Monday, August 31, 2009

Estrogen Overload

The brain cloud is clearing, the fuzziness that settled in and made the past week or so rather, well... filled with blonde moments... is finally subsiding, and I am breathing a huge sigh of relief. That sigh will be complete tomorrow when I hand in my promotion and tenure materials. Thank God. I feel really good about them, too. So much so, I'm done talking about it for awhile.

No, what is really fascinating me right now is estrogen. Estrogen, and all those fun hormones that run amuck in puberty stricken young women. Namely, my oldest - DD1.

Bless her heart - she is teary eyed at the drop of a hat. Her anxiety level is easy to kick in. And nothing is fair. Particularly how she has to do everything because she is the oldest. These days it seems like she is in a constant stage of PMS, and perhaps that is the best way to describe it.

I have to admit I've enjoyed this age way more than I thought I would. I secretly dreaded middle school with her, and I have good reason for that - middle school is hell. We survived her first year, and while I'm not really sure what this year has in store, I've decided I could either fret about it or laugh about it. So far, laughing is winning.

Watching her is amazing, though. She is torn between doing the things she wants to do and the things she thinks she is supposed to do. Last week we went to a local playground after dinner and she ran around like a kid - it was great watching her. Earlier that day we went shopping and she bought things that fit a certain image that she is trying to create. Such a dichotomy of wants and needs, yet both fascinating and fun to be a part of.

So, Sunday, when I was in the midst of the insanity that is tenure and promotion, I let the kids know that I would need to go to the office for awhile. They were fine with staying home and being couch potatoes. Prior to my leaving, we folded clothes and I had the kids put their clothes away. For some reason, this prompted a hissy fit on DD1's part about her sister being in her space, clothes that aren't hers, how her clothes don't fit right, etc. I was in my fog, so I don't remember much about it other than being mildly irritated with her. She made some comment about how her room was driving her nuts, so she disappeared for awhile. A little bit of time passed. I talked with DD2 as I got ready to go, and then walked back towards DD1's room to let her know I was leaving, making what I thought was sufficient noise and saying something to her as I approached.

I walked into her room, and she was behind the closet door throwing things around. As she crumpled up bags that were in her closet, she emerged from the closet and proceeded to scream at the top of her lungs "WHAT?????", then she jumped - I assume she thought I was her sister - and started into a loud, hysterical, crying mantra of "I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I'm sorry!...." I did not respond verbally, but I know the look on my face was one of shock combined with the visual equivalent of "What the hell do you think you are you doing?"

It was one of those times I didn't have to say anything. What would I say, anyway? She knew she had majorly overstepped, and she was getting hysterical because of it. I may have been in that fog, but there are times that the best consequence is no discipline, so I left the room for a moment and got her some tissue, and when I returned I asked her if she needed to sit in my lap for a bit. She curled into a fetal position, sat in my lap and just bawled, continuing to apologize. She was clearly punishing herself more than I ever would for the incident. I couldn't help but think this is similar to the relationship between God and us - we majorly overstep, and we realize it, and God welcomes us into His arms, loving us despite our mistakes.

She finally calmed down, and I left the kids at home for a few hours while I was at the office. Later that night we talked about earlier in the day, and while she was still apologizing, she was also half laughing/half crying about it.

I wouldn't trade places with her for all the money in the world. I have determined there is a reason puberty happens when it does; unconditional love has set in, otherwise it would be too easy to kill the kids. Still, getting to watch her grow up, and knowing a lot of what she has in store - both the positive and the negative - well, it's pretty cool. I will be happy when the hormonal surges become a little more predictable, though.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Scattered, Smothered, and Covered

None of these are my brain.

Actually, I could be the one in the middle of the 2nd row. Bwahahahahaha!

This is my brain after working on promotion and tenure.
Yeah. That's about right. Why? Because. It's. Not. Done.

