Me time

My husband and I had are first big fight in long time. 

I know why it happened. I know what I could have done to prevent it. But I didn’t prevent it, and it happened. 

I should be asleep right now. My husband is and he never get up with the kids; the “night parenting” it mine to manage. 

But I needed something for myself today. Something that is all my own. 

So I’m two cocktails and a second episode into the Handsmaid Tale. 

It’s nice to have some time and mental space to myself. 

One week, Two weeks

My interview was yesterday morning. I think it went okay. Probably better than the other one. I think the administrator really liked me. I don’t think the Spanish teacher there was very impressed.

They have interviews into next week but hope to let me know by Thursday.

One week.

I’m honestly so exhausted by the whole thing, I don’t have the energy to care much anymore. I don’t think I’m going to get it, and I’m okay with that. It will sting all the more this time, since I have some connections at this school, but I will get over it and move on.

I’m still packing my resources separately from my school’s resources, but otherwise I’m just not going to think about it. I can’t.

My daughter’s birthday is next Wednesday and her party is the following Saturday. I have tons of tests to grade and scores in input at school. There is plenty to distract me, and I’m hoping that by tomorrow or Saturday weekend I’m just not thinking about it anymore.

And honestly, there is a lot I’m looking forward to about my schedule next year. It will be okay either way.

At this point I am just done. My kids are so intense right now. After the three day weekend I was looking forward to going back to work! My 3.5 year old son is especially challenging. My husband and I are both totally overwhelmed with work and other commitments. We are totally spent at the end of each day.

I know it always feels this way at the end of the school year. I know these challenges are not the really hard ones, the ones I read about on other people’s blogs, the ones I hear about in other people’s lives. I know it’s just a few bumps in our otherwise pretty smooth road. I do have that perspective.

I’m just tired. And I want the school year to be over. And I want to know for sure where I’m working next year.

One week. Two weeks. Then this will all be over.

It’s Complicated

Can I tell you how much I don’t want to be applying for this job right now? It really complicates things.

First off, this application requires a few things my past applications have not. Luckily I have copies of all my transcripts to scan, but I’m not sure when last year’s assistant principal will get around to sending me a finalized copy of the third letter of reference that I need. I wrote a draft of a letter Friday night, in the hopes that she could edit and return it by Tuesday. We’ll see. I still haven’t heard from her.

I also spent an hour on Saturday getting pricked for a TB test that will be read on Monday (yay for random urgent care clinics in my neighborhood!). I have an up-to-date TB screening at work, but I don’t want to ask for it because it will look suspicious (and also will probably take them a week to get it to me).

Acquiring and putting together all of this stuff is not easy, especially when I still have to make a review and test for my 6th graders, grade a ton of papers, AND pack my classroom.

As for packing my classroom, I would be doing a totally different job if I knew for sure I wouldn’t be returning next year. Since I’m not sure how this will play out, I’m keeping my own personal resources separated from the school’s resources. I don’t know if I’ll have to repack my own stuff into my own boxes once I know I’ll need to take them with me. That would suck, but I would understand. If I do get the job, I’m hoping they will let me return the boxes at the beginning of the school year, as my old high school (where I am applying) is literally RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET from my current school–we hear their bells ringing, and announcements blaring, all day long–so it wouldn’t be hard to return them.

This job is also not as exciting as the one I interviewed for before. The Spanish program at my old high school does not have a stellar reputation. In the past they have been very strict about how, and from what, teachers were allowed to teach. I might be stuck with a textbook if I get the job, and that would not be good. (This was 12 years ago, so it’s possible the department has changed.)

They also don’t have block schedule days, which I was really looking forward to. The other high school district has two block days a week, and our school will be having them next year. I was really looking forward to teaching with block days, and it’s a bummer that opportunity would disappear.

There are some pros to this job. Their pay schedule is higher than ours (but lower than the other high school district I applied to – though they are about to get a raise). They take 10 years of experience, instead of five, which is awesome. Also, they start at 9am, which means I wouldn’t have to negotiate when my prep falls. That is very good news.

