Sunday, July 25, 2010

This Week I'm Feeling

-to see Chris, 2 of my college roommates and their kids, and another friend this coming weekend. We'll all be at the beach out east, picking up where we left off the last time, reminiscing and making new memories. These are friends who I feel so comfortable with. They know me so well, and I am so glad that we have stayed in touch.

-that I only have 5 days left of summer school. While it's been a pretty good program, I still feel like it could've been better. I already have an extensive list of things to do if they want the program to run again next year.

-by getting some things on my to-do list done while also catching up with some friends whom I haven't seen in a long time. The friends always tend to fuel my productivity.

-for the diagnosis of my friend's husband. It looks like they got all of the cancer during the surgery and it was not in his lungs, colon, or other vital organs. He still has a long road ahead, with chemo and radiation treatments, but the initial prognosis is good.

-about the upcoming vacations we have planned: the trip I mentioned above, and then a trip up north. I have a stack of books and magazines ready to be read. Or not.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Change in Perspective

The mom of one of the kids whom I tutor has asked me over for dinner a couple times. Between those times, and the times that she has dropped off and picked up her son at our house, I have become friends with her. We're not close friends yet; we're at the beginning stages of our friendship where she's learning a lot about me, and I of her. She is an excellent cook, and has an excellent kitchen, which provides the perfect backdrop for getting to know each other. Both times I was over for dinner, I sat at the counter in her kitchen for 3 or more hours just talking and eating. As it should be.

About a month ago, as she dropped her son off for a tutoring session, the boy said, "My dad has an owie." The mom nodded her head and explained to me that he had some intestinal issues and they were being cleared up with some antibiotics. The words for his condition and symptoms were flying over her son's head and swirling in my brain while he dug in our flower bed for slugs and other creatures.

Fast forward to last week when I was invited over for dinner again. As I watched my friend shake pans on the stove, marinate meat for the grill, and shake drinks for her friends, she told me that her husband was in the hospital. She swatted the air and said, "Yeah, it's more of the stuff he had before, but now they found a mass of infection and they need to do surgery after giving him a course of some major antibiotics." She seemed fine with it, and he didn't want her at the hospital. It seemed pretty routine to me at the time.

I should've known better. Rarely is the word "mass" ever good, except if you're Catholic and the mass miraculously lasts less than 45 minutes. I emailed my friend last week after the dinner to thank her and check in on her husband. I never heard back from her, which is very unlike her. Today I casually called her, and asked how he was doing. "Well," she sighed, "When they did the surgery to remove the mass, they realized that it was cancer." Her voice went up an octave with the last word.

I offered my sympathies, my prayers, my good thoughts. I told her to please call me if she needed anything. I said all of the things that I'm sure she heard countless other people say already. I wanted to stay on the phone to help, while at the same time wanting to get off so badly to avoid the uncomfortable situation altogether.

Out the window went the pity party I was having for myself last night and this morning. Out the window went pressure I was feeling during this summer school program. Out the window went all of the small stuff I had been stressing about. Does it really matter if I get my toenails painted before this weekend? Does it really matter if my house isn't clean? Doesn it really matter if fix the iTunes issue today?

No, no, and no. What really matters is people. And friendships. And family. And laughter. And love.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Pavlov's Dog

I know I'm speaking for my fellow bloggers when I say that getting comments on your posts is pretty cool. It's kind of like getting real mail in your mailbox. Not something addressed to "current resident" or to someone who has a name kind of like yours but has been changed in some weird way. The real stuff. Letters, cards, whatever it is that is delivered to your house, in your mailbox, to you. And it's usually from someone you know and love. I love the surprise of mail, especially now that we're in the digital age of email and facebook and texting.

So in the case of the blog, getting comments feels a lot like getting mail. If you have a blog, I'm sure you log into your space, scan down to where it says comments, and then scan to see if the number next to the word "comments" is greater than 0. When you see a one, or two, or bonus of all bonuses, a three or four, your mind starts racing. You think, Who commented? Which one of my four readers had an opinion about what I wrote and wants to tell me about it?

Lately I've had an onslaught of spam comments. They're such a tease. I go through the whole drill, scan down, see one or two comments are waiting, and click with anticipation to see who wrote something. But I don't know who wrote to me or even read the comment, because the sender's name and comment is written in Asian characters. Bummer.

So please, mysterious Asian person, log onto a translation website before making a comment. I'm sure you have something just riveting to say about my students or the recipes I make.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


I miss my third graders. I know how good I had it when I was their teacher. They were a great group of kids and I got to know them really well. I could have a conversation with any one of them, asking questions about things like hamsters, or sisters, or soccer, or whatever else was in their third-grade world.

Now that I'm teaching summer school, I know that I won't have the same relationship with these kids in my class. It's really not possible in 3 1/2 weeks to build relationships with them. I only see them for an hour and half each day. And all of that time is jammed with reading and learning.
I almost feel like it's a waste of time. I know that these kids are getting some learning that normally wouldn't be happening at home. The possibility of having "summer slide" is lessened by what we're doing together. But I really feel that getting kids to be engaged and learn is so much dependent on relationships. If they know you and trust you, they're likely to want to learn from you.

There's one little girl in the group who is going into fourth grade. She is reading at about a first-grade reading level. After working with her one on one, I said to her, "Great reading! You are a great reader!" She looked at me and said, "I'm not a reader." I looked at her in disbelief and said, "Yes, you are. You just read these words to me." She sat for a minute formulating her thoughts and said, "I don't want to read. I don't want to learn." After going back and forth with her, I realized that it was a losing battle. Her stubbornness won out.

