I don't think of myself as a superstitious person, but I have a few minor rituals I indulge. If it looks like we might have a snow day, I always plan to do a lot of things I've been putting off. If school is closed, I appease the snow gods, fulfill my obligation. Today, because Fate was kind enough to grant me a day off, I collected all my tax receipts and did a ton of laundry. Tomorrow, O Snow Gods, I swear that I will do something huge and tedious - clean the basement, perhaps, or vacuum. Really - I promise.†
I am not in favor of squashing dreams. At the same time, it is not pretty to see people operating outside of the limit of their ability. What is accomplished by enabling people who harbor unrealistic dreams? How is that kind? My own dreams range from pitifully underwhelming to unrealistic and foolish, but I own my failures. What strikes me as cruel is not telling someone that they are being unrealistic and foolish, but telling them that wanting is the same as realizing, that goals and wishes are the same thing, and that all things are possible if you believe.†
I am overwhelmed with stuff to do. This is the first time since January 1, when I started this blog, that I didnít have time to write. Actually, I was so busy / tired / stressed that I didnít think of it until late. Well, I cannot be a slave to everything. Piles of papers to be graded, lessons to be planned, taxes, professional development, student issues that need to be handled now, not later... it is a wonder that I am writing at all. Putting two words next to each other is almost more than I can handle. †
This is my penance for getting behind. Itís actually Thursday, but this is Wednesdayís entry. If I were not so obsessive about these things, I would just let it go. But having made it through an entire month of writing 100 words a day, I have that turf to defend. I am especially defensive because Iíve written little else. There are days when I think I should give up writing. In every practical sense, I have. Scribbling remains my secret vice. When I have weeks like this, I can barely muster a thought in my brain. †
Today is not a day to grouse about what a terrible week itís been. Thatís old news; everyone is sick of reliving it. My time is mine now. I had dinner with my son tonight. While we were waiting for the check, I found myself musing about time. In my mind, I was already on the way home, stopping at the store, checking my list, getting ready for tomorrow. Do I ever exist at one point in time? It feels as if I am either slipping ahead or stuck reliving some past event. Now is never just now.†
Today Latin 3 had a Roman Feast. Students re-created Roman cuisine, as recorded by Apicius on his website. (Actually, he doesnít have a website. He is dead, but left us the only Roman recipes we have, which can be found on the web.) The results? Thumbs up on the shrimp, cheese cake and baklava. (Yes, I know: baklava is Greek. But the Romans borrowed everything the Greeks ever thought of.) So far, nothing has made me sick. I warned them all: if anything makes me throw up, they all fail. So far, success all around. Plus vini, puer!†
Practice is something not well understood; these days we have to get things instantly, or we give up. Athletes may be the only people who are models of good practice, but even they cheat, take the easy way. Most people attribute success to luck, connections, intelligence, good looks - not perseverance. Being strict is not fun; I am constantly telling myself to relax, loosen up, have some fun. I am too hard on myself, too severe a critic of my own work, too prone to giving up. To write a hundred words a day is not much, but -- here it is.†
I always wake up early. Even on Saturday. Yes, Sunday, too.
By early, I mean 4:00 or 4:30. Once I'm awake, I canít stay in bed. I start thinking about all the things Iím working on, getting ideas, feeling productive. You canít just lie in bed, feeling productive; youíve got to open the Mac, start producing. I get up.
The world feels different at five in the morning. Full of potential, ripe with possibilities. No disappointments. Not yet. I am powerful, able to accomplish.
Morning is my time. After noon, I just pretend.†
I hate soup. Watery, salty, full of conflicting flavors, soggy vegetables.
I dislike vegetables. Carrots I will eat if theyíre not slimy. Celery, only with peanut butter. Broccoli is much over-rated; smells bad even before you cook it, much less eat it.
I donít like much fruit. The trouble with fruit is that you never know how it tastes before you bite it. Then: mushy, rotten - too late. You canít un-bite it.
Twinkies? Always the same, never disappointing. This perfect food comes individually wrapped in cellophane. Do they send Twinkies into space? They should.†
The most common of the four lies we tell every day (according to sources) is ďIím fine.Ē Maybe Iím deceiving myself, but I think there is a big difference between saying, ďIím fineĒ and ďI didnít do it.Ē
Typical lies I hear daily from students:
(While texting): ďMy mom is texting me.Ē
ďI did my homework, but accidentally left it at home/ at my dadís house / in my friendís car.Ē
ďMy printer broke / ran out of ink.Ē†
ďI put my essay in your mailbox. Didnít you get it?Ē
My reply? ďYeah, sure.Ē†
Today was Wednesday. In Creative Writing, we imagined a roommate fight. What do roomies fight about? Space, time, boyfriends, girlfriends. In Latin 1, we grappled with possession, genitive case, adjectives, and apostrophes. Mea culpa. On to English, where we talked about persuading consumers, parents, and each other. Latin test-taker did not show; went to lunch. Next: grading, grading, grading. Wrote up kids whoíve cut class, kids using phones in class. Worked on Julius Caesar, graded research papers, stayed after school, minding delinquents in detention. Got home Ďearly,í created a lesson plan for tomorrow, really tired, fell asleep... †
I am tired†of wearing a big target.†
Tired of being blamed for the failure of public education.
