Jeff is up north at a friend’s cabin–fishing and having fun. I am so happy he finally could GO. He has been asked several times the last couple of summers but always when there were major kid events that he was required to attend. He never gets away, so I am happy that it worked out! When he is gone I feel like I have no responsibilities, and I also feel kind of lost. It is nice how quiet it is this morning, as I lie in bed and gaze out the window at the dappled sunlight that shines through the leaves of the tree outside my window. It looks pleasant outside, like the shady tree would bring refreshing shade and the sun the warm glow that is so attractive to Franklin that he finds the nearest sunbeam to nap. You can’t see the humidity that sucks the life out of you as soon as you open the door.
On Thursday, we took the kids and a bunch of their friends to the Cannon River and floated down the river in tubes. It was an all day event, and we had so much fun! Everyone brought their own lunches/drinks and we stopped off on a sand bar to eat lunch and then tubed some more. By the time I got home from driving all the kids home–Jeff only had to take one neighborhood kid home, but he was making dinner–it was almost time for dinner. I remembered that I had to text my mom to let her know we were not lost in the currant forever, and that’s when I got my sister’s text.
My dad is going through a downward slide right now and this is throwing my family into a transition. He needs more care. My mom needs more help. And I feel like I should just move in to their apartment, but in the same breath I want to ignore the whole thing. I am trying to be neutral. I am trying to gather all of the facts so we can make a good decision about the kind of care my dad needs, and the kind of help that my mom needs. These two things are also at odds. One family member in particular has very strong opinions and not very good listening skills….oh, who am I kidding, WE ALL have very strong opinions and the listening skills are at the low end. I am probably the only one who actually listens to anyone. It is HARD not to put in my own two cents, but I try and let people have their opinions, and keep mine out of it. But all of this will effect my mom’s well being on one hand, and my dad’s well being on the other.
Jeff has been great. Really great. My sister’s text told me that my dad went to the ER on Thursday because his blood pressure was so low. He was dehydrated, so they gave him an IV drip and a couple bags of fluid. I was told by my mom and my sister not to go to the hospital. It didn’t feel right, but I sat down to dinner and tried not to worry. It was Jeff that insisted that we go. He drove me there and we ended up driving my parents home when my dad was discharged. I slept over there to do night duty. I probably wouldn’t have done that if Jeff wouldn’t have driven me to the hospital. I am so grateful that he did.
My dad was up every two hours. My mom got to sleep. It was a good set up. I spent the day yesterday choreographing more care for my dad and setting up appointments to orchestrate even more care. My mom has about had it. My dad is depressed and crabby with her. My heart is breaking.
The contradiction in every part of this is so difficult. How can you feel opposite things at the same time, but I do. It sucks. Jeff has been my rock this weekend, even from afar. It is helping me not to unravel completely.
AND?? I go back to work next week. I kind of want to run away.
On the Eve of a New Semester
I didn’t feel like I could use the same title for this post as I did on the last one–even if it is true. Students begin in two weeks, and I have been going in to work almost daily for over a week now. I am still on summer time, schedule-wise, but I am beginning to get serious about plunging into work again. I haven’t written here at all this summer, and I regret that, however, I have been writing in my notebook which has been really nice. No censor necessary, just me and my idiosyncrasies. When Lizardek (Happy birthday to you Liz!) posted that she created a new category for defunct blogs called “You Never Write, You Never Call” I got scared that I would be banished from her “inner orbit.” I made the decision that I had better write a post. Even a bad one is better than none!
So, that PERFECT schedule last semester opened up time when I could do all the other CRAZY stuff that happened outside of my teaching responsibilities. I think I worked harder last semester than when I had 18 credits in the fall. When I was finally done teaching for the summer, my summer class began…which was HARD. It was called “Advanced Writing” and was instruction on how to write a scholarly journal article. It ate me alive, that class did. I also took my favorite Literacy Institute this summer, but still…that was another class. By the time I actually had time to unwind it was August. Don’t worry. I did take some time. I read several books:
A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout
This book is still with me. I can’t really stop thinking about it. I love the writing and although it has two specific parts that are haunting, I am aware that it could have been written with many more details of torture and horror. I appreciate that it wasn’t, because I don’t know if I would have kept reading. This book narrates Amanda Lindhout’s experience being kidnapped and held captive for 18 months (give or take) in Somalia. It is a tough read, but I really liked the book. I also would like to read Nigel Brennan’s book The Price of Life. He was kidnapped with Amanda.
