Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Female Seeking Great Escape

Work has been really emotionally draining lately. 

Now, don't get me wrong, I love the students I teach. I respect the careers of my peers and supervisors, and I went into this knowing full well my capabilities, weaknesses, and strengths. This is a good fit for me. Maybe not perfect, but good. I fought long and hard for this. I earned the right to do what I do. I don't know how long I can keep doing it. Isn't that sad to say? There is so much stress involved being a functional special needs teacher with testing, paperwork, planning, organizing, and dealing with the protocols, daily flubs, and daily struggles. It is wonderful to see student progress and to celebrate milestones, but it is devastating to find flaws in your system, cracks in your facade, and holes in your plans. When things go bad, they can go really badly in relatively little time. One second, peace, the next..boom! chaos. 

Sometimes I feel like I am alone in my ocean of responsibility and want some company, and sometimes I would rather be alone in the ocean and handle things my way. 

When you work with other adults in the same room, there has to be a clear leader. 

I like to share leadership and take turns. This reduces stress.  I like to delegate tasks and have time to stop and think and plan for the next stage. Sometimes this irritates people. They think they are doing my job. They don't realize I need them to be a sounding board, provide fresh perspectives, advocate for the students they are closest to, and to help out with more than the mundane cleaning, managing, and grading papers. I haven't yet learned the art of getting people to do what I want while making it all seem like their idea. Instead, I accept the ideas of others.

The other half of the coin is doing everything the government says I have to do to be 'in compliance' and to keep the 'school grade' high. Some of this is really political. We all play nice, but those that know the right people are the ones who get things the fastest. Sometimes I feel like I won't ever understand a person and that is holding me back. I have to be forced to contact them and make my requests.

I can get along with almost anybody, work with a myriad range of personalities, but sometimes I get overwhelmed by trying to hold it all together and trying to see the forest for the trees. Sometimes I stay quiet and observe when I need to speak out and put a stop to some actions. It happens. Then I feel guilty.

Mostly, it is not guilt that plagues me, but a sense of inadequacy. I feel overwhelmed and out-maneuvered. 
I feel like if I just get through this day, go home, plan for tomorrow, think, come up with a solution to the problem, vent, rant, rave, eat chocolate, and sleep. I can get up tomorrow and magically have a better day.

Work is WORK, man. 

When do I have time to be ME? You think teachers just give homework, but they take home as much baggage as any student and plan and give and nurture and spend their money on their students. 

Many of you would say, "yeah, well, what did you expect going into the teaching field?"
I knew full well what I was getting into. Really, I did. You don't do this without knowing the sacrifices.

But oh, the sacrifices! Sometimes they catch up to you. 

This month, heck, this time of every school year, is full of the overwhelming sense of being bogged down and mired in the daily grind. While the daily struggles are new, and the tasks are many and varied, and it is never mindnumbingly boring, it is emotionally draining. Can I be better? Can I do more awesome things? Look at my failures. Look at what I have not accomplished. Look at what I forgot I planned to do by February. Look at how much time is left until Spring Break! Why are they whispering about me? Why is everyone frowning?

Okay, so some of that is paranoia, but when you get ..prickly.. it feeds the monsters and they grow to fill the spaces between the planning, organizing, testing, and failing. Sometimes you need a little space. And being snowed in is not very space-giving. I know February is about Love and Support and I have a very loving and supportive husband, but he is sick of my ranting. He is one of those "work is WORK" people who tells me to suck it up and problem solve with my logical half of my brain and just figure a way around it.
So I am.
And my creative side is longing for a great escape. I've been watching travel shows, reading books, and planning writing escapes in my bits of spare time.

(Anyone got a winning lottery ticket?)

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Goal: Intentionally Teaching Children to "Pay It Forward" in 2015 and Being Their Example

I have a keyword tag for it, I mention it, but do I really "pay it forward"?

Paying it forward means being kind to others without expecting anything back in return.

