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Saturday, January 19, 2019

When a Reminder Note Doesn't Remind

I put a post-it note on my monitor to remind me to listen to the Purdue men's basketball game at 1 today. At 3:30, I looked up from the book I was reading to see I'd totally missed the game. This is like the fourth game I've wanted to listen to but missed because I simply forget. Hence the post-it. Lot of good it did. I must not be all that interested in actually listening to the games or I'd figure out a way to make sure I remember.

I almost missed taking Ado to the vet yesterday, for his spa day, because I'd totally forgotten about his appointment. I didn't have to get up for work, so at 6 am I rolled over and went back to sleep for over an hour. When I finally dragged myself into the living room, I noticed my phone's calendar had kicked in, trying to remind me of Ado's bath and nail clipping appointment. Maybe my forgetfulness was because of the first week back in the classroom fatigue. Maybe it was because of having a gnarly headache four out of the five days during the week, the kind of headache that makes me sick to my stomach. The kind where I'm good as long as I'm standing, but if I sit or try to lie down the pain grips my skull in a vise. I've never had one four days in a week's time. Usually I get one of these headaches once every three or four months. Since I avoid taking pain relievers, I tend to suffer for hours, until I can't take it anymore and finally give in. Wednesday, I ended up taking 1200 mg of over-the-counter pain reliever before it made a dent in the pain. Yesterday, I only had to take 800 mg. I probably should see my doctor about this, but I'm going to try alternative methods first as I think the headaches are related to back-to-work stress.

Most of the stress is stemming from one class: Graphic Novels. I love reading. I love to talk books and ideas. But I get completely stressed out trying to teach a lit class. And this is my background! Seriously, you'd think I should know what I'm doing with nearly 30 years of experience, but every single semester, I feel like such a fraud when I teach lit. Composition? No worries at all. I can teach that class with my eyes closed and both hands tied behind my back. Lit, though, is a totally different animal. Especially graphic novels. I've not read a lot of graphic novels, so I'm a bit behind the eight ball. I just don't want the students to feel like they've been cheated. I want to give them a rich experience, and in wanting this I'm mega stressing over the materials I'm prepping for class. Thankfully, the first two class sessions went well. The students are very open to discussion, which helps a ton. And I found out the students have read even less American graphic novels than I have. Most read manga, making all the titles I have on the reading list new to them. This also helps a ton.

So far today, no headache. So far today, I've simply enjoyed being inside during another weekend snowstorm, reading the newest Michael Connelly book and watching mindless TV. I thought about venturing outside, but the wind is whipping and the temps have dropped significantly. Unless Ado needs to go outside, it's an inside day for us. More reading. Some writing. Maybe playing Metro 2033, where I'm having trouble getting past a dragon that keeps swooping down and clutching my character in its claws and carrying him up only to drop him to the ground where he's so stunned he can't get up and fight. I don't know how many times I've tried getting past this dragon, but I'm going to keep trying. I'm stubborn like that.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Saturday Snow Day

Snow. Finally.

Ice and snow at the creek
So far about eight inches, and it's still falling. Supposed to fall through the day, making today a wonderful day to stay inside and bake orange-cranberry scones (done), listen to good alternative music (doing), sketch out some new ideas for poems (doing, well, in between baking, listening to music, and writing this blog post). And watching the bright red cardinal at the bird feeder.

I took Angel Baby to work this morning since the snow was already about five inches deep. Doesn't seem like a lot, but when walking in it the going can be tough. Maybe not for a youngun' like him, but I also wanted to try out the four-wheel drive on the Jeep. It works. It works really, really well. The roads had been plowed somewhat, but they were still a mess. The Jeep made the snow seem like child's play. No spinning tires. No fish-tailing. Just like a usual driving day.

During break I organized my dresser, closet and laundry room. I also cleaned out the drawers on the desk. Yesterday, I took Angel Baby into my room to show him my sock/stockings drawer, how neatly folded and orderly it is because of how they're arranged. I used box lids and placed the socks in rows so I can see each pair individually. Same for the stockings. The drawer is so neat it's a thing of beauty. No more searching for the mate to a sock I'm holding in my hand. No more wondering if I have a pair of navy blue stockings to go with my navy blue skirt. I can see everything at a glance. Angel Baby wasn't all that impressed. Not at all.

