Thursday, February 23, 2012

I Got The Job

I have been waiting to say those words for four years.

While I didn't anticipate that they would be in reference to a teaching job, it feels good to type them all the same.

On Monday I start as the long-term substitute 7th grade science teacher at a middle school that is nineteen miles from my house. Today I came home to the message from the principal on the answering machine. I called him back to accept the job. He said it took this long to ask me to take the job because it's February vacation week and it took some time to contact my references.

The interview on Friday was as good as any interview for a teaching job I've ever had. I thought I felt a connection and spoke a common language, but with my track record over the last four years I wasn't sure I could trust my gut instinct when it came to how I am perceived and whether or not I am qualified.

It turns out I can. When I sat around a table with the principal, vice principal, guidance counselor, and language arts teacher to talk about teaching 7th grade, it was true that we share a similar philosophy of education. We care about kids, how they develop, and what they need. We agree that the emphasis should be on how we learn and opportunities to demonstrate what we know.

When I applied for this job ten days ago I thought I was beginning the process of returning to teaching. I thought it might take a while to find a position and that I might need to piece together jobs this spring to get my feet under me.

Instead I hit a homerun right out of the box. All indications are that I have landed in a school that cares about students and teachers, a place where it matter that people work together and succeed.

There will be a substitute [for me] in classes on Monday so I can meet teachers and students, get to know the school, and complete paperwork. I have the phone number for the teacher I am temporarily replacing and have been encouraged to call her to see what she can share about students. I have been told many times that the other teachers will help me with anything I need. [In contrast, the last year I taught I went into a classroom that had not so much as a pencil in the desk drawer. When I shyly asked the school secretary how I might go about getting a few supplies, she took a look around the room and said, "She didn't leave you with a thing, did she?"]

I feel hopeful, yet cautious. I feel nervous, yet excited.

It feels like I am beginning again.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Drip, Drip, Drip

The plumber came and went yesterday, and we still don't know where the water in the ceiling is coming from. With the pipes in the ceiling in full view we know that water is dripping down the outside of a vent pipe. That by itself is a puzzle. Add to that that we can't see water on the vent pipe where it is exposed in the attic, as we thought it might be coming in through the roof, and we still have a mystery on our hands.

This could get complicated. Pipes running through floors and walls. Smoothly sheetrocked walls. Hardwood and ceramic tile floors.

I don't even want to think about it.

So I started moving furniture in the family room, which has become the holding place for most of the assorted not-furniture stuff from the hole-in-the-ceiling room. I dragged chairs, couch, and treadmill from one side of the room to the other. I vacuumed every surface. I moved furniture again, and I managed to bring some semblance of order to pictures, baskets, pillows, and office equipment just hanging out until who knows when.

When we bought this house I asked the engineer who did the inspection about all the plumbing in the walls and floors that is necessary with bathrooms and the kitchen on the top floor. He said that many houses have such construction and did a thorough check. Things looked fine. Then.

Now who knows. My plumber has emailed me with suggestions of ways to test if the water might be coming from the master bath shower or toilet.

Do we need that bathroom right off the bedroom anyway? It would make a great little storage area for all the not-furniture from the hole-in-the ceiling room....

Friday, February 17, 2012

If Life Is Uneven

It must be February.

Last year at the end of this clump of days on the calendar I threatened to skip February this year. I'd had car trouble, re-started my job search, and lost the signal for ABC just in time to miss the Academy Awards.

This year the pattern continues.

The difference this year is that I am looking at life through the lens of "possibility."

When the drywall guy came yesterday to fix the ceiling in the sitting room, I was looking forward to crossing that project off the list. In the months since it first appeared, the stain hasn't gotten any bigger and water doesn't seem to be coming through any place else. Two weeks ago I talked to the owner of a drywall company that did a project for us 27 years ago, and he was willing to help us with a small patch.

Once the guy had cut out the damaged area he was ready to reinforce the strapping. I have been curious as to what was going on in the ceiling so I climbed up the ladder to take a closer look and put my hand up to feel around...and it was wet. Oh. There is still water coming from one of the pipes.

There are two ways to look at this: There is a good-sized hole in the ceiling that is going to require attention from a plumber and another visit from the drywall guy before I can put the room back together. On the other hand finding that leak means that it will be repaired before it gets any worse, and we don't need to look any further for the problem.

All that happened yesterday morning before 8:30. I am not a morning person but since the day was already started I kept going. I made phone calls, put dinner in the crockpot, and climbed on the treadmill. A neighbor called to confirm that the man who stopped at his house to ask directions was really coming to see me and not casing the neighborhood.

When the phone rang again I thought it was the mechanic who was working on my daughter's car ~ this February she's the one with car trouble. [We really do need to be braced for whatever February throws at us.]

No, the phone call was about another ongoing project. My job search.

I have an interview scheduled for this afternoon. On Valentine's Day I mailed the application for a long-term substitute teacher position at the middle school in a nearby town. They need someone to start in March to finish out the schoolyear, and next week is school vacation, so it won't take long for me to get an answer one way or the other.

The snow predicted for today turned to rain, so school was not cancelled.

Hey, things are looking up and anything is possible.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


The first word that comes to mind on Valentine's Day is not fruitcake.

But that's the word for the day this year.