I researched ways to pay it forward, to find lists of ideas and compare my deeds to those suggestions.
I hold the door open for people, donate clothes to goodwill, recycle, and sometimes let people cut in line in front of me at the store or in traffic. I admit sometimes. This past year I did volunteer at the MS Walk in September. I enjoyed that.

I have to admit, a few of the acts of kindness made me cringe, "Oh, I couldn't do that!" Where did that attitude come from? I should embrace some of those as a challenge. Things like buying stuff specifically to donate; pet food, clothes, food. Food is the easiest. It is the cheapest! Man, I'm a tight-wad.

My goal is to not only consider ways to Be Kind everyday, but to DO something outside of my comfort zone to intentionally help others.

Moreover, I need to teach my students and my own children to be kind. After some more research, I saw that there wasn't a singular list I liked for teaching children, so I made my own.

At school:

  • Smile at someone who seems to be having a rough day
  • Carry books for someone on crutches
  • Compliment someone, tell them they played a great game, painted a nice picture, or wore great shoes
  • Hold the door for someone behind you
  • Take found items to Lost and Found, even money.

In the Community:

  • Put shopping carts back in the cart corral
  • Bake and take cookies to local fire and police stations with thank you cards
  • Hold a Teddy Bear and Friends drive and donate to police and fire stations. If they have a kid in distress, they would love to have a stuffed animal to give them!
  • Take cards, Valentine's, or notes to local nursing homes
  • Donate clothes, toys, to daycares, charity, or to a family whose house burned down.
  • Donate items to the local humane shelter, maybe even volunteer there or foster a pet
  • Give cookies and thank yous to your local postal workers
  • Pay for someone's drink or toll behind you from a coin jar you and your kids save change in
  • Allow a person with a few items in line in front of you
  • Shop with your child for canned goods that you then donate together to the local food bank
  • Teach your children how to greet strangers. "Hello" and a smile from a sweetie might make their day.
  • Encourage them, if old enough, to use freerice.com. It donates rice to hungry people while your child learns new things.
  • Live in a tourist trap? Offer to take photos for people and families struggling to get into a selfie.
  • Put coupons you don't need on community bulletin boards. Share coupons for restaurants with others in the restaurant that you don't use.
  • Take found items to Lost and Found. It is not always 'Finders Keepers'.
  • Many churches do wonderful things to help others. Find out what your church is doing and jump in!

At Home:

  • LISTEN! Listen to your kids without trying to fix anything, without adding to their stories, without trying to change the subject. They will learn to listen to their friends and others without judging, too.
  • Pick up litter in a local park, along your street, or in an open space nearby regularly. Recycle cans.
  • If you don't recycle, do. Kids can help separate and take bags of items to the recycling center, or out to the curb.
  • Donate books you no longer read. Schools, libraries, paperback exchanges, and other places like jails or prisons will take books. Call first, though. Find out what programs your town has. There are also some online.
  • Donate old towels to the humane shelter
  • Leave inspiring notes for each other. (or love notes)
  • Mow the neighbor's lawn
  • Put out bird feeders or fresh bird baths in winter. 

For More Ideas:
My Pinterest Be Kind Board
For Teachers and Schools
Rants From Mommyland: Kids Can Volunteer - These are divided by age groups
109 Acts of Kindness you can start doing today

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Last 10 Years

A friend of mine posted on facebook that he was glad to see a year with a 5 in it. The last time we had a year with a 5 in it was 10 years ago.

I began to think back 10 years.


It was 3 years before I started to blog.

The husband and I took an official honeymoon in March on a shoestring budget to Niagara Falls and Toronto. We left the 2 year old in the care of my parents and brother. We stayed in the cheapest hotel and only spent money on food. It was cold and the Maid of the Mist wasn't running. There was ice on the falls. We enjoyed being tourists, but the only attraction we could afford was one of the arcades. This was the highlight of my year. It was the first thing that popped into my head when I thought of the year '05.

I graduated from college in May. This was not the first thing that popped into my head, because I didn't attend my college graduation. I didn't want to sit through the speeches alone. My family would not be attending. It wasn't a big deal.

