Every morning

What happens every morning, no matter how early I wake up or how quietly I tiptoe through the house: minutes after I sit down to scrawl my mornings pages, or write a post, or meditate, my son wakes up, and that is the end of my attempted “me” time. 

It’s the story of my life. 

Another one done

This was not my first NaBloPoMo and I’m sure it won’t be last. I always appreciate coming to this space more in November, and I hope that I’ll still be here a lot in the coming months, even if I’m not posting every day.

A lot of bloggers in my reader were participating in NaBloPoMo last month; there were always so many great posts to read! I’m going to miss having all those great posts to distract me from articles in my news app. The news is so depressing.

December is always a busy month, but I think we have it easier than most. We seem to have fewer holiday parties and commitments, and we don’t have to travel. I’m trying to tease out what are the most important parts of the holiday season for me and embrace them, while allowing a lot of the other stuff to fall by the wayside.

I did end up partaking in some clothes shopping before the end of the Black Friday sales. About half of it was for my kids (in their next sizes up) and half was for me. I generally end up taking back a lot of what I get online, so we’ll see how much damage I actually did.

On a related note: I’m considering a clothing shopping ban for myself for at least the first six months of 2017. We’ll see. I definitely don’t need to get anything else for my kids for that long, so that is awesome.

Our 3/7/11 anniversary is coming up in early January. (3 years married, 7 years domestic partners, 11 years together.) I love all those numbers (I’m a prime number lover) so maybe I’ll plan something fun for the two of us. I bet my parents would take the kids for a weekend so we could get away, or just have another staycation. I would be fine to stay in San Francisco–it’s so much cheaper and there is so much to do.

It finally got chilly here in San Francisco. It was still regularly in the high 60’s/low 70’s through most of November, but now it’s staying in the 50’s most day (yes, I know this is not cold, that’s why I didn’t use that word). We generally don’t turn on our heat at night (instead I turn it on at 6am when I get up and it’s warm enough for everyone else by the time they’re awake), but lately I’ve been having to sleep in thermals with a sweatshirt over them so maybe it’s time to at least keep the temperature at 60* while we sleep. (You’ll remember we didn’t have heat for two years so I know we can get through the night without it… not sure what we should do.)

I forgot to update on the daughter nightmare situation. At the suggestion of a couple commenters, we put a futon on my husband’s side of the bed (there isn’t enough space on mine because of the elliptical) and told our daughter she could come into our room after a bad dream and sleep on the floor. For the first week she woke us up and we helped her in there, but now she can make the transition herself. It’s been a game changer, and I think she’s happier, and less stressed now that she has that option. I personally don’t understand why she’d rather sleep on the floor than her comfortable bed, but if this is what she wants, I’m happy to give it to her. Now if I could just get my son to stop peeing through his size 6 night diapers, requiring an entire pajama and sheets change we’d be golden (yes, I’m going to start waking him up to pee before I go to bed–it’s going to be awful).

I guess that is enough random stuff for one night.

Shit or get off the pot

Sunday night I was feeling really down in the dumps about going back to work. While I love writing and implementing new curriculum, the day to day is wearing me down this year. The stress of arriving at the first school late (because my daughter is lagging on the way out the door or the traffic is horrendous), having no time at my school to get ready before my first class there, the sheer number of students I see every week and the paperwork they create… It’s all just getting me down.

I didn’t think I was mentioning much how down I feel about work, so when my husband totally blew up at me when I mentioned post-vacation blues, I was kind of taken aback. Clearly I had lanced a festering boil, and what came spewing out was shocking, and hurtful.

We had a pretty intense fight, and my husband ended up leaving the room. I was fine with that because I was seething with anger, physically shaking with the pressure of it, and I didn’t want to say anything I was going to regret.

When he came back in to talk I told him that his tone belied how he really felt, and asked him to leave again. He obliged.

Much later, after I’d had a good, body-wracking cry, he came back in and apologized. He said it was hard to know that I was miserable at work, even if I didn’t mention it. He said it sucked to know that decisions we made as a family (and that benefited him) were contributing to my unhappiness (taking my daughter to work, which leaves me no time to plan, prepare and grade papers at school). He said that it had been two years of me hating my job and it was really awful to think that might go on indefinitely.

I told him I absolutely agreed.

And while I’m still frustrating that he is (in my mind) putting his own feelings in front of my own, I get it. I understand how much it sucks to see someone you love unhappy with such a huge part of their life. Especially when the path out is complicated at best, impossible at worst.

