Diapers and Dragons

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


I'm at a point where I'm internalizing so much stress that I'm no longer trusting my reactions or judgment. I feel like a volcano bulging with pent-up magma, ready to explode at the slightest fracture. My neck and shoulders are bunched up, my throat aches, my head throbs, and acid burns down my esophagus. It would only take one wrong word for me to erupt in rage, tears, or both.

It's no one thing. It's everything. It's the buildup of all sorts of stress and fears and worries and hopes and aggravations. It's the fatigue of the year drawing to a close. It's the frustration of senioritis. It's the lack of sleep, the lingering effects of whatever respiratory plague attacked me last week, the sense of dread as wave after wave of bad news and potentially disastrous now-we-wait-and-see news rolls in about loved ones and politics and money and everything else in this seriously fucked-up world.

I don't always deal well with stress. Okay, fine, I rarely deal well with stress.

MTL thinks I need to take a mental health day. I hate to do that. I have few enough sick days left, and I tend to hoard those for truly necessary sick leave (mine or, more likely, kidlets'), as I know all too well the financial impact of unpaid sick leave when those days run out. I do have a couple of personal business days I haven't used that will vanish if they aren't used, but I have to request those at least three days in advance, and anything further out than Thursday just isn't possible. I have senior project presentations, junior speeches, senior exams, and then the rest of final exams filling every available slot.

I'm just so TIRED. Not just physically. Mentally. Emotionally. Spiritually. I can't even focus much on the wedding, because everything else takes up my attention. I can't look forward too much to the honeymoon, because a part of me dreads the possibility of having to cancel due to financial or other reasons. I don't want to have my heart too set on that in case it's pulled out of reach.

It's as if there's a threatening cloud looming over everything. I'm struggling to find the light through the shadows.

Monday, May 9, 2011


One of my friends and coworkers, the one who met me last night out on the practice field along with a couple of hundred other people for Nate's candlelight vigil, said on her Facebook that students don't realize that impact is not just one way. It's not just us, as teachers, impacting our students' lives. They impact ours as well. Every day we come into contact with dozens of students, and they affect us just as we affect them. She's right. I am not the person I would have been without working with the hundreds of students I have seen in my eleven years of teaching, both as an intern and a certified teacher.

My students know that I struggle with names. My brain has a disconnect between name and face, so very often. There are some that are seared into memory, for good or evil, true, but even if I know a student very well, I often freeze up and completely forget his or her name. They're generally kind about my forgetfulness. In turn, I reassure them that it is nothing personal, and that I do know who they are.

I never forgot Nate's name. I don't know if I ever would have.

Last night I had the opportunity to speak briefly at the vigil, after we had lit our wind-threatened candles and people were able to share stories and memories about this boy who had touched all our lives. I said that his father had asked me which year Nate had been in my class, and I struggled to remember--not because I didn't remember him, but because it felt as though I had known him for much longer. Then some former students reminded me that I had him during his junior year, and it all came back to me.

The year I had Nate in class was most definitely not the easiest year of my life, I said, and laughter broke out around the huge circle from all the other former students who remembered. It hadn't been. That was the year my life had fallen apart, the facade of strength and happiness and a decent marriage crumbling as that marriage imploded and I literally disappeared from work for three weeks. I managed to hold things together once I got back to work, but barely.

Nate was one of the few people who could get me to smile, even on my worst days. He was no Pollyanna--he had a snarkiness and sarcasm that worked better anyway--but his smile lit up the room. He would bring me chocolate and food, because he knew that's what works with Ross. Just a few months ago he came in with a couple other former students to bring me lunch, because he knew I always forget my lunch. 

He was one of those people who make others feel better about themselves. He was one of the people who make the world a better place by being in it. I would have always remembered him, even without this tragedy. I will always remember him.

I'm glad I had the chance to share that with his parents, his friends, his Color Guard family.

Today has been a rough day, for various reasons. I'm here at work, and I'm getting things done, and I'm working with the students. But I'm not smiling. And in return, my students are being solicitous and cooperative. Several have checked to make sure I'm okay and not in the throes of deep depression--and I'm not, but I understand why they're wondering. A student who missed class because he slept in brought me donuts and a mocha and a tray of baklava as an apology (they know my weaknesses, these kids). One of the girls who always eats lunch in my room asked if I'd like her to bring in a slice of homemade chocolate cake tomorrow.

They're gentle.

They care.

As I sit here, not eating lunch because I have no appetite, but sipping on a cafe mocha from Tim Hortons, I feel a wave of thankfulness washing over me, pricking my eyes with tears.

They're my kids. They're the reason I stick with this job despite all the thanklessness and political bullshit.

And I hope that they will leave this school with memories of a teacher who made a difference in their lives, just as they made a difference in mine.

Friday, May 6, 2011


I'm angry and I'm crying and the only reason I'm still here at work is that if I go home I'll have nothing to keep me busy and occupied. Laundry and cleaning don't count because there's too much time for thinking.

This last weekend one of my former students was in a terrible car accident in West Virginia, on his way to an audition that would hopefully continue to move him along in his amazing gifts for music and dance. He suffered horrendous head trauma and has been in a coma all week.

This morning he died.

It's not right. It's never right, but it seems so particularly horrible when it's a bright, brilliant nineteen-year-old like Nate. He was one of the memorable ones. I can't remember a day when he didn't have a smile or funny comment to brighten up the day--and not in an annoying Pollyanna way. He made people feel better about themselves. He had a sweet confidence and joyful soul like few people I've met.

Just a few months ago he came into school with a couple of other former students to bring me lunch, because I always forget lunch, and because gifts of food are always welcome. He was full of hope and laughter over what he was doing in college, where he was going in life.