How you do homework with a toddler

We moved back to our home city to be near family. It was an old house we rented near a big college football stadium. It was okay except for fall homecoming. Band music, cheering, lights, drunken college kids; not my thing. I'd just left that behind. In fact, I never went to any homecoming in high school or college. Sports are not my thing.

I worked that summer taking care of adults with special needs in a group home, driving for an hour to the location. Later, I would switch companies to be closer to home.

I missed the window for interviewing in this county's school system and began to substitute teach in the fall. I picked up a job right away as an education assistant working one-on-one with a boy in a wheelchair. I enjoyed this job. I enjoyed working in the group homes, too, even though it was much harder and much more stressful. I feel...useful, fulfilled, knowing I am helping people.

Sometime in that year I think I made homemade applesauce. I don't even like applesauce. I think my son ate most of it.

In the winter, we filed for bankruptcy when our house didn't sell. We took care of some stupid debt mistakes, including surrendering my car which we were paying too much for. It was a rough time of learning, growing up, and being adults. I think the next 2 years were even rougher, though. Maybe even the next 7 years.
It was a rough year, one of lessons learned.

2005 was the beginning of rock bottom. I was whiny, insecure, immature, couldn't see my dreams through all the stormy clouds of life. I deleted most of those blog posts from '08 and '09 and '10, etc. They were embarrassing, or too revealing; unprofessional.

2014 was a pretty good year compared to '12 and '13. It started a little rough, with my learning what it was like to have a difficult student and feeling like a failure. I graduated from the next phase of my college classes. I put that Spring semester behind me and jumped into a new school year with both feet. I redesigned my classroom, my schedule, and rejoiced in the new challenges that would come. I felt ready, but still armored up with the knowledge that things could change at any moment.

And here it is, 2015.

I bought a new planner and organized my time into it. I set a time for workouts, for lesson planning, for dinner, for me-time, for date time, for writing time, and for homework. I know things will happen to interrupt my planned schedule, but having things planned gives me freedom to accept those changes.

It also helps me set goals. My family now knows I workout at 5. They encourage me not to miss it. Having a set time frees me up to choose how to spend it. I can Wii Zumba, use the elliptical and do some bodyweight exercises, or punch the new punching bag in my living room. (The boys are loving that punching bag, by the way.) I can decide if I want a cardio day, a strength day, a stretching day, a dance day, or a mix-of-whatever day. One day the weather will be nice again and I can start biking, walking the dog, jogging, and outside exercises.

The expert say to take small steps to reach a goal. They say to set goals. Setting a time for a workout and planning my day is a small, but very important step to achieving something awesome.

When I thought back to that weekend trip in 2005, I also recalled that we wanted to take the boys there on a vacation someday. We've been talking a lot about that elusive word, 'vacation', and how it compares to 'trip'. I am hoping that my new scheduling/organizing skills will spill over to saving skills and more wise choices that result in a 'trip' or a 'vacation' or both.

Hey, gas prices are back down to the same that they were in 2005... and I am in a better financial place. How did we do it back then? Have enough to go on a weekend excursion? If we did it 10 years ago, we can stubbornly do it again. Determination. Goals. Dreaming Big.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Year in review in pictures

2014 In Review... In Pictures.

In January, we went snow tubing. It was awesome.

Because it snowed...

and it snowed.....

and it snowed!!

We missed so many days of school that they made up an extended day schedule for a whole month to make up the extra hours. It was nuts.


I was feeling blue from all the wintery stuff, so i painted my toes brightly.
Yeah, so I didn't do so hot on the hearts.. but I tried! What else are you gonna do when you are snowed in?


We replaced the throwout bearing in my clutch.

And went bowling.


We took some cousins to the park.

 I worked on a big puzzle for Spring Break.

And I started my pond up for the season.


A frog moved into my pond.

I planted a tulip tree.

We flew kites.

We went to Nashville, IN.

I made a nicer entryway to my home.

