I am not a fan of the law that allows right on red. I have enough stress in my life. (See posts about teaching.) I don't need the pressure of taking a right on red when I don't really have a good view to my left (especially on one particular turn I often make, where I am frankly shocked a right on red is even allowed), and the asshole impatient driver behind me is tooting his horn because I remain stopped where I can legally turn right. Often times there is a steady flow of traffic on the green light passing by, but does the person behind me see that? Or even care? No!!!!! S/he is just thinking what is this person waiting for? Really, we are talking seconds, not minutes. Regardless. Whether you are simply impatient or running late, I don't care. It's not my emergency. And I'm not willing to risk my life because you're in a hurry.
I wish there was a way communicate "Shut up! I'll go when I can! Sorry to hold up your life for fifteen seconds. Jerk!," without saying a word.
Oh, yeah. There is. One of my favorite gestures. And that deserves a [heart] note.
When I started this blog, I was a single, forty-something woman navigating midlife as a teacher. Just a few times over the years that I have been blogging I tweaked my bio a tiny bit--just in case someone wanted to know who was writing and scrolled down to read About Me. Mainly I changed the number of years I have been teaching. The rest has stayed the same.
Now, as I live out this last year of my forties, I realize that in order to navigate a happy midlife I need to change courses. I would love to live to a ripe old age, enjoying a long, healthy retirement, but have serious doubts about the feasibility of such a happily-ever-after if I continue in my career as a teacher. The stress is unhealthy. I'm sure if it doesn't kill me, it will make me sick. I'm already unhappy.
A few years ago, the scale still tipped to the satisfied and happy side; what went on in my classroom still trumped all the other stuff that my colleagues and I all grumbled about but managed. Oh, and there was that. I had my colleagues, who are my friends and who support one another like family, in what has become a shameful culture of Us vs.Them. I still have them. But it's not enough to tip the scale anymore. I am still satisfied most days. I try hard, and I think I'm an effective teacher, who cares about her students. But I am unhappy.
And I want to be happy.
I deserve to happy.
I have never placed the burden of my happiness in the hands of someone else, not even half of it. (I still hope that I will find someone--and imagine if he were already in place in my life I'd be begging to figure out how I could quit and we could still pay our bills--but enough of that.) If I want to be happy, it's all on me.
My friend Fran worries about me living alone. "What would happen if you got hurt?" she wondered. When I told her I would call 911, she persisted "but what if you couldn't?" From there another friend joked about wearing a Life Alert, and we all laughed. I appreciate her concern. And I have wondered myself, but prefer not to dwell on the fact that I live alone and accidents happen--like the one we were laughing about the other day, which started the whole conversation.
I am lucky to have gotten this far in my life with only two sets of stitches, one in the emergency room (eyebrow), one at my doctor's office (chin), both when I was kid. I've had no broken bones or sprains or emergency surgeries. Other than the occasional oven burn on my arm, curling iron burn on my neck, or knife cut on a finger, I'm pretty much accident free and unscathed. (Knock on wood.)
Until a couple of weeks ago.
When I fell flat on my ass.
Just like that! [cue finger snap]
I got up from the couch and tripped--either on my pant leg or my purse straps (my purse was on the floor). I'm not sure exactly how and will never be, but I do know that having extra padding didn't protect me.
Fast forward twenty four hours: ouch. Another twenty four? OUCH. For two weeks now, every time I get out of a seat, or climb stairs, or extend my leg at the hip, I am acutely aware of the muscles buried in my butt that contract to perform said motions. I've done some research and apparently coccydynia, in medical terms, or a pain in the ass--literally and in the vernacular--can take 4 to 8 weeks to heal. Super! And by that I mean not at all.
I'm not sure how many more times I can (barely) surpress a wince when I get up from a seated position in class, but I have a pretty realistic sense of myself so every time I do I have the good sense to say a silent "I'm sorry" to all the people I have given a figurative pain in the ass in the course of my injury free life.