I feel like I have to apply, because I have a bit of an “in” there. My leadership teacher remembers me and really wants me to get the job. He promised to put in a good word for me and I plan to visit him Wednesday, when he’ll hopefully introduce me to the instructional vice-principal. At that point I hope to have my application submitted. (They had a minimum day on Friday so I couldn’t visit him then.)

So it’s not necessarily a job I actually want (specifically), and the timing could not be more stressful, but it’s an opportunity to get my foot in the door at a high school that I can’t pass up. Also, the only reason I know about it is because a colleague’s wife works in the district and mentioned the opening to him, and he remembered I was looking around so he passed the news along to me. I haven’t even been checking the job site anymore because posting this late are rare. I’m definitely a sucker for that whole, “maybe it’s fate,” feeling, even though I don’t really believe in fate. I guess I’m more superstitious than I like to admit.

So yeah, this is inserting a whole lot of stress and uncertainty into an already stressful and uncertain time. I also don’t know how well I will weather more rejection. What if, despite my connections, I don’t even get an interview? What if I get the interview but they don’t ultimately hire me? I feel like it will hurt even more when I have to face my leadership teacher with the news that I didn’t get the job.

The last rejection was really hard for me. I was so unimpressed with my performance during the interview; it took weeks for me to stop berating myself for how horribly I did. These feelings were compounded by discovering that a friend had another friend put in a good word for me, which is probably why I got the interview in the first place. To know that I did a shitty job when someone else’s reputation was on the line was more than I could bare. (And to realize I most certainly wouldn’t have gotten the interview without that recommendation had me spiraling back into feelings of general unworthiness).

The other shitty aspect of this situation is that I was starting to feel pretty positive about next year. Yes, not having a classroom is going to suck, and commuting between schools with so little travel time is very stressful, but I really like the classes I have next year. I find myself disparaging my current job to boost my enthusiasm enough to apply, which I absolutely cannot do since I need to feel good about next year if I am ultimately rejected.

Man, I was so ignorant about job searching; I had no idea how much time and self-confidence it required. I didn’t realize that every failure to get an interview would feel like a rejection of me professionally. I didn’t realize that I would worry about asking others to put in a good word for me, for fear of my own failure reflecting poorly on them. The whole process is a total mindfuck. I really, really dislike it.

I do appreciate that I am in a relatively good place about next year. That will soften the probable blow, which I’m assuming will eventually come. The truth is I don’t expect to be offered the job, but feel I can’t ignore the opportunity–I suppose I’m more weary of regret than rejection. I guess that’s a good thing; I’m still standing on the right side of resignation. I don’t know for how many years that will be the case.

Short Circuit

I’ve been putting in long hours trying to stay on top of planning and grading in these final weeks of the school year. On Tuesday I found out I have to have my entire classroom packed the day after school ends. At 3pm that afternoon I will hand over my keys. 

I’ve been about two steps away from a total meltdown all week. It hasn’t helped that my kids aren’t sleeping. 

Then today I found out my high school – the one I graduated from almost 20 years ago – has a Spanish position opening. The job post went up on Wednesday. 

To say it put me into a tail spin would be an understatement. My impossible work load just multiplied exponentially. 

Thank god for the three day weekend. 

Embarking on yet another parenting journey

My daughter and I are about to embark on a three-month anti-anxiety program. Will the parenting challenges never end?

Yeah, I know, they don’t.

First it was the constant complaints of stomach aches (which our pediatrician assured me were anxiety related). Then it was the nightmares. And of course there is the sensory processing disorder, which we’ve learned to manage quite well. So I suppose the anxiety was always there, but it didn’t become something I felt we needed to tackle until recently, when she started getting really upset and telling me that she was worried something bad was going to happen. The aftercare staff reported last week that she cried for almost 30 minutes, afraid that something horrible was going to happen to me. Suddenly she didn’t want to go to swimming anymore because she was worried something bad would happen in the water. Around this same time, her fears of zombies and other monsters intensified so much that she could no longer read some of her favorite comics (these comics don’t have zombies in them, but some zombies appear in the ads for other comics throughout the issues–yes we offered to sharpie over the offending pictures, she freaked out even more). She didn’t even like the most recent Bad Guys book because it ended with (very G-rated) zombie kittens.