He also wasn't impressed with the new showerhead I installed. The old one was so gummed up, offering barely more than a sad trickle of water. So I found an inexpensive one, installed it, and when I turned it on, it was like watching a beautiful waterfall. Angel Baby, though, didn't mention it, and when I asked him how his shower was, he just shrugged, saying it was good. Then it dawned on him what I was really asking about: Yeah, I mean, it was better than before. Goal achieved!

Plus a bright, fun new shower curtain. I've never had such a colorful bathroom before. My entire life I've had white bathrooms, or black and white tile bathrooms. When I moved into this apartment, the bathroom was a dingy white. Just a miserable room to walk into. I asked my landlord if I could paint it, and he said sure. So I went with orange, like one of those orange Push Ups we used to eat as kids. Then I found a faux stained-glass window film with orange, red, blue, green, and yellow squares and rectangles. I added in bright orange towels, an orange bath mat, and then some mid-blue towels. Today, I hung that new shower curtain -- fun, colorful houses, bicycles with a basket of flowers, and tulips. Definitely a more feminine bath than Angel Baby probably likes, but at least it's no longer dreary and miserable.

This afternoon, I sat in the comfort of my living room and watched the sledders on Jersey Hill. Darkness is closing in, yet a large group is still zipping down the hill and trudging back up. Some moments I wish I had a sled so I could go join them. Other moments I think nahhh, I'm good right here. Yep, all cozy in this oversized chair is where I'm gonna stay.

The world in black and white

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Working on the Self Improvement

The "have-to-go-to" meetings are out of the way. Really, they weren't so bad. I don't mind sitting through a meeting these days. Not too long ago, I would have been singing a different tune. I remember a retreat my dean required all of us to go to, and I wasn't happy at all about having to go. It was a Friday, a day I used to mark on the calendar for grading since we have no classes on Fridays, and the retreat was scheduled at a time during the semester when I had a ton of papers to read/respond to. Yeah, I was in a foul mood when I arrived at the retreat. The person brought in to run the retreat said hello when I walked in and told me to take a name badge. She then said I didn't have to put my name on it. Instead, I could put how I was feeling. So I put "Annoyed." When my dean saw this, she gave me a look of half amusement half disappointment.

My foul mood didn't improve as the morning wore on. If anything, I became even more resentful for having to be at this retreat instead of grading papers when the person running the show had us take an image given the group at the table and describe how what we saw applied to being a teacher. While I don't remember the image exactly, I do remember it fed into my mindset at the time -- angry, resentful, and unwilling to find anything remotely helpful at this retreat. When it was time for the groups to share with the entire gathering, everyone at my table wanted me to offer my thoughts. I did, giving a very dark, not at all encouraging response about how our image applied to being a teacher. The entire room just sort of sank into silence.

The retreat facilitator put a big smile on her face and flounced to the next table, not even addressing what I'd said.

On one hand, I can see how my behavior wasn't conducive to constructive professional growth. On the other hand, teachers, too, experience moments of extreme frustration. Instead of brushing that frustration aside, it should be addressed and possible solutions offered.

Not long after this retreat, I read something about how to deal with being required to go to meetings or events one doesn't see any value in. One thing stood out to me: the person in charge of the meeting or event is most likely responding to what someone above them is asking them to do. This person is basically in the messenger position. If the person works hard to make the meeting or event at least somewhat tolerable, then I should go and enjoy as much as I can. I should engage in a positive way to show respect for that person's time and efforts. While my dean wasn't responding to anyone above her telling her to take the whole division on a retreat, she was making an attempt to bring all of us together for the day so we could get to know each other more and get the insights of colleagues we might not interact with much during a semester. I should have been more mindful of her efforts.

So now I go to the meetings/events with the intention of engaging in a productive way. I leave my phone in my office, so I'm not distracted by it, use it as an escape from what's going on in the meeting. At times, when I get back to my office and look at my phone, I'll find upwards of 15 messages sent during the meeting by others who are at the same meeting.

With the meetings over, now I can fully concentrate on getting my classes in place for the semester. They're almost all the way there. I got a little distracted the last few days with organizing things around the apartment. I'm totally stoked by the shoe rack I put in my closet. Three tiers that hold nine pairs of shoes. I find myself going to my room and opening the closet door just to look at how organized all my shoes are. My t-shirt drawer, too, is a joy to behold. Every t-shirt and sleeveless shirt folded and arranged in such a way that I can see exactly what shirt I'm looking at when I pull the drawer open. Same for my shorts drawer. No more rummaging around in the drawers to find the shirt or pair of shorts I'm hunting for. That, for sure, brings me happiness!

