Monday, December 27, 2010

A high tech, power-filled Christmas

Another Christmas has come and gone. It was bittersweet this year; I always love Christmas, but the first Christmas without my grandma was hard. I haven't seen her on Christmas in about 10 years, but it's the fact that she wasn't there to shop for, or to talk to on Christmas day. I had a really rough day a couple of days before Christmas. I was out finishing up the last of our shopping and saw a lot of things that Grandma would have loved, things she would have tried to get me to like too, and then we would have argued over them...And everywhere I went I heard Christmas carols, and I couldn't help but hear her soprano voice harmonizing every song...Add that to the fact that we've scheduled her placement in the mausoleum and it made for a difficult day.

But Christmas came...well, sort of. You see, Ricky had to work on Christmas day, so we moved all our celebrations up a day, to Christmas Eve, which really threw me off. I've been a day off ever since!

Anyway, it was a nice holiday. We spent Christmas Eve morning with my parents, pretending it was Christmas Day, and they really spoiled us. Ricky received a skill saw and a saws-all, along with some much needed items like new socks and a balaclava. I am now the proud owner of a sewing machine! I am excited to try something beyond pillowcases (of which I made several tonight).

That evening we went to Ricky's parents' and had Christmas with them, Ricky's two sisters and their families. We enjoyed the traditional Christmas Eve meal of pizza and oyster stew and opened packages. The 3 year old nephews had a blast drawing on the easels we gave them; in fact, it kept them entertained long enough for the adults to play a game uninterrupted!

Afterward we went home and opened our gifts to one another, which is where my biggest surprise came in. First, you must know that my husband is the cheapest human being on the planet. Secondly, you need to understand that he hates to read and doesn't understand how anyone could like it, which leads him to merciless teasing of my love of reading. So when I opened up a box that held a Kindle, well, I was shocked. I've already loaded the thing up with 30ish free books and am about halfway through the first book. I'm loving this thing and already spent some Christmas money to buy a cover with integrated light.

Overall it was a very nice holiday. We had the chance to spend time with family and friends, received some very thoughtful and surprising gifts, and enjoyed the time together.

With that, I'm off to bed. I'll read on my Kindle for a while and then get rested so I can attempt to make an apron on my new sewing machine tomorrow!

Friday, December 17, 2010

The skirt is in!

I got my Christmas tree skirt back today! For those who many not remember, this is what it looked like before, in the form of a dress. I like to call this Christmas Tree Skirt: The Prequel


Here it is with the tree. Notice there are lights but no ornaments. This is because I am lazy.
Closer up, so you can see the detailing


And another close up because I wasn't happy with how the skirt was laying (lying?) in the previous picture.


I am absolutely thrilled with the results and am so glad I thought to do this! If you've been hemming and hawing over what to do with your very own useless but well loved sentimental garment, I highly recommend going the tree skirt route.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Wedding tree skirt!

Is that a wedding tree skirt? Why yes, yes it is!

Uh, what's a wedding tree skirt?

Well, it's when you use your 8 year old never going to be worn again wedding dress and make a Christmas tree skirt out of it. Which I have an appointment for today. Wahoo!

Thankful

As yesterday was Thanksgiving, I thought I should take some time and write about the things for which I am thankful.

I am thankful for my awesome husband. He is a great match for me in so many ways. He pushes me, challenges me, supports and encourages me. He is always up for a debate, but he'll also gladly just listen. He makes costumes and builds sets because he knows it's what I love to do and he wants to help me. He's a pretty cool guy and I like having him around.

I am thankful for my parents. I seriously have the best parents ever. They are always willing to help in anyway they can. They let me major in theatre (what were they thinking?!). They call me just to talk, they hang out with me and go shopping with me. They drive me around in snow storms. They're pretty amazing people and I'd like to keep them around for a good long time too.

I am thankful for my job. I love my job. Adore it. How did I get so lucky? I get to combine the art I love with my passion for kids and have fun all day long. I have such a supportive boss. He is willing to take a chance and try new things with my students. And my students - they are wonderful. I learn so much from them everyday. They are pretty awesome people too. And really, who gets to say that they love the people they work with, they love going to work, they love spending extra time at work?! But I do, and for that I am so, so grateful.

I am thankful for my family. Not just my mom and dad, but my extended family. I am so blessed to have family with which I am close, family that I genuinely like, and family that cares about me. I am especially thankful that not only does my family accept me and all my strange quirks, but they've opened their arms to my husband. From the beginning he was look at as a grandchild and cousin, and I love my family for that.

I am thankful for my in-laws. It's amazing that you can take two people and all their family history and traditions and put them together and expect them to lives peacefully. But so far we have (mostly), and I think a lot of that is because my in-laws raised an incredible human being in my husband, and they are very welcoming and accepting of me. Ricky and I are very different from them in a lot of ways, but that's ok, they love us for who we are and are willing to support and encourage us in anyway they can.

I am thankful for egg nog. And Christmas trees. And pretty much the whole holiday season. I love this time of year. I am so excited for it to be here again. In just 2.5 weeks Ricky and I will be celebrating our 8th anniversary, and that makes me happy. Then we have Christmas and all the excitement that comes with it, then New Year's and then my birthday. I just love the excitement and wonder of this season and I'm so grateful to live in a plase where I can have all that.

I have so many wonderful things to be thankful for. What are you thankful for this holiday season?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

It's official. I'm crazy.

I'm sure some of you are thinking, "oh, you just now figured that out?!" But let me explain.

I've never understood how people give up their dogs. I just don't get it. Jacko is so much a part of our family...he is like our child. No, we don't call ourselves Mommy and Daddy, either to him or to each other (or anyone else for that matter), and yes I realize he's "just a dog," but our relationship with him is that of child-parent in many ways. He loves us, and shows is constantly. He depends on us to provide the things he needs. He wants to play, and doesn't like to take no for an answer. He pouts when he's mad, he hides when he's scared...he is, for all intents and purposes, a toddler.

So it baffles me that people can put their dogs up for adoption, saying things like, "we can't bear to get rid of him but we just have to. Our lives are too hectic and he's not getting enough attention."

Um, excuse me, but would you give your CHILD up if they weren't getting enough attention? Doubtful. You'd cut back your hours at work, you'd find a daycare where they'd be stimulated, you'd work alternate hours, whatever it took, right? RIGHT?

So how is this dog, who relies on you for everything, who just wants to love you and be loved in return, this dog you CHOSE to be a part of your family...how is he any different?

