff. I'm 32 years old and already moving like a grandma.

It's sexy as hell, yo.

Anywho, I have a growing list of all the fun stuff I'd really like to get as gifts, as well as a growing list of all the things I actually need and don't necessarily have the money to get. And since I know you are all DYING to know what's on those lists, I'll share them with you!

You're welcome.

Here's What I Want, What I Really Really Want

1. A bunch of t-shirts from my new favorite merchandise website, ThinkGeek.com, especially these ones:

Because cookies make everything better. Especially double dark chocolate.
Because it's the Answer, of course!*
SPACE INVADERS! Now with extra destruction!
"Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." Seriously, I think my life would be complete if I had this.**
This just makes me giggle.
Oh yes. I am that geeky. Although Next Generation is still my favorite.***
Sheldon is my hero. Even though I think I would probably stab him to death with a hundred very sharp pencils if I actually lived with him. I don't know how Leonard handles it.****
So. Awesome.
And again, brilliance from Sheldon. I want this in poster form, too.
This is what I'm talking about. I mean, seriously. LOVE.
2. Boots. I know, I know, I have a ton already, but there are a couple kinds I really want. One is a pair of tight-fitting brown high heeled boots that will perfect several specific outfits:

Like these
Or these. I'm not picky.
And then just because I've wanted a pair for a very, very long time, a pair of thigh-high black high heeled boots (but not a pair that looks too hooker-y. Because I have standards.):

Yes. Perfect.
DON'T JUDGE ME.

3. And of course I really want an elf ranger outfit to go with my ears, only that's going to be really hard to do because even the stores/websites that sell things like this seem to have never realized that maybe WOMEN want to dress like elf rangers and would prefer something of quality rather than the stupid little Peter-Pan-ish Halloween-y crap that is the only stuff I can find. ARGH. Anyhow, an outfit that would look something like this:

Yes, the bow and arrows and bracer and boots too. 
Because I'm a total geek, that's why.
4. Also from ThinkGeek.com, I really, really, really want this USB Webcam Missile Launcher that would allow me to launch foam darts at my students without them even realizing I'm watching them on the webcam. Sleeping when you're supposed to be working? PEW PEW!!! Talking to your neighbor when you shouldn't? K-CHOW!!! Just being a general annoyance? PEW PEW K-CHOW WHAM PEW PEW PEW!!!!!!

Beware my wrath!!!! PEW PEW PEW PEW!!!!! Mwahahahahahahaha!!
5. And because I'm not totally selfish and would also like something that our entire massive family can enjoy, I'd love to get a Wii system and a bunch of fun games. I'm generous like that.

I already own both Raymond's Ravin' Rabbids Wii games, and I love them. But I can't play them. This makes me sad.
What I Need and Should Probably Get Instead

1. Four new tires for my Saturn Vue. The current ones are almost entirely bald and squeal like I'm a crazy maniac driver every time I take a corner, even if I'm going about five miles an hour. And Michigan winters are a bitch, yo, and these tires will NOT handle things. I should probably get these before Christmas, actually. Sigh.

They may be black and sleek in their own way, but they just aren't the same as those boots. SIGH.
2. Also for my poor overworked Vue, a rear wheel hub assembly. It's only the fourth one needing replacement in the last few months. It's bizarre: that car is awesome and reliable, but apparently at around 130,000 miles all the wheel bearings start screaming. And, um, I mean that pretty literally. They're LOUD, people.

Oooh, shiny. Still not exciting, though.
3. And because that's not enough, I should get those brakes replaced soonish too. Geez, you'd think I was working as a chauffeur these days. Oh wait. I AM.

Why do all the repairs happen all at once? Thank God MTL can do a lot of that car stuff. Makes him handy to have around.
4. Oh, and speaking of those cold Michigan winters? It would be pretty awesome to have an electric blanket. Not exactly exciting, but awesome.

