Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Raindrops and Rainbows

In the short week since summer officially began, we've had interesting weather and experiences to match.  There have been so many instances where I thought, I should write [blog] about this, but the thought of sitting down to the computer again was just exhausting.  I passed.  But I did not stop thinking, mulling over events and circumstances.

Today was no different, at least with regard to busyness and stories to tell.  I am still tired and have plenty to do, but I must write to mark today.  It is the day I was called for two job interviews.  And that, regardless of what else happened today, makes the day memorable.

Sometimes it seems like there's never been a time that I wasn't looking for a job. I know that's untrue.  Over the years I would find a place, fall in love with the people, the community, and then find that I had to move on (thank you, budget cuts).  Since the Great Recession, the job market is even worse.  I know that for every job there are at least 100 applicants, sometimes more, all desperate for the position.  At first, I would celebrate, pump my fist in the air, for making it through the first hurdle -- a call for an interview.  Generally, if I received that first interview I would progress to the next step, and the next, and the next, until I knew I was one of two applicants left.  And then I would not get the job.

That can be very depressing.  But this time away from K12 education, this time at the university, has given me some time to breathe and some time to renew.  By the time I graduated (again) this spring, I did not know what, exactly, I wanted to do, but I had the energy to do it, whatever "it" ended up being.

I still don't know what "it" is, but I do know it's in the field of education.  (There was never much doubt about that, truth be told.)

Last week, as part of my regular job search, I applied for two jobs in a district that I love.  It's about 30 minutes away from my house, the outer reaches of my newly-set application boundary (after years and years of driving 100 miles a day for work I decided I am done with that), but in a place where I once lived, a place filled with teachers I've come to know over this past year (thanks to my current job), a place with staff members I adore.  Why not apply for whatever jobs they have available?  And so I applied for a building-level position and a district-level position.  I've come to the conclusion that the worst they can say is "Thanks, but no thanks" and I am used to that.

Confession: I only speak one language.  I can understand much of what is said in a second language (Spanish) and I pick up a good deal of a third language (Vietnamese) as long as I understand the general context.  But I only speak English.

To work at the two jobs in this one particular district, being bilingual is a requirement -- and for good reason.  English is not the primary language.  It is for that reason that I did not think that I would ultimately be considered.

Imagine my surprise when I received calls today for interviews for both positions!  So exciting!!  I am trying not to get my hopes up.  And, perhaps more importantly, I am reflecting on what I really want so that I feel well matched to whatever job eventually comes my way.

Regardless, I have two interviews.  Tomorrow.  Time to start studying.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Solstice

Today is the first day of summer.  As the solstice, it marks the high point in the year -- the day on which we have the most light.  I've always loved this day, but this year it feels more significant.  Perhaps that is because I am taking the time to note the day, rather than rush helter-skelter through life.

A dear friend of mine sent an e-mail sharing the significance of the day.  In it, she shared that the summer solstice is a time of beginnings -- the beginning of a season where we watch the fruits of our labor grow, mature, ripen, and become ready for the harvest.  Perhaps that is why I feel that today is significant.  I am ready to see the blossoms from all the seeds that I have sown turn into something beautiful, edible, nutritious. 

My work life seems to match the seasons.  I have worked to put forth some beautiful programs that will (hopefully) be a success over the next few weeks.  And then I am done with that job.  With new letters of recommendation, a new title, and a new lease on life I am ready to find whatever the next phase may be.  I think that this summer is time to harvest the fruits of my labor.

This morning I was not aware of the date, had not realized it was the solstice.  I awoke and realized that for the first time in a long time the sun was shining and it promised to be a beautiful day.  (The local paper recently published an article saying that this was the second-wettest spring in 117 years. No one had any trouble believing that.  Weather and Life were both overdue for a bout of sunshine.)  Like my lovely Lotus, I am somewhat solar-powered -- we both love the sun (as long as the temperatures stay relatively cool -- we are Pacific Northwesters after all).  Instead of feeling exhaustion, I felt exhilarated.  Instead of dreading the thought of applying for still more jobs (a very labor-intensive process, as anyone out of work will tell you -- especially when the job applications all want different essay questions answered), I had the energy for the task.  I completed multiple job applications and then Lotus and I took a walk around the neighborhood.

I do not know what the future holds.  But I do know that today is full of promise.  It is a day to enjoy and embrace life.  Tomorrow will see to itself if we see to today.  As my friend Marissa said: Be wild and free and alive as a tribute to all you have dreamed to bring forward now.

Happy Summer!

The Summer Day -- by Mary Oliver
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Peanut Butter Toast Dreams

I know better than to eat food after 8PM.  Even so, some evenings I don't get a chance to eat dinner until late and I think "Come on, a piece of toast this late isn't a problem -- it's toast!"  There's a still, small voice that says "Don't do it, you know what will happen!" but years of living with and around many children has made it so that I can ignore small voices when I choose.  And so last night I sat down for a dinner of peanut butter toast and a glass of wine. (Dinner of champions!)

Three things affect my dreams: sleeping in a warm house (I always dream of witnessing or trying to escape murders when I'm too warm), eating late at night, and stress.  Any combination of those factors leads to interesting dreams, like last night, for instance.