I know, with this job stuff, I have to shit or get off the pot. I need to either commit to moving on or accept my job and find the positive in it. It’s just so complicated and hard. I really have only one option to change jobs–moving to high school–and that comes with a guaranteed pay cut (between $10-$25K in the districts I’m even willing to consider). In the months since our money situation has improved I’ve grown accustomed to letting go of that constant, financial stress that was always pulsating in the background. I don’t want to go back to second guessing every purchase, to worrying the VISA bill will drain our checking, to that feeling of constant deprivation. I don’t want to go back to worrying about money. I feel pretty confident that taking a pay cut of that magnitude would deteriorate my quality of life enough that any improvement caused by the new job would end up in a wash.

And there is no guarantee I would be happier at my new job. What if I try something new and I’m even more miserable, and all I have to show for it is a smaller pay check?

The thought is simply paralyzing.

But then, what if I get a new job and I love it so much it’s worth the pay cut?

The thought is equally paralyzing.

I can’t how the prospect of staying where I am indefinitely makes me feel, especially now that my schedule each year feels so uncertain.

The reality is there is only one way forward. I can look for jobs in the spring, when they become available, and if one seems so great that it’s worth the risk, I can apply for it. But like last year taught me, applying for a job that excites me doesn’t mean I’ll even get an interview.

And if there’s nothing worth pursuing in the spring–or I don’t get the jobs I do pursue–I have to suck it up for the following school year. I have to accept the situation and find the best in it.

I do think I’m attempting that this year. Writing new curriculum definitely helped make the first trimester a more positive and fulfilling experience. It also left me quite haggard. I’m hoping I can find a better balance in the next two trimesters, so that I can really enjoy creating something new, without feeling overwhelmed executing it.

In the end, it’s the day to day that gets me down, and I’m not sure how to feel better about that. The size of my 6th grade classes drains me, getting through even a relatively easy lesson plan is exhausting. That is one downside to my job that I don’t know how to mitigate. Right now all I can think is to endure it, but I wonder if a tweak in mindset could make “endure” look more like “accept.”

{I wonder sometimes if it’s just teaching that is getting me down, if after 13 years, any schedule, any set of classes, any aged students would feel like drudgery. Maybe I just don’t have what it takes to do this for 35 years. Maybe I have 23 more years of exhaustion ahead of me.}

Ugh. I’ve written this exact post so many times before. I keep circling around this topic, but I get the sense that I need to if I’m even going to pull the trigger and make a change. I would never have found the job that got me so excited last year if I hadn’t written posts like this one, and even though I didn’t get that job (or an interview), I did learn there are thing positions that feel worth the risk of leaving my secure, well-paying job for something completely unknown.

So I suppose I’ll keep writing post like these. And maybe some day, I’ll actually get to write one about getting a new job, or about committing wholeheartedly, to staying where I am.

#parentsoftheyear

Last night my in-laws had our daughter over for a spend-the-night so we ordered Chinese food and enjoyed some cocktails and binge-watched three episodes West.world. We didn’t end up going to bed until 12:30am.

When our son was awake for the day at 7am (so amazing he’s sometime sleeping that late after a 5am first wake up) I groggily gave him the iPad and shuffled back to bed. At 8:30 I woke up with a start and realized my 3yo had been on the pad for an hour and half. Oops!

We will definitely be receiving a nomination for #parentsoftheyear.

But you know what? It was worth it. 

Something Substantial to Say

I spent about an hour Saturday night falling down the rabbit hole of old posts. First I checked out November of 2014, then November of last year. I did NaBloPoMo in 2015 too, so there were a lot of posts to read.

There were some good posts. Some honest, raw, authentic posts. Some important posts. I was proud of a lot of what I read, and the discussions my words inspired.

As has been the case on many occasions when I read my own archives, I am left worrying that writing has deteriorated, that I’m somehow becoming worse for wear as I write year after year. At the very least my current posts feels lazy. Certainly the topics of my recent posts are. When I read through old posts it always feels like I was tackling more important topics, and getting better results, than I’m currently doing.

Of course back then I was still struggling. A lot. Especially in 2014. Struggle seems to inspire good writing, at least for me. Struggle is interesting. It’s dramatic. It pulls you in. It is part of a arch with conflict and hopefully, eventually, resolution. Struggle is a driving force in writing.

