Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Blah, Blah, Blah

I know. I hate New Year's Resolutions too. So I'm not making any -- that I actually think I'll keep.
Cause here's how it will go, I'll make them and break them and then feel guilty. I don't need any more guilt in my life. I know what I need to do. I need to write more and run more and love my family more. Done.
I like the way this old year is ending. I like having extra money in the bank account so I can pay any bills that fly this way. Ka-ching.
I've got some great ideas for my novel, now I just actually need to sit down and write them.
That's why, when I heard boys voices at 5 a.m., I pulled myself out of bed. Yes, I spent an hour happily paying bills online and looking at the blogosphere, but now I'm ready to finish this post and keep working on my novel.
The boy voices make me kind of sad that they decided to end the old year by staying up all night. Six of them, 15 and 16-year-olds in the basement, playing Xbox and watching bad sitcom reruns. The Grape Crush bottle lays empty on the granite countertop. Boy shoes big enough for the cats to ride in bunch together at the top of the basement stairs. One boy is coughing, probably allergic to cats.
I hoped that maybe Spencer, perenially tired from all that growing, had gone to sleep, leaving some of the the younger boys to carouse all night. Then I heard his laugh.
It's good to hear boys laugh too.
They're quiet now at 6:30 a.m., but I'll wake them all by 8:30 as I head out the door to get Tucker to swim team. I'll send them home to sleep away the last day of the old year, then awake in time to celebrate the new.
As for me, I'll spend the morning with my husband, a little post Christmas shopping and returns. We'll have lunch together, maybe fish and chips or Shepherd's Pie at the Irish place in the Brewery District, and come home to watch some football bowl games before he heads off to work.
My friend Sheila is having a party so I plan to go over there with my six-pack of Smirnoff Ice. Oops! Make that a 5-pack since I drank one last night.
Here's a picture of Tupi starting his New Year celebration way too early. Grace wants to have friends over, and, although they're a very tame crowd, I'll probably feel it necessary to come back home and chaperone long before midnight.
This has been a good year. I've worked a lot. I've posted a lot on my blog. I've packed away one novel but have a good start on the next. I've run a lot of miles and shared those miles with friends. I've seen my kids grow and make plans for the future.
2010 is going to be a doozy. I hope I remember to enjoy it.
Happy New Year to everyone and thanks for reading.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Too Sick

Too sick to lie on the couch and watch TV. Too sick to read. Too sick to talk on the phone. That's how I felt yesterday. I could only lie in my bed with my hand over my face grasping the sides of my head. That and getting up to vomit were my only activities.
I woke up with a headache. Truthfully, it felt like what I remember from long ago hangover headaches. I decided to get over it. I had a glass of water while Grace got ready for swim practice. Then I popped two Advil before I woke Spencer up for basketball. I dressed, shoved my computer in a bag and determined to go to the coffee shop to write after I dropped him at school.
"Uhh," I moaned as we drove toward the high school.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
"My head hurts so much I feel like I'm going to throw up."
I let him out and watched him trudge through the snow. Then I turned left toward the coffee shop. I sat in the parking lot for a few minutes, fighting the headache and nausea before I drove back home. I sat in the garage for a few minutes.
That's when I got that feeling in the pit of my stomach. You know the one. It means you had better run for the bathroom.
I got out of the car and grabbed my computer. I hurried up the sidewalk. Nope. I wasn't going to make it.
Tucker had carefully shuffled his name in the snow the night before. But it said TUKER with a little carat between the U and K to add the C he had forgotten. "Sorry, Tuck," I thought as I bent over the snow and threw up. I hoped none of my neighbors were outside.
I continued the walk to the house. Darn! I had locked the door. I puked once more in the brick flower box beside the back door. It was covered with snow so I hoped it would kind of wash things away.
When I finished in the bathroom, I threw my clothes on the floor and climbed into bed. My husband was still in bed.
"Don't talk to me. Don't touch me. I'm throwing up," I said.
And he said, "What?"
That's where I spent the day, vaguely wondering if this was a migraine with vomiting, or a stomach virus with headache.
The headache was definitely the worst part. Each time I leaned over the toilet, I thought, "Oh, please, don't let the kids catch this." They don't have the pain tolerance I do and I was miserable.
So yesterday, I didn't work on my novel, I didn't work out and I didn't get to see Spencer's basketball game,
I ate and drank nothing until about 6:30 when Tucker brought me half an inch of Seven Up.
About 8:30, I ventured out to the couch to watch the Wisconsin/Univ. of Miami game, only leaving it a few times to throw up again.
This morning, the headache was waiting for me, but not as severe. I feel it prodding me gently above my left eye. I might not get a workout in, but I've already had a cup of tea, so I hope for a more productive day.
Ugh! I hate being sick.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Careful What You Wish For...