In my dream, I was in a ramshackle house owned by a friend.  A number of us were there hanging out and doing repairs.  For some reason somehow we got involved in fortune-telling and aura reading and someone predicted that I would have two significant romantic relationships punctuated by danger.  In the dream the psychic said that one would be with this other guy who was also in the house (no clue who this was, since he was 6'7" and I couldn't see his face because I was too short -- nice, dream. Way to go.).  I tried to explain that he was gay so that was impossible, but then the psychic said it had something to do with my shoes (black pumps, which I don't normally use but I wore to a wedding last night and that's probably why they appeared in the dream).  I explained I was already married once and didn't want to do that again, but the psychic said I had no choice.

Somehow, I walked out the back door of a house and found a movie crew setting things up.  It looked like a giant yard sale, but I guess it was a movie.  I said something about keeping the noise down and moving this crap off the property, which made Christian Bale (yes, the actor -- weird) very angry with me.  In my dream he had a temper and decided I offended him and needed to die.  I spent much of the rest of my dream hiding from Christian Bale and his assassins (apparently he had accomplices), both in the ramshackle house and in a nice hotel that was apparently right next to the ramshackle house.

At one point, I went to a woman who practices Kabbalah to ask her about how I could get out of this mess.  (This is probably because I watched Arranged a few nights ago and there is a Kabbalah scene in that movie.)  She did a few things and made a prediction about the danger I was in (and something else, I don't remember what), and then when I turned away (and noticed the former head of my department, Dr. T., sitting there) assassins burst in and killed the Kabbalah woman.  Apparently Dr. T. knew about this but didn't tell me it was going to happen.  I ran to find another hiding spot because I knew Christian Bale was on his way.

Then I woke up.

Weird, eh?  There are people who believe that dreams can have significance.  Personally, I believe that is possible.  But I also believe that sometimes dreams are just a way for the brain to process random information.  What I don't know is why I always dream of murders, why I always have nightmares, when I am too warm.  Sometimes I know to wake myself up, cool down, and then go back to sleep, but when dreams are very intense and plot-driven (as this one somehow was, even though I can't remember most of it), I can't seem to do that.  If I force myself to wake up, I have a headache, and if I fall back to sleep the dream just resumes where it left off, as if my subconscious were a complex DVD player (but one without HD, since I only see some things, like blood, in bright color -- everything else is in color but dull).

Maybe there is significance to all these weird dreams.  I tried to look up some of the things that happened using some random "dream dictionary" I found online, but the "answers" didn't really seem pertinent.

Perhaps it was just another Peanut Butter Toast Dream.

Note to self: Stop eating peanut butter toast late at night.  And find a way to sleep during warm summer months.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Creative Day 9: Chile Relleno Casserole Recipe

Today is a bit of an unusual day. Honey flew back from a business trip and arrived home mid-morning and so decided to stay and work from home the rest of the day.  This is nice because we haven't seen each other since Sunday and this evening I will be gone to a wedding of a former student.  (Honey likes weddings even less than I do and so is not made to attend, especially when the event is over an hour away.)  Since I was going to be gone for dinner, I decided to make a nice late lunch.  This was a double-bonus because I had some pasilla (poblano) peppers that I needed to use.  Time to perfect the chile relleno casserole recipe!

  • 3 large pasilla (poblano) peppers
  • 1.5 lbs ground turkey
  • 1 med-large onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 6 stale corn tortillas (optional)
  • 12 oz. cheese, grated
  • 6 eggs
  • 4 oz cream cheese (optional)
  • 1/4 c. flour
  • 1/4 c. corn meal
  • 2.5 c. milk
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp. epazote (optional)
  • pepper, to taste
Turn the oven on to broil and put the peppers in for about five minutes (turning half-way through) until they are blistered and slightly toasty.
Place the peppers in a paper bag for about five minutes.  At that point, they will be cool-ish.  Remove the seeds and peel the peppers, then slice them into strips.

Turn the oven on to preheat to 350.

In a frying pan, cook the onion, garlic, and ground turkey until the meat is fully cooked.  I usually make the meat the same way I make taco meat, adding whatever seasonings I feel like that day (usually chile powder, cumin, garlic salt, paprika, ginger).

Slice the stale corn tortillas.  These are optional and I have made this casserole without tortillas (and without meat).

In a greased 9x13 baking dish, layer tortillas, meat, cheese, and peppers.  You should have enough for two layers.

In a medium bowl, mix together eggs, cream cheese, milk, and spices.  Pour the mixture over the layered casserole and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes (until the egg mixture sets/is cooked).

Serve to a hungry family!

This should serve about eight, especially if served with a salad or fruit, but between My Baby visiting for lunch and The Teenager here, the casserole is basically gone!