I've been thinking about her all weekend. (That's one of the side effects of being a teacher; you can't leave work at school when you leave. You're constantly thinking about it.) I'm stumped. I've never worked with a kid who came out and said that he or she didn't want to read, didn't want to learn. I have made it my mission to figure out how to get through to her and help her see that reading and learning is fun. I don't know if there's enough time, but I'm going to try.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Spinning Plates

After a good fifteen-minute-long rant that I spewed to Mickey on the phone today , she said to me, "It's just a a lot of new things at once. It's all going to work out." I knew she would have a morsel of sanity to calm me down. I also knew I had to tell her that I wasn't on the verge of tears and that I was in fact sleeping at night. These two things normally get turned on (or off) at the first sign of anything stressful. I wouldn't say I'm stressed, just busy. Just trying to figure things out.

I started summer school this week, and while it's something that I've done before, I've also been trying to handle things that I haven't done before. Things that normally a principal or secretary may do. But in my case, neither of those people is present. Welcome to my school! Where I do every job required! Oh, and teach? I can do that too! Would you mind spinning a few plates? Because the hundred I'm spinning may stop and crash to the floor if I spin those too.

Add to this some tutoring I'm doing on the side. Two of the kids just started with me this week, so I've been trying to plan the lessons I'm doing with them in addition to the lessons I'm planning for school. No problem! Maybe I can take this spinning plate show on the road!

I know that things are going to get better, that I will soon be in a routine again. That is, up until summer school ends. In three weeks.

Our running instructor reminded us that we have six weeks if we want to run a race in Flint. Then I saw the date on the application: August 28th. That's six weeks away? That's near the beginning of September. That's near the beginning of school. I don't even want to think about it. Didn't we just bring out the patio furniture?

Although I'm not stressed, I guess I'm feeling a bit behind the eight ball. We're making plans to see Karen and Sara in DC and also go up north once summer school ends. And once those trips take place? Well, it's almost time for school to start again. Funny how that school thing sneaks up on you when you're a teacher. A teacher spinning plates.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

On Having Manners

I have been thinking about manners a lot lately. I guess I didn't mention that in yesterday's post. It's that attention span of a gnat, you see. Things come and go in a flash.

I have been amazed lately at the amount of nerve some people have. I grew up in a home where not expecting more than you deserve was the norm. I was taught that you get what you get, and unless you need to speak up because of unfairness, you don't. You don't inconvenience people. You get what you give. You are never entitled to something simply for the fact that you think you are entitled.

Lately I have taken notice of people who exhibit this sense of entitlement, this nerve. I don't know if there has been an increase in this type of behavior or if I am just noticing it more. Regardless, it never ceases to amaze me when I witness it.

I like to be mindful with manners. I say "excuse me" when I bump into someone, say "please" when I would like something, and say "thank you" when someone gives me something. I write thank you notes when someone gives me something. In my mind, you can never go too far with manners. It's a token of respect; of saying to someone, "I appreciate the effort that you're making for me".

A couple things happened to me in the last few days that made me stop and take a little more notice on the subject. Wednesday, I was at the farmer's market (ah, summer, thank you for Wednesday afternoons at the farmer's market) and got in line to buy some cherries. The woman behind the table asked what I wanted to buy. "A pint of cherries, please," I said. Then I looked to my left and saw a woman standing there. Instinctively, I turned to her and said, "I'm sorry, were you in line first?" She shook her head and said no. As I was paying for my cherries, the woman behind the table lowered her voice and said, "I have to give you a compliment. Thank you for asking that woman if she was next. There are some rude people who come here, trying to push their way in, and don't care who is in their way or who is next." I just shrugged my shoulders and said, "Oh, thanks, I don't like when people do that to me, so I wanted to make sure." She added, "Well, people also don't point out the positives enough, so I needed to share that with you." Okay, cherry lady, thanks for the manners lesson. Point well taken!

A few days later I headed to the garden center to buy some last-minute things we needed in the yard. As I left the store, I took notice of the woman who was in front of me in the checkout line, positioning her cart in the parking lot so it wouldn't roll away. She wasn't putting it in a place that carts were supposed to go, she was putting it in a place that was convenient to her. This is one of my pet peeves. It makes parking in the lot an obstacle course, and also makes the store employees go out of their way to collect rogue carts. After loading my trunk, I made my way back toward the store and slid my cart back in place where the other carts were located. As I walked away, I heard one of the employees say, "Thanks miss, for doing that, and have a great holiday weekend." It was nice to hear that, but I certainly didn't expect it. I just did what I thought needed to be done.

Where does rudeness or being impolite come into play? Where does it start? I'm baffled by it. I don't get it. And I guess that's a good thing.

Friday, July 2, 2010


I don't know if it's the six months I spent with third graders, or what. My thoughts continue to bounce around my head like a kid in a bouncy house. I tried to sit down and read a book the other day, and I kept re-reading the same page about five times. During the school year, I had the attention span of a gnat, which was only good for reading magazine articles. Now that summer is here, there's really no change from that. Oh well.

So, I'm just going to go with this tangent-type thinking, and list what's been rattling around in this brain of mine. Memories and thoughts that I've been going over as I start preparing for summer school to start, make plans for the holiday weekend, and make travel arrangements to see some dear friends at the end of the month.

-So excited for the flowers and plants that are blooming in the yard. Thoughts of pesto and other basil-based dishes are dancing in my head.
-The moments on the trip to South Carolina when I laughed so hard I cried. Haven't done that in a while, and I loved it.
-The generous gifts that I received and am still receiving from the students in my class.
-Wanting to go to a baseball game, eat a hot dog and drink a beer.
-Savoring the low humidity and low temp days we've had this week. My favorite sleeping weather.
-Feeling so thankful for my friends and family. Their constant support, encouragement, and humor keeps me going.
-Still running. And running further. Not faster, but further.
-Grateful for summer. And having time to think and take things in.

Have a wonderful, safe, holiday weekend!