Warning: Constant POST_PLUGIN_LIBRARY already defined in /home/crackedice/www/www/wp-content/plugins/similar-posts/similar-posts.php on line 27

Warning: Undefined array key 1 in /home/crackedice/www/www/wp-content/plugins/visitors-online/visitors-online.php on line 438

Warning: Undefined array key 2 in /home/crackedice/www/www/wp-content/plugins/visitors-online/visitors-online.php on line 438

Warning: Cannot modify header information - headers already sent by (output started at /home/crackedice/www/www/wp-content/plugins/similar-posts/similar-posts.php:27) in /home/crackedice/www/www/wp-content/plugins/visitors-online/visitors-online.php on line 490
Jen – Cracked Ice and Chrome

New Job, New State, New House . . . Same Me

Happy New Year! As I sit at my kitchen table in my new-ish house (new to me, anyway), I am full of pensiveness on this New Year’s Day.

A year ago, I was deeply unhappy in my teaching job and desperately searching for answers: what career could I go into? Did I have enough skills to switch to a new job? Was I even able to learn enough before the next school year in order to change careers? Was the thought of doing something different just a temporary feeling and I’d get over it eventually?

Let’s face it: I had a decent-paying career with a top-notch insurance plan. I had holidays and summers “off” (I put that in quotes because, as an English teachers, many of my breaks were overshadowed by essays I had to check and other work that just could not be done during the school day). But my holidays were never long enough, it seemed, and I started to seriously dread going back to work. I very much experienced the “Sunday scaries” — that feeling of dread that teachers have on Sundays or the last day of break where you know you’re going back to endless piles of papers, emotional overload, and stress.

It was about this time last year that I started researching schools where I could learn how to transition into instructional design. I knew it would cost money, and I knew it was going to be a financial setback of sorts. I wanted to train, I was highly motivated, and I wanted OUT of education before my mental health deteriorated. I worked like a dog for months, threw myself into the job-searching routine all summer, then was handsomely rewarded just as school was starting back up by getting hired and being able to work right on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago.

A year ago, I could not see any of that as being a reality. I had a lot of doubts. I had not been in job search mode in years and I didn’t even know if I had a resume hiding on my computer somewhere. All I knew was teaching, and I paid a little too much attention to the naysayers who said that teachers flooding the ID field were making job attainment nearly impossible.

I wish I could say that I was one of those “I set goals and reach them!” kind of people, but I’m not that methodical, nor that organized. All I knew was that I was in a job that was killing me with stress and that my values no longer aligned with the way I was expected to teach. That was the fire that sent me charging ahead.

This past year was a challenging one for many reasons; not only was I trying to change careers, but I was trying to relocate to another state. That meant putting $$ into my house to get it ready for sale, uprooting myself to a state I’ve never lived in, and adjusting to a whole new way of life. I traded a 7-minute commute to work through nearly empty streets for a 45-minute commute on a busy expressway.

However, I am here a year later looking back over the transition and giving out a little sigh, saying, “I made it.” I look at all the little baby steps that got me to where I am now and I am so grateful that I took those steps – however frightening they may have been at that time.

Change is hard. Change is damn scary. Change is incredibly difficult and sometimes frustrating when you don’t have the right support system in place. Most of that fire for change is going to have to burn in your soul and you’re going to have to keep feeding that fire yourself. Change is going to require believing in yourself and where you want to go in life. Close your ears to all the ones who want you to stay where it’s comfortable and familiar for them. Find the cheerleaders. Believe everything they tell you about your talents, your strength, and your ability to do whatever you want to do. They’re the ones who will be at the finish line and genuinely happy for you. Find your tribe and kick others to the curb. Clean house if you need to.

I don’t think I’ve ever thrown out so many rah-rah statements in one paragraph, but I cannot impress upon you enough: if you’re happy where you are, great. If you’re not, start envisioning what you want and do whatever you can to get there.

Trust me: in a year, you’ll be looking back with a smile on your face.

Share

Hi, I’m an instructional designer

Yes, that title means that I GOT A JOB.

I have tried twice to write a blog post in the past couple of months. I even had the same title for the last two attempts: Free Fallin’. That is how I felt this past summer as I worked to get a job and was getting nothing but crickets for most of it.

I never finished and published the last two blog posts because I felt like I was just whining – whining about being done as a teacher and the mixed emotions that caused, whining about the job search and how frustrating it was, and whining about stressed I was.

No one wants to read that. I was bored as I re-read my own writing, and that is always a good indication that such writing does not need to be read by anyone else.

They’re still there in my dashboards as drafts, and I will probably keep them as a reminder of what this summer was like. I am hoping that I do not have to be unemployed again anytime soon.

