Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The End is Near

I have less than three weeks left of summer vacation.

How did that happen?
Where did my summer go?

And I am looking at those remaining days being very busy.... with stuff for school. In truth, my summer vacation is over. There may be moments spent away from school, but my brain has turned that direction and an urgency has settled in. I need to put up two bulletin boards, come up with a plan for what I am teaching this year and when, and I need to finish up all the re-organizational projects I started this summer.

On top of these tasks, I have noticed some anxiety kicking in.

Now, if it were anxiety about whether or not I can get all these things done before school starts, I would understand. But it's about the teaching. How did I do this last year? Can I do it again? How did I juggle home and school? How did I allocate my time? It's like I've never done this before.

I am hoping that this is just second-year jitters and everything will fall into place once I have a schedule and students start rolling in....

I will be blogging as usual this week, but then I am going to do some different sorts of posts to get me through this transitional season of school starting. I'll be around. If some posts start to roam through my head, I may post some extras. And I'll be back to my usual musings once the school year is going strong.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Fresh Start?

I am a pack rat. I keep papers, articles, books, cards, notes, pictures.... You get the idea.

I am also an electronic pack rat. I keep extensive folders of emails so I can (in theory) find things later. But with 6 email accounts, it has gotten completely out of hand. Email has become oppressive. I tend to avoid it because I don't want to deal with all of it, but that just makes everything worse. I am seriously contemplating just deleting everything.


And starting from scratch.

Have you ever done that? I'm trying to figure out if that is a good idea. I am just certain that the minute after I do it, I am going to want something I can no longer get. It's the thought process of a pack rat. And I know that if I do it, but don't develop a new email philosophy, I'll be right back in this spot a few months from now....

The fear of losing something important wars with the lure of complete electronic freedom.

Freedom. . . .

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Grass Is Always Greener

Last week was the beginning of a two week break from school (that still included at least one business stop for about an hour) that my son and I desperately needed.

Just because we weren't AT school didn't mean I wasn't working. I had 5 philosophy books to read and I had to write a 6 page paper. (And this week I have another project that has to be done before school starts - mostly because once students are there, there won't be time to get it done!) So I did that last week along with some cleaning, a trip to the pool, a trip to the bowling alley, and a couple of "play days" for my son. It was a good week.

But it reminded me of summers past and I missed them. Four years ago, we were home together and I wasn't working. Our days were filled with sleeping late, book store dates, tv, games, books, movies, snuggling and just hanging out. In retrospect, it sounds glorious. A twinge of regret and resentment started to settle in my heart.

I want a summer like that again. I want low key, slow-paced.

But a conversation with a friend reminded me of the down side of those days. I was rarely relaxed then. My activities might have given that impression, but on the inside, I was churning. I felt like I wasn't doing enough or doing anything of consequence. I wondered if my life would ever have purpose beyond the walls of my home.

Yeesh! I seriously need some contentment in my life, huh? It all comes back to that SAVOR theme for the year. In fact, I may need to work that theme again next year at the rate I am going! Rather than enjoy the slow pace of summers past, I wished them away, feeling aimless. Rather than enjoying the anticipation of starting a new school year in a job I adore, I am lamenting the work that will facilitate that work.

I still have so much to learn.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Going Home Again

As I write this, I am preparing for a trip to my home town. This will post after we return. This will be my first trip back in a year. The first trip since the house sold and the estate closed. I am going back to my home town, but not to my home. The house is there, but someone else lives there. It isn't mine anymore.

I only lived in two homes as a child - an apartment when I was small and a house starting when I entered third grade. It was never a big deal to drive by the old apartment. It didn't need to be home because I had one somewhere else. This will be the first time being there without a home to return to.

This is also likely our last trip there. Unless we use it as a stopping point on our way to somewhere else or go back for some sort of reunion, there's really no need to return. No family there, just a few friends. Lots of memories, both pleasant and otherwise.

I feel like this trip is another in a series of goodbyes related to the loss of my dad. I'm pretty tired of goodbyes.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Lost in the Bolts

We were in Northern Indiana for our family reunion a few weeks ago. For a day outing, we went shopping in Shipshewana. We walked through a mercantile building I have been in before, but this time I got lost in one shop called Lolly's.

