and then there was Tuesday

Well, hi again.  Thanks for tuning back in. When you last saw me, I was pulling my hair out trying to figure out how to balance life and work.

Today I got a very real wake up call about all that.

A former teaching colleague of mine died.

She had been ill but her passing was still sudden and somewhat unexpected.

Anytime I hear of someone passing I get emotional. More than I used to.  I think experiencing your own profound loss changes you.  For me it has made me a more empathetic and grateful person.

Tonight I went for a walk with my husband and son.

I left work and school and death behind and focused on being grateful for what I have.  I know my time to enjoy my son as a little boy is fleeting.  I am in awe of how fast he is growing, and it scares me.

I cherish every hand hold, snuggle and silly moment that makes me want to scream.

Because I know these days are numbered.

And to let school/work overshadow that, well, I’d be a fool wouldn’t I???

And THAT was Tuesday.

Peace.

The Great Balance Experiment part deux (on the brink of an epic failure)

It is Monday.  I vowed not to be gobbled up by school this week.  I made my plans. I made my copies. I set realistic goals.

You see, I am a veteran teacher, 18 years in.  I am a National Board Certified Teacher.  I DO know what I am doing.  At least I thought so until 8:00 am this morning.

You see, I attended a workshop.

It was a wonderful workshop with a guest speaker who was fabulous.

In fact, she is so fabulous that she is no longer a teacher, but a fabulously paid person who teaches poor shmucks like me how to teach.

Instead of feeling enlightened and refreshed, I left the workshop deflated and overwhelmed.  Clearly, I suck as a teacher.

(I really don’t but the feeling of inadequacy was overwhelming).  It was like a live Pinterest session from hell.  You know, all of the cutesy, creative, trendy things you SHOULD be doing as a teacher with all that free time and plethora of resources.  (insert dripping sarcasm here)

So tonight I sat down, coffee in hand (extra fuel was needed) and basically started the process of reinventing myself. Again.

I sat, bleary eyed, nearly in tears scouring every morsel of literacy development that was known to Google.  I sat, credit card in hand, poised to click on anything that looked interesting on Teachers Pay Teachers.com

Keep in mind I am down to double digits in my checking account until the end of the month.  Sorry kid of mine, guess that Dora the Explorer yogurt will just have to wait.  Mummy has to keep her test scores up and needs more Common Core resources to make it happen…..

And so the wheel began to spin.  And spin. And spin until I felt I was once more out of control, in a dizzy frenzy of teacher resource hunting and gathering.

I missed my kid’s soccer practice.

I snapped at my husband.

I forgot to eat dinner.

And I’m sitting here in tears.

And for what?

So I can prove my worth as a teacher while my mental and physical health crumbles.

Albert Einstein made it without the Common Core.  He turned out pretty good.

Enough said.

Peace.

the great balance experiment… update

As previously posted, I am in search of more balance in my life.  Balance between home and work, that is.  I had this epiphany after a very long, frustrating night sitting at my computer, willing it to find me the latest and greatest educational websites, lesson plans and teaching resources that would send my students’ test scores into orbit.

Meanwhile, my kid was parked in front of the tv.

Working mother guilt and exhaustion kicked in.  There must be a better way.

So, basically I decided to give up.  I decided to give up spinning my wheels to become the latest, greatest test scorer/administrator. I.  Just. Can’t. Do. This. Anymore.

No, I didn’t quit.  Tempting, but no, I didn’t quit.

I simply decided on a few ground rules for myself.  And I must say, so far, I’m doing fairly well.

First, I decided to not over plan.  By that, I mean I got so absorbed in creating engaging lessons that I would over stuff my lesson plans and then feel stressed when I couldn’t get it all in.

Scrap that. I’m not reinventing the wheel.  I decided to do more with less. (if that makes any sense).

