Saturday, March 17, 2012


My high school is closing. I'm shocked and sad. I don't know why I never thought it would happen. I knew enrollment was down, but I didn't realize that it was a dire situation. I wrote this post a few years back. The sentiment is still the same, but now it's more somber. Still grateful for the opportunity, the memories, and the friendships.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Around the Country

Hard to believe that it's been 5+ years that I haven't been traveling for work. I don't miss it, except for a few things like getting upgraded on flights or in hotels. Or having my own schedule for the most part. But all in all, it's good to be home, week in and week out, not having to worry about late or cancelled flights, sleeping in hotel beds 4-5 nights each week, and trying to find something relatively healthy to eat in podunk towns.

Right around this time, however, I get a little homesick for the road. I get this way because I have been in some pretty interesting places while traveling during the holidays. I really enjoyed going to different places around Christmas or New Year's. I loved seeing how other towns decorated. I also loved being in a different place, but nevertheless experiencing the season.

There was a time when I was in Daytona Beach about a week before Christmas. The cheap hotel rates allowed me to stay in a fancy hotel on the beach, which was extremely rare for my miniscule travel budget. I ate in the hotel restaurant which looked right out on the water. Although it was nighttime and I really couldn't see the water, I could hear it. Meanwhile, the restaurant was decked out in Christmas decorations. I bought a hula Santa in the gift shop.

On that same trip, I had to drive from Daytona to Jacksonville to catch my flight the next morning. I stopped at an outlet mall that was all lit up with Christmas lights. It was an outdoor mall, and it felt so foreign to me to walk around in late December without a coat. I remember finding a Christmas song station on the radio. Another foreign concept listening to Christmas carols while the ocean breeze wafted in the windows.

There was another trip to South Carolina when I ate she-crab soup at an outdoor restaurant. The locals couldn't believe it when I told them about the temperatures back home. Trunks of palm trees were wrapped in Christmas lights.

I've been to Cleveland around Christmas, but that wasn't anything to write home about. Denver is pretty at Christmas, but can be precarious when you're trying to get home before a snow storm. Same thing with Indy, Minneapolis, and St. Louis. Pittsburgh is pretty at Christmas. So is DC. And of course in my biased opinion, so is Chicago.

Even airports get decked out in holiday garb. It's fun to see the nooks and crannies that people choose to decorate.

I hope you're feeling the season, no matter where you are.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

FInding Joy in Unusual Places

The news out there is not very uplifting right now. The economy, the resulting job market, the crazy political upheaval, being in a profession that is being scrutinized more and more. Yet, the one thing that I have been trying to do is relax, be thankful, and find sparks of joy. I have learned in my older age, that I need to take time for myself. I need to let things go. I need to say no more often. It's liberating. I also need to be thankful for all that I have, including a job I love, a house, food on the table, and family and friends who love and support me.

The joy strikes me at some of the most unusual times and places. A couple weeks ago, Stein and I were out for my birthday. We put our name in at a restaurant and then decided to walk around downtown while we waited. At one point, we went into a store that sells all kinds of trinkets and gifts. It's the kind of store that sells everything from cleaning supplies to wax lips to jewelry.

The woman working at the store was in her early 20's, and had such a fun, laid-back personality. While we were looking around the store, an older man (60ish) came into the store and talked to the woman. They greeted each other like friends. I gathered that he was the owner of the used bookstore next to the shop we were in.

After we bought the things we wanted, she said, "Oh, and now you get a token to play our game!" She then explained that they had a Bozo bucket-type game set up in their window display, and if you made it into the cup, you would win what was in that cup. As Stein stood near the cups taking aim at one of the prize cups, I noticed that the woman and man were outside looking on like spectators. When Stein's token made it into a prize cup, they both started cheering and jumping up and down. That made me laugh. It also made me feel good. It didn't matter that we only won a finger-puppet-like "We're #1 pointer finger hand". It really is the little things.

Hope you're finding and spreading joy in places big and small.


Next Tuesday after school I will officially be on Thanksgiving break. I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to the break. Nothing has changed with my class since my last post. They're still great. I am constantly receiving compliments from other teachers. I am constantly telling people that I have to count my lucky stars. And I do.

It's more that the things surrounding my class have really worn me down. Since the beginning of the school year, I have had curriculum night, parent-teacher conferences, national tests for the students, state tests for the students, and report cards. Not to mention after-school meetings for professional development, and staff meetings. Oh, and then "life stuff": out-of-town visitors, dinners with friends, planning for Thanksgiving, keeping up with stuff around the house.

