Dear Construction Workers

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Dear Construction Workers,

I really appreciate that you are building a three-story apartment monstrosity that directly blocks my spectacular view of the mountains.  Really, I do.  I appreciate that you arrive at this site every morning at 6:30 am in your loud diesel trucks, ready to yell your morning salutations to one another at top volume.  I really do enjoy this–especially when your hollering wakes my daughter up an hour and a half early.  It is so nice to hear her screaming somehow overshadow yours in volume, so that I can hear her piercing shrieks while I’m on another floor attempting to brew a cup of coffee.  Very impressive.

I also appreciate that all of your deliveries, especially the ones that require a truck to drive in reverse with loud beeping sounds, or the ones that require a crane to lift the pallets to the top of the new structure and then deafeningly drop the loads on the roof, seem to occur between the hours of 1 and 3 pm.  I know you are just getting all of your materials in order for the next day before you head home around 3:30, and it is so kind of you to schedule those deliveries smack in the middle of my daughter’s nap time.  This efficient timeline has ensured that her once-lengthy afternoon nap has dwindled to a short bit of shuteye, resulting in a perpetually sleep-deprived, cranky baby.

The only time I don’t hear you guys is in the middle of the night, when my daughter wakes up–every night for two weeks in a row now–to eat, because she hasn’t eaten her bedtime bottle, because she’s too tired, because she can’t get a good nap in unless I put her in her carseat and we drive in circles while I listen to an audiobook on my headphones so she can sleep in peace.  (Not that I’ve done that or anything.)  During those 2 am snuggle sessions, I really notice the absence of clanking and hollering and beeping and smashing and hammering and drilling and stapling.  I definitely miss it.

So, construction workers, thanks for all you do.  Really.  Thanks.

Sincerely,

A Really Tired Mom of a Really Tired Baby

 

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Book Clubs

Every month, I go to two or three book club meetings, and almost every month, there are only a few of my book club members who have actually read the book.

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This means that I don’t really know what a “real” book club looks like, unless this is what happens in all book clubs.  Still, I want to have–recreationally–the kind of discussions that my students had during Socratic Seminars in my classroom, but with my friends, and wine.

That has yet to happen, but I’m still holding out hope.  Usually, what happens is that the people who’ve read the book have a furtive discussion on themes, symbols, questions, wonders, thrills, all while the people who haven’t read or haven’t finished are shushing us from the corner since they don’t want the ending spoiled.

Just once, I would love for everyone to read the same book, and super nerdily, at that.  I want to see post-it flags and annotations and index cards with favorite quotes and fanfics and memes and movie adaptation criticisms.

This month, my clubs are reading Hillbilly Elegy, The Underground Railroad, and The Year of Magical Thinking.  Perhaps one of those books will be the one that hooks every reader, spurs amazing discussion, and finally results in the book club meeting of my dreams!

Or, perhaps not.

Grading Papers

Sometimes I really enjoy grading papers, if I can get in the right frame of mind.  I have to be very focused, free of outside distractions that might break that tenuous focus, and in a comfortable place.  I also require the perfect beverage, a just-right snack, and good company in the form of a friend or a cat.

Pens–the pens are important too.  Or a strong wifi connection, if I’m grading an electronic assignment.  Also, some music, or noise of some kind, without words but with just sound.

Does that sound too specific?  Like an impossible situation?  You’re right–it is.  I pretty much hate grading.

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But this weekend, I got about 250 papers graded that I’ve been procrastinating for a little while.  I was feeling the pain of looming grade deadlines, had the weekend totally free, and enjoyed my couch as a good place to grade.  My husband made me a fresh cup of coffee with my favorite hazelnut creamer, got us some chips, and settled down beside me to watch Ripper Street on Netflix.  My PaperMate pens were flowing, the stack of graded papers was piling higher, and Jon made it through half of season two before I finally called it a night.

Am I finished grading?  Of course not.  My alarm is set for 4:45 am tomorrow so I can get back at it.

But at least I enjoyed the progress I managed to make today.  🙂

 

Starbucks

I never go to Starbucks without thinking of a quote from one of my favorite movies, You’ve Got Mail:

The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. So people who don’t know what the hell they’re doing or who on earth they are, can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self: Tall. Decaf. Cappuccino.