Here are two of the things I saw on display at Lolly's:

Aren't they lovely? I could stare at that top quilt for hours.

I found some pictures of the store at Lolly's site here.

Just looking at the pictures makes my heart beat faster. The yards and yards of fabric inspired me. I could have filled a cart with all the bolts I wanted a piece of. I carried several pre-cut pieces around with me, but I ended up not buying anything because I know in my head that (a) I don't have/use a sewing machine and (b) I don't have time to take on a new hobby right now.

But I am desperately interested in doing just that. I want to make a quilt. I want to put pieces of fabric together to make something beautiful and something useful. If I had a "bucket list," make a quilt/learn to sew would be top of the list.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


A couple weeks ago I worked on one of my usual summer cleaning/purging projects. In an effort to make space in my file cabinets, I purged some of my dad's papers that I no longer needed to keep for the estate.

I was really ripping through this huge folder of things, making great time. And then this envelope stopped me in my tracks.

There are several things about this that grabbed me and wouldn't let me go.

First of all, after my mother's death, Dad became hyper-vigilant about managing his money. He had made a lot of mistakes with money during their marriage, and he vowed not to do that ever again. So he balanced his checkbook, to the penny, every month. He told me about it on the phone regularly. He did a happy dance in his kitchen every time it came out right. He kept meticulous records, in envelopes like this.

Second, it cracked me up that he wrote, "Exactomundo." Like he was the Fonz. It was unusual by itself, but completely in character for my father. Then, he wrote, "Parfait," which is French for perfect. No one else ever saw these envelopes. They were for his own filing system. He wasn't jotting these things down to impress or amuse anyone but himself. At the reunion, people referenced things Dad would say, or said they were waiting to hear his little jokes and comments - he had a style and a "voice" that was distinctive. This envelope is a perfect example of that.

Finally, I just stopped and stared at the handwriting. That block handwriting he used because his cursive was atrocious. For a teacher, he had awful handwriting. We teased him about it all the time. So this block print was his way of being legible.

I miss seeing that handwriting.

My own handwriting is pretty bad - a hodge podge of cursive and printing that my students often can't read unless I am being really careful in my writing. But this envelope reminds me to keep writing things by hand. Some day, it might be precious to someone I love.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

All Greek to Me

I saw an article recently on Twitter or Facebook - one of those that you click on, read a paragraph for the main point and then click away from. The point of it was that Bible study for Christians might take on new depth and meaning if, instead of looking for what's new, we went back to something old - the original text in Greek.

Yeah, right. Like I have time in my life to learn a foreign language. I minored in French in college and refused to use it ever again once I graduated. My favorite Bible prof is not likely to personally tutor me in Greek, so I didn't think anything more about it.

Then, in church last week at the family reunion, the pastor was talking about a passage in Mark where Jesus feeds 4000 people. This is AFTER Mark's story of Jesus feeding 5000 people. In the message, the pastor specified when Mark used different Greek words than what our translation might indicate. And the idea of the nuances that could be gleaned from reading Scripture in Greek started to grow on me.

Oh, I still have NO time for Greek-as-a-second-language classes, but the original article's premise seemed a lot more reasonable than it did when I first perused it.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

If You Knew Your History

This summer, our family drove to Washington, D.C. to take in the sights. It was a fantastic trip. We visited museums and monuments and memorials and soaked in the history of our nation. It was a learning experience, but not just for the history.

We learned that it takes a family to negotiate the Metro - and sometimes that's not enough to spare you the pitying look from Metro security.

We learned that "Kids eat free" is not such a great deal when the adult entree prices are double what you would pay elsewhere.

We learned that map and GPS services on your cell phone/iPad are a blessing when you travel - they helped us find Metro stops, shops, restaurants and alternate directions in traffic.

We learned that when the museum entry is free, you can just go see the exhibits you want and then leave without guilt.

