Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Tuesday Slice: Chaos and control

Chaos

The frenetic thoughts ignited by the buzzing alarm
Tiptoeing around a cluttered home
      and the pillows knocked to the floor by the couch-sleeper
Adding to the ever-growing pile of college dorm supplies overtaking the living room
Baking pans and mixing bowls left in the sink
Papers on the dining room carpet displaced by the air conditioner
Papers on my desk threatening to avalanche
Papers at work calling out to be filed
The library arranged for adults not children
Tables everywhere 
Cables in dangling tangles
Chairs stacked at odd angles
My attitude at odd angles

Control

Getting up in the dark with time to spare
Dressing in workout clothes
Morning coffee in a favorite mug
The familiar routine of writing
Lists written and items crossed off at home and school
Emails written and answered
Appointments made and kept
My work clothes laid out the night before
Healthy food cut up and packaged for the week
Reaching for the water instead of the wine
Turning off screens and going to bed before the evening news
The grateful thoughts penned in my journal as I set my alarm.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Tuesday Slice: After the rain

The rain started around 4am on Monday, thwarting my plans for a walk in the predawn gloom.  I did a quick workout indoors after gently awakening my son for his morning dose of antibiotics and extricating him from the couch, his preferred sleep locale when his tiny bedroom gets too hot or cold.

My husband found a nail in one of my tires over the weekend, so I was forced to drive our ancient Durango in the pouring rain to my first day of work for the school year--an all-day meeting for district librarians. The rain even affected my planned wardrobe; I put aside the cute dress and lacy shoes, opting instead for jeans and rubber boots, not knowing how far away I'd have to park.

The precipitation lasted as long as our meeting.  We were rained on as we walked between portable buildings to meet with vendors, and as we stood in line at the food truck for lunch, a row of umbrellas gently poking at one another as we chatted about the details of our summer break.

The sun broke through as we left for the day, the rising temperature and humidity making for a sticky walk back to our cars.  Overwhelmed by a growing to-do list, coming home to a teenager rightfully frustrated by recent medical woes that I could not fix, I decided to go for a walk on our hike and bike trail.

Lush greens, purple martins swooping to catch the buzzing insects, and happy dogs straining their owners' leashes soothed my soul at the end of a long day.







Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Tuesday Slice: Ninety-four

In May, when folks asked about my summer plans, I replied that my focus was going to be on getting my son through jaw surgery and helping with his preparation for college.

As my summer is winding down, I'm reflecting on where the days have gone.  I now realize the focus has been on food.  Too much for me, too little for him; every day, walking the tightrope between concern and nagging, service and encouraging independence.  Avoiding eating his favorite foods in front of him out of sympathy, but then crunching away at handfuls of chips when he's out of sight, swallowing my own worries and frustration with each salty mouthful.

I'm slowly regaining control of my eating habits, forcing myself to acknowledge what I'm feeling as I'm standing in front of the refrigerator or pantry, deciding if it's really hunger or avoidance of tasks and worrisome thinking.

But for our son, now dealing with having wired-shut jaws for two weeks after a second round of surgery, it feels like a loss of control.  He was just back to eating small bits of "real" food (he isn't allowed to chew for months) when his oral surgeon decided that the jaw placement needed adjustment, and that wiring was necessary for proper healing.  Our son was angry, but signed the papers and submitted to the procedure.  Nothing but liquids for two weeks.  The most calorie dense concoction I can come up with is a mixture of frozen custard, protein shake, and protein powder whirred together in my mini-blender.  He likes it, but his shrunken stomach can only take so much at a time, in a day.  A diet of chocolate shakes sounds wonderful until it is all you are eating.

We saw ninety-four on the scale yesterday.  I pray it doesn't get any lower.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Tuesday Slice: Forgot it was Tuesday

It didn't occur to me until three hours post-wakeup that it was Tuesday, my personal Slice blogging day.

I'm not exactly sure why I forgot.  It can't be summer mode, as I never really got to enter into that zone this year; too many obligations and appointments have kept us busy.  I was at a professional development session yesterday morning, for crying out loud; should have remembered that it was Tuesday today.  

Things I do remember:

  • the appointment we have with our son's oral surgeon this afternoon
  • the looming deadline for the professional development I'm co-presenting, and the amount of work left undone
  • our houseplants need watering today
  • I'm a day behind in washing bath towels (that alone should have reminded me of Tuesday, as Monday is towel washing day)
  • it's my weights workout day
  • I'm cooking pork chops tonight, since they've been defrosting in the fridge
  • the books I'm meaning to read today
  • the planning I need to do today
  • the cleaning I need to do today
Maybe today's mental file cabinet was just a bit too full to remember the day of the week.  That's what I am going to tell myself, at least.  

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Tuesday Slice: This is not a paid vacation

Last year, I wrote about my work-filled summer.  In that piece, I planned to really look at this summer's activities, and make them less work-related.

I didn't succeed.  I ended up working almost a week beyond my calendar, trying to catch up on tasks that didn't get done before my official last day.  Of course, those extra days pale in comparison to the number of weekends my colleagues spend working in their classrooms, a practice I successfully avoid.

I did make a point of signing up for library activities that came with a paycheck.  The five sessions of summer library afternoons, one evening of pop-up library time, and presenting a professional development are compensated hours. 

But....each one of those activities eats into my summertime.

Why do we educators do this to ourselves?  Do doctors and lawyers take their case files with them on vacations?  At the end of the school year, our administrators send us off with messages of "Relax!" and "Enjoy your break, come back refreshed!" How does self-care fit with the parallel, unspoken expectation to continue working?  Are they mutually exclusive?