Saturday, January 5, 2019

First Ride of the New Year (and other stuff)

Yesterday I took my first bike ride of the year. Not a long ride by any means -- just out to work to grab a book I needed and to fill out the tuition waiver for Angel Baby (he's decided to return to school!) -- but it was a lovely ride. Earlier in the morning, between reading and fixing some coffee, I watched the frost melt off the Jeep windows, using the slow disappearance of the tiny ice crystals as the gauge for when I could get the bike out and go for a ride. Temps near 50 and sunny with barely any wind to speak of -- yep, I wasn't going to let the day slip by without some kind of ride, even if it was just to Uptown for reading time at the coffeehouse.

Today, another beautiful day, with sun and warmth. Another opportunity to get out and ride somewhere.

When I arrived home from my ride yesterday, I found a package in my mailbox. I figured it was for Lovely Beautiful Daughter since I haven't ordered anything that needed to be delivered. I'm really trying to cut down on what I buy online, and I've been doing really, really good, so when I saw my name on the package, complete with my restored maiden name, I started searching the recesses of my memory to see if I had actually bought something during the last two weeks. I came up with zilch. When Lovely Beautiful Daughter has something delivered, it's always in her name, so I was stumped and decided to go ahead and open the package. Inside, I found a beautiful clock, the background a bicycle with colorful birds sitting on the handlebars and front tire. Above the bike is "Life is a beautiful ride," and below the bike is J.K.P. How cool is that!? But there was no note, so I don't know who the incredibly thoughtful person is who sent it to me. I have an idea I know, but it's just a hunch. In any case, thank you to the person who took the time to find this gift for me. I truly appreciate your thoughtfulness. The clock is hanging above my desk where I can see it while I'm working. It makes me smile every time I look at it.

***

Lovely Beautiful Daughter stopped in a couple of nights ago to chat about her time in Tennessee. She spent a long weekend there, visiting family. Her dad included. A man she and her brothers haven't seen or talked to in several years. When she described driving up to the house, a flash of sadness washed through me. For an instant, I felt what she must have felt as she approached what used to be her home. Only it really wasn't the same home. Not even close. The beautiful mobile home we'd bought right after Funny Delightful Son was born had been repossessed not long after the kids and I left. The only place for their dad to live was a small storage building he had built, an 8' x 10' room. And that's where he's been living for the last nineteen years. From what I understand, he built another room onto the original space, but that's all he has. LBD said there's a toilet somewhere, but she's not sure where it is. After describing the piled up trash bags outside the front door, the numerous cars sitting in the yard, and the absence of appliances inside, LBD said, "It's a hovel."

Before LBD went to Tennessee, we talked a bit about her seeing her dad. Through the years, I've not pressed the kids to see or talk to him, but I've nudged them here and there to get in contact. They've always responded with they have absolutely nothing to say to him. I've never really said much about their dad to them as I want the kids to make their own decisions about who he is, but I did tell LBD I still to this day have no idea what happened to their dad. It was like he became a totally different person right after Funny Delightful Son was born. We were so excited about having our second child, a boy, but once the child was actually a part of our lives, things turned upside down. LBD said, "Mom, I'm pretty sure it was drugs."

I know she's right. I had an inkling at the time, but I didn't have solid evidence. All I had was the change in behavior, the people he was hanging out with, the never having any money though he was working a contract job that paid incredibly well. I remember one specific night I received a call from him to come get him. He was very obviously high. He claimed someone slipped him something.

Now the drug use has taken its toll. Lovely Beautiful Daughter told me her dad had been in the hospital recently. Kidney failure. I'm not sure what this means long-term, but what I know about kidney failure makes me think he has a tough road ahead of him. 

***

My break is coming to a close. Just today and tomorrow remaining. I've enjoyed every single second of it, for sure, and am kind of sad I'll have to leave the coziness of my apartment each day. But, there are a few things in the works that'll make the semester fly by -- a couple of my poems being part of an art/writing exhibit to happen in February and March, helping the PTK students polish their Honors in Action report then going to Florida for the annual PTK conference in April, and preparing for an exciting hiking trip scheduled for the end of July/first of August. In between will be some biking, writing, reading, learning to play the ukulele, and other things. So, so much to see, learn, do.


