Sunday, June 21, 2015

Good bye, Bettis

I don't even know where to start this post so warning that I'll probably be all over the place. Mine and Nate's first Christmas together he got me Bettis, a six week old weimaraner. Our family story kind of begins with him. Six months later on this very same weekend, Father's Day weekend, the three of us were set to head out on this new life adventure we imagined. Unfortunately, though it began with an accident that left Bettis crippled for the rest of his life. For the most part you wouldn't know he was crippled though. You could kind of notice because when Nate and I would take him to parks or out and about with us we got tired of people saying, "Your dog is hurt" or "Is your dog okay".

Three good legs or not though that didn't slow him down. I remember on this very same Sunday night ten years ago, I cried myself to sleep, partly because my dog at only six months old was now injured for life and because I was scared to death to leave with only him and Nate. He's been on this journey to home the whole way through these ten years. He's traveled across the country with us numerous times, he's been on every camping trip we've taken to either the mountains or the beach, he's hiked miles with us, we've spent hours playing fetch in parks and any water we could find, and one of our favorite memories with him was the three down canoe trip down the Clarion River. Three times we thought we were going to lose him. Once on that Clarion River when the current started taking him away faster than we could get to him, once on a Fourth of July night when he ran off to hide in fear of the fireworks, and the one time he disappeared for a solid week in which we posted posters and online ads in a desperate search of him. Because of his limpy walk he was taken to a shelter for a vet to see him almost thirty minutes away. He was there when we bought our first house and all the work we did to make it ours, he went back across country again when we got married, he was there when we brought both of our babies home, he was there when we made the move to our "possible home forever" house. Just as this last year with him has been rough to watch his health decline, it was also oddly the year that I came to see Maryland and where we are as home. This year seemed to mark the point of so much of what Nate and I imagined ten years ago coming to be the reality we once hoped for.

I always believe there's meaning in the way things happen. On this special ten year anniversary we said good bye to the best dog we could have ever hoped to have. Because you were  that constant companion that loved us both no matter what even in the moments we probably didn't even like each other and saw us through on this journey  home to where we are now, we brought you home with us today and buried you in the backyard. I hope you felt as loved by us as we always felt by you. You always seemed to be part human or a little more than a normal dog. Camping and PA just won't be the same without you this summer, buddy.  You were such a huge part of us, Bettis, and I hope you know you will always and forever be an important part of the Glenn family story.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Superwoman or Super Disaster

I tend to load my plate too high so sometimes some of the mishap that befalls me is my own fault. I see some of my friends do it too, and it's not that we're competing to be superwoman. It's just that we really just like to be busy; we like to be on the go; we like to know that admist all the chaos and demands that come in life that we are living our life to the fullest.

The woman of today awes and inspires me. I look at my friends, sister, and cousin who many not only balance full time careers and motherhood but put themselves through school, dedicate themselves to events in their communities, to their own personal hobbies, or second jobs that aren't really jobs to them. They throw themselves into projects at work, at home, in the community, for themselves and their families. These aren't just women that make it look good on facebook either;  I know them personally. They really are super women on most days; some days I feel like I do a pretty good job running in the race with them at my own pace (because the competition is really just with ourselves, right, ladies). But I imagine when I say some days I feel like super woman and other days I feel like a super disaster I am not just speaking for myself.

Some days that damn cape just does not work and we cannot get off the ground. I'm not sure when the downhill spiral of everything tumbling out of my control started. Things with the houses and the race to the finish line at work have been coming at me like fast balls I can't swing at fast enough (I shared that here ). But the epiphany of "oh, shit, this is not going to be a good week" for whatever reason usually happens at Wal Mart. I seriously need to start avoiding that place. You know that moment when your kids who you usually brag about getting along so well decide to not just fight with each other in the store, but start duking it out with elbows at each other, while you're in the checkout line with nowhere to escape happens. Seriously I've never seen the girls do more than play wrestle, and they were about ready to  take each other out. That was about the moment at the start of this week when I knew it was not going to be pretty. Then when you hit the middle of the week and are seconds away from just sitting down in the middle of your driveway at 6 in the morning and having a good cry because you can't find the keys to your car and have no spare ones and think, "Okay, I know they're just keys but this is going to be the final thing that broke the camel's back. I'm done. I give up. Let's chalk it up as a disaster week and just move on to the next." The keys by the way ended up being under my daughter's booster seat because when I got home to deal with the books that fell all over her and then all over the middle of the road the night before that must have been where I set them while I tried to repack them.