Like Forrest Gump would say, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

Toward the end of August, just as school was starting and I was reeling with feelings of panic about how I was going to stay afloat with no job, I got a call just as my husband and I were starting off for a visit to Chicago. The call was from a place I had interviewed at the very beginning of August. Although I had asked for and received an update about the job a week after my interview (the VP of Professional Development was on vacation and would be making a decision shortly), another week went by without any word, and I figured that they had gone with a different candidate. But on August 24th, they called and offered me the job, and I happily accepted. I even pulled over on the side of the road to get my laptop and digitally sign and return the offer letter before they could change their minds.

Feeling relieved does not begin to describe what I felt. Days after I had gotten my last teaching paycheck, I got a job! I started on September 7, and it has been a month and a half of absolute joy and relief. That sounds like an exaggeration, but I honestly mean it. I hadn’t worked in the corporate sector for 24 years. On my first day, my boss took me out to lunch and said that she did not want me working on weekends or even thinking about work. If she happened to send an email on a Saturday, she said I was under no obligation to read it or answer it. Work-life balance is very important to her, and I am still trying to get used to having a job where work-life balance is valued. In teaching, it was expected for us to work nights and weekends to keep up with everything. It was accepted even though it is a horrible habit to get into. At my current job, we leave work AT work, and that is exactly how it should be.

I have lived in small towns for most of my life, so you can imagine that working on Michigan Avenue in Chicago is a bit of a change. My commute to work for the past 17 years was 7 minutes long. Now my commute is 45 minutes on a good day. We are able to work whatever hours we want to make up a full day, so I have started to leave for work at 5:15 a.m. to get to the office at 6:00 a.m. That lets me leave work at 2:30-3:00, which is just as the rush hour traffic is starting to ramp up. Although I don’t like the traffic, I only have to deal with it two days a week because I am remote the other three days of the week.

I love to people-watch, so some mornings I will go to the Starbucks that is across the street from me and I’ll sit facing the traffic so I can watch the city wake up. The Starbucks I go to is attached to a hotel, and it is fascinating to hear all of the languages spoken by the patrons who filter in from there.

There is always something happening on Michigan Avenue, and I love going for walks during my lunch break to see what is going on outside. I never feel unsafe, though, because the cops are thick around there. Every day there is at least one cop car right outside my building, just hanging out and waiting for stuff to happen. Some days it is hard to see the realities of life when a homeless person winds up sleeping in front of my building; I am certainly not used to that sight. But most of the time what is happening on Michigan Avenue is entertaining and interesting to watch. And if there’s nothing happening, the people-watching is always good.

Even though I’ve been employed for a month and a half, I am still trying to find the right words to summarize how this year has been. I have always been a small town/country girl. The largest city I lived in was only had about 150,000. I’m not used to congested freeways and vibrant downtowns and skyscrapers and lots and lots of people. But for some odd reason, this feels right. I will always be a country girl at heart, but the time was overdue to move away from the small town where I’d been living for over twenty years. I was tired of not having any privacy because I was a teacher in that small town; quick trips to the grocery store often meant conversations with fellow teachers, parents, or students. While I love seeing people outside of school, sometimes I just wanted to be invisible, get what I wanted, and go home. (Other teachers will understand that feeling.).

It’s taken a lot for me to get to the point where I was comfortable challenging the status quo. If you would have asked me twenty years ago to move to Chicago, I would have gotten wide-eyed and said, “NO WAY!” My brain would have been overloaded with a long list of all the things that could have gone wrong with a move to the big city.

When I was in my mid 20s — soon after I had my first child — I started having major anxiety related to the huge responsibility of taking care of a child. All the what ifs got me big time. What if he got sick? What if he choked? What if he died of SIDS? What if I turn out to be a crappy mother? What if he has special needs that I can’t accommodate? What if? What if? What if? While I was 8-months pregnant with my first child, 9/11 happened. That is probably where my anxiety stemmed from. Suddenly the world felt steeped in chaos and I no longer knew what the future would be for my child.

It was, quite frankly, paralyzing. I stopped enjoying everyday life and most of my waking hours were consumed with fear. I eventually decided to go on anti-anxiety medication, and I will never, EVER take that route again. I truly believe such meds do nothing to cure the actual anxiety; they just mask it. What I was really afraid of was having a loss of control over, well, pretty much everything. I wanted to control whether my child was sick or well or whether or not he lived a long life. However, I was floundering in the wake of the simple reality — very little of that is within my control. I avoided airplanes because of my fear of flying; I avoided traveling to big cities because I feared possible chaos; I avoided social situations where I felt unsure of how things would unfold. I missed so many opportunities in my life because of fear. That fear was preventing me from living my life.

Living in a small town did little to assuage my anxiety, as I felt *seen* everywhere I went. As an introvert, I was not used to that sort of life, and I really struggled with it. I just wanted to go out in public and not know a soul.