Karma is a b*tch. And she takes no pity on girls with big bottoms.
I used to enjoy teaching. While it has never been easy, it was once more manageable. When not teaching class, I could plan and correct and give extra help to students, and still had time to stop by the teachers' lounge for a few moments of camaraderie, maybe a round of laughs with veteran teachers who shared their own embarassing classroom moments after I told mine, or a pep talk in which they assured all of us newbies that we would succeed. It has never been easy, but it was definitely more fun.
Flash forward ten years. Teachers in the lounge are there only because they are in line for the copier, quietly huffing and puffing, wondering whether they should come back later, because those few minutes of waiting could be better spent on SLOs...
Ooh, that reminds me, I need to look over those IEPs. When is that PPT?
Shoot! Where did I put my DoK chart? (Probably in the same drawer with my UbD notebook and DDDM materials.) I have to bring it to my PLG.
Ugh. I can't believe we are still stuck on those CAPT scores and our SPI.
Wouldn't our time be better spent looking at the new NGSS or the CCSs? Since we never really got a minute training on those. Or on DI for that matter. Or how about a little time to create CFAs? Or activities for the SWRs? Would those be considered appropriate use of PLG time?
Guess I'll find out soon enough what went down at the last CA meeting. Will we be checking something off the NEASC list or working on some new pet project? I just hope our STEM coordinator isn't there. With any luck she'll be at some conference.
Although eventually she'll come back and put something else on the to-do list, something else the CT SDE has decided we should do with our free time.
Ha! Free time. Not when we're being micromanaged the way we are.
And good luck to us thinking things might change. Four more years with the governor who thinks all we have to do is show up. And the CEA endorsed him again. Those CCTs aren't going anywhere.
Are you LOL yet? WTF?
YCMTSU (You can't make this sh*t up.)
I used to enjoy teaching. It was challenging, but manageable. Rewarding. And fun. Now it's just maddening. And nearly impossible.
I am acutely aware that in my middle age the time between hot flashes gets shorter while the season between air conditioning and heat gets shorter too. A few years ago I ran air conditioning June through September. Then May through September. Then May through the first half of October. This year I cursed myself for not turning the air conditioning back on during the third week of October when it was seventy and humid again. I suffered through it, discovering that my sassy new hairstyle definitely is not one that handles humidity well, but now find myself digging my heels in as the weather gets colder with no looking back.
So I refuse to close all my windows all the way, partly because last weekend I sweat by a mood fire in Vermont, and partly because my friend Jen who lives in Glendale, California is happy for a day in the seventies. (Just checked my weather app and see it is sixty-one there today. Bet she'd do a happy dance--if it didn't send her into a hot flash!)
Last night I kept my windows open even though It was decidedly chilly since I needed to wear a jean jacket over my sweatshirt while I watched TV before bed. This morning when I woke up my thermostat said it was fifty eight degrees in my house. But I kept my windows cracked while I drank my morning coffee, bringing myself back from the brink of hypothermia, and left them open when I headed out to run errands.
Standing my ground, Tamara joked. Yep. Staring menopause in the face. Bring it, b*tch. I got my windows open. You've got nothing on me...for a few days anyway.
It is always a good sign when I'm back in the kitchen being creative. When I'm back in the kitchen and exercising in some way, it's especially auspicious. (For the record, I love my new gym, I love having discovered/tapped into pool exercise this summer. Not only do I not dread it, but I look forward to it. And it makes me feel great!) Good choices lead to other good choices; positive begets positive.
I derailed (that's being kind to myself), but I'm getting back on track, and this time I believe I am headed somewhere new and different, a place I hope will be so fabulous and gratifying and happy I will never want to leave.
Last school year left me completely sapped. I saw a friend forced into retirement, while other colleagues feared for their jobs and most of us generally walked around shell-shocked. Stress was palpable. I lost someone close to me in early spring and didn't have a chance to grieve because I, too, feared for my job. While I tried to keep one step ahead, I realized that I don't want that kind of job anymore. A decent retirement plan could never be adequate incentive to stay for the long term in such a toxic environment.
