Tuesday, May 16, 2017

post script

After all that travelogue, I find I'm not mentioning the shadow hovering just at the edge of my vision: I so wish my mother could have been here for this weekend, especially.  She was always, always encouraging me to go to back to school, and I know she would have been proud of me.  Then of course yesterday was Mother's Day, which is a Hallmark Holiday, wholly manufactured, sure, but still, a day when my family would get together and "open" the summer season with a big cookout at the Cape house, year after year.  That's how it was: Dad's birthday (May 4) and Mother's Day celebrated together, and  Mom's birthday (June 13) and Father's Day, celebrated together.  Forever.   No wonder I wanted bbq yesterday...

All 7 of us siblings were actively texting each other in the morning, and I had a good talk with one of my brothers, but this is a time that feels lonely for people I'll never see again.  I am more used to the feeling now.  I wish I didn't have to be.

Monday, May 15, 2017

graduation, etc

Not even half-way through the crazy times...

Last weekend was glorious.  I took Friday off from work, which meant late nights Wednesday and Thursday so everything would be ready for the substitute (the best one.)  The students have been energetic and not especially interested in instruction, which makes our jobs as teachers that much more difficult.  So the day off was most well-timed, in spite of the extra time at work it cost me.

Friday started with an early visit to physical therapy.  My lower back issues are about 98% resolved and my neck rarely bothers me, but my collarbone has become an issue as I do more upper-body work.  There is a lot of scar tissue there from my surgeries and it remains to be seen what really can be done -- but it is better, and we keep working on it.  I would like an exit strategy -- some way to know I'm done -- but at this point I don't know what that will look like.  It's kind of expensive but good for me in ways that going to the gym or taking a yoga class wouldn't be.

After the appointment, running around with a few errands, then home, and I'm not exactly sure where the time went, but then the kids were home from school and we were packing the car to head out.  We stopped at Trader Joe's for provisions for the trip, and got on the highway by 3pm, my goal.  My trip up to Flagstaff the previous week, on Monday afternoon for my Tuesday thesis defense, was at exactly the same time, but the traffic is different on Fridays!  Rush hour starts sooner, and it has been so long since I had to deal with any of it, I forgot about the Friday factor.  Fortunately, there were 3 of us in the car, so we could stay in the carpool lane for a big chunk of the ride and miss a lot of the traffic.Once we cleared Phoenix, the ride was smooth sailing the entire way, and we got to Flagstaff just before 6pm.

We stayed at a little motel just off campus, and walking distance to a lot of great restaurants.  On Friday night, DS1, DD, and I had dinner at Tinderbox Kitchen, sitting at the bar because they were still trying to accommodate reservations for post-graduation ceremony parties.  We obliged.  The bartender was both very charming and really skilled at her job, and it was very entertaining watching her work... plus I ordered two very different and delicious cocktails as a result.   (DS2 remained in Phoenix with DH for his ASP exam; he scored an Excellent from an extremely difficult adjudicator.)  The entire dinner was fantastic, then we headed back to the motel to wait for the boys, who got in just around midnight.

Saturday, graduation day, was a gorgeous day with temps in high 60s, a bright blue sky, and gusty winds.  We had breakfast in the room (I like having a fridge and a microwave!  We brought our own coffee maker... it just simplified things) and then tried to figure out how we would manage the day, unsure about parking and traffic and what-not.  We had a quick lunch at The Mayor, a quirky place with very good food, the sort that shows up often on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.  Then we headed over to campus to get a parking spot, and wandered around campus a bit.  We hit the bookstore and found DD's dorm -- she'll start in the fall, and is very excited to do so.

We decided to forego waiting for the shuttle bus and walked over the Sky Dome for the graduation ceremony.  I had to be there by 2pm, so I left the family and went off.  I had watched the earlier videos about how to wear the master's robe and hood, and I had a fair idea I was doing it right, but the master's hoods lack the buttons the doctoral hoods have, and it had a tendency to slide off my skinny shoulders.  I was very happy with my decision to wear my Keds rather than my black dress shoes, even though they are comfortable.  The instructions said, "Wear sensible shoes," and I just decided I would rather be able to do a lot of walking and not have to carry the other shoes around.

