Thursday, October 12, 2017

Coming To Terms

July ended on a high note with nine days in California visiting my son and his family. We enjoyed being a part of their daily activities ~ a trip to the farmers' market, a field trip with our grandson's preschool, dinner cooked on the grill, trips to Home Depot, and my granddaughter's birthday party with friends and family. Ken and I had lunch with friends one afternoon. We enjoyed walks through local downtown areas and saw the ocean from Santa Cruz.

I had the first few days of August at home and then headed to the woods of Maine for a week of "quilt camp." It was officially a retreat, but family style meals in the lodge and sewing in the barn and stitching on the porch felt so much like camp that the nickname stuck. I took with me quilts in various stages of completion so had plenty to do in my free time. I slept great and even read an entire novel, something I have not done in a long time.

I returned home to squeeze every minute out of the days I had left before I had to be back at school. I sewed every day and thought I had a pretty good handle on household organization.

Then I went into school one day near the end of the fourth week of August. I had to unpack everything and get the room set up, and working at it for 28 hours before the first workshop day was barely enough. I was unwilling to give up any more of my summer....

And the struggle continues as I fight to have time for life outside school. I have claimed weekends as my own to sew, cook, work on projects at home, and enjoy the occasional day with family. I learned last winter that I will never get caught up with schoolwork, and this year there is twice the workload with a new online data collection/reporting system. The learning curve is steep and deadlines are always looming.

I am coming to terms with what is my life. Not much matches the plans I had. I spent my first thirty years trying to please others and denying many of my true feelings. I spent the next thirty years coming to terms with who I am and realizing that whatever I do I can't please everyone. Sadly, it's nonsense to think that I will be happy if I am true to myself ~ I have lost friends and many relationships have shifted because not everyone appreciates who I really am. The hardest losses are some of the people I love the most.

Tonight the thought came to me that I am living the wrong life. This isn't who I want to be or what I want to be doing. I don't know what to do other than put one foot in front of the other and hope that tomorrow is a better day. I don't know what the next thirty years will hold, but I do know that the journey continues....

Thursday, July 20, 2017

July So Far

July started with the purchase of a 2015 GMC Sierra truck. I have driven it once, and it feels big. I will need to get used to driving a truck again because it has been many years. This is what it looks like in our driveway~
The next two nights we stayed in Bar Harbor, and the first morning the harbor was fogged in~
It cleared by late morning. That afternoon we drove to Northeast Harbor to visit Thuya Gardens, a unique place we discovered 31 years ago and have not been back to see since. It is quite the hike up a hill to the top~
From that same spot I looked back to see Northeast Harbor~
There was still a ways to go. We will stop at the lookout on our way down~
There is an enormous wooden gate at the entrance to the gardens~
And the place is as beautiful and peaceful as we remembered~
Many flowers had gone by, yet the beauty remained~
The peonies were still stunning~
From the lookout I could see the harbor flow into the ocean~
That weekend was a great way to start July. The next week I finished the top to my grandson's quilt~
The weather on the second Saturday in July was perfect for the outdoor concert with Langhorne Slim and The Law~
A friend is dealing with a bear of a health challenge. I decided she needs a quilt in turquoise and rose. I have finished the top~
So there are projects to work on in August, when I get back from a visit with my son and his family in California. My granddaughter turned 1 yesterday, and we have been invited to a party;)

Friday, July 14, 2017

Summer Time

Summer break started three weeks ago today. I didn't want to waste a minute so there has been some stress over where I put my energy ~ what I want to do, what I need to get done, and how I make best use of the days so that I don't feel like I've squandered this time. It is a challenge because I want to feel relaxed and productive, but putting pressure on myself to feel that way doesn't help.

One of the things I promised myself was that I would write here more often. Then I get hung up on getting photos organized so I can post them. Another day goes by. Then another...and another.

So here I am three weeks into summer. Before another day goes by I want to share some thoughts. Photos will have to come later.

I have done a bit of sewing every day I have been home ~ planning, cutting, sewing by machine, and/or stitching by hand. This simple act of sewing every day has made all the difference. My brain slows down and my mind goes into a different mode. Planning a project, working with fabrics and colors, making something new makes me happy. The toughest months over the winter were the times when I thought I didn't have time to sew. I was wrong. Time opened up when I gave myself permission to create. I learned that lesson. I decided this summer I would sew every day, before the house was clean or the errands were finished. Those things will get done regardless.