The Terrorist’s Son by Zak Ebrahim
I bought this book because of Mr. Ebrahim’s TED Talk. I wanted to know more. It was a short, simple book. I thought it was interesting, and I got what I wanted out of it. I loved his message, and I was happy that his life has been well lived.
The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout
I was obsessed with this one! I loved it. I love Elizabeth Strout. This book is another master of characterization–with all the characters. It also dips briefly into the Somali community and the perspective of an immigrant. It was excellent. I am also still thinking about this book. I love how Elizabeth Strout can describe characters so well, and so honestly that you see yourself in them. Sometimes a not-so-good look at who you are, and that makes you think about how to make yourself better. Her words are powerful.
A Curious Mind by Brian Grazer
I read this one with a class in mind, but it was pretty good just for me. I decided against using it in my class mostly because of the hard cover, $25 status. I can’t really ask my students to pay that much for a book in addition to their text book. Especially one that is not *perfect.* I liked the premise and I thought it would be an engaging read for my students. Being curious is a wonderful concept, and one that is not encouraged even if it should be encouraged. There were many interesting parts, but there were also many “name dropping” parts. Brian Grazer is a movie producer who partners with Ron Howard. He is an interesting person, and has interesting stories, but he also likes to tell about all the famous people he is around and how great his movies are. And, they are great movies. And, he does rub elbows with many famous people. But it got over-bearing at times. I loved his concept of “curiosity meetings” with a diverse crowd of people. The list of people he has interviewed, just because he was curious about them and to learn something from them is astounding. I wanted more stories from his interviews, but it was not the premise of the book. He wants EVERYONE to be curious and to live curiously. As I have said, I like that premise. I enjoyed the book. Maybe when it is out in paperback I will revisit this one for a class.
My current read was suggested by our CTL leader (staff developer). It is called Make it Stick by Peter Brown, Henry Roediger III, and Mark McDaniel. It details “The Science of Successful Learning.” So far I am on chapter 2, and it is fantastic. I can’t wait to think about my classes and how to integrate some of these strategies this semester! I also have two more books I want to read: Making Thinking Visible and Discussion in the College Classroom. I don’t think I will have time, but who knows. I have a new English class that I am taking that begins August 21, I am sure all of my reading will be for that class! Composition Pedagogy is the class….I am scared. It is with the same instructor that I had this summer, so I know it will be…a….challenge.
I am sad that I didn’t read what was originally on my list for this summer: College Fear Factor, and How Children Succeed. I have had these books for a year now, and I know they would inform my teaching. ACK! TIME!
As far as family time, we did take a trip to the Black Hills right when the kids got out of school, like the day they got out of school. It was such a fun trip! It would have been even better if I was not in the middle of my HARD class at the time. I spent late nights in a chair in the hotel hallway reading articles and writing. But during the day we saw Mt. Rushmore, did a cave tour, drove through Custer State Park (and saw Buffalo–babies too!), toured a real archeological dig sight for Mammoths, and MORE! It was busy and fun. Then, for the rest of the summer, of course there was hockey, softball, tennis, baseball, golf, dance, and plays. I should get paid for my taxi driving.
OOOO. And! I got a new car! Well, a new, old car. Jeff bought a used van about 18 months ago, and he bought a brand-spankin’ new van last month–so I got the other one! I am so happy to have air conditioning again! Woot! I feel very fancy in it as well. Oh, and safe. My old van was almost 12 years old and had housed babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and elementary school children. In a word, it was trashed. I still miss it though. I am not used to the other one. We are going to donate the old one to some mechanics’ school. They will have a lot of practice with that van, I tell you. Still, I am sad to see it go. My kids grew up in that thing. Not that I would choose to drive THAT instead of my new one! Um. No.
I am not at all ready to go back to work on their schedule. I am loving working on my own. I know it will be here in a blink of an eye, so I guess I will take some time now to read my book, and pretend it is still July.