Close, but not done. I'd like to scream now. Instead, I'll go to bed and pray that the secretary can find the student opinion survey information I need tomorrow that I will have to cull through and type the comments from as a part of my "teacher effectiveness" section. If that can't be found, then I have to renumber my artifacts in my narrative and reprint all of the cover sheets for the artifacts that I worked on today. Nothing major. Just 5 hours worth of work either way.

I've really missed this weekend.

My brain really is scrambled. I was doing laundry this evening, took some drip dry things out of the wash, and then proceeded to put laundry detergent in the washer on top of the now clean but wet clothes. I didn't even realize I had done it until I turned the water on. They are really clean now.

The Continuing Saga of Tenure & Promotion

I've been working on tenure and promotion (again) off and on for the past twelve hours. But hey, when you have help like this, it's amazing I'm not already done. Plus, the kids are with me this weekend, and they've wanted to be fed on occasions. Weird, I know.

I'm going into the office tomorrow (oops - that's now today) to work on putting things together. Working on it today made me realize I have some pieces that I might have difficulty finding on Monday - can't believe I didn't think about them last week. Wait. Scratch that. Yes I can. Last week was insane.

I do hope I can turn it in on Monday. Tuesday at the latest. It's officially due on Wednesday. I'm ready for it to be done. I need to be focused on other things.... like prepping for class and teaching.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I Did It

Registered for my first half marathon. OMG. I'm really doing this.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Night Before The First Day

It doesn't matter how old I am, the night before school starts is always filled with emotion. I'm practically giddy with excitement. Wonder if I'll sleep well tonight? My cohort returns to campus tomorrow, and many I have not seen since April. I've missed them.

It's funny, in a way, when I think back to last year and compare how I'm feeling now to how I felt then. My job is to be a "Mentor Leader," which means that I teach the same cohort of students every semester for two years. We become a little family - often dysfunctional, but a group that learns to rely on each other because no one can really understand what they are going through but them. My first cohort graduated in May, and that, combined with a depression like no other I have ever experienced caused me to be in mourning a good bit of the summer of 08. Thank God for Lexapro, is all I have to say. Having experienced a depression that deep and that intense, I can honestly say I never want to be there again. I can also honestly say that I am thankful for it, because coming out of it gave me a new appreciation for life, and a new commitment to being present in the life I've been given. Yeah, it sounds sappy, but it's true. I may write about that at some point. Not tonight, though.

Anyway, last fall when this new cohort arrived I really wasn't ready for them, mentally or emotionally. It took every bit of energy I had to to psyche myself up for orientation. It was easier than before, as this was my second group, but also hard, in that the faces I had grown accustomed to seeing would never be all together again. I missed their presence and their energy. Yet, here I had a group who needed me to focus on them, and to learn about who they are and all that they had to offer. I had to focus on them, and the mourning had to stop.

One of the things I learned early on as a teacher is the importance of building relationships and connections with my students, so I embarked on that process. I'm not sure where the turning point was, but I do remember a point where I started "getting" this group. I also remember a number of "Come to Jesus" meetings that I had with a few of them, as well as one with the whole group last January. The whole group one was because they weren't gelling, and it had become problematic. Some of them had to take ownership of the group, otherwise we would be in for a long, painful journey.

And they did. They took it and ran with it, and finally broke out of a lot of the little cliques and started functioning as a group for the most part. It took a lot of effort, but I think as a whole they now genuinely care for one another.

I think, also, the fact that I supervised all of them at some point and talked with them individually frequently, plus required them to conference with me at the end of each semester made a difference, too. Talking with each one of them "one on one," and helping them to realize that I care about them as people, as well as letting them know their strengths and weaknesses helps them to see that I'm in their corner. I'm very good at my job, I genuinely care about my students, and this is something that most of them come to appreciate with time.