Tom Hanks, of course, delivers this line with his signature dry humor, and I can hear his voice in my head every time I stand in line here to order a drink.

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In addition to my associations with movies, Starbucks also always reminds me of when I first began teaching.  I student taught in a school that was a 45-minute drive from my house, and there was a Starbucks near my house I had to pass as I started my morning commute.  I was usually the first customer in the drive-thru line, pulling in at 5:30 sharp and ordering a tall Pike Place, black, every morning.  I’d arrive at school when it was still blissfully dark and quiet, and sip my coffee and get an hour of work done before the middle school students began to thunder in at 7:15.

Now that I teach part-time, I only stop by Starbucks a few times a month, so it feels like a treat to order a $5 latte and bring it with me to class.  Today, I’m in the store, parked in a corner, plugging away at some grading and enjoying a seasonal iced latte, enjoying the hubbub of voices and music and steaming milk that is loud enough to be motivating rather than distracting.

Being here never fails to motivate me to fly through my grading a little faster, inspire a new blog post, or just provide endless entertainment in terms of people watching.  I guess, in Tom Hanks’ words, I do get a defining sense of self by coming to Starbucks:  when I’m here, I am teacher, writer, dreamer.

Thanks, Tom!

Oh, Rick Riordan

I first discovered Rick Riordan when I was in college taking a young adult literature course.  For one of our assessments, we had to choose 10 books and write a letter to their author(s).  Me being the enterprising soul that I am, I decided to read the first few Percy Jackson and the Olympian books, since the first three had been released, so I could write fewer letters.

I fell in love immediately with the son of the sea god, and with Riordan’s hilarious writing.  When I began researching Riordan to do my assignment, I discovered that like several of my favorite authors (Andrew Smith, Stephen King), Riordan was a former English teacher.  Ahh, a man after my own heart!  My assessment wound up being love letters rather than the engaging discourse my professor was probably looking for.

I was quite taken with both Riordan and his books for many years.  (Except the times he crushed my soul with his plot twists and cliffhangers.)

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I have compulsively read almost every other Riordan book since then–the whole Percy Jackson series, the follow-up Heroes of Olympus series, the Egyptian gods series, the Norse mythology series, and now I’m starting the new Trials of Apollo series.

While habitually wasting my time doing stupid stuff while Ruthie napped today, I started poking around on Riordan’s GoodReads page.  I discovered that Riordan has based all of his characters on former students of his, especially the diverse characters he gets so much praise for.

Swoon again!!

After I finished giggling about that, I opened The Hidden Oracle  to the page I’d left off and laughed aloud at Riordan’s signature overblown metaphors (“that man was so square, you could cut yourself on his corners, you know?”), his hilarious modernizations of ancient gods and goddesses (Rhea wearing purple glasses, a peace symbol, and a macrame belt), and his funny characterizations of little-known demigods (Ozzie Osbourne and Joan of Arc, on this page).

It is always so delightful to fall in love with a good book–and its author.  😉

Baby Clothes

I really hate shopping, and I’m not comfortable spending large amounts of money, but there is a person in my household who requires a brand new wardrobe every 3-4 months.

Her name is Ruthie, she is super chic, and she’s 11 months old going on 18, if her clothes are anything to go by.  And I am lucky that her new digs are so cheap.

Today, Ruthie and I spent a good half hour in her room, her scooting around on her butt in just a diaper (she is stubborn and refuses to crawl, but moves around her own way–unconventionally), me cross-legged on the floor, both of us surrounded by her 12- and 18-month size clothes.  On the left was a bag I was folding the former into, and on the right was a laundry basket I was tossing the latter into.

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I used tiny scissors to cut off the tiny tags from the tiny shirts and pants and socks and hats and dresses and SHORTS for the first time that are going to be her late winter-early spring wardrobe.  Ruthie kept trying to grab the scissors, completely bored by the various other dangerous implements in her room–lamp, cat, garbage can full of poopy diapers.