Graduation was fine -- it was nice being a master's candidate since we go between the PhDs (only about a dozen or so) and the bachelors (it felt like thousands -- probably was only one, though.)  In the staging area my adviser came by to visit and gave us navy stoles with the NAU logo on one side, and MAST on the other, a nice surprise.  She assured us that the administration is very good at this graduation thing, and they were, indeed.  The speakers were brief and relevant, and the awarding of degrees was pretty zippy.  Each of us had a card on which we wrote the name we wanted to be announced, and I was only a little peeved when the reader on my side of the stage skipped my middle name -- the reader on the other side read all the names each degree candidate wrote.  It was all over in a second, anyway, and then I was clutching a diploma folder and making the long trip around back to my seat.

After the master's candidates, the bachelors degrees took seeming forever.  There were rows and rows of them, but eventually it was over and then we all processed out in different directions, kind of like the arms of a starfish.  We met up outside for photos, and my faculty assured me that in a couple of years, when DS2 is out of high school, their PhD program will be up and running... sounds good to me, but 2 years is a long time, sometimes.  We'll see what happens.

Then we walked back to the car in the river of post-graduation ceremony happy people, and had a snack and hung out until our dinner reservation at 8 at the Cottage, a little French bistro just 3 minutes walk from the motel.  We had a spectacular meal.  DD was in heaven with her duck confit cassoulet, saying repeatedly it was the most delicious thing she had ever eaten.  Even DS1, who has eaten at very good French restaurants with us on several occasions, said he now "gets" French cuisine.  We had escargots for an appetizer and there were literally a dozen meaty snails in the order, enough for 4 people -- so rich!  I was trying to balance that out so I ordered the steak frites, but the rest of the family ordered the duck or coq au vin.  Desserts were an awesome chocolate cake and the truly weird but delightful iles flottant, meringues floating in creme anglaise.  Everyone was happy, then we headed back to the motel.  DH took off to come home and look after the cats, but the kids and I hung out and watched the penultimate episode of Samurai Jack, which is just killing me with how good it is. (sigh)

Sunday morning started off slightly disappointing, because we planned to go to a 9am mass at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel nearby, but when we arrived there we were told there was no mass, even though 3 different websites said there was!  So, change of plans: go to mass in the evening.  We packed up and headed out, and made great time getting home -- well under 3 hours.  Then, we attempted to go to the movies to see the new Guardians of the Galaxy, but I made a mistake!  The tickets I bought were for Saturday, not Sunday.  I admit, I was crushed.  I really wanted to see the movie, and I felt very foolish for making such a stupid mistake.  Of course there are no refunds in such a case, so money spent on nothing, another thing making me feel foolish.

I allowed myself a little time to feel sorry for myself but then pulled myself together and went out grocery shopping with DD, then I took the kids to the late mass at St. Mary's, and then I decided I wanted bbq for dinner so we got a ridiculous amount of food from Famous Dave's and it was all delicious, an undoubtedly good decision.

Somewhere in there, I made a final exam and end-of-year review for my 7th grade math class, because inexplicably there is no district version.  I am a little peeved about having to do that extra work, but I survived.  I also finally looked into ZipGrades, and it's going to make grading finals (all multiple choice...) a snap.  I even think I'll have fewer than 100 scans for all the finals I'm doing, so I won't have to pay until the beginning of next school year --- it's not that big a deal ($6.99), I just don't want to pay for something I'm not going to use for months because it's summer.

Only 9 days left of school, and I admit, my heart's not in it -- graduating has made my heart and head sync up to say, "I'm done!"  I want to relax and celebrate, but I have to wait a couple of weeks.  Really , the hard part is over.  I just have to hang in there.