I learned to live with the non-anonymity of a teacher’s life over time. I started to just expect it and anticipate it. I knew I would see them, so I stopped fearing it. I took the time to have conversations with the students working at the grocery store or K Mart (while it lasted). I learned that it was a good thing to be able to have “normal” conversations that had nothing to do with school because it helped humanize me to them and helped me get to know the other facets of their personalities.

I stopped the anti-anxiety meds about a year after I started taking them, and the withdrawal was brutal and scary. Lots of weird things going on in my brain that I can’t even begin to explain, but obviously the medicine was doing something to my brain as I weaned myself off of it. I started to take a hard, honest look at what was causing my anxiety, and only then was I able to move past it.

My anxiety was caused by a loss of control at a time when I felt I needed ALL the control. I wanted to ensure that my children were safe; I wanted to make sure that I was safe; I never wanted to find myself in any sort of emergency; I had a weird, dark obsession with stories of chaos where people had to rely on their instincts to get them through. I wondered what my instincts would lead me to do. I doubted whether I would make good choices.

I have learned that there is very little that is linear and predictable about life. If you try to control the trajectory, you will fail big-time, and you will also incur a lot of unnecessary stress. Do you remember that song that came out in the 90s called “Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen”? If not, here it is. It is a surprisingly deep song that spoke to the anxiety I was feeling at the time; in fact, I used to have the lyrics printed out and hung on a bulletin board in my classroom. I wanted my students to internalize the advice because it was so freaking true.

You do not know what will happen in life. Some horribly bad people live to be 90 and never pay for their mistakes. Some really good, kind people die at a young age and never get to live a full life. The injustice of that stings, but it’s not an isolated example either. One of the stanzas of the song is this:

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t
Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t
Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the ‘Funky Chicken’
On your 75th wedding anniversary
Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much
Or berate yourself either
Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s

All we can do on this earth is do the best we can with each day we are given. As I type this, war is raging in the Holy Land. Again. People are suffering and wishing they were elsewhere. Meanwhile, here I sit in relative peacefulness in the suburbs of Chicago. I do not understand why I have been able to live a decent life while people across the globe are suffering, and dying, and fighting for basic freedoms.

I also know that I can’t do a damn thing about it.

I also know that taking chances and facing uncertainty head-on have done wonders for me in the past few years. People may not understand your choices, and you will undoubtedly suffer some criticism for what choices you do make, but the important thing is that you feel OK with what you’ve chosen to do.

It’s your life. No one else’s.

I think living in Chicago has given me the anonymity I have desired for so many years. I can go shopping, walk down the street, have a glass of wine in a restaurant without knowing a single soul, and that is liberating. On Michigan Avenue, when I walk down the street and take pictures of buildings, I am just another person in a sea of tourists. I listen to the sea of dialects around me and know that this is all just as new to me as it is to them.

For me, anyway, I have made peace with the idea that life happens and there is very little rhyme or reason as to why some of us make it to 90 and some die as infants. I don’t know why evil people are allowed to run free while good-hearted people die from cancer. All I know is that each one of us is given a gift every day we wake up to a new day.

It is up to us what we choose to do with it.

Share

LIVE from the cesspool that is LinkedIn

Ok, not really live, but my thoughts are live right now if that makes a difference.

Prior to this year, I had not job hunted in 17 years. My job hunts have always been fairly easy. The last two interviews I had resulted in jobs.

I posted last time about the murky waters of LinkedIn and how it is so foreign to me. That sentiment remains.

LinkedIn seems to have two extremes: the platform for the successful and the megaphone for the desperate.

NETWORK! That is what all the advice is for people like me: desperate teachers who want to switch careers. I don’t know HOW many times I have gotten a message from someone who seems helpful but ultimately just wants you to pay him/her to redo your resume.

LinkedIn is, at best, shark-infested waters that introvert types like me do not do well in.

I have always tested as a strong INFJ type. If you read about this personality type, we thrive on genuine connections with other people. We are notoriously bad at bullshitting and clamoring over others for personal gain. I would say that is a good thing. However, if you look at allllll the advice on LinkedIn, most people say that’s a bad thing.

You have to get your name out there! That’s what the masses howl. Yes, but to me there is something inherently wrong in pretending that I have a deep connection with someone when I really don’t have one. Some people can fake this. I cannot.

YOU WILL NOT GET A JOB WITHOUT NETWORKING! That is also the status quo. However, if I have no connections, how do I form them without feeling totally phony?

LinkedIn was made for certain personality types. It was NOT made for people like me who thrive on honest, real connections with people.

So the job search continues. I’m about 75 applications in with a handful of rejection letters and zero interviews. To say that this job market is tough is a supreme understatement. It’s more like a battlefield. Thousands of teachers are fleeing the classroom and they are all competing for a very small sector of jobs.

