Category Archives: feeling old

A little love for the teacher

I have a delicious morning routine that I have indulged to the fullest since I quit teaching in public schools. Twelve years of getting up before daylight, rushing out the door, and trying to map out the day ahead as I exited the highway with the sun’s just creeping up over the dead industrial horizon taught me how to really enjoy a slower morning.

Anyway, my morning routine goes something like this:

  1. I hit the snooze on my smartphone (the alarm is always set for a reasonable, productive hour) for an hour to an hour-and-a-half.
  2. I think about my dreams. I always have dreams.
  3. I talk to the animals that wander into the room and that finally inspire me to get up and let them out (I know I sound like lonely pet lady here, but I swear I have a husband. He just operates on an entirely different schedule.).
  4. I get up, let the dogs out, pour a cup of coffee, let the dogs in.
  5. I feed the dogs.
  6. I drink my coffee, pour another cup, and drink that while I skim headlines of various news apps on my Kindle.
  7. I choose the stories that interest me most, and I read them.
  8. I stop reading when I can no longer stand being stared at by two dogs that expect me to take them for a walk the minute I wake up, yet never do.
  9. I take the dogs for a walk.

After that, anything goes.   Often, if it’s a weekday, I spend a good chunk of that day preparing for my night classes—grading or tweaking lessons or creating ancillary materials or just generally staying ahead of the students. It’s what teaching should be. All teachers should be able to think during some point in the day and thoughtfully plan during others. Having that time allows us to connect with students and properly differentiate our instruction. It wasn’t until I had this kind of time to live my life AND teach that I realized that I’m a fairly effective instructor—student-centered, with progressive yet research-based methods that drive learning. How about that? It’s all about time.

Lack of time is the elephant in the room that American educators rarely talk about above the grassroots levels, the “trenches,” if you will. It’s one of those things that just about every other developed country on this earth (and many developing countries) including China provide for their teachers. Not every country provides the kind of time off for students and teachers that the U.S. does, but believe me, Uncle Sam and his league of state legislators have found a way to make teachers pay and pay for those extra weeks in the winter and summer. Given the average quite shitty teacher pay rates that rarely keep up with inflation or rising insurance costs, those two months in the summer, if you can afford to take them (and most younger teachers don’t because they need to make extra money), feel more like rehab than a vacation.

I will go back to public schools, I will do it all over again if I can just show up at a reasonable hour and teach a reasonable number of classes a day with a reasonable number of students in them, and attend a reasonable number of meetings and spend a reasonable amount of time planning instead of whatever bullshit the administration needs me to do to keep the school running on a skeleton crew. My last school (and this wasn’t where I spent the bulk of my career, but a place where I dipped my toes after taking a significant amount of time out of the public school arena. As soon as I saw the writing on the wall, during the first week of my tenure, I officially resigned) had teachers doing the jobs of the custodial crew.

I will do it all over again, I suppose, when pigs fly. Maybe when hell freezes over… ok, that’s enough clichés. Six and counting (Can you find the other three?!).

The sad thing is, when I left that last school, the one I mentioned above—where, incidentally, I ended up spending a month-and-a-half because my principal, literally, wouldn’t let me leave—the friends I’d made on the faculty and staff didn’t hide their envy of me or their dissatisfaction with the way things were. More than one single or widowed mother told me, “I don’t blame you. I could do it, if I would.” The way they looked at me when I said I was leaving might have resembled how a prisoner looks at her cellmate when she’s about to be released, or like a soldier might look at his fellow who is about to finish a tour. Probably shouldn’t be that way.

There are other jobs that teachers can do, depending on the subjects they teach. English teachers have the flexibility to get into writing and publishing fields or to pursue a higher degree and transition into law or project management or something.   Math and science teachers have a wider range of possibilities. I’ve seen young teachers transition out of the field rather smoothly. The older you get, though, the harder it is to make that transition into an entry-level field where you have no experience. I have all my eggs in one basket (Cliché number six, POW!), so I’m staying in this field, albeit part-time. My colleagues above who envied my escape are staying in this field, full-time. Our lives are very different from one another’s.

I could say so much more. The English teacher always can. Honestly, I don’t want every teacher to transition out of the field. Who does? We’re needed. We’re just not loved.

Was it something I said?

Gimme a W!  Gimme a T!  Gimme an F!  What’s it spell?  Well, I don’t need to spell it out for you.  If you don’t know the acronym by now, then you just might be TOO old to be reading this old broad’s blog.

Something strange happened recently:  I almost LMFAO (in the past tense) when I discovered that my blog had been viewed 55 times in one day.  55 times.  Huh.  That’s more times than I’ve seen it, I think.  Was it something I said?  Probably.  Was it something I don’t remember that I said?  Perhaps.

