Hello, 2013. Thanks for Visiting.

Ode to 2013

2013 is a year that taught
me copious lessons. It brought
hope and some trepidation,
faith and some affirmation.
A bounty of choices demanded attention,
giving my simple life greater dimension.
An unheard of act of risk taking
led to an act of decision making.
I cried, I cheered, and I laughed
(What the hell is a mosquito craft?
This rhyming dictionary is weird.
)
I frequently disappeared,
sinking into my protective shell
dealing with change and doing it well.
Today I celebrate the good
in 2013, just like I said I would.

__________________________

At the beginning of the year last year, I made a “Resolution to be Successful.” My goal was to concentrate on the great things that happened throughout the year. I had never done it before– usually ending the year with a “thank goodness it is over” feeling. I was tired of living my life, waiting for the year to end so I can start afresh. It was time to realize that every day is a fresh day and I needed to acknowledge and celebrate that fact. I made a jar and I filled the jar with wonderful things so I could write about them at the end of the year. I hope you enjoy my adventures.

Family

I am thankful every gosh darn day for my family. Without them, I would not have as much joy in my life. They keep me from staying in the darkness when I’m depressed, and still love me when I spend extra time there. Here are some highlights.

  • We have a little raised garden in our back yard. It has become a family project. Every season, we clean it out, hand till it, and plant it. Pretty much every season, we end up with very few veggies– they get creature-eaten or frost-bitten or die in the hot, hot sun. Yet we continue to do it. There is something about sticking your hands in the earth that reminds you how connected you are to everything around you.
  • The girl figured out how to tie her shoes. It may seem like a little thing, but she was determined to never learn how– at least not from me. Thank goodness Hubs has the patience of a saint or she’d still be in Velcro shoes. Now if we could get her to keep them tied…
  • We were able to send the girl to Camp Invention. It is a week-long critical thinking/problem-solving day camp. She learned so much, including how to work with others to solve real-life problems. It was fabulous listening to her stories about what she learned. Her excitement was palpable.
  • We took two camping trips. I am not very fond of camping, but I like to be outside with my friends and family. The first trip was with my brother, niece, and nephew. I had so much fun during the day. It was fabulous being with them in a different setting than the living room. I want to do it again with them before my brother moves on to his fellowship and my niece and nephew go to college (or wherever– no pressure, guys). The second time was with my BFF, Jen. It was freezing and relaxing and wonderful (for camping, anyway). We did decide that next time we’d camp in a motel. It’s so much better that way.
  • We actually had some weather this year. I love it when we have weather in the desert. After one seriously rainy day, the girl and I played in the puddles until she had mud up to her eyeballs. It was so glorious letting loose and getting dirty. I think my heart grew three sizes that day.

There are so many more, but I know that it’s important to keep posts short so people read to the end. 🙂 Maybe I’ll do a part deux.

Educational

Both my husband and I are pursuing degrees– his is a B.S. and mine is an M.A. I’m so proud of us for managing school, work, and family without wanting to hit each other in the shin. With a car. I celebrate the following:

  • After a bazillion years of study, I am so close to the end, I can see it. I submitted my application for graduation. This does not mean that I am done, but it does mean that, if I take the last FOUR classes that are required, I can graduate at the end of the summer term. FOUR CLASSES! I really need to be done because I’ve got such a serious case of senioritis (mastersitis?) that it makes my eyes burn.
  • I had to take a graduate research class. It was horrible and felt pointless to me. Focusing on the positive: I had one of my favorite professors again, I earned an A, and it is another class down. Only FOUR more to go!
  • I took the summer off. It was fabulous spending the time with my family. Even though it put me a little behind, I needed it. I still only have FOUR more classes until I’m done.
  • My degree program is online, so I miss the face-to-face interaction that I enjoyed with I was getting my B.A. This last semester, I had a colleague taking the same classes. It was wonderful! I had someone to bounce ideas off of for the first time in a bazillion years. I wish he was going to take my final FOUR classes with me, but he isn’t. Still– I had someone to kvetch with… er, share ideas with.

In case you didn’t notice, I have only FOUR classes left until I’m done. Not that I’m excited or anything. Not me. Not at all.