In addition, I have become increasingly annoyed with the trends in job postings that I see:

  1. Not listing the salary. Ok, in a dream world, we can say salary doesn’t matter, but it does. People jumping careers are used to making a certain amount.
  2. Not disclosing that a remote position is only for certain states. I don’t know HOW many job applications I have filled out where I don’t find out at the end that the listing is only for certain states and I get immediately rejected. How about putting that important detail in the job description?!
  3. A LOOOOOONG list of job details makes it apparent that companies are looking for a robot or some sort of unicorn in the job market.
  4. Refusal to train. EVERYONE, it seems, wants 3-5 years of experience. I still see a job posting pop up that says “Entry level with some experience.” If you have experience, it’s not entry level. This particular job posting wanted a long list of qualifications for this “entry-level” position.
  5. Being ghosted. For the 75-ish jobs that I have applied to, I have gotten follow-ups (rejections) for about 25% of them. For the rest of them, I just notice when the job says it’s closed and I delete the listing from my Teal queue. How hard is it with today’s technology to send out a mass rejection email? Y’know, the “while your qualifications are certainly impressive, we’ve decided to move forward with other candidates” email. I mean, c’mon . . . if my skills were impressive, I would be getting an interview. Stop trying to be nice.
  6. I didn’t realize until now that there were fake job postings. I don’t understand the purpose of this other than stealing people’s info, but it is infuriating to have to work around these fake job postings. There is one that I have had to filter out for months. It promises 100k and the job posting is ridiculous. Basically, they want an educator who can guarantee proficiency in 100% of students. Nope, not going to sign up for that BS. This company has been running listings for MONTHS and they clog up my job feed.
  7. No recruiter to connect with. LinkedIn makes it pretty impossible to connect with recruiters unless you pay a ridiculous amount for their Premium service. Many listings have no one to talk to at all or follow up with. There has to be SOMEONE reading these resumes and cover letters. Who are they? Why not let people talk to them?
  8. The stupid questions at the end of the job application: gender, veteran status, disability disclosure, race, etc. Aren’t companies NOT supposed to discriminate about any of those things? If so, why do we have to disclose it? If you hire someone based on their qualifications rather than their race, veteran status, or gender, then that is a more fair hiring practice, is it not? Even though the questions are optional, in this intense, competitive job market, do you think people will risk not getting hired because they didn’t disclose that info?
  9. Personality/Temperament tests. The ones I have seen have forced me to choose from a selected group of adjectives. How authentic is this if I only have 8 predetermined answers I can use?
  10. The endless stream of people who just want to connect with you to sell their services — resume rewriting, job coaching, cryptocurrency investing, etc. It is all exhausting.

I have a phone interview with a recruiter tomorrow. I am preparing as much as I can, but that imposter syndrome is very real and I’m trying like mad to fight it off with a stick.

I can do this.

Not . . . I can do this?

I hope my next post has much better news.

Share

School’s out . . . forever.

I have spent the past month cleaning out my classroom and sorting through 23 years’ worth of stuff.

Teachers tend to be hoarders for the same reason children will grab a handful of candy instead of taking just one piece; in the world of education, resources (especially free ones) are fleeting, so we tend to keep things that we think might be useful in the future. Sometimes that makes us a little greedy when it comes to keeping stuff for ourselves.

Case in point: see that storage cabinet in the right corner? I had about 25 textbooks in there. Different textbooks. They were all samples given to us by publishers over the year back when textbooks were the only resource teachers had. Once the internet became mainstream, teachers realized that we were no longer beholden to the big publishing companies and that we could craft our own units. However, the teacher brain in me thought it would be smart to hold onto the textbooks – y’know, just in case.

I’m fairly certain that the custodians at my school currently hate me for all the crap I piled by the garbage cans.

In addition to the clutter, though, I ran across some things that made me very melancholy. I found senior pictures from past graduates, thank-you notes from students and parents, and some relics from when my own children were little and I used to bring them to the school on a Saturday so I could work.

That last sentence is exactly what is driving me to get out of the field and transition into something else. How many weekends did I spend doing “school things” instead of taking my kids to the park? How many hours did I spend grading at the kitchen table instead of taking the time to make a nice meal for my family? Running across some of the drawings in notebooks made me feel a twinge of nostalgic pain. My kids are grown now, and I am now a grandma to my oldest boy’s daughter, and it just reminds me how quickly the time goes. Even though my kids are grown now and I could spend all of Saturday grading essays, I no longer want to.