I didn’t laugh when I saw those stats because I can’t believe people would read this.  Quite the contrary.  I sometimes believe that I have a story worth telling, something that might spark thought or conversation or even friendship (see “Why are the Forties the New Forties?”).  I laughed because I can’t seem to tell a story unless it’s accompanied by crisis.

Years ago, when I was blundering neck deep in personal and financial crises–a legal battle that went on and on, an unhealthy accumulation of debt, unmedicated depression, a job that I was flushing down the toilet, “new” parenthood, you name it–I sought some refuge in my oldest and best friends, alcohol and writing.  Actually, I didn’t seek some refuge there, I sought it all.  Almost every night, I posted some besotted rant in my blog about my husband’s ex wife or the thankless and misunderstood job of the stepmother, or the teacher, or whatever.  I was angry, exhausted, and unhealthy.  And people seemed to like those rants.  I had a solid audience.

Then, the wounds began to heal–we settled our custody disputes with my husband’s ex, we sorted out some of our money problems, we moved to a very safe and boring place, I found a job I really liked, I went on meds, then I went sober, then I lost a bunch of weight, and then I had nothing to kvetch about anymore.

For the past five to six years, I’ve distracted myself with a string of short-lived hobbies: gardening, repurposing old furniture that I found on the sidewalk, playing the guitar (today, I am fond of playing Cracker’s “Turn on, tune in, drop out”), everything but what really defined me for so much of my adult life–drinking and being pissed off.  Can those be hobbies?

I’d like to say I don’t know what sparked my latest first-world crisis that seems to have produced more thoughts that others are willing to read, but that would be dishonest.  I’m introspective enough to know what has shot me back out of the cannon.  I can even pinpoint the date–November 8, 2016.

I’ve gained a bunch of weight and started waking up with hangovers again, but it’s not all bad.  Those 55 views (even if some were same viewers going back) are my proof of that. And I am loving some of the material that these viewers produce–stuff about alcoholism, depression, alternative lifestyles.  Some write feel-good poetry.  Some write books.  Some have advanced graphics skills that make my blog look sloppy and primitive (soooo 2003). Give me more, please!

As for the crisis, I’ll deal with it.  I have to.  45 year-old drunks are unsexy.  Where’s that life hacks book, again?  I think I need a glass of cold water and some barbells…

Repeating history

I realize that I don’t contribute much to this blog, my only blog, my only writing outlet, in fact. I write a lot of entries that don’t get posted because I don’t know what kind of a point I’m trying to make. I write a lot of entries that don’t get posted because they’re for-real-and-for-true too revealing to the few parties that occasionally read the blog.   I write a lot of entries that just trail off… my boredom revealed in the white spaces at the end.

I’ve decided that I will post this particular entry in whatever state that it becomes. It will address a topic that I believe applies to the theme of 40s are the new 40s—depression, addiction, divorce, adult ADD, children, aging parents, politics, wrinkles, you name it. Everything applies to us, doesn’t it? We’re adults, and as a consequence of our age and our growing cache of wisdom and experience, we can come up with something to say about anything. We’ve been there, done that. And the younger generations that follow us will feel the same way after they’ve stopped believing that they can figure everything out.

Speaking of the younger generations, I have no hostility, some envy, and a whole lot of curiosity about what’s going on there. I have spoken to few people my age who don’t have a fantasy “do-over.” My husband would have been a medical doctor. I would have been a lawyer. My cousin would have been a boat mechanic on a pier someplace where the sun always shines. This is normal to us, and we see the younger people around us as simply younger versions of ourselves—people on the verge of making that one bad decision that will alter their lives. But what if these younger people aren’t like that? What if they don’t have the time that we had in the eighties and nineties to enjoy relative national peace, prosperity, and opportunity?

We know that people decades younger than us have one distinct advantage, and that’s time on their sides, time to figure it out, time to make mistakes, and time to revel in their youth. We did that. But I don’t see them doing that. I don’t see little “mes” in the twenty-something women I interact with and work with. I see women in their teens and twenties moving quickly, being savvy, and getting on with it in ways that make me wonder if these generations are exquisitely different. Did my mother see that in me?

Just like my mother and I are alien to one another and yet familiar, young people today are both alien and familiar to me. I wish them well because “times they are a changin’.” They will confront the new. I’ll observe it. They’ll fight to secure their survival. I’ll fight to secure my old age.   And sure, I’ll fight injustice where I can, and sure, I’ll continue to grow and develop as a human being. Maybe I’ll even write that pilot that I’ve been talking about since 2004. But they have decades and decades of a future to navigate. They’re gonna see some shit that we never will, just like we saw some shit that they can’t imagine (life without an Internet connection? How did we do it?). I wish them well, and I hope—I really hope—that they let us in and ask questions and respect our perspective.