I also decided not to scour educational websites for hours on end at home.  It’s getting too consuming not to mention expensive.  No one really cares what latest, greatest resource I use.  I’ve accumulated 18 years of every teaching resource imaginable.  I could do a stellar business on Ebay if I wanted to selling off my sh*t.

I decided to limit my time on social media.  This was after the realization that I was conversing with my colleagues all day at work and then some via social media.  They are fabulous and I love them, but this FOMO (fear of missing out) of the latest trending Facebook phenomena has got to go.  I need a life, so I got one.

I decided to limit my grading to only a few assignments one day per week.  I am not getting paid for the hours of overtime I log. Grades are important but not everything.  As a teacher I’ve come to loathe them.

I decided to try to exercise.  This has not gone exactly as planned, but I am working on it.

So, in summary, things have not gone too badly this week.  I feel calmer and more centered.  Deciding to take some of the pressure off myself is a start.  I’ll keep you posted.

After all, I deserve it.

Peace.

remember me

After a couple of days of thinking, I have decided not to stress as much over my job.  It is so easy to lose sight isn’t it? It is so easy to become so consumed and wrapped up in one’s work that you feel as though you are spinning out of control.

And for what?

Losing my dad put a lot into perspective. (No, this is not going to be a downer death post incase you’re wondering….)  His passing at such a young age (60) as sad as it is, holds a small blessing for me.  It has allowed me to put a lot into perspective at a very young age (40, 38 at the time of his passing).

Because really, when it’s all said and done, will I have mattered in my job? Maybe, maybe not.  If I were to resign tomorrow, it would only inconvenience someone until they could fill my spot.

But the same can’t be said about my family.  I want to matter.  I need to matter.  And when all is said and done, I want to be remembered for warmth, kindness and love.  Not for how many dedicated hours I spent at a computer planning lessons no one really cares about.

That is not to say I will shirk my responsibilities.  It would be unprofessional to do so.  Matter from 7:30-3:30 and then go home is my new mantra.  Matter more at home is now the new way I will strive to live my life.

It’s a tough balance, but my family is worth it.

I am worth it.

So I’m going to work really hard to try to achieve it.

Wish me luck.

I have no idea why I do this

I am sitting here at 7pm on a Sunday night.  I am still doing school work.  Friday night I spent 4 hours of my time grading papers.

I am intelligent and educated.  I use my time wisely, yet there is never enough of it.

I listen to my husband and son laughing and playing.

I am sitting, doing school work, grumpy, near tears.

I have no idea why I do this to myself.

If I don’t go the extra mile, I get a shitty evaluation.  I am deemed ‘not effective’ if my data doesn’t meet some computer’s standards.

I am ready to quit.

But I can’t.

I have no idea why I keep doing this to myself.

Year after year, faking it. Pretending I love it.  Spending money I don’t have, time I don’t have, all for someone else’s kid.

I am done.

I have fantasized about turning in my resignation letter.

I will never have the guts to do it.

I need my paycheck, as meager as it is.

I have no idea why I do this.

don’t poke mama bear….

It’s been a banner week here at my house.  I am not a drama seeker.  Really, I’m not.

But this week, mama bear (me) got poked. Twice.

I just want to shake my head at these pokers.  Really?  Have you met me?  I may appear to be a humble, non assuming person, but really, I’m not.  I seethe when I am poked.  I have a razor sharp tongue and I’m not afraid to use it.

And I got poked.  Twice.

I am trying to be a reasonable parent who is not raising an asshole for a child.  I am attempting to teach my child tolerance, forgiveness, and strategies to self rescue.  Really, I am.  I teach so many children each year who are never taught basic manners and problem solving skills at home.  I swore I’d never be ‘that’ parent who let their kid run amuck.

I do not want my child to be afraid of me, but I do want him to realize boundaries.  Some behaviors are not ok.  I want him to be empathetic and considerate.  I want him to have (and use) common sense.   It’s a work in progress.