I’m not struggling so much anymore. Sure there are still challenges, but that desperation, that despair is no longer there. I have a much better handle on my life. I think the main reason for this is my kids are more manageable. They can play together for 10 or 15 minutes without any parental supervision. I no longer have to act as their constant referee. 10 or 15 minutes doesn’t seem like much, but those swaths of time are incredibly freeing. And with that freedom comes a calm, a sense of peace, an ability to regroup and prepare for what comes next. Reading back through posts from one or two years ago there is no doubt in my mind…I am a different woman, living a different life. For that, I am thankful.

I suppose what it all comes down to, is that ever lingering fear that in the absence of struggle I don’t have anything substantial to say. This blog is not packaging a brand. I don’t have some message to impart to the masses. I’m just a woman writing about her life.

But just writing that paragraph I’m already scoffing at my own words. It’s silly to think that in the absence of dire circumstances I have nothing substantial to say. Surely that isn’t the case. I have plenty to say, I think it will just take a lot more work to find the words and write them down.

And there is still struggle. Plenty of it. I am still struggling to find a definition of minimalism that makes sense to me. My house is not nearly the disaster area that had me believing I was a miserable failure, but it’s still not where I want it to be. Minimalism (or my understanding of it) delivered me from certain doom, and I absolutely believe it can make me even happier and more content than I already am.

My marriage always provides a steady stream of material, and I think I’m finally learning how to write about it in a way that respects all parties involved. And of course motherhood, and the crooked way I continue to muddle through it, will always leave a trail of blog post fodder in its wake.

So yes, I do believe I have something substantial still to say, I just need to take the time and energy to say it. I dedicated myself to posting every day in November, and while requiring a regular return to this space was a useful exercise, I see that moving forward I need to dedicate myself to this space in a more meaningful way, with fewer, more thoughtful posts.

I know that the election really hijacked my mental space. Navigating life the past few weeks has been an emotional minefield. While I’m disappointed I didn’t show up here with something meaningful to say, I am ready to forgive myself and move on. There is plenty of time to write thoughtfully about this terrifying new world we live in. And I do believe I still have something substantial to say.

So don’t worry. You’ll be seeing more of me, even after November.

Heading into the Holidays

We spent Thanksgiving at my parents’ house. It ended up being a rather pleasant day; my husband and I both remarked at how much easier it is to enjoy an afternoon with family now that our kids are getting older. I think we’re definitely coming up out of the deep, difficult ditch that is having two small children (or has been for us). We haven’t made it up over the edge yet, but we’re so much closer than we’ve ever been. It’s nice to believe there is an end in sight and that things might some day be even easier than they are now.

Thursday morning we borrowed my dad’s tripod and took some family photos for this year’s ornament. I’m not thrilled with how they came out, but I got enough decent shots to design and order ornaments for our family and both sets of grandparents. I scored 50% of on those, so that was sweet.

Today I took advantage of App.le’s modest Black Friday deals and got myself an i.Pad. My computer is about to die and I don’t really want to spend the money on a new laptop (especially when I have to bring my work computer home every night anyway), so I finally got myself the i.Pad that I’ve been eyeing for a while. Pretty much everything I use my computer for (personally) is easier on an iPad, plus it’s nice to have another one for the kids when we go on trips. I’m excited to move the kids’ movies onto the new iPad (which has WAY more storage) to make room for some new apps on the kids’ iPad. They’ve been playing the same games for two years now because we don’t have the space to add anything new. (I know, they are so deprived!)

I got my new iPad a good case, and also took advantage of Black Friday sales to replace my phone case, which isn’t in great shape (I am HARD on my phone cases–I drop my phone probably 2-3 times a day). I absolutely believe in spending money on quality cases for my technology–my shit would be broken almost immediately without proper protection.

Otherwise I haven’t taken advantage of any Black Friday sales. A friend texted, and then eventually emailed, to inform us that G.ap (and its subsidiaries) were all having 50%-off everything sales. I did sneak a peak at G.ap, but wasn’t inspired to put anything in my cart. I don’t even want to look for my kids. I’ve also checked out Am.azon’s deals but I just don’t seem to be interested in buying anything right now. It’s a very strange place for me to be, especially when big discounts are happening. I’m a sucker for big discounts.

Maybe I’ve finally getting over my shopping obsessions? Only time will tell.

This weekend I hope to get our tree and decorate it. I’m excited to put up the few decorations we have, and to hang my new ornaments.

On Sunday I’m taking my daughter to see Cirque du Soleil’s Luzia, which is inspired by art and music from Mexico. I am a huge Cirque fan and have seen many of their shows; this will be my daughter’s first experience. Taking her to special events like this is really fun these days. I am so grateful that we’ve finally gotten to that place, where we can both enjoy a unique experience on a Sunday night. It feels like a miracle to me. I hope she enjoys it as much as I do.