So tomorrow, there is no dread. I don't have to psyche myself up at all. I can't wait to see them and get a sense for how they are doing, other than through facebook. I am already so proud of how far they have come, and I can't wait to see what connections they make this year - a year of amazing growth as both women and teachers. They have no idea how different they will be in April. And I get to sit back and watch - savoring the process yet again. This feeling is why I would teach for free.

April 2009 - end of Junior year

Saturday, August 22, 2009

You Rang? Part 2

On phone call # 14 of the day, DD2 uttered 3 simple words:

I need you.

While it turned out not to be a very big thing that she needed me for.... wow, how that tugged on my heart strings.

I am so blessed.

ETA: Total count for calls today? 23.

You Rang?

DD2 is still sick - running a fever for day 3. I've quarantined her in her room; set her up with a computer to watch Netflix instant movies, and gave her the land line phone to call me if she needs me.

She has called six times since 10:52. I'm beginning to imagine what it feels like to be a butler. I'm also beginning to question why I thought giving her the phone to call me was a good idea.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Delay, Delay, Delay

I can't seem to get anything done this week. A good friend of mine who puts a bit of stock in Vedic astrology would tell me that Saturn must be in my house right now. Anytime she says something like that, I admit to looking at her a little funny, but now whenever it seems like things are interminably delayed, I think to myself, "Wonder if it's Saturn?"

Both kids have taken turns being sick this week. This week is the one that I had been counting on to get things done before I start teaching next week. DD2 is running a fever tonight, so not only did she miss school today, she'll miss it tomorrow, too. This weekend is also one they are supposed to go to their dad. I think that may be up in the air for her.

Regardless - looks like I'll be working through the weekend since I lost several days this week and tomorrow isn't looking promising at the moment. Taking my Vitamin C. Agenda prior to Monday includes finishing evaluations from spring (I had forgotten about them), finishing syllabi, finishing tenure and promotion. Unless of course, Saturn decides to come tumbling out of orbit and lands smack dab on my front lawn.

Kidding. Really. I think.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sorority Goober

It's recruitment season, and I'm such a goober around this time of year. I was never the "typical" sorority girl, whatever that may be, but when I went through "rush" as it was called then, I fell in love with the whole idea of a sorority. I was certainly not the most astute rushee - I think back to how I acted/what I wore, and omg it was horrible - but I found a home the very first day and consider myself lucky to have landed where I did. The picture above is the day that I pledged, and I'm somewhere on the back row because I'm "tall." We were a struggling chapter, certainly, but didn't struggle like some of the others did. I became an officer right after getting initiated, and ended up being President of the chapter during my junior/senior year. Here's a picture of what's left of my pledge class of 50 something by the time we were seniors. I'm in the middle sporting a really bad perm. Hey, it was the early 90s. Big hair was still in.

When I say I loved it, I mean it - the whole idea of ritual, lots of sisters, hanging out at the house - I was all over it. I lived in the house for three years - some of my best friends to this day I met in the sorority. The only thing I didn't like was when alcohol or men were involved, which is kind of funny in the whole scheme of things - one of the reasons to join a sorority has to do with socials, formals, etc.

So, when I graduated, I took a year off and then became an advisor for the chapter at Georgia Tech. I did that for four years and then applied to be a Province Director. Silly me thought it was hard to get such a position - nope, not hard at all. I did that for 9 years and got thoroughly burned out in the role - it is hard to have 6 chapters report to you and be the disciplinarian role for the organization. My "break" from that role was to become a member of the Ritual Committee - a role I imagine I'll have again during the "twilight" of my sorority "career." Two years ago I was tapped to be in charge of education for the entire organization, so basically I work on curriculum, convention programming, leadership conference programming - anything that has to do with education. I've been an active alumna for 17 years, which blows me away. Not what I imagined when I pledged 22 years ago. I wonder what is next for me, because I've moved pretty high up the volunteer chain - but at the same time, I don't do any of this because of me. It's because I value the organization so much and know that I can make a difference with my contribution. And just for fun, here's me at the last sorority convention - the big event that re-energizes me for the organization every other year. I'm wearing red, just to the right of the top of the bottom escalator.