**As a note, I have made this during the winter when I can't find fresh peppers for a reasonable price.  In that case I use a large can of jalepenos and a large can of green chiles in place of the fresh peppers.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Creative Day 8: An Artist's Date and A Card

Today was a good day.  It started off a bit iffy -- I hit snooze and then didn't hear my alarm again, so I woke up late and rushed out the door -- but I had some productive work time, a good meeting with a teacher to plan some professional development activities for the end of the month, and on my way home form work I treated myself to an Artist's Date.  A real one -- exploring, by myself, letting my inner creative child run free (at least for a short amount of time).  I went antique shopping.

I was told as a child "shopping means looking, not buying."  I have no idea if that's true in general, but it was mostly true today.  There is a lovely tiny town between work and home and this town specializes in antiques.  The entire itty-bitty main street is crowded with various antique shops, the occasional wine bar, and, sometimes, when business is good, a malt shop. (Malt Shoppe?)  In summer months people come from far and wide to walk up and down the street and buy overpriced goods that were probably once owned by their grandparents.  I am convinced that I've seen half of this stuff in yard sales for fifty cents or a dollar and now it sits proudly on shelves displaying price tags that almost laughable.  In one shop I saw an old wooden child's chair -- nothing pretty or unique, a bit wobbly -- for $50.  That's when I knew I probably couldn't afford to breathe in there and I should definitely keep my hands to myself.

One shop had, among other things, door knobs, locks, key hole covers, and every imaginable piece of old doors.  Including old doors.  I would've loved to find some cool door knobs for my sister, but again, they were too expensive for me to even look in their general direction.  Somehow, though, I managed to find a box of "furniture key hole covers."  A few happened to be in the $3-4 range and I figured that was probably okay if I could find something that looked cool and if I could think of a worthy project.  I wound up with two and I have an idea for a project -- but I'm not telling what it is yet!

Today after work I decided to buy a few brushes, better brushes, for painting.  While I still refuse to spend oodles of money on something just to see if I like it, I thought that finding a few paintbrushes for $1 each was probably good -- a step up from what I was using without breaking the bank.

My original thought for a creative project tonight was to do some more painting, but then I remembered that a former student is getting married tomorrow evening and I wanted to make a card for her.  Yes, I could buy a card, but I remember from my own wedding -- and so many others -- that chances are the couple will receive multiple identical cards.  I wanted something unique.  I haven't started a wedding line of my photo cards yet, so instead I made a card using a stamp.  Or, more precisely, my thumb and an ink pad.  I think it turned out okay, although it would probably be better if I had red ink.  Oh well!
Does it look like a heart?  I hope so!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Creative Day 7: A Painting and a Pissy Teen

Today was a long day and I've been exhausted.  That's probably what happens after getting only a few hours' sleep and eating WAY too much sugar today.  I would like to sleep and sleep and sleep.  Sadly, that's not really an option right now.  I probably should've stayed home this evening to get some things done, but Bestie #2 invited us over for dinner, so The Teenager and I went over there for the evening. (Honey is on a business trip this week.)

The food was excellent, as usual, and this evening we had decent weather and so we were able to take the dogs on a short walk, which was also pleasant.  Afterwards we decided to paint, which is how I ended up with today's creative endeavor.  At least I could get the brush to cooperate a bit more than the past two nights.
 Maybe one day I'll take a painting class.

As we were wrapping up the evening, I said that I needed to get home because I had to get up early for work.  Apparently both My Baby and The Teenager thought that I said "we" instead of "I" and because they both like to be obnoxious they gave me grief about "always" messing up my sentences.  After trying to counter that once or twice, I let it go.  Or at least let it go around the two of them.  They know my big complaint is that they don't listen to half of what I say.  It's teenager behavior, I know, and so I am trying not to let it bother me too much.

But I was a teacher -- and an (occasional) English teacher at that! -- so getting grief about my use of language really bothers me.  It's yet another practice in patience, which seems to be the virtue that one needs in abundance if one is to raise a teen.  The Teenager gets passionate -- and passionately upset -- about many things, and I have learned that if something bothers him he lashes out at whatever is close.  I understand that because he is basically a more extreme version of me, at least in this regard.  I also know that he does not like to be teased or made to do things he doesn't want to do (what teenager does?) and he gets very cranky when tired, so it was no surprise when he lashed out at everyone in the room, saying that we all made him angry.  I can kind of gauge his moods and know what to expect and, for the most part, I've learned not to take it too personally. 

When we arrived home I said that I think he hurt Bestie #2's feelings and he said he would apologize but he still gets upset at the way he is treated.  I asked about more specifics, to which he replied he didn't like the way he was perceived.  When I said that I respected and loved him as my Teenager and as an intelligent young man, that didn't seem to satisfy him but he would not say what bothered him.

This is why I end up spending sleepless nights.  I toss and turn and wonder what I need to do in order to help improve the situation.  Perhaps there's not much to do.  After all, I have little control over how he assumes I perceive him.  And on the days when he is well rested, he has a good mood and know that I love him and treat him with respect.  He is happy.

So I have no idea how much I should read into this behavior.  Is he just being his normal teenage cranky self?  Or do I need to change something?  Or do I just let it go?

I have been working on understanding and accepting my responsibilities lately.  This is a big change from my take-on-the-world-and-its-problems habit and I believe that it's a change for the better.  I feel confident in my abilities in all but this one big area: raising a teenager.