A happy, hopeful Plan B took form during April vacation, and it buoyed my spirits through the last several weeks of school. I spent evenings researching, jotting ideas, sharing them with friends. My exit strategy took form and occupied time after school and weekends that heretofore were filled mostly with more stress--rehashing another crazy day, dreading the next. While I was scheming, my friend, Erica (also an unhappy teacher at that time, now a satisfied Realtor), was putting her Plan B into action and my friend Tamara was in the final weeks of reinventing herself as an event planner. I was inspired and encouraged.
Still, I spent the first four weeks of summer vacation trying to feel normal again, to regain some physical and mental energy. I slept until I felt rested and tried not to make many plans because I wasn't sure I'd have the energy to put on a happy face and follow through. I wondered if Post Traumatic Stress Disorder felt like that.
Eventually, I soaked in enough sunshine by my pool to start feeling better. And then, while out at the pool, I decided that exercise would help me to feel better too. I got in the water and started exercising. A few weeks later I felt remarkably better. I feel like I am finally coming out of a deep, dark tunnel, I told a friend a couple of weeks ago--just as I started back at school.
So far I have been able to walk away at the end of the day and leave it behind me, enjoying late afternoon hours in the sun and pool for the last few days it was open. This week I plan to join a gym with a pool and will think about modifying my exit strategy timeline.
Why put off for three years what I might be able to accomplish in one?
I am probably the only person over forty who does not have a Bucket List, although I'm not exactly sure why. I have not lived with wild abandon, so it's certainly not because there is nothing left for the list. Maybe because I don't have a burning desire to do things like bungee jump or skydive, I haven't taken the time to start a bucket list that in the end would likely be a list of places to which I'd like to travel.
I did start a different kind of list, however, when I was sitting at the pool the other day. Just the day before I had gone on an antiquing adventure in Woodbury with a friend (which was a first for both of us, and a lot of fun), but other than that I thought about how I hadn't done much new or different. My vacation was half over and I hadn't done very much at all. I have a lot coming up during the second half, but even as I sat by the pool--sunning, reading, relaxing--I felt disappointed. I wondered what could I do to feel better about how I spent my summer vacation, especially with limited remaining time and budget.
So I started thinking... When is the last time you went to a bakery or coffee shop and sat and enjoyed a cup of coffee and a pastry? Doing so in vacation places--Chicago, Newport-- doesn't count. Neither does Starbucks. Somewhere close to home...Similarly, when is the last time you went to an ice cream stand? Have you ever gone to hot dog stand? What about packing a picnic lunch and finding a place to sit and have a quiet lunch?
Hmmmm. None of the things are particularly time consuming or expensive. I just never think to do them. And I should. I need to step outside the box, change my routine a little here and there, and enjoy some of the simple pleasures of summer. While I still have time.
There are afternoons in the summer when the sky is so blue it is almost purple. If the sun is at my back I can stare at it and get lost in it, all the while wishing I could describe it (is it periwinkle? or is that indigo?), bottle it, remember it when I'm feeling anything less than happy.
This time last year, I was probably already a fixture by the pool, well on my way to summer bronze, pink only around my strap lines. Two weeks into this pool season, I have yet to stop by the pool for my pool pass. I haven't even brought my chair up from the basement, although I did repack my pool bag for a day at the beach (that we spent bundled up in the back yard--having fun nevertheless).
It was not until the third weekend in May when I finally felt the way I typically do in mid-March. Two days in a row of sunshine and seasonable temperatures, one of them spent walking around Boston, and I finally began to feel winter thaw from my bones and my spirits lift a notch above major clinical depression.
Two weeks later, on a day forecast today to be "top ten," I did not gear up and hit the pool today.