But all of this is an aside. I'm such a goober because today is Bid Day at UGA. Yesterday was Bid Day at Alabama. The day before was Bid Day at Auburn. And I have been checking facebook and Greek Chat like mad trying to find out results. I know we did well at all 3, but I want to know where former students of mine have ended up. Don't really care where they end up, just that they've stuck through and perhaps can find a home like I did. I have literally hit refresh every few minutes looking for news - like I have nothing better to do. It's sick, I tell you. Completely sick. I'm such a goober.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Meetings, part 2

How important are meetings, anyway? Seriously. I'd like to know.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

One of Those Days

I am a pretty positive person. Can usually make lemonade from lemons pretty easily. Today, however, has been a struggle.

It started, in part, from my not going to bed on time last night (and seems I'm doing that again tonight). I woke up beyond exhausted. Then, today, for some reason, my kids decided this morning would be a good day to pick at each other. I can sense what is coming if I am in my bathroom getting ready and I suddenly hear someone running to my door ("Mooo-ooom.... DD1 is _______ [fill in the blank]"). Both girls were in tears for some reason or another this morning before we left for the day. Nothing like being in the car and telling the girls that they need to quit talking to one another. Or, having to use the tone that helps them to know that I mean it. It got quiet pretty quick.

We did manage to leave early enough for me to make a Starbucks run, something I don't do very often - I'm not a coffee drinker as a rule, but a few times a month I just need it. Like today. Unfortunately, I misjudged the drive-thru line. I was led astray by the fact that there was no one at the speaker. I pulled around the building after ordering and groaned... there's a line. Five cars deep. I did not account for the line, and now it looks like we might be late to school. Great.

Luck was on our side, though, and I got DD2 to school with 3 minutes to spare. I then spoke to DD1 in the car privately before I dropped her off next door about her attitude and her need to "discipline" her sister. Blah, blah, blah. We've had this talk before. I'm sure we'll have it again.

All..... Day..... Meeting..... That..... Accomplished....... Nothing.


(I knew what it was going to be before I went. I did attempt some wardrobe psychology - look good so you can fake it. I was moderately successful. Coffee, gum, and sweet tea helped.)

The afternoon and evening went well. DD1 and I went to the gym while DD2 was at dance. The gym is always good to clear my mind and make me feel better, and it did that for me this afternoon. Amusing incident on the way home as I thought back over some conversations I had over the weekend with my friend who came to visit, and I started smiling to myself - this caused my oldest to ask me why I was smiling, which took me aback - there have been several times she has asked me about my facial expressions now that she has moved to the front seat. I think she loves the change in dynamic between us now that she's up front, and I admit, I do, too - it was fun to tell her she doesn't need to know everything and just to keep smiling. I'm sure I'll get payback from her that is similar at multiple points during her teenage years. Dinner was pretty smooth, and I got to read to them at the table - something I love to do. For about a half-hour afterwards I thought, "this day will end well. Thank you, God."

Bedtime. As usual, I lay down with DD2 to talk about whatever she wants to talk about. She's bubbly about dance, school, etc. Then she starts talking about the morning, and she gets a bit emotional. We talk some more about it and she seems to get calm; I sing her a song, rub her back, kiss her good night - all part of our evening routine, and then I go talk with DD1. I remind her that she's not her sister's mother, and there are some things that she needs to quit doing - perhaps they need to work out a signal for each other when they need space. Decent conversation, but then I hear sniffles coming from the other room.

No, these aren't sniffles. They are full blown, heaving sobs from DD2. I walk into her room to see what is wrong.

"Mom, I wish sometimes we were a normal family."

Oh, God.