I guess that's what being a parent is all about: confusion, self-doubt, marked with the occasional success or happy memory.  I just have to keep reminding myself that teens do improve once they exit the sophomore stage.  Hopefully we're getting close to that improvement.  I could really use a break!

Creative Day 6: Dabbling

It's a poor workman who blames his tools.  But that is the way that I feel tonight.  I keep thinking "If I had a better brush, maybe painting would be easier."  I don't know if that's true and paint brushes are a little expensive to try as an experiment.

I did not have much energy today but wanted to keep up with my commitment to do something creative every day of the month.  I thought about saying that my gluten-free Betty Crocker apple coffeecake knockoff is creative, but that might be stretching it.  Instead, I picked up old newspaper and tried painting again while waiting for the coffeecake to bake.

In case you were wondering, these are "trees."

I have no idea what that is -- malformed goldfish swimming around flowers?

The whole time I was painting I thought that it seems like it would be easier to paint if I had a better brush.  Or better paper.  Or I can just embrace the fact that I am not really a painter but I enjoy it and just keep practicing on the newspaper.  Maybe one day I'll improve, but even if that day doesn't arrive for a long time, at least we have something to do with the paper every day.

Creative Day 5: Practice Makes Perfect?

Sometimes I get really jealous looking at how artistic others can be, wishing I could do that myself.  This week, as part of the Thirty Creative Days, I decided to do something other than watch the Green Jealous Giant Monster grow inside my head.  I picked up a paint brush.

It turns out that when paintings look easy, it's because the painter probably has some talent.  I'm not talking Oh, this is white-on-white-on-white, isn't it genius? type of bogus talent.  I mean real, honest-to-goodness-Robert-Johnson-soul-selling talent, like Bestie #2.  She saw that I was trying my hand at crafts again and she decided to paint.  She now has artwork all over her living room and it's incredible.  The Green Giant definitely started making an appearance!  At least this Monster is a bit more practical when it decides to wreak havoc with my mind: I hear whisperings of "Psst, kid, come over here. See that painting? You could totally do that. Seriously. You should go try it."  Apparently when this monster plays around the only things that get permanently hurt are art supplies.

I can't paint.  My first attempt looked like a child's fingerpainting gone horribly wrong.
As you can see, I stopped before finishing, hoping to let the paper dry so that maybe one day I can salvage it.

My next attempt turned into a doodle-fest with paint.
It was at that point that I realized I really needed to practice and I didn't want to use any more "good" paper.  What to do, what to do?  That's when I looked across the breakfast table and saw the morning's paper that hadn't quite made it to the recycling bin yet.  Plenty of practice paper!  And so I practiced.
See the squirrel-cats in the bottom/middle?  Practice has not made perfect...yet.

And so I learned a valuable lesson.  I need to practice.  A lot.  And I can paint if I find it relaxing but I should stop when it becomes a chore.

And yes, some people seem to be born with the talent to paint.  That is not me.  But maybe one day I'll be able to draw a squirrel and a cat (instead of some strange hybrid) and that, at least, will be an improvement.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Creative Day 4: Reclaimed Treasures (Rene & Sara are not allowed to read this)

Seriously.  Rene and Sara, you had better not be reading this!

Or maybe you just don't like surprises.

In any case, consider yourselves warned.

Last week I went to Good Will and found a couple horribly ugly ceramic owls. 

Interestingly enough, both my sister and sister-in-law love owls.  I was pretty convinced that one day I could give these hideous creatures a new lease on life and send them to happy homes.  Today was that day.

I spent a few hours in the hot sun (the first time we've seen sun in a LONG time here), mowing and working on our garden space.  After 2.5 hours spent in 80 degree weather trying to push a million-pound non-push mower across  tall grass, I was exhausted.  I did not want to do anything else today, but sometimes we don't have a choice about what has to be done.

I did have a choice about art.  Today was Day Four of Thirty Creative Days.  I chose something simple.  I spray painted the owls.

Normally when I spray paint, I choose either chalkboard paint or a bright color, generally something turquoise.  I am aware enough to realize that a color would date the ceramics.  Black paint is out because the owls are not going to Bette Middler's house circa 1985.  A classic color for figurines is heirloom white, which is what I chose for the owls.  And I can handle while in very small doses.
I think it's an improvement.  And thankfully I had enough energy for this project today.  Now...what will tomorrow hold?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Creative Day 3: A Finished Chair

We have First Friday Family Dinners every month.  It is a big event, so even when a number of people aren't able to make it on a particular month, we still have about 18 people in the house.  It's a bit crowded, but we like it.  Of course hosting a big family dinner means that my Crazy starts to show.  Even though I know that I will spend half of the next day cleaning up after the dinner, I still put in a full day's work to get ready.  This includes cleaning, making sure the yard looks decent (What if people walked outside and saw the weeds?!?), and making enough food to feed an army.  It's just once a month, so it's worth it.

But that does mean that I don't have much time for anything like crafting.  I did, however, decide that I needed to do something creative as part of Thirty Creative Days.  I also knew that I needed more chairs for dinner and the chair that I've been working on for a month looked awful, too embarrassing to use.