Professional

This is the aspect of my life that changed the most. This is where I took a leap and let the Universe catch me. I don’t generally do that because of my anxiety. Here are some of the positives:

  • I finally said no more to the job that was disintegrating my being. I was turning into a person who I didn’t enjoy being and it affected every aspect of my life.
  • I woke up in the morning and didn’t have a debilitating panic attack thinking about going to work. After I decided it was time for a change, I began to repair myself. This was the first sign that it was working.
  • I got a new job. Even though I felt beaten down and almost destroyed, I was able to keep my head straight during interviews. Even though I felt like a fraud, I was able to tell potential employers how wonderful I was. It worked. If you want to read about it, I wrote a couple of posts about it: Part One and Part Two.
  • I made a decision about my professional goals. The public education system no longer suits me. I can’t do what they ask me to and still live with myself. I finally decided to leave the public school system. After 13 years, I am taking a break from it. I may come back, I may not. It just depends on where life takes me. Once again, when I made that decision, another layer of anxiety and fear disappeared. Once again, I have no fear that my decision is the wrong one. I have no clue what the future may bring and that doesn’t scare me. Weird for someone who’s live her life in fear that she’ll make the wrong decision and destroy the world.
  • Hubs attends one of Embry Riddle’s satellite campuses. He is good friends with the director there. They are in desperate need of English teachers. Hubs has worked his magic and there is a great possibility that I will be teaching some classes for them when I’ve completed my M.A. (FOUR more classes!). This is a wonderful opportunity and I hope it comes to fruition. I’m trying not to want it so much.

I haven’t felt so sure of myself professionally in a very long time. I am thankful for the year that passed and am definitely looking forward to the future possibilities.

Other Awesome Stuff

Not everything fits into lovely categories, so here is the potpourri of great things that happened this year that don’t fit anywhere else.

  • I got a new, used car. It is the car that I’ve always wanted. It has a sun roof and, because I’m spoiled, brand new speakers and a kick-ass radio. It also only started with 30,000 miles. Because it’s a Toyota, I will get to enjoy it for many, many miles to come.
  • I’m getting crafty up in the hizzouse. I started crocheting again, something that relaxes me and makes me feel productive. Hubs got me a sewing machine for Christmas and I’ve already made myself a purse. Creating is such a wonderful feeling and I am glad that I’m doing it again.
  • I was brave enough to put my writing out there. When I won NaNoWriMo in 2012, I had a mostly, sort-of finished manuscript. I’ve been sitting on it, fearful of letting it go into the world. I decided to share it. There are so many plot holes and loose ends that I need to tie together. I wasn’t able to do so objectively. Hopefully it’ll get worked out. Either that or my readers will tell me that it’s too convoluted in its current state and will need to be disemboweled and reanimated in another configuration. I’m comfortable with either possibility.
  • One of my students graduated this year. This young lady has been in my life since she was a sixth grader. I love her like she was my daughter. I’m so proud of who she has become. She honored me so much when she asked me to escort her to senior night basketball game. Her mother and I proudly stood next to her before her final game of her senior year. I felt truly blessed that I meant so much to her that she asked me to be there. Teachers don’t always see how they affect their students’ lives. Chelley made sure that I knew.

There are so many other things, but brevity is the soul of wit (so they say).

The Girl’s Celebration

The girl was so excited to participate in this project. For the first seven days. Because she was six. I told her I’d post everything that she wrote down. Here it is:

  • “I have school.”

She’s so awesome.

Final Thoughts

This was a great exercise for me. I am thankful for my blogger friend Danielle for making the commitment to do this with me. If it had not been for her, I am pretty sure I would have stopped writing the good things down about the same time that the girl lost interest. I’ve decided that I am going to do it again in 2014. I think it is part of the reason why I’ve been able to make the positive changes in my life. It helped me live in the moment.

__________________________

Resolve to be successful

Advertisements

Job Search, Part Two

If you’re just joining me, read Job Search, Part 1 to get caught up. =)

The day I found out about not getting the first job, our car died (there’s a post coming on this one– someday). I was sitting there, lacking confidence, a little depressed, and alone. Hubs was sitting on the side of the road, waiting for a tow truck, so I couldn’t talk to him about it. I reached out to my Faceb0ok friends. They were very sympathetic and supportive, as usual, and I felt better. My friend Danielle, who writes ProfMomEsq, commented:

Words of Encouragement

She validated my need to feel the feels that I was feeling. Someday, I hope I’ll be able to validate myself. Until then, I have the best friends EVAH! Instead of faking strength, I let myself be a badass and cried. Even though the job wasn’t right for me, the rejection hurt.