So yeah, the anxiety is now a thing that is affecting our quality of life on a daily basis. I can’t “hope she’ll grow out of it” any longer.

So of course, I got a book.

{You might be wondering why I’m not turning to a professional, and it’s a fair question. If someone I knew and trusted could recommend a great child and family counselor I would be all over it. But I’ve asked, and nobody does. I’ve done enough therapy to know it’s hard to find someone that’s effective when you’re an adult and know what effective feels like. I don’t have the time, money or energy to search for, and try, different child therapists. And my health insurance only covers/provides group therapy, which at this point I don’t think would be productive. So right now I’m going to try the program laid out in this book. If things don’t get better over the summer, I’ll start the search for a good child therapist.}

The book I got actually looks very good. It lays out a three month program and includes the PDF of a workbook to use for each lesson/activity. As someone who has done a fair amount of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) with professionals, I feel relatively well equipped to work through this with my daughter. She really wants to stop feeling this way, and seems willing to do the program with me. The fact that it will be summer, and we won’t have to work around homework obligations, will definitely help.

I’m especially eager to start because I’m worried she’ll suffer greatly while I’m gone for ten days in Ecuador this summer. Not only is that the longest I’ve ever been away, but it’s the farthest I’ve traveled without my family. At this point I can’t even mention it to someone else without her having a meltdown. She totally refuses to talk to me about it. I leave in five weeks, which doesn’t give us a lot of time to get started, but hopefully by the time I leave she’ll have some tools to help her manager her catastrophic thinking and the panic it induces.

I know parenting is hard, and I know a lot of parents have it harder than me, but man, sometimes I wonder if we can go a year without some new crisis to confront.

Having said that, I realize how lucky we are. Yesterday I walked in on my daughter finishing a chapter book, and I thanked the universe yet again for us learning of her convergence insufficiency so early. I shudder at the thought of how frustrated I would be right now if my daughter, who can listen to audiobooks all day, were refusing to read and not understanding why. Instead she reads at a high second grade level in both Spanish and English. Yes the three months of visual therapy was an incredibly intense parenting challenge, one I hope not to repeat, but I’m so thankful that it exists, and was available, (and that we had the almost $4K to pay for it). The frustration and heartache we saved ourselves would have been far worse.

I’m equally as thankful that there are resources out there for parents with anxious children, that sensory processing disorder is recognized and diagnosable, that there are books, and noise cancelling headphones and chew necklaces and seamless socks you can buy to make it all a little more manageable. That people out there recognize our situation and validate our concerns.

For all of that, I am immensely grateful.

If not a little weary.

I’ll let you know how this journey down the rabbit hole of anxiety management goes.

Sapped

I’m sorry I haven’t been writing much lately. It’s not just about not knowing what to say, many nights I simply have nothing left to offer. I used to be able, eager even, to sit down after a long day and process my thoughts in a post. Now, in the hour I have to myself before bedtime, I can’t seem to manage much of anything. Most nights folding laundry while watching TV feels like too much, let alone the stacks of grading I need to do, or a blog post I don’t actually need to write.

I’m wondering if the news cycle is sapping that last bit of creative energy from me these days. The time and energy spent processing whatever unbelievable occurrence is blowing up the headlines is not effort I’m used to expending. And it’s not like I think about it all that much, but it’s a constant hum in the background, leaving me that much more depleted at the end of the day.

I’ve tried taking a day off to see if I have more to give after bedtime, but 24 hours isn’t enough time to detox from the insanity. I think I’d need an entire week or more of not reading or talking about the news at all to get some of that creative energy back.

This is also the hardest time of the year, both as a teacher and now as the parent of an elementary aged student. There is so much going on at both schools, I feel completely and totally overwhelmed most of the time.

My daughter’s school year ends this Friday. Mine ends 3.5 weeks after that. I’m hoping I have a little more to give in the two weeks before I head to Ecuador. In the meantime, I’ll try to post when I can.