I bought this chair at a thrift store for about $3.  It was one of those horrible little kitchen dining chairs from a decade or two ago -- white trim with a pine seat, made even uglier by the chipping paint and the grime on the wood.  My original plan was to spray paint it and then weave paper together and mod podge it to the seat.  The paper weaving looked good...until I tried to put it on the chair.  Disaster!  I ripped it up and started again.

My second plan was to paint designs on the seat.  Everything I tried just didn't turn out and eventually it looks like a child used blue finger paints to ruin mother's dining set.

When in doubt, when all else fails, there's my standard go-to: chalkboard paint.
Honey and The Teenager weren't impressed, pointing out that no one wants to sit on a chair with chalk.  I said no worries -- kids would like it.  And at least we ended up with enough chairs for dinner.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Creative Day 2: Necktie Flower Pin

I've wanted to try this idea ever since I saw the tutorial on Mama Jill's blog.  A necktie into a flower pin?  Yes, please!

I've kept my eyes open for ties, but the thrift shops here seem rather expensive.  I did have a bit of luck last week and bought a tie for $3 -- it will eventually be turned into a pin for Bestie #2 because she is a principal and the tie is in her school colors.  But of course I could not experiment on that tie.  I tried to raid Honey's closet, but that did not go over well.  ("What are you doing? Put that tie back!" "You never wear ties!"  "I sometimes wear ties. I like that tie!" -- For the record, for the past four years, Honey has worn a tie three times and all three times it's been the same tie. Honey has not touched the other ten ties in the closet. But I digress.)  I did finally manage to lay my hands on three ties and then I remembered that Crazymaker gave Honey a Shakespeare tie about five years ago.  It's been in the craft box ever since, pleading for a new life as a non-hideous object.

Tonight, Master Shakespeare-tie got his wish.
It's not as nice as the tutorial, but I'll try again soon.  And it's much better in person...

Day Two: done!

My "kids" are the best in the world!

Today I was having a minor crisis.  This happens every time I have to look for a job, which, unfortunately, is more often than I would like. (Note: if you think you can change the world for the better, you may not be well-liked in some education circles, especially if you are effective in what you do. At least that has been my experience.)  In looking for a job I thought, why don't I just go back to teaching high school? I loved it and it was easier and had better hours than my current job, and sadly, it would actually pay a lot more. (Note #2: When the meager pay of a high school teacher is an improvement over your current salary, you are in the wrong job.)

Confession: I have two Facebook profiles.  One is locked and secure and is for my family and very close friends.  The second is for my former students.  Once all of those former students turn 21, then I'll probably combine the two, but until then, things are separate.  This has to do with my paranoia.  I have a deep-set fear that some 19 year-old would happen to see that Honey makes wine and then somehow it would spiral into a statewide newspaper story about how a teacher's low morals is corrupting the youth.  No thank you!

This afternoon, I posed a modified version of my dilemma on my "student FB": I'm thinking of returning to the classroom while I figure out what it is I want to do with life.  The responses made me laugh and cry and made me incredibly proud of my wonderful, intelligent kids.  I decided to keep these responses here on my blog so that I always remember.  If I'm tempted to think about this in the future, I'll have the voices of my kids running through my head.  (Ignore any grammar issues, as I have learned to do -- I am convinced that if I had four years with any of these kids they would now have proper grammar, but as it is I was only in various schools for a few years at a time.)
KC: You were one of my most memorable teachers even though I only had you in my freshman year. Good luck with the search and I hope you find something you love, you are an amazing educator! Thank you for keeping in touch with me over the years :)

JH (Not a former kid -- the mother of one of my kids!): Just your presence in the classroom makes the school a better place! People of every age KNOW when someone cares for them (or not), and you DO. :)

FN (who asked if I gave up on becoming the Superintendent of Public Instruction for my state, and when I replied that it's no longer an elected position and I didn't have the connections to get appointed for the next term (four years from now) said): So what you're saying is you gave up before even trying??? Lol yes connections would be a huge advantage to getting closer to the job, but who says that's the only route to take?? If it _IS_ your dream then why quit? I mean what would have been the point of becoming Dr. B-- if you're just gonna go back to teaching social studies to high school students when you did that before you even had that title? Lol don't get me wrong, you were a really great teacher, but I feel you can do even more for us all as the Superintendent of Public Instruction for --- :) dreams don't die Ms. B--, maybe altered, but still with the same concept... [a few comments later] Honestly, I felt some of the staff at our school were a little careless about us lol most were great but even then, when it came down to helping us succeed, only a small amount actually tried..
Its not so much that I'm trying get you to feel guilty :) I'm just trying to help you see that the things you have done in the past as just a teacher were great and influenced us to become better young adults, but now that you have a new title you should aim higher and help a larger amount of students and even teachers to reach their full potential by improving schools across ---.. and say that the Superintendent of Public Instruction is not the place that you were looking for, then search for the next best thing and along the way you're leaving us with a great example of someone pursuing their dreams when not many people can truly do that... remember how you use to push us to reach our full potential? Do you think becoming just a teacher is your own or in a way your limit of potential? Cuz I feel you can do sssoooooooo much more :)

SK: [FN] you make lots of good points. I agree and Ms.-- I truly believe in you and know that you can do whatever you put your mind to I believe you will somehow drastically change the face of education. You were the only teach who ever pushed me so hard and you know I always succeeded and I have you to thank for pushing me and helping me understand I was capable of things I didn't know I could do. Somehow you knew my potential and even though you may not know it or see it I believe in you, I want my future children to know your name and somehow have a better education because of you. GO MS. ----!!!

