Sunday, March 22, 2009

Home and Back Again

I traveled to Yankee Land this past week. I left on a Monday afternoon with sunny skies and with temperatures in the low 70s and by the time I arrived it was dark and a very chilly 40 degrees. I definitely needed my winter coat that evening. My sister met me at the airport. My sister was celebrating her birthday; I won’t rat out her age here I will just say that she is younger than I am.

I made it safely to my destination. My luggage however did not. One of the guys that was loading our luggage had an “accident” and he had to be taken to the hospital so they stopped loading the luggage to take care of him. By the time others realized luggage still needed to be loaded our plane had taken off. Lucky for me I did not desperately need anything that was in my luggage.

Once at my sister’s house I got to see my niece NP Diva. She is always a joy to be around. She has such a sunny attitude toward life and she will be a wonderful primary grade teacher in the future. My sister’s hubby got home from work and we spent a few short hours talking. We had conversations about work, kids and of all things the art of passing gas. I am not even sure how this became the topic of conversation but it was and NP Diva and her Dad had me laughing so hard my sides hurt. I love visiting my sister and her crew they are laid back and I could just feel the stress melting away. I did not get to see the two younger members of the family. They were fast asleep when I got there.

The next morning my sister picked up my luggage before heading to work. I got to see Jack before he went to day care. This little man is a handful and I can only say he is my sister’s payback. But because he is not mine to keep I can laugh at his antics and dote on him without feeling an ounce of guilt.

My Mom came to pick me up from my sister’s and we headed out to the farm. Let me try to describe my home to you. As you leave the suburbs where my sister lives you travel through small villages and into farm land with rolling hills that are the start of the Berkshire Mountains and in the summer the area is lush and green. In March green is not found unless there are a few early snow drops in bloom. There was no snow left so it was very brown but in another month daffodils, crocuses and tulips will be in full bloom.

My parents have a 100 acre farm with woods, ponds, flats, swamps and a creek. Growing up here was at times fun, lonely and boring. I knew I was going to get out of the one horse town and live in the suburbs or the city. I just did not think I would move that far away from everyone. So going home is a mixed bag for me; while there I was able to see the deer on the flats and on the hills. In a few months there will be fawns bounding through the fields. The creek that runs behind my parent’s home was spilling over the banks. The creek in the spring has always been my favorite part of the farm. I used to spend hours sitting on the banks and just being or day dreaming. After several days of the quiet that is my parents' life.

I am ready to be back where there is a daily hum that moves at a faster pace. It is not anything my parents can understand although I have tried to explain it numerous times. Neil Diamond said it best in I am I said: L.A.'s fine, but it ain't home, New York's home, but it ain't mine no more. Texas is where I make my home but Yankee Land pulls me back. There are times when I miss driving down dirt roads, picking green beans out of the garden, sitting outside under the maple trees while I read a book. I do not miss taking care of the chickens…I hate chickens.

My Dad was still not doing as well as I would have liked but he was better than I expected. He has started to gain back the weight he lost and his cough is under control for the first time in a long time. More importantly I was able to just spend time with my Dad and my Mom. I know that sounds like a simple thing but if you live away from family you will understand how hard that really is.

When we travel home in the summer we have so many people to see and it is hard to have any quiet time with my parents. We have such a short time to squeeze in lots of visiting and sometimes it is stressful instead of relaxing. This visit was not stressful it was relaxing. Therefore I returned to Texas refreshed and ready to return to work this Monday. I was true to my word and I did not take any work with me so I graded essays Sunday. They really need to improve so we will be working on that again this week.

My favorite part of the essays is when they write a paragraph to explain to me why they did such a poor job on the essay. If they had used that time to continue writing their essay it might have received a better grade. They are either hopeful or they have yet to realize that I do not give pity grades. I use my former English and American History teachers as my role models. I did get to see both of these gentlemen on this trip. My English teacher did not accept garbage. The first paper I ever wrote for him was garbage although I did not think so at the time. He bled red all over that paper and he gave me an F--. I didn’t even know there was such a grade. I was so angry at him after all I had always made As in English. I worked my tail off in that class and managed to pass the class. The next year I had him again and the first paper I turned in that year received an A++. My American History teacher taught me to question the textbook and conventional wisdom. He made it safe to think outside of the box and to question authority. Both of these men changed my life for the better and I try to give to my students what they gave to me. The old high school has not changed much. They have added a new wing and I would give my eye teeth to have one of those nice large classrooms. They actually do have locked doors and you have to buzz to get in the building once school is in session. I was rather shocked by this development. Even in the inner city we do not have buzzers.

All in all I had a wonderful spring break that allowed me to spend time with me family and to relax which I needed more than I realized when I first booked this trip.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


In my last post I expressed the concern I have for my Dad and how I felt I needed to see him for myself. I have decided to do so. I will be heading north into Yankee land to return home for a visit.