How are you managing the onslaught of the current news cycles?

 

Guiding Principal

I’m struggling to write here lately. I’m not sure what to say. It all feels jumbled: unfinished ideas, stray thoughts that don’t fit, non-sequitur topics. I start posts but can’t finish them. I return to posts only to abandon them yet again. I’m not sure what my purpose here is anymore.

As life took me farther and farther from my original blogging purpose, and the community I held so dear slowly faded into the ether, I found myself writing for different reasons. I also found myself reading profoundly different blogs. Now I would say that more than half of what pops up in my reader is not from personal blogs — the vast majority of the people I once followed have stopped writing — and is instead from spaces that focus on a certain idea, promote an ideology, or espouse a way of life. I like these blogs well enough, but I am beginning to register the shift in the balance between those kinds of posts and the ones about life in general, has left me feeling like my own space lacks a… I don’t know… coherent narrative? A specific message?

I know I don’t actually need those things. That is not why I started blogging and was never my reason to continue writing. If anything I wanted to be a dissent voice in the presentation of parenting and marriage as perfect. I wanted to speak truths society mostly kept silent. I wanted to speak my truth.

But it’s harder now. My kids are getting bigger and I find much of my own path through motherhood so intricately entangled in their own journeys that I’m not sure how to tease out my thoughts in a meaningful way. My marriage is decent right now. My work woes, as a teacher, seem nontransferable to women in other professions. I’m increasingly embarrassed to publish posts that seem little more than an admittance of of my white, upper-middle class, cisgender privilege. Can I really add anything of value?

There is no life philosophy I have been able to embrace wholeheartedly. My life feels like a smorgasbord of attitudes and outlooks. More than ever I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing.

The other day I was talking with some friends about the entrenched, systematic faults of San Francisco’s public school system (and the serious failings of California’s public education in general), and the problems with Prop 13 came up (as they are wont to do) and suddenly we were talking about how when you do work on your house they will reassess your property’s value, and back-date that appraisal to the day your permits are issued.

Suddenly, instead of pondering the very real failings of my child’s school system, I was thrust back into an inner-monologue I’ve endured a thousand times. That means that if we incorporate our in-law unit as a master bedroom, not only will we lose our rent, and spend insane money doing the renovation, we’ll also end up paying thousands of dollars more a year in property taxes.

This again?! You are probably wondering, annoyed and exasperated that a topic I’ve assured myself, and all of you, was no longer under consideration is rearing its ugly, obsessive head once again.

I feel you, my friends. I really do. Because I feel exactly the same way.

And as I was reconsidering (for the millionth time) whether or not incorporating our inlaw unit should be a goal, I found that my primary frustration was not the uncertainty of the situation, but my lack of a foundational philosophy on which to manage the uncertainty. If only I were committed to an overarching mindset, I would know what to do!

Except I am not committed, to anything, it seems, at least not for very long. My views are as constantly conflicting as the divergent messages I get from the blogs I subscribe to, the articles I read (and the commercials embedded in them), the personal stories people relate and the vague remnants of “how things are” lingering from my childhood.

Here is a sampling of what goes through my mind every time I consider incorporating our in-law unit:

A master bedroom! A SECOND BATHROOM! We NEED a second bathroom, even if we’re okay sleeping in the living room for the rest of our lives.

But people all over the world survive without ANY bathrooms. And families all over this city share smaller bathrooms with more people!

But everyone I know has a bigger house than I do! And two bathrooms! (Or at least once and half!) I’m not asking for too much if I want those things too!

But TINY HOUSES! People are happy in 400 square feet!

It shouldn’t matter what anyone else does or doesn’t do, this is a decision for you.

We’ll never save enough money to pay for inside stairs anyway. STOP THIS MADNESS.

But we could take out a loan against our house. Everyone does that to remodel.

But THAT IS A BAD PLAN! At least that is what all the financially savvy people say.

But you are NOT financially savvy, so you can follow the herd and go into more debt. You’ll never pay off your house anyway, you might as well enjoy it more while you’re making insane mortgage payments.