We talked it through, and she calmed down finally. Bless her heart, she is finally able to communicate her wants, and those include her mom and dad together, as well as for her stepsister and her sister to include her more. She talked about hating that her sister and step-sister tease her about her bunny blanket (which I have no problem with - as long as she needs her security blanket, she should have it). There are a lot of things that she wants changed that are not issues at my house, other than her dad is not here and won't be, ever again. Those are things I can't help her with, other than being an ear. We talked about the things in her life she has that she wouldn't have had if her dad and I had stayed married. She was able to articulate that she wouldn't have the friends she has now, or our cat, if her dad and I were still together. Amazing. So simple, yet so complex.

These moments tend to come at bedtime, for both kids. When she was calm enough, I reminded her that while I want to have this conversation with her, earlier in the day is better. I kissed her again, and headed out to try to get some work done for yet another meeting tomorrow, but it has been so hard to concentrate. Matter of fact, I haven't been able to. Which is why I'm writing this so hopefully I'll be able to sleep.

I know how hard it has been for both girls, and this is something I certainly struggled with before I got divorced. What is best for the kids? Ultimately, I decided that a mother who is fully present, happy, and emotionally healthy was better than a mother who had no energy and was hiding/dead in the marriage and had lost her identity. What kind of model did I want to set for my kids? It wasn't the latter, that's for sure.

I once told a friend that no one grows up thinking, "One day I'll get married, and then I'll get divorced." No one plans divorce. No one really wants it. But sometimes, it happens.

I don't regret my decision for a moment to get divorced. I have learned so much about myself since that time that I did not have space to learn inside that marriage. I don't regret the marriage, either - we had a good run, and we are blessed with two incredible kids who we wouldn't have otherwise. I've certainly had my highs and lows, as well as several failed relationships since, but nothing I regret or would change. I found myself in the process, and as my therapist commented to me earlier in the summer, I am a completely different person who is comfortable in her skin and deep down in the gut happy. And, despite days like today, that is the rule rather than the exception in how I operate in the world. How lucky am I? Very.

I hope some day that my kids will understand that I have the life I have now for them as much as me. Maybe they will, or maybe I am just greasing the palm of their therapists in the future. Either way, we don't have to be a "normal family." The fact that we are a family is all that matters. And if it takes days like today to remind us all of this fact, that's ok, too.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I should change the name of the blog

to Will Teach For Free - Must Be Paid To Grade And Attend Meetings.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Vent

I just need to vent for a moment.

What is developmentally appropriate about 1st, 2nd, or 3rd graders changing classes? Why do teachers get so territorial and don't want to leave "their room," yet are ok with a class of 20 something kids having no space to call their own during the day? If one is going to change classes, why not have the teacher change class, rather than wasting so much instructional time in transition from space to space? Discipline problems ALWAYS occur most frequently during non-instructional/transitional time. Why intentionally set up a problem?

Whatever happened to building relationships with a group of students and REALLY knowing how they are doing, in all subjects? Accountability? Ability to communicate to parents without trying to find a time for a whole group of teachers to meet with them? How does one build relationships on the elementary level across the board when one doesn't really know the kids? Where are we working to avoid discipline problems with the relationship building? Where is the really thinking about things from a child's perspective rather than an adult's perspective?

One chooses to teach in part because one loves children, right? And if one loves children, wouldn't it make sense to really think about what is good for them rather than what is good for the teacher? It's not about the teacher. It never is. It's about the children.

I really want to know who on the school level is asking the question: "What is best for the kids?"

I ask that all the time on the college level. If one works with children, or with people who want to work for children, that, in my mind at least, should always be the guiding question: "What is best for the kids?"

I just don't get it.