Here were some of the sights from our trip:




Thursday, July 12, 2012

SAVOR: A Break

I thought I had managed this earlier this summer! I thought I had already adjusted my plans for what work I was going to get done at school over break.

But it's July. There's only about 4.5 weeks of summer vacation left. I'd like to spend at least half of it away from the school. The only way to do that is to whittle down my to do list yet again.

Sounds easy enough. But I was so emotionally invested in my list, the idea of ignoring some of those major tasks made me feel physically ill. I was a wreck. I needed someone to come in and look objectively at my list and help me prioritize. What was funny was that I used to do that for  other people! I had to shake myself and apply those skills to my own situation.

I wrote out all of the tasks I wanted to do this summer. Then I prioritized them based on what tasks were most important and what tasks could be easily done and checked off. I noted which ones had to be done at school and which could be done at home. I flagged what things had to be done before school starts.

After some journaling and praying and wrestling with that list, I finally started feeling better about the whole thing. I let myself enjoy the idea of a couple weeks completely away from school, even if I was still doing some school tasks at home. So far, it's going pretty well. It's not going to be perfect - I know I will be frustrated about some of the things that don't get done. But for now, I think I can handle that. I'll just SAVOR the look on my son's face when I told him our two weeks off were looking like a real possibility. He threw his hands up in the air and cheered. I have to make this break happen for him. This is his summer, too, and we both need to just "be" for awhile before we head back into a new school year.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Dread, Survival and Perspective

For the last 18 years, my extended family on my dad's side has gotten together for a reunion. And every time, I have looked forward to seeing my aunts and uncles and reconnecting with my cousins and marveling at how much the kids have grown in the three years since the last reunion. Every time, anticipating. Except this year.

This year, the feeling was much closer to dread.

The re-connecting comes in levels - there's the big picture reunion, where 70 or so of us reconnect with one another. But at another level, it is a reunion for each family unit. Brothers and sisters who live far apart have the chance to be together again. My aunts and uncles get to enjoy having most, if not all, of their family with them for a weekend.

Last year, my family unit was forever changed. Leading up to the reunion, I felt like an island, newly separated from the mainland of the larger family. My grandparents, the folks who tie this whole group together, are gone. My parents are gone. I have no siblings. My little family of three, who walk through life together every day, was still a family of three at the reunion.

But I survived. We had a great time. Our family was gracious to us and to my cousins who lost their dad earlier this year. There was a full range of responses to our loss - from "don't mention it" to a more direct, "So, how are you and how did things work out?" There were a couple nice texts and messages and hugs from folks, saying they missed Dad. The cousins I always count on were as reliable and delightful as ever. If anything, I could have spent another week with them. We did our usual family talent show and games and choir. It was a wonderful reunion.

Being together also gave me a little perspective on the pity party I had been having for the last couple months. I knew Dad was sick and I had a few weeks to wrap my mind around the fact that I was going to lose him. My uncle's death was more sudden. I've had a little over a year to process some of my grief. Their loss is still so fresh. I know I am not alone - I am not an island.

I miss my dad like crazy. I think about him every day. But this weekend was a good reminder that I don't need to let his death define me and where I fit in my family or in the world.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Not the Intended Audience

On Thursday, I talked a little about my comic book dilemma. I need back story. I need to understand where the character is coming from.

I thought I found the perfect solution the other day when my family walked into a local comic book shop (one in the town where we live, rather than our regular store near my husband's employer). On the shelf were two comic books (numbers one and three in a set) about the character, Black Widow, from the Avenger's movie.

First of all, I loved that movie! I could go on and on about all the things I loved in that movie (Tony's snark, Mark Ruffalo's brilliant portrayal of the layers of Bruce Banner, Hulk taking on the pompous Loki, etc.). I thought I could really get into a comic book series about a great, strong, female character like Black Widow.

My first clue that this series might not be all I'm looking for was the fight scene in the first book where Black Widow has to fight back during an attack in her underwear.


My first thought was, "This was obviously written by a man." I know - that is a completely unfair stereotype - for all I know, this is totally in keeping with that elusive back story I'm always looking for. But the questions started there.