The day before Thanksgiving, I was nearly in tears. Our holiday was going to consist of me, my husband and our three children. Earl had to work. I would do the cooking with the kids help. It didn't seem like much of a holiday. So I called my mom in Florida on my way to work that Wednesday.
"Please won't you and Dad come up for Christmas?" I begged. "I can't stand another holiday without family."
So they came up to Ohio. And my nephew in the Navy came home from Seattle. Then last week, after a flurry of phone calls, my older brother in Texas drove to my grandmother's house in Kentucky. He brought along his teenage daughter and 21-year-old son. Grace and I made the four-hour drive on Sunday morning to spend the afternoon celebrating my grandmother's 92nd birthday. Here's our whole family, minus my boys and husband.

In addition, my aunt, another uncle, a cousin and his wife and their two college-aged children all came too.
The kids had a good time catching up.

Well, I guess they aren't kids anymore. The girls range in age from 13 to 20.
But they caught up with each other like cousins do. They talked and played some music.

My cousin's son Logan is a freshman in college. He has acquired the nickname "The Rooster" but we don't want to know why.
The grown ups (that's me) reminisced about the days when they played Little House on the Prairie, roaming the woods behind my grandmother's house. Then we talked about how they played dress up and how most of them wouldn't fit in my grandmother's clothes now.
I wanted family for Christmas; I got family.
Grace and I drove home Sunday night in a snowstorm. Over the river...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Growing Up

One of my favorite pictures of all time was taken at my parents' blueberry farm in Kentucky more than 20 years ago. My nephew Michael, about two years old, was standing on rocks by a creek with a small waterfall. He was leaning over and swatting at the waterfall with a plastic tennis racket. His blue stretchy shorts cover a diaper. His brown hair stands in curls on his head.
The reason I love this picture is because I know the story of what happens next. My soon-to-be husband Earl was playing with Michael. He stood behind him on the rocks.
Minutes after the picture was taken, Michael fell head first into the creek. What Earl and I still remark on was the silence after that fall, until Earl reached in and pulled Michael out. Then the wailing filled the country air.
This week, Michael came home for Christmas. He is in the Navy and he hasn't been home for Christmas in four years. He drinks a lot of beer. He can drink 12 according to him. He has been married and then divorced when his new bride met his submarine and informed him she was moving in with her boyfriend. He has tattoos. He talks a lot and finds something in common with each of his younger cousins who have grown exponentially since he left four years ago.
He played guitar with Tucker and talked to Spencer about cars. He faked shock that Grace could be old enough to graduate high school.
His mother showed me the awards he had won for being indispensable while working on the nuclear sub.
The kids started talking about jobs and Spencer said he didn't want to be a lifeguard any more because the pressure was too much. Spencer saved four kids this summer and just worried that he might miss one.
Michael didn't bat an eye, but said, "I've saved millions."
We have no idea where Michael's sub goes and he can't tell us. We only know his whereabouts when he surfaces. So we get pictures from Hawaii where he was sunburned after months underwater, but mostly he hangs out in Seattle waiting for the next time he goes on sub duty again.
I watched him open the quilt my mother had made and wrap it around him. He has changed a lot from that impulsive two year old with the piled up curls. But that boy is still there inside him.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Birthday to my Husband