When are we finally going to figure out that teachers are not the problem?
I am sure that there are bad teachers, lazy teachers, incompetent teachers. I know that there are.
There are also bad, lazy and incompetent doctors, lawyers, ministers, senators, bus drivers, nurses, police officers, floor moppers, and meter-readers.†
Yeah, I know. We get summers off, two weeks at Christmas, snow days, work only seven and a half hours a day. Why would we complain?†
Stressing in general. All the little things that claim my time and attention are preventing me from every being focused in the moment. I am always thinking ahead, behind, sideways -- never concentrating on what I'm doing, where I am, who I'm with. I forget things, get even more stressed.
I haven't enjoyed walking lately; I'm thinking of all the things I have to do or want to do. My pleasures have become obligations; more stress -- from the things that ought to rescue me from stress. This is partly my job; a thousand things are claiming my attention at every moment.†
I've been spending a lot of time on the computer for the last two days; now my eyes are about to drop out (figuratively). Focus is something I do well; still, I notice how easily scattered I am lately. Finishing a task takes forever: I think about email or lesson plans or going to the store or phoning someone. Keeping lists should clear my brain out so I can focus; instead, I am drawn to check the list over and over, each time becoming more aware of how little I am accomplishing. Getting things done? No, just getting distracted.†
I got a transistor radio for my birthday one year when I was in junior high school. It was about as big as a paperback book, with a folding antenna and a socket for an earphone. Not like an iPod; no playlist to sift through whenever I wanted some music. Whatever WABC played was what I listened to. It was independence, though, because it was my music. I donít know what finally happened to it; I can guess. When kids grow up and move out, they leave a lot of stuff behind for parents to figure out. Garage Sale.†
Iím sitting on my back porch. Itís dark, about negative three degrees (Celsius). Wisconsin is where I grew up; it's never too cold for me. Wool socks help, but I can stay outside without a jacket for quite a while before I start shivering.†
A winterís night is stiller than a summer evening. Bone-quiet; black tree limbs; moveless silence; exaggerated shadows across the snow. Orange-grey sky, the color of wood-smoke. City lights blanket the stars in dullness. Bare trees amplify every sound. Sleep hovers, presses in. Night for miles in every direction.†
My father had Alzehiemerís. We began noticing when he asked the same question twice in the same conversation, forgot his grandsonís names, and lost entire conversations. He insisted that there was nothing wrong with his memory, but Iím sure he knew something was happening to his mind,. He just couldnít talk about it.†
I notice that I forget more these days, and wonder: is this normal? What's happening in my brain? I write everything down. Not that my memoirs are fascinating reading, but they are a part of my brain. I intend to keep them.
If I donít buy five of these, the store will run out.
This thought will wake me up at night. I am a bit compulsive. Choices cause anxiety. If there are several colors, I buy at least two, then worry that I should have bought the sage green as well as the khaki and the black.†
I hate shopping. Dressing rooms make me itchy. Checkout lines make me hyperventilate.†
So I shop online. But the problem remains: if the website goes out of business, if they stop making them... Iíll take three. No -- four. Okay, five.†
I know I ought to be getting rid of things - clothes, books, stuff. I like the idea of having less. Closets full of extra clothes stress me out. Drawers that overflow, shelves that are bowed with books I no longer read -- these are more than an annoyance. They weigh on me.
But I cannot deny the joy I feel when I get some new stuff -- cool things I just have to buy before they stop making them, useful things that have not yet proved their usefulness, necessary things that I might someday need ... I just like stuff. Lots of stuff.†
After twenty years my Borders is going out of business. I know that other people shopped there, but I always felt that it was my store. I spent hours roaming those aisles, buying books I didnít need. Did I ever go into that store without spending at least forty dollars? Today it's a different store -- discount signs, a new, unfamiliar arrangement, empty shelves. There was a thirty-minute line. I found three books for my son, who has a birthday coming up -- in Japan, where English books are scarce. Like me, heíll grieve that Borders is gone.†