Then, at our regular shop, Scott and I were talking about the missing second book in my set (I was waiting to read #3 until the other store had #2, which the owner said he would hold for me). The manager of that store seemed very eager to steer me toward some other Black Widow titles - any other titles. Feeling too shy to ask for more information, I took pictures of the other titles they had for future reference, but didn't buy any of them.

My absolutely fabulous husband then directed me here for a more helpful assessment of my options if I want to read more about Black Widow. The fact that the blogger dubbed the series I had picked up "quite terrible," I was not eager to pick up issue #2 and finish the series. But, as the owner had made a commitment to hold a copy for me, I picked it up and finished the series.

The story line was okay, having nothing to compare it to (yet), but finishing the series left me convinced that I was not the intended audience. The characterization was flat and shallow, but the cleavage was the opposite. I definitely need to do more research before wading into the vast sea of comic book options.

Do you read comics? Have any good recommendations for me?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Search for Back Story

I mentioned on Tuesday that my drive to collect things is strong enough that I will buy the next book in a series, even if I am several books behind (or haven't read the first book yet), in order to keep the set/collection complete.

That desire for wholeness in stories even extends back before the first story in a series.

My husband has cultivated his love of comic books in the last couple years. In general, I like the genre, although I prefer the stories when they are compiled into a graphic novel (there's that drive for wholeness again) rather than serialized over weeks or months.

But I have also realized that I am reluctant to pick up a comic or graphic novel of a superhero I don't know well because I don't know the back story. I wonder where the character came from - what drives him or her? How did the character come to be in this place or in this predicament?

Unfortunately, I am enough of a novice that I'm even hesitant to ask a "professional" (like the great folks at our regular comic book shop) because I'm afraid I'm going to open myself up to too many choices ("Well, when character A started, he was this, but in 1985 they restarted the line and changed it to this."). I long for a clear, linear story line that I can dig into completely, understand thoroughly, and enjoy.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


As I was thinking about my new labels last week, I was struck with a memory of my childhood sticker collection.

When I was a kid, scrapbooking and archival memory keeping hadn't become as trendy as it has been for the last 15 years or so. Only a few stores that catered to kids or to stationery carried stickers in sheets or on a roll from companies like Sandylion or Mrs. Grossman's. There were a few catalogs and sticker clubs kids could join. And join I did. I loved that collection. I organized it in photo albums. I poured over the pages. I sorted and re-sorted all the time. I couldn't get enough of stickers. Even today, I am tempted by the rows and rows of stickers at craft and scrapbooking stores - the selection is so much more diverse than I had as a kid.

The more I indulged in this walk down memory lane, the more I remembered other collections from my childhood

  • my rock collection (When I would spend an afternoon or evening with my grandparents while my folks were out, I would take my collection with me, and my grandmother would get me a bowl and some soap and water so I could clean my rocks. I can still remember what my favorite one looked like - a smooth, small grey one with stripes.)
  • my business card collection (Probably an annoyance to those professionals from whom I took cards, but I loved those things. They are just the right size for the hands of a child. I was fascinated by the designs on them.)
  • my eraser collection (Erasers make great stocking stuffers and come in some pretty fun designs. I was hooked and my mother happily watched for unique designs for my collection.)

It's no wonder that my book cases and craft shelves are overflowing these days. I may not self-identify as a collector, but that tendency is still strongly exhibited in my life. I may not read all the books I have, but my collection looks nice. Even if I haven't read every title in the series (yet), I don't want to miss the latest book or my series (read: collection) will be incomplete. I will never have the time to stitch all the cross stitch patterns I have from magazines and the internet and purchases, but I still like to organize them and look through them. I have plenty of scrapbooking paper, especially considering how seldom I make a page, but that doesn't keep me from popping into my local Archiver's to see what's new.

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, either. My son has the collecting gene as well - he picks up business cards when we are out, and rocks from significant times or places, as well as dog tags and trading cards and comic books and magazines and Lego sets and.... well, you get the idea.

Are you a collector? What does that look like in your life today? What did it look like when you were a kid?