Today, my husband is officially eight years older than I am. But that only lasts for two months.
This has been a big year of change for him, for our family. His job has changed, some parts better, some worse. He works eight hours and is finished but he has to work evenings. He doesn't bring work home with him, but he doesn't look forward to going very much.
Since he is home during the day, we have a lot more together time when I am not teaching. There are times when he expects me to have equal free time, but "not at work" does not equal "free time" for me. He has picked up the slack I left behind with the housework and laundry. When I have worked all day, I often come home to a clean house, piles of folded laundry waiting on the bed..
When we married nearly 20 years ago, I knew he was a nice guy, but I was too young to know how wisely I had chosen. I saw that when the waitress dropped a tray, he got up to help her. I saw that when he refused one of the many homeless people in Key West who asked for money then later saw the woman sleeping in a car, he knocked on the window of the car to give her money. He was obviously a decent person.
Over the years, if anything, he has come to love me more, and I don't know how I got so lucky. His first thought is what will make me happy, what will make things easier for me. And, although he ocassionally guesses wrong, or causes a flap with the kids, I know that his motives are true.
Sometimes we fight. Sometimes loudly. But underneath, I feel very blessed that I married a man who has grown with me instead of apart from me.
And this afternoon, when the romantic lunch we had planned fell through as the kids chose to skip this swim practice and stay home, he shrugged and drank the mellow glass of chardonnay. He knows that, although today is a special day, it won't be the last opportunity for us to share a romantic afternnon.
Happy birthday, Earl.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

College Football

I know this is a strange confession to make, but I love college football. As a matter of fact, when Earl and I began talking about moving to France, one of the first things I wondered was whether I'll be able to watch college football on Saturday afternoons in France. I know! So stupid. Why would a person in France want to sit around and watch American boys hit each other and try to get the football to the end zone.
I grew up with two brothers and a dad who are sports fanatics. Football was always on during the weekends in the fall. When I went to college, first Eastern Kentucky then Wilmington, they both had good football teams and I went to the games on crisp afternoons to cheer on the teams.
Somewhere along the line, it became nearly an obsession. I root for Ohio State now. That's where Earl went and almost everyone in Ohio, including my two brothers, root for OSU. But I watch all the other games as well, calculating how a loss by the number five team could boost OSU's chance and move it up in the polls.
My boys love to watch too and Grace will come into the living room with a book so she can share the junk food snacks we munch. Inevitably, swim meets begin to interfere with college football Saturdays, and I'll find myself standing in an exercise room watching the game while my children swim in the nearby pool.
Then the season draws to a close much too soon and I have to wait another nine months before it comes around again.
Maybe it isn't just college football. Maybe it's the season. The fall is my favorite. The leaves start turning and the sky becomes the clearest blue ever. We walk through crunchy leaves and cook chili. We nestle under throw blankets on the couch and we all sit together rooting for our favorite team. Maybe I'm not obsessed with football but with those sights and sounds.
Even when I'm alone on a Saturday afternoon though, I turn on football, so I don't think I can claim it's merely family togetherness.
The first week of January brings the college football bowl games. After that, I look across the cold months of February and March then the entire spring and summer before football begins again.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Family Christmas Photo

Disclaimer: No teenagers were harmed in the making of these family photos; however, parents may have been verbally harangued.

As you can see, our mantle is nicely decorated for Christmas.

Once our family stands in front of it, all the Christmas cheer is blocked.

We can't get everyone to smile or look normal at the same time. We move in front of the Christmas tree,but some of us are forward and others are in the back. This looks more like an album cover and I'm obviously the lead singer.
Things start to fall apart then. Spencer, who is much more handsome than these pictures show, would have none of the silliness and he retreated. Meanwhile, the mayhem began.
Somewhere there has to be a picture I can use in our Christmas letter, and I've promised I'll finish it by tomorrow. Wish me luck.