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Just Here, Just Now

For whatever reason, I've become a crier. I cried last week when Angel Baby filled me in on what was happening with him and his girlfriend. He'd been counting down the days until she came home for a couple week's break from the military, only to have her avoid getting together with him. After four days of being told maybe we can get together later, he ended the relationship. Tears slipped down his cheeks as he sat cross-legged in the oversized chair. My heart was breaking for him, and I fought my own tears, keeping them in check until after we talked a bit longer. Only when Angel Baby was out of the room did I let the tears have their way.

A few nights ago, I was watching Life Itself when the tears started up again. While the story itself is a bit on the cliched side, I was still moved by the idea of two people being so incredibly in love (most likely because I don't have this, and most likely because I will never know what this kind of love feels like). That aside, I truly enjoyed how the paths of the characters crossed then came full circle. I thought the movie well done overall. Antonio Banderas has certainly aged nicely, too. :)

Then today, I read a short note from a friend and followed the link she shared. She'd read my blog and thought the page she'd linked would be helpful to me. And it most definitely is, but that's not what brought the tears to the surface again. No. What brought the tears on was the incredible thoughtfulness that is such a part of who my friend is. I want to be like her. I want to dash a short note off to my friends when I find something that I know might be helpful for whatever it is my friends are trying to accomplish. To help me become more like my friend, I've made a note in my daily planner to remind myself about how one person's thoughtfulness can positively impact another person.

To be honest, the tears have always been right there ready to fall when something hits home for me. I just became really, really good at holding them back. I learned at a very young age that tears equal weakness, and I didn't want to appear weak. Now, after finally saying I accept me, the person I truly am, I think tears equal so much more than weakness. Sadness. Pain. Compassion. Understanding. Happiness. Love. Embracing the tears and being okay with them is where I am now.

Now has become my favorite word. When I was riding the Pac Coast, my daily mantra was Just here, just now. I went into that ride with the hope of taking in every single bit that made up each and every moment. I didn't always succeed doing so each day, but that ride helped me edge closer to making each day a Just here, just now kind of day. I'm still working on making now my life, enjoying each and every moment as I go along.

One of the many photos I took while on the Pac Coast ride. I loved trying
to capture a wave hitting against the rocks along the shoreline.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

New Day, New Year

A new year. 365 days stretching out in front of me. So much promise. I hope I do this year justice.

I spent my New Year's eve right here, with the last two episodes of season seven GOT queued up. I indulged in a Big Mac meal, complete with a coke to add some Irish whiskey to, and settled in to enjoy the evening. At midnight, I lit some candles and said hello to January 1, 2019 by meditating for twenty minutes. Ado had already gone to bed hours before, but he got up long enough to come out and check on me. After a minute or so, he decided his bed was really where he wanted to be.

2018 ended on a good note. I accomplished the two big things I wanted to do for the year: change my last name back to my maiden name and complete the poetry chapbook that I'd started during my sabbatical. My name change was granted on December 18. The last poem of the chapbook was finished just before 6 pm yesterday, after a couple of weeks of working to get a draft in place. When I copied the poem into the chapbook manuscript and saw the last blank page no longer blank, I let out that deep breath that comes after working at something for a long time. I still need to run the entire manuscript through the revision process, but a complete piece is in place.

One decision I made last evening after meditating and welcoming the new year is I'm wiping the slate clean concerning the themes of my writing. For several years the themes have been loss, disease, and anger (lots and lots of anger -- though these particular pieces aren't a part of the chapbook). With the completion of the chapbook, I'm ready to move on. I'm not quite sure what my new writing journey will entail, but I'm really, really ready to say goodbye to the pain connected to the pieces in the chapbook and all the other pieces that spilled out of me over the last few years. Creating those poems taught me a lot about myself, so I'm grateful for the lessons I've been able to take away from this journey, and I hope I keep those lessons in mind as I move forward into my new adventure.

The mantra that I've written down to keep with me wherever I go through 2019 comes from Awakening the Buddha Within by Lama Surya Das:

"Time doesn't go to waste . . . it doesn't go anywhere. If time is wasting, you're wasting it."

My hope is I don't squander the time I'm gifted with each day this year. The mantra will be my daily reminder to treat the time I have with the respect it deserves.

Happy New Year!