Now with extra snuggles.
5. Finally, even though MTL and I have a walk-in closet, I don't exactly have room for all my Stuff. Especially the stuff that doesn't hang up. Like socks. And underwear. You know, things like that. I have exactly one drawer in MTL's dresser that is mine. And while I totally <3 MTL for giving me a drawer (of his own free will, mind you, and without my badgering or even hinting), it's not quite enough. This is why I need a dresser. Preferably one of those long low ones, because then I can also put things like my jewelry chest(s) and Other Girly Things on top instead of on the floor/bathroom counter/random surfaces as I have to now.

Like this, only cheaper, because I'm pretty sure it's an antique. Which mostly is just another word for "It's been sitting around here for a few generations and it isn't completely broken."
Sigh.

Sometimes being a low-maintenance, practical, responsible adult Sucks the Big One.

And to think: for the sake of brevity, I'm not including all the piddly stuff I gaze at wistfully, like dozens of books and CDs and movies and that really cool necklace I saw at Aldo's the other day and things like that.

I'm not really all that materialistic. Really. But a girl can dream.

-------------------------------------------------
*From The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams. If you don't get this joke, I'm deeply disappointed in you. Also, you need to go read the first three books. NOW. Forget about the last two in the series. He only wrote them because he was pressured into it and you can tell.
**From The Princess Bride--both book and movie. Again, ditto above if you don't get it.
*** STAR TREK, people. /facepalm
****From The Big Bang Theory, which is currently just about the only half-hour TV sitcom worth watching. LOVE IT.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

An Unexpected Post : Now With Lava. And SHARKS.

So a dear fellow teacher and friend of mine posted this link on her Facebook page with a statement about how all the cruelty in the world saddens her, and I read it while I was wasting time procrastinating taking a break during my prep hour and then commented that people like this should be exiled to an island where we wouldn't have to share the same air. And she commented back about how they don't deserve the beauty of an island, and I responded that it could be one of the ones devastated by nuclear testing and we can surround it with electric fencing and SHARKS, and she said they'd still get to enjoy the sunsets and that just doesn't seem right.

So we came up with a new idea. We think that all the evil douchebags of the world (including but not limited to cyber AND non-cyber bullies as well as massive numbers of politicians, Wall Street brokers, megacorporation CEOs, and of course idiot drivers who think the road belongs to them and their massive SUVs) should be air-dropped into the center of the very very deep caldera of a dormant volcano with impossible-to-climb sides. The top of the caldera should be rimmed with electric fencing, just in case.

We are also debating the possibility of genetically engineering lava sharks, because there need to be sharks. Obviously. We think one of our science teacher friends may be able to help us.

And just think of the excitement the evil douchebags will get to experience on a daily basis, what with all that wondering whether the volcano will decide to end its dormancy!

Talk about fire and brimstone. We have all those ultra Baptist preachers beat by a mile.

Because we're talking LAVA SHARKS, people!!!!

Like this. Only a lot scarier and more shark-like, because honestly this doesn't exactly make me shake in my shoes. Don't blame me. Blame mishaelley.
I fully expect a Nobel prize or two when we've accomplished all this. You're welcome.

Who else should we include in our group of future charcoal briquettes exiles? We're open to the possibility of employing multiple volcanoes, if need be.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Where I Am

Once upon a time, lots of people were reading this blog and I was posting just about every day. Not so much these days. In fact, it's been a rare post lately around here.

I just haven't felt much like writing. And when post ideas DO pop into my head, I'm invariably in the car or shower, and by the time I'm where my computer is, all thought of posting has vanished.

Truth be told, there just isn't much going on that I feel like blogging. I stress enough about the politics of teaching without putting it out here and getting all sorts of comments on it that will make me feel more stabby than I already do. Despite nixing the emailing of posts (which did help, I will admit) there are still things I don't feel comfortable posting here for privacy's sake. And I've never really been the sort of mommyblogger to write post after post about how dang cute those kidlets are (even though they are.) I can't pull it off without just being boring as hell.

The biggest reason, though?