Isn’t there some famous aphorism about history? About how if you don’t know what happened before you knew it all, then you’ll just become a tool to someone else who does?

Random Thoughts on Stupid Holidays

SONY DSCI did what I usually do on gift-giving holidays in our household, and I bought what I wanted—a heart-shaped box of good old-fashioned drugstore chocolates! Russell Stover, if you will, the chocolates of my childhood. My grandma used to serve those on occasions I can’t remember—maybe she just always had them around—just not in the heart-shaped box.

Drugstores are fun places to go on the night before Valentine’s Day. I stood in line behind a man who looked like maybe 65 buying a similar heart-shaped box, and I stood in front of a man who looked like maybe 75 buying a couple of cards and a KitKat. The onus is always on the man in a hetero situation, which doesn’t make much sense because the majority of hetero men have no idea how to celebrate a stupid holiday like Valentine’s Day. Imagine them planning a wedding.

Anyway, I was in line in a Walgreens between two old men buying last-minute drugstore crap for their significant others, the way it should be. Neither of these guys looked particularly affluent because the affluent around here probably give their wives and daughters jewelry and custom sweets from niche shops that charge four times what my box of chocolates cost (I’m sure there’s a woman within a mile of here who found a new car in her driveway this morning). I’d rather stand in a line with these guys in a Walgreens than interact with that other type who drive Mercedes and have no sense of humor.

Anyway, my dad is probably right about now, at 8-something in the morning, looking for a last-minute card in a supermarket. At least that’s what he would do if he were home. He and my mom are on a winter pilgrimage from rented beach condo to my aunt’s and uncle’s house to maybe a visit or two with a cousin and then back home. Takes about a month. I’m sure my dad will find his usual card and write something romantic inside of it like “Love, His Name,” but I’m also sure that—because he’s with my aunt—he’ll do much more. My aunt likes cool stuff and big productions. I’ll Facetime my mom later and get the scoop on the big plans.

So there’s a system for how one eats a box of Russell Stover assorted chocolates. I’m sure everyone has her method. Mine starts with the caramels, always. The smooth caramels go first, followed by the nutty caramels, before other caramel-like consistencies. Here is my hierarchy of an assorted box of drugstore chocolates:

  1. Cream caramels
  2. Fruit & nut caramels
  3. Peanut butter crunch (to give my jaw and my fillings a break after gnawing on the hard caramels)
  4. Molasses chew (caramel consistency)
  5. Nut clusters (dark chocolate first, then milk)
  6. Roman nougats (more caramel consistency, but weird fruit flavors)
  7. Coconut creams (I hate cream textures, but I like coconut flavor)
  8. Maple nut creams (ditto)
  9. Chocolate truffles (weird consistency, but still chocolate)
  10. Vanilla creams (anything beats fruit flavors)
  11. Whatever is left (fruit flavors)

I’m still eyeing that apricot cream with apprehension. My friend and I went out the other night and listened to sad stories live and later discussed our propensity for eating whole boxes of chocolates and/or cookies in one sitting. She, too, used to be a workout queen. She, too, also used to be a drinker. We have that kind of crazy in common that only people who live with addiction for their entire lives can really understand. Another friend of mine claims that these behaviors—hiding wine bottles behind the couch or eating whole boxes of Chips Ahoy or working out for hours—are all symptoms, not the problem itself. I believe her. I just don’t know what to do anymore.

“Will Never Do”s

I didn’t post much in 2016, something I vaguely attributed to being drunk much of the time, but I wasn’t drunk for the entire year. I spent some time early in the year training for the AVON 39, a 39-mile charity walk that—due to poor planning, I believe—turned into a 43-mile walk. It was gratifying, and I’d do the walk again if I didn’t have to raise the $1800 required of me to participate. I’d experienced extreme physical tests in my life, but never that extreme.

By the end of Day 1, after crossing that 26.2 mile mark, which was arguably a 29 or more mile mark, I was too exhausted to eat or shower or even move. I hunkered in my pink tent, waiting for a tentmate that never showed, and considered calling an Uber to take me home. The only thing that stopped me from walking to an Uber was the thought of the pain of walking to the Uber. So I just lay there on my unopened sleeping bag until I felt energetic enough to walk over to the “relaxation” tent with the inflatable couches and the warm lighting. After some hot tea, I could eat. After that, I could sleep. I got up in the rain the next morning, dismantled my tent, threw on a plastic poncho and trudged the last arguably 13, though more like 14 and some change, miles back to home base, and I was done with that milestone.

After walking arguably 43 miles in two days, I briefly considered training for a marathon until my father told me in so many words that I was nuts for considering it. He was tactful by never admitting that age was an obstacle. Like me, he had started distance running in his thirties; but unlike me, he had run the marathon before he developed issues with his knees, something that appears to emerge on both sides of my family.