On the to-do list was to look for a truck for Ken. He still has a company vehicle for now but will need his own wheels when he retires next year. He started looking a year ago at what's available to get a sense of what he wants and what it would cost.

We had planned to go to the Finger Lakes Region in New York the first weekend in July, but we found a truck that might fit the bill. We changed plans and drove a hundred miles north to test drive a few options. It was fun because we weren't under pressure to make a decision, like we were when my car was totaled in March. We found exactly what he wanted and negotiated a price we felt was fair.

Then we drove fifty miles east to stay on the ocean in Bar Harbor for a couple days. It was the perfect thing to do the first weekend in July.

We were home for a quiet day July 4th. Strawberries have been plentiful, and our weekly share of locally farmed vegetables makes meal planning easy. Last weekend we went to our first free LLBean concert of the summer to hear Langhorne Slim and The Law, a fun evening of good music.

Chores outside and in are being addressed ~ a compost bin has been established in the yard and the clutter in the shed is being tended to. I have researched how to best clean the deck and railing and set about finding the right cleaner and tools. I have thoroughly vacuumed the house, from baseboards to windowsills. There are things to go in the attic and a fan or two to come down. There is a bit of painting to do inside and out.

And through it all I will sew because time makes more sense and life is easier when I do.

Photos next time, I promise. For the first time in a long time I feel hopeful as the journey continues ~

Friday, June 30, 2017

School Finally Ends

I said over and over that those last forty days of school were a "slog," which is defined as a spell of difficult, tiring work. Yep, that word fits. It was weeks of dealing with challenging behaviors, performing numerous assessments, and completing unending paperwork. The students needed the steadiness of routine, and I needed to be consistent with expectations and follow through ~  all of it tough but necessary if we were going to meet our goals and keep the chaos at bay. I assessed reading levels, gave three writing prompts, and evaluated students' progress in several areas of math. Reading and writing assessments had to be scored and data had to be entered in spreadsheets. Then everything had to be interpreted so it made sense on report cards.

All the while I needed to get the room packed up so I could move the contents to a room at the other end of the building. It wasn't my job to move desks, chairs, and tables, but everything else was up to me. And I needed to do it before the last day because two other teachers needed to move their classroom into my space...while I was still teaching and maintaining some semblance of normalcy.

I made it all work and got it all done because I was laser focused when I was at school.

I had to be because I didn't want to miss a minute of the good stuff that was happening in life outside school. My younger son's wedding was the last weekend in May, and we were lucky to be able to help with a few of the preparations in the weeks before the wedding. My older son and his family came east mid-May to be part of the festivities and to visit with friends and family between Maine and Boston. Weekends were busy with my kids and grandkids, and I loved every minute of it. I soaked up the time we had together because I don't know when we will all have that much time together again.

The wedding weekend was perfect. I was so immersed in the joy of family that I took only a handful of pictures. I thought to take a photo as the reception was winding down, and I'm so glad I did. The bride and groom are still glowing, and I couldn't be happier for them ~

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Forty Days

That's how many student days are left in this school year. Any teacher in the building can tell you. It has been a long year. We are all worn down. It didn't matter what we did over April vacation last week - it just felt so good to have a break.

Teachers have zero control over snow days. The superintendent consults the director of public works about the roads, and he talks to other area school districts to see what they plan to do. Then by 5:00 a.m. he makes a decision to call a snow day or a late start if it looks like the roads will be passable in an additional two hours time.

Funny aside: Early one morning in mid-December Ken and I were just about to get up. We heard some lovely orchestral music coming from somewhere. Ken got up and checked the kitchen and living room. There was obviously music coming from somewhere but neither of us could identify from where. I got up and saw my phone blinking. No one calls that phone. I checked the number and then the message; it was a robocall from the superintendent's office that December 12 would be a snow day, our first one. I still don't remember giving them my cell phone number. From then on if it looked like weather would be an issue I went to sleep with my phone on the bedside table. It rang several more times throughout the winter.

The seven snow days were wonderful in real time. I didn't have to drive in bad weather, and each was a gift of a day where I could go back to bed and then spend the day doing whatever I wanted.

Now we pay the piper. The last day for teachers is June 22. That is the second day of summer.