Everyone says, "it's not the same." And I suppose it's not, to most people. But to me it is. I can't imagine handing my Jacko-pea over to someone else because life got hectic. Life HAS gotten hectic, and yet we've still foudn a way to give him attention and exercise. I will not give my puppy away, because to me, that's like giving away a part of me.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A man and his gun

Dad and Ricky are getting ready to go hunting. Ricky's boss also hunts, and is currently on his hunting trip. At first Ricky thought he'd be a hunter for Halloween, and then we thought, "why not go redneck?" Ricky's boss, Tony, gets teased about being a redneck by his employees, so Ricky decided he would just be Tony for Halloween. I can tell you that this is an extreme version, but everyone found it very funn.

Fake teeth, a bummed smoke, and an empty beer can in Boss Man's favorite brand
A better shot of the gun, which Ricky made from scrap wood we had at home, and the gunsling, made from duct tape!





Saturday, October 23, 2010

B-O-R-E-D

Seriously. There is nothing on tv, I'm all caught up on hulu, there are no movies worth renting, I don't have any books...I hate days/nights like this!

There isn't much going on. We had auditions for The Velveteen Rabbit a couple weeks ago and it's all cast. We started blocking this week. The kids are also working in their production groups on the tech side of things. Today I spent 4 hours with 5 of my kids, rearranging, organizing and cataloguing all of the props, costumes and set pieces. They even cleaned my desk (this will make my vice principal VERY happy)! I really do have the best students.

Otherwise, I got nothin'. I think a part of my melancholy is that it's the end of October. It's getting light later in the morning and dark earlier in the evening. It's currently pouring down rain (or at least it was a few earlier this evening). I feel all kinds of "blah." I need something to do but have no idea what. Ugh.

How's that for a random and boring blog post?!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

My Ethical Dilemma

When Ricky and I were dating, we looked for a church home together. It was important to us that we find a place we could grow as a couple. We found that home in Abundant Life Church, and it was a great place for us for about 5 years. After a while, though, we realized it was becoming something with which we weren't comfortable. It was becoming a "mega-church."

I've written about mega churches before. Ricky and I are very much against them. It becomes a performance, an act, and we don't like that at all. When the focus turns to how to make the service bigger better and more, the true purpose of our worship goes out the window. Everyone wants to be popular, it's true, but when a church gets too popular, when it's goal is to be cool instead of to educate and guide...well, there's a problem.

We left Abundant Life for many reasons. We were concerned that our tithe money, money given to the church in order to help those who needed it, was being used for things other than helping others in God's kingdom. We weren't cool with the thought of our money being used to buy new Fresnels or video equipment. We wanted to know that it was going to feed God's people, to clothe them and help them pay their bills, and we weren't convinced that was happening at Abundant Life.

We were also convicted that we needed to be worshipping in our own neighborhood, with our neighbors. It was taking us 30-45 minutes to commute to ALC, using resources that we felt could and should be used in other ways.

We looked around and realized the answer was right there the whole time - Milwaukie Christian Church, the church in which I grew up, where I had friends, where we were married. A church that could use the help of it's neighbors, a church in a neighborhood that could use it's help. So we made the switch and never looked back. We were happy there.

A couple of years ago, though, Ricky's work schedule changed and he began to work Sundays from 8-4. In the past two years, I can easily count on one hand the number of Sundays he's had off without having specifically requested it for some reason - and generally, if he requests a Sunday off, it's because we've got some event or will be out of town. So he's not able to go to church, and I don't like to go without him. I should, I know, but I don't like to. Which means, in the past two years, neither of us has gone to church very much.

Last week we started talking about finding a church with an evening service. Ours doesn't have one, and I'm not sure we have the demand to create one. They've tried in the past and the turnout wasn't great, so I don't think asking for one at our own church is an option. Apparently, very few churches in our area do evening services, as it's been really hard to find.

Finally, tonight, I stumbled upon one. Sunday evenings at 6 pm, about 10-15 minutes from our house. The only problem is, it's at a mega church. A church built to seat 2200 in it's main sanctuary. Granted, this service takes place in a smaller room, one only built for 500. This is a church with video equipment and a mess of lighting equipment...the list goes on and on. Are they doing great things? Possibly, maybe even probably. But are we comfortable with the things they choose to buy? I don't know that I can say I am, and I'm sure Ricky would be even less so.

So the question remains - do we try out a mega church, a place where we're not 100% on board with their practices but where we can worship together on a regular basis, or do we stay at a church we love with people we love but where Ricky can never attend and, because of that, I rarely do?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Yikes!

Two and a half months? Man, I'm awful!

It's late (since when is 11:30 late?! I must be getting old!), so here's a quick update and then I'll write more later...when I have free time...hah!

  • I'm taking a Zumba class Mondays and Wednesdays. I really like it! Sometimes I get frustrated because, well, I'm not perfect at it the first time and that's always been a struggle for me, but it's good to break out and try something new. Plus, it's an awesome work out and I even was brave enough to go and do it by myself. Yay me!
  • Mom and Dad celebrated their 40th anniversary. More on that later.
  • School is going well. My classes are much more reasonable in size - one class is at 29, the others are in the 30s with only one over 40 - and overall things seem to be calmer with the kids. I have high hopes for this year.
  • My advanced theatre class is amazing. They delight me on a daily basis, yet make me crazy at the same time. I now understand why Carrie Jo used to say she was afraid to be seen with us in public!
  • Yearbook is actually going really well, also. Much, much better than last year.
  • The nephew turned 3! I can't believe how big he's getting.
  • We are expecting another nephew sometime around Nov 6. This new nephew (name to be determined, although right now Jack is the front runner) will join big brother Joseph and cousin Jeremy.

Overall, things are good, but very very busy. Since all these things could really use their own post I'll do some real writing later. For now, bed.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Just Delicious - so true!

I started Weight Watchers again. Like I said in my last post, I'm tired of being fat and out of shape. I don't like to get winded simply walking up a hill. I'm carrying around too much weight, not exercising enough and not eating right.

At the same time, I have a horrible sweet tooth, inherited from my father and grandmother, and feel the need for something sweet (preferably chocolate!) at least once a day.

I used to fulfill that need with all kinds of processed, chemically filled foods. However, since Ricky and I have started trying to eat more clean, I'm doing everything I can to avoid those things. So what's a girl to do when she wants something sweet, without the checmicals, but low in calories too?

Why, go to Just Delicious Diabietic Bakery, of course!

Just Delicious is a sugar free bakey in Clackamas, OR. it's one of only 8 entirely sugar free bakeries in the country, and they are right - it is Just Delicious.

I heard about it yesterday when I went to a Weight Watchers meeting. People simply raved about it, so I decided I had to give it a try. Thankfully it's not far from home (and is right next door to our gym!), so I made a stop yesterday. Boy, were they right!

So far I've tried the cannoli (3 points), coconut muffin (1 point), chai tea muffin (1 point) oatmeal chocolate chip cookie (1 point) and apple bran muffin (0 points). Everything is about the size of the coffee shop equivalent, so pretty large, but with no sugar it remains low in calories and high in fiber.