In many ways this week I feel like I have been far from that superwoman who has it together. After both of us trying to not only close out the school year with grades and paperwork but packing up and moving our stuff to new locations for next Fall, last night we worked until almost 11 o clock after that at our rental house. We had to settle for yucky drive thru fast food because nothing is open on a Wed after 10, then by the time we got home I realized they didn't put the girls' corndogs in the bags, and literally at a little after midnight all four us, yes including our children, plopped down in our bed either still in our clothes or in some cases just our underclothes because it was way too much work to  think about bathing or even  pajamas. Yes, mother of the year right here, I know.  We are beat, exhausted, frustrated.

Our neighbors at our city house told us we are busting our butts to maintain that rental house and maybe it was time to cut our losses and just walk away from it. Sometimes I'm all for just quitting on it. Lately it's costing us more money than we're making from it; we are down there constantly it seems like fixing something. But all the work and I mean sweaty, hard, back breaking work (you should have seen the two of us just carrying appliances in and out of that thing the last month) we've put into it when we lived there and now as landlords will seem like such a waste if we short sell it or let it foreclose. We've worked so hard to bring Nate's credit score up well over 100 points from poor to almost excellent to just quit.

So for this week I have miserably failed at being superwoman and wonderfully succeeded at being a super disaster. But it's okay. We all have these moments. It's not even the having it all together that makes us superwoman anyway; it's the surviving , the getting back up, and the persistence to just keep at it even in the moments we're failing.


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Chaos and Curse Words

My dad has this saying, "They'll get happy on the same foot they got mad on." Let's hope that's the case because I think I'm trying to set a weekly record for how many people I can piss off this week. I am one person here and it's one of those weeks where I feel like everybody wants something from me and
the pile up of shit just keeps keeps getting taller even though I'm going nonstop from the time I get up until I fall until bed at the end of the day. At this point I just want to stomp my feet like a spoiled child who isn't getting her way.

I was excited about the opportunity to experience two schools this year, but I am so over that opportunity now. I can't hardly take the two days I have left at the one. Between being split between those two schools and my part time work at the college with one department in the Fall and one in the summer, over the course of the year I have worked for four departments and four bosses. It's hard enough to keep one boss happy. Not really sure what I was thinking when I thought I could handle four. I am not an ass kisser; it's really not part of my skill set. I have never denied being a selfish person or putting myself first. I've seen too many people in too many professions get burned no matter how much they bend over backwards to please other people. So again people pleaser is not exactly a skill listed on my resume.

Anyway I took off yesterday to attend my oldest daugther's kindergarten author celebration, and I had left my students questions with the movie Gatsby. I guess at that school we were told that wasn't a structured enough lesson for the end of the year; I got the okay from my other school to show it. Plus, other teachers now have to cover if we take the day off. Again, sorry but I think the senior teachers that finished teaching three weeks ago will be okay to cover my classes so I can attend my daughter's kindergarten event. It's really not my problem if the school decided not to hire subs anymore. They'll just have to be pissed; they'll get over it. My kindergarten however would have been heartbroken to have no one there to share her work with like the other kids.

Now onto the second person I pissed off this week. I was hired this summer to help write curriculum, which I am excited about being a part of, so I had to back out of the classes I was assigned to teach at the camp I've taught at the last two summers. Now I felt very bad about this. I even tried to find her replacement teachers for classes, and volunteered to meet with them on my own time to share my materials and plans for the class. The classes are never a guarantee though, and this curriculum opportunity was more reliable, paid better money, and is a great professional growth opportunity. Again, looking out for number one first so I did what I thought was best for me.

Now this is on top of the snarky email replies I've sent to parents on my ass this week about their students needing chance after chance to submit late work. Work for the most part has been great this year but this last month has been overwhelming with these new assessments. I still have five sets of final exam essays to grade in the next week, and then because I wanted to do this curriculum thing I had to complete this time consuming online course the month of May so I was doing that at times when I should have been grading so I really have no patience for giving the same old kids and their parents umpteen million chances to get their work finished.

Then there's my personal life. Where should I start with the chaos of that? With the home projects of finally finishing the minor kitchen remodel with my dishwasher and the bathroom drywall repair that was interrupted with a flooded basement that is now minus its carpet, baseboards, and part of its walls. Or the renter that calls for a repair every other week? Or that we always volunteer for too many damn things with little league and reunion planning? Or that somewhere I needed to find time to get one pet fixed and the other her shots? Or as a first time school age parents that there are a gazillion end of the year school events? Oh, and on top of that my damn trunk on my car will not open so right now I have to squeeze my kids in the backseat with the big ball bag of tball equipment. It will probably be July before I get that in the shop.  Let's not forget the latest news which is that I'm losing my hearing and need to go see an ENT to hopefully see if surgery can restore it or if hearing aids (at 33) can help me.