 My response: My children, you are all amazing and so encouraging! Really, you are incredible and I am so proud of each and every one of you! I was reading your comments to -----, who said "I agree with your kids." He's been trying to get me to see these points for a long time, to push for something truly worthwhile and help a lot of people. I felt that I was able to do that to some extent this past school year -- I worked with teachers to help them learn how to improve their own teaching and I worked with a student teacher to get him to see how much more he could do to help students. Honestly, it's a lot easier in a high school classroom because as a high school teacher I could see improvement in all my students as the weeks passed. Working with teachers or soon-to-be-teachers means that I have to work in a much larger system, and the larger a system is the more problems it generally has, which is rather frustrating. But I guess more problems means more areas for improvement and I do love improving systems.

There are a few things that I've thought about doing:
1) Open a school (I'm actually working with a friend on this idea right now, so we'll see if something opens by 2012).
2) Teach pre-service teachers in a college (so they actually understand what it's really like and push themselves and then in turn push their students to succeed so that we have fewer of the teachers who just let kids slide, as F---- noticed happened when he was in school)
3) Doing some sort of professional development work with teachers to help them improve their practice (which is what I've been doing this year but my current job goes away in July)
4) Create some sort of business that goes into schools and looks at their systems and helps them figure out how to fix them (of course like I pointed out earlier, this requires adults who acknowledge the need for change)
5) Become the Superintendent of Public Instruction for ----, or, similarly, do something that would allow me to work on a national level (Secretary Arne Duncan, I have some ideas for you!).

You are right, my wonderful children, I would never accept anything less than your absolute best, so I will keep pushing forward myself and see where that leads. You are all amazing and I expect to hear that you are incredibly successful in life. Thanks for your encouragement!! :-)

SK (again): You know as I wrote the last comment I thought to myself how odd it felt to be giving you of all people encouragement but I guess we all need it sometimes! And I will be the best dental assistant I can be and you can be the best at what ever calls you to action in education. Ps I really hope you can come to my wedding next week it would really mean a lot to me. 

FN (again): nice! great plan, now lets see some results in the future =] 
I do tend to hear nice things from former students and I keep in touch with quite a few of them.  Perhaps that's one of the reasons why I considered returning to the classroom -- I do love it and I can see results almost immediately.  But my kids are right: I need to push myself and be the best I can be.  Where or what that is, I don't know exactly.  But I will learn.  And then I will share with my kids. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Creative Day 1: Something for the Kitchen

Sometimes I have way too many ideas and not enough time.  Or plenty of ideas and lack the proper tools to carry out those ideas.  And sometimes an idea just needs to be tested before one knows whether one has the right amount of time and the proper tools. 

Today I tried such an idea: a sign for the kitchen. 

I discovered that without a Silhouette (or similar) machine, it takes a lot of time to cut out little letters. (I was going to try a quote from Shakespeare -- thank god common sense won that battle!)  Regardless, the results are good enough for Day 1 of Thirty Creative Days.

Thirty Creative Days

A friend of mine reminded me that June is the start of another annual Thirty Days of Creativity.  The challenge is essentially to create something -- anything! -- each day in June (or I guess whenever you choose).  I love this idea and I know that this helped jumpstart the creativity of another friend last year, so I think I'm going to try it.  I have no idea what I'll create today, or tomorrow, or any other day for that matter, but I have a Pinterest board full of ideas, a closet full of supplies, and an endless (albeit tired) imagination.

Who wants to join me on this crafty adventure?

Day 30: Someone I Miss

**This post is long and probably not very interesting, so please do not feel compelled to read it!**

This is the last post in my original Thirty Day Challenge.  Yes, I realize it's over a month late.  It's taken a long time to finish this, probably because every time I thought about the thirtieth day's task I wanted to put it off, I wanted to ignore it.  The task is to find a picture of someone I miss.

Now there are many people that I miss.  I've talked about how I miss my grandparents, and there are a number of friends and family members that have passed away over the years and whom I miss very dearly.  Yet every time I thought about this task, I thought of one person in particular.  We'll call her BetsyLou, which was what my grandfather, Bumpy, used to call her when she and my sister were running and dancing all over the place and generally being adorable little imps.

My family has known BestyLou since she was four or five years old; her family was one of the first that we met when we moved to the Pacific Northwest.  BetsyLou and my sister were best friends.  I considered her a little sister, her family an extension of my own.  I lived with them for a couple months before I was married years ago.  I babysat the youngest in that family when she was a screaming infant and now she is a beautiful college student.  In fact, I babysat BetsyLou and all of her siblings.  Our families had holidays together.  They were supportive when the Crazymaker and the A$$*&^% went through a divorce, their grandmother and my grandmother were friends.  In short, I just assumed that that was the way it would always be.