The best part? No preservatives, and everything is all natural. And really, really tasty! The coconut muffin, which I had for breakfast yesterday, tastes like cake. Yum. I had the apple bran for breakfast this morning. That plus 6 ounces of grapes and a cup of coffee has kept me full for the past 4 hours. Yesterday, for a treat, I had the cannoli and while the consistency wasn't quite the same as a full sugar cannoli it was delicious and definitely satisfied my sweet tooth.

Even Ricky has loved their products. He ate the oatmeal chocolate chip cookie yesterday (I got a small taste) and found it to be delicious. This morning he had the chai tea muffin for breakfast and enjoyed that as well. We will definitely be frequent visitors of Just Delicious. Maybe I can use it as my motivation to go to the gym, too!

Back in the saddle again

I hate that I struggle with my weight.

It started when I quit playing ball, really. Oh sure, I always thought I was fat...because I was built bigger than girls I went to school with and I couldn't wear a size 2 after about 2nd grade. I realize now, I wasn't fat. I'm just built that way. I'm built like my dad. I'm built, in essence, like a guy - broad shoulders, wide...but fat? No. Not in high school, not in college.

I'll never be a size 2. I'll be lucky if I can get to a size 12. But for me, that's ok - it's the shape my body is meant to have.

What's not meant to be is all this extra fat I'm carrying around. I'm out of shape, or in the wrong kind of shape, or something.

Playing ball, staying thin was easy. We were working out a lot, running a lot...and eating a lot, but it didn't matter because we burned so many calories. You try pitching 3+ games a weekend and tell me you're not working hard!

The thing is, I hate working out, so when I don't have a reason to...well, I just don't. I've never liked it, and it was always a struggle, but I did it because I knew I had to in order to be better at the sport I loved, in order to excel. Now I have no motivation, no competition, no real reason to do it. Other than my health, of course.

So here I am, back on the wagon. I'm trying to quit eating like I'm playing 5 games a weekend and get back to eating the way I know I'm supposed to. I'm the heaviest I've ever been in my life and I hate it. So I'm changing. It's not going to be easy, and I may have setbacks, but I know I can do this.

Now, will someone please remind me of that when I try to quit again?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

What a lovely Saturday

This morning, Mom and I got up and did the Milwaukie Daze 5k walk. Milwaukie Daze is a festival in our town that used to be a big deal - carnival rides, vendors hocking their wares, food, and an overall good time. There was even a parade! A few years ago, they started scaling back and then eliminated it all together. It was really a shame, as the parade was fun and the carnival was always a nice time.

This year, the powers that be decided to do a 5k fun run/walk to raise money for Milwaukie Daze. I don't know if it means it will be restored to it's former glory, but perhaps the parade and a smaller version of the carnival will be back. Really, all I want is the food!

Included with our walk registration was entrance to a pancake breakfast afterward. We went, but it was hot and steamy and crowded, not to mention Mom doesn't like pancakes! Instead, we trekked a few blocks down to Sully's Cafe, a great little breakfast and lunch spot in downtown Milwaukie. We had a wonderful breakfast - Mom had corned beef hash, I had the smoked salmon omelette - complete with toast and homemade strawberry jam. Yum!

It really was the perfect start to what could have been a gloomy Saturday. The weather is gray and rainy, but a walk and breakfast with my mom started the day off just right.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Miranda Lambert - The House That Built Me

As I was driving home tonight, this song came on the radio. As I listened to the words, the tears began to flow. There was no stopping them. As I sit here typing and listening again, again the tears have started.

So why does this song hit me so hard? I loved my grandparents' house in the valley. It was a home they built for two families - one upstairs and one downstairs. My grandma's parents lived downstairs and Grandma and Grandpa lived upstairs. I spent a lot of time there, spending the night with Grandma and Grandpa. I was born the day my great-grandma died, just a few hours later, and I barely remember great-grandpa, but I remember that house with such fondness.

Grandma and Grandpa moved away from there when I was young, maybe 6 or 7, but I've always loved that house. Sometimes I'll drive by, and I always want to knock on the door, explain who I am, and go look around. I know from the window treatments that not much has changed. I want to see if the mint green carpet is still in the dining room and if the black bunny still comes to the backyard. I want to go downstairs and sink my toes into the plush burnt orange carpet. I want to sit on the back deck and watch the fireworks on the 4th of July.

Grandma and Grandpa are both gone now, and somehow getting into that house seems like it'd help in some way. As Miranda Lambert says, "I thought if I could touch this place or feel it, this brokenness inside me might start healing." It's true - I swear if I could just come in I'd leave...won't take nothin' but a memory.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Astroturf and a Hanging Basket

I am terrible with yard work and plant maintenance. Part of it is black thumbs. Why oh why couldn't I have gotten the garden-growing genes that are in the family?? Part of it is just my overall dislike for doing thing that get my hands dirty or get dirt in my shoes or that get me wet when I don't want to be. I don't like to rake leaves, spread barkdust, plant flowers, water flowers...the list goes on and on. Yet every year, I try. Some years I do keep some things alive, some years everything dies, but every year I think, "this will be the year!" After 7 summers of trying this in my own yard you'd think I'd give up by now, but nope!

When I was little, my general disdain for all things yardwork related led me to say that when I grew up my yard was going to be astroturf and I would have a hanging basket for decor. No weeding, no mowing, just a little water now and again. Perfect. I've always loved Fuschias, so I figured my hanging basket would be a Fuschia, dark purple insides with the hot pink outsides. Of course, I learned very quickly at the old house that we didn't have anyplace shady enough for a Fuschia basket so I couldn't fulfill my dreams.

We've been in the new house nearly 2 years now, and this will be our 3rd summer here. There's no astroturf (although maybe I should mention that to Ricky, he might go for it if I could convince him it'd be less work!) but the first plant I've purchased each year for 3 years now is a Fuschia hanging basket. It always feels like spring is here to stay once I've got my basket hanging by the front door.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Help for Mr. Trildok

My friend, Brian, is a theatre geek like me. Unlike me, he is a comic book nerd. His nerdiness is not limited to reading though. Oh, no, he writes them too.

Actually, I shouldn't call him a nerd. Well, I should, cause he totally is (love ya Bri!) but it's not because of his writing. He's a very talented writer and story teller, and an all around awesome guy, which is why you should help him.