No, I didn't have a skin cancer scare. And I'm not getting more insecure as I age. (But don't worry. I'm also not giving up on myself and ordering muumuus on line.) I definitely still have an aversion to other people's Ill-behaved children near 5 feet of water surrounded by cement (nothing relaxing about that), but that's not it either. This year I have a new life plan, which at present seems to be diverting me from some of those old, unproductive habits.
In a few years I hope that my life no longer cycles as it has for the last several : 42 weeks of misery followed by 10 weeks of bliss and avoidance.
Unless aliens have abducted Joanne and I am just pretending to be her, I will eventually, definitely, get my tan on. But today, instead of getting by the pool hoping for peace and quiet, with ear buds on the ready just in case, I went to the bookstore and bought a book on floral design and took myself out to an al fresco brunch. While I created my own peace, I stirred new life into my spirit.
Last week, while I was gearing up to write a post that in some way explained, if not excused, my three or four month absence/negligence/less than stellar effort to write, I came across a few things dated 2010 and 2011. That I could find a list of things to do or reread an email from four years ago and feel like it was yesterday was a little disconcerting. I felt nothing akin to how I did when graduating from college I remembered Moving In Day, so proud of the confident woman I'd become as I thought back to how unsure and timid I was just four years earlier. Nostalgia was absent.
Looking back on the four years that had passed I longed only for people I have lost. Yet I also felt a profound sense of disappointment and discontent with myself, having done nothing since they passed away that would make them proud or that I would want to tell them about. If I could be granted a special wish for Middle Aged Women Trying to Figure Things Out and sit by my pool with Donna this weekend as we had on Memorial Day weekends past, I would still be complaining about teaching, how education is not what it used to be, and how I don't believe in what I am being asked to do anymore.
And that is absolutely not the conversation I want to have with her when I get to have one again.
I understand now how people stay in unproductive and unhappy habits and relationships for longer than they should because I see myself as one of them.
So I am left to the task of forgiving myself for getting stuck, and then I move on to find joy. I forge a plan and brace myself for an adventure, willing to take risks for my new normal to be a happy one.
Go, girl! Gettin' some on weekends! And your boyfriend is an early riser! (Pardon the pun.) Saturday morning, 6 am. Like clockwork.
You must know I know... Right?
Yeah, well that headboard bump, bump, bumping into the wall? That's my wall too. So when the bumping and banging (oops, sorry, another pun just slipped in...and again) gets faster and louder? It wakes me. My white noise machine (brilliant invention, by the way) generally blocks most of your conversation and music, but the headboard banging against my wall and those final three moans? I hear it all.
Awkward? Well, I guess we're all adults. But it definitely falls into the Too Much Information category. And really? Come on, now (last one, I promise)! It may be a little disingenuous, too. You must be in your twenties. (Definitely younger than 34, as my friend EPK would say.)
But I digress.
Even if we can agree to move past the awkwardness, I'd really rather not hear it. I like to sleep late on weekends. Six a.m. is a bit too ambitious for me. So if you wouldn't mind moving your bed to another wall, I could sleep right through all the theatrics. And what happens in your bedroom has a better chance of staying there.
I know that the sun sets later now that we turned our clocks forward an hour, but at this point in the school year I prefer my light in the morning, when I'm getting ready, when I'm driving to work.
It has been black as night in the morning when my alarm goes off for school. Even yesterday when I woke up on my own at 6:30, an hour later than my alarm goes off during the week, I looked up through my skylight and would have thought it was still the middle of the night.
Eventually I'll get around to taking advantage of the light evenings, but getting up in the dark again leaves me too fatigued to enjoy them for now.
If there has been another week that in the past I have dubbed exhausting, I assure you it was a walk in the park compared to this week.
But it is over and I am okay. It is 5 pm. I'm home in my pajamas with my feet up and with take out sushi in the refrigerator while I enjoy an apple martini and wonder why I wasn't prepared for middle age to be this way.
