I got another tattoo over the weekend. Like my other inks, it is petite and simple in drawing, but full and rich in meaning. It is my artistic take on the viking ‘kano’ rune, which symbolizes fire, or a torch. It sits on my right wrist as a reminder as I turn corners in my life and travel down new roads, that I light my way and create my own destiny.
I wrote the following poem about it the other night:
The rhythmic heartbeat of Southern Gothic
keeps time to my solitude and pajama imaginations.
A ukulele sits at my feet anticipating strums and catchy pop tunes.
Cooper curls in the folds of down-
six weeks of anxiety stitched across his forever sleeping eye.
I sit wrapped in flannel of black and red meant for
starry nights and campfires; adventure and new roads.
I run my fingers along the fresh raised scabs
of newly etched black lines.
A torch need only be lit in order to light the way
It has been a challenging month. Stress is a hard and exhausting road to navigate and the limbo state of “wait and see” with Cooper’s eye treatments has been frustrating at best. But he is my trooper and hasn’t let cone life get him down. Yesterday, his vet, an eye specialist and I decided that the best course of action is to have his eye removed. He is permanently blind and at risk of a multitude of problems and taking out the eye takes away those risks and allows him the chance to recover and move on. Surgery is in 2 weeks and then he and I will hit the road. He says that being one eyed, he’ll only see half the country, but having only his good eye, it will be the better half! .-) (that’s a one-eyed smiley!)
My students are helping my make light of the situation and they are each designing him an eye patch because the fashion possibilities are endless! If you feel like getting crafty and sending one his way, he will be modeling all of them on his Instagram and Facebook pages. Our address until June 1 is in the contact section and will be updated after June 1.
At the specialist yesterday, I was marveling at the painting on the wall.
“Wow, that mural is stunning!”
Tech: “Actually, the reason that’s there is because the guy who was here before us had a bobcat and this was his room”
Tech: “Yup. a bobcat”
Cooper did his best bobcat impression. He is my fierce little fur ball and he will be a fierce one eyed furball!
I started playing the #hashtag game a while back with my 4th graders because it’s a great way to synthesize information, clue in to main idea and it’s hella fun and engaging. This week, in my rebellion against last week’s state testing, I have created an Academic Olympics titled ‘The Elizabeth Bennet Games’ (after our resident bearded dragon). Each day is devoted to a subject area and has three events they must compete in as groups. One event today was creating a poster of hashtags for 4 different images I had up on the board. I could be heard giggling in the back of the room as they worked on their second challenge. I decided to share some of my faves. Leave your own #hashtags in the comment section!
OMG Y’all! I can’t thank you enough for all of the blog love this week!! I have read all of your comments, emails, Facebook messages and I feel so blessed to be part of such a loving, supportive, amazing community. Thank you for the notes, the shares, the likes and the love!
*Cooper had his follow up appointment at West Lynn Veterinary Clinic and they were impressed with how well he is healing! It’s still going to be a long process and he has to wear his cone 24/7 for at least another week but I am glad he is progressing so well. It’s still too soon to tell if he will get his sight back, but if the worst case scenario is that my dog is half blind, I can live with that. He doesn’t have cancer and not having use of an eye isn’t going to kill him. Still, he is very morose about wearing the cone, so to make the best of it, I got him a new bow tie (because bow ties are cool!) and a pair of doggles to help protect his eye when we’re out. Also because he looks A-Mazing in them!
*My mom was in town this week for her last Austin visit before I set off on adventure. She deserves a major shoutout for coming to school and spending 2 full days grading my GIANT stack of papers! For her birthday (and a paper grading thank you), I took her to see Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally in their Summer of 69 show. It was the most perfect blend of raunchy, adorable, clever and loving banter. Nick Offerman is pretty much my ideal man. He’s manly and rugged, but confident enough to be outwardly loving, sweet, and rocks a choreographed dance number. I hope I can have a marriage as adorable as theirs someday.
How many times have I watched the new Star Wars teaser trailer? I have lost count. Guys, I am REALLY excited about this movie and these trailers, along with my undying faith in J.J. Abrams already have me with expectations that are way too high.
Worth Checking Out:
I love it when I get pitches from companies who have actually read my blog and Ghergich & Co has made an awesome infographic for eReplacement Parts on how to make a perfect cup of French Press Coffee. Keeping the world caffeinated one perfect cup of coffee at a time? Yes please! I am going to need access to coffee while camping this summer, and with exception of when I am backpacking and primitive camping, I have decided that I am unwilling to stoop to instant coffee and french press is probably my easiest and tastiest option.
I hope y’all have a wonderful week. Do something adventurous and enjoy the new life unfolding with Spring.
My students needed to fill out an anonymous survey recently about their school environment. One student raised his hand and asked, “Miss G, do you like teaching?”
I was a little startled at the question. “Well, this survey is meant to be from your point of view.” I responded. “Do you think I like teaching?”