Life is different these days. Despite the occasional bit of angst over kidlets and stepkidlets and the whole merging of families bit, life is remarkably drama-free.

In fact, a major component in The Dark One's desire to live with her mother instead of us is because, according to her, we're boring. And by boring, she means drama-free. Whereas life at her mother's is full of chaos and drama and this, again according to her, is far more interesting.

We think we can live with being boring if that's what it takes.

Personally, I love where my life is now, crazy as it can be at times. But she's right about it being quite lacking in the Drama area. And that means that it is also quite lacking in the Fascinating Blog Fodder area as well.

There's no more angst over The Ex. No more agonizing over decisions and the relationship's disintegration. We're divorced, quite amicably in the end. We've become MUCH better at communicating and working through the occasional issue. We don't yell or argue any more. We're almost friendly. Remarkably, we are far more functional as ex-spouses and co-parents than we EVER were as a couple. And I mean EVER. It's a good place to be.

My depression has lifted remarkably. Not that my journey is over: in fact, I will be returning to therapy in a week or so to work through some other old issues that need addressing. It's not a major crisis, though, and it's not really depression. Just...stuff that I need to face and haven't for, oh, three decades or so. At this point, I'm not comfortable writing about it here, but maybe I will later. Maybe. This would also be a reason I haven't been writing much poetry on here--poetry has been a major form of catharsis for me, and there just isn't that much Stuff to work through that way lately.

And my home life? My home life is happy. I love MTL more deeply than I ever knew I could love anyone. I am loved, deeply and completely and thoroughly and without a doubt. We have our little spats from time to time, and then we work through them and learn from them and move on. We're learning how to parent together in a blended family. There are the obstacles that come with this sort of paradigm shift, but we're facing them together. It's a good life, an incredibly good life, and I feel blessed every day to have been given such a life. I feel blessed every day that after all the crap I went through and all the mistakes I made and all the pain and heartache, I got to meet the love of my life. And we get to grow old together, which is happening sooner rather than later with all our joint and back issues. We CREAK, people. We're going to be that old couple inching along with walkers and wheelchairs. But we'll be holding hands every chance we get.

(We'll also be the old couple who delights in embarrassing their kids and grandkids every chance we get. Trust me on that one. ANY WAY WE CAN.)

Isn't it strange how being happy dries up my blog posts? It does.

So maybe I am boring now. I'm certainly not bored.

Maybe it's just that life has become so much more worth living in real time, rather than online.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Dear So and So: An Emotional Rant (Or Four)

Pants With Names posts every now and then with her very amusing versions of her friend Kat's postcard posts. You know, the "Dear So and So" type of thing. Today, I think I need to do it too. Because I am in a MOOD. One that even Ghirardelli dark chocolate with raspberry filling cannot fix.

I KNOW.

**************************************

Dear Electronic Grading System,

WTF do you mean, it's Progress Report time??? I'm not ready! I'm not prepared! I'm still scrambling to get everything done AND figure out how to balance Work and Home Life right now, and it's still in the early stages. Plus I had to take that day off to stay home with The Widget, and it's taking me twice as long to catch up as it would have to just be here.

Your little asterisks of Grades Have Not Been Entered mock me!

Yours in frantic desperation,
Ms. Buried-Up-To-My-Neck-In-Paperwork TeacherMommy

**************************************

Dear Current Students,

No, M&Ms are not suitable replacements for Godiva. Also, it's Cherry COKE. Cherry Pepsi is an abomination.

Grumpily,
Your Favorite English Teacher

**************************************

Dear You Know Who,

I know. It's AMAZING that moving to that town didn't fix all your problems. Such a shock! I never would have guessed.

I really need to work on my bitterness.