WARNING: This post contains candid conversation about lady bits and their (failing) functions. I will definitely use the word menopause. And maywill mention "menstrual periods." But I will also do my best to make you laugh while wincing.
So I have not yet gotten around to telling you about my cataracts (yes, I said cataracts), but this newest middle age woe cannot wait on the post list (because we know how well that's been going lately) (and by that I mean not well at all).
For several years, per my doctor's orders, I managed dysmenorrhea (that's Biology teacher/teen counselor speak for "really awful periods") with birth control pills. Also per her prescription, I skipped placebo weeks and went back to back with pill packs so that I only had to have 4 not-so-bad periods a year. It was nothing short of a wonder drug.
But a little over a year ago, I struggled with a decision to stop taking the pill. I was closer to 50 than 40 and wondered if maybe I could go au naturel. I knew my mom went through menopause early; maybe I would, too. Sweating episodes (see Hot Mess Redefined) certainly suggested that other hormonal sh*t was already underway.
So I stopped taking the pill. As expected I had a period right after. But barely.
Months went by. No sign of Hideous Awful Periods (HAPs).
More months went by. No HAPs. Not even any normal ones.
Could it be?
Should I talk about it? But I'm not even 50!
So I decided to keep it to myself...mostly. (Meaning I told Jill and Deanna, Tamara and Amy, and Mandy.)
Then last weekend, I got to thinking it had been a whole year, which according to most sources makes it official. So I looked it up in my journal. Yep! Exactly a year! Done. Finito! Menopause! Bu-bye, HAPs!
When I met Mandy out for lunch later that afternoon we toasted to the end of menses (Bio teacher word for "periods".) Woo hoo! Right?!
Yeah, we'll, this isn't a happy ending.
Because the very next day my uterus decided to gasp for air and come to life again.
AAAAAUGHHH! What is that?! And why is it on my panty liner????
Please let this be a joke, Mother Nature, one last hoorah. And I promise never to toast to the demise of my endometrium again.
My memory could be failing me (why should my vision and bladder have all the fun?) but I can't remember the last time we had a winter this cold. Yes, this is New England, and I am a native New Englander, ergo I am prepared for snow and cold, but it seems this year it is one cold snap after another cold snap. Multi-day, back-to-back cold snaps. It has been so cold that when it was a freakish 50 over the weekend, it felt balmy.
So call it Arctic blast, or Polar Vortex; it feels friggin' cold.
Thursday night I went to sleep worried that I would not be able to drag myself out of bed in the morning. Bur when my alarm went off, I was already wake, playing back the details of a disturbing dream...
In my dream I was at school and I needed to leave my classroom. I looked out into the hallway a couple of times while my students were working in small groups, but saw no one who could come in and cover for me. And then I couldn't wait any more. I really needed to go to the bathroom, so I told my students I'd be right back. I even told them I was going to the bathroom.
When I returned to my room, a few boys were in the lab area of my classroom, Bunsen burners ablaze, burning things in them. There were fireballs in the back of my room while the rest of my class remained working quietly where they were supposed to be.
I freaked out, shut off the gas, grabbed the fire blanket and put out the fires, and then the bell rang.
The rest of my dream was me talking to colleagues, seeking moral support and advice. I was afraid to write up the boys because I thought if I did, I would get fired and the boys would go unpunished.
Many times in my life I have wished to be a fly on the wall. Oh, the fun of listening in and witnessing something I shouldn't or couldn't! Some things are lost in translation while nothing beats up-close and personal. Yet bearing witness is sometimes impossible, other times impractical.
This year in my life, I am having trouble processing my own reality, so I don't seek access to other worlds. Instead, I wish all my non-teaching friends and family a fly's access to mine: a comfy spot somewhere on the cinder blocks or surveillance cameras to have a look-see, because--as my close friends and colleagues (read: other teachers being pushed to their limits) and I often comment-- "you can't make this sh*t up."