“Yeah!” He said,”But I mean, you also quit your job so…”
Good point. I thought for a moment and responded.
“I love teaching all of you every single day. Even on the days when you drive me crazy and the days when I don’t have enough coffee.”
They all seemed satisfied and continued with the survey.
It’s true. I love teaching and I love teaching these kids every single day. Even now, with my days in the profession dwindling, I could totally be taking advantage and slacking off, except I can’t. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to give anything except 100% of myself to these kids. That’s not to say that I haven’t slacked off with paperwork, data entry, newsletters and all the other business side of things. I totally have. I love teaching. I hate the profession.
Many have asked if I’ll miss teaching or if I regret my decision to leave. Yes. I will miss teaching terribly. I’m good at it. I love it. I love being in a classroom all day every day. I love the creativity of coming up with a lesson that will engage students, help them learn, and inspire them to love academic discovery. I love seeing the successes from students who have struggled with a new concept or skill or discover something brand new and amazing. I know I am doing it right when every child is doing both of those every day.
What I don’t like is the unrealistic expectations. I am lucky this year to have an amazing group of parents who realize that it takes a village to raise a child and that means trusting the village to do its part. I am so grateful for them and wish they were the rule and not the exception. I am always baffled by the magic I am expected to make and I wonder if parents don’t have a magic wand, why do they always assume I do?
I am held accountable for unrealistic expectations. Students walk through my door in the morning from a myriad of lives. Some are homeless or are spoiled in a house of endless toys and indulgences. They are on sports teams and acting in plays. They are single children or live with an abundance of siblings and responsibility. Some are burdened by heavy anxiety and depression. Some are read to and some are not. Some have families going through divorce or sickness or death. Some struggle with learning disabilities. No child in my class has the same brain, or life, or fears, or learning style, or hopes, or dreams.
And yet I am asked to take this collection of puzzle pieces and fit them together into a fabricated image. That image is as imaginary as the wand society thinks I have, and these pieces are not all from the same box. I have no regrets about leaving teaching, but I am offended that the system is so broken, so blind to these beautiful, amazing puzzle pieces that all make their own beautiful design, that they are forcing me out of a profession I hold so dear.
I didn’t go into this profession blindly. I knew it would be difficult, but I believed I was tough enough and that I could make this world just a little bit better one classroom of children at a time. But at what cost? I have felt the pressures of this job from parents, administrators, districts, states, and our nation in my heart, body, and soul. I have landed in urgent care twice in only 2 years for ailments related to stress. Another time was for my inability to go to the bathroom when I needed to. It is a job that continually empties my reservoir of energy and empathy. It is a job that never ever ends. There are always papers to grade, lessons to plan, boards to create, data to input, parents to contact, new material to learn, lessons to re-plan, more papers to grade…and it is still never enough. I wonder if my parents can trust me with their children, why can’t the government? Why must I continually defend myself and my every decision?
I am offended because some children will never be developmentally ready for grade level material or material that only last year was two grade levels higher (because this year 11% of my 4th grade math curriculum was 6th grade last year). Some children will never be able to have a full and complete understand of the intricacies of why all the math we do makes sense or are ready to have a deep understanding of a complex poem. Some children will never fit into a formula and that doesn’t mean they are unsuccessful.
I don’t know how to fix the system. It is so broken, but I know that staying is asking too much of me. It is asking too much for me to accept wages that barely afford me to live off of or put in so many hours that it leaves no time for the rest of my life. It is too much to ask me to sacrifice my integrity and teach to a formula and a test. To watch as students stress and struggle through unreasonable landscapes. The stakes are too high for all of us.
I want to make the world a better place and right now the system isn’t letting me do that. It isn’t letting me help these children piece together their own beautiful puzzles. It is leaving little to no room for real learning or love of discovery.
Do I like teaching? I love it, but right now that’s not enough. I love my students and I will give them my all until the last minute of my last day in a few short weeks. I will think of them often and wish them all the success in the world as I set of to figure out my next step and piece together my own puzzle.
Last weekend’s backpacking excursion was unfortunately overshadowed by it’s abrupt rush to the animal hospital with the Coopster. However, until that unfortunate tussle, it was a fantastic weekend!
I haven’t been primitive camping since I was a Girl Scout many moons ago and I was using this as a much needed weekend away and a chance to try out some of my new equipment before my big trip this summer.
We decided to leave limits of Austin City and travel to Lost Maples, which is southwest in the heart of Hill Country. I don’t think I will ever tire of driving through Central Texas and marveling at its beautiful and rolling, rugged landscape. I was impressed with my ability to pack my backpack and still carry it without falling over. I mean, it was only a weekend, but still. High five me! We hiked in .7 miles and found a beautiful area to camp. It offered ample shade, and pond-side views. There was only one other camper in the area, but we made sure to stake our spot further down and out of his range. We know standard backpacker etiquette.