Now I am slogging through the job hunting adventure and praying for someone to notice me and give me an interview. I have sent out about 50+ applications and so far have only gotten rejection letters. On August 31, I no longer am under contract at my school and that means I lose my health insurance. To say that I am panicking a bit is a major understatement. The stress of looking for another job haunts me day and night, yet I feel like this is something I am meant to do. I gave 23 years to education, but over the past several years, my values no longer aligned with the job, and that made for some stressful work conditions. I could only bite my tongue so many times before I felt like I wanted to explode, so I wanted to hit the reset button and start over with a field that was more results-oriented and that made me feel good about going to work every day and giving 100%. I am sad about what is happening to public education, but it’s also not a problem I can fix. So onward I go, into the very unfamiliar territory of LinkedIn and trying to get my foot in the door somewhere.

It’s taken me a couple weeks to write this post because of my conflicting feelings regarding this move. I feel like it’s the right thing to do, but at the same time, I have no safety net and I am petrified. A couple of weeks later, I have sent out 75 or so applications – possibly more – and have had zero responses aside from rejection letters. Transitioning into a different career is hard, y’all – and even harder when the field is being flooded by teachers fleeing the school system.

I hope my next blog post is about landing a new job.

In vintage news, my husband and I visited our local antique shop the other day. I have been going there for years and the owner, Polly, is an absolute gem. She remembers everyone who comes in her store and what they like, and she is a joy to talk to. Her store had become rather cluttered over the years, and she had someone come in and get rid of the excess stuff. I had fun browsing the aisles and seeing treasures that were probably buried under boxes for several years. Her tablecloths had been pretty stagnant for the past few years, but she had some new ones this time, including one that has my favorite colors – a jadeite green and red.

I snagged this tablecloth (no tag) and an interesting lime green Simtex. I couldn’t get the color accurate; the background color is very much lime green and not yellow.

I know I’ve written about Kitchen-Klatter before, and when I saw these cookbooks, I had to have them. There’s a good bit of childhood nostalgia connected to watching my mom listening to Kitchen-Klatter on the radio. She would have pen in hand as she wrote down various recipes, and I found the ladies’ voices comforting.

Well, that is about all I have to share from my neck of Iowa — soon to be the western suburbs of Chicago, I hope. I hope everyone is having a fantastic start to summer (in 9 days)!

Share

Metamorphosis

It has been a hot minute since I have posted anything. It’s not for a lack of having anything to say; it’s just a supreme lack of TIME.

My last post should have been an omen. I was starting to have an awakening in my career. I actually made another LONG post in December but decided not to post it. One never knows in this career when written words will be used against them.

On February 1, I resigned from my job. I am finishing out the year, but I am so completely worn out. So many things have happened this year that led up to the decision. Although I am moving and can’t keep the job anyway, I was just done. Too much to detail and no energy to do it. Maybe another time.

Around November, I decided to enroll in the Applied Instructional Design Academy. One part of teaching that I have loved involves making materials and creating learning that is relevant, fun, interesting, and useful. The program is 9 months, but I am trying to get it done in 4.

That tells you how motivated I am to get into this very highly competitive field.

I know I would be good at this job, but man, is it hard to find entry-level jobs. Everyone wants experience. No one wants to take a chance on a former teacher. For some reason, the word “teacher” has a negative connotation in the corporate world. I already have a nice little pile of rejection letters keeping me company.

However, I will keep on keepin’ on. I am motivated to do something else – a job where my experience is respected and I am treated like an adult rather than a child. I want to have a job where it’s not normal to inhale lunch as fast as possible so I can get back to my desk to correct papers or check off one of the 184 tasks that need to be completed that day. I need to feel more in control of my own chaos – if that makes sense. Right now I am definitely one of the inmates in the asylum, and I desperately need to be out.

Know of any companies that need an instructional designer or a curriculum developer? I’m your gal. 🙂

Share

A ticking time bomb

Silly me. I thought that the longer I was in education, the easier things would be. This is year 23 for me and I have never felt so slammed by expectations and pressure to make sure that everyone passes – no matter what.

I won’t get into the specifics of it all, as you never know when your own writing will land you in hot water, and although I am frustrated by this field right now, I don’t want to leave it just yet. However, there’s a nagging little voice in the back of my head that has been growing louder day by day with a catchy little chant: What else can I do? How can I do what I love to do without this immense pressure to be a grading machine, a super motivator, a surrogate parent, and a relationship builder — all while trying to run my own life?

The buzz word in education these days is self-care. My district focused on that last year. We actually had some good PD from it when we had Zoom meetings with a wonderful presenter based in Colorado. But the question remains – if this profession is so heavy and stressful and chaotic that we need to teach teachers how to take care of themselves outside of the work day, what exactly is wrong with this picture?

The irony remains that the pressures increase and the self-care talk is now replaced with the new buzzword: relationships.