Wrapping Paper

This morning before Mass I needed to wrap a Christmas present for my goddaughter. I rolled out the blue paper with white snowflakes on my bed and began cutting it. That's when I wondered if everyone wraps Christmas presents on their bed. I've seen House Hunters or the Home & Garden section of the newspaper talking about wrapping rooms. I wondered what kind of people could devote an entire room of their house to wrapping presents.
When I wait to wrap all of the presents on the night before Christmas, my back begins to hurt from leaning over the bed. It seems a small price to pay. Or, I could wrap a few every day so that I'm finished on Christmas Eve.
How about you, where do you wrap?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Complaints Again

Did I say that I was finished complaining about the "university" where I teach? Well, I've changed my mind. I just finished grading all of my papers and rather than doing a happy dance, I feel like crying.
The dean sent out a message on Wednesday that any adjuncts who wanted to be paid this year for the quarter we taught needed to submit grades and our invoice by noon on Friday. Those of us with Friday night courses were allowed to submit by noon on Saturday.
My class, my very difficult and needy class, met Friday from 6 to 9:30 p.m. My 26 students each diligently handed in final drafts of their 5 to 8 page research essays. I sat through their presentations, marking their grades. Then, I had until today at noon to grade them all, put the grades in the gradebook and send a copy along with the invoice to the Dean.
And I did it. I made it with about 13 minutes to spare. I sent the email with the attachments and went to talk to my husband who I had blown off, saying, "I've got to finish this."
Then, I went back to check my email and saw an "Out of the office" message from the dean. She wasn't in today.
That means I won't be paid this year for a class I've been teaching since the last week of October. I should probably get paid mid-January or at the end of January. It shouldn't be a big deal, but it irks me. I was looking forward to a full bank account, of being able to send off extra money for bills right after Christmas.
On the plus side, last night at the end of class, I had several students come up to me and thank me for the class. This was a class of complainers, so I was surprised. Even the student who I suspected might be packing heat because he was so hostile toward me, thanked me.
One student, who is originally from Africa, he's exuberant and happy and lively, came up and said, "It is we who should be thanking you. You made this class so good."
And I said, "No, M. The students really determine how entertaining the class is."
He shook his head, and said, "No, thank you."
That felt good.
I'm committed to one more class at this university and then I'll regroup. I feel that they don't treat their adjunct faculty very well, and they certainly don't compensate us for all the extras they expect.
I have at least a week before I have to start planning classes again. I think I'll enjoy Christmas and forget about teaching for awhile.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Making Friends

It's funny that as a kid making friends is so important. Being friends with the right people becomes even more important as we edge toward our teen years. Now that I'm an adult, I spend very little effort trying to make new friends. And I'm feeling it now.
I have a few close friends, but I lost most of my daily friends in one fell swoop when we stopped homeschooling more than two years ago. I would see the homeschool moms nearly every weekday when we homeschooled. Now, I rarely see most of them.
Recently, I had an epiphany about friends though. I was leaving the high school where we had been schlepping the boxes full of costumes in the prop room. The mother in charge decided that even though it isn't time to plan costumes for the spring musical, we will organize all the costumes. So we emptied all of the closets and pulled all the crates off the high shelves where they are stacked four deep. Since then we've been methodically separating. We started with hats, which was fun because we tried them on and acted silly. The woman in charge, Jennie, brought along her 7th grade son who was sweet and polite and funny. He tried on hats too.

A gathering of homeschool friends.
The following week we separated the pants by color and fabric and put them in the proper bins. Then this week, Grace came along and we did skirts. We fill the hall with eight bins full of skirts and separated them according to color. Then we decided we needed to divide them according to skirt length.
We meet each week to work on the prop room and have for quite awhile since the fall play. During the fall play, I was full of complaints. We worked twice a week and I had other things I needed to do!
Then last week was my epiphany. I am making friends with Jennie. This is how it happens. You work together on something, even if you complain about it (which I did, but she didn't). You start sharing stories about your children, your work, your husband, your life. And, before you know it, you have a new friend.
This week, I had a question about Grace's scheduling conflict with swimming and choir. Since Jennie's daughter is in both, I called her and asked what her daughter planned to do. This was another step in the friendship ladder (and ladders have been an important part of our friendship so far since we keep climbing up them in the prop room). Maybe someday we'll reach the point where I can call her just to see how her day is going. Maybe she and her husband will come over to have drinks.
I had two other invitations to meet mothers of high school students for drinks. So Sunday night and Monday night, I spent chatting over drinks.
Suddenly, my dearth of friends is turning into a deluge. And just in time.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