See? This is nice. I have missed this dusty blog. xo
I have been on pins and needles my whole “break” because one of my classes…the SIX credit one…has not filled. My dean tried to cancel it during one of my finals before “break” but the chair of my department interceded in my behalf, and continued to intercede. On Tuesday, he decided NOT to cancel it even though I only had 4 people enrolled in the course. (Now it has NINE.) Whew! I also found out on Tuesday that I would NOT have to teach a night class that I really didn’t want to teach, but was slotted for because of factors beyond my control. So win-win-win! It is a gift to have this schedule. It is what I wanted and I can’t believe that it worked out. The first blessing of the New Year!
That being said, because I was in limbo (which is a GREAT excuse, by the way) I haven’t really done much planning for this brand new semester. As in, I haven’t really revamped anything. And, I am very uninspired right now. Mostly I am tired. I feel like I have been running around non-stop for a month. I have done some things that were for me. I have done a lot of running for my kids and Christmas. I really want some time in my house alone! To play, to work, to get the house in order. The best part is I may get to have some of that this semester if I play my cards right! Woot! I also may have time to write a little bit! It would be fun to do some more blogging again.
So, tomorrow I begin again. I have a list of what I need to do in the morning. My babysitter is putting Katie and Nicholas on the bus so I can go in early. My hope is that it is a peaceful and happy day! Both for me and for YOU!
I was listening to the radio while playing taxi-driver this morning, and between all of the analysis about terrorism, somebody said the date in that official reporter voice, “Today is January 10th, 2015.” And I thought, “Has it been TEN days since New Year’s already? How can that be?”
It feels like I am in constant motion, like it has been one L-O-N-G day since January first. So much thinking about a new start to the semester, what classes I will be teaching, what my schedule will be, how to get my house back in order before the students parade into my life.
Not being tethered to grading has felt light and free, I have read some for pleasure, some for work, but I have read very little student work since posting grades on December 23. I have been working with Katie and Nicholas for their play. Working lines with them every day due to Influenza A. The play was originally set for December 19, but so many kids were sick, they postponed it until after winter break. Therefore, I became a director for two weeks. Thank goodness, the play was on Thursday night! It was cute and they did great, but I am so glad that it is OVER. And a little sad, too. It was their last play in Elementary School.
I am getting off track, as I seem to do a lot. I wanted to come here and talk about how Ten days feels so fast and sounds like such a long time. And, how beginning the year this year with violence sucks. I feel so many things about this attack at Charlie Hebdo and at the Kosher Deli in Paris. The overwhelming feeling is sadness. I am just so sad about it. Sad for the victims. Sad for their coworkers. Sad for their families. Sad for France. Sad for the innocent Muslim people that will feel the backlash of racism. Sad for the human race.
I am listening to how the news and the media are handling this “breaking news” and it is predictable. Outrage. Vengeance. Spin. It is easy to nod along with some reporters. I was listening to the TV last night, and I think it was CNN, but I can’t be certain. They were comparing the cartoons of Charlie Hebdo that made fun of Islam with what has been said to make fun of the Catholic Church. Their take away was that Catholics don’t storm places of business and shoot people because they make fun of the Pope.
Effective, isn’t it? To group all Muslims together as crazy fundamentalists because look how normal the Catholic Church is? They don’t get all bent out of shape at a joke, right? What is wrong with those people?
It is easy to nod along, until you begin thinking. Wait a minute. The Catholic Church has its fair share of scandal. But we are unwilling to call all Catholics crazy pediphiles. We are also unwilling to profile kids who gun down their classmates. Or enter schools in general to kill students…even seven year old students.
We have a problem in the world. Violence. The other problem is that violence is seen as a solution. We, as people, always want to explain why something bad happens, and for some reason this need to explain ends up creating more problems. It is the fuel to the fire. It puts us in a catch 22. The more we blatantly blame groups of innocent people for the crimes of a few, the more those innocent people think that maybe those fundamentalist are right. Maybe all of this “westernization” is evil. And then we have more people willing to be recruited into the fundamentalist movement.
The more I think about it, the more sad I become. I offer no answers. I just wish that we didn’t have this in the world. I am sending healing prayers to all the families who have lost loved ones. I am holding peace in my heart and hope. I have many Muslim students. They are just as wonderful as my African American students. And my White students, and my Asian students. I am holding them close to my heart after this because their lives just got complicated again….or still.
I hope after another TEN days we can be in a more peaceful place, although it doesn’t look promising. I guess that is the definition of hope, isn’t it?
We have had such a lovely day today.