My child has been repeatedly pummeled at school (daycare) by another child who is oblivious to rules.  For about a month now, I’ve heard this child’s name mentioned morning, noon and night around my house.  My child has actually had anxiety attacks on the playground because of this brute.    Apparently, all it takes is one good sucker punch to the tummy to scar my child for life.    We tried to talk to my son.  We tried to equip him with strategies (use your words, move away, ask a teacher for help) to no avail.  He continued to talk about this turd, his voice trembling with fear.   I talked to the daycare and they did make an effort to move the child away from mine at the one time they would see each other on the playground.  They tried.

So, the other morning, I dropped my kid off as I usually do. Because I have to be to work so early, my child is usually one of the first ones dropped off.  I hate it.  Every morning it rips me to shreds to leave him there. (side note- it is a great facility and he is happy there.  I just have working mother guilt).

And Tuesday morning, it happened.  Turd boy got dropped off early.  That meant my son and his arch enemy were dropped off at the same time (which had never before happened).  The look of panic and fear that crossed my child’s face is one I will never forget.  And I had to walk out the door of the daycare and go to work.

I truly didn’t know whether to sweep my son up in my arms and make a run for the door, or collapse into a sobbing heap.  I figured the latter wouldn’t have been a good choice, and on second thought, neither was the first.  So, I dealt with things the way mama bears do.  I bared my teeth and sharpened my claws.

I followed Turd Boy’s father out to the parking lot.  I had never met him before.  I figured this was a stellar time for him to put a face to the name.  After all, his son has been terrorizing mine for a little over a month.

And I let loose.

It was not my best moment, nor was it appropriate.  But somewhere in my head I felt Mr. Turd needed to know that his son’s behavior was affecting REAL people.  Namely me and my son.

I proceeded to tell him that my son is terrified of his son and is having anxiety attacks over it.

He seemed bored and disinterested.  He told me they’re “working on it”.

Never being one to be dismissed, I pushed a little more telling him he’d better work a little harder because other parents are talking and are very unhappy.  (not a lie).

He of course was not at a loss for words either and thanked me for my ‘attitude’.

Ok, I get it.  Not the best way to protect my kid.  But my son is truly afraid of this child.

And then I sobbed all the way to work.

Fast forward to today’s soccer game.  Before the game, my son and another child were rough housing.  Ok, I get it.  Boys will be boys.  The child rough housing with mine is a chronic whiner.  He pouts and sulks when he doesn’t get his own way.  He doesn’t listen to his parents.  A lot of people have noticed his lack of discipline.  This was not a first time occurrence.

So he and my son were rough housing.  No big deal.  Boys being boys.

Except when I looked over, Pouty boy was attempting to pull both of my son’s arms out of their sockets and fling him to the ground while his own parents looked on.  I rushed over and used my teacher voice.  I firmly told him not to treat my son that way.  I may have thrown in a finger wag.

Well, that poked HIS mama bear.   She approached me a few minutes later telling me the way I handled the situation was too harsh and inappropriate.

Not wanting to a) punch her  or b) make a scene, I simply said “I’m sorry you feel that way, thank you for letting me know”.

Apparently that wasn’t good enough.

She continued to lecture me.  She told me I should have talked to her first about the incident.

Not wanting to a) punch her  or b) make a scene, I simply reiterated “I’m sorry you feel that way, thank you for letting me know”.

She continued on.

Not wanting to say a) Look you freaky granola home schooler, your kid is a turd,   or b) make a scene, I simply reiterated I was sorry she felt that way and thanked her for letting me know her concern.

By the fourth time she continued on I didn’t care anymore.  I told her she needed to keep a better eye on her kid.  To which I got an indignant “humph” and she tried to jaw on some more.

I think I moved away from her at that point.

While I know my tactics aren’t always the best, my intentions are.  I am reasonable.  I know kids get hurt.  I know there are bullies.  I understand not everyone thinks like I do.  But really kids… there are limits.  You are a KID.  And it’s my job as a parent to remind you of your limits (albeit not really my place to tell another kid that unless they are hurting MY kid which was today’s case)

And that was the week that was.