In the Grasp of the Green-Eyed Monster

When other people succeed, we should feel happy for them, I tell my kids. That doesn't diminish your chances for success, I say.
So I hate it when I find myself resenting someone who succeeded so easily at something I have been trying to achieve. That's exactly how I felt when I clicked on a blog yesterday. It's on a list of blogs that I read occasionally. The woman is already living my dream. American, living in France. She took the summer off blogging to focus on a "story" she wanted to write.
I remember thinking, "How cute" and "Wish it was that easy." I don't know if I've even looked at her blog since then, but yesterday I clicked on it and there was a copy of the story from Publisher's Weekly about her three-book deal. Young adult series. Zombies.
Okay, I don't know if I'll ever write a young adult novel and zombies don't really enter my vocabulary or my thought process, but I felt the bite of jealousy. Why was there a book deal for her?
I want to be happy for her. Terrific. That's awesome! Way to go!
Instead, I think, why not me?
At least the news lit a fire under me. "Remember that you were going to spend Christmas break writing, not running." Well, I'll just have to do both.
I'll be the Biggest Loser and the prolific writer all at once. If I don't finish this next one, which is going to be better than ever, I can never sell it and copy my own Publisher's Weekly article.
Congratulations, Amy. Hopefully, one day I'll join your circle.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Break Exercisorama

I was going to call this post The Biggest Loser because that is where the idea came from. I had never watched the television show The Biggest Loser but only seen the commercials when I cattily pointed out a huge man at a swim meet. I said to my friend Pat, "That man is nearly big enough to be on The Biggest Loser."
"Oh, he is," Pat assured me. Turned out he watched the show. He explained that it was different from other competitive shows because everyone really rooted for each other. They knew they all needed to stay. I got curious and watched the show a few times. Last week was the weight loss finale and the winner lost more than 50 percent of his body weight. I'm not sure how long that process took, probably 6 months to a year, still it seemed extreme.
The thing about the biggest loser is that these overweight people exercise all the time. That's why I decided that Christmas Break will be my exercisorama with a lot of working out. I have three weeks before classes start again and I intend to get back into shape so I can run 10 miles without lugging extra pounds around.
The fact that my kids have Christmas Break swim practices everyday except Christmas and New Year should make it easier for me to keep my pledge. Sometimes they have two-a-day practices. When they're in the pool, I plan to be on the treadmill or the bicycle or the stairstepper or lifting weights.
So far, most of my friends have refused to join in, but one of the swim moms says she'll be in the gym with me.
So I started this morning with a 45-minute run. It's longer than my runs have been this fall as I rushed to get back to prepare for class or grade papers. I plan to follow up with a walk tonight and then tomorrow I'll extend my run to 60 minutes.
I do have one concern. I think when I trained for the marathon, I messed up my metabolism. My body thought we needed to horde fat and calories for those long runs. Don't you think that will happen again? If I exercise like crazy, will my body start to store fat again?
In addition to getting in shape, I've promised myself the present of a new song from iTunes for everyday I work out. So I'm going to need your help with some suggestions. I need good, fast running music. Tucker seems to pick music that I always enjoy, mixing alternative and pop. This morning, my favorite song on my run was "The Great Escape" by Boys Like Girls.
Any suggestions?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

It's the Most Wonderful Time...

If you heard cries of joy and saw fireworks in the sky, no doubt you assumed that I had finished grading essays for my five classes. And that would be correct. At 10:02 p.m., I entered the last grades for the main college where I teach. Now, I just need to get through the other two classes, and truly I have very little that I have to do to prepare for class this week. Think of the stress whooshing out of me, at least until I pick up those 27 papers Friday night that must be graded by Sunday.
Even though I've been wading through essays, life didn't stop here. That is why we went yesterday afternoon to pick out a Christmas tree. When we lived in Michigan, we always cut down a tree. Now we just go to the tree lot at the YMCA. The men's group is in charge and they call is the Y's Men trees. Get it?