You know what they say about assumptions.

A couple years ago, BetsyLou and I started getting together and being more friends than siblings.  She had gone through a rough time, including a failed marriage, and she was starting off on a path of discovery.  That was something to which I could relate.  And so we would meet for coffee and chat.  We talked about our vision for the future, for education.  We talked about the writing that we were doing, each of us hoping to one day be a novelist, a writer.  We talked about family and memories and hurt and healing.  I loved our conversations.

As part of the family, BetsyLou was always included when out of town family, like Thin Man and Beard Boy, would visit.  She already hung out with a few other brothers on a pretty regular basis and she seemed to enjoy the time spent.  This picture was from a visit with Thin Man and Beard Boy about a year before Thin Man's deployment.
Don't they look happy?  They were all goofing off and had a great time.  I loved having all of them in my house.

Fast forward a bit.

We had a large family Christmas here in 2009.  BetsyLou spent much of the time with me and my family.  In January and February we met together as was our habit, and in March we saw each other at the beginning of the month for a brother's birthday bash.  Then that was it.  I called once or twice and left a Facebook message but didn't get a response.  I thought "Oh, she must be busy" and since I was hired at a new job, I was busy too.  I let it go.  Some brothers tried to call to get her to hang out with them, but they also didn't get much of a response.  They let it go, too.

In May 2010, Thin Man arrived on his last visit before his deployment with the Marines.  He called repeatedly, sent texts, and even once went to BetsyLou's house to deliver a gift, but she did not pick up the phone.  Eventually, she sent a message saying that she was going to her finance's house for dinner and so couldn't see Thin Man...at all. The whole week he was here.

Wait, back up. Fiance?  Yes, fiance.  She started dating a boy -- yes, I'll say boy because he was much younger, I found out through the grapevine, a former student of hers -- in March, around the time of the birthday bash.  She didn't let any of us know, just ignored us.  By May they were engaged and by August they were married.

I was not invited to the wedding.  Neither were most of my brothers and one sister.  My other sister and mother were invited.  I didn't even really know about the wedding until my sister called and asked to stay with me for that weekend, since she was flying up from California. (Side note: I found out not too long ago that another friend was also inexplicably excluded from the guest list. That made me wonder even more about what is/was going on.)

From May through that time in August, I was really hurt.  I tried a couple more times to contact BetsyLou without success.  I finally wrote a letter to her and sent it in August.  Before I mailed the letter I had two people (one a psychologist, one who is just really insightful) whom I trust read it to make sure that I was clear and loving.  Two weeks later I -- and the rest of my family -- received an e-mail response.  Let me say that I did not send the letter to anyone besides BetsyLou.  Honey knew that I was sending a letter, the two readers knew (but were detached from the situation), but that's it.  I figured it was between me and BetsyLou.  But her response was sent to everyone in my family -- including The Teenager for whatever reason -- and it was filled with more vitriol and personal attacks than I've ever received in one place.  The sad thing was that I understood she was angry, I had a feeling that she probably would be, but she left no room to talk and work things out.  I sent a two line response, which basically said that I was sorry that I hurt her and that I would like to talk and work things out if she was open to that, and I let it go.

Needless to say, I have not seen or heard from her again.  She and my sister -- and the rest of the family -- are Facebook friends.  She and my sister talk.  But I am cut off completely.

I spent a long time struggling with the issue of whether or not to post the letter and her response.  Part of me wants to know what other people, those who are not connected, think.  I'm sure that some of that comes from the desire for some vindication, although there is also a small voice that says maybe I really am a bitch and this would unmask that reality.  Another inner voice says that no, this is private, maybe it should just stay that way.  And so for now I won't post the letters.  But maybe one day I'll change my mind.  And maybe one day I'll respond to the hurt.  For now, I'll just say that I am still saddened by the turn of events and I really, really wish that things were different.  I miss the way things were.

Most of all, I am sad about the way that things turned out.  I try to be a very reflective person and I am open to examining my mistakes in the hopes that I'll improve my life and behavior.  If I do something wrong, I want to know about it and then I want to fix it.  When I can't take time to figure out what went wrong, figure out what I need to do to fix it, then I get upset because I feel stuck.  Unfortunately, this situation is one of those -- I am stuck.  And I miss someone who lives so close and yet may as well be a million miles away.  I wish that I knew what happened, but I feel like I only have my side of the story, an incomplete picture, and there's no way to see the other side.  This may be an insolvable puzzle and that is perhaps the saddest bit of all.

Sew much to do, so little time...

This weekend was lovely -- not in terms of the weather (we're still waiting for the sun to appear), but in terms of slowing down and doing some things that we enjoy.  The Teenager did what he does every weekend, so it's nothing new for him, but Honey was able to devote some time to bottling the current vintage of wine and I was able to do a bazillion sewing projects.