Peace.

unplugging

Is it possible to unplug one’s self these days?  Each day I am more and more tempted to time travel back to 1990 when I knew nothing of Facebook, the internet or smart phones.  Whatever did I do way back then?  I remember using a pay phone, writing and passing notes to classmates and thinking answering machines were only for the rich.  What did I know?  I was in high school and my biggest goal was to see how much hairspray I could use.

My husband and I had a conversation today that made me realize how dependent upon technology we (I) really are (am).  If I were to (God forbid) lose my phone,  most of my world would be wiped out. (so to speak).  I haven’t memorized anyone’s phone number.  My life line to my son (I have his daycare number and PreK teacher’s number in my phone) would be severed.  The last video I have of my now deceased father is on there.  Pictures of me holding L for the first time when he was born would be lost.  (please don’t get on me about backing up to the “Cloud”… I have a hard enough time with simple things…)   Gone are the days of always having a spare “just in case” quarter and memorizing phone numbers.

I get most of my news from the internet.  Each day I peruse news sites from back home, and for the country.  I don’t buy newspapers except for the one I subscribe to which is only printed 3 days a week, and can be read cover to cover in 10 minutes flat (on a busy news day).  We live in a very small town.

Sadly, most of my ‘updates’ on what is going on is gleaned from Facebook.  I use it mostly as a news source and for keeping up with friends back home.  I keep trying to swear off it, especially after I read about everyone’s fabulous vacations, how much weight they’ve lost and how they’ve solved their credit card debt problems by practicing yoga and becoming a paleo.  It’s exhausting to feel inferior.  So, I try to unplug, but that means I’m usually the kid skating outside the loop as my coworkers jaw on about the latest meme they’ve discovered.

I don’t watch a lot of tv.  Having a four-year-old will do that to you. I am well versed in Bubble Guppies, Peppa Pig and Transformers, but I think I missed most of last year’s “new” shows.  There are shows I hear about that I didn’t even know existed.  I must say, I don’t really miss tv, but I find more and more my ‘tv’ time is being replaced by computer time.

I’m constantly perusing teaching websites, trying to figure out how to add interest to my lessons.  I scan Pinterest mostly for classroom ideas, rarely for personal ‘pins’.    I check my bank account, email (which, by the way, is becoming a thing of the past).  I refuse to join Twitter or Instagram or any of those other social media sites.  Why?  Well, I really wonder who the hell would want to “follow” me.  I’m boring.  And unpopular.  And I have nothing insightful or witty to say.   Plus, I think it’s a little creepy how stalking (let’s call a spade a spade) has become a socially acceptable past time.

I often wonder how much “free” time I’d have if I just unplugged from everything for a week.  But, I can’t unplug completely because my staff communicates mainly via email and I would be remiss in my job duties if I didn’t follow suit.

I don’t know how to strike a healthy balance other than telling myself to shut down all computer, phone and social media time by a designated time each day.

I can’t believe at one point in my life all I owned was a tv.

Shocking.

I’m going to try to unplug more this week.  I’ll keep you posted….(which is really stupid to tell you because logging on to Word Press means I’m on a computer.)

Oh well.

Peace.

being present

I’ve found lately that I’m here, but I’m not really ‘present’.  There are lots of times my kid is happily playing and jabbering on and I’m busy doing something else.  I catch a few words here and there, give a few “aha”  or “really?” affirmations, but I’m guilty of not really being present in the moment.

I find myself bogged down with life, work, parenthood and all the other things that go along with being a forty something working mother.   What I am not finding I am is very “present”.

It’s such a weird word because when I hear it, I assume that I am present.  I listen.  I try to make eye contact.  I can carry on a conversation.   But most of the time I am going through motions, simply nodding in agreement while my mind is onto the next bigger and badder problem to be solved.

Quite frankly, it’s exhausting.