Trying To Forgive,
One of the People You Left Behind

**************************************

Dear Media, World, and People I Love,

I know there are problems with the system. I'm not saying it can't improve. And I love that there are options for people, like private schools and charters and homeschooling. But here's the reality check: they're not all perfect either. Or even always better. And every time you lump all of us educators together under the category of "lazy" or "useless" or "outdated" or "unnecessary", you injure a group of people who, in a far greater majority than you give them credit for, have chosen a career that is full of stress and challenge and (increasingly) very little thanks--and do a damn good job.

You want to measure my efficacy? You want some stats? Today alone I actively taught five classes (three different courses), graded eight sets of quizzes, rewrote two quizzes, prepped questions and activities for a novel, answered over twenty emails, entered grades into the grading system, wrote a wiki rubric for the district benchmark "test", checked in three classes' worth of vocabulary assignments, and helped several individual students who had issues or questions outside of class.

That was in five hours. And I'm still behind.

That doesn't even include the unmeasurable aspects: getting students excited about literature, making them laugh, working with other teachers to develop ideas and activities and curriculum. How are you going to gather statistics on the number of students I impact in the ways that don't show up on standardized tests?

And I'm not even the best or hardest working teacher I know, not by a long shot. AND THEY'RE EVERYWHERE.

And here's the other thing: we take everyone. That's EVERYONE. Regardless of ethnicity or religion or gender or financial status or, especially, disability. We don't get to pick and choose like almost every private and charter school does. We take everyone, and we care about them, and we do our damnedest under increasingly difficult circumstances.

And then we get shit on from every direction. Including our own administration, our politicians, the media, and (God help me) even our own friends and family.

I told my students' parents on Sneak Peek night that I teach because I love doing it and I love working with these kids. It's true. But for the first time in my entire career, even when I was so close to burn-out that I could taste it (twice), I realized this week that if I miraculously won the lottery with that ticket I never buy, I wouldn't keep teaching.

Stop saying "Oh, but I didn't mean YOU." Yes, you did. Because I'm in this along with all the others.

It's been a hard week.

Sincerely,
Your Emotionally Raw TeacherMommy

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Draco De Ira

One of the hardest lessons I've had to learn over the last not-quite two years is how to forgive and what forgiveness really means. I've learned, among other things, that forgiveness is more about healing oneself and less about healing others. I've learned that apologies often follow forgiveness rather than the other way around. And I've learned that forgiveness needs regular application, since anger and resentment tend to ooze back into one's soul over time.

Forgiveness is rather like Preparation H, when you think about it. Or Tums.

I learned that first major lesson about forgiveness nearly a year and a half ago, on a day when I planted myself next to a small lake and begged God to please make two particular people Very Sorry for all the hurt they had caused me. The geese stared at me and honked moodily. Then I sat there and begged God to forgive me for the hurt I had caused those two people. This seemed a bit better, but I wasn't quite there.

So I sat, surrounded by goose shit, which seemed rather apropos for my mood, and read a bit from a book, perhaps one by Anne Lamott, who also struggles with anger and forgiving and therefore gets through to me with some deft application of verbal hammering on my brain. I don't remember any longer exactly who the author was: at any rate, the words were about forgiveness and about how we make huge errors in thinking that (1) withholding forgiveness does any damage to anyone other than ourselves, (2) apologies are requisite precursors to forgiveness, and (3) we are better than the people we have to forgive. And then the author drove home that when we refuse to forgive someone, we're as much as yelling to the Universe that we are better than God, who forgives us for much more than we have to forgive.

That sounds like Lamott, so it probably was.

I remember sighing, because the idea of forgiving these two people, who had no interest or willingness to recognize any need to apologize, seemed like a greater task than I was capable, especially in a time of such great stress and pain. Nevertheless, I bowed my head, and this time when I prayed, I asked that I be granted the strength to forgive. Then I said out loud (much to the surprise of the geese) that I forgave those two people, and I named them. Then I said it again, just to be sure, and found the words easier to say the second time.

Imagine my surprise when I felt a tremendous weight lift off my heart.

I've had to forgive those two people again since then, for the same original pain and (in the case of one of them) additional pain caused over time.