Confession: I am a terrible seamstress.
Confession #2: Every other year or so I go on a sewing blitz. (And yes, that does mean that things are destroyed and general havoc is wreaked upon the local villagers as I obsessively use the Miracle Machine, aka a Singer.)
Confession #3: This house is currently suffering from a sewing blitzkrieg. Fabric and elastic and thread has taken over the dining table with lightening speed and is pushing forward without regard to my flank (as you'll see later), catching me off-guard and defenseless.

I blame Pinterest for part of this current battlefield.  It is a completely addicting site and I see so many cool projects every night that I want to do everything (except, of course, the things I'm supposed to do, like work and cook and clean and all that).

This weekend I made a number of things based off tutorials created by master blogger-seamstresses.  Needless to say, they made everything look really easy!  I ended up spending half my time ripping seams, but that is my Normal.

Projects completed this weekend:
  • T-shirt dresses (2)
  • Twirly skirts (2)
  • Eye masks (2 +)
  • Laundry bag
  • Shoe saver
  • "Pencil" skirt
  • Tunic shirt from man's dress shirt
  • All the mending that's been piling up (wait, strike that, I just realized I finished Honey's mending and forgot my own...maybe I need to move this bullet to the next category)
Projects attempted and discarded for something for fun:
  • Refashioning a large skirt into a dress
  • Finishing a rag quilt
  • More skirts
  • Finishing the t-shirt quilt
I did not take pictures of everything.  Maybe I should?  I just didn't want to stop for any reason!  Thankfully, I have links to all of the wonderful tutorials so that you can at least get an idea of what I did.

My first project of the weekend was the refashioned tunic shirt.  I got the idea from a tutorial on Domestic Deadline.  The shirt was something I found at the local thrift store for $1.  I think that it was some guy's working shirt in a previous life -- plaid and soft with a bit of caulking on the sleeve.  The tunic looks okay (no picture, maybe some day), but I forgot to leave room for my rather ample hips, so it's not perfect. Thankfully I have another shirt I picked up for $1, so I'll be trying this again.

My next attempt was a twirly skirt.  I love this idea, but I must warn people: if you must hem, as I must because I live without a serger, then it takes a lot longer.  Or maybe I should say that if you are sewing-challenged it takes longer.  The first skirt that I made looks okay as long as I wear a shirt long enough to cover the elastic.  I also broke two needles trying to stretch the elastic.  Bad idea.  I ended up getting better elastic (only 1.5" and very stretchy) and some thin jersey material and whipped out a better skirt in under 30 minutes, start to finish.  I don't have pictures of either of these, but please check out the excellent tutorial by Dana on her "Made" blog and you can at least see what I attempted to do.  For those of you who are gifted seamstresses, this skirt really is fun to wear, so I definitely encourage trying it.

My dining room table is too large for a tablecloth, and I really don't understand tablecloths anyway.  Why put something on the table that I will just have to wash after every meal?  That doesn't stop me from buying a tablecloth at a thrift store.  My reasoning was this:  "Ooo! Pretty!"  And so I've had this sitting around, convinced that it had a higher purpose in life.  This weekend I found that purpose: skirts.  The tablecloth was less than $6.  Do you know how many skirts I can get out of this much material?  The answer is many.  I made two this weekend and still have plenty of fabric.  Okay, true confession: I made three skirts this weekend, but the first was very long and bulky and Honey said I looked like our former neighbors, the Old Believers, so that skirt was a dud.  Instead, I decided to make my own version of an easy pencil skirt: measure hips, cut fabric that width, sew together, sew a pocket for elastic, insert elastic: done.  I didn't hem because I used the tablecloth hem.  Yes, I am that lazy.

I made two t-shirt dresses based on the tutorial that I found at Elle Apparel.
I used an old tank top that I loved and matched it with a pit of fabric that I love.  Note: please remember to leave space for your hips.  I did not do that with this first attempt -- and probably wouldn't have had enough fabric for that anyway -- and so this is very tight and bunches at the waist.  I'll probably still wear it and have it be an incentive to lose those pesky ten pounds that crept back into my life this year. (See what I mean about "without regard for my flank"? Damn you, sewing blitzkrieg! **shakes fist in air**)

The second attempt was better. I used a shirt that Honey loves but I don't wear because it was too short.  The skirt fabric is part of the old tablecloth.  I also gave it some ties so that I could make it big enough to flow over my hips but still pull it tighter around my waist.  This dress is going with me to Vietnam -- the fabric doesn't wrinkle.

Honey's needed a cloth bag for shoes for all the business travel, so I took and old tshirt and the idea that I found on the Eighteenth Century Agrarian Business blog (I wonder if that title comes from Arrested Development?) and tried a shoe bag.

I didn't realize that Honey wanted one bag per shoe, so we repurposed the first bag for use as a travel laundry bag and I actually followed the cut-the-tshirt-in-half instructions and made two smaller shoe bags. The best part is that I had shoelaces in my misc. sewing stash (for whatever reason -- I have no idea) and they made great drawstrings!

Last, but not least, I made an eye mask for me and one for Honey.  But I think I'll actually post a tutorial on that later...once I take pictures...
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