Tonight I took a few minutes off from being a mother, wife, chief cook, bottle washer, teacher etc and I snuck out to my front porch.  I often go there when I want to be undetected by my very observant four-year-old to collect my thoughts.

I called my 92 year old grandmother.

It was such a simple thing to do, but every time I call her it’s bittersweet.  I want to call her.  I need to call her.  But every time I do call her I imagine that it could possibly be the last.  I hate to think like that, but it is what it is.   I love her dearly.  But I hate to think of the time that will come when I don’t have the luxury of choosing to call her.  It scares me.  It moves me to tears just thinking about it.

As I chatted with her, catching up on the weather back home, the latest antics of my kid (which she loves to hear about), I imagined what it must be like for her, alone each day in her apartment.  Sure, she keeps busy with her little routines, but she has a lot of time on her hands.  I savor the visits with her in the summer when I am home.  I love sitting in her sun filled apartment listening to daytime tv talk shows, listening to the squeak of her rocking chair, glimpsing her profile, every wrinkle and crease.

It’s so simple, so easy, so safe and so… present.  It is the here and now of it all.  And it is my happy place, or one of them, anyway.  I go there in my head when things get topsy- turvy here.   I try to downshift, thinking of how simple life should be.  Because, really, at the end of the day, what is it that truly matters?  Life.  Family.  Love.

And those are the things I don’t feel I’m being very present for.  I am forgetting to savor moments, to go to my happy place, and remember, that when it all comes to and end, I want to remember those whom I love, not how many spelling tests I had to correct or how hard I worked to raise test scores.

It’s so easy to get gobbled up by the treadmill isn’t it?

Time to get off the treadmill, set limits, turn off the phone, stop checking the email, put away the school work.  It’s time to play more.  Savor more.  Take a little time to slow down and really be…. present.

Peace.

why I will never participate in Secret Santa and other first world problems that plagued me this week.

The week that was. And what a week it was. By Friday, most of the children that left my classroom were lucky to escape with their book bags, not to mention their lives.  Before you think the worst, I’m kidding. Well, sort of.  I’m not sure if it was a full moon, but the level of helplessness and hyperactivity soared into orbit this week in my classroom.

“Hello Chardonnay, where have you been all my life….”  is basically all I could say by the end of the week.

So what about the Secret Santa thing? I’m getting to it.

Well.

Someone on my staff thought it would be a swell idea if we all started pampering each other when we’re sad.  We were asked to fill out a very elaborate ‘likes and dislikes’ questionnaire which will be accessible to do-gooders when they feel someone on staff needs a pick me up. Ok.  Nice idea. But I don’t have time for that crap.  Or money.  And quite frankly, if my marriage is crumbling and my life is falling apart,  a) I sure as hell am not telling you and b) no package of Rolos (no matter how big) is going to fix that.

Unless you’re giving me a baseball bat and a license to use it, nothing in that frigging binder is going to make me happy.

There, I said it. I am an official party pooper.

Not only do I not feel like sharing my personal dramas with a staff full of people I don’t know, I don’t want to be on the receiving end of a random act of cheer up-ed-ness.  Because that will send my anxiety level into orbit as I try to figure out who thought I looked sad or unhappy.  Then I’ll have to go around with a fake smile plastered on my face for fear I look too ‘unhappy’.  All those mind games are too stressful.   I’ll buy my own damn package of Tootsie rolls thank you very much.

In the same vein, I don’t participate in Secret Santa.  I used to but I stopped after I overheard the recipient of my secret Pier 1 kindness complaining about her gift (from me).  Gee, I’m sorry you ungrateful snot… but that little secret something didn’t come cheap.  From Pier 1. This was also the same year at our Christmas staff party 2 teachers almost got into a fist fight over a bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream during a Yankee Swap.  Or White Elephant. Or whatever you call those annoying “I can steal your gift” games people play at Christmas parties. That pretty much did it for me. So no, I don’t participate in crappy little reindeer games.  I don’t do legislated fun.