You see, Brian's very witty comic, Mr Trildok Sings the Blues, is a contestant in the current Zuda Comics contest. Winning will bring him fame, fortune, and a bevy of women at his disposal. Ok, not really, but it will boost his ego and enable him to provide more entertainment via Mr Trildok. Which is why you should vote for him. Here's how:

1) Go to http://www.zudacomics.com/
2) Register with a valid email address. Very important that it be valid.
3) Wait for the email from Zuda. Be patient, it might take a few minutes.
4) Click on second link in the email. That'd be the insanely long one that you're glad is hyperlinked cause you'd never remember the whole thing if you had to type it into your browser.
5) Once you are logged in, click on the Mr Trildok Sings the Blues icon and then

A) Vote for Mr Trildok.
B) Make it one of your favorites
C) Give it 5 out of 5 stars

It is important that you do all of steps A, B and C. All three things add together to give them their rank, so doing all three will help propel them forward that much faster.

They've been jockeying for first with Eldritch and trading positions for a few days now. Your vote, rank and favoritizing will help put them solidly in first, ensuring that Bri---I mean, Mr Trildok --- will live to terrorize another day.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Controlling the controllables

One of the things that was drilled into my head as a softball player is to "control the controllables." We cannot control the weather, the field conditions, the umpire, the other team....but we can control our own actions, thoughts, and preparation. I cannot control the holes in the outfield, but I can control whether or not I know where they are. I cannot control the umps zone, but I can control where I put the ball. It's all about adapting and adjusting to the conditions of the day that are beyong our control, and controlling things that are controllable.

Ricky and I have decided to begin applying this to our lives. Before, we were kind of living by the "we're all going to die anyway!" philosophy of living. After watching how painful it is to die, or live, with cancer, we've decided that it's time to change that attitude. We have begun controlling the controllables when it comes to what we put into our bodies and our environment.

I cannot control the cancer genes in my family. On my dad's side alone I can count 8 blood related cancer victims. Some beat their cancer, some had multiple episodes, some lost their battle, but all of them are blood relations and most of those cancers were lung or breast. Yikes. I can't change that. Nor can I change the fact that there is a significant history of heart disease in my family. Since I can't change my genes, I'm changing my habits.

I've done a ton of reading on "clean eating" and we've made the switch to eat as many things as possible with as few preservatives or chemicals as we can. This means lots (and lots and lots and lots) of label reading, but it's so worth it. We found delicious crackers at Trader Joe's that are much like Triscuits but so much tastier - and I can pronounce every ingredient in those crackers. In fact, I know where to find all of the ingredients in a grocery store.

It's amazing how much of the food we consume has preservatives and chemicals in it. We would never put those things in if we were making a recipe from a cookbook, so why do we accept it in our store bought foods?

I've also been watching Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. What a great show! He's right - we need to change the way we eat in America. So no more processed cheese foods. No more Chicken nugget shaped patties. Just cheese, and chicken, and everything else that I can pronounce. As Jamie said on the last episode of his show, "If you read the ingredient list and it sounds like a NASA experiment, don't buy it! If it sounds like your nana's pantry - eggs, flour, that sort of thing - then rock and roll!"

So that's what we're trying to do. And now, a list of some of the products that we think "rock and roll."

  • Newman-O's Hint of Mint Cookies
  • Trader Joe's Reduced Guilt Brownies
  • Trader Joe's Reduced Guilt Woven Wheat Crackers
  • Haagen Dazs Five Ice Cream
  • Trader Joe's Organic Cinnamon Spice Instant Oatmeal
  • Whole Wheat Pasta (any brand, just be sure it's truly whole wheat pasta; the only ingredient should be Whole Wheat or Semolina flour)
  • Spinach Pasta (same deal as the wheat, but the ingredient should be spinach)
  • Trader Joe's Crushers Fruit Sauce in Apple Carrot

We're new at this, so we're still trying various products, but so far so good. We have yet to try something we didn't like. Thankfully, we were already fairly wholesome in our dinner foods, it was breakfast and lunch that needed some help, as well as our snacks and sweets. I was pretty much living off of Jimmy Dean D-Lites bowls and sandwiches for breakfast and Lean Cuisines or Smart Ones for lunch. Those 100 Calorie packs were pretty much an every day staple, and I just don't think it was good. Now I have a higher calorie dessert, but I know the ingredients going into my body are natural and much higher quality. Plus, a little bit of something really good goes a long way (and those 100 calorie packs aren't really all that good, in comparison).

We've still got a ways to go, but it's been fun so far. We're not going to be hardcore about it - if we want to go out to eat, we will, and if we decide we want a delctable chemical filled snack, then we'll have it. After tasting all these great new choices, though, I can honestly say I have no desire for any of that stuff. The new things are much tastier.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

"How're you doing?"

Everyday, people ask "how're you doing?" with that little smile that says "I'm so sorry for you." While I appreciate the thoughts, how I'm doing is a little hard to explain. Everyday, having lost my grandma is there in the back of my mind. It's not like it's something I ever am not thinking about, it's always there. But sometimes, it suddenly hits me. Like, when I realize I no longer have to clarify when I tell my mom I talked to Grandma. Or when I hear an ad for something and think, "ooh, Grandma would love that." Or when I log on to my FTD account and look at my order history and see a bouquet I sent her in September. It hits me, as if from out of nowhere, even though it's always lurking in the back of my mind.

Someone posted this poem on facebook today. It made me cry because it is so true. It is completely how I feel, and maybe it will answer the question, "How're you doing?"

I wish Heaven had a phone so I could hear your voice again.
I thought of you today, but that is nothing new.
I thought about you yesterday, and days before that too.
I think of you in silence, I often speak your name.
All I have are memories and a picture in a frame.
Your memory is a keepsake, from which I'll never part.
God has you in his arms, I have you in my heart.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Remembering

As far back as I can remember, my grandma and I spent time together. Whether they lived in the house in the valley, the apartment, or the house next door to us, Grandma always had everything just so, with a place for everything and everything neat and tidy in it's place. There was once a tshirt that was popular in those silly gift catalogs that showed a woman with a vacuum cleaner, vacuuming the leaves off the trees in the fall. I laughed every time I saw it because it was my grandma to a tee.

When I was little, I would often spend the night at Grandmd and Grandpa's. At bath time Gramma would pull out a small bottle with blue liquid. Somehow this was both bubble bath and shampoo. I have no idea what it was, but it was part of our bathtime ritual. Once I was in the bubble bath we would sing “Little Sir Echo” together. After washing my hair and rinsing it in running water from the tap of the bathtub, I would get out and Grandma would wrap me in two towel; one for my hair, the other for my body. How I loved those big, soft, fluffy burnt orange towels with the butterfly emblems!

Grandma loved music and performing, and she passed that love onto me. I loved to see the costumes she wore when she sang with the Sweet Adeline’s, and she loved to recount the stories of her time in the group. It was not uncommon to find the two of us around the piano, playing and singing for hours. It is because of her that I know songs like “Mairzy Doats” and all of the words to "You Are My Sunshine". I learned how to play the piano, though I never loved it the way Grandma did, and to read music. I can remember being at their house and paging through her books, looking for a song that was my skill level. I always found things to play, and Grandma never seemed to mind that I played such simple songs or that I often only played the right hand part. Of course, she had to harmonize anytime we sang anything, including “Happy Birthday.” I can’t hear that song without hearing her soprano voice harmonizing with the rest of ours.