At least I had another interview on the upcoming Monday. It was with a school district that is about a 30 minute drive for me. I just want to point out that, for the last seven years, my commute has been around ten minutes each way. Adding 40 minutes to my drive time each day would mean taking 40 minutes away from all of the other things I have to do. I would have to wriggle my world even more than I do already. Still. It was an interview, and I needed a job.

I was not feeling as confident for this interview as I was for the first one. In fact, I was mopey as hell. My brain was on a slide, whimpering its way to the bottom. Stupid brain.

I didn’t know where the school was, so I went to the trusty Internet and printed out a map. I decided to leave an hour before the interview, just to be safe. I figured I would find the place and then stop and get some lunch. The interview was at noon, and I was too anxious to eat before I left. Thank goodness for that extra time.

My handy-dandy google map was not so handy-dandy. It took me ten miles out of my way and landed me in the middle of nowhere on a dead end street with nothing but fields on either side. I had no idea where I was and 30 minutes to get to my interview.

PANIC MODE!

The panic was made even worse by the fact that I no longer had a smart phone (there’s a post if you want to know why). I couldn’t just type the address into my navigator and have the merry voice direct me to my destination. I had to call my husband for help. For those of you who don’t know me personally, this is a hard thing for me to do. I’m independent and get frustrated when I can’t solve problems like this on my own. Thankfully, my husband never brings this up when I ask for his help; he just helps me.

I love that man.

So there I was, hungry, down, anxious, and needy. I told my husband that I was just going to call them and cancel, that I wouldn’t get the job, that I probably wouldn’t take it if they offered it to me, blah blah blah. Because he has been through this before, he calmed me down and talked me out of the corner that I was moping in.

Did I mention that I love that man??

Armed with the correct directions and a pep-talk, I sallied forth. Well, more like I limped forth. I arrived at my destination with ten minutes to spare.

I was interviewed by three people– the principal and the English department co-chairs. They each had a packet with questions and were each recording my answers. It was scripted, and they were very formal in their approach. They would look at me when they asked me questions and when I answered them. Their faces betrayed no emotions. It was strange. I know why they did it– protocols need to be followed in order to be effective– but I am used to getting SOME sort of reaction.

I seemed to be the only one reacting. I felt my hands getting flappier and flappier. At one point, I couldn’t tell if I was trying to take flight or if I was performing the biggest jazz hands ever. Thing is, I couldn’t tell if they liked my answers or not. I had no feedback. I was used to feedback. 30 freshmen in a classroom give you constant feedback whether you want it or not.

Caution: Jazz Hands

Their formality was a good thing in retrospect. Even though it made me uncomfortable, it made me focus on what I was saying instead of how they were reacting to what I said. They asked me questions that I’d never been asked before. The one that sticks out most in my head was about my late work policy.

We interrupt this post for ramblings about education. We’ll return to the regularly scheduled post after this message.

I believe that all work should be turned in on time. There are deadlines for a reason. However, there has to be flexibility, especially when working with children. Even though I teach teenagers, they are still learning and make mistakes. They don’t manage time wisely because they haven’t had practice. Hell, I know grown people who still can’t manage their time wisely. I give them leeway when they need it.

That’s not to say that I let them turn assignments in any time they want. Instead, I teach them to advocate for themselves. If they know they aren’t going to turn something in on time, it’s their responsibility to meet with me and work out a plan. I try to give them skills that will help them when they enter the work world.

It also depends on other factors. If a student abuses this system, late work won’t be accepted. If it is a long term assignment and they ask for a last minute extension, I generally say no. My main goal is to help them understand the process of learning, not to see how well they plan their time. They will get enough of that when they get into the big, scary world and have to buy their own toilet paper.

Now back to the regularly scheduled post.

The whole time I was giving my answer, I was cringing inwardly. What if it wasn’t what they wanted to hear? Then, I decided I didn’t care. I was going to do it anyway, and they might as know in advance. That way there weren’t any surprises if I did get the job.

At the end of the interview, they thanked me for my time and sent me on my way. I walked out to my car, turned it on, and, like the aforementioned badass that I am, I cried a bit. I was emotionally drained and had no idea how the interview went. None. I was pretty sure that I hadn’t tanked it, but, beyond that, I knew nothing. I went home and tried not to analyze it.