And now he's gone. And his mother will be facing her first Mother's Day without her son.

I hate this part of my job. It's always tragic when people die, but even more so when they are young and all that life and hope and potential is snuffed out long before time. This isn't the first time it's happened, but it is one of the hardest.

Rest in peace, Nate. You will never be forgotten. Thank you for making all of our lives just that much brighter during the all-too-brief time you were here.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Day In The Life

5:45 am--Alarm goes off. Wake blearily, turn it off, and fail to leave bed when MTL pulls me back in for a cuddle.

5:54 am--Nudged out of bed by MTL. Stumble into bathroom and take a very quick hot shower. Thank God that the tummy bug that attacked yesterday seems to have had a 24-hour duration.

6:05 am--Brush teeth and get dressed. Kiss MTL goodbye.

6:10 am--Leave safety of master bedroom to wake the mini monsters. Discover that due to yesterday's illness and failure to do kids' laundry, there are absolutely no jeans for either monster to wear, and no clean 5T shirts. Sigh because all the 5T jeans and/or pants have vanished into the black hole of The Ex's custody anyway. Give DramaBoy a pair of 4T highwater slacks and a shirt that almost qualifies as a three-quarter length sleeve. Instruct both boys to get dressed with NO WHINING OR TEARS thankyouverymuch.

6:13 am--Return to master bedroom and slap on a touch of makeup. Attempt to convince hair not to flip out today. Give up and go downstairs.

6:17 am--Realize that due to yesterday's illness no coffee was prepped for the morning brew. Sigh. Make sure both self and MTL have a bit of cash for coffee on the way. Get a second kiss goodbye.

6:18 am--Do a half-assed job of half the basic physical therapy exercises that should be done every morning. Give up on the remainder when the boylets descend.

6:22 am--Organize getting snacks, breakfast-to-go (a.k.a. dry cereal in baggies), and shoes/outer wear on boylets. Realize that garbage stinks to high heaven, grab the bag, and take it out to the garage. Discover that MTL is charging his car battery, which is dead. Again. Stupid car.

6:27 am--Realize that I never checked DramaBoy's backpack over weekend and do a quick run-through. Write out the RSVP for the Mother's Day Tea at DramaBoy's kindergarten class that I will not be able to attend, but for which my beloved mother will take my place. MTL ducks back in to say goodbye for real this time and give me my third goodbye kiss. Wish the weekend didn't go by so quickly. Resume efforts to get kids out the door.

6:38 am--Finally pull out of the driveway.

6:45 am--Get to daycare, say goodbye to the boylets, and rush back out the door.

6:48 am--Pull through McDonald's drive-through to get fruit & maple oatmeal and a large coffee.

6:54 am--Finally get to work.

7:15-2:19 am--Teach classes. Mix of quizzes, project discussions, and teaching kids how to do MLA formatting and use Microsoft Word. Wish that today's so-called "tech generation" actually knew how to figure out basic technology for academic purposes rather than mere social networking. Also become irritated by students' continuous inability to keep silent until every single quiz has been turned in. Spend lunch reading hilarious entries on Parents Shouldn't Text. Laugh uncontrollably. Decide perhaps I will survive the day without suffering an aneurysm. Resume classes and have this decision challenged.

2:19 pm--School hours officially over. Chat online with Heidi while finishing up a bit of work and reading the remainder of Parents Shouldn't Text archives.

2:46 pm--Head out to accomplish List of Errands. Head to school employee credit union to finish closing out bank accounts and the safety deposit box, since apparently they can't close out safety deposit boxes on weekends.

3:16 pm--Leave former credit union irritated that the exact same people who were there on Saturday were the ones who did everything today, and there was no apparent need to wait two days. Roll eyes over red tape. Call The Ex while driving to remind him to look for the 5T jeans that have vanished in his custody. Mutually agree that we will no longer dress DramaBoy in 4T pants. Period.

3:30 pm--Visit current credit union to deposit money from old accounts and order new checks. Text MTL about new banking status.

3:40 pm--Get phone call on cell. See MTL's last name on the screen and answer, Hi baby! Hear the utterly confused and somewhat mortified voice of The Padawan saying, Uh. Hello? in response. Feel like one of the parents on Parents Shouldn't Text.

3:45 pm--Get home to grab last "coupon" for $50 off rent. Fill out a list of essentials needed so that The Padawan and DMB can be clean (thank God), as well as groceries for the week. Assign them to clean the kitchen and get a load of laundry in the washer. Text MTL about new shopping plans.

3:57 pm--Head out again. Pay rent. Head down to The Children's Place to purchase 5T jeans. Discover they are having a 25% off sale on denim. Gratefully purchase two pairs.

4:38 pm--Receive call from MTL (for real this time) checking on shopping plans. Agree that money should be transferred from wedding savings account to checking in order to cover costs this week. Again. Stupid car. Stupid rent. Stupid children wanting to be clothed and fed.

4:45 pm--Grab necessities and food from Meijer. Indulge in a cold Coke because it looks too good to refuse.

5:15 pm--Get home. Kitchen wonderfully clean, although the extremely stale and possibly sprouting remains of The Widget's birthday cake still glowers balefully from the side counter. Am not amazed that both boys failed to see or discard it. Decide to take care of it later. Get another load of children's clothes going and fold dry laundry.

5:50 pm--MTL arrives home from work.

6:00 pm to present--MTL showers. Leftovers for dinner, which means we all (much to my relief) simply fend for ourselves. MTL and I collapse on the couch and pull out our computers while turning on a DVRed episode of "The Mentalist."

7:20 pm--Post this blog post, amazed that I actually found something to say. Even if it is just another day in my life.
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