I don’t know about you, but I have trouble maintaining relationships with the handful of long-time friends that I have, much less 170 teenagers, some of whom have absolutely no interest in building a relationship with me. We are regaled with sob stories about students who give all the credit for their success to the teachers who went the extra mile. And that’s great, really. I know I credit my own high school teachers for instilling a love of education in me, and that is why I ended up in education.

But now the mantra is that if we are not going the extra mile for every single one of our students, we are not doing our job right.

There’s a napkin dispenser in our break room that has this saying: “Every student. Every day. Whatever it takes.”

Whatever it takes? Every day? For every student? All 170 of them?

That’s more than pressure; that’s downright impossible.

I belong to a few teachers groups on the book of faces. It’s a blessing and a curse; I get some great ideas, but it is painful how vicious teachers are to one another. Once in a while, a teacher will post anonymously about his/her frustrations about the job, and within minutes, the holier-than-thou types start lashing out. Inevitably, someone starts preaching relationships. Surely that kid would not be misbehaving if you tried to build relationships. Surely you are lacking in some way. Surely it’s YOU.

It’s amazing and incredibly sad to watch the thread play out in a very predictable way. Rather than supporting one another and acknowledging that we work in a field that is not only difficult but even more so since the pandemic (for various reasons). Rather than admitting that student behavior is not just off the charts at our own schools, it is happening all over the country, we tear apart the teacher who admits that she’s at her breaking point. It reminds me of the teacher cliché of talking to another teacher about a student’s behavior in your class – then having to listen to the other teacher say that the same kid is an angel in their class and they are so surprised that the student acts out in yours. You walk away from that conversation feeling like a failure.

In my 23 years of teaching, I’ve been flipped off (with both fingers – an added treat), told to f*ck off (numerous times), told “tough sh*t” when I pointed out that I expected respect from a student, had my tires punctured with construction screws several times in one school year (no accident, I can assure you; that was an expensive school year!) and been accused of treating students unfairly in various ways. And that’s just the stuff I can think of right now. This year, I have more students than I have ever had in my entire career and now grading has gotten to the point that if a student fails, WE have to prove what we did to try to mitigate that.

Grades are due tonight. I suppose I had better get my defense ready.

I’m tired, y’all. And it’s not just me. It’s teachers everywhere who are dealing with students who have seldom been told “no’; who have zero parental support because there ARE no parents; who come to school hungry, unwashed, unloved, and angry at the world; whose only ambition is to work at the local factory so f*ck you and your English bullsh*t; ones who have been up all night playing video games and therefore can’t stay awake in class; students who get called out by mom and dad every time the kid says “We’re not doing anything today,” (which is almost always untrue); students who are really and truly addicted to their cell phones and cannot even have their phone off their body for an extended amount of time — no joke!; students who are carrying around a lifetime worth of trauma that even the best-trained teacher would have difficulty assisting with . . . the list goes on and on and on.

And now we are taking kids who are barely functioning well enough to exist day to day and asking their teachers to not only hold them to high standards but ensure that they don’t fail any of their classes.

After all, if they fail, it surely has to be our fault because teachers didn’t try hard enough. YOU didn’t contact home enough. YOU didn’t form relationships. YOU didn’t give enough grace. YOU didn’t enact good self-care and thus were not in your best form for work. YOU didn’t differentiate your lessons enough to meet all levels of learning. YOU. It’s gotta be YOU.

Add to all of this that there are students in education programs who are choosing other fields because they hear about the nightmares they will be facing once they get their own classrooms, and this country has a problem that will soon rear its ugly head.

I apologize for making this post about me and not something more fun like antiques or tablecloths or Elvis or literally anything else. This is what was on my mind on this Sunday, and I hope my next post is lighter in subject and way more fun.

Enjoy your weekend!

Share

School Year #23 is now in session

I have almost been back at school for a month now, and it seems surreal. After last year, which was chaotic and stressful and, therefore, not much remembered since I was in survival mode, I was determined to return to school this year with renewed energy and a positive spirit. And, for the most part, I have. I’m trying really hard not to let the few challenging students drag down my entire day, but this year I’ve been handed a couple challenging CLASSES – where a majority of the kids are super high maintenance. I’m not going to lie and say that I don’t dread those days a little bit. I have already categorized my odd day schedule as the “difficult” one and my even day schedule as my “easy” one. The odd day schedule is indeed tiring; I teach straight through with my only break being 40 minutes of lunch. From 8:15 to 12:10 I am working with students and teaching; then from 12:50 until 3:25 I’m back at it. I know people will point out that hey, I get done at 3:25! Yes, but then it’s sitting there grading and planning for upcoming days. I’m not complaining. Some years are just challenging for the energy they require from an introvert teacher, and this is one of those challenging years.