Have you taken advantage of any Black Friday deals? How are you as we head into the holidays?

DIY Ornaments

I started a tradition when my daughter was two of getting a set of ornaments each year with a character or characters she was really interested in. I have happily continued this tradition; I enjoy decorating the tree each year with a walk down memory lane. Remember how much Garfield we read when you were four? I ask my daughter as I put up that ornament. I imagine I will appreciate it even more as my kids grow up, and away, from me. 

The thing is, it’s not always easy to find ornaments of some of the toys or characters my kids loved. It was when I ordered a set of Dis.ney princess ornaments that I realized people were solving this problem by making toys into ornaments themselves. The set I got on eBay was the exact set of figurines my daughter already had, just with eye pins drilled into the heads. 

This year I decided to make my own ornaments out of some toys that the kids don’t play with anymore by drilling a small hole in the top and screwing an eye pin into it. It worked better than I had hoped. 


The best part is now I have a way to keep some of these toys that I loved so much, but that the kids no longer play with. By making them into ornaments, I’m killing two birds with one stone: decorating the tree and saving sentimental pieces of their childhood in a meaningful way. 


As a comic book afficionado I always loved these DC super heroes Little People. They were favorites of mine when my kids were young.

I also got a couple of sets of figurines (very much on sale) and made them into ornaments without the kids ever playing with them. 


I watched Mickey’s a Christmas Carol a million times as a kid. When I saw these I just had to have them for our tree. 


My son is deeply obsessed with “Light Queen” so I got this set now, because I suspect he’ll still be playing with his set for many years to come (I’m also less confident I can make ornaments out of metal cars–this set is plastic).

Making ornaments out of toys also saves me a lot of money. Now I don’t have to buy a set the year the kids are playing with them, but can instead wait until the toys are no longer used, and then make them into ornaments. It also saves me from throwing away these smaller toys that are harder to sell or donate. 

Between these toy ornaments and the ones I personalize each year with a picture, my tree is becoming a walk down memory lane. Which makes me love it all the more. 

Thankful

I feel like you pretty much have to put up a gratitude post on this day. And I do think writing out what I’m thankful for will help me getting into the Thanksgiving spirit. So here goes:

I’m thankful that:

I don’t have to spend today with family who have wildly different political views than my own.

My in-laws are always very gracious about giving actual Thanksgiving day to my parents, and are happy to see us on Friday.

My husband and I have been on pretty solid ground for a while now, despite frustrations with how we each are processing the elections.

Interactions with my daughter are so much less fraught and divisive and so much more fun and inviting. For the most part I’m really enjoying my time with her these days.

My son is finally on the mend after a two week stomach bug. So glad to be getting over that.

My immediate family (including parents and in-laws) are healthy right now. Most even seem to be pretty happy.

I have some friends that live near by that I can see when I really need to get away and enjoy a drink and some adult conversation.

I am not yet interested in buying Christmas presents! Hooray!

There is a lot of good stuff available streaming to distract me from weighty thoughts of the future. (And thank you Mel for recommending The Crown–I am thoroughly enjoying it!)

Apps that let me instantaneously check out audio- and e-books on my phone via my library account. This has saved me untold amounts of money.

Friends, near and far, that I can be my authentic self with.

The opportunity to create new and interesting curriculum at work. 

This entire week off from school. 

* * *

I hope all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Abiding with you all, in the good times, and the bad. 

The Price of Feeling Inauthentic

I have several groups of friends that I text with on a regular basis. Each of these groups is an important part of my daily/weekly social interaction and I am very thankful to have them in my life. Without these texts groups, I would go long periods without having any meaningful adult conversations with anyone besides my husband.

I have felt somewhat uncomfortable participating in one of the text groups for a while now. While I’ve considered asking to be removed from the text chain, I’ve always stopped myself because I know that is a request I cannot unmake, and that it will have irreparable ramifications to those friendships. So I’ve stuck around, participating less and less, and learning to just go with the flow when it comes to those discussions.

Recently I realized what it was that makes me so hesitant to participate in text “conversations” with these friends; I no longer feel I can be my authentic self with them. There are myriad reasons for this, stemming from both conflicts in the past and responses (or a lack thereof) in the present. In the end it doesn’t really matter why I feel I can’t be myself with them, all that’s important is that I really and truly don’t feel that I can express myself in a truthful way.