Grandma loved food and loved to feed other people. It was impossible to go hungry when you were with my grandma. Once they moved in next door I would go to Grandma and Grandpa's after school. Grandma would call out “Hi Sweetie!” as she always did, and immediately ask me two things – did I have homework, and would I like something to eat? Now, the thing with my grandma is that even if you didn’t want something to eat, you ended up eating anyway. The line of questioning usually went like this:

Grandma: Do you want something to eat?
Me: No thanks, Grandma.
Grandma: Are you sure? It’s no trouble.
Me: No, it’s ok.
Grandma: You really should eat something.
Me: No, really, I’m not hungry.
Grandma: Sure you are! How about some toast? Or an English muffin?

The next thing I knew, I’d be stuffing my face with Oroweat toast or a peanut butter and honey sandwich, sipping on a Pepsi using a licorice straw. How did the woman do it?? I have no idea, but she always won. I blame her for my carb addiction!

After Grandma and Grandpa moved in next door to us, I spent even more time with them, and after Grandpa died my Grandma and I became even closer. I loved being able to look out the sliding glass door at home to see if there was a light on at Grandma’s. If there was, I knew she was home and still up (although who am I kidding, of course she was up - I got my late night hours from her!). I would go down just to visit and end up staying so long that Mom or Dad would have to call to tell me to come home. Grandma and I would talk for hours. Sometimes she would teach me new things, like how to knit or the steps to various styles of ballroom dances. I’ll never forget the two of us waltzing around her house, sliding more than anything because we were both in socks on a hardwood floor.

As much as we had in common, we could also be like oil and water. A tomboy as a girl and athletic her whole life, somehow my grandma grew into a woman who loved floral prints and froofy stuff. I hated that she always wanted me to wear dresses and keep my hair down, and she was mortified when she found out that I’d be wearing tennis shoes for my wedding. Everyone else who knew me well said, “that sounds like you!” but Grandma never gave up trying to make me more feminine.

Even so, she never stopped loving me or supporting me. She came to almost as many of my softball games as my parents, even traveling to California, Montana and Illinois for tournaments. She was there for my high school, college, and graduate school graduations, and the huge smile on her face showed me just how proud she was of me at those times. I’ll never forget how supportive she was when I was down about not being able to find a job, or how excited she was when I finally did find a job that I loved. She would always ask about my students and was genuinely interested in how school was going. She loved to hear about the things I loved, and that made me feel special.

Since she died, I’ve been thinking that you can’t put the essence of a person on paper, but I think that might be it. My grandma knew how to make everyone feel special and loved. She was herself a very special person, and she will be greatly missed by all those who knew and loved her.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

She's gone, take 2

I tried to write this last night, but nights are hard. I'm finding that in the light of day I'm mostly able to think about the good times and remember my grandma with fondness. In the dark of night, though, the sorrow creeps in and I can't stop the tears. I do, however, want to get this down before I forget the intensity of that night. While it is so incredibly hard and emotional, it is also an amazing thing to be able to comfort someone as they prepare to leave earth, and I don't want to forget.

With that, I issue this warning - This post is for me, not you. You may read it, and please do if you are interested, but know that it may be somewhat graphic, it will certainly be sad, and it may make you uncomfortable. Don't say I didn't warn you.





Mom, Dad and I left Portland about 8:30 am and flew to Missoula via Seattle. We landed in Missoula around 12:40, so I suppose we got to Grandma and Frank's around 1 or 1:15. When we got there my Uncle Bob and Aunt Donna, Grandma's brother and his wife, were already there. When we prepared to go into the bedroom to see Grandma, Aunt Donna said, "be prepared." I thought, yeah right, how bad can it be? As of Friday, she was wheelchair bound, but she was still able to go to her doctor appointment, ask questions, etc. Mom and Dad had just been there one week ago to the day and she was sitting in a chair in the living room chatting with them at 10 oclock at night. How much difference could a few days make?

Apparently, a ton. When I walked into the bedroom I saw a shadow of my grandma. She was in bed, with her head on a pillow. Those of you who knew her well will understand how bizarre that is. My grandma hated pillows. She had this teeny tiny little thing that she used, all wadded up in a pillow case that dwarfed the pillow. I believe this was the first time I saw her with her head on a real pillow while lying in her own bed.

On Monday the hospice nurses put her on a morphine pump, and she was incredibly drugged up by the time we got there Tuesday afternoon. She knew who we were - when I walked in and said, "Hi Grandma!" (loudly, so as to break through the drug induced fog), she looked at me and managed to whisper, "Hi sweetie," the way I remember her greeting me all my life. She asked after my puppy, which made me laugh - my grandmother, who loved animals but was anti-house pet until she met her second husband, wanted to know where my dog was! - and I told her Ricky was at home with him, as Ricky had to work and couldn't come visit.

I sat with her for a few minutes, talking with her. Well, talking to her is more like it. She really couldn't hold a conversation, but she would respond now and again with "oh, that's nice" or a smile. Finally I told her I was going to let her rest. As I got up to leave the room she reached up for a hug. I told her I loved her and she whispered, or perhaps mouthed is a better description, "I love you too." I kissed her on the cheek and she kissed me, and I left to have a good cry.

Throughout the afternoon, I told her stories of things she and I had done together. She smiled and said, "That's nice." I teased her about her hair. There are very few things about which I am vain, but my hair is one of them, and I get it from my grandma. I remember when I was little and she'd go to get a permanent. When she'd get back my grandpa would say, "What's the matter, they couldn't get you in?" She'd get so mad at him! When I saw how little hair she had, I said, "Grandma, I love your new hairdo!" She laughed and patted her head.

Several times she tried to tell me something. First she started with, "I wish..." Another time she said, "I got to..." She never was strong enough to tell me what she wished or what she got to, though.

The final time that she was responsive and talkative that I was with her, I told her I was going to go and let her rest. She glommed onto the word "go" and said, "I'm leaving?" I told her that no, she wasn't going anywhere. Then she said, "You're leaving?" "No grandma, I'm just going to the living room. I'm staying here. I'm going to sleep here, if that's ok with you." She smiled and said something affirmative, "good" or "I'm glad" or something along those lines, though I can't remember her exact words right now. She gave him a hug and didn't want to let me go. I told her one more time that I loved her and she told me she loved me too. That turned out to be the last thing she'd say to me.