So obviously I'm a little flustered this week. Not sure what irritates me the most at the moment: work, the damn basement, or another health issue to sort out and get fixed.

On a plus side though, a couple times when I could feel myself getting to my anxious, ticking time bomb self I have gotten much better of realizing I just need to leave it all for a bit so I'd go outside or leave the house altogether. Three nights this week I'd be outside with the girls throwing hitting practice to the girls or kicking a soccer ball. At the end of the one night my oldest  looked at me and said, "I needed that too, Mom." I need to just take her advice and get away from my stresses and just go have fun so my plan tomorrow is to take them to the community pool for the last day of school town pool party. I guess it's quite the community end of the school year event.

If there's anything I've learned by now it's that these moments will pass. They're only temporary. It will all be better soon.

                                    At our daughter's end of the year kindergarten celebration

Friday, June 5, 2015

Has the American Dream Died?

So as I’m finding myself buried in close to 500 essays to grade here at the end of the year, I am left once again contemplating this theme of the American Dream. I started the school year off contemplating the American Dream. Before my students even studied any American Literature this year they were asked how they would define the American Dream. Their responses ranged from concepts like freedom and opportunity to individual pursuits like love, wealth, and success.

As my adolescent students are now a year away from entering the adult world where they will also embark on a journey to pursue their own dreams, they were asked to complete two writing assignments in regards to their perception of the American Dream now from the literature they’ve read throughout the year and their own experiences living in our 21st  century world.

Here is the bigger question I came to pose to them after our review of the literature in preparation for their final essay and reading their own personal narratives in which they wrote a story that reflected the American Dream of the 21st Century: Is the American Dream of today about ourselves? If so, what does that say about us today? What does that say about our future?

I think about my own concept of the American Dream. Really in many ways my perception of it is about myself.  My vision of it is about a lifetime love story to the love of my life; a beautiful healthy family; a house; a career I enjoy and find success in; and living a life in which I am able and do the things that bring me happiness with the ones I love. It sounds pretty self absorbed, doesn't it? Is your vision of your American Dream similar?

If we go back to the American Revolutionary period though the American Dream started as a concept about a better life for ALL people. It was about democracy, freedom, opportunity, and equality. It was a vision for all of society, but as we finished the year with texts like The Great Gatsby and Fences, the vision of the American Dream was focused around one man’s pursuit for his own ambitions and not only the failure of his own ambitions but how his selfish drive for his own desires also lead to the destruction of more than just himself. Both texts offer a dark, cynical view of the American Dream. It infers that it’s an illusion that leads to an obsession that prevents some from seeing the happiness that is sometimes right in front of them.

Is it even about us individually or has the individual pursuit of happiness taken away from the original vision of the American Dream which was for the people .The Declaration of Independence states, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness". How does the vision of individualism fit with the vision of a prospering society?

 If I were writing their final essay I would focus on the text of The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (even as much as I love the Emerson pieces) because I think he bridges the two concepts of the American Dream together, the individual and the good of all. First, Douglass uses a core American value, work ethic, to rise above his situation with his personal pursuit to educate himself. Not only is he literally freed from the bondage of slavery but he frees himself from the bondage that ignorance creates. Once he has his freedom and his education, his life pursuits don’t stop there with his individual success. It could be argued that he supports the idea of the American Dream being an individual pursuit because he seeks education and freedom for himself to live a better, more fulfilling life; however, once he has it he becomes a leading advocate for abolishing slavery. He doesn’t just take his freedom, figure it’s his due, and walk away to pursue his own life’s ambitions. He uses what he gained in his personal pursuits to fight for the dream for everybody else.

We have to have purpose. If our purpose is all about ourselves then we find ourselves in a dark place like Troy Maxson or Jay Gatsby. America is meant to celebrate individuality as my beloved Romanticism period emphasizes, but I think the dream is also about using our individual gains to help others find their own greatness. Serving one another, contributing to not just our own vision of the American Dream, but the vision for all of humanity that is was meant to stand for , is the intended vision of the American Dream.

I do not believe we have lost the American Dream in our 21st  century society, but just as it's not just about us, it's important to remember our historical past. We have to know where we've been to know where we're going.

*And my closing teacher statement for the year is this is why we read and study history. English and History are important classes :) * Oh and have a great summer! Read a book that challenges your thinking and check out a historical site that gives you an appreciation for America.