But, also, if you live in that space you can’t rent it. That’s $15K a year you’re willing to just give up?

But we only have one more year of child care, that costs more than $15K a year! The math works perfectly!

But savings! And retirement! And college funds! And traveling with the kids! And job flexibility!

OTHER PEOPLE HAVE SPACE LIKE THAT, WHY CAN’T I?!

Don’t buy into the message that you need more, just because most other people you know have more. You don’t need more. You are happy now. You don’t need that space, or the bathroom.

Well, maybe you need the bathroom. Maybe adding a half bath is the answer… I wonder how much that would cost.

OHMYGOD THIS ISN’T EVEN ON THE TABLE RIGHT NOW STOP WITH THE INCESSANT MINDFUCKERY YOU CRAZY BITCH!

(Lather + Rinse + Repeat) x Infinity = I AM GOING TO LOSE MY EVER LOVING MIND!

When I untangle my frustrations, I recognize that the final result with all these different mindsets at my disposal, is I have more choice. My exposure to different narratives informs me with different ways to approach a problem. I consider myself lucky to have access to these different perspectives. But it’s also hard when I don’t have my feet firmly planted in any one of them. Even if I did want to commit to a certain course of action, there are tons of possible scenarios and I could never know what might ultimately transpire. I know this. And yet, it seems like I’d be better able to manage that uncertainty if I knew if fell within the confines of a committed belief system. Without a guiding principal to direct me, I feel completely and utterly lost.

And, obviously (I hope!), it’s not really about the in-law unit. I feel like I’m missing that guiding principal in so many areas of my life. Sometimes I wish, more than anything, that I prescribed to a certain worldview so strongly that it easily influenced every big decision I make. It would be so much easier to navigate through life, if I knew, not necessarily where I’m going, but which belief system to follow so that I might get there.

Do front loading washing machines actually clean clothes?

I’ve had need, recently, to soak two pairs of jeans that I wear pretty frequently. Both had spots that I had treated but weren’t coming out, so I left them in a bucket with Oxyclean for 24 hours, hoping to coax the stains from the fabric. Both times, the water in the bucket the next day was so, so dirty.

The jeans looked clean before they soaked (except for the stains, of course), but the dark brown water told a different story. It makes me wonder how dirty the rest of my clothes are.

I knew, from my years of cloth diapering, that front loaders did not do as good a job of cleaning clothes because the clothes are never fully immersed in the water (as they are in top loaders). That is how they save water, which is important. In fact, I’ve been soaking my workout bras every couple of months for the last year because they started getting funky after a while, and I could smell them before I even started to sweat. So it’s not like I didn’t know that my washing machine had its limits. But it’s disheartening to realize that it is so very inferior to top loading machines.

{I also wondered if I’m putting too many clothes in the machine at once, but I wash the jeans separately and all our pairs together isn’t even a full load, so I don’t think it’s that. I also rarely have a full “perm press” load, which is how I wash my sports bras.}

I guess I’ll have to start soaking the clothes I wear a lot every few months. Just what I need–more laundry!

Does your front loading washing machine do a good job? Is there any way to improve its performance?

Straight Outta Good Housekeeping

This Sunday my son and I went to a “play date” at one of his friends’ houses from school. I put “play date” in quotation marks because three other families also came and the hosts had out a full spread, plus they ordered pizza.

This family lives in a nice neighborhood. It’s actually the neighborhood where my daughter’s school is located, but very few of the local families send their kids to her school, opting for “better” (::cough:: whiter ::cough::) schools in other parts of the city. This neighborhood has been popular for a while, but in the past ten years has seen a massive increase in interest and now houses on this specific hill sell for insane amounts.

This family’s house was beautiful. The whole thing looked recently remodeled, with sleek, clean stainless steel and marble lines against shiny, dark hardwood floors. Their back patio sported gorgeous stone floors, surrounded by an unblemished, stained fence, a corner couch (big enough for ten!) AND A FIRE PIT! The walls were adorned with legitimate art pieces, and each room boasted a recognizable color scheme. The house was immaculate. And so, so beautiful.