The hospice nurses came sometime after that and checked on her. They cleaned her up, changed her clothing, and did various other hospicey things. I don't remember how long it was, but it seemed like it took them hours. The next time I saw her, it was obvious all that work had worn her out. From then on, she only responded to us with smiles, head nods, and hand squeezes.

Her breathing had been fairly ragged and wheezy the whole day, but it continued to get worse. The hospice nurses told us that it would continue to get worse and would get gurgly. They left some things to help with that and upped her morphone, giving her a button to push for extra morphine doses. Of course, she wasn't strong enough to push it so we had to do it for her.

As the night went on, we realized just how bad things were getting. We decided to all tell her we loved her and give her permission to go. I'm not sure what everyone else said to her, but when I went in I told her that I loved her, that we all did, and that we didn't want to lose her but we also didn't want her to hurt anymore. At this point she hadn't been responding to us for a while, except to hold tight to our hands, so I didn't expect any kind of acknowledgement of what I was saying. I went on to tell her that it was ok to go, and that I wanted her to give Grandpa a big hug for me and tell him I love him and I missed him. When I said that, she very obviously nodded. It was the only response I got from her while I was talking to her, but it was very clear that she was saying yes, she would hug Grandpa and tell him for me.

By this point, Uncle Bob and Aunt Donna had retired to their hotel room for the night. Frank, Mom, Dad and I took turns sitting with Grandma. From the time hospice left until she passed, we didn't leave her alone. For a while, when we'd try to switch seats, she'd grab on tight to the hand she was holding, apparently not wanting us to leave. We'd switch and she'd be fine. Later, though, there was absolutely no response from her when we'd switch.

Sometime around 11 or 11:15, Dad noticed there was blood coming from her mouth. We called the hospice nurse on call, and she gave us some tips on what to do. We tried to roll Grandma onto her side, but it seemed to hurt her far too much. We did the best we could, and Dad swabbed the blood from her mouth. Soon Grandma started spitting it out with each breath. It was very clear that the end was near.

Grandma's breathing got more and more ragged, and soon her pulse was so faint that it was hard to feel with consistency. She'd breathe out and several seconds later Dad would say, "I think she's gone." Suddenly, she'd take one more breath. This went on for a few minutes, until just after midnight when she did truly expel her final breath. It was just after midnight, something we'd all been hoping for. Grandma had managed to make it to the next day, so she wouldn't pass on my cousin's 12th birthday.

The rest of the night, or morning as it were, is a blur of tears and hugs and sadness. I know the hospice nurse came and took Grandma's medicines away. I remember that we couldn't get Grandma's mouth to close, which struck me as funny since she always was talkative and she wouldn't close her mouth in death either. The funeral home people came and took her away, and we all said goodbye one more time. I was crying too much and couldn't actually say anything to her, but I gave her a kiss.

The rest of the trip was a whirlwind of emotions. We made funerary arrangements, chose a date for a memorial here at home, and went through countless and files of things to begin the process of dealing with the estate. It wore me out, and I got home yesterday afternoon completely exhausted.

I am so glad I was able to be with my grandma one more time. I'm extremely grateful that she knew who we were and could understand what we were saying and even respond to some extent. As ever when you lose someone, the whatifs and regrets are bombarding me from every direction. I want to pass on what my friend Leigh wrote to me:

Forgive yourself for your regrets. You did the best you could at the time and that is really all you could do. You didn't knowingly hurt your grandmother's feelings or not go visit when you knew you wouldn't have much time. We all do the best we can and that is what you did. Your grandmother knew how much you love her and you got there in time to say goodbye. You did the most important things right.


So now it's back to life, I guess. I feel like that isn't right, that I shouldn't be preparing to go back to work tomorrow. Not yet, it's too soon! But I need to. I just hate that part of my life has ended, but the world continues on as if nothing has happened. Shouldn't everyone's world stop like mine has? Shouldn't everyone's heart be shattered? Why can't people tell by looking at me that I've been through something terrible this week? I don't want to have to keep explaining!

The other thing I am struggling with is wrapping my brain around the fact that one minute she was breathing and the next, she wasn't. One second she was alive...and then she wasn't. We were talking about her in present tense, and then suddenly she became past tense. It's hard to remember that she is now a "was" instead of an "is." As real and as raw as it all is, even Saturday night I found myself thinking, "oh, I should call gramma and see..."

Somehow, someway, we will all get through this time. It will get easier, I know. That doesn't make these feelings any less real, but it does give me hope that there will be a time when I won't cry myself to sleep, a time when I can go through the day without tears springing to my eyes without warning. I've been through this twice before, I can do it again. I am strong. I am my grandmother's granddaughter, after all.

She's gone

Mary Carolyn Barlow Steenson Bretz passed away March 31st, surrounded by her family. Cancer is evil. The end.

More later. I thought I could write this post but I just can't right now.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

I don't even know what to say

I do not want to write this blog. For some reason, I feel as if putting the words to paper, or computer screen in this case, will make them true. As if they aren't true anyway.

My grandma is dying.

Not in the "we're all dying" fashion. No, in the cancer started in her kidney and moved swiftly and silently into her bones and is now trying to, or perhaps already has, infiltrate her brain fashion. As in, when she told the doctor I was planning a trip to see her in the next couple of weeks, he told her to see if I could come now instead. That's the kind of dying we're talking about here.

I am not ready for this. We lost my grandpa far, far too early to cancer. Six years later, we lost my other grandpa. For 11 years I've had only grandmothers, but that was ok because I still had both of them. Now...well, now I feel like everything is falling apart.

I am going on Tuesday to see my grandma, possibly (and probably) for the last time. We just came off spring break and now I will be leaving my students in the hands of substitutes for 4 days. Unfortunate doesn't begin to describe the situation. Overwhelmed and emotional doesn't even come close to describing my mental state right now. I go from being fine to suddenly realizing that this is happening and losing it all over again. Why am I so emotional over this? I've been "ready" for it for years. I've thought about losing her, losing both of my grandmothers, since my grandpas died. Ha. As if a person could ever be ready for this.

Why is this one hitting me so hard? You'd think, at 29 years old, having been through this already, that it would be easier. Why doesn't it get easier? She is 79 years old. She has lived a long, good life. That's not enough. I want it to be longer. I want it to be good-er.

I need to go figure out what to have my students do while I'm gone. I need to focus on the minutiae. I think it may be the only way I can function during my only day at work this week.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

You know you're a theatre geek when...

I found this list on Facebook. It is so true. So very, very true.


You’ve said countless times, “I can’t. I have rehearsal.”

Anyone who says Macbeth has a death wish.

You realize theater is your social life and you don’t have any friends outside of theater.

Stress is a way of life.

Cast parties rank right up there with birthday parties.

You never realized how much fun you had at rehearsals until you don’t have any more.