- staying in our pajamas much longer than is appropriate
- a parade, with beautiful floats, and NO commercials
- watching the U of M play in the Citrus Bowl (and lose…boo)
- skating at the park for all but me (our rink is not ready yet…but soon!)
- (because I was…) cooking… a lot of cooking
- watching The Winter Classic (hockey, of course!)
- party mix and other various junk food to consume
- gnocchi with our favorite sauce and meatballs…all made from scratch
- a fire in the fire place
- playing the new Monopoly game: Monopoly Empire (SO much better than the original!)
- And there were s’mores with roasted marshmallows.
There are also other things that are making me worry, but I am doing my best to breathe. This is all job related, of course. I am uncertain of my course load at the moment. I also have a student who wants to meet with me next week, which is troubling. I think something is up, but I am not sure what. I hate feeling unprepared when walking into a meeting. And, I haven’t begun my course planning. There. It is all out there now. (Not to mention taking Christmas down, and LAUNDRY…)
I am choosing to focus on my lovely start to the New Year. If everyday can feel this productive and fulfilling, I will be living a good life.
Happy New Year, everyone!
I received my wordpress email yesterday where they crunch all of the numbers from the stats of this poor, neglected blog. I learned that I wrote 10 (ten) blog posts in 2014. Five (5) of which were in one week in June. I decided to make it eleven (11) today.
As I look out my window at the snow covered roof of my neighbor’s house, the trees all bare skeletons, the sun dappled through the branches, I am searching for words. This year has had many ups and downs, just like every year. But all of it is in the details. The moments that speed by and often go unnoticed, or are forgotten, ignored, pushed aside. The moment when I watch my father struggling to get into the front seat of my mother’s car on Christmas eve. The moment when Nicholas skates ahead of all his teammates to rush on the goalie from “coast to coast.” The moment when Sarah walks up to receive her award for academic excellence. The moment when Katie sings, by herself, when she thinks nobody is listening and I am shocked by the beauty of her voice. The moment when Jeff lets his guard down and I can see the boy that I fell in love with so many years ago.
That is what I love about reading blogs. I love witnessing other people’s moments. I love to wander around in the perspective of people I admire. I love seeing the beauty in their lives, whether it be heartbreak, elation, or hum-drum-everyday routine. I also love writing about the details. Remembering to be present enough to notice the details. Showing up at a blank screen and choosing words that will attempt to recreate those moments, for readers, but also for me when I scroll back and look at the moments of my life that are here.
This year. Well. This year. Writing was not a priority, obviously. But I am okay with that. I did other things. I finished my College Reading and Learning Certificate out of Cal State, while teaching full time and parenting three kids. I helped move my parents into assisted living. I cleaned out my own basement and main level…decluttered, threw a lot away, rearranged. I wrote curriculum for a brand-spankin’-new course that I piloted this past semester. I chauffeured children hither and yon, spending more time in my car than I care to think about. I read a lot of articles, chapters and books. I taught 18 credits worth of reading this fall. I fed my family…reluctantly cooking dinner most nights. I won an award for excellence in teaching from my colleagues. (One of three people in my college.) I did a little laundry every once in a while. I took a fabulous class called “The Magic of Myth” from Elizabeth. I graded thousands of papers. I took Nicholas to a hockey tournament in Duluth, just he and I made the trip.
Basically, I showed up for my life. I just didn’t write it down. In retrospect, I wish I had the time to sit and reflect on all the moments. They deserve to be preserved. However, I refuse to let guilt creep in here. I did all I could. And sometimes watching Scandal is more cathartic than writing a blog post. It is what I needed to do at the time. Maybe in 2015 things will fall into place so I can write more. There is a possibility of that, but I won’t know until the new semester begins. My tummy is tumbling because of the uncertainty right now, but I am trying to accept any outcome, while hoping for the one I want!
Tomorrow we have the privilege of getting a whole new year. We get to begin again. Start over. Keep on, keeping on. My wish for you…if I even have any readers left out there…is to see the opportunities and choose to be happy. Choose things that bring you joy, and choose the tribulations that are worth traveling through in order to find that joy again. Sending love out there as we say good bye to 2014 and begin anew with 2015. xo
the roof, the umbrella, my head
Blinding in the dark
across the horizon, across black skies, across the insides of my eyelids
Building the crescendo
until CRACK it makes you jump
Better to stay in bed.