As I de-tagged ruffly dresses and Easter outfits and polka dot pants, I thought about the other times I’d performed this ritual.  The first time was soon after she was born, a hefty little thing even though she was three weeks early.  She outgrew her newborn clothes before her due date had arrived, so when she was just a few days old, I reverently washed a whole season of 0-3 month clothes.  They were so, so tiny, and so, so precious.  I hadn’t purchased any of those outfits, so blessed we were with generous friends and family.  I thought of everyone who’d given her each outfit every time we got dressed in the morning.

The more times I performed the new wardrobe ritual, the fewer clothes were already in her closet.  I had to start shopping for baby clothes, usually on clearance at Target or the Children’s Place, and often at Sam’s Club or Walmart.  I kept an eye out for sleepers for her giant butt and hats for her giant head and socks that wouldn’t cut the circulation off her giant feet.  She is forever too big for her clothes.

This morning, I was struck by how large her new 18-month size seemed.  I remembered when a whole season of clothes barely filled half a laundry basket, and this morning the comparatively small stack of outfits overflowed onto the floor quite quickly, by sheer dint of their volume.

I looked at Ruthie as she shuffled around the room, struggling to pull up on furniture, occasionally shouting out some baby babble.  I looked back at the laundry basket and remembered when we’d first done this activity together, in our old apartment, Ruthie, just a few pounds, resting in her little baby bouncer and gazing at me calmly.  I looked back at her again this morning, on the cusp of walking and talking and growing up and leaving me one day.

It was the first time I felt like our time together had gone quickly, and the first time I felt regret for having let those first weeks and months of her life slide past me as I wished for time to go faster.  She’s still a little baby, but every day, she’ll never be as little as she was the day before.

It kind of breaks my heart.

 

Gym Buddies

I work out about four times a week, not because I love exercise (I don’t) or am super fit (I’m not), but because my gym has excellent childcare and it’s a great way for Ruthie and I to get out of the house.  

So, Monday and Wednesday afternoons, and Thursday and Saturday mornings, you can find me on the indoor track running laps or lifting some light free weights. 

My only goals are to work up a sweat, listen to a good book or album, and leave slightly healthier than when I arrived. 

This means that I do not care what I look like while I’m here. At all. On Wednesdays, when I arrive at the gym, it is likely that I haven’t showered since Monday night after my last workout (this is true of today). I’m usually wearing sweats or leggings with baby food on them, and a too-big t-shirt emblazoned with the logo of one of the schools I used to work for. 

But, because my gym is the student recreation center of the university where I teach, I am heavily in the minority when it comes to my gym fashion…or lack thereof. 

At this very moment, as I’m walking slow laps in an XL Art Club t-shirt, I am getting lapped by a variety of more fashionable runners. A ponytailed brunette keeps zooming by me in tribal-print patterned leggings, a backless workout top (?), and some kind of sports bra that has approximately nine straps criss-crossing her back. 

Another woman, closer to my age, is wearing full-length black leggings beneath a knee brace and neon pink shorts. Her top is skintight and is grey with a giant black stripe across the chest (??). Even she is lapping me, despite her serious looking support brace. 

There is one guy positively scaring the crap out of everyone as he sprints, wearing a flat-bill green cap, a long-sleeved green shirt, and swishy green sweat pants. None of the greens are the same color (???). 

Another walker is my friend Earl, whose name is probably not Earl. He tends to be here at the same time as me on Mondays and Wednesdays, and wears the same thing every day–faded slim-cut Levi’s and a red sweatshirt with frayed sleeves. Earl is at least 70 and walks faster than me no matter how fast I pump my arms. I can occasionally outrun him, but he always laps me when I cool down (??!!). 

There is always one person who walks the wrong way on the track, one person who shows up everyone else as they showcase their speed, and one person who passes a little too closely (today it’s knee-brace girl, who has nearly clipped my elbow twice).

When I can get into some kind of runner’s flow, I like to watch my fellow gymmers and imagine a what kind of life their hour lapping me is a slice out of. My reflections usually spin off and I begin thinking about teaching or things I need to do, but I relish these few hours a week where no matter what a hot mess I look, I’m relatively anonymous while surrounded by my quasi-gym buddies. 

Popcorn, Cheese, and a Queen Bed

To say that my husband works long hours would be an understatement.

