Tuesday, November 24, 2015

it's all too much

The first batch of my students' science fair papers, the research part, came in last Friday.  The dozen or so I've looked at so far are wretched, and I don't want to read any more, but there's nothing to be done for it.  I just need to get over my resentment and do it.  This year, however, I have resolved: no comments, just a  score.  They had an opportunity to get comments from me earlier in the year, so it's too late now.  Besides, the vast majority just don't care.

I'm so burned out. I always seem to have at least one commitment too many.  I dropped teaching RE and thought that would free me up enough, but no.  This year I'm only taking one grad class, but I'm also implementing my portfolio project, so it's more like one-and-a-half.  Then of course is the kicker: I'm teaching 197 students.  When I saw the enrollment numbers at the beginning of the year, I thought, "It will drop off."  But it didn't.  The district is giving us a "class size stipend" and it's not small, but at this point, I don't want the money.  I want the time!

If science fair were part of the regular curriculum it would be OK, I wouldn't mind grading the nearly 200 papers.  But it's in addition to the regular curriculum, and that's what's killing me.

Of course I'm still reeling from Mom's death, expected as it was.  Every day there's something that brings back the idea that she's gone.  I suppose it will get easier but it's still hard right now. I just feel like I haven't had any time to process, and God only knows when I'll get it.

Last weekend we went up to the DBG to see the Bruce Munroe exhibit, Sonoran Light.  It was spectacular, and a lovely break.  How I wish I could do that kind of thing more often!

Last but not least:

I just realized it has been 10 years since my last treatment.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


I'm so thankful for this holiday.

I was so far behind in my grad school work that I despaired of ever catching up.   I started clearing the deck over the weekend when I put together my reference list, but it wasn't until last night when I hammered out my updates to my annotated bibliography that I finally felt "unstuck."

Sometimes, there's work to be done, but for whatever reason, I get hung up and can't do it.  This past month and a half, there have been a lot of reasons, some to do with my brain just giving up, some with the kids needing my time, some to do with absolutely necessary teaching work coming first.  I did despair from time to time that I wouldn't come unstuck in time to actually do the work, and then what?

But today, with the luxury of a day off, I completed two smaller assignments and one rather substantial one, a big chunk of my final paper.

It helped that I was able to work in pieces.  I brought my laptop with me to the kids' orthodontist appointment, and I even worked while we waited for our table for brunch at Snooze.  Then when we got home I put the beef stew on... and got back to work.

It really helped the writing that I had printed my articles and highlighted my quotes.  The thing that surprised me was how a narrative suggested itself more or less organically from the articles themselves.  I really like it, it felt easy to write. It makes sense to me, there's a progression to it.  I hope my professor agrees!

I have no expectations as to when she'll be able to grade all of these assignments of mine.  When you turn in stuff late, you're at the mercy of the instructor, so she'll get to it when she gets to it.  I can be patient.

In spite of having that weight lifted, I'm still struggling with my acid reflux, which I suspect is caused by a return of the mild gastroparesis I had several years ago.  I did a blog crawl and found my old posts and was surprised to read that treating my cervical radiculitis cleared it up -- specifically when I was taking a therapeutic dose of ibuprofen, but also doing my neck physical therapy.  I think it is not a coincidence that my stomach started acting up after about two weeks (maybe three) of slacking on my exercises, as in, not doing them at all.  My exercise set is not very long but it's enough to keep me limber, so I'm back to trying to be consistent with that.  And I'm back to doing my neck exercises at least twice a day, in case there's nerve impingement that's causing the problem.

We'll see how it goes.  I'll continue eating smaller meals and abstaining from alcohol until I'm back to 100%.  I hope I can fix this myself.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

up, down, up, down

More like a seesaw than a roller coaster, and for that, I'm grateful.

I'm still mostly better, except when I'm not, and it's difficult because I can't really tell when I'm going to be not-better.  Tiny things hit way harder than they should because I have no emotional resilience at all.

For example, I was inordinately happy to see that peppermint mochas are back at Starbucks, and had one today.  And I was really happy today through my first five periods even though 4th period was so rowdy I sent them out in the hall to settle themselves down before lecture.  (It worked.)  Mostly, things are working.  Then 6th period were their typical selves, and 7th period was herding squirrels, and in that space of about an hour and a half, I just felt myself sinking lower and lower.

Now I'm up late pulling together material for my lit review (it's supposed to be micro-sized but I've pulled like 7 articles so I don't know if that's going to be possible) for the first part of my final paper. I've got a narrative constructing itself in the back of my head, I just hope I have time to write it and make DD's birthday pie tomorrow.

I've thought about crying a few times today.  I'm sad because I wanted DS1 to stay for dinner last night but it was too late and DH took him back to his campus even though I specifically asked him to stay.  He was so mean about it! He agreed to stay but with such venom that I told him to go, there was no point in him staying if he was going to be angry.  I don't know what call he had to be so mean to me, and it was still stinging this morning.  Then this evening DH inexplicably made a phone call in the middle of a conversation -- I was mid-sentence as he began to dial, with nary a "Just a sec, I have to make this call," excuse.  I just felt like nothing.  

