Sunday, October 31, 2010

Time Here and Away

Last weekend Stein went to Chicago with some friends and I got to have a girls' weekend with Mickey and Bre. We kind of got away from our traditional girls' weekends, so it was so nice to get back to it. They got in on Friday and left on Sunday. In between those two days we packed in some shopping, eating, drinking, game playing, a trip to the cider mill, and a whole lot of talking.

I have been having some pretty stressful weeks at school lately. It has nothing to do with the kids, but rather the "other" stuff that goes along with teaching. There's some politics, some eggshell walking, some tricky scheduling, and lot of switching gears every few minutes. When I get home from school, I don't want to do anything but stare at the TV, shove some food into my mouth, and go to bed.

Having Mickey and Bre here turned my attitude around. They sat through a vent of mine right when I got home on Friday, and there were so many times throughout the weekend when they offered an ear or advice on whatever it was that I was talking about. We didn't do too much but hang out. I needed to do that. I needed to let go of whatever it was that I was thinking of doing, and needed to unwind. I didn't realize just how tight I was wound.

This past Friday, Stein picked me up from school, and we were soon on the road going north. We spent the weekend in Harbor Springs. We didn't have anything planned other than wanting to go to one of our favorite restaurants. Again, the timing was perfect. The stress continued this past week, and the weekend provided me with another reprieve.

We got in on Friday night, and had a beer and burger at a casual local restaurant. We made our way through the winding dark road to where we were staying and schlepped our stuff inside. Stein made a fire in the fireplace and I settled onto the couch. I don't think I was on the couch more than 10 minutes when I fell asleep. I trudged upstairs and fell into bed, barely moving until the next morning. When I looked at the clock, I realized I slept for 10 hours. I guess I needed the sleep.

Stein and I walked into town along the water to get some breakfast. It was a great walk on an overcast day, looking at houses boarded up for the season, and bushes and trees wrapped up in preparation for the elements of the harsh winter. We needed to look at nature. We needed to hear the water lap up on the shore. We needed to hear water slip down a stream.

After breakfast, we took turns napping, eating, and reading for the rest of the afternoon. I did make it out at one point to buy some snacks for us to eat before going to dinner. We made our way into Petoskey for a late dinner and were back assuming our positions in the living room a short time later.

This morning we stopped at one of our favorite places for breakfast in Charlevoix, where we indulged in pumpkin bread french toast. I'm still full almost 5 hours later. We then meandered our way back home, traveling back south on the winding roads that carried us north just 2 days before.

These two weekends have been just what the doctor ordered. Taking time out, slowing down, and savoring the still and the relationships that keep us sane.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

On the Other Side

Three years ago, I sat in conference rooms at the student center at EMU and listened to people give advice about various student teaching topics. I was most interested in learning about what I needed to get a job, what I should be prepared for during an interview, and what I should do in these crazy economic times.

Three years later, I was sitting in a conference room again. This time, though, I was the one giving advice. The experience was surreal, and the audience had people that seemed so inexperienced. I was the same way, three years ago, thinking I had it all together with the months I had been in the classroom student teaching. Oh, what a sheltered thought and life that was.

It felt so good to be there, as part of a panel of three, sharing our experiences since student teaching, and offering advice for finding a job and then sharing some first-year teaching nuggets of wisdom. The three of us have had similar experiences with all kinds of jobs from long-term sub jobs, to after school programs, and summer school.

Some of the people in the audience had the deer-in-the-headlights look the whole time. I would love to know what they were thinking. I would think it was similar to what I was thinking at various points in the past three years. How much longer can I work for people and not get a job? How much longer can I spin my wheels? Why did I make this career change in the midst of the worst economic times? Am I destined to be a long-term sub forever? And the questions could go on and on.

I think (and hope) that the main message this audience got was that you have to be persistent, you have to make connections and network, and you have to work hard. Jobs aren't going to come knocking on your door. You're going to have to bang down doors yourself.

Even a month and a half into school, I still have to pinch myself sometimes that I'm a full-time, real live teacher. I am so thankful to be here, and it was so satisfying to tell my story.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Quick Dinner

A couple nights ago, I went to make dinner and was ready for the old standby of pasta with sausage. After scanning the kitchen for something different to put in the pasta, I saw some sad looking tomatoes that we picked last week but never used. I also thought about the tomatoes still clinging to the vines outside that will eventually need to be used. (We started our plants a bit too late. We have a ton of flowers still on our plants that I'm afraid will get frostbite before too long).

I thought some sort of pasta salad with roasted tomatoes would be good. I looked up this recipe from Ina Garten and boiled some water for the pasta while the tomatoes roasted. When the pasta was done, I drained it and doused it with some olive oil, crushed red pepper and basil. When the roasted tomatoes were ready, I added them to the pasta with some goat cheese. Oh mama, it tasted great together. It would be great on its own, but it made a great accompaniment to the sausage we had.

I love when a plan comes together, spontaneously.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Reason #2,473

I was on a teacher website yesterday looking for resources for Mickey and me, and stumbled on a discussion thread about new teachers. There were veteran teachers and new teachers who were chiming in about the roller-coaster experience that is the first year of teaching. The new teacher who started the thread was basically at her breaking point and was thinking that teaching wasn't for her. The veteran teachers kept telling her to stick it out, that it gets better.

Knock on wood, I'm not at my breaking point. That's not to say that I'm not busy, that I don't think about the kids in my class when I'm up at night, that I don't spend a good amount of my free time either thinking about school or preparing things for school. I think my time spent as a long-term sub in different capacities has taught me some things that most teachers learn in their first year. I'm still learning, of course, but I feel (keep knocking on that wood) that I am keeping my head above water (cue "Good Times" theme here).

In thinking about all that I do, especially at home, I have one person to thank.

That boy Stein.

Ever since August when I knew I had an interview, he has jumped in and helped me every step of the way. He helped me put together my mini-portfolios before the interview, helped me celebrate when I got the job, helped me move my stuff into my room on a hot weekend day. And when school started? He has been taking over most of the responsibilities we typically share at home including laundry, cleaning and cooking. Oh, and correcting papers. He always asks what there is to correct, gets out a marker (never red, of course) and goes to town. He has saved me on more than one night when I was able to get to bed at a decent hour and had a good meal in my belly.

I know that without his support, I may be at the point of that first-year teacher on the discussion thread. I feel so lucky. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is reason #2,473 why I married that man. And reason #2,473 why I am thankful to have him in my life.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Ready or Not, It's Here

There's a fire in the fireplace roaring as I write this. Stein is eating the chili that I made yesterday. The pumpkin bread I baked this morning sits on the counter. Our new furnace is pumping out heat. I just got in from covering the tomatoes.

Fall is here.

It happened officially two weeks ago, but I didn't want to believe it. I also was still in the throes of beginning school, trying to get used to a new routine, a new school, and new kids. Now that we're into October and I've had a chance to breathe just a bit, I've taken notice of what's been happening around me. Trees are changing from greens to yellows, oranges and reds. The sunlight has tilted and puts off a golden glow when it hits the ground. The skies are bright blue when it's sunny, and dark, dark grey when it's raining. It feels different. It smells cold and crisp.

That bittersweet feeling comes back to me at this time every year. Sad that summer is ending, but excited to have a change. New foods in season, new clothes to wear, new ways of doing things.

I am trying to have a better attitude this year. Having some things planned in the next few months already is helping. Knowing that within a few months time I will see daffodils and tulips poking up through the dirt helps too. Knowing that sitting on the couch watching the fire while wrapped up in a blanket is not such a bad place to be will get me through. It always does.