I began thinking of this post when a blog about a summer bingo game for teachers popped up in my Twitter feed.  I get it; it's supposed to make work fun. But we aren't at work. We are on summer break.  You know, those days we don't get paid for. Viewing it from the lens of self-care, imagine my disappointment when every square was work-related.  If I were to make a summer bingo card for educators, this is what I would include:
  • Get a pedicure in a bright summer shade.
  • Turn off your alarm clock, and see how many hours of sleep you really should be getting.  Try to work that into your school year schedule.
  • Attend an adults-only event (or two, or three).
  • Read a fiction novel for grown-ups.
  • Read a nonfiction book that ISN'T about education.
  • Revive an old hobby.
  • Listen to new-to-you music; purchase whatever lifts your spirit.
  • Learn a new craft or skill.
  • Go off the grid for three full days.
  • Connect with friends/ meet new people who aren't educators.
  • Travel; visit a new-to-you place.
  • Get a massage, or two, or three.  Schedule them at regular intervals for the next year.
  • Find physical activities that bring you joy and health.
  • Get a physical checkup with your doctor.
  • Make a self-care kit with snacks, mints, gum, scents, deodorant, chocolate, cough drops, bandaids--whatever you might need to get through a long school day. (Yes, I know this is work-related, but the self-care aspect is what's important here.)

I know that great teachers are lifelong learners, and are always striving to improve their teaching skills.  It's an admirable trait, but I often wonder if we are truly compensated for our time and effort.  Yes, the intrinsic value is worth more than the paycheck.  I also worry that we become myopic in our definition of learning. We don't have to be all about education, all of the time.  

Especially during our summer break.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Tuesday Slice: Packing for college

"We need a what?" my husband calls from the kitchen.

"A pillow and a blanket. And towels; they are only providing the linens," I answer.

We are packing for our son's college orientation--but not packing for our son.  Frugality won over convenience when my husband learned that we could stay in the dorms for a fraction of what the local hotel would charge.  Not the same dorm as the incoming freshmen, of course.  We will be in the Honors Hall, in separate rooms with single twin beds, sharing a bathroom.

This is a much different experience than our firstborn's college entrance.  At her tiny, private liberal arts college, orientation happened during the last two days of summer.  We attended a few parent sessions and helped her move into her dorm over the course of a weekend, with time to spare.  Our son's orientation starts today with an afternoon check-in; we have events through the evening, and lasts until late Thursday afternoon.  His move-in will happen in August, when we get eight hours to get him settled before being scooted away for his weeklong freshman transition.

I am more excited about this than our son, who is understandably upset about starting off college in a compromised physical state.  Unable to chew for two to three more months, and barely able to open his jaws three weeks into recovery, he worries about the social and academic implications of thick speech and dietary restrictions.  I try to acknowledge his fears and provide solutions, but my efforts have done little to elevate his mood. My hope is that the busy-ness of these three days will alleviate some of those worries, and that the staff will be compassionate and accommodating, as posted reviews have stated.

So off we go to college today, pillows and blankets and towels in hand.  Wish us luck!


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Tuesday Slice: Two days

It's Sunday, June 18th, and my stomach is sour.

Several reasons for my discomfort come to mind--the pizza from the new-to-us restaurant yesterday, the overabundance of fast food I've been consuming lately, the overindulgence in sweets and carbs....the stress of my teenage son's surgery.  We leave before dawn for the hospital tomorrow.

I've gained the ten pounds that should be on my son's frame.  What will happen when he can't chew for the next 120 days?

Seeing a movie together is but a momentary distraction; the surgery is already on my mind before we leave the theater.

*****************
It's Monday, 330am, and I am praying.

Prayers of gratitude for medical expense loans, to cover the large check I must present this morning.  Prayers for compassionate nurses, competent doctors, effective pain management.  

We arrive at the surgery center at 530a, as directed.  The doors are still locked in the predawn gloom, with only a receptionist visible in the office across the foyer.  Someone else finally comes out and opens the door for us.  At 630a, we are taken back to the pre-op area.  Preparations are made, and he is wheeled to the OR just before 700am.

Still Monday, 900am, and we are anxiously awaiting an update.  Crocheting keeps my hands busy, the nonstop barrage of TV chatter only mildly distracting.  The update comes a few minutes later.  The surgery is going well.  Then it's 1030a, and we get word that they are a little over halfway through.  Surgery was supposed to take four hours; the math in my head doesn't add up.

Noon, and we are finally ushered into a small consultation room without enough chairs, to hear from the surgeons.  They are happy with the outcome.  

We are called back to recovery a half hour later.  Our son is still drifting in and out of sleep.  He looks pale.  When he wakes up, he coughs up blood, bright red splatters on the blanket and paper towels.  There is a man shouting from across the room, hidden by his curtain.  At first his rants just seem like a bad reaction to coming out of anesthesia, but then he yells "INCOMING!", and we realize he suffers from PTSD.  In the midst of my worry for my own child, I feel for this soldier and his family.

It takes our son forever to wake up long enough to raise his oxygen levels without a mask on.  We remark to his nurse that we haven't watched a monitor this closely since his sister's stay in the NICU.  He is the second-to-the-last patient to leave; the shouting soldier is long gone. It's now 515pm.

We get him home, thankful we had prepared the couch the night before with sheets and a blanket--but the blanket is white, and soon ends up in the washing machine, spattered by another bloody coughing spell.  Old towels are quickly piled up and put to use, as he drifts in and out of sleep again, only to wake and cough some more.  At some point, he is alert enough to change into comfortable clothes, and then falls asleep on the couch for the night.  I listen to his breathing, see his chest rise and fall in the dim light from the kitchen.  

I fall into a fitful sleep in the chair next to him, only to awaken minutes later and often through the night, not unlike his first night at home, nineteen years ago.
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