Tuesday, May 17, 2016

the headlong rush to the end of the year

Tomorrow is my students' field trip, just a fun day for them, really, but it's totally boring for us teachers since we literally have to stand around and watch them.  I am tempted to bring a book but it's simply not done.

Tomorrow night, eighth grade promotion ceremony, then Thursday is my last day at my current campus.  I will be going to the new, closer campus next "fall" - school starts for us in mid-August, to give time for the construction to finish, so I have a somewhat "late" start.

This end-of-year stuff is exhausting me, though.  I've arranged labs and activities for my students that involve buying stuff, setting it up, and then cleaning up after -- and since I only have one sink in my classroom, that means I'm stuck with nearly all of the cleanup tasks. It's a lot of work, but the students seem to appreciate it (some even actually say thank you), and, you know, it's my job, it's what I do.

Lately what I do is worry about what's going on with me.  I've had the pain and fullness that usually accompany an ovarian cyst since the end of March.   Usually it resolves itself in 4 or 5 or sometimes 6 weeks, but whatever this is, it's hanging on.  I finally called my gynecologist a week and a half ago, only to find out that he has closed his private practice and joined a large group practice, which I hate.

I know I hate it because I saw him there last Tuesday, where he did the most cursory of exams and declared that I probably have diverticulitis, even though my digestion is pretty much perfect (for me). He did order an ultrasound, and because this is a large practice and they do everything in house, I had to wait until today to get it.  It took all of two minutes, since the only thing the tech imaged was the ovaries, and she said they looked fine.  I certainly didn't see any cysts so I'm confused.  What could make me feel like there's a cyst when there isn't?

Well, duh: ovarian cancer.  When I run what I'm feeling through various symptom checkers, it comes up near the top of the list. I didn't notice anything weird about the ultrasound though, so if there is cancer it's not exactly obvious.  That is one of the known problems with ovarian cancer, it's not obvious.  It's not a bladder infection or UTI because the urine culture came back negative.  I'd be surprised if it's PID...

With any luck results will be back by the end of the week, and I'll have some indication of what the next steps are.  This doesn't seem to be going away and it's annoying and painful and makes the lower part of my stomach stick out and I can't even suck in my gut anymore.

In the meantime, I've started reading the texts for my two classes, when I really should be studying for the Math AEPA I'm taking next Tuesday!  I admit I'm somewhat terrified about teaching math (along with science) next year, but I figure I can handle it, with help.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

mother's day

These past few weeks have been rough.  Every time I turned on the television there was some ad or program referring to Mother's Day to remind me of my own dear mother's absence. I finally just gave up and would only watch streaming videos so I wouldn't have to deal with it.  

I'm still angry about this whole situation, even though that doesn't make sense.  I go through relatively long periods where I'm fine (because I'm not thinking about it), but then I'm not.  I'm just sort of... empty, missing something that can't be replaced.  I suppose I will get used to it.  I'm kind of used to it already in some ways, but not in others...

My day today involved a nice brunch, all going out to a movie together, and a nice dinner in the evening.  Brunch was later than I expected because I underestimated how long it would take to make both blueberry cake (for the family) and lemon muffins (gluten- and sugar-free for me), but in the end it was all quite delicious.  

The movie was Captain America:Civil War, which involved less silliness and stupidity than I expected, and thus was thoroughly enjoyable.  I think the thing I liked best was the care the writers took to show that the characters are actual people, with real feelings.  It was well done, and everyone enjoyed it.

Dinner was surf & turf, I prepped and DH grilled.  We ate outside, and afterwards the two older children and I stayed outside for quite a while just talking and being together, and that made today completely perfect.

There were other things, of course: I talked to both my sisters, and texts went back and forth among all my siblings.  Somehow all the laundry got done.  I thought about grading some tests but that didn't happen... no big deal, I'll have time to do it this week since I have my prep hour back. (All of the younger grades have now visited junior high science.)  I was fairly successful most of the day in not thinking about whatever is going on with (what I think is) my ovarian cyst -- will just have to wait until Tuesday to find out.  I'm glad I was able to not-think about that for a good part of the day.

Perhaps some won't believe me when I say I don't need anything, but I know there will come a time when my children will not be able to spend (most of) a day with me, and so I'm appreciating it while I can. Time is the most precious thing we have, and being with my family is the best thing in the entire world.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

work now, play later

We had a couple of slow weeks at school, with the students were in standardized testing, when we weren't allowed to give homework or tests or quizzes.  My eighth graders had targeted review work, which basically amounted to a participation grade.  But I assigned a cool in-class project to my seventh graders, which had multiple parts and really let them be creative while still demonstrating that they had learned something.  Those things were due a while ago, as were my eighth graders' physics workbooks (that sort came before and after the standardized testing.)

For some reason, I just got out of the habit of attacking the grading asap, and I just let them sit around too long, which ended with my having to really power through huge stacks of stuff in order to be ready for this week's progress reports.  I have to stop scheduling project and lab due dates within a day or two of quizzes and tests, because then I'm just buried in grading and it takes me a while to dig out.