Once the production is over you don't know what to do with your time.

You love going to see other productions just to compare them to yours.

You go see other productions and cringe when you see people that can’t act.

You could easily set up a cot and live in the theater. You’re there all the time anyway.

You dread the thought of having rehearsal, but the second you get there you don’t want to leave.

You meet someone from another theater and instantly become best friends.

You beg all of your friends to come see you in the play when you are only onstage for two minutes.

You don't think twice about seeing guys in make-up or tights.

You're in public and look like you're talking to yourself because you are reciting your monologue.

You are a techie and want to strangle the actors because you have their lines memorized better than they do.

You know what Hell Week is.

If you put on a musical, you randomly sing all the songs at any time of day even if it is a musical you hate.

Sleep? What is sleep?

You swear like a sailor.

You've been dubbed a "Stage Nazi" or a "Tech God."

There's more drama backstage than there is onstage.

Actors and techies argue about who has more work.

You quote lines from previous plays you've done when you have casual conversations with friends.

You know what spiking is, and it's not what you do to hair.

You've been working with the same people so long that you have blackmail to last a lifetime.

Applause after a show is the best sound ever.

You have a sigh of relief when you are doing a comedy and you hear the audience laughing.

You can't remember what a home cooked meal tastes like, but you can remember every single way Taco Bell makes a taco or burrito.

Modesty is long forgotten.

You pride yourself in how fast you can strip your clothes off and change costumes. (Or help people strip!)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Spring break, and other plans

So.

Originally we were going to spend spring break in a bed and breakfast in Couer d'Alene, ID followed by time at my grandma's house in Missoula. Unfortunately, Grandma is in the hospital in Arizona right now and likely won't be back in Missoula in time for us to visit.

Ricky already has the week of spring break off, so we decided to spend a couple of the days in Bend at my family's cabin and the rest of the time at home, hanging out, catching up on housework, maybe getting our coat closet done the way we want it? No matter, it will just be fun to hang with my husband and spend some quality time together. Not to mention the awesome time we'll have in Bend at the High Desert Museum.

Now, onto the other plans: My cousin, Garrett, graduates from high school this summer and will be visiting us at the end of June. This is technically his second trip to Portland, but his first really doesn't count - they flew in on Thursday and flew home on Sunday, with our rehearsal dinner on Friday and wedding on Saturday. There wasn't much sightseeing going on then! We're excited to have him visit for about a week and show him all that Portland offers. One of these days I'm going to get some part of my family to move out here, I'm just not sure which part it's going to be yet!

In August sometime Ricky and I are going to head back to South Bend, IN to see my family. It's been nearly 3 years since we've made it there, and we miss them all terribly. We're not yet sure when we'll be able to travel since we don't know what my work schedule looks like yet, but sometime between sending the Chinese students back to China and having to report back to school for the new school year we plan on spending a week or so in South Bend. Included in that week I expect an escorted road trip to Michigan City for a White Castle fix!

We're pretty excited for these plans. It's been a while since we really had a vacation, so we're very excited for a few days away in Bend, and we're really excited for Garrett to come here and for us to go there to see everyone. It seems like so far away but I know time will fly and it will be here before we know it.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

What's going on?

(Please tell me at least one of you read that title and had the 4 Non Blondes song pop into your head!)

Here's a quick update with what's going on...
  • Still working too much. Far, far too much.
  • Softball season has started and I'm not coaching. It's odd, but good. There's no way I could handle that with everything else.
  • Sunshine today - yay!
  • Have a date with my dad today to go to the spaghetti feed at Mom's work. Mom will be there too, but she's working.
  • The husband is also working a lot. His schedule has gotten funky, which means we don't get to hang out much. He rarely gets a weekend day off anymore and it makes me sad.
  • We do have a date scheduled for Monday night. Portland Center Stage is announcing their 2010-11 season with a dessert reception and we have plans to attend.
  • Just had an observation at work. Anxiously awaiting the feedback from my principal.
  • We're planning a road trip for spring break. First non-softball related spring break trip since 8th grade. Insane, huh? More on the plans later.
  • My college roommate, Amy, and I just signed on to teach Chinese kids again this summer.
  • Ricky and I just finished a financial planning class and have a one-on-one meeting with the planner March 12. We hope to get a more solid plan going. We also need to get our will taken care of.

As you can see, life is very busy but not all that exciting. I am really looking forward to our date on Monday. I'm excited to spend time with Ricky and also to hear what shows PCS is producing next year. We've loved 3 out of 4 shows we've seen there this year and are hoping the next season looks as good. If it does look good, and assuming I still have a job, we plan on buying season tickets again. It's been great to know we have a date planned about once a month, and I love a good show!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Huh. That's a headscratcher.

Ricky and I had tickets to The Receptionist at Portland Center Stage tonight. Usually we really enjoy their plays, and from a production standpoint this one was on par with their other work. The script, on the other hand, left something to be desired.

In the beginning the script was funny. A caricature of office life. The receptionist, with her "phone answering" voice, her personal phone calls, and her morning rituals. The young coworker with her out of control love life. The older boss, close to retirement who leaves the ladies in the office on their own.

And then things got weird. A creepy visitor came from "the central office." He flirted, he overshared...and he was just creepy in general.

And then even weirder...there was talk of interrogation, working over the feet, breaking someone's pinky finger, wire to the eyes...Suddenly the boss disappears, his wife disappears, the young coworker packs up her office on the sly and takes off. Creepy visitor man comes and begins to interrogate the receptionist, and then takes her to the central office.

The end.

This script was like a bad joke. You know the ones, where the punch line is lost or forgotten or just plain stupid. Ok, no, this play didn't even have a stupid punchline, just no punchline at all. And it's going to bother me all. night. long.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Date Night!

Ricky and I hadn't been on an alone date in ages. We'd been out with friends, siblings, and/or parents, but not just the two of us. So when Saturday rolled around and neither of us had to work or had any other plans, we made plans together.

We started at a great little restaurant called Dingo's. Located in Portland's Hawthorne district, Dingo's is a "fresh Mexican grill" offering local, organic and sustainable fare for Portlanders. And it was yum! We started with a bowl of Pintos and cheese, topped with spicy slaw and tomatoes, served with chips. That was probably the best bean and cheese dip ever. Then we moved on to burritos. I had a chicken burrito with black beans and rice, smothered in mole sauce and served with sour cream. Ricky had a carnitas burrito with black beans and rice, smothered in a habanero sour cream sauce. Both were absolutely delicious - and filling. We each brought home half a burrito!

After enjoying our fantastic meal, we headed to OMSI for Laser Pink Floyd. What fun! We enjoyed a 45 minute laser light show set to the tunes of Ricky's favorite band. I am not the fan that he is, but even I recognized most of the songs and could even sing along with 2 or 3. I was surprised at how quickly the time went. Suddenly the lasers were flashing "the end" across the planetarium dome and I thought, "really?! Already??"