I told him he was rude and he apologized and gave me a hug.  He hadn't realized it had even happened, which tells me he wasn't even listening to what I was saying.  He admitted to being thoughtless, but that's not really helpful.  "Yes, I know you're talking so I'll just tune you out and do whatever..." I'm sure it happens all the time, just this time he forgot and made the phone call while he was ignoring me.

See, this is what I mean about emotional resilience.  I'm more or less looking for trouble and finding fault but these were two legit examples of me being trampled, and it hurts.

Up too late, exhausted tomorrow: not a good combination when you're as emotional as I am right now.  Ah, well -- onward.  It's not as if I have a choice.

Monday, October 26, 2015

mostly better, except...

There's always that "except", right?  Acid reflux is killing me and I'm not sure why.  I'm just trying to manage it with diet and D-limonene and wait it out.  I hate having that lump-in-the-throat feeling, but I know exactly what it is, and I have to be very careful what I eat until I'm over it.  On the plus side, I'm down to only one, maybe two hot flashes a day, a substantial improvement over (what felt like) near-continuous flashes over the past few months.  It was so odd to go from being one of those always-cold people to an always-hot person.  It helped when I was in Massachusetts but made life more miserable here in AZ.

Emotionally, I'm beginning to feel the weight of these past four months starting to lift.  I feel a bit guilty about feeling better, but I'm also too relieved to waste any energy on guilt.  Mom suffered so, it is good that she isn't in pain any more.  I feel OK most of the time, until suddenly I don't.  Yesterday in church I just completely lost it at one point.  I had no tissues so I had to wipe my eyes with my scarf.  It only lasted a few minutes, and a particular hymn triggered it (and probably always will).  I felt surprisingly all right afterwards, too.  It was like a little thunderstorm blew through and left me refreshed in its wake. I didn't realize how much I was holding in, because I just feel... normal, really.

Last week was a crazy week at school because I did the mineral identification lab with my 7th graders.  There are ~125 of them spread over 4 classes.  These are the largest classes I've attempted this with.  Most students did well on the identification, but a significant chunk (once again) resisted thinking and bailed on answering the three "Explain" questions I asked.  Sadly for them, that will have a significant impact on their lab grades.

It was also crazy because we've officially kicked off the science fair.  The more I learn the more opposed to this process I am, but here I go again.  I'm hoping that my master's project will make things go more smoothly, and overall, the proposals are 1) in -- the vast majority of students completed one and 2) relatively OK, which saves time on the grading.

I'm taking more family time, too.  First quarter grades came in and DS2 did OK but nowhere near to the level of his ability (or so we think, it's impossible to tell sometimes).   That led to several hours-long conversations about what he wants and what he feels and how he is going to manage going forward.  I want to let him do things on his own but at this point I don't think he knows how to organize, or plan, or execute a plan, at least not very well. There were bright spots but overall it's the same story of not living up to his potential.  Sadly, too, he professed frustration with all the "stupid people" he's surrounded by, so I had to set him straight on that one: every person is of the same value and deserving of respect. Every.One. 

Yesterday I went to the farmer's market before I did the grocery shopping.  I really shouldn't.  I shouldn't shop on Saturday mornings when it's gorgeous out and everything looks amazing because then I end up cooking all weekend and now I haven't put in any of my grades (they'll make it in, eventually.)  I roasted approximately 3,042 vegetables to make one medium-sized container of ratatouille.  I made up an entire box of TJ's pumpkin pancakes (spectacular, and gluten free!), and I still have to put away the chili that has been simmering since dinner (burgers & hot dogs on the grill - the rest of the package of ground beef went into the chili.)  See, I don't know where I'm going to put it because the fridge is packed right now.

Not a bad problem to have, I know.

Ah well.  Grades will have to wait until tomorrow, or whenever.   At least most of the stuff is actually graded already, it's just a matter of putting them into the gradebook.

Monday, October 19, 2015

slightly less sad, still tired

I am so exhausted when I get home every afternoon I almost always take an inadvertent (unintentional) nap before dinner.  Consequently, I'm able to be up past 11PM when I should be in bed.

Part of that exhaustion is just having too many emotions to deal with at one time, and part of it is having so much work to do.  I'm mid-way through my minerals unit with the 7th graders, and we're doing hands-on stuff every day.  They love it, but I have to be very organized, and this year, I'm just not.  We're managing anyway.  I have scaled the 8th grader's diffusion studies way back this year.  We did a little lab observing what happens to carrots over night, but I'm skipping the shelled egg osmosis demo.  I just don't want to deal with the hassles.

I don't even want to talk about my grad school work -- I'm about 2 weeks behind there.  I hope to get caught up in November when we have a couple of weeks off.  I think that should be possible.

Physically I feel OK except by this time I'm feeling like a truck hit me; I'm not moving around enough.  My eye is still giving me a lot of trouble, even with more regular use of better eye drops.  I do hope it gets better.  And most recently I think my reflux is back, I'm having trouble swallowing and my throat hurts.  I think I have to give up my strained yogurt along with coffee to really straighten things out.