Monday, August 3, 2009

A Perfect Moment

A quick review of the past few days:
  • Made myself start writing on Saturday. Ten good hours of writing on Saturday; ten good hours of writing on Sunday. I finished the draft on Sunday evening at 11:30 PM. Looked at it today, made a few changes, sent it to my colleague a whole day before I had planned. 11 pages, single spaced. If I successfully interpreted the notes I took from the meetings and the feedback I was given a year ago, I've done well. Eager to see what he has to say.
  • I have finished grading for the class I teach as a consultant - turned those grades in at 10:00 tonight.
  • Successfully got the girls to school EARLY today for the first day of school.
  • House was clean and all laundry done by 6:00 Sunday afternoon.
  • Ran 6 miles Sunday morning.
  • Went to the gym this morning and was there 2 1/2 hours (including shower time).
  • Bought groceries. Leisurely. Ok, scratch that one - I'm just amazed I got to the store - I hate grocery shopping. Meanwhile, we have food. Which means...
  • I cooked dinner - roast beef, potatoes, carrots, and broccoli. A glass of wine. Followed up by Moose Tracks ice cream, aka the nectar of the Goddesses.
Yes, I deserve to bask for a moment. For the first time in a long time I can feel the stress leaving my body, and while there's a lot to do to get the new semester cranked up, I am confident that I can spend this upcoming weekend NOT working. This fact alone is worth letting sink in and spread all over for a few minutes.

Still basking for a moment.....

Just a little more.... bear with me....

Yes, I'm beyond thrilled about this fact! Plans for the weekend include running a 10K Saturday morning and spending time with an old friend Saturday evening. Knowing that I won't spend any of that time worrying about work that has been weighing me down for most of the summer? Beyond priceless. Simply perfect.

I know that I'll soon be utilizing this blog to help me avoid the inevitable - but celebrating this rare moment... mmmm.... Yeah.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Light at the end of the tunnel

I've made significant progress since the purging of my dread yesterday. Close to halfway done with the narrative - maybe a bit further, but overall I like what I've done. I think it shows fairly well my competence, and it certainly addresses the issues that were brought forth with my pre-tenure review. Hoping to finish up by tomorrow (Monday) so it can get to my colleague for review by Tuesday.

Possibly a little more I can do on it tonight - hunger is creating a bit of a problem, and I should probably tend to my kids on this last night of summer vacation. Can't believe they start school tomorrow.

Saturday, August 1, 2009


I have a huge sense of dread welled up inside me today. It's stress related, certainly. I should have run this morning, that would have helped.

I've known for the past year that I have to get my tenure and promotion documents together. I've gone to meetings, I got feedback from my pre-tenure review a little over a year ago. I've been doing work to write about as I put things together. Meanwhile, I really need to have the written portion of it done by Tuesday. Today is Saturday. It's not officially due until September 1, but the person who I want to review it needs to have it this week, so I have time to make changes based on his feedback. Again, all of this I have known.

This process is a necessary evil. The whole intent is to "prove" to my colleagues, some of whom don't work with me directly, that I am worthy of first, tenure - continued employment, and promotion - title change and a raise. It is really two separate processes, and consequently I will have two separate notebooks that I turn in - one for tenure, the other for promotion, that consist of virtually the same information. Tenure is a "have to," otherwise I lose my job. Promotion would be good, too.

Yet, in front of me I have this massive dread about doing this project. For one, it's difficult to be this introspective and share with my colleagues. The other is the fear of the blank page - and this happens every time I start a project, regardless of what it is - sorority, a conference proposal or presentation, a paper I'm submitting for publication, and the obvious - grading. So much that needs to be expressed, and while once I get into the project, I'm in, and usually engrossed and excited about the finished product, getting started is the hardest part.

I will say, I've had a full summer. I've accomplished a lot. The big project for sorority that had to be done by yesterday is done (except for little details that will emerge over the next week as folks at headquarters works on the project to get it to launch); I taught a class; I've traveled; I've done a massive redecoration of my home; I've taken the time to really be present with my friends and children, when they have been home; I've run several races; I've taken care of things that are very important to me. But this project has been looming over me all summer. And now it's time. I can't put it off any longer.

I really want to, though.