Exit 252. Traumatized.

[EDIT from spring 2020: This blog is pretty much inactive indefinitely at this point.  The last post below was written in September 2019.  Someone today posted a link to this site on a post intended to get people to check out new blogs.  So if you are reading this for the first time and are looking for a new blog to follow, you might want to check out my other blog instead, which I’m still updating although I just finished a month long hiatus.  Also, as of now there haven’t been any other major problems with the house, and the trip to New Mexico in October was wonderful.]

I haven’t been posting very regularly on this blog, and I don’t know if I ever will be again.  I could blame it on the other blog taking up more of my writing time, but now I’m not posting very regularly there either.

I feel like the events of 2019 have completely traumatized me.  I have had so many things at my house fall apart.  I have spent so much money on repairs and improvements, and many of those either didn’t do anything or just made things worse.  Any time I hear heavy wind, or water running, or even think about rain, I’m terrified that the house is going to fall apart even more.  Sometimes, when I leave the house, or when I go to bed, I double- and triple-check to make sure I didn’t leave any water running, and that the oven and stove are turned off, and lots of stuff like that.  I was almost late to work this last Friday because I kept running back inside double-checking things.

And now I got screwed out of $2600 by a company that didn’t tell me that the product they installed on my house was not completely compatible with the way my house is built.  The first time they attempted to install it, they caused more damage.  They eventually came back to fix that, but they didn’t fix all the damage they caused, and it took them about a month.  I was looking more closely at their work recently, particularly after another home repair professional pointed out that their product might cause more damage in the future.  I took a picture of their project not working as intended, sent it to my contact person with that company, and he basically said he had done enough and didn’t want to talk to me anymore, and that poor construction isn’t his fault.  So now I either cut my losses and consider the $2600 a bad investment, or I take them to court and give myself an even bigger hassle.

So, yeah, I’m a little stressed now.  I have work on top of all this.  And I’m going to be in New Mexico for five days in October, which will be awesome unless something happens to my house while I’m gone.

But I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining, because there are some good things happening too.  And I know that I should be trusting God to take care of me, but on the other hand I still have responsibilities that I need to deal with.

So I’m just going to write in both blogs when I feel like it.  Hopefully you guys will stick with me.  Happy last weekend of summer.

Exit 239. The simple solution that was right there all along.

A couple weeks ago, I got home from somewhere in the evening and noticed that the porch light was out.  I took out the old bulb; it was definitely burned out.  But when I put a new bulb in, that didn’t work either.

I tried the new bulb in another socket, and it worked.  So it wasn’t the bulb.  Something in the process of inserting a new light bulb broke the porch light, apparently.  I spent the last couple weeks with the knowledge in the back of my mind that I needed to do something about the porch light eventually.  I was hoping it would be something simple, like a loose wire, but given the way that I’ve had so many home repairs over the last few months, I was afraid it was going to be something difficult to fix requiring me to shell out another large sum of money and work around someone else’s schedule to get fixed.

I hadn’t done anything about it until this morning, mostly because I had been busy and hadn’t felt like dealing with it, and having a porch light isn’t absolutely essential.  But I decided to take a look at it this morning.  I started by unscrewing the bulb to make sure, again, that it worked in another socket.  It did.  And then, looking at the porch light, I noticed something.

When I tried to change the bulb a couple weeks ago, it was dark.  A mix of cobwebs, dirt, and stuff that fell off of or came out of bugs was inside the socket.  Apparently, when I tried to screw in the new light bulb in the dark, this debris had pushed into the socket, making a bad electrical connection between the bulb and the rest of the electrical system.

So I took one of those spray can blowers and blew out as much stuff out of the porch light as I could.  I took a paint brush and brushed more of it off.  And I put the new bulb back in.  It worked.

Sometimes, one can be so blinded by stress and worry so as to completely miss the simple solution that was right there all along.  That is all.

Exit 238. The relationship goes both ways.

I saw a coworker the other day. Her children, two of whom had been students of mine in the past, were with her. The oldest one is now in high school. She was in my class three years ago, in that same memorable class as the girl who dropped precalculus, the guy I had no memory of, Protractor Girl, and the friendly guy I saw at the basketball game.

I waved. She waved back.

“How’s it going?” I asked.

“Good,” she said. Or something like that; I don’t remember the small talk part word for word. “How are you?”

All I could think of to say was, “I’m really stressed right now.” It’s true. I am really stressed right now. I have a lot of things at home that need fixing. My house is a mess. I have a lot of school responsibilities I’m trying to juggle.

“It’s okay,” she said. “You’ll get through it.”

There are plenty of stories out there about teachers inspiring students. Most people have a favorite teacher who inspired them in a particular way, whether or not this teacher even taught the subject matter that the student in question enjoyed. But, after almost two decades of working in education, I would venture a guess that there are just as many stories of students inspiring teachers. Students and teachers are a significant part of each others’ lives for a time, and the relationship goes both ways. My former student is correct here. I will get through this.

And so will all of you. Happy Easter/Resurrection Day, friends.

Exit 227. Taking my own advice.