Yesterday I finally got together all the ingredients necessary to make my mother's fruitcake recipe. It took some doing ~ my daughter gave me several containers of candied fruit she had stowed away. Over the course of several days it took me three trips to the store to remember grape jelly, grape juice, and white raisins. I usually have everything else on hand, though not always in the quantities I needed for this project.

It took two hours to mix the batter and four hours for the cake to bake. It cooled overnight and today I paired it with apple slices and wrapped it tightly in foil so it can "cure."

Fruitcake is for Christmas, right? And I thought about it then but couldn't get everything together in time.

When the kids were little I tried to do all the holiday baking in a timely fashion before the third week in December. As they got older life got busy, and one year we made Christmas cookies between Christmas and New Year's when we were all home and had the time to do it together. It was fun. The world didn't end. It was clear that self-imposed limitations weren't always the best idea.

So when my daughter and I started talking about how much we wished we had some fruitcake, it made sense to see about making one. While I didn't exactly plan to have it made for Valentine's Day, it fits that today is the day the fruitcake is wrapped up and on the shelf.

I think it will be ready to slice by St. Patrick's Day ~

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Change Of Mind

I am going to tell on myself: I have been in a rut for months.

My daily routine has served a purpose as a way to get through the days while I have had lots of time on my own. When I didn't know which way to turn or what to do next I figured there was always laundry to wash, meals to cook, vacuuming to do, bathrooms to clean, paperwork to file, cars to maintain...and when I finished one round I could start again. My days were busy, if not fulfilling.

In the process I established a habit of putting off finishing things because I have had a lot of time to fill. I recognized this pattern and have made attempts to step up the pace and set deadlines to get projects completed so I can start again, do things differently, move forward.

It's not that I haven't been trying to climb out of this place I've made for myself.

The harder I've tried to do things differently, the more stuck in place I've become. Default position of the daily routine wins again. After all, there will be hours tomorrow, there will be days next week. Meanwhile the days look the same and anything that would break me out of the routine gets put off.

For a long time I thought I needed to change me.

I got past that misconception and figured I needed to change my situation.

When that didn't work I conceded I was stuck.

Or that is what I thought....

Now I know a change of mind will change everything.

Like any new way of doing, it's taking time and effort to establish new patterns. Thankfully, I am not alone. My friend Teri is focusing on the word "pause" this year, and she is generously sharing her journey with photos and reflections. Thank you, Teri, and maybe we can encourage each other.

Now I know I can do something new, I can choose to do things differently.

Tomorrow when I wake up I will pause and consider the possibilities.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Word To Stand On

My word for this year has taken its sweet time to reveal itself. I have tried several words that seemed like they would be a good fit for 2012, but none of them stuck. It seemed like maybe there were too many things to focus on this year to limit myself to one word. I was disappointed but this is one of those things that cannot be forced.

On Friday I had an appointment with my massage therapist. My knees and hips ached, and my posture was terrible.

Our session started with a conversation about the shifts taking place in my life right now. I talked about how I have come to the decision to return to teaching. We agreed that it can be satisfying to learn skills, to practice to the point where you feel competent, and that it's okay to do something you're good at. Some of us are geared to continually strive to learn more and be challenged, when the most satisfying course might be savor what we already know.

I got up and she looked closely at how I was standing. My hips were tilted forward and locked in place. My head was stuck on my shoulders. I said that this was my body's default position; when I am stressed I forget everything I know about how to keep all my moving parts moving.

Then she said something that she has shared with me before but I have not been able to absorb. She is currently studying the Alexander Technique, which very simply put is teaching a body to move freely and naturally. When I say I have fallen back to my default position, she reminds me that habits can be changed. During that moment of realization I have a chance to change what I have always done, during that pause I can do something different.

On Friday she shared with me a quote from one of her instructors:

"A pause is the moment in which all things are possible."

Oh. My. Goodness.

A pause is the moment in which all things are possible.

I left feeling so much better and walking so much taller.

On Sunday I woke to the word "possibility" ~ my word for 2012.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Shift Happens

Last weekend was a weekend away, from home and routine and errands and chores. Ken and I didn't go far, only 45 miles south, to stay in a nice hotel and eat in fine restaurants. I agreed when Ken proposed the get-away early last week, although I didn't realize at the time how much good it would do for us to take a mini vacation.

It has been a rough few months for us. Ups and downs, misunderstandings, silence. We would make a bit of progress, and then things would slide back again. We couldn't seem to get on the same page about anything, except our kids and how much we enjoy all of us being together.

The holidays made that crystal clear to me.

Then everyone went home, the new year got under way, and I realized I had to make decisions about what I want my life to look like.

I remember being in this same place at different times throughout the last 36 years. Each time I think we have resolved whatever the problem is and that we will not return to this place again. Time goes by and we forget...until the next time. Something shifts, or someone changes, or life happens. We try to put things back the way they were, but things no longer fit the way they did. When nothing works we stop trying, we set things aside, and we wait. And wait. And wait.

Sometimes we wait longer than I thought possible.

Sometimes things shift in a way I couldn't have imagined before it happens.

Life comes back.

Ken and I have started talking again about our life together.

Change is constant and happens despite our best efforts to avoid it. I keep forgetting that.