I need to plan something really spectacular for June 23.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Loose Ends And Frayed Edges

A few days after my last post, where I shared that my word for the year is breathe, I moved a bookcase and found behind it a vision board I made six years ago. I had forgotten I stashed it there once it was obvious there was nothing on it relevant to the way my life was working out. However, something caught my eye before I moved the board to the garage, a small piece of paper in the corner. It is a poem titled Climbing The Ridge by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer:
        one step / one step / i stop / i take
one breath / one breath / warm sun
above / white snow / below
i breathe / i take / one step / one step
It turns out that there was something relevant to my life on that vision board, and it now sits in a place of prominence on my desk.

I was moving furniture that day to make room for a new couch I was finally ready to order. I have been looking for the perfect sectional for two years. The search has been fun, a reason to explore furniture stores and talk to salespeople. Early February I invited an interior designer to take a look at the living room to see what she thought of the fabric and sectional I had decided on. She agreed the colors and size would work. Then she called in early March to say there was a sale on, and I told her I would be in before the end of the month.

Well, you know what they say about best laid plans. 

There was a heavy snowstorm March 14, and our seventh snow day was the result. The next day schools started two hours late to allow time for roads to be cleared. It was a sunny day. My morning was relaxed. I headed into work. Less than two miles from my house I saw a neighbor plowing out his driveway. I hit the brakes and the horn, and I would have had time and room to stop if I hadn't hit ice. I went as far to the other side of the road as I could, but he backed into my front end at full speed. The airbag deployed. I was okay but stunned. The driver took full responsibility but that didn't help my car, which was in excellent condition with many years of traveling left in her. He was driving an uninsured, unregistered heavy duty tow truck that hadn't been inspected for decades.

Nine days later I learned that the collision center, which was originally going to do the repairs, determined that the damage was too extensive. My car was declared a total loss. There were many phone calls to follow up, and three and a half weeks after that the claim was finally settled. 

I have a new car instead of a new couch. I named her Bluebelle. I need to go back to the dealer to meet with one of their tech gurus to learn how to use all the bells and whistles. 

Two weeks ago I saw my osteopath. I described the accident and how I felt frayed, on edge and jumpy. It took some time for me to realize the full extent of how the accident affected me. I would burst into tears at the oddest times and was having weird dreams. She treated me, which helped, and prescribed rest during April vacation, which was last week. 

I did get some rest. I was also able to tie up some other loose ends. More on that next time. 

In the meantime, remember to breathe.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Word 2017

Once again time has gotten away from me, though that is not the only thing that has kept me from writing. There wasn't much positive to share. I was teaching or thinking about teaching pretty much day and night, and until three weeks ago I was banging my head against a wall on every front.

Then three weeks ago there was a major shift. From the first day in the room in November I kept detailed records of behavior issues in my classroom. I knew where the problems were and I knew what needed to be done. Early on I had conversations with administration, and I continued to advocate for my students. Finally three weeks ago a move was made, and it has made all the difference. I now have a class I can work with.

Once I had a handle on behavior management, I could tackle curriculum and assessment. That will continue to be a process but at least I know how to find the information I need. I might not ever "catch up" this year, but I will meet deadlines. More importantly I am getting to know the kids and what best serves their learning needs.

Then there was the issue of my personal goal-setting. I was completely confused about what I was supposed to document and what forms I was supposed to use. Finally last weekend I determined that I had two separate tasks conflated and that there was no way to complete the task until I figured that out. Hours later I had completed the longest and most detailed goal document of the two, but something wasn't sitting right with me. After all my research and conversations I had with two teachers on my hall I had a crazy question: did I have to do this particular goal setting? Tuesday night I emailed the person in charge of certification and Wednesday I had my answer: a resounding NO, I did not have to do that paperwork because while I am new to the district I am not a "new" teacher! Phew! I regretted the hours spent but I was grateful that I was finally able to straighten things out.

When I look back at the last three months it makes sense that I have been exhausted. The demands have been many. It has felt like there was no relief in sight.

Then there the form of shift and insight and support from unlikely places.

Along the way there has been wisdom shared, from my osteopath and my massage therapist, to take care of myself and to believe that I'm in the right place for the right reasons, to give myself a break, and to breathe. That was reinforced with the words of Mark Nepo. For January 31 he writes, "Yet when we feel the reflex to hold on, that is usually the moment we need to let go. When we feel the urgency to speed up, that is typically the instant we need to slow down."  We do that when we breathe. He goes on to say that while change is overwhelming, it happens one breath at a time.

Some days it has felt like the only thing I can do successfully is keep breathing, for if I give myself a chance to get to the next moment something will break open and light will creep in.

Because the journey continues, my word for 2017 is breathe.