One more week to hear about my tumor marker.   I would really like this testing cycle to be over.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

sad & tired

Inexplicably, a lyric from Jesus Christ Superstar is floating through my brain, from the Agony in the Garden song: "Then, I was inspired.  Now, I'm sad and tired.  After all, I tried for three years, seems like 30..."

I think it make sense on some levels.  We - me, my own family, my siblings and their families - have been witnesses to my mother's gradual decline over the past five years, and then of course her precipitous fall over the past three months.  Seems like 30...

That constant worry is a part of us, and unraveling it and letting it go is going to take some time.

I took today off from school.  Monday and Tuesday I kept it together, but barely.  I ended up staying past 6PM yesterday getting my sub plans and materials in place, just so I could have a day, today, to rest and recover.

But now at 8PM I feel as sad and tired as ever.  I slept in until 10:30 this morning, and that surely helped.  I accomplished many small tasks and had a nice lunch out with DD.  I attended my NAU class and faked my way through the discussions of the three long readings, which I had merely skimmed, but I was fortunately able to contribute to some of the other discussions.  My professor understands and has told me to take all the time I need, but I just feel everything simultaneously piling up while time slips away.

My to-do list is outrageously long, and I have no idea when I'll be caught up, if ever.  I had planned on doing a bunch of stuff over break which basically didn't happen.  I'm so thankful for whatever strength of character I had that made me grade those papers, because sitting here at home, I don't think I'd ever get to them, undermining the entire purpose of my project.  (That being: actionable and timely feedback.)

I'm sort of neglecting my own little family right now -- the kids are on fall break so they don't really need me.  They seem content with whatever dinner I manage to pull out of the freezer.  I'm prioritizing my teaching work -- lesson planning and materials, etc -- which means grad school stuff comes last. And sleep last of all, but I really have to cut that out.  Even having slept till 10:30 this morning I still feel like I haven't slept in a week.

Two more days till the weekend.  We'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


Mom's funeral was on Saturday.  We flew out Thursday and arrived at her house late, but not so late that everyone was in bed, and ended up staying up too late even though we were all very tired.  Three of my four brothers were there, and the cousins from Louisiana were good company for my kids.  Friday we were up early to bank errands and then I spent hours and hours sorting through Mom's jewelry.

When you are 88 years old and rarely get rid of anything, you accumulate a lot of stuff.  Plus, Mom had a habit of just stuffing things here and there, not necessarily where anyone would expect to find them.  So I went through both closets in her room (hers & Dad's), and both dressers (hers & Dad's) and found innumerable interesting and somewhat valuable things; 7 boxes of mint proof sets.  Seven tins of coins, including a whole tin of wheat pennies and another of silver dimes and nickels.  An enormous box of first day issue stamps.  And so much jewelry!  Her personal taste was very modern as evidenced in the pieces she bought (or commissioned) for herself.  Then there were all the more conventional pieces that others had given her, plus countless pieces of costume stuff that merely fun, or sometimes just odd.  I took a break mid-day to have lunch at Bleu with the family, just to get out of the house.  We ended up staying up very late again, because there was so much to talk about with each other.  It rained most of the day.

Saturday was clear and cold in that way travel writers always call "brisk", cool but not too cold.  The service was lovely.  I cried so many times. Every time I saw another old friend, the tears just came so easily.  I accomplished my reading without crying.  It was a very good reading, Wisdom 3:1-9:
The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace. For if to others, indeed, they seem punished, yet is their hope full of immortality; Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself. As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself. In the time of their judgment they shall shine and dart about as sparks through stubble;They shall judge nations and rule over peoples, and the LORD shall be their King forever.  Those who trust in him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with him in love: Because grace and mercy are with his holy ones, and his care is with the elect.
We walked from the church to the grave site, taking turns carrying the beautiful blue urn of Mom's ashes.  The service there was simple and lovely, too.  Then we all walked back to the church for a reception in their basement hall, where we had held Dad's.  My sister had handled all the catering and everything was lovely.  So many people!

When we got home, my siblings and I retired to the downstairs kitchen for our meeting.  We worked well together deciding many things.  For all the high emotions these past few months, the weekend was remarkably smooth.

Stayed up way too late again on Saturday night, playing poker (with Mom's pennies!) and talking with the kids.  Two hours of sleep later, I was up again, and we were on the road to the airport.  We were a bit tight, time-wise, but made it, and the flight was smooth, easy.  I slept for the first three hours and finished my grading during the rest of it.  It was the last thing I wanted to do, but I did it.

Then Sunday -- no nap, too much to do to get ready for school on Monday.  Then Monday, stayed up late again, because I got nothing done over break.  But I decided then to take Wednesday off, so of course I had to stay late again today to prepare everything for the substitute.  But that's OK, because tomorrow I can sleep in and hopefully unwind a little.  I could feel myself getting ready to snap a few times over the past couple of days.

I need to sleep.  I need to get used to the idea of Mom being gone, even though she has been sort of, mostly, gone for weeks now -- really since I took her to the hospital in June.  But this is different.  No matter what the brain knows, the way I knew Mom wasn't going to get better, the heart hopes. Having to let go of my heart's hope is not easy.