I didn't expect to feel different when I graduated.  I thought it would be kind of like a birthday, where you feel exactly the same the day after as the day before.  I realize that it's not like that at all, because a birthday is something that happens to you simply because time is passing by.  It really has nothing to do with you, you just happen to be there.  Graduation is a completely purposeful thing, and now that it has happened, I feel lighter even than when my committee approved my thesis.  Every time I think of it, I get a big smile on my face, and it's hard for me to stay feathers-ruffled about anything for any length of time.  I don't really even know what it will be like to not be in grad school, since I feel like I've been doing the program forever.  It will be fun to find out.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

t-minus 2 days to crazy times

May 1: all day meeting, new science curriculum! (again)

May 2: thesis (ok, ok, non-thesis project) defense at NAU

May 4: DD's senior dinner

May 7: DS2 piano master class

May 12: DS2's  ASP (piano) exam

May 13: my graduation!!!!!!!

May 19: The Book of Mormon at Gammage

May 25, day: field trip

May 25, evening: 8th grade promotion ceremony (my students)

May 26: DD's graduation!!!!!!!

May 27: fly out

May 28:  niece's wedding!!!!!!!

June 3: DS2's piano recital

June 5-6:  DD's orientation at NAU

June 12-15: TIBSS class at ASU Poly (if my team's application is accepted)

June 15: new flooring delivery

June 19-20-21(?): new flooring installation

July 8-15: Connecticut!

(shhhhhh: July 18: teachers report back to school!)

There's a little breathing room here & there.  It's going to fly by!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

never ignore that "I should be doing something" feeling...

I did, last night, thinking about my teaching and what I had coming up in the next few days.  I prepped like a madwoman over the weekend so I really didn't have to do anything for teaching last night.

Yeah, my thesis was due today.  (ha!)

Fortunately, my adviser finally sent me her comments, and I crunched through it all this evening in a few hours.  The thing that took the longest was re-crunching after Word ate half the document.  It looked just like the Delete key was stuck, and there was no way to un-stick it.  I waited until it consumed the rest of the document, to see if I could "undo" to get it back, but no luck.  I couldn't get a response of any kind, so I had to kill it with the Task Manager and start over with the recovered version.  It was very distressing at the time, but things worked out OK.

It's 77 pages long!  Without a doubt the longest thing I've ever written.  The actual text only runs to page 40, and then it's a lot of appendices, but since I wrote the appendices, too, I figure it's OK to claim all 77 pages for myself.

counting down...

I don't want to wish my life away, but I am seriously counting down the days until 1) my thesis defense 2) my graduation 3) the last day of school 4) DD's graduation 5) my niece's wedding and finally 6) the installation of the new flooring upstairs.  (I haven't mentioned that before, but it's been in the works for quite a few months now.)  DS2 has a piano exam and a recital in there, too, but that list is already way too long.

I had my semi-annual (?) ultrasound and blood work today for  my doctor at Banner M. D. Anderson, and I'll see him next week for results.  The technician measured a lot of things and took a zillion photos.  Nothing I saw looked particularly firm, fixed, and rounded, although some of the nodes did look quite large.  Phlebotomist went for a vein in my right hand (!!!) and got it first try, four tubes filled, didn't blow out or anything. Now I'm working diligently to forget it even happened, lest I drive myself crazy with conjecture.

I worked late Friday and literally all day Saturday to be able to take today off, and it really was lovely not going in today.  I do feel as if I was supposed to do something, but I'm not quite sure what.  I checked my emails and responded to the ones that needed responses... I'm sure I'll find out tomorrow.

The big motivation behind working so hard on Saturday was so Easter Sunday could be  a true day off, too.  Everything turned out lovely, and we've already plowed through a substantial amount of the leftovers.  I made the French orange cake but as cupcakes, and I over-filled them so they really do need to be refrigerated or else they completely fall apart into (delicious) piles of goo.  Fresh orange zest and juice, right off the tree, gives such an incomparable flavor.  (DH harvested the last of the oranges, and I spent about an hour juicing them this afternoon.  Got the first batch of oj-ice cubes freezing now.)

I like this, being able to spend time thinking about the house and getting things (albeit small things) done.  I am constantly giving myself pep talks: it's really only 3 more weeks of instruction, then review for finals, finals week, and promotion week.  It will go by fast!

My adviser sent comments on my thesis today, and it's just a few tweaks here and there.  *whew*  I will package it up this week and put together my presentation -- only 15-20 minutes, that's easy!  I am not feeling stressed about it, other than having to drive up to Flagstaff after work.  I suspect I will have to resort to caffeine... but if I actually leave at 4PM like I'm supposed to, I can actually get up there before it gets too dark...