Two unrelated things happened this week that, when juxtaposed, say something interesting about me.  

The first was a conversation I had on Tuesday with a former student who is now in high school.  I’ll call her “Lambda-2 Fornacis.” Lambda was in my class three years ago, the same class as Protractor Girl, The Boy I Have No Memory Of, and The Kid Who Sat Behind Me At A Basketball Game Once.  She was the kind of student that most teachers love to have in their class. She did her homework, it was neatly written, and she always was one of the top students in my class.  I think she had straight As all through middle school. I normally tell students that they can add me on social media after they finish middle school and go on to high school, but somehow (probably because these kids have older friends who talk) she found my Instagram (which doesn’t have my real name anywhere on it) and started following me the year after she had my class, when she was still in middle school.  I didn’t do anything about it, though, because I figured she wasn’t the type to cause trouble, although I didn’t follow her back until the day after she finished middle school.

Anyway, Lambda asked me something about a recent post on Instagram, I replied, and then I asked her how she was doing.  She mentioned that she had dropped precalculus. This year has been the first time she had ever struggled in math, she didn’t like the teacher she had this year, and she had been rethinking her career plans.  I have to admit, that was a little disappointing to hear at first, because she was such a great student for me, and I’m always disappointed to hear when people don’t love math as much as me. However, I completely understand where she is coming from, and I told her so.  I told her about hitting the same proverbial wall with physics my freshman year at UC Davis, how I struggled so much with that class at first, and while I still did well, it just didn’t feel as natural for me as math did. It was during that first physics class when when I decided for sure to major in mathematics and not physics, and I didn’t take any more physics after I was done with the minimum that would be required for the math major.  I told her that there’s nothing wrong with changing your mind about your future plans, especially since she’s only 15. I told her that as late as age 19, I was telling people that there was no way I would ever be a teacher. And I told her that I took all the most challenging classes in high school, to the point that I had some very long days senior year, but I wasn’t doing it because I had a career plan. For me, it was because I felt like school was the one thing I was good at, and I would be a failure if I didn’t.  This is not a mentally healthy outlook. I know that Lambda is going to be successful no matter what direction she takes her education.

That was Tuesday.  On Wednesday night, I got very little sleep.  I discovered another important thing here at the house that needed to be fixed.  I started to panic under the pressure of everything that needed to be done. I was behind on grading papers.  I had errands and chores that were piling up, and the kitchen sink was full of dirty dishes. I had now four important home repairs that needed to be dealt with as soon as possible, one of which was already making life more inconvenient in very tangible ways, and another of which had the potential to do so if left unchecked.  I couldn’t sleep, and I wasn’t sure if it was related to stress, recent changes in medication, other health problems I didn’t know about, lack of exercise, or what. It’s very hard for me to get these home repairs and chores done sometimes, because I’m rarely home during business hours and my schedule isn’t very flexible. I don’t get a lot of exercise this time of year, because I’m only home when it’s cold and dark.  And I couldn’t call in sick and take a day to recover from the lack of sleep and deal with these problems, because the classroom is such a mess that a substitute wouldn’t be able to find what they needed, and the kids would get behind anyway because my curriculum doesn’t work well for people who haven’t been trained and aren’t well-prepared.

I went to work on one hour of sleep (and I had gotten three hours the previous night).  I made an important decision while I was tossing and turning: long story, but basically I sent an email to the administrators saying that I needed to back out of one of my weekly commitments.  This would give me one more day of the week that I could get home a little earlier when needed, if I needed to deal with something before it got dark and places closed. Thankfully, they were very understanding.  But, I told the principal, I still feel like I do so much less than so many other teachers. Some of them are working on graduate degrees. Many of them attend more professional development workshops than I do. Some of them are department chairs, or serve on committees.  And many of them have young children of their own. I feel like there is something wrong with me, that I have such a hard time handling my own job, let alone all that extra stuff.

And then it hit me.

Why do I have such a hard time taking my own advice?

Just a day and a half earlier, I was messaging Lambda telling her that it was okay not to burden herself with hard classes that she didn’t need.  So why can’t I tell myself that it is okay not to burden myself with stressful commitments that I don’t need?

Everyone’s brain works differently.  I get more easily stressed and overwhelmed, and I’m fighting demons from the past that many of my coworkers don’t have.  If I really believe what I told Lambda, then it’s hypocritical to insist upon myself that I take on extra commitments that I don’t get anything out of.

It’s now Saturday, and I feel so much better.  Getting out of that extra commitment allowed me to leave earlier than usual on Thursday, which gave me time to make some phone calls to start the process of dealing with the two most pressing home repairs.  I didn’t get completely caught up on grading, but it’s now a three-day weekend, so I’ll have time to catch up.

I’m going to be fine.  :)&[4].

Exit 177. What am I going to do with the rest of the afternoon?

When I got home from church this morning, one of the first things that ran through my mind was, What am I going to do with the rest of the afternoon?