As it turns out, however, not many others do. As the afternoon wore on, more and more hikers came in. Dozens with packs who we thought surely would keep going to the other designated camping areas. No. We watched as the area began to fill up with tents and hammocks, some of them even setting up only 10 feet from my friend’s tent. We’d have had more space in the car camping area! We were baffled! We thought about packing up and moving the next day, but also felt defiant. We’d gotten there first! It took several glares at one fella to get him to stop walking through the center of our living space and go around. It was madness.
But it was beautiful madness. It was worth it to be in this magical environment that was budding with spring life. We hiked for several miles the next day and my friend and I kept affirming that This is totally where fairies live! Cooper is a champion hiker. He sniffs out all the important smells and can keep up with the big dogs and humans. I did carry him the final way up one of our steeper elevation climbs. It wasn’t our first and it was long and well into our hike. He probably could have made it if we slowed down, but he seemed relieved to have me carry him. He’d earned it.
It was much colder than we’d anticipated. I was glad for my fleece, but wished I’d had the foresight to bring a hat and gloves. But it also made for pleasant hiking and cozy naps curled up with the pups.
I learned a few things for my trip this summer. Kimber will chew through any line to free Cooper so he can chase after me if I dare to leave and go to the bathroom. My backpack needs a new pad on the back because it’s old and dry rotting little roam crumbs EVERYWHERE! I really want a hammock. Always bring a hat.
They say that the eyes are the windows to the soul, but right now my dog has one eye that is red and hollow looking and he is sad and confused and drugged and I cry a lot.
He got in a tussle on Saturday night while camping with friends. It was one of those regular dog scuffles that is all bark but no bite. While both dogs played by those rules, the other dog was bigger and when their heads accidentally butted, it was like hitting a cement block. Cooper was hurt. He yelped and cried and I felt around and there was no blood or marks. It wasn’t that kind of tussle. But then I saw his eye and it was pink and hollow and I knew something was very wrong.
So I packed up my gear in my backpack and I picked up my peanut and carried him the .70 miles back out to my car. It was dark when I got there and I realized I didn’t know where I was. I’d followed friends into the far reaches of hill country where even cell phone service dares not venture. But I knew a familiar town nearby and how to navigate from there. I listened to my dog panting and whining in the darkness beside me and I drove to the nearest 24 vet in San Antonio.
It’s not the worst. It could have been a lot worse. There are no punctures or scratches. It was just a hard hit. He will probably get his sight back but it will depend on how it heals. I drove the whole way home in the dark and the rain as Cooper whimpered beside me, though I think that was more from wearing the cone of shamethan anything else.
He is doing ok. I am doing ok. The swelling has gone down and when he is in my lap, I don’t make him wear his cone. He spends a lot of time in my lap. He is sad and very drugged. I cry when I look at him. My spunky dog with a hollow eye. We meet with the vet tomorrow to find out how the healing is progressing. If the life will come back to that eye.
No matter. He is still my spunky dog and eye or no, he is an ocean of soul. Before I know it, he’ll have his swagger back and will no doubt spin great tales about the giant he took on and how he lived to tell the tale.
…Except for the ones who are, and maybe that’s ok.
Getting lost isn’t always a bad thing, despite how terrifying it can feel. As the saying on my Urban Outfitters wall hanging goes, Sometimes you have to get lost in order to find yourself. If that’s the case, and I like to think UO would never lie to me, then I am on the right track. I am definitely lost.
I always knew that I was going to be a teacher and trying to define myself as anything else is fuzzy at best. “I mean, what did you want to be when you were little?” my career counselor asked me this week. Teacher. “Oh, well, that doesn’t help then.” No it doesn’t, lady. No it doesn’t. It’s a little bit suffocating trying to navigate such an uncertain future. I don’t know what road to take because I am not sure what the destination is.
So I am going to get lost. I am going to fall into the wonderland that is this great country and wander until I find my destination.The Cheshire Cat said that if you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there so I am going to take the long and winding road. I am going to adventure, explore, meet interesting people and collect stories along the way. I’m going to get a little lost and hope it will help me find myself.
Cooper and I will take off on our adventures on June 6. We are making our way up to Colorado to visit cousins and then down through Utah, making stops outside of Fishlake National Forest and Zion. Next we will regroup in LA before slowly camping our way up the California coast. We’ll visit friends in San Fran and then camp another few nights in Oregon before checking out the hipster paradise that is Portland. Cooper is especially excited for that one. Next we will camp in Idaho, Montana, and South Dakota for a few weeks before making our way back to my hometown in Upstate, NY in time for an early August family wedding. After that we will head up the east coast to the other Portland to galavant around Maine for a while. At least that’s the plan. I am open to change.
Most of our trip will be tent camping or visiting friends (because budget of the funemployed!), but thanks to Airbnb, I’ve also been able to procure some unique and inexpensive accommodations along the way. Cooper and I will both be chronicling our adventures; the new people we meet, sights we see and squirrels we chase. That last one will probably be mostly Cooper actually. I am going to breath in the spirit of this great country and see what it inspires. Here’s to adventure!
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