Regular application, especially when the acid burning of anger starts up again.

Since that day by the lake, both of those people have apologized to me for the pain they caused. It's a cycle, really, the forgiveness and apology and forgiveness again, and with time the pain truly does ease.

Other times...you're blindsided.

This last weekend I found myself enraged, furious, reacting far more strongly to a frustrating moment with The Widget than the incident truly deserved. I stood in the walk-in closet searching for clean and comfy clothes, and I asked myself what was really going on.

And I realized that my anger was at other people entirely, over a situation over which I have no control, where I feel guilty for even being angry at all, where the anger comes from years of hurt and pain and loss that I have shoved deep down over and over and over again because I do not feel justified in my anger.

But the anger is there. And because I have never embraced that anger, recognized it, and forgiven both myself and those other people for these decades of pain and grief, I have never moved on. I have, in fact, allowed that pain to poison other relationships and prevent me from opening myself fully to love.

MTL found me in tears and I poured out my grief and anger. Just saying it, just letting it out of my head, was a step. Writing this post, which has taken me two days, is another.

The next step is bigger. More painful. It holds more delving into truth, a stripping away of shadows and shame.

It's a choice I have to make.

I am stalled in the moment. The skies hold no answers. The window is drenched with autumn rain.

Monday, September 27, 2010

I Think I'm Less Like A Helicopter And More Like A Bus. You Know: Get Them There. Get Them Home. Sit Down And Shut Up. THAT Kind.

I am questioning the wisdom of being a parent even more now. No really, because it's too much work. Here I thought that since DramaBoy  is growing up and I no longer have to dress him or wipe his butt or unbuckle him in the car or even bathe him (first solo shower this weekend! WOOT!!!) that somehow my parental responsibilities were going to be reduced.

And then I started getting the newsletters from his kindergarten teacher.

Maybe I should start calling them news-novelettes, because really. I swear it takes longer to read them than it does for me to write one of these posts, and I'm a ridiculously quick speed-reader, peoples.

I would also like to know when homework started requiring so much parental involvement. I don't remember my own parents being quite so involved, though maybe it doesn't fully count because my mother was my teacher for most of elementary BUT NOT KINDERGARTEN and since I don't remember (a) having that much homework and (b) my parents being involved, I feel rather ill-used at this point. I don't know what I resent more: my parents not having to help me much back then or my having to help DramaBoy so much. Probably the latter. Because it's more work.

This is also complicated by the whole split custody thing, because The Ex and I have to divide what each person does and communicate and all that fun stuff. It's a good thing we're practically friendly these days, because the whole cooperating thing works a lot better that way.

Maybe I'm a little extra resentful this week because The Ex is going on a short vacation so I have the boys an extra weekday, which isn't a big deal really because I love them and stuff, but it means that I have MORE HOMEWORK TO DO WITH DRAMABOY!!!

Also, I am already behind in grading papers both because I'm always behind in grading papers and also because my National Honors Society slave student assistant has been sick and therefore unavailable to assist me. Plus there's so much more Life to my Personal Life these days. All this to mean that I have lots of homework of my own that I should be doing and having DramaBoy's homework getting in the way is not the kind of excuse for which I am searching. Not that I don't look for excuses, you see; it's more that I want excuses that involve more Fun and less Frustration.

Because seriously, have you ever tried to get a wiggly not-quite-five-year-old sit at a table and do his homework?

Let's just say that it didn't surprise me AT ALL to read his weekly goal sheet and see that the teacher wrote DramaBoy's main goals as "paying attention and following instructions in class and finishing work assigned."

MTL may have had a sarcastic comment about it, actually. To follow mine. BECAUSE WE'RE AWESOME LIKE THAT, THAT'S WHY.

Somehow I don't think teachers need to worry about either of us being helicopter parents.

May I please get back to just handing out the homework instead of being on the receiving end?