So what else happened this week? The shutter police caught us. Who are the shutter police you ask? The home owner’s association of our subdivision. Apparently our shutters were too “faded” for their liking.  Since I’m in “good” with the President’s wife, she gave me a heads up that we were about to be put on the black list.  Of course it was delivered to me in a sicky sweet sappy passive aggressive way (We just know this must have been on your to-do list) and drenched with a southern accent that would put Julia Sugarbaker of Designing Women to shame. Actually, yes, it was on our to-do list, but um, LIFE got in the way.  We have JOBS outside the home and a child to rear.  Sorry we didn’t hop to it sooner.  Sorry we let our shutters fade a whole fraction of a shade they used to be when we moved in 7 years ago.  Oh, and by the way, have you seen the new chicken coops Mrs. X has in her yard down the way?  I’m sure the yard décor citation police would love to get their hands on that one.

Geesh. Needless to say, the shutters got painted today. We know how to live on the edge.

I heard a great quote this week. “Common sense is a flower that does not grow in everyone’s garden”. How true.

And THAT was the week that was.

Peace.

just call me “Kermit Dangerfield”

Tonight I am feeling like a cross between Kermit the Frog and Rodney Dangerfield.  It’s not easy being me and I feel I haven’t really gotten the respect I deserve.

There, I said it.

While this could be mistaken for a vent, a rant, a whine… it’s not.

I am sitting here, near tears, reflecting on the day.

I am an anxious person.  There are no bones about it.  I am simply an anxious person.  I’ve been treated for anxiety.  And while I’m not ready to have people in white coats chasing me with a butterfly net, I have recognized that I am an anxious person.  I like to be organized.  I like to know the info. I like to know what lay (or is it lays?) ahead of me.   I am a person who believes you when you tell me you will call me at 5:00 and I am the person who figures you’re dead in a ditch when it’s 5:45 and I haven’t heard from you.    Get a phone call saying your father dropped dead.  That will do it to you.

It doesn’t really matter what happened today, the laundry list is just that… dirty laundry.  What does matter is how the events of today made me feel.   I was told by someone (ok, my mother) she would be available for a Skype session at a certain time.  Usually we agree on a date and time and go from there.  I waited at the assigned time.  I waited some more.  I called to confirm only to have no one answer.  I waited some more.  Almost 2 hours later and no phone call telling me the information had changed, I finally connected with her.  A breezy ‘something came up’ was what I got.

Ugh.

Here I was, waiting for almost 2 hours with not so much as a phone call to tell me the plans had changed.  I felt completely disrespected.  Not only because my time was compromised, but because when I don’t hear from you after a reasonable amount of time, my hamster wheel goes into overdrive.  I assume all kinds of things.  And when I can’t get a hold of you to confirm you are indeed alive, I nearly pass out from anxiety.   And the people in my life know this.  They just seem to conveniently ‘forget’.

And then when I point it out, ever so gently, I am crazy, unreasonable, paranoid or my favorite…. a bitch.

So, it’s not really easy being me today.

Another series of things happened today on the domestic front.  I live with a very fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants partner.  In fact, we are so opposite that I sometimes wonder how we ever managed to get married or better yet create a child.

That does not mean anyone is a bad person.  It just means my having a steel trap for a memory and living with someone with the memory of an ant tends to send my frustration level into orbit.

When I ask you to complete a simple task and clearly communicate it, I don’t expect to have to remind you half a dozen times.  It’s just not worth it after the first couple.

So, there really is no right or wrong and I’m not looking for sympathy.

I’m simply pounding out a post because it’s cheaper than therapy.  It’s somehow easier to tell a bunch of strangers (and I mean that in the nicest way) how misunderstood and disrespected I felt today than to try to talk it out with my family (using the 5 Languages of Love crap I read about and checked out of the library).

5 Languages of Love.  My ass.

Sometimes a big stick and a middle finger works wonders.

Just sayin’.

Peace.