Surprisingly, I haven't felt extremely overwhelmed by it all. Time has flown, but while the time plane is flying by, I can see it's a full flight. I am comforted by the idea that time will go by, things will get done, and anything stressful will end eventually.

I am equally surprised that I haven't felt the effects of the weather turning colder and the daylight getting shorter. In fact, I feel like the change in light and weather has made me a bit more productive. I get home and start to speed up a bit thinking that we're near bedtime. Then I look at the clock and there are still 2 hours left. I feel like it's a gift. (Talk to me in the dead of winter and I'm sure I wouldn't say the same).

May your time be full, and you find a spark of light in the darkness.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

It's Time

Time to write again. I'm not promising it on a regular basis like I used to do, but I know it's time. No one has nudged me back into it, thankfully. I just feel that it's time.

We're up north this weekend. In a place that we so needed to be at this point. Things have been crazy at school with testing, conferences, and just the day-to-day busyness of life.

I have been waiting to write about my class, because honestly I've been waiting for the other shoe to drop. In one word? Awesome. The kids are great. I have so many moments where I think to myself, "This is what teaching is all about," or, "I'm having so much fun." They're polite, kind, funny, and really insightful. Other teachers compliment them. Other teachers mention good things to me. Believe me, I'm counting my lucky stars...

Back to being up north. Stein picked me up from school after I had my last conference on Thursday night. It was dark already, and while we drove the 3.5 hours heading north, I wavered between having thoughts of why didn't we just stay home tonight and drive up tomorrow?, and, I'm so glad we'll be up there tonight to enjoy the full day tomorrow. Finally, we arrived. And I went right to bed.

The next two days were a blank slate of possibilities. We each had things we wanted to do or see, and we each wanted some down time as well. Last night, our plans to have a nice dinner were scrapped when we had a mid-afternoon snack that ended up to be more like a meal (who can resist being gluttonous with whitefish spread or horseradish-cheese spread on crackers?). We stayed in and ordered a pizza for dinner.

There were walks taken, magazines read, colored leaves whizzing by on a drive, a dinner with friends, shops visited, breakfast at a diner counter, mid-afternoon beers that felt so decadent. One of my favorite things about being on vacation is remembering that not everyone has the day off. That people are working when you're not. I get giddy thinking about that. It feels like I'm getting away with something.

We'll go home sometime today. Maybe meander our way home through small towns and along lake shorelines. What a break this has been. A break we didn't even know how much we needed.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick Maker

Growing up in a big city, I rarely ran into people I knew once I left my neighborhood. (Although my mom seemed to run into people she knew a lot.) I got used to that sense of anonymity, and I liked to think that if I did something wrong or klutzy, no one would ever see me again. I liked the idea that not everyone knew my business.

Now I live in another city, but it's a lot smaller. Here I can leave my neighborhood and still run into people I know. The more schools I have taught in, the more my chances are of seeing people I know in most grocery stores. I can no longer just run to the grocery store in my pajamas, I mean, my sweats and a baseball cap. Ahem.

Stein grew up in a small town. So small that most people know everyone's business. You say our last name, and immediately people start asking who you know, Stein, or his siblings or his parents? Or the niece and nephews?

Friday night we went to see our two nephews play football. High school football is a world of its own. I never really got into it while I was in high school, partially because I went to an all-girls school, and partially because my guy friends didn't play football. I never experienced the "Friday Night Lights" of it all: bleachers, bands, cheerleaders, kids strolling the bleachers, kids hanging out. The game was good (they won!), but the people watching was even better. It was Homecoming, so there was a parade of girls throughout the game strutting their dresses and tiaras through the bleachers. In addition to that, there was the usual groups of people who know Stein, know his siblings, and know his parents.

On Saturday, friends of ours had an Oktoberfest party. Of course we knew most of the people at the party since Stein grew up with most of them, and also the hosts were the local veterinarians. At one point a local accident that happened earlier that day was being discussed. The person who was hurt in the accident had to be flown to the hospital by helicopter. When the question was asked whether or not the person had survived, our friend who is the local funeral director said, "I don't know, but I didn't get a call." It was at that point, combined with the football game on Friday, that I felt that small town feeling. The city-girl in me thought it was time to get back to our semi-anonymous city.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Never Forget

On this 10th Anniversary of September 11th, I just re-read what I wrote two years ago, and that post also has a link to a post I wrote years before that. It's hard to believe that it's been 10 years.
Today I sent a message to the District Manager whom I was with when we heard the news. I told her that I will always remember being with her on that day. She wrote back and said, "I can't believe it's been 10 years ago because the memory is so vivid." I agree. The impact that event had on me is so strong. The impact that event has had on our country is so strong. The impact that event had on the world is so strong.

Never forget.