My husband and I were in La Crosse, Wisconsin, last weekend for the Elvis Explosion festival that occurs there every year. In fact, that is where we were last year when my husband ended up in the ICU with sepsis. It was a little strange to be back there in that environment, remembering the emotions that I was going through the last time I was there. I had felt like the rug had been yanked out from under me in a very violent way, and I remember wandering around feeling very lost and confused.

This year, however, we had a great experience and my husband drummed like a rock star, as always. My family was able to be up there as well, so that made it extra special. The only unfortunate thing about that weekend is not really having a lot of time to enjoy La Crosse, which is such a beautiful area with a vibrant downtown atmosphere. There’s an antique store that we love to visit there that has 3 floors of goodies. We were able to go there with my family and I kind of made a haul.

First, I found a catalog full of cookbooks from Good Housekeeping. It came in a little green binder so that people could insert them as they bought them. The binder was falling apart and missing the back of it, so I threw that away and took all the cookbooks out. These are such fun with goofy retro graphics and fantastic fonts:

I plan on scanning them all in, and I cannot wait to do that.

I am also a sucker for catalogs from the 50s and 60s, as they provide great eye candy about the stuff I could have bought “back in the day.” I ran across a 1963 Hilex catalog that was in perfect condition:

The cover alone deserves to be analyzed. What exactly is behind that frozen smile on mom’s face? She is either totally in love with dad or ready to poison his coffee.

Inside the catalog, goodness abounds:

I plan on scanning that one in too. And I want ALL those clocks at the top.

I ran across a little 1959 Christmas Cookie cookbook sponsored by Wisconsin Electric Power Co. The cover alone made me want to buy it, but inside are lots of cute graphics and ads, like this one starring Reddy Kilowatt:

And, yes, I plan on scanning in that book too. (I might have a bit of a scanning addiction. Is there a group for that?)

Finally, although I have kind of eased up on Pyrex collecting because of outrageous prices, I still like looking for bakeware, and sometimes I run across a gem that is reasonably priced. Behold, a Fire King divided casserole dish, with candle warmers – original box and material inside.

The tag claimed it was “unused,” but the melted candle wax in the warmers suggests differently. Then again, the wax could have melted while being stored somewhere warm. Who knows. All I know is that $28 was a steal for something like this. Those are the prices I am used to paying for bakeware; none of that $250 nonsense that I’m seeing in a lot of antique stores for Pyrex pieces. I mean, people are selling the turquoise starburst casserole dish by Pyrex for $800 and higher. That is simply stupid.

Anyway, I know that my “to be scanned” pile is reaching ridiculous heights. I still need to finish up my postcard project that I started during the leisurely months of summer. I only have, oh, a few hundred left to go. Maybe I’ll use this Saturday to get that cleared off my plate before I start something new.

Have a fantastic weekend!

Share

The deafening roar of silence

That’s it. I’m officially an empty-nester. My husband and I were heading down to Memphis for Elvis Week a couple weeks ago, and on the way, we dropped off my son at his new apartment that he will share with his brother as he starts college. (He does drive, but his car is in the shop at the moment.) I knew it would be weird, but I didn’t realize how weird it would be to come home to absolute silence.

When I plan supper, my first instinct is to ask him what he’s in the mood for.

And he’s no longer there to answer.

When I go to the grocery store, my first instinct is to ask if there’s anything he needs.

But now he’s in his own apartment now and buying his own food.

I know this is a rite of passage – for both of us – but I never thought that it would be this difficult to adjust. I worry about him. I wonder if he’s eating right. I feel his anxiety for starting the first day of school and trying to find his classes. I wonder if he’ll meet friends whom he will keep in touch with for the rest of his life.

Above all, it is the strange feeling of bafflement that I raised two boys to adulthood. I remember when they were, say, 5 and 7 and graduation seemed light years away. In the blink of an eye, it’s all over. All the stress, all the running around, all the keeping 5,893 tabs open in my brain to keep track of all the kid stuff — it’s all over, for the most part. No more school conferences. No more Saturday wrestling tournaments. No more uncomfortable but necessary discussions about growing up and avoiding pitfalls of life. No more worrying why they’re not home at curfew. No more being the direct line of influence to their daily decisions. Now I am just a spectator.

I know all of this is just the familiar path of parenthood, but that does not mean it isn’t alien to me.

Here’s to new adventures – for all of us! <clink>

Share

Randoms from a Tuesday

After a few years’ worth of use, my phone has finally started to tell me that it’s running out of space. I figured that it might — just might — be the dozens of videos that I had on my phone from all the various Elvis gigs I’ve gone to, so I started to sort through them this morning as I was sitting by the pond. Odd — after I started off my last post complaining about how JULY it was, we have been gifted with a week of mild weather. The temps at night have been getting down in the 60s, so the first thing I do in the morning is open the windows and throw the fans on. It’s almost like I complained and Mother Nature went, “Oh! Sorry . . . my bad.”