It's going to be a looooooong fifteen years.*

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*Because The Widget will start two years after DramaBoy, that's why. I CAN COUNT. I just don't like to help my kids do it. I know. I'M SUCH AN AWESOME PARENTAL ROLE MODEL. Shut up.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

These Are The Reasons I Love My Job

I love working with these kids. It's craziness sometimes, but that's half the fun. Scratch that: it's most of the fun.

Today each of my sophomore classes brought laughter and spur of the moment crazy creative learning moments. You wanna hear about them? Yes? I thought so.

First, I had my fourth hour class write words on my dry erase boards next to my silly stick figures awesome artistic portrayals of the three main characters from The Scarlet Letter--Dimmesdale, Chillingworth, and Hester Prynne. After much laughter over the art, they went at it with gusto. The markers were squeaking like a horde of voracious mice.

And then I saw what they'd written.

Spell Check is their friend. *sigh*

So we learned some spelling for a little bit. But what had me in almost immediate stitches was one word written next to Chillingworth's figure. "INTELLIGOUS" proclaimed the board, in big green letters.

I mean...really?????

This is where the impromptu vocabulary lesson came in. After the hilarity died down, I told the kids to pull out a scrap of paper and, without consulting with each other, each write down a definition for this new word. Then they shared them and we voted on the best ones. After weeding out the rather mean if not entirely mean-hearted ones targeted toward the (fortunately quite self-confident and very nice) young man who had apparently made the thinko in the first place, they had come up with several that were just awesome:

intelligous (in-tel'-i-jus) adj.  1 being or appearing to be fabricating intelligence by creating one's words, but inevitably failing miserably  2 describing a person who is not only intelligent but also a genius  3 smarticle or brainilicious  4 Sum1 who is lyk, SOOPER SMRT. That's a caps S-M-R-T, gyz  5  the nice way to tell someone that they really are stupid  6 (and my favorite) when you know English things goodly.

That last one got a spontaneous ovation from the class. My students? Are awesome.

We're making a class shirt. No, really.

Then in fifth hour, also a sophomore class (but a lesson behind because of our schedule this week), I had a sudden moment of brilliance. Let me see if I can retrace the rabbit trail of the conversation that led to this (class discussions can take interesting tangents): We were talking about the different characters and how they relate to each other in what had been going on, I know that. They've gotten to the middle of the book...Dang it. Can't remember where we went with it, but suddenly we ended up talking about FaceBook (no really, it related somehow) and I thought of this hilarious viral post (don't worry, I don't mean it has a virus, I just mean it was passed all over the internet through virtual word of mouth, which is called "going viral") and had an AH HA!!!! moment.

I get them once in a blue moon.

So I told my students they could opt for an enrichment assignment--meaning they didn't have to do it, but could get a grade if they did, and those who chose not to would be excused. It can help grades, but it's not extra credit. Make sense? They could make their own versions of FaceBook Walls for each of the main characters (up to three) with status updates, comments, likes, and so on. The FB Walls would have to be accurate to the characters and the interactions between characters in the book. If they could make their project actually look like FaceBook, awesome, but it's not a requirement.

I have kids who are ramped up like you would not believe. And here's the sneaky part: they'll really have to know the book and the characters to pull this off, including the subtleties and the relationships and all the symbolism laced throughout that novel!

I love getting kids to think critically--and outside the box.

Of course, I also then had to calm down the one kid who wanted to create YouTube videos Scarlet Letter/Puritan style (you know, if they had YouTube back then sort of thing?) I haven't allowed video projects since my third year of teaching when my craziest student of all time thought it would be a good idea to light himself on fire for a video project "based" (and I use this term as loosely as possible, in this case) on the book Fahrenheit 451.

Yeah, no.

I love working with these kids. I love relating to them personally and intellectually. I love seeing them grow over time. I love running into them for years, or years later. I love feeling like I've had an impact on people through my job. All of these are reasons I love teaching.

These lessons aren't the sort of thing that will ever show up directly on any standardized test. But I'll tell you this: my students are learning about words and grammar and literature and critical thinking in a way that will stay with them. They're getting excited about the class--excited about learning. And that's the sweetest reason of all.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Since I'm Being Me...