I am not sure if other people feel this way or not. The life I have created with my husband and sons is located in Texas. We have not always lived here but have called it home for the past 12 years. Yet I find myself pulled northward in my thoughts on a regular basis and even though I do not wish to live north it is still HOME. The place I was raised shaped my life and even though it is an awkward fit I still return to see the people that I left behind.

I will spend 5 days in Yankee land 4 of them on my parents’ farm with no internet although they do now have satellite television. It is funny the satellite I could live without for 4 days the internet on the other hand is difficult to live without when I visit. This is always an adjustment for me. I rely on my email to stay in touch with the world. I also enjoy following several blogs and getting the news from several sources; none of that for 4 days.

What I will get is peace and quiet and time with my Mom and Dad. The nieces and nephews will not be on spring break so I’ll only get to see them a little bit. I will get to spend the 16th with my Sister which is a big deal because that is her birthday. I can not remember the last time I was able to see her for her birthday. I hope to stop in at my Alma Mater and see a few of the high school teachers that played a large role in my life. I usually return home in the summer when school is out of session.

I am not taking any work with me it will be here when I get back that is one thing I can count on. I will also return with a peace of mind along with less stress but at the same time I will be happy to be back in Texas and suburbia. I can only take rural farm life for so long before I need a Starbucks in the morning and a Sonic in the afternoon along with a 5 minute ride to the nearest grocery store along with a large variety of restaurants close at hand. I will also be ready to go back to work. A week off and I start to think about my other kids and I want to be back in the classroom.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Silver Linings

Some people are very organized. I am not. I write that in my PDAS every year that one of my goals as a teacher is to be more organized. I will admit this year I am a little better because I have actually put papers, documents and such in binders or folders. I did even better at the beginning of the year when I had a student assistant. He left me after three weeks because there was an opening in the advanced art class so he switched into that and I went back to organizing myself. So where am I going with this train of thought all over the place I think because it has been a rough week both on the work and home-front.

I am not one of those people that is so organized that I can compartmentalize my life; thus I only keep one blog and work and life both show up in the same blog. I know several people that keep two or three blogs I just can not do that. So for those of you that only like to read about educational items I am sorry that not everything I write is education based therefore you will be surprised at times by what you read. I hope you will continue to read and comment.

As I said in the opening paragraph this past week has been very rough not only at work but on the home-front as well. Messy part number one is too complicated to go into but it involves the lack of health insurance for a young adult in the family. From where I sit “socialized medicine” does not seem like such a bad thing if it means coverage for those who need it.

Messy part number two as if part one were not enough to deal with. Work, specifically my concern for my students’ ability to write well for the AP test and the amount of class time I am losing because of that wonderful required state assessment we must give. By this time the students’ that are taking the AP exam in May should consistently be writing at least 6s. That is not the case at all many of my students are still getting 1s and 2s. For those of you in the non-education world that did not take AP classes in high school, I didn’t my school didn’t even offer them, a 1 is equal to a 57 a 2 is equal to a 62 you get the idea. So if they are still writing 1 and 2 level papers their chances of passing this test is not good. So once again I find myself wondering what more can I do to help them get the concepts that they are missing and I look for the silver lining. The first one is rather silly but it helps: the have stopped using things and stuff in their essays. It would go something like this: “the French they had things wrong in their country so they did stuff to cause a revolution.” This was enough to make me want to pull my hair out. The other silver lining AP baby number 890, I give them made up names and numbers, that usually only wrote one or two paragraphs wrote a full essay and it was a 9 yes I said a 9 the highest score you can get. I am losing 2 days with them this week to the standardized test requirements so that is two less days of content and writing. Can the State make this any more difficult? Please do not tell them that I asked that or they just might.

Messy number three is not really messy but it is something that I hate doing. FAFSA! Ugh the paper work is a pain. Our youngest child is a senior in high school and we need to get FAFSA done and finding the time with everything else that is going on makes it very stressful. The silver lining is that he has already received one acceptance letter. We are waiting to hear from two other schools.

Messy number four is something that Bone wrote about in his blog a few posts ago. Bone’s post was excellent and once I can figure out how to link it I will. He wrote about parents growing older. Both of my parents will be 70 this year. That wouldn’t be so bad in and of itself the problem is that they live in Yankee land which for those of you in the South does not mean everywhere North. Yankees live along the East coast. Michigan for example is not Yankee land it is the Midwest. Yankees do not like being lumped with just anyone that is north of the Mason-Dixon Line we are a unique breed and not everyone can be a Yankee just like not everyone that lives in Texas is a Texan. TC I thought I would help you out with that one. I of course am a transplant because I now live in Texas so I only get to see my parents about once a year. My Dad has been under the weather for a while and I am considering making the trip home to see them during my spring break. My silver lining is I will get to see him for myself the down side to that is I am sure he will tell me I did not need to come and that I should not have wasted my money. I of course do not think it would be a waste of money but I know my Father it is what he will say. The silver lining is I know that deep inside he will be happy I came home. He wishes I would not live so far away even though he understands why I do.

So my semi-organized overlapping life is not real smooth right now but I just keep hanging on and moving forward as I hold onto those silver linings.