It's too soon to think about it.  I have to stop casting my thoughts so far ahead and just get through tomorrow! Time keeps on slipping...

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

nearly there...

Sometimes, I decide to stay up "stupid late" because no one is bothering me, and I'm actually getting stuff done. 

Last night was one of those nights.  I traded in my hours of sleep for hammering out a nearly-complete draft of the last pieces of my non-thesis project.  It was a good trade.  Now it's just clean up and formatting, which always take longer than they should, but at least the end is in sight.


Monday, March 20, 2017

it's always the same question

Why am I still up?

I was working, then I finished working, and I could have gone to bed 2 hours ago, but I didn't.

Spring break is over, back to school, back to routine, maybe that will help?  I got most everything done that I wanted to, over break, so that the rest of the year should be less hectic.  That's good, so why don't I feel good about it?

I am feeling a bit sorry for myself, because this really was not a vacation, just working in a different place and with no contact time (time with students.)  Planned 6 classes plus special tutoring/review sessions for all 3 of my math classes, which of course involved scheduling and finding the appropriate resources, and then copying everything.

Copying everything took 4 hours today.  Some of that time was spent getting the physics workbooks to print correctly, but not much.

Perhaps "sorry for myself" isn't quite right.  Definitely more than one thing going on: exhaustion, anger, worry, disappointment.   A bundle of ick. I would probably feel better if I got some sleep, so I'll try that.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

examination of conscience

Last Wednesday (not yesterday, last week) was Ash Wednesday.  We're already one-sixth of the way through Lent.

I don't think I can adequately express how much I've been struggling lately with managing everything, even though I've certainly complained here about it quite a bit.  But complaining always, always feels wrong, because no one imposed this on me, I took it on myself.

In the last week, reflecting in the way that Lent leads me to, I've been trying to figure out how exactly I got into this mess.  This mess being: teaching 6 different classes, all with new-to-me curriculum (one class, indeed, which I am literally making up as we go along), plus being junior high lead in a new school, all while finishing my non-thesis project so I can finally graduate with my masters degree.  [I have declared my intention and set my defense date, and I've booked the hotel rooms for graduation weekend.  I will graduate this spring.]  Plus, of course, being a wife and a mother and, in  much diminished role, a sister, because I'm no living person's daughter anymore.

I have been crazy-overworked before.  This is not like that.  I love my job, but there is literally too much of it for me to handle on a day-to-day basis.  It is amazing I haven't collapsed yet.  I keep wondering, like the Talking Heads, "How did I get here?"   I realized that math lessons in the beginning of the year are simple, but over the course of the year, they are cumulative.  So back in September, each lesson (I teach 3 different lessons each day) was only one or two pages of notes, but now they are more like three to four.  Back in the first semester, when I volunteered for class #6, I thought, "I got this.  I can do it,"  because I was handling five classes at that point and it was ... manageable.

It never occurred to me to think about how that might change over the course of the school year.   I was in a groove.  "I got this."  A little more?  No problem.  Only, not really.  Really a big problem, a sin I carry around with me all the time in my heart and never admit, and now it's my Cross:


Yes, I'm smart, and quick, and more than competent.  But there are only so many hours in a day, and even though I can function on just a few hours' sleep, that's not an optimal situation for anyone in my life, especially me.

There's nothing for it, now.  Spring break is coming up, and I'm hoping to plan and work ahead to make fourth quarter easier.  I just have to work through this, and I can, and I will -- but the lesson here is to stop and think about over-committing myself in the future.  No matter how good I think I am, at whatever it is, I don't have the kind of control over the space-time fabric of the universe that doing my job, managing my own personal life, and getting enough sleep would require.

I'm feeling weird and knocked down a bit, but the only person that feeling is coming from is me.  I get nothing but support and love from everyone around me, which explains the "weird" part.  How can I feel like I'm in so much trouble when I've never been in such a good place, surrounded by such good people?  It's all on me.

Never to old to learn.