No, I do not think I have that much power.

Sitting by the pond this morning was quite pleasant. It was cool, there was no breeze, and it was just as perfect as it could be. I enjoyed not one but two cups of coffee out there this morning, trying to soak up the still and calm. Right now the flowers around the pond are almost all in bloom and the deer have largely left them alone this year – with a couple of exceptions – so I am enjoying the spray of colors. I have a few volunteer sunflowers this year that are growing and the tallest recently started blooming, so now I have a beautiful sunflower towering over the pond.

Never mind that yellow stuff all over the leaves. That is how I have been trying to combat the deer this year – with garlic powder and cayenne pepper. I sprinkle it pretty generously all over the yard and plants, and it seems to have worked, for the most part. The deer have managed to get some chomps in when I have gone too many days between applications, and I am sure the rabbits are responsible for their part of the damage as well. However, this sunflower adds a nice little element to the pond, and I hope it stays blooming for quite some time.

So . . . as I was saying before, I was cleaning off my phone and marveling at the vast array of stuff I have accumulated over the past year or so. I deleted a healthy bunch of it, but there were a few snippets in there that I thought were worth sharing.

Snippet #1: Reflections of history

This last school year as I was standing in the break room, making copies, I looked down and was amused by this ancient box of tacks that was sitting with the rest of the supplies. I am a geek for old fonts and just old office supplies in general, so I picked it up and thought vaguely about permanently “borrowing” it – until I remembered that I had about 82954 tacks in my desk drawer already that randomly spill out all over the place and annoy me. So, no. Here’s the box:

But the best part is when I turned the box over. If I had any doubts that these tacks had spent decades shoved in the back of a supply closet somewhere, those disappeared in no time:

WEST Germany. Also, packed in the USA. Now you KNOW they’re ancient.

Snippet #2: Tell me you’re not a native speaker of English without actually telling me you’re not a native speaker . . .

I received a box of Instant Pot accessories for Christmas because I love, love, LOVE my Instant Pot. The accessories came with a book of recipes that I have a vague suspicion were not written by a native speaker. Don’t worry – I have proof:

I know the directions are cut off, but you can see that for the most part, they use pretty good English. How, then, did no one proofreading this booklet know that “bailecue” is not a word? Also – a 1/2 pound of ribs? Is this for a party of one?

The non-mysteries continue:

Oh, the important of spacing. How many poor, inexperienced souls have spent way too long in the baking aisle, looking for “chuck roast flour”?

But, wait! There’s more! For the low, low price of $19.95, you get THIS:

First, the phonetic spelling of Por Kloin. But that’s not even the worst of it:

THIRTY-FOUR POUNDS of chuck roast!!!!

At least they got the spacing right this time.

Want more? OK, get ready for this scrumptious dessert:

One of these things is not like the other. Heck – NONE OF THESE THINGS should go with the word “shellfish.”

Just in case you needed a side dish for any of these wonderful meals, may I suggest the following?

This is how one might pronounce “steamed vegetables” if a person held his head over a boiling pot of water for a few seconds and then had to speak immediately afterward.

Snippet #3: They Don’t Make Things the Way They Used To . . .

I moved into my house in 2000. The entire time I’ve lived here, the closet that is at the end of my hallway has had the same light bulb, and that is not because I’ve been trying to save it by responsibly turning the lights off after I was done digging in there for something. Year after year, I would marvel at how the light bulb lasted and wondered if I should start placing bets as to when it would finally go dark.

This last winter, the light bulb finally died. I took it down and looked at what kind it was.

Beauty Tone, eh? Well, I was intrigued at what sort of marvel of modern engineering created this wonderfully long-lasting bulb, so I did a little Googling. It turns out that Beauty Tone bulbs were designed to put everyone in the best light – no pun intended. Here’s an ad for that brand:

I mean, I guess I kind of get what they’re going for, but does one have to plan ahead for the mood that one wants for a room, or was it done on the fly? “Excuse me, Percy, but must change the bulb now before I slip into something more comfortable . . .”

All I know is that those light bulbs were the absolute bomb when it came to lasting forEVer, and they need to be made again.

I also love how the blue light gets a hoity-toity name – Beauty Tone Aqua – and the yellow gets to be “Candlelight,” but the last one is just “Pink.” Someone in the marketing department dropped the ball there. BIG TIME. Sunset Rose. Blushing Bride. Dainty Dusty Rose. Bubble Gum. Flirty Lip Gloss. Modesty Mauve. First Kiss. I mean, I could go on and on.

Hey, Westinghouse? If you ever do bring these lovely bulbs back to life, I’m your name gal.

Share