When I do say something that reflects my actual feelings I usually get crickets. I can never be sure if it’s because of what I said or life pulling them away from their phone in precisely that moment, but I’ve gone back and reviewed conversations and it does seem accurate that my statements end a text conversation more than others’ do. Other times my comment is simply ignored; nobody acknowledges what I’ve said in any way. Since I don’t feel like I can say what I actually feel, I end up not saying much or saying something I think they want to hear.

It’s not surprising that I no longer feel very close to these friends. If you can’t talk about what is really important to you, or express your views honestly, then distance will develop. And yet I can’t seem to take the definitive steps to pull away. I’m too scared to let go of what little is left of those friendships, and in the end I convince myself that having friends, even if I can’t be genuine with them, is better than not having them at all.

But maybe that isn’t right. Maybe that is letting fear win. Maybe if I let those friendships go I’ll have more time and emotional bandwidth to cultivate new friendships in which I can be my more authentic self. Maybe it’s precisely in the not letting go of these friendships that I have made it impossible to find the new friendships I so crave.

I definitely have to think about this more. If I could remain distant friends with these people, without having to be on their text chains–basically, if I could still have amicable conversations with them if events with shared friends brought us together, without having to converse with them on a daily basis–that would be the best case scenario. I just don’t know how to manage that without hurting their feelings and making it apparent that I no longer feel I belong, or can be honest with them (and therefor destroying the opportunity for amicable conversations if we do end up at the same events). If you all have any suggestions, please pass them along. I think I might finally ready to step away from daily participation in these friendships, and I hope to do that without totally destroying them. But how?

Do you feel you can be your authentic self with all your friends? If not, do you maintain those friendships, or let them go?

Renewed Conviction

I’ve written a lot about my choice of school for my daughter. I think I write about it with a certain amount of conviction; we value language education and diversity and chose our daughter’s school in accordance with those values.

I worry sometimes, actually, that I sound a bit smug when I talk about my daughter’s school. Oh look at us, we’re upper-middle class white parents sending our daughter to a school where our white daughter is (very much) the minority, where 92% of the student population qualifies for free or reduced-priced lunches, where the district runs a free after school program to ensure the economically disadvantaged families have access to the services they need.

The truth is, if I do sound smug, it’s because I’m trying desperately to convince myself that we’ve made the right decision, that we’re doing what is best for our daughter in sending her to that school. Not a day goes by that I don’t wonder if we’ve made a significant mistake, and that our daughter is suffering for it.

The truth is, not a lot of parents in our position chose to send their kids to a school like the one our daughter goes to. I’ve always known that, but a few recent encounters really cemented for me that we are the outliers, and had me questioning our choice.

I wrote in October about the Kindergarten information nights I attended as a parent representative for our school. I talked to quite a few parents who are enrolling children in San Francisco Unified School District next fall, and I realized pretty quickly that our school was not what they were looking for. What they were looking for were high API scores and how much money the school raised. Evidently there are elementary schools in San Francisco that raise over $300,000 a year! I honestly had no idea. Just like I had no idea that parents actually used that kind of information (how much a school fundraises) to choose where to (try to) send their child.

$300,000 a year of fundraising is an absurdly high amount for a school like the one my daughter goes to. It could never raise even a fraction of that total. 85% of the families qualify for free lunch. That means they are living off of less than $31,000 a year (for a family of four) in what is right now considered to be the most expensive city in the country. Another 7% qualify for reduced-price lunch. It is not the kind of school that pays for its arts program or remodel with fundraising.

I have endured many a sleepless night wondering if we made the right choice sending our daughter to a “social justice” school. Will she be challenged enough? Will she have ample opportunities to pursue art, music and sports? Will she be getting the kind of high-caliber education needed to excel in high school and beyond?

If you had asked me a month ago if we’d made the right choice, I wouldn’t have known how to answer. Now, after the election, I have a renewed conviction that we are doing the right thing, and a renewed appreciation for the cultural and economic diversity of my daughter’s school. Sure, she may get a better “education” at a school that raises $300K a year, but she probably wouldn’t have friends who look different from her, and she probable wouldn’t graduate with a such a deep understanding of, and appreciation for, other cultures.

Also, she wouldn’t speak fluent Spanish. 😉

I can’t say I still don’t worry that my daughter won’t miss out on some of the bells and whistles the more “well off” schools have to offer, but I can say that I’m proud of our choice to buck upper-middle class white convention and send our daughter to a racially, culturally and economically diverse school. If Trump’s election has taught me anything, it’s that we all need more exposure to, and understanding of, people who are different from us. If there is one thing I can be sure my daughter will get at her school, it’s that.