...might as well make sure you understand what that can entail.

Those who know me, like, you know, actually KNOW me, know that I'm a Dork. A Geek. Almost, but not quite, a Nerd--though when it comes to words and grammar and stuff, I definitely cross that line.

Just, you know, a COOL one. *ahem*

While my awkward, shy, not-so-cool dorkiness didn't do me much good back when I was in high school, it's amazing how much it's done for me these days. Self-confidence ftw*, srsly.** It makes all the difference.

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*ftw = gamers' slang***, literally "for the win", basically meaning "is awesome"
**srsly = texting slang, short for "seriously"
***The fact that I know this and have used it both in and out of games means I'm an authentic dork. Q.E.D.  Also, my decision to use "Q.E.D." Srsly. I've also decided to make my footnotes less footnotey, as I'm afraid by the time people finish my lengthy posts they've forgotten what the damn asterisks are for. You're welcome.
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Students like my dorkiness. It's real. It's funny. It's also heavily tongue-in-cheek, because I know it's humorous and life's a lot more fun if you can laugh at yourself.

I have a lot of fun.

You, beloved peoples, shouldn't be surprised by this side of me. I have, after all, mentioned being a gamer before. Also, I'm very into sci-fi and fantasy, and while I can't pull up a post from memory, I'm sure I've mentioned that. And yesterday I gave you a glimpse of my inner Elf. Some of you know that the boundaries of my geekery and dorkdom go far beyond that, and I am in fact pushing ever deeper into that realm. (Hey there, A Teacher!)

MTL calls me a dork on a daily basis. For those of you for whom "dork" is an insult (*sigh* you silly people), do not fear. It's a term of affection with us. I call him one back. Because truth be told, we're two of the dorkier people you'll ever meet. Just in an awesome way, I think. And our mutual dorkiness has a lot to do with why we clicked and fell madly in love. I can be freely Me in all my gawky, geeky, awkward, silly, dorky glory around him, and he'll only love me more for it.

While laughing his head off, of course.

So. This is Spirit Week here at my place of work, and each day has a dress-up theme.

Uh, what? you say. Where you going with this? Where the hell is the segue, oh Great Grammar* Goddess?

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*and Writing, of course, but that doesn't have the same alliterative je ne sais quoi.This is a practical example of literary license and writing style. SEE? I even do it here. That's how much I rock.
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Really, it makes sense. Stay with me.

Today was Band T-Shirt Day. In other words, we're supposed to wear t-shirts displaying bands. You see how that works? Right. Easy, you'd think. I mean, who doesn't have some old band t-shirt lying around in their drawers from that awesome concert all those years ago?

Well. Um. I don't. I mean, I used to have a few, but they were all kind of crappy to begin with and didn't really fit and weren't particularly special and so they got tossed out this summer along with all the many, many, many other items that I decided I didn't need to lug around any longer.

So. No band t-shirt. Not even one for the marching band here at school, because as much as I love them, I haven't ever bought one of their t-shirts. I know. I suck.

But my lack thereof wasn't going to keep me from participating. Because I like to feel the SPIRIT, yo! This morning I donned a long-sleeved shirt and a pretty but plain t-shirt over top and grabbed a handful of small safety pins. Then I made sure I got to work a few minutes earlier than usual.

And made myself a band shirt:

I know that top one looks rather like a dying worm. I swear it's just rubber. *ahem*
There are more on the back. I had another teacher help, in between snorts of laughter.

Get it? BAND shirt? You know? RUBBER BANDS? ON A SHIRT?

Oh yes. That's how much of a dork I am.

By the way: you know what's a very good measure of just how well a student is capable of thinking outside the box? Or how much of a dork he/she is? Or the quickness of his/her intelligence? Or all of the above?

See how quickly they catch on to the joke when they see something like this.

It's been an awesome day.
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