I had planned to stay home and grade while everyone else picked out the tree, but it became a domino effect. Then Tucker was going to stay home too, and Spencer didn't really care. Earl was feeling sick...
I put down my papers and went along. I loved watching Tucker attempt to shake out the tree.
We left it outside last night during the basketball games and swim meet and then woke up to rain this morning. Today, when it was time to set it up, I'm not going to lie, there was yelling. I find a little yelling with swear words thrown in enhances the Christmas spirit.
The boys moved the coffee table then Grace and Tucker moved a chair so the tree could go in front of the window.
Earl set up the tree in its stand and this evening the kids and I decorated while he was at work.

I had the kids pose with the tree afterwards. Grace and I nearly fell over laughing when we realized that Spencer is unable to sit on his heels. He's that inflexible. Hopefully that is connected to how much he has grown this year and eventually he'll become more flexible than a 90-year-old.
In all sincerity, I hope that I can relax and enjoy my kids a little more now that my grades are turned in. I'm going to make it my New Year's resolution to complain less and laugh more. This weekend was a good start, because the kids made me laugh, maybe even guffaw, at least twice.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Chewing My Leg Off to Escape...

I knew I might be hitting a wall when I woke up several times last night and went over what I should have said, what I should have emailed to the unsupportive dean, to the complaining student, to the full-time faculty member who stood me up for a meeting.
When work begins to infiltrate my sleep, it may be time to bail. I feel like I'm stuck though.
The University where I teach pays by contract. I get one pay check two weeks after the end of the 8-week session. My thought was that this would be a good way to save for college. Big checks that could be squirreled away for college. I'm not sure how much longer I can last.
Thanksgiving interrupted our class and things have been in turmoil. I've caught three students plagiarizing. The one immediately began to revise his ways. The other two, originally from Africa and with a bit of a language barrier, looked at me blankly. Yes, they submitted their essays to and it shows that 89% of the essay was not their work. Was there a problem with that? One went back and put 89% of his essay in quotation marks. Would that work? Not so much.
Then I had the student who sat through class with his arms folded across his chest and refused to join in any group activities. When I asked the students to evaluate their peer reviewers, he ended with the comment: "But what do I know? According to you, NOTHING." So now I'm afraid he's going to bring a gun into class and shoot us all down, especially me.
Last week, after class, about eight students waited for me to complain about the grades they'd gotten on their evaluative essays. Most of them had the same problem they had gone off topic. Rather than evaluating the articles, they ventured into their own lives. One student in particular (OCD) said, "I am very concerned about this class."
Now, I'm thinking, okay the class has jumped the shark. But I asked: "What do you mean exactly? That you're worried about your grade?"
"Well... yes," she said.
Oh, well. That's different. I explained again why she received the B rather than an A. Then yesterday, I had an email from the Dean and from a "Success Counselor" asking about her grades.
The grades are posted online. She can just click on it any time and see that she has 90% in class, which is an A. In this college, an A is an A, whether it's 99% or 90%. What about learning something? Does anyone care about that any more?
Meanwhile, I've spent the past three weeks working on a new training course that takes about five hours of work per week. I still have the final "exam" to take which is scheduled to take two and a half hours. I haven't even had time to think about grading finals for the other college where grades are due Monday.
I set up an appointment at the "University" with a full-time faculty member to discuss the plagiarism issue. I drove the 15 minutes to campus and she wasn't there. Knock, knock, knock. Nothing. I left a snarky note then found another faculty person to talk to about my frustrations. She told me another adjunct teacher had left, saying he couldn't put in the amount of hours they needed. His time was worth more.
I wonder now if my time is worth more. I know what the "University" is offering and it's my choice to accept it and shut up, or quit. I plan to avoid rash decisions while I am so stressed. I'm going to focus on getting all of my papers graded and giving a little speech in class tonight about the value of what they are learning. Then I may visit the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium because aquariums are supposed to lower the blood pressure, and I may need it.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