All in all it was a fantastic night. I was sad that we skipped out on a Mardi Gras party with my coworkers, but we desperately needed a night for the two of us. I would definitely recommend Dingo's to anyone, and the laser light show was a fun, different, and relatively inexpensive way to spend the evening.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Not sure what to blog about

My life is not at all blog worthy these days. In fact, I can up everyday in one paragraph:

Get out of bed at 6. Shower, grab lunch, leave house between 6:30 and 7, depending on the day. First period prep, then teach periods 2 and 3. Fourth period, eat lunch. Teach periods 5 and 6. Grab a quick protein filled snack in the 4 minutes between 6th and 7th periods. Teach periods 7 and 8. Another quick snack. Teach two hours of after school classes. Finally leave school between 5 and 6, depending on the day. Get home, make dinner. Eat dinner. Collapse on couch. Move to bed. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I told you, so not blogworthy. My kids aren't even having great conversations that I can share for your entertainment (remember That's What She Said?). I'll come up with something good soon, I'm sure, but for now just read this post once a day and you'll know what I'm doing.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

On things domestic

I am not a domestic goddess. Far from it, actually. But now and again the urge strikes, and I go on these weird cleaning sprees. Not the normal cleaning urges people get, like sweeping or mopping or washing the windows. No, I decide to clean out closets or pantries or wash all the shelves in the fridge.

So what was I doing at midnight? Why, cleaning out the pantry, of course! Isn't that what everyone does at midnigt? I facebooked about it, and it appears it's a theatre freak thing. I still want to know if the late night hours are a requirement to become a theatre geek, or if the are caused by being one. We know there's causation; otherwise, why would a fellow theatre major and I have this exact same conversation in the wee hours of the morning. What I can't prove yet is which caused which. Or perhaps it's merely a correlation and the cause/effect lies in some other oddball quirk of mine.

Either way, I'm prone to doing odd things late at night/early in the morning. Like rearranging furniture, cleaning the bathrooms, and of course cleaning out the pantry. No matter, though, the pantry looks most beauteous today and I can find everything I'm looking for.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

What a great day!

I ended up sleeping most of the day (got up at 3pm!), recuperating from a good but draining week at school. Ricky was very understanding - he's been incredible this year, understanding the stress and frustration and exhaustion caused by our numbers situation - and didn't say a word about my long, long sleep.

Once I finally got up, we hung around the house for a bit until Ricky said, "let's go see the boys!" We headed over to his parents' house to see the two nephews and hung out with them, playing with the boys and chatting with his sister, for a couple of hours.

When we left we were both getting hungry and I could tell I was starting to get cranky so I told him we needed to get some food. I had no idea what I was in the mood for, but Ricky was in the mood for Rose's. Sadly, there isn't one in our neighborhood and he didn't want to drive that far but, as he put it, he could feel my puppy dog eyes coming from my mind and decided to go anyway. Rose's has awesome reubens, so we each had a reuben (turkey for me, pastrami for Ricky) and a cup of coffee, then shared a piece of Red Velvet cake (mostly for the cream cheese frosting!). We had a great night of chatting and just enjoying being together.

On the way home we stopped and picked up a movie (Beyond a Reasonable Doubt - not bad!). Afterward we sat and talked, reminiscing about our nearly 10 years together. My how time flies!

Overall it was a really excellent day, made even better by the fact that I still have two days of my weekend remaining. Yay for 3 day weekends!

Friday, January 15, 2010

"Just be thankful you have a job"

I know I've been MIA. I have come to the blog, even signed in and opened a new post, but nothing would come out.

It's not that there's nothing to say. Quite to the contrary, actually. I think I'm so overwhelmed with the things in my life right now that I'm having a hard time narrowing it down. I'm also having a hard time wanting to think about it long enough to type it out. All I want is some quality me time to relax and destress.

After losing my job and then getting it back, I never feel like I can complain about my job. As a teacher, I always feel like I have to preface a complaint with "I love my job, but..." Why is it that people automatically assume a vent or a complaint would only come if you hated your job or weren't grateful for the fact that you have one in the first place? I actually had a parent yell that at me this year - "You should just be thankful you have a job!" I told her that I am, and that I give thanks everyday, but that doesn't change the facts.

And the facts are
  • I haven't left school before 4 oclock in ages. Even today, when I planned on leaving right at 3, the end of our contract hours, I was stuck. An incident during 7th period required that I write a referral, and the first chance I had was after school.
  • I have been forced to get to school early in an attempt to get a crack at the copy machine. It doesn't always work.
  • I work through my lunch most days. Rarely do I have the luxury of being able to sit back and read a book or do something for me and relax during my lunch. Instead, I generally eat while I stand at the copy machine or try not to slop spaghetti sauce on the papers I'm grading.
  • My smallest class right now is 33. My largest is 42. Overall, I teach 232 students, approximately 25% of our student population. Unbelievably, this is a slight decrease from the beginning of the year.
  • Think 232 students is no big deal? Try this on for size - it took me 3 hours to grade a 10 point quiz.
  • My average class size is 38.67 students (and no, I have not yet met that 2/3 kid!).
  • Because of class sizes, I can give each student approximately 1.18 minutes of personalized attention each class period.

Those are the facts. I do love my job, truly. I love the students I work with, I love the relationships I've built with so many of my kids. I love that, while they may hate my class, we can still have a positive relationship as people, and that I can influence their lives in even the smallest of ways. I love that my students feel comfortable confiding in me, asking for my advice, and that they know I care about them and only want the best for them.

That said, I wish there were fewer of them. They need so much, and I can only give to a certain extent before I'm worn out. When I taught 130, it was ok. I gave, but it wasn't detrimental. Now I feel as though my job is sapping my strength. Changing the way I do my job is not an option. When I do so, I feel fake and phony. I don't like the teacher I become when I try to become business as usual. I have always been a Gestalt teacher, worried with the whole of the person rather than the one subject I teach. I couldn't care less if my students like theatre, as long as they learned to be decent human beings, responsible citizens of the world. But I am finding that trying to be that for 232 is so taxing.

I find myself with a choice - stay true to what I believe of education, delivering what my students need and feeling fulfilled yet broken, or become an educator who simply teaches the subject and then goes home and lives her life, filling a job but unable to escape the nagging feeling that I should be, could be, doing more.

Honestly, there is no choice. I was not called into this profession to make money and have summers off and be carefree. I was called to help my students, to guide them and shape them, to make a difference in the future of our world. And so, I will continue to stress and worry, and I will continue to work toward making our school system better, not so that my so-called cushy job becomes cushier, but so that my students can have the best chance possible.