“You can do it,” he explained, “but it’ll take a permanent toll on your knees, and then what’s the point?”

After the marathon, there would be no point, I suppose. I’d have issues with both knees, and I’d be years closer to replacement surgery than my father had been. No point to do it, I suppose, except that I hate closing doors on possibilities. I’ll never be able to stick a 26.2 sticker on my rear window. Boohm.

You know what else I’ll never be able to do? Lots. Here is the list of as many as I could remember in the thirty-eight seconds I gave myself to remember and write them down (NOT necessarily in chronological order):

  • I’ll never be a foot model.
  • I’ll never be Miss America.
  • I’ll never be the President.
  • I’ll never work in Turkey.
  • I’ll never be a high-class prostitute.
  • I’ll never be a mother.
  • I’ll never be a lawyer.
  • I’ll never run a marathon.

I’m sure there were more, but those are the ones I remember as clearly as my conversation with my father about not running a marathon. There are just times in your life when you admit to yourself that something isn’t going to happen. I assume we all do this, and by “we all” I mean people over forty. For you I can’t explain why I considered that I’d never be a high-class prostitute, but I will put it on the list.

And, you know what? My list of dead possibilities is SHORT! I haven’t been wasting my time entirely here on this earth, and life’s adventure ISN’T over. There are so many possibilities left to us at our age, and we’re in a position to pursue any one of them.  The position isn’t financial or familial, it’s primal—We see the end. We grasp the moment. We shit, or we get off the pot. We live, or we die.

2017, Meh.

2017, Meh.

That about describes it—“meh.” It’s more than just a word. It’s how I felt ringing in a new year that I didn’t look forward to. Everyone around me was saying, “2016 just needs to be over! 2016 sucked!” I don’t feel that way. So yeah, in 2016, the historical pendulum swung into outer space and a contentious president was elected. Sure, in 2016, a few childhood icons died. Regardless, 2016 was my peak. It was one big party that I didn’t document. I welcomed it at the craziest one I ever attended—the party that made my husband and I say to each other in the wee hours of January 1, 2016, “This will be our year.”

So fast forward to now. What did we say to each other this year?

“I am going to control my road rage,” he mumbled in the wee hour of January 1, 2017. He must’ve dug deep into the pits of avoidance to come up with that one. I didn’t even bother: I couldn’t think of anything except all the ones I broke last year. My husband brought up one of our shared resolutions, and then I wondered, “Maybe I have peaked. Maybe this year that I am tossing out right now was my last good year.”

And that was that. Happy New Year! My mother-in-law gave us blue sparkly top hats and noisemakers that I tried to hide from the kids. Shortly after the ball came down (which, incidentally, only about 1/3 of us actually saw—the ball drop has cheapened since Dick Clark), we all went to bed.

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I Only Feel Old When I Look in the Mirror

 

My ex-husband recently asked me if I felt old. I had messaged him about how a family member, someone he would only remember as a little child, had just turned 30. He was setting me up, wanting me to tell him, “Yes, I feel soooooo old! You?” To this, he would respond with something crafted and esoteric about his eternal youth, because he likes to one-up anyone who might have something vaguely cliché to say about life. But I didn’t tell him yes or no. Because I really don’t know if I “feel” old. I have a tight ass and the physical stamina of a woman half my age. I don’t “feel” old, I suppose. You know what I do feel? Desperate.

Let me tell you about my impending forty-fifth birthday if you haven’t been there already in your own desperate world:

Forty-five times two makes ninety. How many of us are going to live to see ninety? For practical and also spiritual reasons I have a hunch I’m not. That means that, on my forty-fifth birthday, I will be well past the halfway point in my life. I got fewer than forty-five more years to make my life count, to feel like I shined that flashlight into every corner. Subtract twenty of those forty-some remaining years for failing health and dementia, and you know what? I have twenty-five more years to live. IF I’m lucky.

For anyone who’s lived to see her fortieth birthday, you know that ten years can fly by in an instant. I can’t believe, for instance, that it’s been ten years since I’ve enjoyed the effects of a good cocaine high. Ten years? Yup. And the kids—the kids spring up and grow into little adults in the course of ten years. They turn from gurgling, human larvae into thinking, feeling, creative beings who will remember how crazy you are for the rest of their lives. Ten years, to them, and to those of us in our thirties and our twenties and our teens, is an epic. After forty, ten years is a chapter in a mediocre novel. Do I “feel” old? Nope. Girl, I am fucking old.

And if my argument needs more proof, well, look in the mirror. Time leaves its marks on even the most fastidious and young-feeling graduates of four decades on earth. I can tighten my ass, but I can’t tighten those sags in my neck without surgery. Maybe surgery will enable the forties to be the new thirties. Or maybe the forties are just the forties, like I’ve been sayin’ all along.