This year my colleagues and I walked into a new Connecticut teacher evaluation program based on Common Core Standards (on which we had no professional development or training); new evaluators (who are new to the district and do not, at present, teach); new software to track our evaluations, which remains barely ready for a test run but is permanently recording comments that may make or break our futures as educators; and new grade book software to replace software we had finally gotten used to and was more user-friendly than this version, which--again--is barely ready for a test run (even after midterms) nevermind permanent record-keeping.
And that's just the big stuff. It's the other, little stuff--the daily decisions and debacles--that has most of us either on the brink of insanity or retirement, clicking away at resumes and job sites, or walking down a short path to Betty Ford's door. Namely?
...planned power outages at the end of a school day/the beginning of a semester..
...48 parking spots marked for staff (for 100 of us) with no parking restrictions for 500 driving students...
... ID badges with microchips in the name of safety while a dozen times this year our phone system has crashed and left us no connection to the outside world...
The list goes on, and some will make for humorous posts of their own.
My friends and I feel we have legitimate concerns. Our supervisors/evaluators/administrators think we are a bunch of complainers.
You don't need to weigh in, but I leave you with this:
Before I gave my Biology students their midterm exam grades the other day, I gave them index cards and asked them to answer two questions.1) how long did you prepare/study for the exam 2) what grade do you expect.
A couple weeks before Christmas I was watching Ellen during her 12 days of giveaways. One of the things she gave everyone in the audience was a Fitbit. Hmmm...What's that's all about, I wondered. So I looked it up on line.
It seemed like a great tool. If it did what it says, it would count my steps and monitor my heart rate and tell me how many times I wake up during the night. And it syncs with iPhone. But mostly, if it had the same effect on me as people in the testimonials, I would be motivated to walk more, to park further away, to get more steps in. And getting more steps in would in turn inspire me to make other healthy choices.
I sent the link to my super fit sister, Liz, and the next thing I knew, I suspected she was ordering it for me as a Christmas present.
Oh, happy day when I opened it for Christmas.
And then I opened the package. Syncs with 4s or higher. I have a 4. Syncs with iPad 3 or higher. I have iPad 2.
In other words, can't sync sh*t.
Oh well. Guess I'd need to return it and see if there is something else out there that can help me reach some fitness goals. Yeah, well, that part where I said "I need to return it," is not as easy as it sounds or as easy as it should be. Especially in this day and age of e-commerce when more often than not return labels are included in the package. When I say it takes an act of congress, I am barely exaggerating.
First I needed to go on line and find the link to begin a customer service email conversation and initiate a return request. Seven emails later, my sister Liz was the recipient of the final "return authorization" email, which I needed to print to include in the package. Now I need to mail it back using a tracking method. And I need to get it done before 45 days of the initial purchase date, back in early December. Time's a tickin'...
So much for getting fit with Fitbit. Fit be to tied is more like it.
We have a snow day in these parts, so I am home from school. I slept late and now I'm in my Christmas pajamas, drinking cup of coffee number 2 (cup number 3 is staying fresh and hot in a thermal carafe) and reading a book, while cinnamon bread bakes in the oven. Jill and I texted a few minutes ago and she's going to call in a little bit. I will enjoy that third cup of coffee with her.
Later I will brave the bitter cold and subzero windchill to clear off my car and move it into a visitor spot so that my spot can be cleared. When I come back in, I'll get in some comfy sweats and warm up by making a pot of chili. While it simmers I will take care of some Christmas clutter and prepare the containers that I will use to share the chili will my friends. (My Christmas chili is late this year.)
This evening, when my kitchen is back in order and the chili is put away, I'll chop some onions and start a pot of French onion soup. While the onions caramelize I may attempt a project. Or maybe I'll write some more. Or maybe I'll just pour a glass of wine and read some more before I eventually enjoy a bowl of soup as a late, light, but comforting dinner.
When I go to bed tonight I hope to be happy with what I made of my day instead of thinking, why did you wait for a snow day?