All Bluster, No Bite

I don't know about other parts of the country or the world,but here in Ohio, the weather forecasters are always predicting doom and gloom. If there's a snow storm in the west, they'll predict 10 inches of snow for us. If there's a heat wave in the south, we're sure to get it. The thing is, usually, they're wrong.
For nearly a week now, we were told yesterday would be a day of high winds. We know high winds here because more than a year ago, a faltering hurricane hit the Gulf of Mexico and swept all the way north, knocking out our power for a week. The weather forecasters didn't even mention this wind storm, by the way. We let our kids ride around town on their bikes and sent Grace driving to downtown Columbus where she watched branches blow across the road. I went to Panera to "work" and write blog posts while we had no power. I can't get the link to work, but you can check the archives for Sept. 2008 if you want to see how we coped for a week without electricity, grilling the chicken that was thawing in our freezer for dinner and using candles for light at night so we could read and play family board games.
This week,we were kind of excited for the predicted wind storm. We watched this big mass of clouds move across weather maps, dumping a foot of snow on all those flat states to the west. When we walked outside just before 7 on Wednesday morning, Grace commented that it felt like Florida. She was right. It was about 50 degrees. During the day, the sun shone and gorgeous puffy clouds skittered across the sky. Sometimes they looked like mountain ranges piled up to the east. Occasionally, the wind would gust. Someone's grill cover blew into the tree by our house. For the most part, the day was a dud. At least, we thought, we had the several inches of snow they were predicting overnight. I get up this morning. Nothing.
The temperature has dropped. It's a frigid 19 degrees, but that's about all the weather forecasters got right. The kids went to bed hoping the school would lose power or the teachers might not be able to get to school for all the snow. No luck. They'll have to slog off, another day in the coal mine.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Day Off

Not a day off for me, but when I finished giving my final exam this morning, I went to the middle school and said (authoritatively), "I need Tucker." The secretary, who is even shorter than I am, scurried to the schedule book and then went to the speaker contraption. "Mr. Page," she said. "Do you have Tucker? He's going to be leaving."
Then I signed my name, pressing especially hard on the pencil, to where it said, "Parent Signature." Under reason, other parents had written "sick," "ill," "orthodontist." I wrote, "Needed at home."
Tucker joined me. We didn't speak and didn't look from side to side as we walked purposefully toward the car. Once inside, we both relaxed a little.
"Panera or UDF?" I asked.
"UDF. Hmmm," he said.
So we drove to United Dairy Farmer and ordered milk shakes, even though it was only 10:30 in the morning. We did some Christmas decorating and Tucker watched the new Star Trek movie with his dad, who is off this week and feeling under the weather.
Earl isn't a big proponent of allowing children to miss school for no reason. I, on the other hand, think most days at school could be better spent. This may be my prejudice because I homeschooled for all of those years, but I don't get why school can't be half as long. Maybe they only need to go in the afternoons. Or maybe they could go in the morning and get out at noon.
When they're participating in sports or play or choir, they aren't allowed to miss any part of the school day, unless they bring a doctor's note. So Spencer and Grace are stuck at school all day, everyday. Spencer wouldn't dream of missing practice and Grace has already missed too many days of school for college visits. She's not staying home without a doctor's note. So I'll enjoy the time I have with the one child who isn't in high school.
He's not sick. He just wanted a day at home to hang out. And I know how he feels. Wouldn't we all?
My husband, and others, warn this will lead to a bad work ethic. What about when he's expected to work every day? Will he just call off for no reason?
Maybe, but then people who were forced to go to school everyday sometimes call off work for no reason too. So I don't think we're causing him irreparable harm. I'll let you know if he's still living in the basement when he's 30 and he asks me to call the boss to say, "Tucker's needed at home today."