A number of options went through my mind.  I had about an hour and a half of grading papers that I brought home.  That had to get done at some point.  But that left much of the afternoon and evening still unaccounted for.  So I started thinking.  I have a project I’m working on in the yard little by little.  I could work on that.  Or I could go for a long walk and play Pokémon.  Or I could go take my bike to get fixed, again.  I need to find a new bike shop, again.  Every single bike shop at my end of town either doesn’t exist anymore or has screwed me over in some way.  The most recent one I’ve been to twice for major repairs, and both times, something went wrong again a few rides later.  But that’s another story, and the bike is at least still rideable.  I haven’t been riding much, though, because either I’ve been busy or it’s been raining.

But I digress.

I decided to do exactly none of these (except for grading, since that had to be done).  I’ve been stressed and busy a lot lately, I have things on my mind that I need to process, and I need a day to myself to relax.  So that’s what I’ve been doing.  And it has been a wonderful afternoon and evening.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my USA readers, or to anyone else who wishes to take time to be thankful and celebrate family and friends.

Exit 102. My mind is blank this week.

My mind is blank this week.

I had a thought about what I wanted to write, but it just doesn’t feel right.

And that’s okay.  That in and of itself can very well be something to write about.

I’ve had a very intense week, and I feel like my mind isn’t processing things like it should.  I’m okay… I’ve just been busy and overwhelmed.  As I’ve mentioned before, the Sacramento Kings basketball team is moving to a new arena that will open this fall.  The last three games at the old facility were all this last week, and I went to all of them.  That was a lot of fun.  But between three basketball games, church, tests to grade, and other assorted responsibilities, I just can’t handle any more for a while.

And that’s okay.

This week should be a little easier than normal.  And I plan to spend as much of it as I can keeping to myself and being an introvert, recovering from all the interaction and running around and stress I’ve been dealing with for the last week.  I’ll be back to normal soon.  I just might need a few days.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.  Sometimes you have to take care of yourself.

Exit 34. I have mixed feelings about Christmas.

I have mixed feelings about Christmas.  I tell people it is both my favorite holiday and my least favorite holiday.

I love Christmas because of the reminders of, and opportunities to reflect on, how the Word of God became flesh and lived among us to show us the way to eternal life.  I hate Christmas because of the hectic rush to buy gifts and all the extra responsibilities that come up this time of year that keep me away from buying gifts.  I love the idea of giving.  I hate the way parents try to buy their children’s love through gifts.  I love the inviting celebration of O Come All Ye Faithful, I love the solemn reflection of Silent Night, I love the lighthearted fun and childhood memories of Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer, and I love the second verse of What Child Is This because you get to say “ass” in church.  I hate the sultry creepiness of Santa Baby, the repetitive irritation of Last Christmas, and the date rape of Baby It’s Cold Outside.

It seems that as the years have gone on, I have found myself more and more in a rush to do things at the last minute.  The last time I wrote Christmas cards was 2008.  In 2009, the school where I worked at the time moved their schedule three weeks back, starting earlier and ending earlier, so that first semester finals would happen just before winter break instead of mid-January.  While this makes sense from the perspective of having a break between the semesters rather than having a break just before the end of the semester, it meant that I had to prepare and grade finals at the same time that I would be making all my holiday plans, and the annual routine of writing Christmas cards fell by the wayside at that point.  I have not written Christmas cards since.  It was around that same time that I started having more of a social life, and getting invited to more holiday-related social events, which took up many weekends and some weeknights during December, leaving me with no time to shop until around December 23, when I’d finally be off work.  And as I mentioned a couple weeks ago, there is an annual conference for math teachers that I often attend the weekend after Thanksgiving, which cuts even more into what little time I have for holiday shopping and card writing.

The result this year was a perfect storm of circumstances that made me more out of touch with the holidays than ever.  I didn’t have finals to prepare, since I’m now teaching younger students and we don’t have finals per se, but I’m learning a new curriculum this year, and that always makes things more time consuming.  I had some home maintenance issues to deal with that took up several hours, and I haven’t dealt with all of them yet.  Not only was I spending every spare moment working, but when I did have a couple hours to unwind, I was so tired that I didn’t feel like doing anything.

To make things worse, I’m horrible at giving gifts.  I’m just not good at picking out things that people would like.  Gift giving in my family was always like grocery shopping.  You make a list, and people buy stuff off the list.  In the past, when I’ve tried getting something for someone that they didn’t ask for, it ends up unused collecting dust on a shelf.  This has happened multiple times with my family and gifts I’ve given.

I don’t like feeling this way.  Christmas should be a time of joy and celebration, not a time of stress and exasperation.  And I’m not sure what I can do about it.  I can’t change the fact that December is a very busy time for me.  I suppose in the future, I can make a conscious effort to be more organized and get shopping done before Thanksgiving.  And I’m thinking of changing my Christmas card list to, say, a Flag Day card list, just because in June I actually have time to write people about what I’ve been doing for the last year.

For this year, though, I’m going to do the best I can.  I’m still going to Christmas parties.  I’m going to do the best I can with buying gifts for my family, even though they might end up being gift cards and IOUs.  And I’m going to try not to be stressed.

Merry Christmas, friends.