Eight times per month, he works a 36-hour call shift that gets him home 30 hours later if he’s lucky and 40 hours later if he’s not.

Suffice it to say that I spend a lot of time alone.

While I wish he was home more, and that he had a “normal” job and worked “normal” hours, I know that’ll never be the case, so I try not to dwell on it.  Instead, I try to focus on the positives of solitude.

One positive is that I can eat popcorn in bed while writing on my blog.  (I am doing this now.)

Another positive is that my cats don’t seem to find our queen bed quite as crowded when Jon is away, and they come and sleep with me all night.  My feet are always toasty warm.

My second cat, Cheese, is especially snuggly, and quite aggressive about getting her cuddle time in and staying warm.  (She is snuggling with me now and eating some of my popcorn.)

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Another positive is that I get to watch corny 80s movies like Working Girl without fear of being teased for my extreme corniness.  (Cheese and the popcorn and I are doing this now.)

So, here I am, my first fat cat on my feet, my second little cat on my lap, a bag of popcorn at my side, the three of us all snuggled up together in my queen bed with Netflix on our laps.

It’s a pretty good night, no matter how you slice it.

I Absolutely Love My Job

In the months since I had my daughter, I have come to truly love and appreciate my job.

I teach preservice teachers at our local university, whose campus is only 15 minutes away from our house…if you include a stop at Starbucks.

I teach three classes:  a 3-credit hour course that meets on Monday mornings, and a 1-hour and 2-hour course that meet on alternating Friday mornings.

Every morning, when I pack Ruthie’s diaper bag to take her to a friend’s house for the morning, I am filled with happiness.  I never dread getting up when my alarm goes off, never dread creating my lesson plans for the day, never dread seeing my students’ bright, optimistic faces.

This morning I spent a wonderful three hours with 19- and 20-year-olds on the cusp of teaching, their faces furrowed in concern as we grappled with issues, grinning at me when I dropped some truth about real public school teaching, or blank with concentration as they read and wrote and thought.  I had so much fun.

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I don’t think I love it because “it’s my dream job,” because there are problems, and things I don’t like (cough cough, grading), just like any other job.  But it is, in this season of my life, a way for me to stay connected to all things teaching and learning, when I don’t have time to work in a high school full time.

I’m thinking about this because so many of my friends have written Facebook posts lately lamenting that their jobs take them away from their babies.  “My first day back at work and I’m missing my baby so much!!”  “Two hours ’til my work trip ends and I see my baby again! Longest five days of my life!”

I don’t think I’m abnormal because I don’t fit the dominant narrative of doting mother–I think there are plenty of moms like me.  I just wish more moms like me would speak up and put their real feelings out there.  I wasted a good bit of new motherhood worrying that I wasn’t feeling/thinking/doing “what I was supposed to,” and it made me miserable.  It damaged my relationship with my daughter, husband, and family.

I wish I felt the devotion to my daughter that other moms profess, but I can’t help but remember that I am a person too, and I was a person for 28 years before she was, and I just can’t throw that person away to only focus on this little brand new one in my home.  I feel that when I nurture that self, I can nurture the newer part of my identity–the mom part.

Am I alone in this feeling?  Are all moms like me, looking forward to the convention or work trip or part-time job that gets them out of their house and into adult company, not every hour of every day, but at least weekly?

Or is it just me, and I really do love my job that much?!

 

Broken Wifi

For some reason, people don’t seem to realize that wifi is now a basic home utility. That people need. And have to pay for. 

People like my husband. 

Instead of having our own wireless router, or a LAN, or any type of device that would allow me to easily access the Web, we just have a login that lets us steal from active hotspots. 

While this has been a cheap way to have Internet–and we don’t have a TV, so no cable, so no bundles wherein wifi is actually cheap (did you know wifi is $59.99/month if you have no other services?! Ripoff!!)–it is only effective if it works. 

And right now it’s not working. 

I get irrationally angry when the wifi is slow or broken. Instead of the post about daylight savings time I wanted to write, I’m unleashing this rant on the powers that be who prevent me from having the lightning-fast internet of my dreams. 

So, I’ll bid you adieu, and go read a paperback book…!