I bought a fire pit. Whoopee!

We went to the fair.

We had a Hot Wheels car wash.

And we watched baby robins leave the nest for the first time.

School FINALLY let out.
 My oldest left Elementary School behind like Truffula Trees, but he is not an angry Lorax about it..well, this picture seems to say otherwise!
 We did some art..
These perler beads and an iron were a hit. We made robots!
 In an effort to encourage outside play, I made a mini croquet field in the backyard. We played once, and then it sat. Hey, we tried!
 Discovered this pest on my tomato plant. Grrr. Tomato Horned worm. This made me rethink my garden plans for next year.
We hosted the niece and nephew several times, and once we painted some fun shaped boxes. Art with Aunt April!

 I had a free bracelet 3-D printed. It's pretty cool to think about how they did this.
As a last Hurrah, we went to play mini golf. I am pleased to report I got 2 Holes in One! The boys were not as impressed.

It finally got hot out, and the dog dug himself a nice cooling hole. We could only see his head though, and we thought it was hilarious. He's like a zombie dog! Half his body is gone! Run!

Boys insisted we carve this Jack-O-Lantern. It's supposed to be a gargoyle's face. 
I didn't take any pictures in November. It was a nice month, full of Family what with Thanksgiving in there. 
 The barn at my parent's house collapsed. No snow for Christmas here. It was actually kinda warm.
My mother contemplates the fallen vestige of American history.
It's harder and harder to find old barns like these.

So, that was my year. Sure, there were plenty of other things that happened. My Grandmother passed away. She was 95. I can only hope to live that long! I began to think about spending time with family, leaving a legacy behind, and being smarter as I age with my time, money, and efforts.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Racism - Wrote a Post About It - Here It Go

En Vogue's song "Free Your Mind" is the inspiration for that blog title and is what I think of when I hear about the riots in Ferguson, MO. I've been trying to wrap my head around the whole thing, but mostly what I can do and share with others about the process to check myself and rewire my brain and help re-engineer my brain to think differently about skin color than my culture or mass media has groomed me to believe.

Firstly, let's be clear on what Racism is.

Racism is prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one's own race is superior. -Dictionary.com

"the belief that one's own race is superior"

I'm better than you because I am part of the dominant group.

Race is the dominant group. It is a:  a family, tribe, people, or nation belonging to the same stock

or b :  a class or kind of people unified by shared interests, habits, or characteristics
I am white. Not everyone in my family is white. Some of my relatives have married into a different race and/or have children that are biracial. Do I love them less? No.

But the issue is not family, it is strangers.

When you walk down the street and see a person walking toward you that belongs to a different race, how do you react?

I watched the interview of Toni Morrison by Stephen Colbert and Toni, in her wisdom, says:
"There is no such thing as race. None. There is just a human race -- scientifically, anthropologically. Racism is a construct, a social construct... it has a social function, racism."
When we are the top dogs, we have a sense of pride and accomplishment. It is ingrained into our children. We made it. We beat everyone else to this spot. We own things. We make decisions for the greater good. We are portrayed as the heroes, the good guys, the prettiest, the sexiest, the richest, the ones to idolize and look up to.

We get a little cocky. We begin to snub those we feel are below us. We teach our kids that they can be anything they want and then we let them watch programs and movies that demonstrate that the dominant culture gets the happiest ending.

This is not a good thing. It does not promote peace, goodwill, teamwork, or forgiveness.

How do you break down the barriers? You promote kindness. You teach kindness. You show movies with kindness. You raise awareness for acts of kindness.

I'm sad that Secret Agent L is leaving as she did so many wonderful acts of kindness and touched people all over the world with her blog project.

It is up to us to carry on the traditions of those such as she. It is up to us to volunteer, pay it forward, and just do random nice things. It is up to us to talk about them, teach them, and demonstrate them.

Do them across races. A smile, a hug, an open-ended question, or a donated treat can make someone's day. Don't do it out of pity for their skin color, that's tactless and crass. Do it out of love.