The trick, of course, is not to get behind, so today I graded all the reviews & quizzes, and put them all in the grade book, so I won't have to think about them again.  It seems rather stupid and obvious to be writing about this ("Do the work.  It's not complicated.") but I keep putting myself into this same jam, at least this year, when I seem to fall into a funk and don't do anything after school.

My life is really not set up to do nothing after school.  If I don't work then, I won't get done what needs to get done!

My students are still bouncing off the walls, and I'm spending way too much time taking their "points" away and emailing their parents about it.  Still, I have to be strong about this now or it's only going to get worse.  It's not for too much longer now, anyway!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

T. S. Eliot was right

April really is the cruelest month.

Nature-wise, everything is blooming and beautiful and the weather is mild and delightful, so my complaint is not with the unfulfilled promise of the season seen in more northerly, harsher climates.

No, April is just the cruelest month for teachers and probably for students, too, who have to deal with standardized testing that throws everyone off for at least a few weeks.  Then, after the extended hiatus, we're exhorted to jump right back into curriculum and "finish strong."

The students have checked out!  They think they're done for the year when we have six weeks left.  I have enough experience with this to know that this happens every year, and that this first post-testing week is crucial in re-establishing procedures and expectations for behavior and productivity.  If I let anything slide now, by the end of the year my classroom will be a madhouse.

We're all loading up the students with work and assessments, and they're resisting, for now.  With any luck, if we keep the pressure on, we'll be back to normal by next week, or the week after... soon May will be here, and the last day of school will be on us before we know it.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

a bit on the nose

I had a dream last night that I was a passenger in a car.  My mother was driving (this surprised me, even in the dream; Mom hasn't driven much since 2010) and my two sisters were in the back, and we were talking about a meal we'd just had together.  Mom was talking about the dessert, I think, but I couldn't tell because suddenly her words weren't actual words, even though her tone and inflection were still normal.  In the dream, I realize that she's having another attack of aphasia and realize she needs help. I ask her to pull over, and the car slowly drifts to the shoulder, but keeps moving.  Becoming more distressed, I ask her to put the car in park, to change the gear -- but looking over, there's now  no one  in the driver's seat, so I grab the gear lever on the steering column and force it up, and the car stops.  I look in the back and see Mom's now back there, flanked by my sisters, the three of them somewhat crowded in the back, and I think, That looks uncomfortable.  And then I woke up.


So, yes, my subconscious saw fit to inform me that even if I feel I have no control over my life, I actually do. Or, I could, if I would just take it. Thanks, unconscious brain!


I have heard hundreds of sermons on the transformative power of love.  Sometimes, though, you can hear a thing many times before you actually understand it. Fr Rafael today spoke about how the act of loving changes us, as much if not more so than being loved, using the example of Peter's profession of love for Jesus from this week's gospel.  This actually ties back to the out-of-control dream, which connects to my recent discouragement at work (which, you know, is actually school.)

I have a student who drove me crazy last year in seventh grade and was making me nuts this year, too, until I just decided to stop that and really listen to him and be kind.  It would be delightful to say that he's really turned around and become a great student, but that's never going to happen for many reasons -- but it is delightful that he doesn't vex me anymore.

It's also delightful that I'm having visits from all the younger children, who have so much fun in my classroom.  My colleagues can't understand why I'm so willing to give up my prep hour to have the littles come in.  It's a bit awkward to tell them I love them, and really mean it, but I do.  And when I say I love teaching junior high students, they're like toddlers in teenagers' bodies, and they change so much over these two years, they need so much help! I really mean that, too.

I am never happy if I'm holding back.


On the other hand... I (finally) know myself well enough to know that minor bumps get blown up in my imagination or psyche into major dramas, and if I talk about it, or write about, or obsess about it... everything gets worse.  I think about what I should do or say, when, where, how, to whom, endlessly looking for a solution to a problem that probably doesn't even exist.  So if I'm upset about something, I'm going to make myself at least sleep on it before deciding whether or not it's actually "a thing" that requires attention.

I can actually do this now, whereas in the past I couldn't detach myself.  I'm glad about that, but wondering what took me so long.  Or perhaps I've had this ability in the past (something seems familiar about this resolution) and just forgot, or lost it.

Trying this recently, very few incidents survive to become "things" that need me to do anything.  I can feel sad about something without having to try to change it, and I can let others manage their own affairs.

This approach leaves me with some energy to apply to useful and pleasant activities that help offset that sadness and frustration.  This week that meant sending another article idea to my adviser, because if teaching is making me a little crazy, writing about teaching intrigues me. I know it'll take months and months, but I want to publish.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Mercury retrograde, or something

Today was not an easy day.

For me, the worst I had to face was too many unruly seventh graders stacked into my fifth period class because ... reasons. At least, that was the worst I had to face for myself, and I was cheered up considerably by the round of applause my 8th-graders gave me after my pointed speech about Newton's laws of motion and their application to chairs that have fallen over.