The next day, they called. I almost didn’t answer it. My anxiety spiked, a mixture of excitement and fear. At the interview, they said the position was probably ninth grade English and yearbook. I really didn’t want to teach freshmen again– that alone made me want to ignore my jaunty ringtone. I answered.

“We were hoping that you would take the job we’re offering. Someone with your experience and expertise would be a tremendous benefit to our school. We think you’d fit in perfectly here,” the principal said. When I accepted the job, he stated that they were excited to start working with me.

Wow. Do you have any idea how long it’s been since I’ve heard those words? Some people who are still working in my old district have taken this opportunity in the story to tell me that I can’t believe everything that I hear and that he was probably saying it so that I would take the job and that I’d learn how he REALLY was when I started working for him. At first I was upset. Then I was sad. How sad is it that people feel like they can’t trust anyone in power?

I am choosing to believe that his words were genuine, and that he is truly excited to work with me. I am not going to let past experiences taint my current opportunities.

Guess what I’m teaching?? If you guessed freshmen, you’d be wrong. I get to teach eleventh grade English and Academic Decathlon. Juniors are one of the nicest groups to teach. First, most of them have passes the state testing that allows them to graduate. They are still trying to keep their GPAs up and (generally) haven’t checked out. AcDec is a group of students who WANT to participate in academic contests. To top it off, the school where I am going to teach has a 90% graduation rate AND a 95% attendance rate. My last school didn’t have those numbers. Things are looking up. I might fall back in love with my calling. I might want to be a teacher again.

Thank you, Universe, for catching and guiding me.

Reason 23 Why I Love Teaching

I have a student who carries a towel every day and whose favorite answer is 42. Enough said…


words to live by

“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has a few things to say on the subject of towels. A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitch hiker can have. Partly it has great practical value — you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble‐sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand‐to‐hand‐combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindbogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you — daft as a bush, but very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.”

Ripples in my Pond: Twitter and My Donors Choose Project

Right now I am completely in awe of the power of social networking. I recently submitted a project to Donors Choose to purchase a classroom set of Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. Donors Choose is a place where teachers can post projects and donors can donate as much or as little as they choose. I heard of it through comments on this post by The Bloggess (who is really very sweet, in spite of all her declarations that she is not).

I looked at the website and immediately thought, “Oh, this will never happen. I don’t know enough people.” Then I started thinking of my social media network. I follow some of the most amazing, generous, funny people. I decided right then and there that I was going to do this thing. After all, you never get anything unless you try, right?

So, I spent a couple of days filling out the proposal, stressing over every word. When I submitted it, it came back approved. *YAY* The next step was getting the word out.

Last night I turned into to a human spambot. No… a spamhuman. (Oh great, now I am hearing Monty Python in my head. Lovely day, innit?) I have never been very good at self-promotion. Asking for help makes me feel all funny inside. Asking people for help with MONEY makes me feel like … well, I don’t want to put a disturbing image in your mind. Let me just say that it is incredibly uncomfortable.

My followers were very kind and didn’t jump ship when I started asking everyone I knew to retweet my project.

My twitter friends Amy (@lucysfootball) and @patrixmyth assured me that I wasn’t a spambot. It was good because I was beginning to wonder. Lisa (@lgalaviz), another generous person though she tries to deny it, decided not to retweet it just once, but a million times. If you don’t follow them on twitter, go, do. If you aren’t on twitter at all, sign up, then follow them. It is easier that way.

My heart swelled when pnut from my favorite-band-of-all-time-forever-and-always 311. If you’ve never checked them out, you need to. They are an amazing group of guys and their music is the rockin’est.

Then Neil Gaiman HIMSELF retweeted it. Not only that, but he replied to my request for a retweet! I think my hubby thought I blew a gasket. I was jumping up and down from the joy of the response. I thought I was too cool to react like that. I guess I am a geek at heart. I am embracing that part of me.

All of this ties into the novel itself and the unit that I am going to be teaching. Every action has meaning. If I had read that comment and not done anything about it, I would still be sitting here, trying to figure out how to get a great book for my students to read. I made the choice. The velocity of that choice allowed me to experience this awe-inspiring moment. Because I took this step, my project was funded in less… than… eight… hours!!

To all the donors and those who helped me: Thanks for being the ripples in my pond.