And again I felt that familiar green eyed monster, peaking out from behind my eyes.

I’ve been thinking a lot about why I get so envious of people with beautiful houses, especially when they are in desirable neighborhoods. Whenever I get bitten by that pesky, green beast, I spend a few days thinking about why I’m so jealous of what people have. Jealousy is an ugly emotions, but it can teach us a lot about ourselves.

I mean obviously, I would love to have an amazing, beautiful, house. And I would love to live in a funky, hip neighborhood with a bustling “main street” and palpable sense of community. I mean my house is okay, it might even be nice at some point, when the broken shit gets fixed. And my neighborhood is okay. Sure there is constantly trash flying everywhere, and the hum of the nearby freeway is constant, but it’s easy to get to work from where I live, and I love that.

It’s not just the “idea” of the beautiful house and the coveted location. It’s all the things I imagine someone feels when they live in such a house, in such a neighborhood. Surely those people must be happy, gloriously so. Surely they are happier than I am.

In my mind, only one kind of person can live in a house that looks like it materialized from the pages of Good Housekeeping, in a neighborhood that gets written up constantly as one of the cities foremost destinations. That person has arrived. They have money, and lots of it. They have professional success (that’s where the money came from). They are well-liked (probably because of all the get-togethers they host). They have arrived, as it were, at the life they wanted for themselves. They aren’t living in a “good enough” house, in a decent neighborhood, just thankful they could stay in the city. They are living in the gorgeous house, in the neighborhood people would literally spend millions to call home. They have ended up exactly where they always wanted to be.

But my assumptions run even deeper. I assume that when you live in a house like that, you are content. There is no reason to doubt your success because you reside in its very embodiment. Your whole life is proof that you’ve arrived. Everywhere you look, what you’ve achieved is around you.

People in houses like that, have lives that match. Beautiful, happy lives, that are lived with intention. People in houses like that have a lot of friends, and make home cooked meals, and keep everything organized, and never feel overwhelmed. How could you feel stressed in a kitchen like that?

Of course, when I follow the bread crumbs down that rabbit hole, I recognize how ridiculous it all is. One cannot assume happiness, nor be certain of how others perceive their own success just by glancing around where they live. The idea is preposterous. And when I am honest with myself about my preconceived notions, I recognize how ridiculous it is.

I also am brought face to face with my own personal demons, the ones that tell me I’ll never feel I’ve arrived, that insist I will always want something more (like a kitchen remodel) and never be able to achieve it. And then another part of me chides the former for even wanting a remodel because we don’t NEED a new kitchen (or a master bedroom downstairs, or even a second bathroom), and I should be grateful for what I have and content to continue having it.

I am brought face to face with the fear that I will never feel financially secure, that a part of me will always be waiting for the bottom to fall out, that someday we may not have the money we need to make the required repairs.

That at its very core, my life will be forced by reaction, not shepherded by intention.

I want to feel like we have enough, that we will have enough. I want my attitude to embrace enough, because certainly we have already achieved it. I want to look around my house and see all that we have, not everything that we could make better.

And most of the time I do see what I have. I am in awe of it. Really. Lately, as I’ve come across more and more personal tragedy, I am reminded of how little I’ve suffered, how incredibly lucky I’ve been. And I do feel like I process these stories with a lens more focused by perspective, that I am better able to recognize my incredible (and entirely undeserved) fortune, that my gratitude is not merely the echo of a sentiment I expect from myself, but a truth I hold deeply, in my very core.

The truth is, I can live with intention. I have that capacity, more so than the great majority of humans inhabiting this world. I just have to want it enough. I have to be willing to sacrifice. That’s the thing you don’t see when you look in on a life of intention from the outside; intention it’s difficult and requires sacrifice and doesn’t always feel good.

I’m still figuring all this out, learning what I really want and coming to terms with what I’m willing to do to achieve it. The answers are not always what I expect them to be, and that can be both disappointing and thrilling. If I don’t actually want this, what do I truly desire? Most of the time I don’t know the answer, but I recognize how privileged I am to ask the question.