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Still Hyperventilating

This is a stack of the papers I have to get graded, and it doesn't include my online classes or the blue books I received Monday or will get tomorrow during finals. A blue book is a composition book that I have students write in during class.
This weekend, I graded like a mad woman. I took time out to sit through one basketball game and one swim meet. Of course, I can grade in between events during the swim meet. I skipped another swim meet and basketball game to grade. Right now, I really wish I taught math. The answer is right or wrong, there's no in between, no analysis. The only thing I'm hanging on to is the fact that it has to end. Grades are due next Monday for one college and the following Monday for the other. I'm bound to have nearly two weeks without grading over Christmas break.
I scheduled two distractions this week. One was yesterday, lunch with Marcus. Last year, Marcus and I had lunch together once a week. We read each other's works in progress -- he's writing a screenplay and I'm writing a novel. We talked about my life with teenagers and his life preparing to marry a (practically) teenager. Last summer he got married (she's actually 26 and he's 40). We both took on a lot more classes, which cut down on our writing and meeting time. Plus, my husband doesn't work during the day any more, so it seems weird to tell him I'm having lunch with Marcus. I did tell him yesterday, "Do you mind if I have lunch with Marcus?" which seems rather wimpy of me. He said he didn't mind, "as long as you don't sleep with him." That was not a problem for me, and I told Earl that Marcus has the 26-year-old wife along with a 19-year-old sister-in-law living with him, so he is covered. Marcus makes me laugh. He's very sarcastic and self effacing, in spite of being "overly muscled" (as I told Earl) and having looks similar to a Calvin Klein model. I was going to take a picture of him, but the camera battery was dead, so let's pretend that I had lunch with this guy.
I only spent about an hour at lunch, but today, I've scheduled a longer break, pledging to spend the morning Christmas shopping with my husband and then having lunch before I dive into grading papers again. I'm looking forward to spending the time together, but I do feel anxious about getting the papers done. I promise not to look at the time on my cell phone while we're together. I'm going to relax and enjoy myself. I'd better include a picture of him too.Maybe I take my husband for granted, like most wives do. I'm more likely to clear my schedule for lunch with a friend than lunch with my husband. But, while I grade papers this afternoon, he'll be the one driving Tucker and his friends to swim practice, cleaning up after dinner and bringing me a blanket when I'm hunched over my papers. He's the one I want to go to France with this summer.
So I'd better get grading papers. Each paper represents another dollar going into that France fund.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Working World

For anyone, who like me, was fortunate enough to avoid the work world for a long time, I want to reassure you that you are not missing anything. Okay, maybe a paycheck, which is nice, and some work colleagues, which can be fun.
But I think when I tell you that the training class I am taking (required but without pay) is using words like pedagogy and Bloom's taxonomy, you'll realize how lucky you are to be cleaning toilets at home.
Here I am teaching 24 college credit hours, which means I'm grading about 60 hours per week, when one of the colleges decides all of its professors need a three-week training course that requires about five hours of work per week. I have to take quizzes and enter threaded discussions and, thank God, the webinar wasn't working so I got to avoid that.
Now I dream of the days when I threatened my children to get them to finish their algebra and sat around at floor hockey chatting with the other mothers. Sure, I worked writing articles for the local newspaper, but as long as I met my deadlines, no one was forcing me to jump through training hoops.
This afternoon I have a department meeting at the other college where I teach, but I don't mind these so much because A. I get paid, and B. It will be crowded enough that I can grade papers while the department chair talks. She's funny anyway, and, as you'll recall from an earlier post, she likes me!
If you have leisure time, enjoy it. As a matter of fact, enjoy some extra time for me.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

NaNoWriMo -- Abort

Anyone who actually reads the columns along the side of my blog may have noticed that this month was National Novel Writing Month and that I attempted to join in. Somehow, I stalled on Nov. 8 at 6,548 words. Well, I know how and it has to do with teaching and grading and parenting.
If I was trying to write 50,000 words in a month then I made a dismal attempt and failed miserably. However, since my novel is already in progress, I added those six thousand words to my work in progress and I'm at 38,000. In addition, think I really know where my book is going now. So maybe I'll look at it as adding 6,548 more words to my novel rather than a failure.
Next quarter I'm teaching even more hours, so what I absolutely need to do is get prepared for the winter break and plan to write like crazy for those two weeks, even though the kids will be home and my parents may come visit.
You don't think that's setting myself up for failure, do you?

Cockadoodle Doo or Cocorico?

 We stood in the middle of the road, having walked together 13 miles that day and Claudine grasped my forearm. "Mais non! It doesn'...