After school, though, I found out that DS2's field trip was cut short because ... reasons, and that was disappointing.  DD came home crestfallen this evening over an incident at her work, and then DS1 called from campus feeling frustrated by the attempts at indoctrination he's surviving in his required diversity classes.

Easter wasn't even two weeks ago and it feels like it was last year.  I know I need attitude adjustment but it's hard when it's the offspring who are troubled.  I'm better at reminding myself that all things are temporary.  Certainly nothing life-altering happened today, and that's good, but I still wish I could fix all their problems with a hug and a little reassurance.  You think - I thought - when  you become a parent, oh, it will be so much easier when they're out of diapers, only to realize there's new mischief for them to get into.  Later you think, it'll be so much easier when they're in school or when they're out of the house... but it never gets easier to listen to my children be sad or frustrated or upset.

(I suppose the antibiotic is working, but whenever my NSAID wears off, my entire face fills up with mucus. It's the weirdest thing.  I still don't feel well. I'm in one of those moods (modes?) when I wonder if I will ever feel well, again.)

spring, fevers...

The weather has been mostly lovely.  A bit too hot, then it cooled off again, and now we're apparently back up in the 90s, probably to stay.  I'm not complaining.  Enough of the cold!  Plus, we're just about at peak ocotillo season here, and the larger one out front is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen.  

I finally broke down on Sunday and went to urgent care for antibiotics.  I've been feeling horrid for too long, and even though I kept telling myself I was getting better and didn't need them, I wasn't, and I did.  I'm also taking the new NSAID my surgeon prescribed for me, in an effort to calm down the C7/C8 junction that I tweaked, somehow.  The only symptom, besides the very rare feeling like I'd bruised my spine, is this weird feeling along the back of my arm, like the skin has been scraped.  There's nothing wrong with the skin, of course (scrapes heal well before 4 weeks have passed.)  I figure I'll give a good 6-8 weeks to resolve and only then I'll see the doctor about it again.  It's not that bad. 

School is making me sad these days.  My proposal is DOA, or at least I have every reason to believe that.  Last week was the writing test, and this week is the reading and math tests.  The last of all will be science test to my 8th graders, who frankly have had enough of this nonsense and are not in the mood to review anymore.  I just want to them to do well. At least I finally get my wish and we've kept the normal bell schedule and are just working around the students in their respective test groups.  That, at least, is a blessing, as is the fact that we're getting the testing out of way early.  That last part's great -- we'll be done in just a few days -- but my students are taking the AIMS test 2 weeks earlier than they did last year, which means that's 2 weeks less content I got to try and stuff into their brains.  

I'm trying to stay positive.  I'm trying not to take it personally that my proposal wasn't seriously considered.  I'm trying to avoid that square peg-round hole feeling that's growing.  All that will become easier if this crud ever loosens its grip on me.  Tomorrow is my third full day on the antibiotic, and I'm hoping for a breakthrough.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


That's probably not even a word.  But it's how I'm feeling, here at my mother's house, coming to the end of my stay here.  I feel accomplished, even though the inventory is barely begun: there are no more hidden caches of anything, here, now.  Accompanied by various siblings over my stay, we've excavated closets, chests, dressers, file cabinets, innumerable boxes and bags - and (just me) the attic, from where I heaved (many) bags and boxes of yarn, and books, and other unbreakables, feeling like the Grinch who had packed up the Who's Christmas quite thoroughly so he could heave it up the chimney.

It's quite a bit of work to excavate all that, but then another entirely to actually work through it all and dispose of it, sorting the good into piles and the recyclables one way and the trash another.  I am very pleased that anyone walking into the house would have no idea that any of that went on, unless he or she happened to see the piles of bagged trash and boxes of recycling ready to go out.  My timing there was lousy, although I did manage to get 9 bags of trash picked up this morning.  That leaves 6 to go, plus the recycling.  There's nothing I can do about that, so I just tucked it into one of the bedrooms where it's not in anyone's way.  I concede that's it's far from lovely, but so be it.

I wonder if I am emotionally defective, though, because I'm not finding this in the least bit difficult.  It is really surprisingly easy for me to throw things away, when they're my own things, and I'm not having any more difficulty here.  I can scan something written, or take a photo, and then I know I'll be able to access the memory, and that's really all I need.  (Never mind that I am bringing home an extra suitcase; that's mostly my mother's Nativity scene, which is a lot bigger than I remembered it being.)  In this, I am very different from my sisters, who were with me here today as we slogged through an incredible amount of saved paper.

Mostly I feel as if I've done some good. Once everyone has claimed what they want, we can have an estate sale and get the house cleaned out.  All this will make things so much easier when it's time to put the house on the market.  I have a breathless, "Oh!" reaction to the idea of selling this house, letting the reality of never coming back here sink in, but then that moment passes.  I'm busy.  My kids are growing up,  I have a lot going on, and my days of having 6-7 week vacations on Cape Cod are over.  C'est la vie.